Come this Thursday, the colour red will be the order of the day. Let me take the liberty of educating or reminding you in case you did not know or maybe, because of the unfortunate hurtful past, you chose to forget (we forgive you), Thursday will be St Valentine’s Day; a day when many lovers around the world get to show their love and appreciation to each other. In the past years some have chosen this special day to tie the knot, so this means many will also be celebrating their wedding anniversaries. How cute!
St Valentine’s Day as the day has come to be known, is recognised as a commemoration of the third Roman saint who according to limited history documents was a gentleman who devotedly believed in matters of love. But as to whom this Saint Valentine really is; it remains a mystery to many a man. But this does not deter the spirits of lovers or discourage those lonely souls, who every morning, wake up and look in the mirror to whisper to themselves that clichéd dictum heard in almost every romantic movie, ‘Today I will meet my soul mate’.
This day brings memories, if not unpleasant ones. It was many moons ago-some of you might not have been born-when I was in Grade 8. It was just a few days after the schools had re-opened, and I happened to lay my eyes upon a young, attractive lady; her gorgeous face brightened by a white smile that caused my heart to beat at abnormal rates. For a moment I froze, and in approval I might have said, ‘Magtig!’ Of course years later I was to admonish myself for what I realised was poor taste on my part. But back to the innocent days in my dry home province of Northern Cape; I was to later find out that yours truly and this aforementioned young lady would be class mates. Again my poor judgement comes into question. It goes without saying that I was excited to find that we were going to be classmates, even though I believe it was one of the ingredients that eventually brought about my disappointment.
You probably have been laughing at my misjudgments; mind you I was only thirteen. I wished to approach this young lady, tell her my intentions but I was too polite to be so rude. Okay I was too chicken but you can’t hold that against me, again I was an innocent young man who had just been inducted into the teens. Anyways, I did what any timid suitor would do; I acted out my actions, hoping that somehow, by the grace of radio frequency gods, she will receive the signals. I would make an excuse to speak to her, sit with her or even be in the same group with her. Desperate times called for desperate measures, and man will do anything for what I blindly thought was love. Our classmates and her friends indicated to her that I, as the youth would say, into her but she merely shunned them with that ‘Aquafresh’ smile that every time made me feel confident of my moves, no matter how preposterous. How was I to know?
The days leading to this wonderful day commemorating love, I tried to make it clear to my newly found source of inspiration that I wished her to be the last person I would speak to at the end of the day; okay maybe I was exaggerating, because in reality the last person or persons I would speak to before I sleep were my roommates as I was in boarding school. But you get my point. As soon as I gained courage (and this would genuinely happen at awkward times) to confess my feelings, she would smile, brush me on my back and gently say, ‘Let us talk later’. Banna! And my confidence would instantly get a boost, thinking to myself that, ‘She is also into me. I am not alone’. I am pretty sure you all know that her utterances were not words to be taken as a sign of hope but a deportation straight to The vile Republic of Friend Zone. If I am not mistaken the 14th of February that particular year was on a Friday and those who were in charge of entertainment at school arranged a sokie, I believe the English version for that word is disco. It would be held at the school’s hall in the evening and it was an opportunity for lovers to show off and those who were hoping to get lucky that night, yours truly included; to pull all the stops.
Yours truly scratched for every last rand he had to make sure that he too, would be counted among many men who were thought to be generous and romantic that day. Alas, I was to regret it. I bought a slab of chocolate, managed to procure a plastic red rose at a steep price and made her a card. I could not get a card at such a short notice and I guess it was an opportunity for me to prove that I sincerely cared for her. How ungrateful of her. Anyways the day arrived and I could not wait for the school to finish, and daylight to make way for the night so I could finally profess my ‘love’. Oh, poor me. Unbeknown to me then, it would be a night that would inspire bitterness in me for a long time.
At long last the daylight made way for the night. This according to me would be a night to remember. And boy I did. It was just in a way I did not foresee; and for a long time I remembered that night bitterly. I hurried my friends to get ready so we could be there early, which was just next door. The hostel and the school were next to each other, in actual fact they were in the same yard. With the excitement (emotions) piloting my sense of judgement in the preceding weeks, I would inevitably snap out of it. We got there and it was empty; people were still to arrive, not that I cared about their arrival. I just wanted to see my lady with a beautiful white smile. While I waited with friends who seemingly found it entertaining to mock me instead of finding their own girls, the DJ began to play music and my ‘date’ for the night was still to arrive.
After a while people began to make their way in numbers but the same could not be said about my ‘girl’. I began to panic and seeing her friends arrive without her did not help my anxiety. ‘Banna wee! Where could she be?’ I asked myself. Surprisingly I found myself speaking to one of her friends, ‘Eeeh! Wena… Eeeh! Semangmang, where is your friend? Will she be here tonight?’ And in that terrible accent folks in Danielskuil, Kimberly, Postmasburg and surrounding areas have, and yet delivered in a confident tone she said, ‘Of course she is coming. You really can’t wait to see her hey?! I can see it in your eyes. It is written all over your face. She will be here shortly, just be patient.’ You should have seen me; I believe to this day that I was so excited that I could have jumped up to kiss the sky. Could you blame me? I had learned from a reliable source that she was indeed coming like she had promised earlier on during the day.
It might have been twenty minutes after speaking to my ‘reliable source’, and having stepped outside to purchase cold beverages (non-alcoholic of course) when I caught a glimpse of a young, ravishing dame socialising under the blinding disco lights; dishing cordial hugs here, exchanging handshakes there. ‘Boy meets girl’, I smiled from ear to ear. Obviously she had just arrived and given that she was popular during that time she had to also say hello to clowns. My ‘reliable source’ was indeed reliable. I readied myself for her and I prepared the gifts. Like a man whose heart was truly poached by one of nature’s beautiful creatures, needless to say that I was defeated. Given my previous concession, my taste will come into question; but I am glad that those days are behind me. Her ‘hi’s’ and ‘hellos’ seemed to take too long for my liking so I took it upon myself to approach her, maybe rescue her from awkward and unnecessary conversations. As I flamboyantly sauntered to her like a peacock I couldn’t help feeling that I am being monitored. I was being closely watched and my steps were under the heaviest of surveillance. My instincts directed me to the far end of the hall, in the south east direction. I caught a sight of a not so light skinned native (only I am allowed to say such) standing against the wall looking my way. With disco lights being the only source of light it was almost impossible for one to see who is who, but I still recognised who it was concentrating his visual energy towards me. Like a child-soldier from Central Africa his gaze was strong but I could not be distracted from my mission. I had an important task to execute and even His Excellency the then President Thabo Mbeki would have excused me, had he needed my attention. Having matters of importance on my plate I could not be bothered by this native; so I saluted him and he reciprocated with a nod and a suspicious smile. I did not know what was going on so I continued with my short journey.
The ticking of time has eroded some of the bits of memory so I cannot exactly recall what my supposed date was wearing but I can confidently say that she was elegantly dressed. Noticing that I was headed towards her she concluded whatever trivial conversation she was having with one of those nonentities and came my way. The mean look he gave me, I bet like me he was also trying his luck. So yes, the madam was quite a hit during those first few months but after some time she would become a nonentity herself. I guess her hotness had an expiration date or she began thinking too much of herself. Anyways, we met and I also became a victim of those hugs she had been dishing out like they were on sale ever since she arrived. I gave her the gifts and her face was overwhelmed by joy, of course that is what I thought and was again subjected to another hug. If there is a benchmark for the feeling of joy I would have easily became one that day, smiling from ear to ear. I gently requested that we step outside so we could talk privately as it was too noisy inside. She agreed and we went outside.
Under the beautiful blanket of celestial bodies it was supposed to be perfect. It was meant to be romantic. We stood outside and with the stars and the full moon smiling down on us I did not expect any hurdles. Even though it was as hard as carrying a bag of cement over a slope I managed to open my heart to this young lady, pretending to speak with confidence like proposing a woman was something I did for a living. I laid my intentions bare on the table and was relieved that she finally knew how I felt about her. Probably a sign that she didn’t feel the same she pulled that lousy line again, ‘I appreciate you telling me this but can we talk about this later? It’s still early and there is a lot of time to talk later.’ She was right, it was still early; the event had begun about an hour and half ago and we still had about three or four hours to iron out matters that lingered in the privacy of our minds. Or maybe I was banking on the popular saying that ‘the early bird catches the fattest worm’, again it could have been ‘first come first serve’, who knew what was going through the mind of the unwitting young fellow from across the Moshaweng stream?
Even a blind person could see that the odds were stacked against me, that from our conversation I had no chance of being the last person she would say good bye to every night; but I still wanted to believe that she would be back and like the saying goes, we would live happily ever after. I escorted her inside, in the direction of her friends who even under the eye paralysing disco lights looked eager to know what had transpired; or maybe they knew how their friend felt about me and were curious about how I would handle things. I informed her that I will be with my friends and that we would speak later, an idea that she seemed to agree with when she nodded. So I proceeded to my friends who were just as curious as the friends of the girl, maybe more because they were already asking questions before I could reach them. ‘Jaanong? Ao go dumetse? A o tsene skeem?’ Did she say? Was your proposal approved? They were just too much. I could barely answer their countless questions.
After minutes of being subjected to a 3rd Degree I managed to shift the attention of my dear friends to a group of attractive girls, seeing that they had suddenly become experts in the matters of love, though none of the three could pull me a convincing record of girls they have dated in the past never mind point me into a direction of a girl they would pursue that particular evening. Now the debate revolved around the question of whether that group was really interested in any of us. How chicken of us, you would remark. But honestly speaking I was just pretending to care. My attention was somewhere else. I kept looking the direction of ‘my girl’, almost monitoring her, creepy yes but with the enormous attention she was attracting I could not sit and bite my nails. The reader is probably getting the impression that ‘my girl’ was the most beautiful woman to ever walk on this planet, that her beauty was superior to many of those gorgeous faces that have put on the crown of Miss World; maybe even the Greek goddess was in danger of losing her title of being the benchmark of beauty. To put the reader at ease, no it was not like that. She was not that beautiful, hell she was not beautiful as the experts later concluded. Hers was a moment of hotness. I guess every girl gets that moment at least once in their lifetime, if not forever, e.g.: Mama Nomzamo Winfred Madikizela-Mandela. She maybe had that lioness x-factor when it in heat; that moment when every male wants to mate with her. Disrespectful to human being maybe, but that is the closest thing that can give a better explanation to her unexpected popularity which was to rudely evaporate like water in a desert in a few weeks after Valentine’s Day. Am I crediting myself for making her popularity, NO! That is not the case but I certainly played a part in her brief celebrity status.
Time and again I would survey to see if she was still there. Heavy monitoring I tell you; actually you would be forgiven to call it stalking. My deep emotions for this girl had turned me into a stalker. Even I have to admit, that was beneath yours truly. The conversation in my circle had suddenly taken a different turn. The hot topic being: ‘Who is scared of girls?’ If you shook your head you are once again forgiven. It was a case of a pot accusing a kettle of being black. So trying once again to make them focus I intervened, shifting their attention where from the looks of things it would be very much appreciated. The group of six girls that we were admiring earlier on now made their intentions clear. Pity, I was too blind to see. I was one of the targets as I was to find out years later. I had my eyes somewhere else. Having now won the attention of my boys and guided them in the right direction, yours truly returned to his newly acquired job; I once again looked into the direction of ‘my girl’ to see if there was no fly bothering her. ‘These flies can be tjatjarag at times. They might mess my chances of being the chosen one.’ I thought to myself. As I looked-by now I had placed myself in position where I would not have to turn to look at here-she was gone. ‘Hee banna! Where has she gone now?’ You can imagine my eyes sifting through the crowd to see if maybe she had slipped to one of her acquaintances or maybe she had stepped out to powder her nose, as the ladies would say. I was trying to find all sorts of explanations to calm me down. But I knew at the back of mind that she might have slipped outside with competition. After a while, realising that she was taking more than long I hurried to look outside, at the open space that was housed by the school hall, classrooms and the teaching personnel’s offices. My short search came to nothing. ‘If she had gone to the ladies, surely her friends would have accompanied her.’ This is what I thought to myself, trying by all means to make sense of things. She had now disappeared for over an hour and I did not want to bother her friends. I refused to make a fool of myself again. Even though emotions where pretty dictating terms whenever it came to this girl; logic had to be introduced to my problem.
I had quietly left my friends to find out what had happened to ‘my girl’; my secret disappearance was merely to avoid their multiple and endless questions that will eventually be followed by mockery. I went back again into the hall to see if she had not returned but to no avail. Even though the exit to the front gate of the school was rarely used during the event, it served as the only explanation to my questions. So, like any curious mind would do I crisscrossed through to the other end of the hall, in the direction of the eastern exit. That eastern exit welcomes you into the front yard of the school, but I would have to walk down a stoop of stairs, a small distance to reach where I hoped to look. My instincts guided me to the right instead of the left, and there she was… passionately dipping her tongue in the mouth of the native that had saluted me earlier on; and by the looks of things he did not seem to mind as he was gently caressing her like they were characters from a romantic flick. After all I was right; she had indeed slipped out with competition.
Rage, deception and shock are maybe the best words to describe my feelings at that moment. These three words were later replaced by one word, bitterness. From that day on until the commencement of my tertiary life, I was to distance myself from Valentine’s Day based solely on the happenings of that particular day. ‘Semang mang, you could have told me from the very beginning. I made my intentions crystal clear from day one; I know I did not say anything but my actions were as clear as daylight. Even your friends told you.’ Note that Semang mang is not her real name. For fear of harassment and legal action I have not named my leading lady and the supporting cast. As for those who will want to crack their skulls, do as you please but remember that you are on your own.
It did not help that my rival, the victor as I would come to call him was laughing at me. In hindsight, I would have laughed at myself too. My way of expressing my disappointment and heartbreak was not exactly friendly to the human eye, luckily for me it was just the three of us; but either way I was to regret it later. She tried to explain that she and I can never be more than just friends. ‘I value our friendship too much and I hope this does not destroy what the two of us have.’ If there is anything that can be compared to how women play this line, it is that pretentious Aquafresh smile that white women constantly flash at natives, as if to pacify them. I went back into the hall and pretended like nothing was wrong; but the pain was too sharp for me to master the courage. I was too sad, as if my heart had been cut into pieces; and thus began my bitterness with Valentine’s Day until recently. I did become a butt of jokes around school for some time but I learnt my lesson.
The point I am trying to emphasise, and I understand that I took quite a while before I could arrive to it is everybody has a choice to celebrate whatever they wish to celebrate. We live in a democratic country. I had noticed Hitler tendencies on social networks that those who are miserably single or those who do not celebrate Saint Valentine’s Day were trying to ruin it for those were pro Saint Valentine’s Day. It is childish and dictatorial of us to suppress a different view. I still do not celebrate Saint Valentine’s Day, of course for different reasons that I will hopefully state in the future but that does not give me power to alienate those who believe in the celebration of this romantic day. My people here is what I wanted to say; each to their own. Kgotsong!