Sunday, September 16, 2012

spaces that speak

Dreams are illustrations... from the book your soul is writing about you ~ Marsha Norman

In that case, my soul has quite the imagination since it has written so many amazing characters into being. I’ve met you before. In my dreams. And once I’d dreamt you, meeting you was inevitable. There are no chance encounters. I’m sure you’ll agree…

So when you told me about the girl you one loved whose name spoke of submission to Him while she, herself would not, I nodded. I’d heard your story before. In a dream…

When you told me about your anguish at losing your mother, I ran a thumb across your knuckles, as I squeezed your hand. Our loss found echoes within one another…

When you told me about your drug habit. The rush a high would bring. The clarity. In that moment my own vision sharpened.

When you told me what it was like to lose everything. Everything. But…your faith, I lent you an extra spoon, hoping that together we could move the crushing mountain of debt.

When you told me about cleaning up your act. How staying clean finally brought you to your knees, I heard the echo of your sobs. I’d heard the real ones in a dream.

When you held your baby girl for the first time in your arms, felt like you’d just been handed an entire fragile universe, I felt your heart expand. Ours are but one, are they not?

When you told me about your first primary school crush…the colour of her hair…those ‘priceless butterflies’ I blushed. Felt eleven again.

When you told me about your first sexual encounter. How you fell off the bed, I laughed. How different was it from my own, locked out, and in a car?

When you told me about how he couldn’t love you even when you loved him. How he made you feel less in that moment, I compared your scar to mine, found them to match. Mine, a silvery sliver beside the raw red that is yours.

When you asked me to create an epic romance with you, one of many you’ve moulded in your years of marriage, I gently declined. You were not that in my dream.

So while you have chosen to leave. You have carved me out of your life. You pass me in hallways, nod politely - I’m the stranger you once knew. You do not speak to me. There are spaces between our words. Spaces that speak.

You visit often. Sit around a table with me. Share coffee. You write me e-mails that make my heart soar. Give me things to smile about. Keep me up into the wee hours of the morning chatting about life. You  love me, as I love you, exquisitely. Perfectly. 

To call you friend would lessen you. Lover would be a lie. You are the space between the two. And we were meant to meet…

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Morbidity Crystallised

Before you ask, no, I have never read Gordimer. So the reason for my excitement at the prospect of hearing her in conversation had more to do with the accolades that have been heaped on her tiny person, than on any real passion for her words. But, like the good Muslim I am, I told myself, every deed is judged according to the intention made for it, and, as such, my intention to seek out her writings, immerse myself in them post Literary Festival had to count for something.

Besides, this being my first time at a literary festival of any kind, I was feeling quite urbane. Almost grown-up as I settled into my seat for the second time (oh em gee!) that week.  Gordimer was already on stage as was Wally Serote and Professor Craig MacKenzie who would be ‘hosting’ (though he really ended up merely observing) the ‘chat’.

I was tired; it had been a long day and an even longer week. But by the time the question was asked: Would those who had fought (sometimes at the cost of their lives) for our ‘freedom’, have still been so willing to give up everything had they known then what we know now? Had they lived to see the dream soured by the greed of a few at the expense of the many? – all traces of ennui that I may have begun to feel, vanished.

So, would they?

Gordimer and Serote both asked this question - Gordimer being more forthcoming in her mention of corruption than Serote, who merely fingered the issue rather delicately. Gordimer (like millions of us in South Africa) wanted an answer. What was to be done to stem the tide? To stop the flow of money from government coffers into offshore accounts; into the banking accounts of Mercedes Benz dealers; into the pockets of unscrupulous tenderpreneurs.

When Serote responded to her insistent questioning by suggesting Gordimer join him in a march, I wanted to weep. In that moment, I realised, that even the intellectuals have no answers.

So while Gordimer made an effort to end the session on a hopeful note by reminding us that it was the will of the people, their tenacity and strength of spirit, that slew the apartheid monster, and that this spirit could once more stop all that is ugly, all that putrefies society, I remained unconvinced. I remained on the brink of despair, where if truth be told, most of us teeter. The corruption, the greed, its cost to human lives, all feels bigger than I am.

It was only after our robbery that I realised the depth of the wound that crime has carved into society. At every turn friends shared their own hijacking/crime/robbery stories. While the details in each story differed, the wounds that still bleed, looked the same. The sense of helplessness, of being defeated, that remained the same. The sense of being made a victim. No one wants to be a victim.

Ours is a landscape of loss. If it is not our parents/ children/ friends/ neighbours that we are burying, then it is our fragile hope. When crimes go unsolved; when dockets disappear; when cops take bribes by the roadside; when Presidents spend millions on sprucing up rural homesteads even as their city neighbours live amid squalor, in shacks; when children are raped and the rapists go unpunished; when thieves are put in charge of state coffers; with each of these, does a bit more of that fragile hope crumble, a bit more of it join the hundreds who died to bring this freedom and now ‘rest’ in unmarked graves. Forgotten.

Just as those who perpetuated apartheid, yet never really apologised wholeheartedly for their role (even if that role be mere apathy) continue to fuel the fire of disgruntlement by this (in)action, so too does government’s refusal to own their screw ups, refusal to apologise for them, feed the sense of hopelessness.

Who will apologise for the scars that remain after being made a ‘victim’?  For how long will the crumbling hope remain married to a love of The Land, and keep us here?

Where will we find the strength to rise against the moral decay, the stench of which fills our nostrils? We need champions. Will you be a champion?