Lockdown has confirmed that we always want what we can't have

I quit hard drinking in December, and was feeling pretty good about myself until Uncle Cyril banned the stuff

17 May 2020 - 00:02 By
Image: Aardwolf

When our 15-year-old was about 15 months old, we lived in New Germany, Pinetown, KwaZulu-Natal. On the Sunday of the "438 game" between the Proteas and the Aussies I had a rendezvous with a few of my savages to catch that spectacular cricket match at a mate's house in Phoenix. The missus needed to be at The Pavilion. When she tried to leave with him, he cried out, "Baba!"

Oh, he wants to go with Daddy, she says. OK, I'll take him, I say, grabbing him from her arms. No sooner does she start walking towards the door than he starts wailing, "Mama!" So she takes him, at which point he starts screaming inconsolably, his arms stretched towards me.

After the neat passing back and forth between us like we were Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, we paused to discuss the conundrum. This child clearly wanted whoever wasn't holding him at that moment. Anyone who has spent any time with children is all too familiar with this scene.

This is not a phenomenon that is exclusive to kids. I think it's hard-wired into our species' DNA code. The grass always seems greener in Cape Town until you land there and you're encouraged by Helen Zille to contract Covid-19 for your own good. Joburg seems so attractive until you get there and smell the urban decay in the air.

The lockdown has brought this phenomenon into sharp focus. At the end of December I took the decision to dramatically reduce my alcohol intake. What do you mean, "again"? This is a lifelong struggle. To achieve this feat, I decided I wasn't going to consume any spirits and sure enough, on the 30th of December I took my last sip of gin. From that point onwards, I was on a one-to-two beers a day diet. For the next three months my resolve was admirable. In fact, I had no yearning for spirits at all.

And then the president announced the lockdown. My first instinct was to shrug and remark to the missus that it's a good thing I'm on this low alcohol trajectory. She gave me one of her notorious "Riiiight!" looks and nodded.

Fast-forward three weeks into the lockdown and all I could think of was, "Oh, what I would do for a single tot of whisky right now!" After another two weeks I found myself fantasising about brandy. Yep, brandewyn. And not even the fancy stuff - just good ole Klippies and Coke, the Brakpan staple.

I might even have sourced some from the black market had I not come across one of those price lists of Covid-19 contraband and found out that a bottle of Klipdrift goes for R750 these days. That's when my inner Al Capone was extinguished. But also, an epiphany hit me: it's not really Klippies I wanted. I just wanted what I couldn't have.

Sure, thousands of South Africans have broken lockdown movement regulations due to economic stresses and the need to feed their families. But thousands of others have ventured outside only because they were told they couldn't. Everyone I have asked the question, "What is the first place you want to visit when it is safe to do so?" has managed to answer me within 0.3 seconds.

I haven't been to a nightclub in almost a quarter of a century. And yet I recently found myself missing the loud 'doof doof' of house beats and sweaty humans rubbing up against me

We're all fantasising about that moment we can board a flight or hit the road to watch the sun rise over the Indian Ocean or watch the sun set over the Atlantic. I have not been to the top floor of the Carlton Centre in almost 20 years and yet the other day I found myself fantasising about it. All because I cannot. I haven't been to a nightclub in almost a quarter of a century. And yet I recently found myself missing the loud "doof doof" of house beats and sweaty humans rubbing up against me.

Twitter, Facebook and Instagram were flooded with messages from folks purporting to be introverts. The lockdown was going to be a breeze, they proclaimed. I was one of those morons. As the weeks have gone on, the dormant extrovert inside of me has started clawing its way to the surface.

As a broadcaster, I was declared an essential worker, to whatever extent playing music and polluting the Johannesburg airwaves with my brain farts is essential. During level 5, driving around the city, I felt like Will Smith in I am Legend and other postapocalyptic movies. I found myself missing the bustle of Johustleburg. At some point, as the sole participant on Houghton Drive, I caught myself yearning for a Toyota Quantum to swerve violently into my lane, followed by a gap-toothed, angry taxi driver yelling at me to engage in coitus with myself. And then the president relaxed the lockdown and announced level 4, leading to a flood of automobiles on the roads. I immediately missed the serenity of the previous five weeks.

Ordinarily, I can't stand those sodium bundles called Chicken Licken hotwings. I think it's just enjoying a little bit of chicken with your salt. But when level 4 was announced, I suddenly had a strong yearning for them and ordered a dozen. Afterwards, there was so much salt in my system I was certain that if I desalinated my pee, I could reproduce a sculpture of Lot's wife.