The Sweetest Taboo Part III:
Christmas without him:
Once his mom had left, my love and I for the next month fell into a routine of "sorts." I would be dishonest if I said it all went swimmingly well because it didn't, but don’t forget we were naïve enough to believe Apartheid, Racism and Prejudice would not touch us.
We would still endure the stares from strangers, the snide comments and whispers when we were out and about, but, for me, the worst was the "attitude of people" across all races.
Too often, while socializing among white women, they would come onto him quite blatantly and ignore me standing by. He and I discussed it and discovered that the white women we met did not take our relationship into account, so they would "hit" on him as if he had walked into the place on his own. When he told them he was with me, they'd give me a sideways glance, continue flirting, and he would have to remove himself from them. He would turn his back to them or abruptly say, "I'm with my wife (we weren't married yet), please leave, or you're disturbing us." Only then would the women flounce off in a huff.
White men again felt I was "easy meat," so they'd be crude and inappropriate when he was out of earshot. Often, while on a quick walk to the ladies room, I would have my bum pinched by one of them, or I would be "grabbed" around the waist. It was so degrading, and much of the time, I would handle it myself because I did not want to "cause a scene” by telling him and drawing further attention to myself. I lost count of how often I slapped a man, swore, or "lambasted" them for being inappropriate with me.
“Come to me, leave the white guy and let me show you what a real man can do,” this statement I would hear from Brown men (one's who look like me.) I’m using “decent” language here, but you get the gist of it. If I said, "I'm not interested." I would be sworn at and insulted. Men who behaved like this "looked decent." "Coloured” or Indian women we came across would tell him to dump me because they could show him a "good time." Sadly this included some of my closest “friends.” The fact that we loved each other just never occurred to these people. Of course, it never happened all the time, but often enough for us to see a pattern emerge! Let me be clear, though I had black women as close friends, they all respected my relationship, which is why I specified race with the women.
It was tiring!
I wanted to give up, and though I never mentioned it to him, I'm sure he knew how I felt.
The lines of communication remained open between us, and I believed this is what "saved" us from giving in to the surrounding negativity.
Then, there were the constant calls from his family members under the guise of "concern" and love, but the inevitable question would arise "Are you still with Thesna?" "Yes, I am," he would answer and not long after that, they would say their goodbyes.
One night in early November, he asked me to cut his hair; he had shoulder-length hair, and I knew he enjoyed wearing it long. So, why the sudden need to cut his hair?
“Are you ok?" "Is everything ok?" I asked nervously.
“Yes”, he replied, “I love you.”
Now I know something isn’t right.
My suspicions arose when I refused to cut his hair because I liked his long hair.
"You have to," he insisted.
"No, I don’t,” were words that sprung to mind.
Before I could voice them, he pulled a bag out from under the bed and shoved a letter in my hand.
"What's this?" I asked.
My thoughts raced to a Dear John letter!
Those "types" of letters were generally "left" on a bedside table, not handed to you.
My hands shook as I opened the envelope and started reading the letter.
“I don’t understand!” I cried.
"I've been called up by the Army to do my 2-month camp.” He said with a resigned note in his voice.
"Did you not do your 2-year national service when you left school?" I was so confused.
“Yes, I did, but apparently, there is unrest in the townships, and I have to go," he answered sadly.
"Well, that's ok, you can just say no and refuse to go," my optimistic answer to him.
“They will lock me up if I refuse to go,” Jail! Yikes! WTF!
"But you could be shot and killed," I cried passionately.
"I won't be, you, will see I will be back before you know it,” he said, smiling and hugging me. (This is one of those times when cool, calm and collected isn't working for him.)
It's "amazing" how being young and in love doesn't make you look at anything outside of the little bubble you're in!
I felt like Romeo and Juliet.
He and I against the world!
I gave an Oscar-worthy performance of a tragic leading lady.
"It's unfair," I cried, calling my inner Meryl Streep.
I was angry at the Army for calling him up for duty.
How could I possibly last until the middle of January the following year? What about Christmas?
I would be alone because my family is on their annual holiday in Cape Town.
That night I cried so much and prayed for his safe return.
As I said, when you are young, it's a selfish kind of love that you feel, and I refused to see the bigger picture.
Johannesburg is quiet and lonely in December time.
Over the next few days, I cut his hair and took a photo of him in the army uniform.
We were both so sad, clinging to each other while I smiled through tears.
The day arrived sooner than I was ready for it, and we took a taxi to the bus station where he would catch a Greyhound bus to Durban.
Standing there watching the bus drive away slowly, with tears pouring down my face, I was "convinced" I would never see him again.
My last picture was of him blowing kisses and waving goodbye.
With the bus finally out of my sight, I went to the flat, put on one of his T-Shirts and cried myself to sleep. Utterly alone, I was not looking forward to the Christmas holidays.
A week went by with not one of his family member’s calling me to let me know if he was alright.
No call to let me know if he made it to the camp!
(I discovered later he had asked them to give me a courtesy call)
The silence was my constant companion.
My thoughts and loyalties were, torn between someone I loved who was going out there to potentially "harm or kill people who looked like me." It didn’t matter that he was “forced” to go.
With Apartheid still alive and well, it was difficult to reconcile the anger and bitterness I had for white people and the loyalty and love for Black and Brown people.
The images of him in uniform looking like "one of "them" kept playing over and over in my head.
The silence into the 2nd week since his departure further enhanced the quandary I found myself in.
To be continued.
Part IV: Dreading the holidays and Christmas without him.