“I respect anyone that looks afraid,” I turn and say to her, and she knows, she gets it, she can see it in them too as they pass by on the way to the portal, the immense queue that seems to back up forever.
“Yes,” she replies. “But what type of fear do you think it is? What are they really afraid of?”
“The journey?” I say and take out a cigarette from my jacket pocket.
“You’re saying that you respect anyone that looks afraid of the journey?” she leans over and lights my cigarette and turns to light one for herself.
“It’s more than that, right? Maybe it’s not just the look, maybe it’s got to be more than the look? Maybe I respect anyone that is afraid.” I lean over the barrier and look off into the distance and try to pick one out. “There, that one, they’re afraid.”
“But how deep do you think it goes? Are they just afraid of what’s about to come, of what they’ve signed themselves up for, or do you think they’ve always been afraid?” She says and leans her elbows on the barrier, letting the cigarette dangle in her mouth, breathing and puffing without touching it.
“If they’ve always been afraid, that’s what I respect. If they’ve always had that fear, that’s what I respect.”
“They should be scared?” She says and turns to me with that wry smile, the dark sky overhead glittering with a billion, billion stars and each one reflecting gently in her cold eyes.
“Everyone should be scared,” I say, flicking my cigarette and turning into her, bringing a hand up to her face, allowing it to slide gently down her soft skin, those eyes flickering in front of me.
“All the time?” she says, closing her eyes, clenching her jaw, raising her head up.
“All the time.” I say. “What else is there?”
“Some of them, they don’t seem to be afraid, they don’t seem to care,” she says, bringing her head back down quickly, looking me dead in the eye. “What does that mean for them?”
“They don’t feel it as much as the rest, they won’t experience it as the rest of them.” I say and take her hand.
“Can happiness not give them the same experience?” She asks as I pull her down the stairs to join the queue, to take our place on our way to the portal.
“If you’re afraid, then you’ve realised something deeper. If you’re scared, you understand a little bit more. That’s what I respect.”
“There’ll be people who disagree with that,” she replies as we join the queue, taking our place, on our way to the stars.
“There always are,” I reply.
“And are you afraid? Are you scared?” She asks.
“Of what?” She turns to me, holding my hand.
“Of it all, every single moment, every single day.” I pause. “It’s what we have to accept. The fear.”
“Maybe,” she says with that wry smile. “Maybe.”
Building inspiration: Grand Central Water Tower Midrand