Christmas without him:
For the most parts once the 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 have to endure the stares from strangers, the snide comments and whispers when we were out and about but the worst for me was the attitude of people across all races. Very often if we were socializing and there were white women around, they would totally ignore me and come onto him quite blatantly. We discussed it and discovered that the white women we met simply did not take our relationship into account so would “hit” on him as if he walked into the place on his own. When he used to tell them he is with me, they’d give me a sideways glance and simply continue and he would remove himself from them and turn his back to them or he would be abrupt and say “I’m with my wife (we weren’t married yet), please leave or you’re disturbing us.” And the women would flounce off in a huff.
White men again felt I was “easy meat” so they’d be quite crude and inappropriate when he was out of ear shot or on a quick walk to the ladies room, my bum would be pinched 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.” I lost count how many times I slapped a man, swore at him or lambasted him 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 here from men of colour. 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. Surprisingly enough these men “looked” decent. “Coloured or Indian women that we came across would just tell him to dump me because they could show him a “good time.” Sadly this included some of my closest friends. Love 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 was aware of my feelings. The lines of communication remained open between us and this is what I believed saved us from giving in to the negativity surrounding us. We also had to deal with the constant phone 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 know he used to enjoy wearing his hair 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 it that way.
“You have to” he insisted. I do? 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. Thinking about a Dear John letter! Normally those letters are left for you on a table not handed to you. My hands were shaking 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” “You’re what!” “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.”
“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.
It’s amazing how being young and in love doesn’t make you look at anything outside of your little bubble you’re in.
I was angry at the Army for calling him. How could I possibly last until the middle of January the following year? And Christmas I will be all alone because my family will be going on holiday as they do every year.
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 have and besides I did not want to see the bigger picture. Everyone that I knew would be away and Johannesburg is quiet and lonely 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 and clingy.
The day arrived sooner than I was ready for and we took a taxi to the bus station where he would catch a Greyhound bus to Durban. Standing there watching the bus slowly drive away with tears pouring down my face, I was convinced I would never see him again. My last picture of him was 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. Being alone I was not looking forward to Christmas holidays.
A week went by with not one of his family member’s calling me to let me know if he was ok. 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)
Silence was my constant companion.
My thoughts and loyalties were torn between someone I loved who was going out there to potentially harm people 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 loyalties I felt for people of colour. It kept playing around in my head and I could not get images of him in his uniform looking like “one of them”
The silence into the 2nd week further enhanced the quandary I found myself in.
To be continued………
Part IV: Dreading the holidays and Christmas without him.