In June of last year, I booked my trip to visit Joan on April 17, 2012, in Morland in England’s Lake District and instantly regretted it then put it out of my mind. I could cancel later. I mean I feel like I’ve lived three entire lifetimes since I last say Joan, what on earth would we talk about? Would we even relate other than struggling to come up with names and events from the past? I am not into nostalgia. It’s stifling. Nonetheless, here’s a photo of Kitwe High, during our time there.
The last time I saw Joan was a week after my wedding when she’d stepped in at the last moment as my bridesmaid after I had a falling out with the girl I’d originally chosen. At the time, Joan was living in Mufulira, another small mining town twenty-eight miles north toward the Congo, where she’d been for a couple of years. A week after the wedding, she had to return to the scene of the crime when it was discovered that there’d been a mix-up with our signatures on the official document that had her married to best man, Chris, and me and my chosen one still unattached. Should’ve been a sign to babes-in-the woods me and the beloved, eh? We signed in the right place, she remained single (for the next eight years) and we moved on, me to have a son and her to take the trip to Europe we’d planned together.
So back to my impending visit. Along with Joan, I would also be reconnecting with Donna Trott, who used to live in Itimpi, a tiny new community nine miles from Kitwe, along the road to Chingola. She and I played hockey and softball together. Her mother, “Ma” Lang was the coach. All I remember about her was her intensity, and that she always seemed to be dressed in a hockey skirt. During our school years, I spent quite a few weekends at their house in Itimpi, which was surrounded by bush and lit by Tilley lamps at night. I can still smell the thick raw and strangely comforting odor of the paraffin, and see the flame’s dull yellow light flickering along the walls, still see Donna’s gentle giant of a father hunched at the end of their double bed picking softly on his banjo. Local natives would come to the back door where Ma Lang sold them mielie meal and sugar. Donna and her husband (who is one of the coaches for England’s cricket team), live part of the year in New Zealand, and part of the year in Surrey, England. Her son is one of England’s premier cricketers.
So here I was a month before my trip and I had a decision to make. Cancel or go? Meanwhile, Joan, whose email address is JOANBKS all caps—Joan Bramwell, Kitchen, Savage; she’s been married twice—had been sending me a couple of emails here and there, “looking forward to your visit,” along with photos of her many trips back home to Africa, where her three sisters live, and declarations about how much she missed it. Oh-oh, I thought. I don’t miss Africa. What would we talk about?
Go or stay?