Wind­hoek

Af­ter wak­ing up like a damp gazebo one morn­ing, Lloyd Zand­berg reck­ons that sum­mer is not for him.

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A week ago it was still cold enough to wear a scarf, but sud­denly, with­out warn­ing, it got hot. Sum­mer had pounced un­ex­pect­edly.

Since I moved from Swakop­mund back to the city of my birth, Wind­hoek, life has only been good to me. I’ve had a cold, sure, and I got lost once while chas­ing a buy-in-bulk toi­let pa­per deal across town. I lived near the bread­line for a week and had to eat mielie pap every day. But when­ever trou­ble pokes out its nasty lit­tle head, I give it a whack and rum­ble on. I haven’t yet had to make a late-night call to a lawyer I don’t have, or take a dodgy cash loan. No cri­sis, then. On top of all this good for­tune, I’ve also met great peo­ple and made some new friends. Some of those friends are even al­lowed to come around, drink cof­fee, braai and sleep over if they feel like it.

The hap­pi­ness couldn’t last though, could it? This past week­end I hit a speed bump. You see, sum­mer is not for me. I can’t be hot; it’s not good for my men­tal health. And as soon as it gets warmer than 15° C, I break into an anx­ious sweat like a tail-en­der squar­ing up against Kag­iso Rabada. A week ago it was still cold enough to wear a scarf, but sud­denly, with­out warn­ing, it got hot. Sum­mer had pounced un­ex­pect­edly – in the mid­dle of win­ter. I’m an in­som­niac. I’m not one of those peo­ple who brush their teeth, drink a glass of wa­ter, walk to the bed­room, switch off the lights, fum­ble around for a minute and start snor­ing. To get me to fall asleep is im­pos­si­ble. Imag­ine you had to paint the roof of a school hall us­ing just one litre of paint – that im­pos­si­ble. And while I’m ly­ing in bed try­ing to fall asleep, that’s ex­actly what I’m think­ing about: How I’ll paint that whole roof with just one litre! One of my new friends is called Jana. Her hus­band Danie also strug­gles to sleep. His in­som­nia is even worse than mine. He once went eight days with­out sleep! I saw him on day eight and he looked like a milk tart with­out a crust, all wob­bly and a lit­tle grey. Even­tu­ally he went to see a sleep spe­cial­ist – his mar­riage was at stake. The spe­cial­ist stut­tered a bit, Danie told me, but he knew all about sleep. A pill was pre­scribed and it worked like a charm. Maybe too well, ac­cord­ing to Jana, who says that the place where Danie pops that pill is the place where he’ll fall asleep. When they go out these days, they take an in­flat­able mat­tress in the boot. Just in case.

So we’re busy hav­ing a braai and a few drinks over the week­end. It’s jolly. Even­tu­ally the sun slips away and soon the guests start slip­ping away, too. Danie pops his pill and set­tles down on his blow-up mat­tress next to the fridge. Soon he’s a goner. Fi­nally the only things still stand­ing are me and the fire. But then the fire beds down and I’m still nowhere near sleepy. I’m kind of like Usain Bolt af­ter he’s just won the 100 me­tres: slightly out of breath but keen for more! I’m tired, yes, but my brain doesn’t want to know about it. I chase the Sand­man for a while, but soon even he turns in. Gatvol, I get up and go look­ing for Danie’s box of pills. I find the box and read the pre­scrip­tion on the back. Sounds okay. When I’m fed up, I’m prone to be­ing im­pul­sive. How bad can one sleep­ing pill be? I’ll wake up even­tu­ally, surely? My back­log of sleep is get­ting se­ri­ous, this must be a good plan… I swal­low the pill, yawn a bit and soon I’m dead to the world.

I wake up in a weird po­si­tion, wedged be­tween the din­ing room ta­ble and the slid­ing door into the gar­den. I feel like a gazebo that has been stuffed back into its bag while still damp. I’m sweaty, un­com­fort­able, an­noyed – and hot. “How long did I sleep for?” I ask Jana. “Right through spring!” she replies with a smirk. Ouch.

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