••• The International Writers Magazine: Life Stories with Abigail George
Come to my house
Elizabeth Light was like any other girl her age. She felt she needed to understand more of the world around her which is why she moved to Johannesburg in the first place.
‘Johannesburg is a big, dirty, noisy city filled with crime, homophobia and xenophobia. God knows what will happen to you, my little wildflower. How are you going to look after yourself?’ Elizabeth thought of the mansions she had seen when she had first come to Johannesburg. She couldn’t believe that people actually lived there. It seemed like America to her.
‘I’ll live. I’ll survive. You don’t have to worry for me so. My father left us when I was just a baby. He wasn’t interested in raising me. He didn’t love my mother. She worked her whole life in a factory just to put food on the table you know.’
So, the girl in her put all her faith in a bus ticket. She let go of all that had come before her flight to the big golden city. At night, she would cry herself to sleep. Bed bugs biting her raw.
She seemed to vanish in the streets, the cafes, the delis, the foot traffic. She would dream of a new and improved vision of herself but it had come too late. She found a waitressing job and lived at the Salvation Army. It wasn’t expensive and she didn’t have much money. It saved her in the end. She needed to eat, to live, to discover paradise. Heaven, the territories and borders of hell. She didn’t have any friends. She wanted to reinvent herself. Transform herself. She wanted love, to be loved and adored, admired by everyone that she met. Especially men. She wanted to be dominated by them and submissive in return. She wanted to feel sparks of electricity running through her veins, captured in mirrors. She wanted people to look at her and not look away as if she couldn’t hold their attention for long. She wanted to be thought of as beautiful as if she was a model in the pages of a fashion magazine. She did her hair differently. Wore it up. Started dressing provocatively. Saying, ‘Sweet Jesus!’
‘We don’t have to talk if you don’t want to.’
‘No, it’s fine. I like talking.’
‘Let’s talk about music then. I like jazz and you.’
‘So-so. What is that supposed to mean?’
‘I don’t really know what jazz is. Never really listened to it.’
‘How are you feeling? Are you okay with this?’
‘Yes.’ her voice was almost a whisper, shy all of a sudden.
‘Then we can do this.’
‘And you won’t regret it?’
‘Are you sure?’ He was full of questions today of all days Elizabeth Light thought to herself.
‘Yes, I’m sure.’
‘It’s no big deal then if we go to a hotel then this time around.’
‘What were your father and mother like when you were younger?’ Oh, he just wanted to make conversation. This was just a game to him then.
‘I can smell your perfume. You’re beautiful, you do know that don’t you, wildflower? Are you hungry? Do you want something to eat, something to drink? Do you want a soda or something? You know you can have anything you want?’
‘No, I’m fine. I’m fine.’
‘Speaking of love, have you ever been in love?’
‘No! Not even me. You don’t even love me a little? Am I allowed to ask?’
‘No to what.’
‘No to both questions but I guess, I suppose you can say anything you want. It’s on your own time. I mean, it’s your money.’
‘You can call me anything you want.’
‘Pleasure.’ He glanced over at her, waiting for her reaction.
‘Elizabeth. My friends call me Elizabeth but my lovers can call me anything they want. My real name is not that important.’
‘You remind me of my wife when she was younger.’
‘Is she no longer young then?’
‘You’re just another version of her. I think that all women are just another version of her. In the early days of our marriage there wasn’t anything she wouldn’t do for me but now she just lives for the children. Can you imagine that?’
‘You mean a life with a spacious house, luxury vehicles in the garage, children, a wife, a partner, a husband, the breadwinner? Well, of course, I can imagine that. Isn’t that what every girl dreams of?’
‘Do you dream of those things my little wildflower?’
‘Sometimes when I’m getting high or bored out of mind in my little room at the Salvation Army.’
‘Do you think I’m a broken man because I date girls who remind me of my wife. My childhood was a happy one. Both my parents lived to a ripe old age. My father passed away in his sleep. My mother had a hip replacement and lives in home now. I visit her regularly.’
‘Oh.’ The girl said in a small, lazy voice. ‘What were your mother and father like?’
‘You’re driving me crazy with all of these questions.’
He undressed himself. He did all of the talking after that, the undressing, how cold he was about this, the girl thought to herself. He did all of the removing of articles of her clothing carefully and swiftly. She felt herself trembling in his arms.
‘You ignite something inside of me that my wife doesn’t anymore. Just be quiet now. Relax. Let go. I promise I won’t hurt you. I like you like this just please don’t cry out. Confess. Confess.’ The man whispered furtively in her ear.’ The girl could feel his warm breath against her collar bone, her spine, the nape of her neck, the top of her head, her forehead. Her kissed her face. This made her feel strong and confident. She didn’t know why she just knew that it did.
‘It doesn’t mean anything to me. These quasi-relationships. I don’t want to have sex with boys. That’s what my friends do. My friends have sex with boys.’ He smiled when Elizabeth Light said that.
‘You told me once that you don’t have any friends. Is that a confession? That’s the girl in you talking. I don’t think you know how attractive you are.’
‘It can be anything you want. I can be anything you want. Isn’t that what a man wants from a girl, a woman?’
‘Tell me more about your childhood. Where you grew up?’
‘I grew up near the mountains then we moved to Mafikeng.’
The ghost of the girl a died in his arms and in her place a woman was born. She felt as if she was on fire. She could hear her breath becoming deeper and heavier. She felt as if her body no longer belonged to her. He ignited the flame of something within her. He didn’t say anything at first when he was finished. She covered herself with the sheets on the bed, sated, exhausted, her energies spent. She could see the scream in his eyes. She leaned back against the pillows and let him set the pace as if she was taking a walk in the park on a pleasant day. She felt as if she was spinning away into the purple darkness of the ocean. Jean Rhys’ sea covering Dominica’s waves were covering her hair. The pleasure that she took in the sexual impulse and felt first came in vibrations then in waves. She felt a transformation coming upon her, her mood.
The body in moonlight, in half-light was beautiful and confident. Feelings that he hadn’t felt in years stirred in him. He stared at her tenderly as she slept. Innocent and pure in his arms.
But for how long would she, could she remain innocent and pure in this city full of vultures and scavengers.
‘There’s sandwiches and coffee if you want. Room service with a smile.’ The girl did not smile back at him.
‘Are you happy? How are you? How do you feel? Say something please. Did you enjoy that?’ There was a terror in his voice that wasn’t there before. He watched her bite into the sandwich.
‘This is a good sandwich.’ The girl said with her mouth full. ‘I feel different. Of course, there are days when I feel homesick but if I go home now, I’ll feel like a failure.’
‘Why do you want me to pretend to be something that I am so obviously not? As if we don’t see each other every day, work together, sometimes drink coffee together, eat lunch together even. You wanted to fool around with me since the first time we met.’
‘It excites me.’ Was she looking for honesty from him now then it was honesty that she was going to get.
‘You’re telling me that it excites you. This relationship, whatever you want to call it, excites you.’ She said flatly. ‘That means absolutely nothing to me.’
‘I don’t want you faking anything with me. I want you to be in love with me.’ The girl just stared at him as if she didn’t have a clue what he was talking about.
‘I’m not a girl anymore. You made certain of that.’
‘You’re not married, so you’re still a girl to me.’ The man guffawed, showing his teeth.
‘Don’t fret so child, my little wildflower. You’re frowning now. I’ve upset you. I’m sorry. You’re my ballerina girl. You’re so lovely.’ Of course, the Lionel Richie tune was from before her time.
A country is found there on the page, in a cup of tea, in the heads of patrons of the restaurant where she worked as a waitress.
‘You ask me if I enjoy my work. Work is work.’ They were in the car now again in morning traffic. ‘Work feeds my soul and this, what we have going on here, this is just sexual. An impulse. This is nothing.’ It hurt him to hear her say that.
‘Don’t you want to have children of your own one day.’
‘I don’t know.’ She stared out the window looking at a jacaranda tree in full bloom. They were driving passed the lake, then the zoo. Jan Smuts Avenue was coming slowly into view.
She was awake now. Cold. Listening to his stories. They filled her with angst, anxiety and put her into panic-mode. She felt as if she was slipping into the guise of a small-town girl again.
‘A woman is born through stages. Her talent, nostalgia, anticipation, intuition, the work that she does, her progeny, the sweet summer that she carries in her heart from chapters in her life. She is born into her career that blossoms into a life of its own, her world, the phases of her education throughout her life on varied subjects, the empires of wifedom, her friendships with other females. All women are targeted by males. Males in the office space, in the workplace, in church, funerals, weddings, christenings, baptisms. Men will be drawn to women till kingdom come.’
The girl thought about her father. How many hearts had he broken since he had left her as a baby with her mother. Was he anything like this man? Did he love the sound of his own voice?
Did he like to tell his funny stories too, drawing a girl’s shadow on the canvas with his painter’s hands until the girl’s shadow-light was completely drained away. Did her father’s reading hands kill spirit, wound badly some soul, hurt abominably, abandon a girl’s identity, neglect her until she lost all respect for herself. All self-concept and worth.
‘Are men only interested in the flesh and blood of women?’
‘I don’t know. These days, I just don’t know what women expect of men. What my wife expects of me? One day she loves me, thinks the world of me and the next she doesn’t love me anymore.’
‘I know my children love me, but sometimes when I look into my wife’s eyes all I see is disappointment there staring back at me. Men are sharks. Only interested in skirts.’
‘I want to remember you just like this. Docile. Sweet and warm in my arms. Sincere and lovely. Not a hard image. Not a bitter pill to swallow with a heart filled with resentment and jealousy.’
‘Why would you want to remember me like that?’
‘It makes me happy to think of you in that way. Can’t I have some happiness?’
‘You already have everything.’
‘All the material things in this world will make you unhappier if you’re already unhappy. If you’re happy, well, perhaps I’ve never been happy come to think of it.’
‘Never been happy.’ The girl said her voice flat as if she was remembering a flashback of a terrible memory from high school. Being bullied by a gang of girls during lunchbreak. She remembered the sun burning a hole in her forehead that day. How ashamed she felt as the bell rang and she made her way back to class.
‘I’ve never been happy. At the end of the day it’s just an idea, isn’t it. Happiness is a choice.’
‘Perhaps, my sweetheart. Perhaps.’
© Abigail George March 2017
Email address: abigailgeorge79 at gmail.com
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