I find myself in an old-age home in the middle of a place I hate going into, Fish Hoek. I’m here to be drawn by old white people. My defences are so high I feel like my hair line is brushing the sealing. I walk in late as a result of traffic. Everyone is sitting waiting for me, pens, pencils and paints out. I can hardly remember the last time I did a job like this. It must have been close to 10 years ago.
I’m sitting on a chair in front of 15 people who I know nothing about. My world has built me to protect myself from things that I do not know. Most things want to or are designed to hurt me. I’m nervous. A voice says, “5 minutes” and I sit up straight, bring my knees to my chest and rest my feet on the edge of the chair. My face points up to the sky as if basking in the sun. My arms rest lazily on the tops of my knees. In the quiet I hear my heart beat and feel my breath. I become aware of my bones and the muscles that protect them.
It is so quiet. I am quiet. It suddenly dawns on me that I have not had a space to be this quiet all year. The room holds me. It is tangible, the support and appreciation. All of these eyes on me yet I am safe, completely safe. I can feel attention move from my little, button nose all the way down to the underside of my pink toes.
I change position. With each shift I can feel a layer of defensiveness fall from me like old skin. I’m letting go of the fact that every single one of these people benefitted in some way or another from a history that excluded me. I’m letting go of the fact that most of these people have probably only ever interacted with black people who were in some way of another always doing something for them; cleaning their houses, maintaining their gardens, washing their cars, filling their cars with fuel, looking after their children. I’m letting go of all of my natural preconceived judgements and prejudices. I change position. Quiet.
It is so quiet. So magically quiet. Eyes flash over all of me. All over the parts of myself that I protect and hold close, the parts that people who aren’t looking won’t see. The beauty-spot in my eyebrow, the ancestral marking on my ear signifying royalty. They take it in, tip-toe across the secrets of my skin, and I allow them.
A voice says, “20 minutes” and I cross my legs, open my book and disappear. I can not remember having this much time to indulge in something quiet. My world is so loud that even quiet thoughts have become painfully explosive in their subject matter. I turn my page and stare at the words but read nothing. “The world is so loud.” I repeat this thought over and over and realise how frightening it is to have come to this realisation. How have I managed to exist in so much noise for so long?
The session ends. I realise how much healing happens in silence. I realise how much I can hear of myself when there is silence. I realise how beautiful my heartbeat sounds and how harmonious my silence is. I realise I need to heal. We all need to heal.