Cape Town, South Africa
July 2000

Dear Helen,

It's been four or five years since we spoke last.

I'm twenty-eight now, and hey, you'll be twenty-nine tomorrow! Happy Birthday. I've been told that twenty-eight is young. I don't know for sure, because young is not how I feel. And in any event what is young? Is the world young, or old? Redwood trees? Religion? The Universe? I don't see the passing of seconds into hours, days into years into centuries as a good measure of where we've been or are going. After all, time is merely a concept invented by man to call a blotch in our experience April 1 1944, or whatever. To give a reason for the wrinkles and a name to our collective little experiences.

And young is not how I feel. It's become lonely here. Our friend Time passes relentlessly - I know that by the incessant ticking over of my watch. But I have realized that it's possible to stand still within time. People pass by me like apparitions, and I smile at them, make them feel welcome, I cook them food - giving them sustenance for their ghostly journeys.

And then they fade away, as much from my mind as my little coffee shop. Some of them even come into my bed, the ghosts I mean. And when they leave I light a cigarette, and the smoke rises to mingle with the faint scent of the perfume of the night, and the smell of us embedded in the creases of my zebra print sheet.

I'm not even sure I made them feel welcome at all. But at least I made them feel, I tell myself. Or do I even care about that? Time will tell...fade to ironic laughter. I have been to many places, learned a couple of phrases of a couple of languages. I've been a student, a gardener, a dishwasher, a waiter, a delivery driver. I've moved furniture in Israel, laid cables in London, published poetry in the States, I've been a legal consultant and a security guard, I own my own coffee bar.

I'm twenty eight. Is that young?

I've loved, and been loved...once or twice even at the same time. I've ridden horses past the pyramids and motorbikes past the wind. I've floated naked in the Dead Sea with a bottle of vodka and a marijuana joint and I've walked in the snow in Edinburgh on New Year's Day.

I've lived in apartheid South Africa, seen Nelson Mandela walk free and listened to him speak at my University. I was in Tel Aviv when Rabin was shot. I'm twenty eight. Is that old?

Now I find it difficult to hold my life together. Paperwork mounts, stress begins to take it's ugly toll. Life paints streaks of grey in my hair, and on my heavy heart. The nightmares come with clarity in the silence before dawn and another day placating ghosts. But when I awake, most of all, I think of loneliness. And I wonder if I'm the ghost. I light another cigarette, curse television...and pretend to believe.

So how are you?


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