Anniversaries are for Sad things too

Grief will remind you how fleeting life is. Won’t you live?

Grieve, so you can be free to feel something else.

Nayyirah Waheed

Nejma

The above quote has become my mantra. I lost my best friend two years ago, today.

I never fully unpack a suitcase until I have used all its contents, or my mother demands it. She has since given up and lets me trip over it for whatever period I spend at home. I would be dishonest if I did not mention the fact that my suitcase moonlights as a bar “fridge”. You see, my favourite thing to to en route to Africa (read Zimbabwe), is to stroll through the Duty Free shop and buy a few (like 2 or 3, calm down) one litre bottles of vodka. For some reason, the Duty Free store stocks variations that you don’t see at your local liquor shop and this makes for interesting holiday buzzing. Anyway, I’ll purchase those and hide them in my suitcase. This will explain why, during my Africa stints, you will likely find me at home babysitting the same tumbler of Mazoe with tons of ice. All day. I think my family has chalked it up to extreme homesickness and finds it endearing that I love our national drink this much, which works for me. To be honest, I’m surprised inyongo hasn’t killed me yet.

Anyway,  on this particular Thursday morning in January, at the height of summer in Africa, I packed the last of my belongings back into the suitcase I had been living out of for the past four and half weeks. Except for the now empty vodka bottles. Those I stashed into my ginormous “purse” so that I could dispose of them in a bin that didn’t belong to my mother. Yes, I’m 27. No, I will never drink openly in front of my parents. Please stop asking me why. As I packed, I cross referenced with my list. I pack with a list because I’m an adult that needs order. (I can feel the judgment).  Fine, I pack with a list because I’m afraid of forgetting things. As I zipped the bag up, in my mind I scheduled the day’s appointments and calculated the time I would have to say goodbye to my friends before dashing to the airport.

Father had loaned me his car – mostly because Mother doesn’t let anyone drive her car and, honestly, with the calibre of drivers in our household, I do not blame her. I lined up my luggage in the foyer for quick transfer later, and gently carried my handbag and its contraband contents to the car before my mother heard the telltale sound of clanging bottles and ordered me to lie on the ground with my hands visible so she could conduct a thorough investigation. (cue sirens).

This is funny because that is almost exactly how this would have gone.

I had breakfast, (okay, chocolate cake) at Mary’s Corner with a childhood friend who is now married with three children. (Two at the time). The most beautiful boys and a girl. We spoke about how different our lives were and she showed me pictures of her sons in uniform and I had to all but bat my ovaries down. And here I was jetting off to singlehood and general debauchery in the Cape with blessed little to be responsible for. I remember feeling a bit awkward because all my stories began with atrocious giggling due to the the sheer ridiculousness of the tales, whilst hers were homey, familiar and most definitely involved an assortment of baked goods and consistent cuddles. (Sheds thug tear).

I then sped off to the Tin Cup. It may or may not have been before noon, but I was on holiday and as my body was now 40% vodka anyway, who was I to deny my parched throat? I recall sitting near the window with one half of my favourite cousins (yes, twins) downing ciders and eating the fries from his girlfriend’s plate. Side bar – she and I hit it off that day. So much so, that she once carried an order of Chicken Inn (KFC but better) from Bulawayo to Cape Town for me. Legendary stuff. I had a 2 o’clock meeting with Natalie at the Boma (is it still called the Boma? The one at the dams?). Please note, I rarely drove around my city, and I never did it tipsy. So picture this; It’s I.50pm and I have a 3pm buzz going. I’m recklessly racing towards the back entrance to the dams, I keep missing the turn because, well, buzz, and she is texting me like I’m a slow 13 year old. She was so rude to me. I mean, she had no regard for my adultness and general respectability. I loved that. If a stranger ever read our texts, they’d wonder why we even bothered.

When I finally walked up to her table – it really was hers. Apparently she had a corner that she’d claimed. It was by a bench, in a corner, with all the cushions. her slops were on the floor and her legs dangled from the seat. And she’d ordered me wine. Come to think of it, that may be why we were friends. All the wine. But that wouldn’t explain that horrendous Spice Girls performance from grade 4 after that one breaktime. She was Posh spice (of course), and I was Scary Spice (another of course). It went quite well I think, after I’d stopped crying because Joanne had kicked my shins for some reason or the other.

The wine wouldn’t explain NRZ – the rap trio she, Zola and myself formed. Our  one and only hit was a bunch of slick lines spat over makeshift drumbeats to Busta Rhymes’ “Touch it”. Our tag line was “NRZ, keeping you on track”.

Gosh, we were so cool.

The wine wouldn’t explain the break times we spent harmonising to Destiny’s Childand Ne-yo with Zola (DRAMATIC). Or how we slayed our first live performance of Fever at Isigodlo Samakhosi. Or how after that performance, she caught me canoodling with what I can now confidently describe as a “not my type” boy outside. (In my defence, he played the guitar, so, what choice did I have?) Or the way we spoke about that night for weeks afterwards,  because that was how exceptionally boring our lives were.

The wine wouldn’t explain the heart-to-hearts we had in the prefect’s common room (I had to drop that in. Thank goodness I did not peak in high school because, wow). We’d head up the wooden stairs to what I imagine used to be the attic in the house that was now our school administration headquarters.  And there, during our free periods,  whenever we found ourselves alone, we’d share our deepest secrets. And I don’t mean the standard, predictable teenage angst-filled boy nonsense. I mean, there was plenty of that, but sometimes,  really deep stuff. Existential crises and fears of inadequacy. Even then, she was years wiser than I. She gave the most sound advice and to ease the silence, she’d tease me relentlessly about the length of my school skirt.

I remember settling in next to her on those cushions that summer’s afternoon and reading one of her journals. She wrote all the time. So honestly. Some of it left me speechless. I cried. She cried. We then laughed hysterically about the folly of our youth until the waitress side-eyed us from her station – although there wasn’t anybody else there. I remember leaving my wine for her to finish because I’d been summoned by Mother and was petrified of missing my flight and having to explain that I had been side tracked by grapes. I popped some chewing gum to disguise my activities and left. She remained to write, she said.

She yelled out my childhood nickname as I climbed into the driver’s seat. I rolled my eyes and waved from the window as I drove off at breakneck speed. Probably not the wisest of my decisions. My heart was happy.

That was my last memory of Nat. Happy. And Lord, so beautiful.

2 weeks later, I woke up to the news. And my world hasn’t been the same since. Yeah it hurts a little less every day, but it still hurts.

The Empress.

Chronicles of Romance Vol. 13

Are we too young to be chasing forever?

*I wrote most of this at 7.13am after a night out. I don’t recall the year. I found it last night and tried to conjure up as much of that morning as I could. I scribbled the ending whilst searching for sleep*

Whenever I talk to men about my singlehood life – often in varied states of  inebriation at the back of badly lit clubs, sitting on overused couches which smell of cigarette smoke – there is a common theme which dominates these conversations. I am asked by one – who has indirect intimate knowledge of how I choose to navigate the minefield of chemistry between two people- only because I am currently navigating said minefield with his ‘home-boy since we were ten’ – “why won’t you date him?”.

In my head a switch goes off and the sudden high pitched scream that pierces the slightly muddled calm in my mind slowly lowers to background noise level. In my head I yell “IT REALLY IS NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS!!!!”.  To his face, I say, very serenely, after taking an unnecessarily long sip of my beverage (in retrospect, I probably should have stopped drinking 2 hours prior, but I digress), “I don’t want to”.  I can almost see his braincells misfiring in an attempt to comprehend this simple statement of fact. I sip some more (again, should really noooot be drinking any more). He then asks me (rather audaciously because as already stated, it’s really none of his business)  “why?”.

In my head: I’m tired. My heart is tired. My body is tired. My heart has been riding an emotional roller-coaster (shoutout to Vivian Green) since I was 16 and I haven’t really listened to the bullhorns telling me to get off after each messy cycle. I just stay on when everyone else hops off and pray that there’s nothing left in my stomach to hurl out at the next ridiculous upside-down turn thingie.

Guess what? There’s always more.

It’s almost as if I’m a bottomless pit of emotions. At this point, they aren’t even my emotions anymore because “my” implies that they belong to me and that I exercise some sort of agency over them. Control.

I do not.

They happen to me. Violently. Completely. They overwhelm me and I can never seem to find the door through which I entered when I suddenly become (for however brief a moment) aware of just how far gone I am. But somehow,  I managed to disentangle myself from the last time, unbuckle my belt and run screaming for the turnstiles. I haven’t looked back since.

So, I’m not dating right now. I’m flirting with all the men. I smile at strangers at train stations. I stare too long at beautiful humans during my long commutes. I take tequila shots with long haired vactioners in dingy bars I normally wouldn’t frequent. I dance for a little longer than is appropriate with people whose names I have no intention of remembering in the morning. I kiss boys on steps and laugh when they ask for my number. I take down bartenders’ numbers on serviettes knowing full well I won’t be back. I buy energy drinks for bouncers and laugh at their lewd jokes in exchange for club entry. And when I’m done, I call your home-boy and do a different sort of dancing in the wee hours of the morning. No words. Just music.

He doesn’t need the words. All he wants is the music. And when the ride stops, he’s more than willing to help me off and wave at me from his car. It takes nothing from me but well practised sing-alongs and danceathons. I can still breathe. And see. I’m not trying to claw my way back to the surface and I’m never left shaking my head in an attempt to clear it of the dark tendrils of unrequited affection. I’m not left empty and tired of pulling the reigns of tired horses.

I don’t want to date. I’m worth gazillions more than the boys who proposition me are in possession of. Even together. Do you really think you want to run with me? I saw it in the eyes of those I tried with. The fear. Of being loved too much. Being seen and letting themselves see me. I mean really seen.

I’m a hurricane (irony of timing is not lost on me). I’m not a mild thunder storm in the middle of summer that passes after a bit of pomp and fan-fair. I’ll ruin you. And in the process, I’ll open up and let you ruin me and the cycle begins again.

Out Loud: I laugh coyly and bite on my straw (note, I’ve stopped drinking) in that well practised movie – pin – up – girl way and say, “we’re too young to be chasing forever. Besides, even if he wanted to date me, which I gather is the case, he hasn’t told me. I don’t want to be with a coward. A man who can trace the contours of a woman’s body for years but not whisper his feelings is a man I don’t want”.

The individual in question peeks through the door leading to the hideout at the back and winks. I wink back and point to my watch. He nods and I get up.

It’s time to dance.

 

The Empress

Diaries of a day drinker

*pours more vodka and adjusts the fan*

Happy New Year everybody! Yes, it’s early. The reason for this is that I spend every new year’s eve in church. I don’t know what I will do with myself the one year I don’t make it to Africa (read Zimbabwe) for the holidays. If this ever happens, please can someone strap a whistle and my address to my person? I can guarantee that I will be comatose by the time I am required to make my way home.

As I write this I am sipping on vodka and coke. I’m usually a wine drinker however, Africa makes it unreasonable for my pocket to sustain my preference of  the red stuff and they don’t have my nice bottles. So I buy vodka and lace everything with it.My Mazoe (I cannot explain this to you. You must experience it), my coke, my tea.. There isn’t much to do at my house over the holidays. Our helper is away so I am the helper. I use the strong stuff as both motivation and reward (I’m a good master). Also, I have a curfew here. You know, the usual African girl child curfew that stipulates that any youth that possesses a vagina must be within the gates of the homestead by 6pm or sunset (whichever occurs first). The vodka helps pass the time.

The vodka (bless the Russians) is also an amazing thought stimulant. This year has been a roller coaster for me and because I am such a lovely individual,  I shall share what few pearls of wisdom I have gathered. In truth, these are truths my mother should have shared with me but we’re black and we don’t believe we should share important things with our children until they are married. (except ‘stay in school, don’t have sex and booze is bad’)

A few months ago I fell for a boy whilst I was busy minding my own business. I swear I wasn’t looking. (ain’t that always the way) The boy expressed his desire to chill but was crystal clear about his commitment issues but I fell anyway (because I’m a girl and if you pay me enough attention I will plan our wedding). Chile, when a man says he doesn’t want a relationship or is a fuckboy or likes dressing up in his grandmother’s pantihose, BELIEVE HIM. DO NOT FOR A SECOND think that because he’s hitched himself to your particular brand of female that you can change any of that. And even if you do fall please #thuglife your way through the mess. Play the Backstreet Boys at home whilst you guzzle the wine but be Beyonce pretending to be single when you leave the house in your 5  inch heels.

The trouble with blurred lines and uncertainty in romantic situations is ambiguity. Are we a thing or not? Does he really not mind that I’m a raging alcoholic who hates the gym? Did he enjoy my cooking or was that a ploy to make sure I put out? Where in defined relationships there is security and you can ask these questions and trip when he gives the wrong answer (yes, there is always a right answer), in blurred lines situations, you don’t ever know where the boundary lies.

Know yourself enough to know whether this is a person with whom you can handle uncertainty or one that needs to know that you are high maintenance woman who likes holding hands in public. And then be honest with both yourself and him about what you want. If it doesn’t work out, you can always visit your mother and clean her house for two weeks whilst perpetually tipsy.

*pours more vodka and adjusts the fan*

Another thing women are never told enough is that we don’t come with ‘sell by’ dates. Be single. Be married. Be divorced. Be a mother. I am surrounded by women in each of these situations who haven’t hit thirty and FYI, they are currently QUEENING. SLAYING. Living the heck out of their lives. My plus one is almost always a woman I love. And I refuse to apologise for being 25 and slaving away to prepare my future (whether there is a fabulous man pouring my wine and letting me help him take his empire to dizzying heights or not). Love yourself so hard that the absence of a partner is not a vacuum, but more room for your wine.

Always carry condoms. Having been raised in a Christian home, sex and condoms are taboo subjects unless euphemisms are being used to describe how cousin Thandi’s belly got big. Thandi most likely got pregnant because her person didn’t have condom and was surprised when she accused him of hiding her period. Men don’t get pregnant and can walk away when you do. Buy the damn things and stay ready. Do not be sold dreams about team skin-to-skin or team pull-out. Do not allow your aunts to tell you that carrying condoms makes you a penis hungry slut. The world is already on team men-run-the-world, they don’t have to run your womb too.

Finally, dear black girl, scrub your knees. With a stone. Our mothers have always taken pride in our dirty knees because it means we can polish the life out of wooden tiles and future husband will appreciate this. Mandela did not die so you cant wear a mini-skirt and be proud of your knees. Shine that floor and exfoliate like you are being paid for it.

Much love and hopes for mini-skirt summers

The Empress

 

 

 

 

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