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African Renaissance

Twelve Monkeys

Abigail George

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I’ve made mistakes. More than a few. I haven’t always apologised for my behaviour, for the mistakes I made, the wrong journey I took, the path less travelled. I am broken inside. I sometimes feel numb and dead inside when I exercise. Especially when I exercise. When I’m stressed out, I exercise a lot. I watch films. I read poetry. I write poetry. But these days it just feels as if I can’t carry out the simplest of tasks. I feel that nobody really loves me for me. I think of Elvis, I think of Sinatra, I think of Sammy Davis Junior. I think of their friendship. The bonds between them. They were brothers. They had each other’s backs. They looked out for one another. They loved each other. I do not know what love is. Growing up my mother loved herself. Narcissist I think is the correct term. Always in heels and a G-string. Sexed up.My father was an absent father by all accounts. But, to all intents and purposes her gave me a happy life, a happy childhood. So, I am taking the memories wherever I go. Wherever, whenever, and I mean the happiest memories I’ve had, I still have, are the moments I spent with my father. Eating ice cream, going to the beach, visiting the clinical psychologist, buying the month’s groceries, playing under his desk at work. My father’s friends were my friends. The people that knew my father, knew me from a young age. Precocious and cute, always wanting to make people with sad eyes laugh, and if I couldn’t get them to laugh, I would get them to smile at least. When I was born before the eighties,George Botha passed away that year, from an apparent suicide. Biko slipped on a bar of soap. Then there’s Dulcie.

Dulcie September (I wonder what her children would have been like, her husband, would she have settled in London, married a man who had green, or blue eyes. Rick Turner was assassinated by a man with a gun (they haven’t found him yet), Kevin Carter was killed by a stray bullet as he was taking pictures of the unrest in the townships during the brutal heights of the heyday of apartheid. Political activists of colour were being arrested at every turn. Turn the corner, walk in the opposite direction someone, someone would be following you. The Americans I think termed that phrase Big Brother is watching you, or else it could have been anyone really. I’m young, but I have an old soul. Yes, I read poetry. Yes, I read books too. Basically, anything I can get my hands on. I love getting my hands dirty in the kitchen. The cake flour, the dough I eat off my fingers, dust the doughnuts with icing sugar, or cocoa, keeping busy, busy, busy, trying not to think, trying not to think of anyone, or anything. It is a long, long way to Rapunzel, Rimbaud, Verlaine, Proust, Nabokov, Salinger, Rilke, Akhmatova, and Coco Chanel. It is an even longer distance to Billy Graham, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Walter Sisulu, Oliver Tambo, Neville Alexander, Fikile Bam, Patrice Motsepe, ex-president Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, ex-president Thabo Mbeki, ex-president Jacob Zuma, and president-elect Cyril Ramaphosa. Then I think of the land of the free, and the home of the brave, and the American presidents (the leaders of the free world), George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, JFK, Thomas Jefferson, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump.

Nobody knows anything really about their childhood. Rapunzel, like all fairy tales, like the Native Americans, and the Eastern Cape poets Ayanda Billie, Robert Berold, Brian Walter, Mzi Mahola, the late Arthur Nortje, the late Dennis Brutus, Mxolisi Nyezwa, they are all frozen in the snow of my memory. I want people to love me. Just like my dad. People love daddy. People loved daddy. But inside I am sad. I am not even loved in my own home. My mother hates me. How to get over the mental cruelty, her un-loveliness to me over the years, her utter humiliation of me when she saw how close me and dad were getting. She was in the house, put on a disappearing act whenever I appeared. I tell myself that nobody loves me. That I’m a rubbish-throw-away-type of person. Nobody should associate themselves with me. I have no self-esteem, then low self-esteem. Sleep around. No, not really. I just give expert hand jobs, and I never kiss. Never. Too intimate, it makes me feel vulnerable, and when you kiss someone there are just so many levels to it, you know. The first kiss. Well, you always remember that. You always remember the person who first kissed your lips. And after that, after that you open your warm mouth (I think of everything as an experiment, an adventure, an exploration of sorts). They have all gone out into the world now. The wives have done what is impossible for me. Given the boys children. That, that, that right there is too much for me to take, to handle, although I know I will survive. Believe me, I survive without cocaine and alcoholism, without sexuality and the sexual transaction (as Jean Rhys said in After Leaving Mr Mackenzie).

I endure with the best of them. I love like the greats. The great singer and songwriters (the late Karen Carpenter), musicians (Lenny Kravitz, Fiona Apple). I too have been careless with the hearts of delicate people. Some have moved on with their lives, and have forgotten all about me. I pretend to wake up in the mornings to the legends that the boys have become. They are men who rule empires now. They have forgotten all about me, forsaken me for money, prosperity, prestige, status (I’m mixing up my similes here). I miss them. I miss them like crazy. I wish I was back there, not here. Each and every day in Johannesburg was either a summer-ish day, or winter. I wish I was in love again, but I’m not. I’m a wreck. Still the same wreck I was 20 years ago. I’m growing older. I’m in my forties now. What a terrible age. The onset of menopause, flashbacks to a time and place when you were happier, when you could afford to make mistakes, behave foolishly, and love, love, love, and dance the night away with multiple partners on your arms, but I didn’t know about the world. Didn’t know anything about the world. So, mothers, be good to your daughters. They will learn to love like you do. I don’t know anything about that. I don’t know anything about love. I can smoke, I can drink when I hang out with the guys. I love men. Women ignore me. Women talk down to me. Women humiliate me in front of their children, mother-in-law, and especially, especially their boyfriends, their husbands, life partners. You know that kind of girl. You know that kind of woman. She’s beautiful, exceptional-looking.

She dresses down, she dresses up. I’m that kind of woman now. Can someone hear my plea? Anyone, anyone? Anyone out there? All I ever wanted was for my mother to tell me how much she loved me, how proud she was of me, and she didn’t. Still doesn’t to this day. And I hate violence of any kind, even in films. I still believe in what Walt Disney proclaimed. It is my mantra still to this day. I believe in family values. I guess it is the principle behind it. Norms and values. Growing up with norms and values. A kind of belief system, even though I did go to Sunday School, and memorise Bible verses, and was indoctrinated into religion by the Union Congregational Church,(I’m not religious anymore, although I still pray, still meditate, believe in reconciliation, and as such there is evil in the world, but there is also the greater good). Anyway, I am much more of a spiritual person now, from an early age I believed in angels. Truth for some, but not truth for all. I believe in the qualities of a good Christian, Brahmin, Yogi, Hindu, Muslim, Lutheran, Baptist, Methodist, and Catholic. All religions hold truth at the cornerstones of their foundation. So, instead of making war, think instead (this is for all the world leaders, mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters out there), make peace (keep the peace in the house, reconcile your differences, sit at the table and break bread, talk about your day, don’t isolate yourself from either your family, or your community). Be kind. You can kill with kindness you know. Today that person could be your enemy, tomorrow (as the ancients, prophets, saints, angels say) that same enemy could be your friend.

Money and wealth won’t make you beautiful. Inner beauty, understanding and understanding devotion to others less fortunate than yourself, the marginalised, downtrodden, those living in poverty-stricken areas in dire straits give them your peace too, and something to eat. The game of life is made up of winners and losers. The loser always forgets about the lesson that they have learned. The winner takes it all. Always remember it is how you play the game. Life is precious. People are precious too. We are only human at the end of the day. Once, they said that someday technology will surpass humanity. Code breakers, the women and men who serve countries around the world, and who are willing to sacrifice their lives for millions of people). I think also of scientists like Sir Isaac Newton, Niels Bohr, Max Planck, Pavlov, Albert Einstein, Marie Curie (twice-winner) of the Nobel Prize. I think of researchers dealing with computers, information communication technology, indigenous knowledge systems, the great digital divide between the haves and the have nots (first world countries and third world countries). I think of intellectuals like Pliny the Elder, Aristotle, Hippocrates, Homer, and Plato. Isn’t every intellectual an authority on philosophy, education, subjects as diverse and varied (Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo), as the holistic vision of an educationalist, community leader, humanist, activist, volunteer, just as much as a person can be plumber, he can also be a storyteller (everybody has a story to tell), and a poet. His name can be Yusuf Agherdien, Ambrose Cato George, and Shaheed Hendricks.

(The writers of the book South End: As We Knew It, although District Six in Cape Town is more well-known when it comes to the promulgation of the Group Areas Act). They can even be the curator, and a writer-visionary-maverick of the world-famous museum, the South End Museum, that has its roots in Saint Helena. An island in the middle of the ocean, that could only in the past be reached by a Royal Mail Ship that sailed from Cape Town to Saint Helena. Are we still slaves, our minds enslaved by oppression and racism, prejudice and gangsterism, the abuse of alcohol and mental cruelty? It has become a global phenomenon. It has become a buzzword. In my mind, we are all then victims of circumstance, of trauma, of incidents that happened in our childhood. And yes, we fall prey to evil deeds, and evil thoughts, we sin, and sometimes we pray and ask for forgiveness, and sometimes we don’t. We don’t learn the lesson; we would rather abscond. Go our own way. For some of us, this is all we know. Running away from loss and grief, denial and instigation, and when we do that we are motivated by our own fear, anxiety, even insanity (which means two things, break from reality, or non-reality).When you’re in high school all you want to do is hang with the popular crowd, go out with the most popular boy in school, obtain high marks, achieve on the sports field and inside the classroom. I was an obsessive-compulsive achiever, and the only people I wanted to impress were the women in my family. The women make babies, and stay at home, cook and clean, raise their family, but in my world the husband was always marrying the mistress.

We know the affect that climate change has had on the seasons, harvests, running water, rain, sanitation, and it spells disaster in all areas. Floods, tornadoes, tsunamis, storms, drought which affects our farmers, and particular our agriculture all over the world. I digress. I come back to those two words again. Global phenomenon. We are reaching a climatic stage of events in world history. Ask yourself these questions, think about them, ponder them as you would any projectthat is highly creative, and imaginative, that needs you to focus, and concentrate. Put all your energies into it, as you would your children’s lives, and your husband’s or wife’s welfare. What is your legacy, will it be hidden from view, or be there for all to see? What is your calling, your purpose in life, what are you extremely passionate about (I must have asked myself these questions thousands of times, and so, no, I’m not exaggerating)? What are your empirical dreams, lofty goals, pre-imminent plans? Are you concerned about the spiritual welfare of others, as I am?

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

Tongue of grief

Abigail George

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Sleep. I don’t sleep anymore at night. I don’t sleep very well, or, not at all. You only see what you want to see. You only see the sum-aura of me. You have no proof of who I have loved. No one knows who I really am. And I want to be yours, but I can’t. And I want to have a child, before I am too old to have a child. But life for me. It seems as if I have already travelled halfway. And I have suffered. I think that I have suffered too much already. I have buried the renal unit far underground where you find the dead of the fairground. Where sea meets the floor of the ocean. Where river meets dust. And enemies meet up with ash heap. The waking inside the iceberg doesn’t come naturally. There are deadlines even here amongst the elements amongst poor family life, dysfunctional life stick figures. There is project management here by children. I know, because I used to be one of those children. I ask myself now, am I being value-based by this, my tiny prejudices, my dreams, the visions that I have of the moth environment that I live in, the buzzing world around me, the holistic visions that I have of my future self. I’m an actor who doesn’t care what you think of me. I live on stimulus and impulse alone. Those are the laws that I live by. I should have had those children. Shouldn’t have listened to my father. Should have payed more attention to my mother when I had the chance. Maybe my life wouldn’t be such a fine line of a mess now. Staying at home with elderly parents. Struggling to carry on with my life which is a grownup life now. My life is just an illusion now. Nobody listens to this ghost capturing the castle.

Memories they come and they go. Angels walk by me. Overwhelmed as you are by grief, there is gravity, there is, in remembering the personality-type of the people that you loved, the person you thought that you were going to spend a lifetime with, their untimely and tragic loss. When you are young you think that there is only one person cut out there for you. For a while, grief grew in everything. I could see its progress everywhere. In slices of melon at the breakfast or lunch table, flowers, in Updike’s Rabbit, in ingredients and priorities it was a mooring, a kind of lifeline, a cold-hearted and aloof buoy, it was, grief was for the longest time. Grief came in waves, in waves, in waves. The rain would make me cry, the smell of winter, my childhood, my sister who was now living and making a life for herself in Europe, and then one day I woke up and discovered that grief was a stem now. It was growing, growing inside of me. A heart filled with grief can and will burst. This is how my heart behaved in those months after a distant friend of the family, Bunny Flowers, passed away suddenly. His death had come as a shock to everyone. Poetry found me. Prose found me then in those hours. In his bare defeating and breaking silence out on the sea. Grief will break even the calmest hearts. It will make you think that you are missing out on something. It will. Everything will remind you in the early days in retrospect and in days to come about the one who left you behind. I am slowly starting to figure that out. You will shout at the walls, I certainly did.

You will through no fault of your own, but you will come to blame God, blame the hospital staff who came to the people you loved and lost who came too late to the assistance of your loved one, at the unfairness of it all. Your teeth will have grief, sink its talons into it like watching the steam from a coffee mug. Seasons will change from the present to the past and my consciousness wanders. I act and pretend Bunny is on holiday. It was my defence mechanism as a child. It is still as an adult. He’ll be coming back now any day. Clouds will part. Still I tell myself because the grief is too much for me to handle, it overtakes me on certain days to the extent that I can only fill the hours and the silences with writing. Writing about life, the celebration of life and writing about death. You go on. You must. You must remember them as they were, I was told this once, I think my mother told me this. I make lions out of them. They turn into guardian angels and I make lions out of them. I find they are as much present as they ever were. I take comfort in that afterthought that populates. Grief can make you bitter. It can make you regret what you said, what you didn’t say in the moment, what you wanted to say, desired to say to the object of your affection. It can make you angry at the world and for no apparent reason you snap at a stranger, or a child, or a loved one still very much in the world. Money, I realised will never bring them back. It is important, and somehow some people make it the root of all good, all evil, all material possessions as if they could take with them if they left this world. I am in a boat and my heart is breaking. My calm heart is breaking. I realised early on in life after I lost my paternal grandfather, I was of course much too young, much too young, well I realised that grief has an outspoken tongue and point of view when it comes to the living. Those left behind in the now less than crowded house.

What to do when grief overtakes you, when you’re immersed in that space it is beyond overwhelming. If I could turn back the clock, I would have kept you safe every minute. I remember your voice, Bunny, I didn’t think that I would, but I do.

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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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