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The Johannesburg People The Johannesburg People
by Abigail George
2013-11-10 13:20:21
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I feel sick but I wait for this feeling to pass. It feels as if I wait for an eternity. It feels as if I have just licked the grimy asphalt beneath my heels. I’m trembling because I am cold. My hair is limp and straggly underneath my cap. My teeth long for a good bite. My teeth are tiny, shark teeth hungry for more. I haven’t eaten anything the whole day. I am not hungry. I don’t eat anymore. I pretend to push food around on my plate at night at suppertime and eat rice and peas (because they look beautiful, aesthetically pleasing on the plate). Why would I want to eat when every time I get high my appetite is sated? Everything becomes colourful, vivid, the cracks in the peeling ceiling and the seats, the thumbprint on the glass becomes sealed.

I am tired of the hierarchy of money, posse, model, celebrity, and hanger-on, poser, groupie, television executive and homosexual. They must all be valuable to society or otherwise they wouldn’t be here tonight swaying their hips to the music, their lips and mouths are sensuous, drinking shots off the bar, spending money. Their identity remains a blur the entire evening but they are never quite out of your range, out of your peripheral vision with their entertaining quips and humour. Can I get you anything?

The girls are body beautiful but they are not much else I sniff. Pretty pictures, pretty paintings of expensive trendy fashion. Their clothes are tight, snug, figure-hugging – is there room for air? Their hair is freshly washed and blow-dried, their lips are wet, shiny, they are docile these sweet dolls, their movements are fragile and they will do anything for love. They will do anything for a guy they set their sights on tonight.

My head is filled with the glare of the glow of streetlights, cars buzzing dangerously low to the curb. I imagine the sidewalk will feel so cool as I rest my cheek against it.

I want to embrace the pavement, snuggle my head into the crook of my arm and close my eyes and sleep. I think I am going to be sick.

I am again reminded how self-indulgent the human condition can be. How we improve ourselves, our boring, safe, humdrum lives through self-medication through addiction, alcoholism, drugs, exercise and diet pills.

It is early morning. No one is around in the stillness of the darkness. There is only a vapour that descends on the deserted club, mist and ghosts. I have nowhere to go but down. So far down, that it is as far away from reality as possible.

I run in and out of the bathroom changing my top. I have one long-sleeved polo neck and one T-shirt. I feel sick and my face is flushed as if I have a fever. It is all pink and I shiver when I walk out into the darkness of the club, onto the dance floor. Two girls looked at me in a concerned way when I went in but they do not stop me and ask me if anything is wrong.

I want power. I go in search of it. I dance wildly because I am so happy I do not care if I look like a total idiot. I speak to everyone because everyone is my friend. I forgive the world of all her sins. There are no evil people in this room tonight, only people who want to forget Hitler.

I am again reminded of how tough the human condition can be. People retching into toilet bowls into the early hours of the morning as the remnants of the party of the night before made itself known.

I have never felt more alone, more deeply unloved than I did that night than I did that night. There are couples dancing around me, women dancing with women and men dancing with men, young girls with upturned faces kissing their partners, making out. There were people sitting at the bar who spoke to me happily and I wanted to hold onto them and never let them go. I wanted them to stroke my hair and my face, the way my father used to do. They dance with me. They bought me drinks but they were not prepared to put up with me for longer than that evening. Was I not this perfect and invincible creature who could make people love her? Desperation clung to every pore in my body. I wanted to say,  ‘Can I come home with you? Will you be my family? What makes you happy? I promise I’ll be good. I won’t talk back.’

I went home but I didn’t heal. I spoke to two therapists. One who was male and the other who was female.

I didn’t fix my problems. The more I seemed to talk about them, the more solutions seemed to elude me, the more it seemed to me I didn’t fix my problems, the more it seemed as if I was an accident waiting to happen.

I went home to look after my father and to realise what a mess I had become. I was such a mess that some people avoided me like the plague even my brother and sister.

I like the city at this time of the night. There is no heat, only the air that rises up from the street, smoky and grey. The windows are lit like candles from the inside out like me only the light inside the buildings seems more stable.

Other women are the enemy. I do not have any female relationships. There were no female friendships, a female mentor, a relationship with my mother or my sister in my life. I used to think it was because I wasn’t beautiful like them. My shoes are starting to pinch my toes. I want to take them off and walk barefoot in this city I love so much because it hasn’t chewed me up and spat me out yet. I wanted someone to take me in his arms tonight too and wrap them around me. Someone who would have told me it was okay to be afraid because he was scared too sometimes. Instead I got stories, beautiful, intense, sad stories from people who were just like me, an invitation to a birthday man that I passed on. Their sadness was as intense as mine and for a short while they held me in the basement of the club. I felt safe as my world began to fall to pieces around me and I crashed and burned.

The sky is black and dark like a mesmerising black hole. There are no stars but I do not need stars. The sun will be up soon and already I feel the pressure of the upcoming workweek I have ahead of me. It is Sunday and I am going to church but there is a pit in my stomach. I was hoping by now it would be gone but it is still there, this smouldering pit. I do not smile. I do not laugh. Where am I going? What am I doing? I want to be loved. I am alone. I am tired of being alone, self-sufficient, independent and brave. My mind wanders through the service. I am thinking of my family and what they are doing but they call to find out how I’m doing.

I have a headache. It spills memories into the air that I do not want to think about but then I rediscover some of that happiness I experienced when I was growing up. It is very easy to feel unloved in the city. You are lonely. You do not have any contact with the outside world. Deep down, fiercely, you withdraw from all the loveliness in this world, in this city and walk with apparent ease, without any blame, your eyes have dark circles – bags under their eyes. I know later these morbid feelings of curiosity will disappear and I will regain my self-confidence but for now I am rendered speechless by the peaceful air.

I walk everywhere. I bite into the first taste of a muffin at a bakery in the morning. Crumbs fall into my lap. What happened this weekend almost could never have taken place in this sunlight? I feel content and blissfully happy. Nothing haunts me in the fresh air like it does when evening comes. The city has never looked brighter, cleaner but the colours lack their dewiness, their haziness of before. They have come into focus. My face is brighter. The images staring back at me, their lines are no longer blurred. I am not crashing down the street, veering, hurtling, careening wildly, lost into space. Johannesburg, you have never looked as beautiful to me now as you do today.

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Leah Sellers2013-11-10 16:30:30
Ms Abigail,
What a Gift you have Ma'am !
Brutally Beautiful, and Starkly
The Wonders of nature do for me what Johannesburg ignited within you the Morning/Evening after.
Thank you for your Wise Sharings.

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