Category Archives: Life

Staying Silent

Staying Silent

Content warning: sexual assault

Alice fell for him in the graveyard silence when the lights had faded and the songs were sung, and that was no small thing.

She rationed her affections. Men had to wear her down to get a taste. That’s just how it had always worked; attraction came only with familiarity. And yet, there she stood in the audience, enchanted by a musician whom she had never met.

But why not this man whose voice seduced and words inspired? He was of growing renown, a friend to women (if his lyrics were to be believed) and a generous gift for their eyes no less. Is it any wonder?

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You don’t have the same body.

It’s changed.

Ten years ago your jeans were smaller, your breasts firmer, your tummy flatter—void of your mothers’ watermarks.

I know this weighs on you.

Undesirable. Tired. Old.

You hold that you are those things.

And I look at other women, their bodies young, and they attract me. I want to lie with them.

You’d like to look like that again, don’t you?

I do not wish for it.

Your health is my concern.

That you feel sexy and comfortable in your skin is my hope.

I want you to know that you still have that power over men, that you still command my devotion.

I see your imperfections not as imperfect but rather as a testament to a life lived.

You are a fucking lioness. A ferocious matriarchal beast. The giver of everything with worth in my life.

I desire you.

Fuck me, I want you now more than when your jeans were smaller.

Up the Road with a Ladder

Up the Road with a Ladder

This is not a happy story.

It happened on Monday but since then I’ve tried not to think about it too much. Perhaps writing will excise my anxiety.

Before I begin, let me say that the baby is fine. This is not a happy story, but it could have been worse…

At a quarter to seven on Monday evening, two minutes from home, an old woman shouts at me as I walk down the road. There is something in her voice. Distress.

“Are you alright?”

“Come!” she wails, pointing to the entrance to a block of flats.

I hear shouting now.

I run into the building. There’s a staircase immediately to my right. At the top, there are two children. They’re about the same age as my kids—eight and five maybe. They’re quiet, wide-eyed. Scared. Behind them, I glimpse their mother. Simply put, she’s hysterical; she’s screaming. “My baby! My baby!”

At this point, I fully expected to find a dead infant. I race up the stairs and enter the hallway. What I see, instead, is the mother trying to break down a door. She’s running at it, hitting it with both hands, kicking it.

“I phoned the cops,” says a woman standing in an open doorway—a neighbour. “They’re locked out somehow. Baby’s inside.”

“Is the baby okay?” I ask.

“I don’t know. She’s freaking out.”

I try to calm the mother down, to get information, to stop her scaring her children. I’m not sure she understands me. She’s middle-eastern, her English is not very good. Her phone rings. “My husband,” she says. Then she drops the phone to the ground, unanswered, runs down the stairs only to run straight back, attacking the door with renewed, desperate fists. I try to calm her again. It’s no use. I don’t know what to do.

Someone mentions a ladder. “If we can get to the window…”

I have a ladder. I leave them. I run home. I get the ladder from the garage. On the way back, I hear sirens. As I get to the flats, a fire engine pulls into the complex. I feel a bit stupid carrying my little ladder. But I’m relieved. What would I have done? Climb up to their window, break the glass? I have the sudden horrible vision of the overwrought mother climbing up a rickety ladder, cracking the glass with her fists.

I follow the fireman into the building. The mother falls to her knees in front of them. The decision is quickly made. Fifteen seconds. They have a battering ram. Five hits and the door is breached. The fireman enters with the mother. Ten seconds. “The baby is okay,” comes the shout. The firemen, now joined by a policeman, look at each other. What just happened?

I hang around, talk to the children and grandmother, answer their phone and speak to the husband. What else can I do?

Later, I walk back to my own family, ladder in hand, heart still racing.

Turns out the baby was not in any imminent danger. The family had somehow managed to lock themselves out, with the baby still inside. How? I don’t know. We have the feeling that the mother overreacted. But then, she was looking after a grandmother, two kids and a baby. I know how hard that can be. Who knows what day she had?

I’ll visit them over the weekend. Bring them some cake or something. I suspect that social services may be called in. I feel for them. I worry.

The Aching Bellies of Churchgoing Folk

The Aching Bellies of Churchgoing Folk

In the mid-90’s, an old friend of my family planted a new church. As I recall, we missed his virgin sermon, attending instead a morning service a few weeks later. I remember that day all too vividly.

My parents sat in the front pew; I felt more comfortable sitting five rows back with my brother and sister. We sang three hymns, read from the Gospel of Matthew, and then worked our way through two more songs. All things considered, the service progressed swimmingly. That is until the new visitors were encouraged to stand and introduce themselves.

My dad said, “Hello, I’m so and so,” and I duly waited my turn. As the introductions commenced, my mind started to wander to my mum’s delicious Sunday roast at home. There was no need for me to pay attention, after all; my siblings would be my cue to get ready. They’re older than me. Obviously they’d be asked to speak before me.

Boy, was I wrong.

It came to pass that the boy raised his eyes to the man on the pulpit. And he, this anointed agent of Heaven with the godly eyebrows and obsidian robes, pointed a quivering finger at the youth’s gluttonous heart, thus casting out the roast reverie and delivering the child from his gravy daydream. ‘Twas as if God himself demanded, “WHO ARE YOU, BOY?”

Who, me? I was a deer in the headlights of onrushing shame. Futilely, I gestured to my parents — suddenly, so far away — and then, I tried to explain myself. I said, “I am…my father’s son.”

Never let it be said that I’m a liar.

A punchline silence greeted my declaration, shortly followed by laughter — the entire congregation were rolling in the aisles. And after the bellies of these good churchgoing folk ached too much to continue, my wiseass brother affectionately nudged me and announced, “I’m his brother.” Another round of chortling ensued and my humiliation was complete.

I’ve never lived this faux pas down, and I don’t really care to. It’s a fun story to tell. And it served me well when I toasted my parents at my sister’s wedding. “I am my father’s son. I am my mother’s son. And I’m very proud of that.”

A Pebbly Love Story

A Pebbly Love Story

Let me tell you about the time I jumped down Suicide Gorge for love.

Okay, truth be told, I did it mostly for the sheer joy of it, but rest assured that wooing a girl with precious stones definitely played a part in the endeavour.

We drove out of Cape Town before sunrise and an hour later, we parked the car in the foothills of the Hottentots Holland Mountains. My companion was a friend, mind, not my later-to-be-wooed love interest. A three-hour hike up the mountain brought us to the top of a ravine — Suicide Gorge. I’m not sure if people go there to reschedule their appointment with Death, but I do know that many hikers have perished in this beautiful slice of nature.

The ravine is a series of pools, connected by waterfalls, leading to a river at the bottom. Hiking down is a five-hour journey. You jump from pool to pool and wade through the river to the end of the trail. Thing is, after the second jump, you’re committed; you can’t climb back. And then, there follows a ten-metre drop, which, if you’re unwilling to jump, will result in a helicopter full of annoyed rescue personnel coming to save your ass.

Now, to the girl. She was in London at the time. We were dating online, you see, which is about as frustrating as trying to snatch a teddy bear with a Claw Machine. She referred to our Skype calls, Google Talk chats, and text messages as “pebbles”, little virtual markers to keep us on track.

So, obviously I stuffed my pockets with rocks all the way down the gorge. These I mailed to her — a near kilogram of river-smoothed stones in a self-painted, glazed flower pot. A bit daft, I grant you, but she married me in the end. Couldn’t have been too weird then, right?

Come to think of it, I’ve done way more romantic things than mailing a woman a bag of rocks, but none of those stories start with, “I jumped down Suicide Gorge for love,” so, you know.



London is full of weirdos — in the best sense of the word, I mean. Freak flags fly all over this town, proudly heralding our pretty deviances, luring kindred kooks into our nutcase fold. “Join us,” we whisper. “There’s a place for you here. There’s a place for everybody…”

Even for you, Lemony Snicket man. I saw you walking down the street. Did you think I wouldn’t notice? Did you think you could get away? Looking like that? You were mistaken. I noticed — your image branded my mind. Let me tell you: brain-tattoos itch and the only relief is to scratch. I have to scratch your description while it’s raw. So here goes; here you are.

White, wide, and flat, a New York Yankee cap, a mac to match your jeans, three-quarter cut, and for some reason tight, it seems, like a teenaged girl’s, and your retired curls I did not miss, grey and marvellous and undeterred, your attire, a perfect meme, baseball themed, and boyband righteous, halfway feminine but not curvaceous, I regret I missed your shoes, confused, for breakfast you ate, a croissant as you cruised.

Ahhh, that feels so good.

Beautiful Barista

Beautiful Barista

After a fifteen minute walk to the station, I enter The Cappuccino Bar, the coffee joint where I get my morning fix. The barista nods in greeting. I don’t have to say anything; he knows what I want. But when it’s time to pay, the penny drops. I am without a wallet. That’s half-an-hour lost right there. A thirty minute circular detour of hard, berating steps. The barista, seeing the anguish play over my face, saves me from this fate. “Here,” he says, handing me twenty bucks to go with my latte, “is this enough to get you through the day?” Yes it is, you beautiful man. “Thank you, you’re a life-saver. See you tomorrow.” #KindnessIsMagic