In order to break away from the monotony of office life I take a photography course with the camera that my mom and my stepdad gave me to “start my life”. What I love about photography is that it’s very different to writing. With writing I get lost inside my head and sometimes there’s not a lot going on in there or there’s too much going on and it’s not a good place to be. With photography, I get lost in the world outside of myself. Take the external and forget about the internal.
I am driving to Kalk Bay, which nestles past Muizenberg. Where I was raped. I don’t know the road well and my GPS takes me on the exact same path that we drove back from the hospital that morning. I remember seeing all the morning joggers and thinking about how normal their lives were. This time, as I drive in, I’m wondering who got raped there last night. I wonder who has just had their lives ruined.
It’s cold in Kalk Bay. I’m wearing jeans and a green jacket.
I approach the group of wanna-be photographers and our teacher. We are gathered in a parking lot right next to the beach.
“Good morning!” I say.
“Morning,” everyone choruses back to me. There’s a girl.
She has black hair and a sharp nose, dark olive skin. I find myself wanting to share my space with her, wanting to be around her all the time.
“How are you?” I ask her.
“Fine, just not a morning person,” she says.
“Me neither, I feel like being here at this time is similar to medieval torture,” I say.
And then it’s just me and my camera. But I am alone and safe in the best possible way – interacting creatively with my environment. I see a coke bottle lying embedded in the sand, a car tire in the distance. To get the perfect angle I lie down on my stomach, my hair flying in every direction, salt water dotting my red leather shoes, and fine sand makes way for me.
I have to pee. I go to an abandoned public restroom where I’m sure someone will abduct me. No one will ever see me alive again. Luckily, after squatting over a toilet seat with cobwebs and drip-drying, I make it out.
I want to follow the girl but I don’t, because she confuses me and I don’t know what to do about it. I’ve wanted to kiss girls before; this is different. When I’m around her she makes me aware of every single part of my body. Would it be easier for me to have sex with a girl? I trust women more than men, but I’ve only been attracted to a few of them. The way her body softly curves around the camera is so different to the aggressive, hard movements of men.
I find myself thinking about her. Fantasising about her. She occupies me.
“Are you a lesbian?” Julia asks me when we go for drinks one night. I have been talking about Photography Girl and my desire for her non-stop.
“I don’t even know if I’m bisexual,” I answer. I’m on my second glass of red wine and I sway to the beat of the heavy bass of whatever rock song is playing at The Shack. “I just know that I’m attracted to her.”
“Interesting,” Julia says as she clutches her handbag on her lap. It makes me feel like a science project.
“I’ve always been sexually aware of women, I just think getting raped… opened it up? I don’t know… It’s weird,” I sigh.
“Do you think it’s because you will feel safer, sexually, with a woman?” she asks.
“Maybe. But it’s strange because I also have this overwhelming need for a man to protect me. Like, because a man did that to me, only a man can make it right… if that makes any sense?” I grope for more wine.
My friends are supportive of my sudden sexual orientation confusion. Everyone wants me to define it. They ask how I would classify myself. I have no idea.
“Don’t worry Ashley, I don’t want to lick you,” I feel the need to reassure her when we are in the bathroom one evening.
After one class, a group of us walk into a coffee shop. She is sitting there with a guy.
“Hi, this is James, my boyfriend,” she says.
I am so much hotter than he is.
What a weird first thought to have when being introduced to a friend’s boyfriend. Not that I wasn’t hotter than him. I resent him. He has a large forehead and laughs too much.
When I leave, I know she’s watching me as I walk away. I shake my head at myself.