Something In The Air

Photos by Jarred Figgins

A thing you have to know about Cape Town is the wind. There is nothing on the cover of Lonely Planet: Cape Town that says WATCH OUT FOR THE WIND IN THIS JOINT, IT WILL FUCK UP YOUR WHOLE VIBE, and that is wrong. I would like for every Cape Town travel guide to have a thing at the top that just says “Listen up, everybody: the wind.” Every description of divine Table Mountain or Franschoek or going to hang out with the little penguins at Boulders should be prefaced by a warning that your visit is likely to be ruined by the wind. It is true. For at least two months in Cape Town, the wind is the boss of us all.

A pal was visiting from New York when Cape Town was at Peak Wind, and one day she came into my flat from out of The Wind, looking all startled and like she had just been in a war, and said “I don’t know how you live like this.” Me neither, friend. I wake up sometimes at night and think, “This cannot go on.” I wake up and think “This is too loud for nature.” I sat on my balcony the other day trying to have a cigarette in the god damn wind and I watched as my neighbor’s window flung itself open and the glass burst out the frame and fell three stories, and it easily could have killed someone. I bet you the wind kills people every day.

This is the thing about the wind. Rain is just rain, just impersonal nature doing its thing. The sun is just being the sun — far away and indifferent to our business. The wind, though. The wind is intimate. The wind wants you to know about it. You can go inside from the rain and the sun, but you cannot go inside from the wind, because the wind follows you. It makes you think about it all the time, and run around closing your windows and a door is banging and there is a terrible, constant, howling.

When it is raining, you can think, “I can watch movies and lie down because it is raining.” When it is sunny you can think, “I can go to the beach.” The wind, though. There is no experience that is improved by the wind (unless you are one of those people who “chases storms,” in which case my and your understanding of what is fun is so wildly different that it’s not even worth discussing). You can’t do anything. We have developed mechanisms to deal with the sun and the rain. Umbrellas, air conditioning, windows, doors. These things are no match for the wind. Think of the hay the wind makes with an umbrella or a door or a window that just will not stop rattling no matter what you do. Society has come up with nothing to defeat the wind, because the wind is the enemy of inventiveness. The wind doesn’t make you think anything except, “This sucks.” The wind robs us of our life force, so that all we can do is be angry and text each other about how much we hate it. The wind, the wind, the wind.

I have over the course of my life acquired certain Facts and Explanations for why the wind is terrible. Why it makes us all want to just pitch ourselves off the roof. Why when we are walking to the shops we are saying fuck over and over under our breath. Why we all just send each other texts that say things like “This wind is destroying my quality of life” and “I can’t handle the wind” and “Let me tell you the wind.” Why it makes us lose our entire personalities. Someone once told me something about wind taking away your negative ions from the top of your skin, and about how this is bad for your mood. This doesn’t sound at all real, and I have frankly no idea what negative ions are, and whether this is a science thing or a thing of hippies, and I don’t even care. That Joan Didion thing about there being more murders when it is windy sounds like bullshit, and again I do not care. I will trot out these pieces of information, and many others just like it, with little to no provocation.

Operating at full bore in the wind is impossible. I once saw a British children’s show where they tried to explain how shit it is to be old, and they made kids put on these giant puffy gloves, and then had them do things like dial phones and open jars and that. It was really hard for the kids and the presenters were like, “See? This is why you must be patient with your Nan.” Doing ordinary tasks in the wind is like walking around in one of those olden-days diving suits. It just makes everything difficult and weird and worse, breathing all heavily and feeling wrong. Imagine trying to get out your car or hang up your washing while wearing olden-times scuba gear. See? This is why you must be patient with me.

Is this boring? Good. Now you know what it feels like to be in the wind. The wind, the wind, the wind. It is a thing you need to know about Cape Town. A thing you need to know about me is I hate it. I hate the wind, man. I hate every single thing about it, not least of which is that language fails me utterly when I attempt to describe how much I hate it. It owns me on every conceivable front.