“I have cold feet too, how’s that going to work?”
This quaint restaurant has been my sweet little secret until just now, because I’m going to tell you about it. It’s a place I haven’t thought of or been to in a very long time, until this morning in my parent’s guest room while making the bed. I saw them, bird cages, everywhere, all over the duvet cover and all designed in different variations of my favourite colour grey. It is only then that I remembered the BirdCage.
I didn’t want to go there, with my feet, mind or heart. In fact I haven’t been there in years. Ladies and gentlemen it’s a funny thing this not wanting to go there, because at the BirdCage is where I watched dreams coming true. Like magic. Let me try to paint you a picture: It’s like a fairy tale, a little alcove of delicate flowers, birds, butterflies; of course bird cages abound, hung on trees which create a canopy of heaven at the outdoor restaurant. It’s on Jan Smuts Avenue, somewhere between Rosebank and Zoolake,Saxonwold. I think I missed the entrance the first time too – it is well hidden between a spa and other diplomatic office. It’s small, an intimate magical garden where they serve the most delicious bouquet of organic food. And it’s quiet – not silent – but peaceful. Please don’t be disappointed when you go there, and it turns out to be a run of the mill outdoor restaurant or not your version of a dream because it was my dream.
You see the first time I went to the Birdcage; I was in love and quite frankly didn’t know what hit me. That morning I woke up to a Johannesburg summers’ day that made everything shine and glow with life. I was walking on sunshine, glistening under the suns golden rays. I was happy. I sang in the shower and smiled often at the marvelous miracle that I was simply alive. But I had an appointment. I was going to Soweto pride that day and my friends and I were going to convoy to Meadowlands where the Pride march was taking place. With Michael Jackson full blast in Black Panther, my car, I arrived to disapproving looks and admonitions from my friends because I had kept them waiting. I apologized with a smile wondering what had taken me so long to get ready anyway. I was wearing white tennis shorts, a white t-shirt, a grey waist coat and a straw top hat I had bought on recent trip to California another dream space. I was literally giddy with excitement. It was to be my first Pride March, though no one knew this. It was also personally significant for me because I was going back home, to my childhood playground in Meadowlands. At the same park where my older sister and twin sister Lebo and I would play, freely without restrictions until dark during school holidays. It was an emotional walk for me, I was thinking of my relatives who were no longer with us. My uncle Jopi who was more like an older brother to me, who first taught me about men and my great-aunt Mamani who raised me. It was nostalgic yet beautiful.
In moments like those I really become selfish. I was thinking of me that day and only me, my history, my future and present, which at the time seemed all together wonderful. Then a close friend introduced me to this woman at the park after the march. Tall, Skinny with shoulder length dreadlocks, quiet, confident, at ease. She was wearing a red-protest T-shirt, blue jeans and navy All-stars. She wore glasses. I thought I was with my friend throughout the march following her, doing funny things on the road, screaming, running, gosh. I wondered: where the hell did she come from?
We shook hands in greeting, and I was suddenly at peace. What? Anyway, I continued to mind my own business, but my eyes kept wondering over to this woman, who looked so simple, but had such an overwhelming presence, deepness, grace and strength I had not quite experienced with anyone before. I tried to ground myself, but kept thinking that maybe I should just get into my car and drive home, and sleep. Now, because she was just too much for me. But I decided that, that would be a silly thing to do. I hardly knew this person and would probably never see her again so I shouldn’t take myself so seriously. Besides, apart from the brief handshake and a hello, no more words were exchanged.
Until she asked me if I could offer some elderly women standing on the edges of the park some seats, I was incredulous. Why doesn’t she ask them herself? Who does she think she is ordering me around? Then I remembered that I wasn’t listening when we were introduced, she was not South African. So I asked them and they politely declined, so much for that.
When it was all over I was literally running to my car, to ground myself and listen to Michael with Black Panther, I was sure of those two things. Until my friend asked if I could give this woman a lift. What? There was no space in other cars and since I was alone in the car, could I give her a lift? Sure no problem. I was panicking. I was beyond excited, she was in my car! Sitting right next to me! The music was loud, did she mind? No actually, it reminds me of my daughter she said, who was also MJ obsessed like me. Cool then. I was relieved. The Destination was the BirdCage via my house because I had forgotten my cash card.
We sat next to each other at the Bird Cage around a table full of friends and smiling faces. I was so excited I couldn’t eat. She called me babe and the sound of her voice sent shivers down my spine, pierced right into the center of my heart, like cupid. I had goose bumps. But I was no one’s babe or baby. She called everyone she met babe, she already had a baby. There was no room at the Inn.
Later that night we said goodbye. I was torn – open – by that meeting. I had never met someone like her before and was sure I would never meet someone like her again. There were words exchanged. But they all seemed to lose their meaning the moment they were uttered, as light as dandelions, they just floated away. Like mist they seemed to vanish. I don’t remember what was said.
I went back to the Birdcage a few times after that incident: to celebrate with a friend who was expecting after years and years of trying and praying for a baby. We had Champagne and it was beautiful to see her so radiant with joy. It rained that day. I went back again, for lunch with my sister this time. It was a celebration of her dreams coming true. She was engaged to be married, she had found love. Our conversations were full of dreaming, we were bubbling over, imagining a radiant future, full of love, family and babies.
That’s the last time I went to the Bird Cage. I think I stopped believing in (my) dreams coming true, in fairy-tales, in magic, love that can never be explained or contained in letters, in words, but the kind of love that only dreams are made of.
I think I’ll reserve a table for two.
- I know why the caged bird sings … (meappropriatestyle.com)