On our first morning in Cape Town I wake up alone in bed. I’m not surprised that Jonas is up before me; he is definitely more of a morning person than I am and one thing I’ve learned over the past few months is that being a paraplegic is all about routines and doing things on a fixed schedule. Jonas rarely deviates from his routine, even on the weekends.
I get out of bed and after a quick detour to the bathroom I pull on a pair of shorts and head into the living area. I spot Jonas on the balcony. He’s sitting in his wheelchair with a mug cradled in his hands. He appears to be looking at the view of harbor and Robben Island in the distance. I study him as I walk toward the balcony; he’s dressed in the lightweight sweatpants he wore yesterday and the t-shirt he slept in. His hair is a mess and he’s got a dark shadow on his jaw. He’s so handsome it makes my heart skip a beat.
«Morning,» I greet him as I pull up a chair and sit down next to him. He looks at me and smiles warmly. «You’re up early.»
«My legs were a bit spastic this morning and didn’t want to wake you up by accidentally kicking you.» A slightly embarrassed look flashes across his face, but it fades away quickly.
«I didn’t notice,» I say. «It can’t have been that bad."
«It wasn’t, but it would’ve gotten worse. I got up to take a dose of Baclofen and by the time I finished in the bathroom I was pretty much wide-awake and it was already 7:30. Coffee and fresh air was tempting. There’s more coffee in the pot by the way."
«Coffee sounds great. Want a refill?»
Jonas hands me his mug. «That would be great, thanks.»
I know Jonas is nervous when I park at Spier Wine Farm where we’re meeting a group of my friends for lunch. We’ve got his wheelchair in the back seat, but he’s decided to go tall today. I’m not sure what accessibility is like at the different wine farms we’re visiting and he’s more flexible when he’s using crutches and braces than when he’s in his chair.
“Relax, Jonas,” I say. “We’re going to have a good time.”
“I hope so,” he says. He doesn’t sound convinced as he untangles his crutches from the pieces of wheelchair. I step out of the car and walk around to the passenger side; I watch as he lifts his legs out of the car and uses the crutches to pull himself up so he’s standing. I think it’s oh-so-hot and he shakes his head slightly when he sees the look on my face.
“I still can’t believe this turns you on,” he says. “But it sure beats it freaking you out.”
I grin and step up to him and wrap my arms around his torso and stand on my tip-toes and kiss him soundly. We’re lost in our own little world until a familiar voice pulls me back to reality.
“Sigrid!” I reluctantly step out of Jonas’ embrace and soon I have Natalie’s arms wrapped around me. “I’ve missed you so much!”
“I’ve missed you too, Nat,” I say. A few moments later Natalie finally lets me go and she turns her attention to Jonas, who is standing a few feet away, I notice he looks a little flustered.
“This is Jonas I presume,” she says, extending her right hand to him. “I’m Natalie Roux. Sigrid’s best friend.”
“Jonas Østgaard,” Jonas replies as he shakes Natalie’s hand . “Nice to meet you, Natalie. I’ve heard so much about you that I feel like I know you.”
“Ditto,” Natalie said with a smile. “Well, I don’t know about you two, but I’m starving.”
“We’re hungry too,” I reply. “We don’t have any food at the apartment yet. We arrived pretty late last night, there was a lot of road works that caused delays, so we haven’t done any shopping yet. Our breakfast was coffee and some rusks.”
We head toward the restaurant and I notice Natalie is staring at Jonas as he crutches along the path. He’s dressed in a pair of jeans and a black polo shirt that hugs him in all the right places and shows off his muscled arms and shoulders.
“He’s hot,” she whispers to me. Jonas is a few feet ahead of us.
“I know. And he’s mine,” I reply happily. It’s still a bit surreal to me that the perfect specimen of a man is mine and that he wants me as much as I want him.
Lunch is a success; Jonas hits it off with my friends and the awkwardness he feared because of his disability, and the fact that he’s about a decade older than most of us were blissfully absent. After lunch we do a tour of a few wineries and we also take a stroll around central Stellenbosch. By the time we get settled in the car after the last wine tasting I can tell Jonas is a bit tipsy. I’ve tasted too, but since I’m driving I haven’t swallowed any wine. I pop a piece of chewing gum into my mouth and turn the key in the ignition.
“So,” I say when we’re on the main road heading towards Cape Town again. “That was fun, wasn’t it?”
“Yeah, it was great. Your friends are really cool. I’m looking forward to the next few days.”
“Glad to hear it. Now, I think we need to stop somewhere and get groceries on the way back. “
“Agreed. We need to fill the fridge. I suspect we’ll go out for most meals, but it’s good to have some food at the apartment. And snacks too.”
“Snacks are important,” I agree. “And we should probably get some beer as well.”
“Yeah. Mike kept telling me I have to taste this Namibian beer, Wind-something. Apparently that’s the best beer in Africa or something.”
“It’s Windhoek. It’s good beer; I just buy Castle out of habit really. We can get some at the bottle store.”
We spend the rest of the drive discussing what we need to get and Jonas jots down a shopping list on his phone.
Jonas choses to use his chair at the supermarket. He’s tired from crutching around all day; not all of the places we’ve been to has been accessible and I know it has taken a lot of energy for him to get around some of them.
As we enter Pick’n Pay I grab a cart and we start making our way through the store. Jonas keeps commenting about how cheap things are here; he just can’t get over it. By the time we get to the register the cart is filled with a selection of cereal, eggs, bacon, milk, orange juice, some fruit and vegetables and a few snacks. Jonas insists on paying and after we’ve loaded the shopping bags into the trunk of the car we drop by the bottle store to pick up a couple of six-packs of Windhoek. We skip the wine aisle; we’ve picked up serveral bottles of wine at the wine tastings we’ve been to this afternoon.
When we settle into the car I ask Jonas what he wants to do for dinner tonight. We don’t have any plans with my friends this evening.
“Honestly wouldn’t mind if we just stay at the apartment and call for a delivery or we can get some takeout on our way back. It has been a long few days.”
“Sounds like a plan to me. It’s not that late yet. Why don’t we head back to the apartment, get the food and drinks upstairs and then we can decide about dinner. I can run back into Pick’n Pay and grab a selection of pies, that should tide us over until dinnertime.”
“Sounds good to me,” Jonas says as he grabs his wallet and hands me a R 200 bill.
“You don’t have to pay for everything,” I protest, refusing to accept it.
“I know I don’t have to. But I want to,” he says, still holding the bill out to me. I know he can afford it, but I still wish he’d let me pay once in a while. For now I accept the bill and thank him. I decide we’ll have to talk about it later.
Jonas stays in the car while I hurry in and head straight to the deli. They have a decent selection of pies, despite the late hour and I pick up a few different kinds.
The next day we meet Natalie and her boyfriend, Gerard, for lunch at Ocean Basket at the V&A Waterfront. We eat fish & chips, drink beer and talk about random stuff. Jonas is in his chair today; he wanted to go tall, but he really strained himself yesterday and knows he should give his arms and shoulders a break. To my (and his) relief it doesn’t seem to make a difference. He’s getting along great with my friends.
After lunch we pile into the Land Rover and head out to Boulders Beach. The beach itself isn’t wheelchair friendly, but there’s a ramp leading down to a viewing platform where we can watch the penguins that’s accessible. Because Natalie and Gerard, are riding with us I’ve stashed Jonas’ wheelchair in the trunk of the car. He has shown me how to take off the wheels, so I manage to stash it without problems. Everytime I handle his chair it surprises me how light it is. Apparently it’s like the ultimate lightweight chair on the market and of course Jonas has spared no expense when it comes to weight reducing features.
“So, how do you like Cape Town so far?” Gerard asks Jonas when I pull into traffic.
“So far I like it a lot. It’s great to be by the coast. I grew up in Oslo, near the sea and now I live right on the waterfront.”
“So you like the sea?”
“Definitely. In Norway men have to do a year of mandatory military service. I was in the navy and I loved every second of it. It was the best year of my life.”
“Did you ever consider making it a career? The navy?” Natalie asks.
“For a while I did, and the navy wanted me to, but I had an apprenticeship as a carpenter lined up for when my service was over and that was my plan before I went to do my military service. I decided to stick to it. I’ll admit that my main reason at the time was to piss my father off.”
“Really?” Gerard asks, genuinely curious.
“Yeah. It’s a bit of a long story, I don’t feel like getting into it right now,” Jonas says. Then he changes the subject away from himself. “So, what’s your major? You’re a student at the university here, right?”
“When school starts again I’ll be a third year Architecture student.”
“I actually wanted to study architecture, but I didn’t have all the required subjects from high school and I didn’t want to spend another year taking classes to get all the credits I needed, so I opted for business school instead. How do you like it? What field do you plan on working in once you graduate?”
“I’m actually considering moving getting a Masters degree in urban planning.”
Gerard and Jonas soon dive into a discussion about architecture and design, allowing Natalie and I to catch up and chat about more girly subjects without annoying the guys with girl-talk.
When we arrive at the parking lot at Boulders Beach my heart sinks; it’s packed. It suddenly hits me it’s a bad idea that Jonas is in his chair; the few parking spots available aren’t wide enough for him to transfer comfortably to his chair from the car.
“Shit,” I mutter.
Jonas seems to realize what I’m getting at; he looks out the window and studies the available parking spaces. None of them are wide enough for him to be able to position his chair so he can transfer to it unaided.
“If Gerard is willing to give me a hand we should be fine in the space down at the end there,” he says, pointing. “Just make sure you park as far to the right as possible.”
“I’ll give you a hand,” Gerard agrees as I park the car.
“Okay, here’s the plan,” Jonas says. He asks me to get his chair and I do that as Gerard steps out of the car and opens the front passenger door. I’m guessing Jonas is giving him instructions on how to help him. I push the chair along the side of the car and see that Jonas has lifted his legs out of the car and has shifted his weight so he’s sitting sideways on the seat. He peers out of the car; “That’s good, babe. Put on the brakes and hold it steady, okay?”
“Okay,” I say. I wonder what comes next as I flip the brakes on and grab the backrest to hold it in place and watch curiously. Gerard leans into the car and Jonas wraps his arms around his neck. Gerard warps his arms around Jonas’ torso and in one swift movement he swivels him from the car seat and gently sets him down in the wheelchair. After setting his feet on the footrest and a quick weight shift Jonas looks up at Gerard.
“Thanks for that, man.”
“No worries,” Gerard says. “I’m happy to help. Just let me know if you need anything.”
“I appreciate that,” Jonas says. I know he’s relieved that the transfer went smoothly and that Gerard didn’t make a big deal about it. So am I. Jonas hates it when he needs to ask assistance, but we were both aware that there would probably be occasions he’d have to during this trip.
As we make our way down the boardwalk after paying the admission fee I can tell Jonas is a bit frustrated by the crowds. As the full car park indicated; there are a lot of people here today. I’m not surprised. It’s a beautiful summers day, perfect for the beach. We spend about an hour strolling around, Jonas snapping pictures with the DSLR camera in his lap and his cell phone and all of us chatting and taking in the scenery; white sand, large boulder and lots of penguins. It’s a special sight and I’m happy to see Jonas appreciating it.
When we get back to the car Gerard helps Jonas get back into the front passenger seat and I stash his wheelchair in the trunk. Jonas looks a little self conscious as he’s lifted from his chair to the car, but it’s smooth and over in seconds. After we’re all buckled in I ask what we should do next. We don’t really have much of a plan.
“Why don’t we take the M65 across to Scarborugh and drive up the coast to Kommetjie and we can take a walk on the boardwalk from town to Slangkop lighthouse?” Natalie suggests. “That way Jonas gets to see some more of the Cape area.”
“Sounds good to me,” Jonas says enthusiastically. Gerard also agrees, so I turn right when we get up to the main road.