Looking over the Eastern Cape “hills of tomorrow” found in South Africa

In my heart of hearts, I am, you are, at this meeting point, but is it a reference, a beginning, just a starting block or truly a turning point?

In my heart of hearts, I am, you are, at this meeting point, but is it a reference, a beginning, just a starting block or truly a turning point? I will never know your Cambodia, your Philippines and I will always be writing to reach you, to make my way back to you and you will never do the same. 

As I sit here, in my study surrounded by my books and an elderly father taking a nap, the day is sunny, warm, and inviting. The light is bright and swallows the green tulsi bush, the fingers of a tree, and the branches that stretch out to meet the bluest sky that I have ever seen this year so far. I think of you so far away. It appears as if we are separated by islands and by the textbook knowledge of flora and fauna. I will never know you again as I knew you three years ago. We will never meet again. Another woman lies in your arms now. You have moved on. You are living life to the full. As you must know, I am depressed and lonely.

Are you happy?

I am not happy. I am still the outsider looking in as I was when I was a teenager. I am still moon-faced and yearning for something material that I feel will make me feel joyful and give me a reason for living. I think of the attitude of the green leaf, that I am the outsider in the autumn leaf. I hold the leaf between two fingers. The solitary leaf takes it. Are you happy? I asked you that already. Sorry. I forget myself. I forget my place. I am the outsider looking in. I will always be the outsider looking in. My sister’s Europe creates in me a cynical eye. All you’re seeing is a vision of the past version of me.

I wonder what she’s doing now. I wonder what your woman is doing. I wonder what women like my sister are doing. She’s probably curled up with a good book, or eating a bowl of cereal, sitting on her bed binge-watching Netflix on her laptop. I write the hours away. I sit in silence writing a haiku about the pouring rain and I think of the education that rain, my crisis of faith, issues of faith that all poets face, that my mother faced in her own life, in her own time, on her terms, I think of my sister, I think of all the mental institutions I was deposited in and I think of my last domicile in Johannesburg, the Salvation Army.

There are centres inside of books that open up longing and a seeking air of vulnerability within me. I think of my childhood when I was the loneliest girl in the world and I think of my loneliness now that I experience as a grown woman and what methods I must still work on to fight this, to combat this negativity and stress, these storm clouds above my head. All I ask is this. That you pray for my happiness but my voice is on an island, it does not come through the loophole of a telephone and you are on another island, far away from me. I think of the diaries of novelists. I think of my diary and how my arms become branches as I write and how even my fingers turn into ink.

You are dead to me now. War speaks to me. I have written four books about you. I just had a flash of a memory of the time when you told me you were stationed in the Congo.

I am not a machine. You don’t look like a machine. Like what a machine looks like. I drink my mood juice. My ice-cold beer in its green bottle. A few tentative sips sate my thirst. I wither in the afternoon light of day. I’m calm. The anger within me becomes the river. I remember. See, I’m remembering again. I remember everything. How women have a long memory for every painful event that has ever happened to them.

You get up and kiss my cheek in the same way so many others have kissed my cheek and in that horrible moment comes a reckoning. I know I will never see you again.

I have the rain to keep me company. In summer it spits in my face from the pavement, it melts on my tongue, it finds its voice and accompanies me as I walk from room to room in the house and in winter it pours down from the evenings and sometimes there are storms, lightning and thunder that keep me awake at night.

I think of my research, my consistency that appears to be effortless on the surface and the vertigo that dances around on the page. I think of your tenderness as a disturbance now and I find myself in a dilemma. How do I let go when I do not want to let go or surrender my face and the vessel of your body to memory?

It’s rough out here.

The pathway to the future is through knowledge and consciousness. You’re out. You’re out of my reach and impact as the man in my life and I am out of the reach and the impact of your love. Did I not submit? Was I not a good woman? Did I not offer you a good life? Was I not “the light” in your world? I had no expectations of you. Was I not talented? I would never be disappointed. Did I not comfort you when you were sad? Did I not listen to you? Did I not project onto you all the achievable visions that I had for our future life together?

I always had the best of intentions towards you but you must know this. I only wanted to love you and be loved in return. I only wanted to give you my heart. I stopped lying to myself. I promise. I could not be superwoman to your Clark Kent. 

Did I not in the end give you your freedom?

It is my mother now that has become the fabric of my universe. It hurt. Good, that it hurt. That made me feel. That the end of the affair made me hurt and feel and cry myself to sleep at night. Now someone can say, “That was a good book.”

Abigail George
Abigail George
Abigail George is a researcher and historian. Follow her on Facebook, Linkedin and Instagram @abigailgeorgepoet.