South Africa 2000 - 2001
Gene, the boy of my dreams, just broke up with me so I came back from my Matric holiday with my world in tatters. We dated for the whole of our last school year and he really was the first boy who I fell in love with. Properly.
Gene was my other half, my soul mate. He made me laugh every day. We were the coolest and most envied couple in high school. Together we were invincible and inseparable.
And now he was about to go and have happy times in the big city of Pretoria as a single guy. That left me facing the coming year of “freedom” scared to death because of course I still didn’t know what I wanted to do.
I met Desmond on Christmas Eve of 1999. He liked my poetry and our infatuation with Jim Morrison sealed our bond. Obviously being on the rebound I let him sweep me away with his artsy taste in music and the world. All his friends were also arty-hippie people and I loved being part of a group of such eccentric young professionals.
We got married in September 2000 and moved to Durban where Desmond was to start up a branch of an IT company based in Pretoria. For the few months preceding the wedding I wiled my time away by working at a local pizza place and did free-lance modelling jobs locally. I helped choreograph an entire modelling show and taught the kids how to strut their stuff on the catwalk. I wasn’t too worried about my future anymore as I was about to get married and move to a new city. There I would help Desmond in the business so that gave me some time to think about what I really wanted to do with my life.
To my utter horror and surprise, within a few weeks after the wedding, Desmond changed. From day to night. He spent most of his weekends playing golf and getting stuck at the nineteenth hole until late into Saturday nights. He liked getting stoned with a few friends and drank too much whenever we went anywhere. Or when we stayed at home. He would work after hours and flatly ignore me the entire evening. This was not what I’d signed up for.
Being only nineteen years old I was not used to being so far away from my family and my friends. I got very lonely and I felt utterly sorry for myself. We started fighting on a daily basis. One day I asked him what the hell had happened to him and why he’d changed so much, he simply said, “I have decided that I don’t - in fact - believe in God anymore.” And that was that.
We were out at a club one night and he was pretty drunk as usual. He came to me and very sweetly said, “I want you to try something with me.” He held out his hand and in his palm were two tiny square pieces of paper. I knew from all the wonderfully educating talks we’d had in school that he was asking me to take acid with him.
I was furious! Desmond had a past with drugs and when we met he’d been clean for over a year. I always told him that I never want to see drugs, because knowing me, I’d be too curious to say no and probably end up being a heroin addict. He knew so well how I felt about it and yet, here he was, my husband - the one who was supposed to protect me from drugs – offering them to me. I stormed out of the club with him following me, shouting at each other all the way down the road to our car.
We get home and he puts the trips on the lid of a lunchbox, on the floor in the middle of the lounge, between us. I sit and stare at it for what seems like forever. He says nothing. I am still furious and unbelieving of what he is doing, but my curiosity gets the better of me, so I say, “Fine, let’s take it then.” His eyes light up and I have this hatred for him, secretly hoping that it will kill me or make me end up in hospital just so he can feel bad.
The acid doesn’t do anything to me. Desmond trips all night long all by himself. I am happy that I didn’t get to experience any sort of nirvana or euphoria which may have been the beginning of a life-long addiction.
But a few weeks later my curiosity is peeking its head way out and I actually ask him to get us a pill so I can try it. He organises two ecstasy pills and we go to a very popular club in the red lights of Point Road, Durban. About an hour later everything around me changes. This is my first trip. I love it!
Mind and eyes wide open energy to dance and dance loving in love blissful rushing. Everyone is beautiful happy smiling and all my senses feel goose bumps prickly sensation running through my entire body like an electric current. Woo-hoo! I am in love.
I dance the entire night and as the sun starts to rise we go sit on the roof of the club where everyone is smoking joints and chilling on dirty stained couches. Things don’t look so pretty anymore and some of the people look frightening in the light of the morning sun as their jaws quiver. We drive home in silence, slowly coming down and I know that I have been changed forever.
Desmond’s boss asks him to move back to Pretoria to run the office there and so, after five months of being in Durban, we go back up North into the winter chill. Our marriage goes from bad to worse and it’s apparent that Desmond is finding marriage to be a cage where he is no longer free. He wants to be free. Every time we go out, he disappears into the night in search of drugs, leaving me stranded alone in a dodgy club or bar. He always comes back unsuccessful.
He drifts away from me and eventually he doesn’t even want to have sex with me. I don’t have a job in Pretoria and so I sit at home, without a car, cleaning and cooking and ironing. I am not the domestic type of girl at all but I do it. I try. I learn to cook but get insulted when he gets up to make a slice of bread instead, throwing my food in the bin. I cannot satisfy or make him happy. My ironing is sloppy and I don’t have a five year plan. This annoys him more than anything.
I look for work as a local au pair but eventually get a job at a small modelling agency as their booker. I am excited and I don’t care about the small salary they offer. Desmond however does care and he refuses to let me take the job. I cry and cry, which is what I do at least once a day. I don’t even bother putting on make-up anymore because I know I will inevitably cry it off. His looks of disappointment and disgust are enough to make my heart break and open the floodgates of my tears.
My soul has snapped.
My heart is broken.
I feel so wounded and bleeding…
Can you put me back together?
I can’t find my pieces.
My eyes are bloodshot.
I cannot see… you.
You have become someone else.
Will you come with me to the past?
Eighteen months ago?
Find me… I think I’m lost…
In a sea of pain.
One Friday night Desmond doesn’t come home. An hour after he usually comes home I am furious. I don’t have airtime on my phone and he has the car, so all I can do is to send him a “please call me” which is free. He doesn’t call me. In those days you could only send a “please call me” to a number in the same network. I formulate a plan and need to speak to my mom, but she is with a different network. So I send a please call me to a friend of mine. He calls me and I ask him to please call my mom and ask her to call me. What a fiasco.
By ten o’clock I am over being angry and start feeling the panic rising slowly inside of me. What if he’s had an accident or is in trouble? I ask my mom to please go through our wedding guest list and to call all of his friends, his boss and anyone who he might be with. Thankfully she had the list with her as she helped arrange the whole white wedding. An hour later she calls me again and no one has seen him or heard from him. He doesn’t answer her calls either. I cry and cry. I hate him. For doing this to me.
At two a.m. he stumbles into the town house, grinning and slurring something I don’t understand. He seems extremely impressed with himself and I fly up from the couch where I have been sitting all night. I scream at him, demanding to know where the hell he has been and why the hell could he not so much as pick up the phone and let me know that he is ok? He grins his usual stupid drunken grin and laughs in my face. The more I tell him that I have been worried sick the more he keeps saying all kinds of retarded things which I suppose is meant to get me laughing. I slap him in his face.
In that moment he turns on me. His silly drunken giggling stops and his eyes go dark and wicked. He stares at me and then, accuses me of still being in love with Gene. WHAT??? He can’t be serious! But he is. He goes into our spare room and takes out an old hard-cover notebook of mine. It is all my letters and photos of Gene. I’m dumbstruck. I had completely forgotten about that book. I tell him so and tell him that I haven’t spoken to or heard from Gene in almost two years.
Then he slows down, sits on the couch with his head in his hands. I ask him what is the matter and he tells me that he has been in love with another girl for nine years. She has always rejected him but they have been friends since high school. The sudden change in his demeanour stuns me but I take advantage of it and sit quietly opposite him. He tells me her name. I know her. She is beautiful and clever and successful and nice. She intimidates me and now I hate her. She is The One and I am second best. I am not good enough. He says that she is the reason that he doesn’t believe in God. He asked God for her and he got me instead. Have you ever?! That night my self-esteem goes from zero to minus 100.
A month later he declares that I should go back to my parents in Jo’burg. He wants out. It is around our eleven month anniversary. So I go. Too tired to argue and fight and keep on trying. I went back to my parents with no job, no money, no car and all our wedding gifts split painfully in half. I knew what everyone would be saying. They all thought I got married too young. It was inevitable that it wouldn’t last. Whatever. I didn’t care. I knew that I’d given it my absolute best and I believed in marriage. This was not my decision, but his.
Some time after I move back home I start having dreams about Gene. Often. It’s always the same dream. He comes to “rescue” me and we run away into the sunset to live happily ever after. When I see him, which is always a surprise, I shake with emotion and love for him. We don’t say much because we don’t need to. Our eyes tell the story of our hearts and it leaves us both breathless. Then I wake up.
After we broke up we stayed in contact for a short while. He laughed at me when I told him I was getting married to Desmond, because he knew that I knew that I still loved him more than anyone. I convinced myself that he was wrong. After I told him that he was not invited to the wedding, he stopped all contact with me and I didn’t hear from him again until years later. The dreams never stopped though.
Back in Jo’burg during the months that follow I do a number of jobs. I start with waitressing out of desperation for my own money. I soon quit as I accept that I am no good at it and then I work as a temp for two different companies.
I join a dance studio where I spend as many nights as possible doing the Rumba, the Cha-Cha and the Tango. I love dancing and it just comes naturally. I go to every Friday night’s social and just dance and dance and forget about Desmond. I enter a competition with my teacher and we win two gold medals. I never want to leave the mirrored studio and wish I could spend my entire life just getting lost in the rhythm of the music and the sexy Mambo.
A short time after I start my new life in Jo’burg, I decide to follow my dream of going to Europe. Through one of Desmond’s friends I get connected to a host family in Frankfurt, Germany and we go through the process of preparations and interviews via email. It gets decided that I will begin my year as their au pair in March 2002.
It is September 2001 when I meet William. Interesting and grown-up and intelligent Will. My new best friend. He wants a relationship but I keep denying him anything except friendship. I am going away in a few months’ time and making promises I can’t keep seems pointless. But we have fun! We have so much fun that I can remember the giddy and giggly times we have, years and years later.
Will teaches me about authors and films and we have a special song for every month that I am with him. We take Thinz and go dancing in clubs until we get thrown out. Then we go to his house, have a bath and sit on his couch, talking and talking and talking. We sit in his car on a koppie in Pretoria sniffing poppers in the hot sun and we melt in hysterical giggles as our faces turn blood red. Sometimes we can’t wait until the weekend to see each other so he fetches me at work during the week and we go have a few drinks. He teaches me about good cocktails and he is the one who teaches me to fall in love with red wine. He calls me every single day, twice a day and we talk for an hour or more.
I love him and he loves me. But I am leaving. We make a promise to forget that I am leaving until the day that I actually do leave. In the meantime, in order to try and forget about March, we have so much fun doing so many things that it is the longest and happiest seven months of my life. I often get a letter, a poem or a piece of writing from Will which he craftily makes with flowery wall paper. He gives me books which I still have.
On Christmas day we can’t be together because we each have to honour our family traditions by spending it with them. That night at eleven o’clock, we talk on the phone and Will reads a piece of what he has written for me as my present. It is a story of a pilgrim and the sun and the earth. It is beautiful. I cry and tell him I need to see him. He drives from Pretoria to come see me and within forty minutes he is sitting on my couch.
Every day is filled with Will. I inhale him every morning when we talk on the phone on our way to work and I exhale him at night when I close my eyes after we say goodnight over the phone. During the day at work he scatters my inbox with songs and our on-going conversations. On weekends we are joined at the hip, day and night. We try as hard as we can to ignore the impending reality of my departure. We love each other.
March finally arrives. We can’t ignore reality anymore. Our hearts break. Will is there to help me pack. He gives me a going-away gift. It is a C.D. that he has compiled, with all “our” songs and there is a little booklet with all the lyrics printed neatly on the flowery wall paper. The C.D. is called “I’m only happy when it’s Raine”. Only we know what it means. And it means everything to me. I still have it.
I drive with him in his car to the airport but we don’t talk. There is nothing left to say as we have said everything there is to say so many times. We know that “A Long December” and “Dance with you” will forever capture the precious few months of our friendship locked in our hearts.
At the airport I kiss Mom, Dad, Allan and Will goodbye and I walk through customs with tears streaming down my face. I am excited and I am heart broken.