I'm Cappuccino. He's Chai Tea.

I’m Johannesburg; he’s Cape Town. 
I eat red meat; he likes sushi.

Can this combination work? Would you fly all the way across the country to see someone you’ve only known for a short time but you know has the capacity to change your life forever?

At 40, we’ve been there and done that. Twice for both of us, actually. We’ve had the heartache – death, divorce and the clichés in between. We both have grown up children.

Can I, will I, still believe in the possibility of romance? Or in the possibility of a love so profound that I question the existence of my mind, the frailty of my heart and the wisdom of my experience? 

I twist the words, turn them, shape them and mould them into all the forms that have worked for my friends. Their current favourite being, “I’d rather be alone than risk another bad relationship.” My least favourite, “Friends with benefits are just the thing for me.” And the last refuge of the lonely and desperate, “I don’t believe that there is a good man or woman out there.” 

But there is, isn’t there? If you dare to believe it. Life will throw that curve ball at you. That is life’s purpose. Just when you think you know it all, the world will show you that you don’t.

I flew into Cape Town on a cold winter’s night. The plane bounced through the icy night air. I had business meetings the next day. But my mind wasn’t on that. I was thinking about a man who called himself a bear. A man who wore tattoos on his skin, and his hair longer than mine would ever be.

I met Anton through my writing school. We had written to each other for five months. He lived 1 500km away from me. We communicated by email, by Facebook, by dawn, by dusk, by midnight. Anton touched my soul with the words he wrote to me. He showed kindness in a world that is often not kind. He cared about me. A woman he’d seen through the looking glass.

He was someone I would never have met in my ‘normal’ life. He would never have found me on his earth-person journey. I am a writer and a businessperson. I host charity dinners, meet politicians, pop stars and authors. I teach people to write. I live a cosmopolitan city life. I like froth on my cappuccino, and electricity when I switch a light on.

Anton is a shaman, a mystic who just happens to be an architect. He walked away from his practice to live a more natural life seven years ago. He likes lots of ginger in his Chai tea and is happy to stop working when the sun goes down.

What was I doing?

I glanced at my cell phone as I followed the taxi driver through the terminal. 
“Do you still want to see me?” he asked in a text message. 
My heart lurched. Did I? I could run now. Run and never look back. I would never have to see if the man who had come to mean so much to me was even real. Because I knew that if he was, I was in trouble. But I wouldn’t do that. I couldn’t do that. 
“Yes,” I answered. I typed in the letters carefully. It was late. It was madness. It was everything I would never do. But somehow, it felt so right. I gave the address and the time, and paused. What if he didn’t come? What if? 
I felt like a silly teenager. I felt foolish. But I also felt alive, elated and breathless.

I unpacked my eclectic, elegantly bohemian clothes. I am conservative to a large degree. Would he like what I wore? My designer labels? My crazy high heels? My self-obsessed me? I chose the least likely to please outfit. Playing devil’s advocate. I would be the kugel. Would he be the hippy? He had seen me often. I could not hide my public profile from him. The opera, the foundation and the interviews. I had never seen him. He was a man who stood behind steel bars in a painting. He hid from the world. I had no idea what to expect.

What was I doing?

When the time came, I walked down the stairs of my favourite Victorian Cape Guesthouse. Lily, the owner, smiled at me. We chatted at the guestbook. She showed me an article I had written about her a few years back. And it came to me that writing was the thread that made my life real. Writing was the reason I was meeting Anton. He made me smile with his words. He made me believe with his concern. He made me feel better about being me.

The door opened. I remember thinking how warm the cold night was. He seemed to fill space with a yellow white touch. His hair was long and loose and he wore a South American woollen cape. 
“What will you do when you see me?” he had asked on the telephone the night before. 
I didn’t know what I would do. I still don’t. Even as he stands in front of me. He seems tightly wound, contained. Energy bound. But I am safe. I know that now, and I exhale. I look up at his worn face, look into his dark brown eyes, and I smile. I walk up to him. Still too short in my highest boots. 
“Hello,” I say. 
I look up into his gentleness, and smile. I reach up and open my arms. I kiss him. I never kiss anyone. I seem to remember this and my lips graze the corner of his mouth and cheek. He kisses me too. 
“Please can you fix my bag?” I ask. The clip has come undone on the flight. 
“Yes,” he answers, laughing. He takes out his Swiss Army Knife and sorts it out.

I know what I’m doing.

In my life, which has been a life less ordinary, I have known profound love and agonising despair. It has been a life punctuated by loss and underlined with grief. I had accepted that being alone was probably the best thing for me. 

My first husband died in an unimaginable tragedy when our son was three. My best friend died in a plane crash, my sister’s husband died of leukaemia. My son was almost killed in a freak sporting accident at the age of eight. My sister, torn apart with grief, eventually collapsed at my feet, barely alive with a chronic autoimmune disease. She lives quietly in London now. My family breathes and lives on. 

But, I know what I’m doing.

The life that I’d created out of writing was blessed. I make a living from my passion. I love to teach eager, unsure writers, and watch them become published after completing my courses. My literacy foundation was launched. My writing business is in the process of become a franchised operation. My memoir will be published in 2011/2012.

But this life would be so much less without Anton by my side. Anton, my wild card. My free spirit. My African prayer answered. My heartbeat. My lover. My friend. My sun.

We are so different, but we have so much in common. We share a passion for books. We are cataloguing them into a library as our life together unfolds. My books remain my books. His books are stamped with proud ownership. 
We are both dedicated astrologers of more than 20 years. He does Traditional. I do Huber. More importantly, we both see the stars. We are both the same age. When he says Saturday Night Fever, I know he’s not talking about a disease. If I say Jett Jungle, Squad Cars and The Mind of Tracy Dark, he knows I’m not on drugs.

We both live in Johannesburg for now. The boy is back in town. For now. Until we retreat into the mountains. Or near to the sea. Zanzibar sounds good. That is our promise to each other. To live the best life we can away from the madness of a rat race that doesn’t exist. My writer’s retreat will still welcome those who want to learn. His retreat will bring him solace, peace, and the chance to heal.

This promise was sealed on 10/09/09

Oh, and Mr Chai Tea has promised a Cappuccino Machine for me.

Anton Behr and Amanda Patterson Behr

By Amanda Patterson, November 2008


Big City Lights by Anton Behr


by Amanda Patterson. Amanda is the founder of Writers Write. Follow her on PinterestFacebook,  Google+,  Tumblr  and Twitter.  Read her writing blogs.