After Easter I live inside a thick, heavy fog. I can’t see or hear or feel anything. Sometimes someone gets close enough for me to see them and for them to touch me. But then I lose them again and I’m alone.
Malini comes down from the small town in the Eastern Cape where she lives with her mom to interview for counselling jobs in Cape Town. I invite her and some friends who also did Psychology honours with us to the flat for dinner. I make my famous vegetarian pasta with whole wheat pasta, almonds, spinach, sundried tomatoes and feta, lots of feta.
We have dinner with my digs mates and then they leave, and the four of us chat about our respective ‘futures’.
“I don’t understand. They train us for a year, work us to death and then, boom! No viable career options,” I say.
“I know, they tell us how smart we are, how many skills we are accumulating but we are unemployable!” Malini says.
“It sucks because we actually want to help people. We are some of the few people out there who want to help people for a living, but after honours we don’t have any way to do it really,” Sarah adds. She is small, blonde and flaps her pale hands in the air as she talks.
“You know, I studied for five years, and now I have a job copying and pasting. I get paid to copy and paste and there’s a girl in my office who’s nineteen and she has exactly the same job and gets paid the same as me! I don’t even have an ego left. How can they not see how amazing I am?” I say. I sink my head onto the table. A sundried tomato sticks to my forehead.
“They make me feel useless all the time at my job. They check up on every single thing that I do like I’m some kind of idiot.” Naledi works at a marketing company. Her short bob accentuates her thick, tangled lashes and high cheek bones.
“Or we could study further, which costs more money, which will give us even less practical skills, which will make us even less employable!” I say.
“I’m just so tired of sitting at home. And I have all these ‘options’. What am I supposed to do with all these ‘options’?” Malini asks.
“I have no idea. They’re all like, you have your whole life ahead of you, take it easy, figure things out. I have no idea what I want to do with my whole life! And I can’t expect my mom to always help me out,” I respond.
“I know, I have to work for free at the moment.” Sarah is interning at an addiction clinic.
“And nothing ever works out the way you think it will. Because you have this idea that you’re going to be an amazing counsellor or journalist or whatever and it turns out you don’t even like working,” Malini says.
“That’s why there’s wine,” I say.
“Wine will never leave you,” Naledi proclaims.
“Cheers to wine!” We clink our glasses together.
They are suffering from a severe case of the ‘now whats?!’ During schooling we were measured in yearly yardsticks of achievement and then, when we graduated, everyone was like: “Oh, and here’s the rest of your life.” While before I would have worried myself sick about this, now I couldn’t really get myself to care. I used to run through life with a predatory anxiety snaking around my stomach, hissing at me to move, move, move, work, work, because time is ticking and the world is running and if I don’t push, push I might never get to where I have to be.
It’s gone. And there’s nothing to replace it.
Later, Malini and I are sitting in my bedroom. It’s just the two of us and she sits on my swivel chair. I’m telling her about André – I had never told her about him before. Malini and I tend to share things with each other we don’t always share with other people. I think we understand each other on a deeper level than most people.
Maybe it’s just the wine, but Malini has tears in her eyes. “You know, you’re the kind of amazing that can only come from being fucked up.”
Which I think is a compliment.
“I swear a lot more now than I used to before I was raped,” I tell her, while pulling off a loose nail.
“I think… it’s because I live my life through language. Words are everything to me. And rape is the biggest swear word there is, don’t you think? And I’ve been forced to incorporate it into my everyday life. To use it over and over again. Rape, rape, raperaperaperaperape. After a while, all other words kind of lose their meaning. Like what is a fuck, a shit, a cunt – when you compared it to rape?”
“You’re right, it’s nothing,” she says.
Sometimes I think that the rape was some kind of new-age boomerang. You know, like The Secret by Rhonda Byrne? What you put into the world comes back to you? You visualise a parking space and you will get one. I tried that with an economics test in my first year. I failed the test.