Today, my dad and I decided to take a walk around a local nature reserve as part of an effort to get fit! We decide to get fit every year and it is usually forgotten about after a week or two. Nevertheless, as part of our tradition, we began the ‘get fit’ regime with enthusiasm and went for a short hike. At this time of year, Pretoria is especially beautiful. We walked through pathways of little yellow and purple flowers. Everything is greener. Fresher.
He was standing on a small bridge. Cigarette in hand. Leaning against one of the wooden poles with a kind smile on his face. Not one hair on his head. Circular glasses and grey braces. He seemed to have walked straight out of an era long forgotten as he nodded his head at us as we passed. I liked him instantly.
My dad and I could not decide which way to go. We heard him ask whether or not we had been to the nature reserve before. I detected a rich German accent. We chatted to him for about fifteen minutes. He told us about his favourite nature reserves and how much he loves his walks. He suggested a beautiful route through the reserve.
His name is Wilfred. He has a firm handshake and warm crinkles around his eyes.
We were walking through the picnic area about an hour later when we came across Wilfred sitting at one of the benches. Cigarette in hand. Staring at something in the distance.
“Ah, hallo! You walked very quickly! These days… I can’t walk so quickly. But, I still come here every day.”
“It is a beautiful nature reserve!”
“It is indeed. Have you seen the zebras? I like to greet them. I say: ’Hallo!’”
He continued to chat to my dad. I stood there watching them chat, laugh, connect. I don’t really remember what they were chatting about. I do, however, remember their happiness. The glow of reaching out and reaching back.
“We’re each of us alone, to be sure. What can you do but hold your hand out in the dark?”
—Ursula K. Le Guin