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African Renaissance

Pushcart Nominated Wash Away My Sins

Abigail George

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We never did get around to building the swimming pool in our backyard that my wife and I often spoke about. We said it would be for the children. Instead, the swimming pool could never be built because there were pipes underneath running under the ground where we wanted it to go.

So ideas for swimming lessons were planted inside my wife’s head. Mine too. Romance! What a harsh experience. Love, the interlude between two acts. Oh how it changes everything about the world experience, materialism, values, spiritual poverty, and that prime commodity of all commodities, spirituality. When I became a writer, I didn’t really know how I was going to go about it. Didn’t know really what I was getting myself into. But my wife stood by me. Saw me through that manic phase as well. I need her. I still need her by my side. Her elegance, her humour, and her beauty is what gets me through the day.

I need her like grit. The strange thing is she will always be good enough for me, but will I be good enough for her? What can get this bleak pose out of me, this dogged depression, this fierce, fatal memory? I will remember my wife always as the exotic Gerda that I brought home to my mother, my father, sisters, and my brothers.

How I will remember that this romance will live long, and will go on, and on, and on. She will remain beautiful to me now and forever more, even in old age. Careful not so spill your warm soda, handling plates carefully on your knees, surrounded by your family, faces of love, your children, your wife. So this is my story. This is it. This is where it all began seventy years ago. I am an old man now. I am a man who is in the autumn of his years. I’m a father who is looking at his son’s proud, and handsome face. He is embracing his namesake, my grandchild, my grandson, our legacy. Standing by his side is the beautiful, high-spirited young woman he has decided to take as his life-partner. He has the wisdom I did not have at his age. All I feel now is infirmity humming in my bones like never before. A chronic fatigue that descends upon me in the mornings like never before. The years that I was a young, virile man are gone. Have I left too much to fate in my own children’s lives? Should I have protected them more when I had the chance? I am left to wonder. They have all surpassed the dreams I have had for them. Abigail has surrendered everything to the universe. She is a poet and a writer. Amber has made a success of her life. In everything she has set out to do.

She works in a bank as a research strategist. Ambrose is a businessman involved in playing at local politics the same position I found myself decades ago as a young man at the Bush University. Well, all three of them didn’t have the longing I did to have a London experience. Nora, has travelled a great deal. India, Thailand, North America. My pilgrimage came with running with scissors, impressions on student life at Western Cape, surveying the landscape that was London, winter trees in London, the long road to spirituality, and so I made gods out of my education at Bush University, UNISA, Rhodes, and London University. I worshiped the buildings behind those tall gates, and cathedral-like inspired spires. I found myself in London. Escaping from the wuthering heights of apartheid South Africa. Steve Biko’s Azania. I would look at White people in their perfumed European world, their airs and graces, the fat of the land on their lips. Fruit, olive oil, pasta, and tomatoes in their trolleys in the shiny aisles their supermarkets. Of course it wasn’t home to me. This new strange land.

And standing next to me was my friend, Mr. Jones. He became, in that year, my brother and anchor that cemented me, planted me in this foreign land’s soil.

And what still resides to this day in my heart besides our friendship, were the walls of those gardens made of stone, and everything that was healing. It was stick fighting days for me all over again. The hell of childhood trauma (the bullying on the playground, those playing fields). Selling peanuts. Selling newspapers for peanuts. A forest of pain tearing into me, through me on fire as I felt my father’s belt.

Black is not ugly. It is something quite quietly, and remarkably beautiful inside and out. It’s a river running through all of us.

Through this life force of a nation. Hemingway had Europe. Ambrose Cato George had London, had half of the world at his feet, and beside him he had Mceke Jones, the best friend, the best man that anybody could ask for. A comrade. He had a face as dark as an orchard at night, as night land, a postcard of war, the blurred lines on the gravestones in a cemetery through tears of suffering or rain, an oceans’ tides and currents rising up to meet a physical body of sea mist. And every dress that I saw in a shop’s window in London I pictured Gerda in it, when we’d be reconciled. Together again in each other’s company I convinced myself that would give me renewed strength, and vigour, and the depression would no longer dog me, terrify me.

Mceke Jones pictured my suffering although I can imagine that in his own way he did not have the words for it. But something inside of him made him feel empathy for the condition he sometimes found me in in the mornings. When I was beside myself, could not make it to breakfast in the canteen, it was Mr. Jones who saw to it that I had something to eat. He was a lovely man. I have never met anyone quite like him again in my life. He must have had a wonderful mother. Well, we never spoke much about our childhood dreams. I had just seen the advertisement in the newspaper by chance for scholarships to study abroad. I don’t even think we got around to asking each other how on earth we met under the circumstances we did. It’s lovely to dream. I would literally be in bed under the covers, and think hours away much to the consternation of the Portuguese cleaning lady who made the rooms in the dormitory tidy. I was in her way. She was in my personal space. I didn’t want to return to Gerda like that. A broken man. Wherever Mceke Jones is, I think he must be safely tucked away in a high position in government, or in retirement surrounded by his children and grandchildren.

Adored, highly inspiring his sons and daughters, his grandchildren to follow in his footsteps, to have that London experience. And I wonder to myself did he have that sunny road? Did he have rain on his wedding day? Did he swim in the sea with his wife, ever take his wife to the moveable feast of Paris, Hemingway’s Paris? Still I wonder about all of my dreams, all of the goals I’ve had. I’ve achieved much. Plenty.

I’ve achieved my potential, and then some. And other men, and women?

Are they happy? Are they fulfilled when they look around themselves?

Are they sated? Or are they sad, do they feel frustrated, downcast, or do they cast aspersions on other people? People well I see them every day. They walk past me with smiles on their faces or a downcast look in their eyes and I tell myself secretly that there’s a story there.

There’s a love story, or that person is haunted by something (perhaps by some of the same things that I was haunted by). And I look at my daughters, a young poet, and a young woman who works in a bank. I produced that. They’re walking around with my genes in them. Their offspring will have (there’s a good chance that it will happen) my genes in them.

This makes me happy, but it also makes me sad. And here is where my story begins to unfold. I saved the best of me till last. For my grandson Ethan. The heir to the throne. For my children, my beautiful wife, my daughter-in-law. This, this book is for you. Always remember that there is loveliness in the world around you, that the genius’s behaviour can exist for long periods in loneliness, and solitude, their vulnerability sometimes aches for company, that there is an internal struggle in both the introvert and the extrovert. Both can become the hypomanic leader, entrepreneur, and even the educationalist (as I once was), and particularly the actor. And so I come to my swan song. We live in a traumatic society. The fabric of the universe is changing as fast as the advances we are making in technology. Someday perhaps that technology will surpass humanity (although I pray that it doesn’t). Geniuses are always on a journey. People journey all the time. Some find themselves in self-imposed exile. Some travel to India, far off places where they can find themselves, journey within, discover themselves through meditation, self-discovery, self-actualisation, through that phenomena, that reality.

And that nature. But the fact of the matter is we are all born geniuses. What we do with that gift, that potential isn’t always up to us though as I discovered in my own life. I hope you will come to realise that like the genius you are always on a journey from spiritual poverty to a journey of self-discovery. This is my story. A memory of madness. Of suffering in silence. One man’s fable is another man’s parable is another man’s perspective in the flesh across a wilderness history carrying a survival guide with him. He hasn’t got his whole future ahead of him mapped out just yet. He can’t believe yet that he’s just met the woman he’s going to spend the rest of his life with. That they will be excited on their wedding day, but that their marriage will have its highs, and lows. This diary of madness is in praise of my mother. Her wisdom. There’s an insanity that borders on modern day humanity’s unquiet mind. An insanity that is never spoken of. When I grew up, some might say how that it was an idyllic childhood, but there was also an insanity that bordered on the Cheshire cat in Alice in wonderland. And so what was happening on the rest of the African continent became either a dream or a nightmare.

But it made no sense to me. It never reached my understanding, my sensibility, and the fragments of human bodies in war, reconciliation, and peace in the African Renaissance, the duplicity of the promulgation of the Group Areas Act, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The revolution (if ever there was one taking place at the height of White South Africa, at those wuthering heights of apartheid South Africa, was a revolution that was more of an unseen movement at the least. A revolution from within (like its counterpart in the West, feminism). Although women at the time of apartheid weren’t as liberated as their counterparts in the West. In life there are always choices. Sometimes you make the right life choices, and this brings you pleasure, but sometimes they bring you pain. And sometimes from lonely, humiliating experiences there will come a dream that you will never completely wake up from. Like marriage, a good woman who doesn’t believe in wearing sensible shoes. Goals can become as stale as a loaf of bread, that stuck record, leaving one eternally morally bankrupt, and sounds which were once familiar to each other like a man and woman embracing each other in front of their children, their muffled ‘I love you,’ hidden from view.

And you will begin to realise that love it changing everything once again in its path. Always hidden from view it is working from the outside, its private domain. There’s creativity in everything around you, particularly in sufferers of mental illness. At the end of the day whether you have a mental illness, experience a profound measure of loss, of longing to belong, we are all volcano dreamers. We have a bright faith that we transfer onto our children. I knew when and where I was not welcome, although it was difficult for me to realise it at the time in my most lucid moments. There was always the ballad of life to keep me company into the early hours of the morning, and so I became a man who became the curator of his children’s dreams. I think of my childhood friends. I think of them often. I miss them. You don’t get to travel light in this world if you have a mental illness. Flight from the illumined glare pharmaceuticals. Flight from the illumination of pain. Flight, flight, flight, is all that you can think of when illness descends.

Abigail George is a feminist, poet and short story writer. She is the recipient of two South African National Arts Council Writing Grants, one from the Centre for the Book and the Eastern Cape Provincial Arts and Culture Council. She was born and raised in the coastal city of Port Elizabeth, the Eastern Cape of South Africa, educated there and in Swaziland and Johannesburg. She has written a novella, books of poetry, and collections of short stories. She is busy with her brother putting the final additions to a biography on her father’s life. Her work has recently been anthologised in the Sol Plaatje EU Poetry Anthology IV. Her work was nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She briefly studied film.

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African Renaissance

Childhood and Magda

Abigail George

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I haven’t got time for the pain. When I’m through with you, I will still hope.There’s an ocean meeting invincible ocean pouring into eyes,you are far away in another city now a devil in disguisewith sadness comes a mania of relief (it is just a part of me). There is a part of me that is an experiment. Just a playing field. I was born that way. To feel my way in this world with trepidation. To a ghost feeling her way on land. You’ve left, you’re gone, and you’re a ghost, something wickedly despicable but I understand you so much more now. The last time I spoke to my sister was a Sunday and I know that soon the months will turn into years between us.You,beauty personified with the sameness of Ezra Pound. I’ve abandoned you; you’re gone.

You’ve made history young standing with your ticket and your visa in hand at the boarding gate work for tomorrow. There’s something purified in the hoping for something sweet in the novelty of youth. So, the aftermath will come one by one. We’ll forgive each other like

the appearances of the moon. We’ll exchange gifts and we’ll remember the commodities of childhood. I’ll close that (I won’t pursue him). I hate him so much now I could spit blood. It came from childhood continued. The damage is done (what are the meanings of trauma and casualty) only this remains. When I’m through with you strangely I will still hope. I am standing in front of you asking for forgiveness. You’ve arrived on a scholarship. Left all the lions and elephants behind. Parents that you’re sick to death of the sight of, a sister who is mentally ill and who has all the sinister potential of making it anyway and a brother who doesn’t believe that smoking is for grownups. You’ve detached yourself from your childhood, grown as cool as an iceberg. Darling, you’ve made it as far as America. How far is up? To the blank slate face of the moon, the fat orange sun that shimmers and glitters in heat waves and so you stuff yourself with Chinese food and decide this is the life; to live like the rich do as you. Take their coats and hang them up with a number at an elite country club and do everything American as you can possibly do before you die. So, you forget about us. Four stone gods. Buddha-like in your consciousness, all owners of lonely hearts in a wilderness of biochemistry and decay. Once I nestled your head in my lap and breathed in the scent of your hair – of powder, scent, perfume, skin against skin, not yet old, wrinkly like fingers like prunes from a bath, smelling old; no longer an extraordinary machine. Now you can hardly bare me to touch you. I see less and less of you; you don’t ask to be taken care of; there are no longer whispers in the dark as we camp out in front of the television. There is only your magical thinking. Your purity, your humanity, your alchemy. You’re a mother, a wife waiting in the wings. Already posed in your natural habitat. Your dewy eyes are gems, once diamonds in the rough. Once you wore a crown of thorns in childhood. In those rough, tidal, shadow-boxing teenage years when bad, bad things happened to show up in your life. A yellow shout of melancholy with no bounce and of little hope and so your innocence was snuffed out and planted into a dead nothingness. And yet it still left you with the mind of an angel. Cradled you like a new-born, Magus. I think of anticipatory nostalgia. I say this with love. Caught in a trap. Once immobile. Then striding across playing fields cradled by lullabies and spent by beguiling motives. Journeys and a soul awash by winters and the glow, the matrimonial hush of seasons and so will I, goddess-like make you a daydream of a monster. I would never belong

I am not like that. Built perfectly in your world. I am poison. Not so good at navigating vertigo through sweet nothings, and flash love. I don’t cry anymore when my heart takes a dive. I wait to hear you say what you want. Your voice a soft blot. Swapping enduring stories that migrate anxiously from my mind to yours. Like a lilting, urgent freedom song. A songbird received with warmth and sincerity. I like those words memoir, smoked. Feeling my Achilles heel, my sobriety. An ache where my heart should be. You have been in my dreams all my lifemeltedmy heart made of stonewith a soul all patched up like skin. My comprehension on trial, my cowardice. This is me saying goodbye.

What does love mean to me then?Is it the winter rain here again, the machinery of haiku?

Leaves softly whispering on the ground. Words, words and more words. In imagination a purified Dadaist reality. Restored in a manner with alchemy and humanity. You are soul you know and that’s enough for me. The book on us is finished. The diaries burnt. I’ve got my head under a primitive sky. The sun’s impoverished. Walt Whitman’s blades of grass all lost on me. You’re as remote to me as an American utopia. The cogs and wheels are spinning. But what does that mean? There’s nothing sublime to it if you’re not here to hold me. Did cancer or illness that interrupted your life?Why did you not marry,or, find the right man?Why don’t you have children?Why aren’t you normal?All I can see is destruction mingled with burnt diaries. Where are the seeds yourMother originally sowed?Who anchored the roots of grief?And, introduced the weight of the world’s weariness. Your mother drinks lilac wine

Purple blooms upend themselves in the glass much more than a stain. But you don’t like that kind of distraction that stills nerves. The grownup kind of love. The kind of pain children bring with them into the world. The starry anticipation of tiredness. As people make closer contact with you, they become illusions. Fiercely torment you vulnerable-thinker.

You can never take off that hat. The psychological framework. The quality of your conversation. Is it heroic, stoic, and maladroit?It needs a wiser understanding. Your laughter needs no shelter. You walk the sky in a swimming pool. Conquer lap after lap after lap. At the end of the day you smell of rain. Your mouth keeps on after opinion. It keeps changing perspective. Are you really a poet (or is that a guise)?Where is your mask for the ball?You need food, sleep and a feast. You’re hungry for it all. You are hungry for everything. A network of business cards and data. Where is young Hemingway’s Diary?Where are the seeds Buddha planted?Where are the seeds Plath and Sexton planted?Your speech is rapid (just let it go to the palace and tribe of boredom). Like air in the bloodstream of an apricot.

Finding myself in the tender sea. (There’s no ignorance and confusion here). I listen to its brilliant blues murmur so varied. Tasting the salt in the eternal profound light.And when I leave that spirited energy there’s the night wind. There’s the man on the moon. There’s the television. There are giants, monsters, and talking heads. But there’s also a sense of quietness of peace in this paradise. No glut of shaking flight, fancy, fight that I’m anchored or terrified by. The newness of it all – because I am known in all of these territories. These regions, these districts. Storms will come but I will not be done in by their edges that tides simply fall off of and come undone by. The problem of pain is like the meaning of a river. It will pass. Summer will soon be here in this paradise. My brother is doing what he did when he was a boy. He used to steal my books, my Milan Kundera. That philosopher who was a writer. A philosopher who wrote books. And now he is turning the tables on us. Being a philosopher who is becoming a writer who writes and edits books. Pictures can tell you a thousand stories. The weather forecast or the change in climate. Currents that are trending in this paradise. I am a metallic stream-of-consciousness worshiper. Look how I’ve made it into an art. I’ve discovered it’s no longer strange to me. I’m channelling it and all its rituals. There’s a poignant sadness in its image. Aching dream of what could have been. And madness bordering on the useless storm of dark and suburban mania. Look at how birds will remind you of song. When you played truant and your parent’s inertia. And of water, the weight of it in this paradise.

Sinners never disappoint. And I do not envy them. Their crowning glory, their shape. Their smell lacks innocence, their unemployment. The lack of skills to put bread on the table to feed hungry mouths. I do not envy their presence. Where drunkards kiss the ligaments of the cold earth of the pavement. Mouth meeting another. The beer’s mouth both just imagining things. A better life for all, world peace. Once there was the unbearable lightness of youth. Chips and steak are on the menu. I can also talk of love, many things.Now young guys lie in the street. Face down like carrion. We’re young still and there’s an unbearable lightness that comes with it; poverty, unemployment. A silence so pure while a mouth defies gravity and neutral ground. Lectures on how the revolution must hurry up after speech after speech! It is not that this generation is speechless. Kevin Carter has been dead a long time. Photographers can drift. They drift like driftwood. Ribs, beer and dancing (darts for the men) are on the menu. I can also talk of the love of many finer things. Damn married fever but not as committed. Soon Magda will be forgotten like a wallflower. It’s not in my power to change that. Conjure it up. Only an echo followed her death. It played itself out at the graveside and inside the church. The music. The outside of me is built like a wallflower. Winter bright white light there’s an echo coming from somewhere. Shoes on the floor cold night a starry sky. Those shoes belong to me and I’ll lace them up in the morning. The echoes vibrate under the soles of my feet. Instead of going to bars and clubbing, she poured herself into reading her books. She cooked up a storm furiously. Imagining it was for two. Funny girl. Magda that shiny fractured thing.

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African Renaissance

The woman who ate everything

Abigail George

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I have no children of my own. In reality, I exist. In non-reality, I am non-existent. I am more demon, than angel now that Mick has gone. I still have those same fears and yearnings. My vagina has those same fears and yearnings. I thought that there would be this shared recognition between Mick and me. He had been the one for so long. The only man in my life. He chose another. I tell myself that on the dark nights when we could have been making love. Everything has become a river leading to honesty, breaking down walls of fears and yearnings. I wanted someone to tell me that I was beautiful, but the world in its entirety tells me that I am beautiful now. What am I living for, now that Mick has gone, I mean, he was on his way out of my life anyway? What is love in the modern age anyway? There is no time to play. My father never approved. But it was my choice, or Mick’s choice, or Mick’s mother’s choice. Believe me, it turned out all for the best anyway. He will marry, I will not. He will have those children; I will not have those children. I belong to the world, and the world belongs to me, and every global phenomenon in it. Is there any man in the world who can understand that? Inside my heart is breaking. Mick is leaving for forever. We’ll see each other around. We’ll wave. But we don’t dare hug anymore. That proximity, so close to sex, that rarefied atmosphere of friends who were almost lovers inside my head, no more, no more, no more. Now there is quiet respect. Now there is admiration. He’s doing his thing (filmmaking), and I’m doing my own thing (my writing). I doubt there will ever be room for collaboration.

I live in poverty. He is wealthy. I am an artist. He is an artist. And I suppose my choice of lovers, and the men whom I choose to love now is all on me. I do love, but it never ends up in the bedroom. It ends up in on the page. It ends up freeing me. I am a bird with fears and anxieties. I am just an average dragon-woman. I am just an average dragon-beast. I have everyday flame inside of me. Mick does not return my phone calls anymore. He does not come to the house anymore in his car. I still look out for him. I will be doing that until I am eighty years old. For now, another love has come. The world is on fire. He makes me laugh, and think, and feel in ways Mick never did. I am sad. I am happy again. I tell myself that this is just preparation. I’m hungry for it. I am going to do it again. This time, I am alone. I am on my own again. Of course, I tell myself, there’ll be sadness. Why, oh why, does there always have to be this sense of wishful thinking, why this sadness. Always flying solo. Mick, I wanted you to feel the cold like I do. But you are heat, and all-heart, and warmth. I will be writing to you until I am eighty years old. Still trying to win your heart. I am a voyager. The new love is also a voyager. I exist. He exists. It is a new day, and dawn is breaking over the globe, and I am generous and this love is also generous. More giving, more prepared to take me on. I do not think he will be calling me intense to my face, perhaps behind my back, not even then. Not even then behind my back. I am doped up on love again. Mick has become another city (and this new love has empires, empires to build). Mick has become another tale of love lost.

Nostalgia. Whatever love means, it is not Mick, and I am still writing this novella as if it was an introduction to Mick and my old love, as if this was a story about an old flame. But this is a story about a philosopher-educationalist, the impact he is making on the world around him. And for now, he is perfect for me. The thing you do not know about me is that I tell people what they want to hear mostly, but if I like you, I like you. And your home, becomes my home. My home is where the ocean meets the shore. My mother loves money. She loves that lifestyle. So, I have convinced myself that I can buy my mother’s life, I can buy her love. Men are the only fixtures in my life. The only men who save me are my editors. Love has a way of conquering all. We sleep to dream in this house. As painful as our past once was. We make believe happiness. It is only an invention that masks who we truly are. Like the seasons that are so determined to change, I will rise above these circumstances of falling in love, and then losing that love, and watching that brilliant, brilliant man walking away. And this, this will always be somewhat of a performance. People, believe me, don’t want honesty. Honesty kills trustworthiness, childhood continued into adolescence, and there is, here is the blue hour. There is, here is an unbearable lightness. Mick’s gone. Playful and sweet Mick’s been replaced by love. I should be used to this game by now. Playing this game. I do believe in love. Love is a jewel in the dust. Love is a turning point. There is even faith and obedience in love. Love is a state of emergency. And I have learned obedience from what I have suffered.

I am just a servant. Watched, observed, studied, and I know this. I know this like I know the back of my hand. The men will love me, and I will love them in return. I will love. I will be loved. And all the men I still love them. They are still very much alive, and human in a kind of memory form or blueprint to me. If they want to take me to bed now, there will be no hesitation on my part now. Just me. Dreamy, composed, and calm, and still as they enter me. Afterwards, they will leave me, as they all did in the past. Humiliation and embarrassment will return, along with progress and preparation. My life will go on as before. There will be love. I know it. There will always be love. This big dreamer, this damsel in distress mostly will betray nothing. This hunger is torture. This spiritual hunger is torture. But love, and falling in love is like a beautiful dream. The blue light of the day becomes even more blinding. And even the leaves have a kind of psychopathology. It is safer for me to embrace life in winter rain. And every day, even though the sun shines, the rain pours down upon my soul, the wilderness of my soul. My love, my love, I am writing again. You would be so proud of me if you could see me now. In the same way that I am proud of you. No more names. No more accusations. No more hugs. No more kisses on the cheek. No more sad looks. Your heart belongs to another. Your heart beats for another. Your daughter, your daughter. And, yes, I believe that there is righteousness and justice in the world. Yes, I do believe in love. Love can build the dimensions of a foundation, and this, and this, is how much it takes to love you.

David, this image of you in my imagination. And for me, love is suspended in mid-air, and for me it was always safer to embrace the life in winter rain, (as I have said before). There’s life in everything, everything, everything. There’s love in everything too. I never could understand love. Never saw it between my own parents. Only the sexual impulse in my mother, her modus operandi to have children, her depression, the fire in her eyes whenever she looked at the togetherness of my father and me, the peacock-blue eyeshadow on the lids of her eyes, the thick black mascara on her lashes, her G-strings, thongs reserved for the sex act. There were always empty bottles of sparkling wine under the bed, that I discovered the morning after. Whispers in the dark, finding my mother’s g-spot, amorous laughter (her amorous laughter), and daddy would sometimes forget that I could hear everything. The shower would run in the middle of the early hours of the morning. I would be looking for a pen to write with, and discover condoms in his side of the bedside table. How does a woman become a lover? How does a middle-aged, grand dame of a woman become a lover to either a man, or a boy nearly half her age? It happens. It happens. But husbands never leave their wives, unless of course the lady in question is half his wife’s age, or, looks like his daughter, or, has the looks his daughter has. A girl becomes a lover. In the books, that I’ve read from Updike to Kundera, Brazilian Paulo Coelho, and Russian American Vladimir Nabokov, it is girls that become lovers. It is girls that become wives. Just memories. Men are still men.

Boys are still boys. They look at her. Sometimes they stare at her. I am her. She is me. I take note of the stares, the smiles, their stares, their smiles, their proposals, and the flirting, the talk. The talk it burns me. And when I go home, I meditate on the way they look at me, speak to me, and imagine them, either going down on me, or, turning me on so much that we make love, or engage in sex acts. Having a good time. Pleasure is fun. And then I think of the kiss. Do you not only kiss people that you are in love with? Do you not only touch people, well, I touch men a certain way, that I like, that make me feel safe, that I would go to bed with given the chance. Love, or, rather the physical aspect of it makes me feel anxious when I remember what happened in the past. Anxiety and fear, and uncertainty, restless, frustration, apathetic. What if I can’t perform because of the medication, or the depression? It has happened to me in the past. In the past, I was humiliated. Most of all, he was humiliated because he thought that it was his fault that I could not climax. I was so young. In those situations what does a girl do. Admit everything about her past? Confess everything about her recovery, relapse after relapse, stints in mental institutions, state hospitals, expensive private clinics? A proposal is either decent, or, indecent. This kind of proposal from a man to a woman reminds her of her own sexual appeal, and sometimes this woman remembers those nights of her parents’ when her father and mother would turn into lovers. And then even daughter would become lover, touching herself in the dark, removing her panties, thinking of men.

Men old enough to be her father. Or, men standing in front of her desk, teaching her in the classroom. I knew (even then, even then), how to fly. How to focus on the fact that I had wings. I was mute. I was on remote control. I was a mute. I was a machine on lockdown when it came to my academic work. Running, like Haruki Marukami, made me feel. It didn’t make me feel the despairing emptiness. It is my mission to captivate man’s imagination. I tell myself that. Even when there is a monster beneath the bed giving me a fright. If I knew any better, I would think that it was my imagination running wild. A trick of the sunlight falling on God’s wisdom. I believe in diaries. It made me feel something other than erotic. I did not call my grandfather veteran then. Did not know what epilepsy was, and that it was just a form of trauma, like my own brain injury. That every brain injury stemmed from an incident. An incident of trauma (I loved my grandfather very much, and in my mind, he lives forever like all the men, the men I have loved). I did not know what combat fatigue was then, way back then. I did not know what shell shock was. And as I grew older, my paternal grandfather became a distant memory. The voices inside my head sound very far away now. I have had a good rest, if I can call peace, having peace of mind that. It has motivated me not to think about religion, but spirituality. I do not like the dark. It is true. My physical body wants nothing to do with it. Adeline Virginia Woolf never stopped writing. Emily Dickinson never stopped writing. Anne Sexton never stopped writing. I will never stop writing. My sister, my sister.

My sister. Born four years apart on the same day. We never speak. I think of the phases of our childhood, the chapters of our life together, and how we grew apart. She was play-white, with her blonde friends. I was the one who was of mixed-race descent. Who was fake? Who was fake? Now I steal her clothes. She wrote me off years ago, like both sides of the family. Both maternal and paternal family. My brother is the only sibling I have left. He has fallen in love. The girl is mad for him, wants to marry him. I am not included in their family plans. Soon, I must make my own way back into the world, like my paternal grandfather. You can see my slave ancestry from Cape Verde and Saint Helena in the texture and colour of my hair, my brown eyes. I am half-white, and half-black. There is Germanic-blood that runs in my mother’s veins. She is fair of complexion. She is beautiful, and larger than life, both complex and complicated, both religious, maladjusted, sexually abused, molested from early childhood (as I was), and when I look at her, even now, depressed, tangled hair, as we both miss my sister, her daughter, the one who looks like her, acts like her in the world, feels like her in the world, all I feel is affliction. Affliction for all the wounded in the world. It seems as if I only write about people who have left a mark on my soul. David, the Sussex-man, Mickey, Salinger, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Freud, Adler, Jung, Karl Marx, Nietzsche, Ben Kies, Neville Alexander, Fikile Bam, Bhadra Ranchod, Gus Ferguson, Mxolisi Nyezwa, Mzi Mahola, Ayanda Billie, Razeen Davids, the new man in my life, and the list goes on, and on, and on.

And if there was any justice in the world, I would be with Rob. But I cannot catch a thief.The women despise me. The women despise me because I am unattached. I wear no ribbons and no pearls. I wear no wedding ring. Although I want to. I want to very much badly. I doubt that they (the women, the wives) will very much understand this, my reasons why I have never married, never had children, never met the one on that sunny road. The women will never understand my sunny disposition, the smile I wear pasted on my face. The fact that I go to war with girls and women every single day of my life. For most of my lifetime, I have gone to war with my mother over the adoration, affections, praise, and worship of my father. For my sister, it was different. It was my psychopathological disposition. The bipolar mood disorders. My ups and downs, lows and highs, the medication that numbed and deadened both the emotional, mental, every fibre of my moral being, and physical pain, and my spirit, my soul to the outside world around me. Now I imagine (my sister says). Now I tell stories (my sister, maternal family, my mother says). Now I have no wish to speak to my other half, my better half who will spend Christmas in Berlin this year with her German boyfriend. I do not love her anymore. Yet, I say that I love these people still. I wish them well. I forgive, but I have a long memory for painful things. My gift to the world is both twofold. My gifts are my soul, and my writing. Mahatma Gandhi’s gift to the world was his soul. Same with Luthuli, Mandela, Mbeki, Hani, and Arafat. I am waiting upon the world to save me.

So, mothers be good to your daughters. Your daughters will live like you do, learn like you, and love like you. I do not have the capacity to love anyone as much as I love the men. Do I loathe women? No. They loathe me. Do I desire women in the same way that I desire the men? No, I do not desire women. I am not a lesbian. Neither, neither am I a prostitute. I do not accept gifts of cash for the sex act. I think of the elitist allure of Salinger. Jerome David Salinger. I think of his epic hurt. I think of his epic hurts in life. I think of his epic hurts in love. I think of my own epic hurts in love. I cry like a baby. I can hold a man. I can hold a vulnerable man who can put it all on the line for love. I can hold a mentally ill man, a depressed man, a man who has lost everything, but do not ask me to do the same for a woman. You see, as I have said before. I only write about people who have left a mark on my soul. It is good to feel loved and accepted. Only men have loved and accepted me. Every obedient and disobedient part of me, whole, or, broken, with all of my heck, with all of my wise nature. Once lithium too was an idea, just an idea, this miracle salt, like Europe had been an idea.  I have later prophecies on my mind now. I have rewriting on my mind. I have proofreading screenplays, and pre-production in mind, but not a future filled with happiness, and prosperity, a family life, a life marked by settling down, raising children. I’m thinking of nations, and of bringing nations together, stopping wars, building democracies across Africa, reconciliation and equality, negotiation and diplomacy, generations marked by an unfolding.

An unfolding of a divine mystery. I think of the hours. I think of how I can fill those hours with activities in the same way John Nash did, in the same way Trump does with purpose. For all who are called to service, are called in the same way to sacrifice and responsibility, accountability and blessing too. I see abundance everywhere now, parachutes in September, and for my sister’s sake, and for people like her, the alignment of bipolar to brain injury. I stand in the shadow of the rhino, of Africa from the east to the west, the wildflowers of Africa, which are the voices of Africa. I think of the girl child, and the transformative powers on the confidence of the boy child (once sinner, once child soldier, now activist, scientist, inventor, educationalist). We are all living in changing times. I stand in the neutral shadowlands. You will never see my grief observed. You think you see me; you know me, you hear me speak, you think you have some sought of forewarned knowledge of me. You say hello, I say goodbye. It has always been like that for me in relationships, for in life, for in my life there is always more grief, and sadness, and emptiness for me, than happiness. I think of boys who have moves like Mick Jagger, and as I pass them by, I think of the high art of confessional fiction. I love. I am making progress there, but I do not kiss. I do not betray anyone. I do not write and tell. I do not kiss and tell. And believe you me, if I love you, I love you for you. For you are revolutionary, for you are photographer of the African National Congress in Tanzania, for you are educationalist, and even though you don’t even think it, you are philosopher.

I will love all these men for an eternity. Until the hereafter comes for me. I think of all the men, and their sons and daughters, and the women who have given them those sons and daughters, and I wonder to myself are they in love, are they still in love. I wonder sometimes, more ego talking than anything else, do they sometimes think of me. Think of me in their arms, tired. So, tired of life. Relationships are challenging to me. They challenge me on every level. As I am sure, every book that I write challenges the reader. For me, personal success overrides personal happiness. My father taught me that.

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African Renaissance

And the problems of the Coloured people (of South Africa) were of no interest to them

Abigail George

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We are living in the precarious times of a coloniality-based dispensation and the repercussions of an ill-fated democracy.

The working class, the downtrodden and the poor live in a borderline and tragic sub-economic area. The youth live in a reality of violence, the law and rule of the gun. The reality of that unfortunately is violence. Alcoholism is rife amongst the poverty-stricken. Those that live in sub-economic housing. It is a violent reality the capacity of which the educated establishment, the liberal cannot understand. Coloured youth live in a violent reality of drugs, territory, addiction and alcoholism. This is a generation that is defining itself either for better or for worse. It is a young generation primarily made up of the single coloured female. Very few coloured females slip through the net of not having, or, shadowing trauma in their lives. What they feel mostly is isolated, alienated, displaced or dispossessed. There is mass exploitation of coloured males and females in the workplace. Even there, they do not go unscathed. There is strong denial of their own feelings of self-worth. They are the breadwinners who live in either a sub-economic area, or, a flatlet, playing both the roles of mother and father. There is mortality in this community, death, infirmity and solitude. The Khoi mission statement was simply cheap labour. The colonial masters then were the government of the day. Cue the anointed, the holistic repositioning, vision of the anointed. Cue the apostle, the evangelist, cure the prophetic ministry. Now we are being taught that to be awakened, we must be indoctrinated by the church, by the dogma and rhetoric of the church, and that when you are most vulnerable, the purposefully-crafted theologian stands on their own. That it is God’s will that is always healing. The pastor will tell you that God will put entities in your path either to obstruct you, destroy you, sabotage, or, uplift you and make you visionary. That you will be blessed by your enemies. What are the merits of religion in a gangster-ridden community? It gives and brings closure, there is us, and the distance that lies between us is surmised to be God. The youth are taught from a young age that life is filled with disappointment, astonishment, observations of the flesh, the flow of the removing of the remover to remove, erase, or eliminate.

What is the explanation of this reticence, this anguish of us, and what are the problems besetting the Coloured in their community, in their homes, in their schools, in their livelihood, in their workplace and in their churches? We are still in a crisis mode. The crisis of identity. There has always been oppression and not emancipation in the Coloured community. There has always been humiliation and a sense of discrimination. We have always been used as political instruments. If the Blacks had Bantu Education, then the Coloured received a gutter education. You simply have to look around you today, to see exactly where we have come from, and where we stand today. Our existence and presence as stepchildren, as brothers and sisters, as the ‘White’ children of Van Riebeeck still holds solid ground, and if we chronicle our entire movement throughout history you will see that we are governed by the shackles of the laws and principles of an immoral threshold. We have garnered the vote, but what does that mean for us as a Coloured ‘nation’ in particular. We have been tossed about for centuries as slave stock, as Non-European, and endured our humiliation and our oppressors in silence. How do we negotiate as a second-class citizen, or rather the working poor’s second-class citizen sense of deprivation, the extreme suffering, the extreme poverty that we live in as the working class, the poor and the downtrodden? The bitterness lives on inside of us, inside of our children, inside of our grandchildren, inside of our great-grandchildren. This sense of unease, of unrest, of dispossession, that we are suckers for the pain of mental cruelty has stayed throughout with us for centuries. We have been deprived, lived under apartheid laws, served our country, were hounded in the process, persecuted in the process, and in the end where is the progress of our intelligentsia. Everything we do comes from the viewpoint of anger. It is time to correct the imbalance of social backwardness, ineptness, inequality. We have rights. We have rights. As the working poor, the struggle continues. As the working class, the dispossessed and as the poor we have rights. All the right in the world to be flesh and blood citizen with marked-up privileges.

It starts with recognising the wrongs of the insidious past, and righting them. Schools, libraries and universities must be built in the names of our people. It starts with the education of the Coloured nation.

That recognition that knowledge is power, and with that said, everything in the end that was taken from us, will be returned to us. In my own analysis, we must display a humane regard for each other, authenticity and remain watchful of the dream of the next generation, our descendants, our children. 

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