Sadly, my marriage came to an end just before our one-year anniversary. Desmond and I just broke each other down and he eventually decided that he didn’t want to be married. I moved back to my parents’ house.

Here is one of the poems I wrote near the end of my marriage.

June 2001
My soul has snapped.
My heart is broken.
I feel so wounded and bleeding…
Can you put me back together?
I can’t find my pieces.
My eyes are bloodshot.
I cannot see … you.
You have become someone else.
Will you come with me to the past?
Eighteen months ago?
Find me… I think I’m lost…
In a sea of pain.

During the time I was married, my parents had moved away from the small town in the North West to a house in Joburg. There were better job opportunities in Joburg and my dad had been struggling for many years to bring in enough money for my family to survive.

Once Desmond and I had separated, I decided to go and fulfil my dream of seeing Europe, and I got a job as an au pair (child carer) in Germany. I spent two years there and it was, to date, the best time of my life! I had the wonderful opportunity of seeing all of my favourite artists’ paintings in museums – like Van Gogh and Picasso. I visited many different countries and I absolutely loved the history and all the beautiful, ancient architecture.

During my second year in Germany, I got a job in an international school as a kindergarten assistant. The school was very different to our schools in South Africa. Because it gets so cold there in winter time, school was all indoors, with double glass doors at the entrances to keep the cold out. The school was also very unusual to me as it was from kindergarten (age 3–5) right through to Grade 12.

What I loved most is that because it was international, there were teachers and pupils from all over the world. The first language in the school was English, and the second language was German. Most of the teachers were American and British, plus we few South Africans.

I soon fell in love with the high school department’s art teacher – Mr Richard. He was twelve years older than me and he was American. He loved everything about me, including my accent and all my silly ways. I also became good friends with all of his friends, even though I was only twenty-one at the time, while they were in their thirties. They were such a fun group of people and I really enjoyed getting to know people from other cultures and backgrounds. It really opened my eyes to how narrow-minded we as South Africans are.

One of our favourite things was to take weekend trips to Amsterdam in the Netherlands, where some drugs are legal. That was the first time I ever tried hallucinogenic mushrooms (magic mushrooms or shrooms), and we began smoking a lot of weed (dagga). By this stage I was no longer afraid of using drugs. We used to smoke weed on most weekends and every few months we would take shrooms.

I no longer saw drugs as a harmful substance. Rather, I saw weed as socially acceptable and shrooms as a mind-opening experience. Looking back, I realise that it was at this very happy stage that I was already in danger. Because my fear of drugs had disappeared, I had become brave enough to try just about anything…


Tell us what you think: What is difficult about getting married when you are really young? What has changed in the way Michelle sees drugs?