I’m an unapologetic eavesdropper in public places. My friends know this, and have come to accept (I hope) that, while I am actively involved in the conversation we’re having, I am also listening to the one going on next to us.
It’s because I’m interested in other people’s stories, and it’s genetic. I get it from my mother. She’s that woman in the Pick ‘n Pay queue who will know your entire life story (sordid bits included) by the time you reach the till (to our mortification, when we were teenagers). She did Social Anthropology. I got the genes.
This is one of the reasons that I love travelling. There are so many humans swirling about, each with hundreds of stories swirling about them. So much swirling. Travelling, one somehow gets to be in the middle of all that swirling, to still the swirls in spots, to get glimpses and catch wisps, to hear the tales and meet the humans. The first happened minutes after we started our trip:
‘Where are you going,’ she asked, as she confidently pushed me through the anxious air of Cape Town Airport, to the boarding gate.
‘To the Free State,’ I said.
‘Oh, I’ve got a cousin living there. She disappeared two years ago and the whole family thought she’d been murdered or something. It was even in The Sun.’
My heart sank, expecting another horrible crime story, as she continued.
‘The police got hold of us recently to say she’d been found in the Free State. She’s been living there happily with her boss the whole time, and just didn’t tell us.’