Yesterday looked like record ATM queues in Knysna! Being a Saturday after everyone’s been paid explained some of it but not the entire mass consciousness that sprawled onto pavements and around street corners.
Wisely, as usual, I skipped humanity’s queuing for wants and wishes and chose, instead, to absorb newspapers with coffee at Chaplin’s Bistro in Woodmill Lane. My arrival there coincided with my tummy feeling queasy so I opted for a cheap, 2-cup-pot of tea instead.
In the gazebo that stands in the middle of the courtyard, volunteers from Rotary were fundraising for CANSA (Cancer Association of South Africa) with the annual Shavathon. I preferred the ‘old days’ of commitment when people had their heads shaved in solidarity but understood that with growing public apathy it made sense to also offer the easier option of coloured hair sprayed with vegetable paint. Being already bald, I had the convenience of skipping my opinion and opted for dog paw shapes to be ‘tattooed’ onto my scalp.
By now my tummy felt like a ship sinking in a sea of gelatinous mud so I abandoned my bowels in the public toilets for the first time that day. It would be the first of ten.
Following my weekly routine, I popped into the Hospice Charity Shop in Long Street. There was one book I wanted but it didn’t want me yet cause I hadn’t drawn the little I had left in the ATM. Back at the ATM in Woodmill Lane, the queue remained murderous but at least none would die from hunger with the Food Hut standing in between the services of ABSA and FNB.
But my arse was begging for release again so I headed for the toilets. Within minutes I was feeling awful (or as Rowan Atkinson would say, “Damnation without relief”). Shaky and weakened, I decided to walk back home via Knysna Mall. That was a mistake.
Hospice was there too, hosting their annual book sale which is always too good to miss. Despite being the first day of the month, I was already counting pennies. This year has been extra tough and I’d just borrowed rent. But there’s a part of me that’s either addicted to supporting Hospice or collecting books I will only read if I retire before death. So I built a pile of R5 and R10 books for R50 only to realise that I’d so soon forgotten that I needed to go to the ATM. I normally have confidence in my mind but today it was amiss – something was definitely not right inside of me. They labelled my ‘order’ as #10, as if predicting my arsehole’s movements for the day.
The line of people in front of Superspar’s machines was a major blow to patience. As was Standard Bank’s upstairs and Nedbank’s downstairs. Heading outside to the FNB on the corner of Grey and Main Streets was as disappointing. Across the road, ABSA was even worse. In between, I was admiring public toilets again.
I went to Shell Garage. If I wasn’t feeling so awful I would have smiled for I was third in the queue… but then the machine flashed one of those ‘Out of Order’ messages. I would have screamed if I hadn’t felt so awful.
But a cash machine for slot addicts was at King’s Sports Bar only a block away so I went there. It must have been empty because they’d unplugged it!
Back to SuperSpar to wait like a desperate ant… but never had to because the ATM had run out of money. But before I failed that mission, I’d bumped into two ladies I knew and accepted an offer of iced coffee at Dinky Cakes. It tasted delicious but caffeine was an incredibly silly choice for my tummy.
By now I was in despair. I contemplated my survival on a mall toilet and decided to ask the kind ladies at the sale to hold the books until I fetched them tomorrow. But they couldn’t, they said, because they wouldn’t be there tomorrow.
Like a Reccie, I mustered up some determination out of nowhere and headed for FNB again. The queue had thankfully shortened so within 15 minutes I had the authors Ian Banks, Dean Koontz, Eric van Lustbader and Darren Shan for company. But I felt wiped out and doubted my legs would get me home. I needed to sit for a while so chose a stool inside Harry B’s. If only my second decision had been as sensible – instead of ordering a tomato juice or flat coke, I ordered a Windhoek beer… which I couldn’t finish. I desperately had to get home.
A hill and a toilet later, I lay on my bed contemplating the end of my world. It was an hour of misery that ended with more bowls and bowels and the decision to distract myself with episodes of Elementary (I’ve loved every version of Sherlock Holmes and hoped that it would encourage me to focus my mind and overcome my thoughts of suicide, seemingly the only option available for escape from nausea).
2 hours later, amazingly, I felt much better. Not right but so much better that I decided I pursue my original idea of having a braai to cheer up my neighbour who was experiencing a relationship decision crisis. I’d later discover that his phone battery had died during his spontaneous drive to Port Elizabeth for a break… which partly explained why I stupidly ate so much food. But, initially, vitamins were distributed throughout my body and my tummy had something to chew on instead of only acid. For several hours, I felt better; weak but my head was back and the nausea was gone.
It was short mercy.
Night was hell, an endless parade of trips to the loo and showers to make myself feel clean. The latter served to help get the paw-prints off my head – vegetable paint spray on scalps obviously tougher to dissolve than in hair. I’m unsure what time I fell asleep but I awoke at 2.30am this Sunday morning. My head was clearer and nausea gone yet my tummy ran faster than Oscar Pistorius.
Now we get to the part that I almost didn’t tell you. It’s ridiculous how we look at sickness (or treat the sick) but for all my free-thinking i’m obviously still affected by sociological brainwashing because I feel shame at what happened next.
I shat my pants.
There was no warning. Suddenly my legs were wet and the floor inherited an obscene puddle. No one was there yet still I felt humiliated. My body, for the first time since I was a teenage boy, had betrayed me. Back in the shower, I couldn’t help but think what it would be like to be much older, possibly damned to wear an adult nappy on the lower floor at Loeriehof. Through the sickness and wild thoughts, I felt a strange kinship with people I didn’t know.
I have a phobia. I automatically want to vomit when faced with shit or vomit, dogkind or humankind. Cleaning up my mess was a painfully, humbling experience… and obsessive cause I cleaned the whole place as if it would wipe away the reality of the past 16 hours.
I’ve been to the loo 7 times this morning but the last 3, although I thought I would explode, were false runs. I’m weak as hell but over the worst of it. I will keep hydrating, maybe even complete the circle by having a pot of sweet, relieving tea at Chaplin’s again before the sky pretends to be summer by catching fire.
I’ve had food poisoning several times but because I’m not still in pain (minus an arsehole that’s undoubtedly as pink as a baboon’s) this wasn’t it. This was another damn tummy bug! The worst so far, a follow-on to several I’ve experienced each year since arriving in Knysna. I know I’m not alone. Surely there’s only 1 common denominator? What is it with Knysna’s water supply?