There are two tragedies in life, one is to lose your heart’s desire, and the other is to gain it- George Bernard Shaw
There are staggeringly few situations where I would be called genius and fewer still where I will be called wise; however I do know that I have learnt from my trophy mistakes. It is kind of like being slapped with really cold water on a chilling winter day. Ah… yes I have certainly learnt my life lessons and I am still winning the trophies for making my all too smart decisions and paying for them dearly.
Ok, I know I’m rambling on and on so I’ll get to the point or at least tell you what I’m about. I’m picking off the details one by one, now you know quite a number of things about me, I’m not smart or wise hence I make trophy mistakes so now I’ll just tell you my story….
It was the millennium night, we all held our breaths as the clock struck 12, I for one was still quite ridiculously young at heart, mind you I did not say I was young in body, anyways I was so young at heart… ultimately trusting and grossly naïve. I’m the first and only girl of two kids, and something of a free spirit; my father had instilled in me the thirst for life and its absurd ideals. On this millennium night I sat alone outside our block of flats, on a rubber tyre swing, completely unaware of the strange lure I held for opposite sex hadn’t even tapped remotely in to my sexuality. Oh yes the innocence of youth… so here I sat alone swinging slowly as I sipped from my bottle of coca-cola. It was a cold night and I all I had on was a short cotton dress, I shivered as the breeze swirled around me, and then I heard a door close and saw my best friend in the whole world walk towards me. I smiled gingerly, and said at the top of my lungs,
“Happy New Year!” I hadn’t a care in the world.
I was already smiling when he walked over to me, my feet barely touching the wild grass that grew at the base of the tree as the tyre swung slowly. He was what one could call my guardian angel, I as a kid did everything possible to get into trouble and he…well always bailed me out.
I remember faintly walking up to him while he played police and thief with the neighbor-hood boys, I asked to join in the game and of course he refused, I played anyways and won, and asked him to be my best friend because I thought he was the cutest. Strangely, that day I pushed and teased him mercilessly, but he kept playing, It is not a magnanimous thing I did but still I’m happy to say we have been best friends since I walked up to him, I trusted him wholly and completely. Years to come I will look at this day and sigh at its perfection, this day got me through one too many painful circumstances, the purity of heart and soul, friendship and love… this ten year old was perfectly happy…
He came to stand behind me, he pushed the tyre hard and I went up in the air. I closed my eyes as my braids became unbound, dropped the coke bottle and I leaned back on the swing laughing when I came back down.
I love you my heart sang, l love you my mind said but I was yet to tell him.
I jumped off the swing and grazed my knee on the floor…
“Why did you do that?”
Nothing” I shrugged as I looked at my wound.
“You need to clean that, c’mon lets go to the tap”
Ok I’m going to pause the story for a minute, to elaborate on my ten year old life. Mummy and daddy worked together in a brokage company they formed together, and little did I know that my father was stealing from the investment accounts. A few hundred thousands here and there, the money went into our expensive schools, vacations abroad and a nice apartment in the suburbs. For a long time I would blame my father for being so selfish and weak, but after ‘living’ for a while I knew it was something he thought he had to do to help us have a good life. My mum knew about the missing money because she was the company accountant, and she kept quiet and turned a blind eye, in a way I understood that as well, when you love someone…you turn a blind eye to their inherent faults, that’s how it works.
So on this night I sat on the swing and talked about inconsequential things with my best friend, laughed at his corny jokes, I hadn’t a care in the world.
The next morning however is another story, that morning they came for him, barging in through our front door, while we were having breakfast, they waved a badly wrinkled warrant at my mother and dragged my father away, I stood dried eyed while mother cried, my little brother didn’t understand, but I knew this was a defining moment in our lives. Looking back now that exact moment I watched my father being dragged away, something dried up that day and that is the day I was born, using a well placed cliché, I rose from the ashes of my childhood , like a phoenix rises from its ashes.
I bet this story is getting a wee bit familiar now, little rich girl is rich no more, big deal, but this story is not about that, this is just the beginning of the story. Don’t get disheartened just yet, you might like my tale and talk about it one day, or think about it when you are sitting alone in your parlour or use is as an example for your erring kids, but hey I’m getting ahead of myself again.
Well like I said life changed that day, mommy went job hunting after the big trial; most of our money either paid for the lawyer or went in to the repayment of the money stolen by daddy. Everyone wanted a piece of us, the media, the creditors, the court; even the landlord wanted a piece of the action. I withdrew into myself during those few months. It was always a long drive to the prison, Mummy drove her beetle, for some reason they left us with the horrid thing. Our nice Peugeot 504 had been seized during the first month after the arrest.
The creaking vehicle would torture us for an hour or so, Mummy would drive silently with an almost vacant look on her face, and my brother would play with his plastic plane oblivious to the changes around him, he was just four what did he know? I would withdraw into a book. The prison was ugly and smelly; I guess it is not enough that you are separated from your family you had be disgustingly dirty as well. Daddy was always so happy to see us, his beaming smile always made up for the horrible trip down there, we would take turns in telling him what we have been up to. He always had the right words of encouragement and love tumbling out of his mouth, needless to say I was closer to him than I was to mum. I don’t think she minded much though, I even think she encouraged it because I seemed not to talk much to anyone.
Life wasn’t terribly hard in fact looking back now, I realize my mother did the best she could. She fed us, tried to pay the bills, made sure we lacked very few basic amenities, but sometimes the best just isn’t good enough. We couldn’t keep up appearances at some point, it was hard enough with the bills piling up and the lack of money to pay them.
We moved away from the suburbs because mother could not keep up with the extravagant rent. I think that was the last straw, I cried like a little baby curled up in my room with fuchsia pink walls. He was sadder than I was, I think… for I did not see him for days after i told him the sad news, until the very day we were to leave, I was red eyed from all the crying, he just stood at my bedroom door, looking in, wary to say the final goodbye. We stood staring at each other, too sad for words. Then he stepped in and helped me pack up the remaining things I still had lying around…I remember looking out from the back window of my mum’s little car as we drove away, he was waving ever so slowly from the tyre swing, that moment I think I felt my heart break, I felt it shatter to many little bits and pieces…That was the last time I saw him for a really long time.
I had to change schools as well, Mummy could not afford my expensive secondary school, I didn’t mind much, I had just spent a year in the former school , being the awkward kid who loved to do things differently, I stood out, and I had very few friends. Daddy’s and the resultant change in our financial status did nothing to help matters either, I became more introverted than ever. So when it was time to leave the prissy all girls school behind the change was not all that painful.
Ah memories are like the seductive wind after a hot sunny day, bringing the dust, scattered leaves and coolness all at the same time.
My life in those years albeit a bit poverty stricken was full of pretty much the freedom I enjoyed just before daddy was arrested, I took long walks fancying myself lost maid, or an invincible spirit, free to wander the earth and peep into the lives of others relish in their happiness and mourn with them in their pain, so many times I dreamed this life was not my own, so many times I ignored my mother’s warnings.
When I turned fifteen I was terribly fascinated with the concept of love. I wanted it so bad I could taste it, the mere thought of being with someone in that capacity gave me so much strength. I had too much hope, I wanted to find something like what my parents had before my dad went o prison, I still remember those hot nights when I stood up from bed to get a cup of water and caught my parents in an almost lull-like position, my mother in my father’s arms reading a book and my father kissing her neck. Wonderful days those were. Now they are nonexistent. I thought about him a lot, soon I began to fancy myself in love with him, I thought of the way he always seemed to understand me, the way he made my heart flutter in my chest. We spoke on the phone; I still had the number to his land-line.
I saved money every month to make a ten minute call from the nearest call-center. If he was home we would try to swap stories quickly. Those were the days when just hearing his voice on the other end of the phone made my pulse race so fast all I could think about was seeing him again. Months quickly became years and I kept up the routine of calling him every month. I did want to see him, yes I did. So many times I tried to pick up the courage to go I would get ready pick out my clothes carefully; I wanted to look nice. Then when I was finally dressed I would sit down and breathe in slowly, every time I did it, every time I got ready, time passed so slowly while I tried to build my courage but it never worked.
One day though just after I finished secondary school, I decided yet again to go and see him, this time however there was no elaborate planning involved. I just got up one day and without the usual drama, I went to our former address.
As I entered into compound, I saw our old tyre swing, it was still there! It looked just the same at first glance. I went to it, standing and examining it like I would a specimen through a microscope. It had grown old. The rope holding the tyre had gnawed against the rubber, telling tales of constant use. I sat on the swing it creaked under my weight, I was much taller and heavier than I was then, I closed my eyes, I kicked off my shoes to feel the cool grass against my feet. I pushed myself up in one fluid motion, hearing the unmistakable sound of rope rubbing against wood. Suddenly I went back in time to the last New Year’s eve I spent on it, how I felt. It was exhilarating to feel that again. That moment before everything changed.
I heard a sound an opened my eyes and there he was before me, I smiled shyly. Did he recognize me? I wondered, He had a small frown on his brow, a myriad of expressions flitted across his face before he smiled as well…I think that was when I knew he was the one, the moment my heart settled…I will marry this boy…he will be mine…