When my mom walks up to the microphone to a song from “Fiddler on the Roof”, no one understands why. She is so overcome with emotion that she gives what George later describes as a “mafia-style” speech. This basically consists of saying people’s names and staring at them menacingly with such overwhelming emotion that the recipient has no choice but to break down and cry.
When Janah says her speech, she dedicates a song to my mom: “We All Stand Together” which my mom used to make us all perform when we were small. When my mom hears this, she abruptly starts dancing with her friend, Tannie Christa, and then starts crying so much that her mascara is on her chin and her forehead. While I run over to clean her face, she asks my stepdad, “Is my make-up okay?”
He looks at her.
“No,” he says truthfully.
She wipes her fingers underneath her eyes.
“Yes,” he lies.
When I make my toast to Janah, everyone laughs. I say that I have never known anyone who makes mistakes with such audacity, and that she has the amazing ability to follow her dreams, make mistakes and always take the road less travelled. I also tell about how she once, while we were watching a movie, made a comment about how Johnny Depp was as timeless as a pearl. Unfortunately, he wasn’t in the movie.
After we eat, we move to the dance floor. I feel welcomed and loved by everyone. At one stage I’m dancing with my mom, my step-grandmother with her walking stick, George’s grandmother with her walker, Gladys and Julia. Karen, one of my sister’s friends, slaps my mom’s bum. I think my mom is the biggest hit on the dance floor, perfecting what we all referred as her mini-butterfly move, complete with forward motion Egyptian head bump. Natalie dances with one of George’s friends so violently that we are exposed to her lusciously pink underwear. Thereafter she disappears and we don’t see her again until the next day.
Mackenzie and I hang out with the smokers at the fireplace. Karl, the MC, flirts elaborately with her and then asks George for her number. Karl is a lecturer in English at UCT and has curly black hair and frequently speaks about “the revolution.”
At one stage, Gladys comes with a cigarette. She puts her hand on her lips to indicate my silence. I nod and smile at her. Then, without warning, she shoves her head, with her elaborate traditional headpiece, into the fireplace to light her cigarette.
“Gladys, no!” Mackenzie shouts.
Before she catches fire, Mackenzie offers her a lighter.
At that moment, I see that Karen is on the dance floor but that she is looking peculiar. I can see her red underwear underneath her fishnet stockings.
Because she is no longer wearing a skirt.
I run to her. I see her skirt lying on the floor next to her and I grab it.
“Karen,” I say as I would to a little girl.
She is shaking her body and moving in circles. I run after her, holding the skirt in front of me.
“Karen, can you put on your skirt?” I ask her.
“No, it’s okay, everything’s okay.” She pats my back as if she was aware of some bigger secret about life and felt sorry for me about my ignorant, skirt-wearing ways.
I tried another tactic.
“Look at this pretty skirt!” I say, holding it up, “I think you’ll look hot in it!”
“Okay,” she shrugs and puts in on.
I turn around. On the other side of the dance floor, Karl the MC and my cousin Julie are, and there is no other phrase for it, viciously making out, pawing and groping each other as though their lives depended on it. I see a tongue more than once. I am confused, as he was just flirting with Mackenzie and buying us shots. I hear animal growl sounds in my head.
Janah and George are the last to leave, wrapped up in each other, celebrating their love. And I think, wow, what an awesome love story.
A year to the day I wake up with tears clinging the corners of my closed eyes. I open my eyes and they fall. I stare into Piccadilly’s loving gaze and she knows. She loves me. Healing is not a linear path and I am still sad.
It is midday and the sun is shining but the wind is howling like it’s mad at the sun for coming out today. It is not a warm day but the sun refuses to go away. I decide to take a bath. There is something honest about a bath, how you are confronted with your body in a way you never are when you shower.
You are forced to be still, quiet with your body, yourself. I tap the water scalding hot. I throw in a few bubbles, not too much, I want to be able to see myself. I throw in some bath lotion. I climb in and my body burns and burns and burns. I turn red all over. The water is green and a few white bubbles emerge at the edge of the tub. I take a rough yellow sponge and wash myself. I wash my feet. My toes are painted red, not a bright red but almost black because that’s the colour I prefer. I scrub my calves and knees which are covered in scars, the most recent one still purple. I wash my thighs, slightly thinner than they were a month ago. I wash the stretch marks on my hips, the curve of my body. I rub myself with methodical, loving strokes, not brushing to clean but to appreciate, and observe, love and care. I scrub my stomach, scarred from operations, ignored and hated in the past. Mine. Not going anywhere. I love it and appreciate it. I wash my labia, the rough edges of the sponge scraping where I have touched myself and where I have been touched, where I have been hurt and betrayed, where I will be loved and caressed and pleasured. I wash the curve of my breasts. I wash every single spot on my body and I love myself because I am worthy of my own love.
When I climb out of the bath, I am soft. So much softer than I was when I climbed in.