Monday, September 18, 2006

Things fall apart

What a weird day today was. I don’t think I spoke to anyone in person all day long. Lots of virtual contact, loads of emails and text messages. The highlight was an hour-long phone call to Mr D, who’s 8 hours away from my current London timezone: he’s helping Aphrodite get situated in California, “seeing her off” for her next big university adventures at UC Santa Barbara.

But no human, person to person contact. After studying all morning, I walked into Ascot, to buy some pencil leads. (0.7mm, since you’re so curious!!) The better with which to underline my academic texts. No one greeted me in either stationery shop, and I asked for no assistance. (Gotta love Britain. Customer service is a yet-to-be-realized dream for the 22nd century. Only 94 yrs to go for better response times! But please don’t hold yr breath. You might die of old age and we can’t be bothered to deal with your dead body in the meanwhile.)

Tried on some tennis skirts in the sports store but resisted a purchase. Though I have lost too much weight, I don’t really need to spend more money. Clothes that fit are a low priority. I’ll just carry on wearing the baggy stuff I’ve already got. Who knew that stretch/exercise clothes could actually be too big!?! I certainly didn’t.

Picked up the local property paper and The Villager. Went to the grocery for sugar and eggs (I could be baking cookies/biscuits for my children, but no, the kids are long gone. Eggs are just for breakfast and sugar’s for coffee, and still no one said ‘hello’.) Got a few appreciative looks from the boys at the butcher shop and the snooker table delivery guys who hang out near the front walk to my house. But that’s not going to pay the electric bill, or make me feel truly cared for, to be utterly honest and address the issue that’s really bothering me.

So .... that’s the problem .... no human interaction.

But a bit ironic, to come from me, now. After all this moaning the last few months, Greta Garbo-ish, about how “I vant to be alone.” Ever since January and the fun “togetherness time” I spent with my darling sh**head gunman-friends at the Pilates studio, and then after that, a bit longer time with my sweet Pilates victim-friends locked in the gunman-selected bathroom in the Pilates studio in Johannesburg, meditating about bullet trajectories and what bits of the back of my skull might look like after being blasted apart with a handgun. (As an example: is the brain really and truly ‘grey matter’? Do skull sections come off in big or small pieces? What if they’d shot my fingers off while wanting to get off my bracelets? If they’d killed me accidentally in the corridor, would they have just run off, or would they have opened the door and killed all my Pilates buddies too, just to shut us all up?? oh stop, stop it.)

Who knows???? That’s the really sick part. You just have no idea how it might have turned out. And it didn’t turn out in that other, nightmare, way, so you’re lucky. And in fact we’ve been there before already. And we’re tired of talking about it. Tired, tired, tired. Mr D is tired of listening. You, dear Reader, are tired of hearing about it too. I’m tired of talking. I’m tired of thinking about it. It just is bad bad... bad. But can I stop?

No. Unfortunately, no, it seems.

Must be that obsessive compulsive part of my brain. Can NOT turn it off.

But after all that, the stress and trauma. All I could think about was the lovely plan of being by myself 100% of the time. (But, hey, back up and hang on, am I even allowed to call it ‘stress’ or ‘trauma’?? After all, nothing REALLY BAD happened. I’m fine, right? Ah, no need to overanalyse, this stuff happens all the time to everyone in South Africa. Just get on with it. Africa’s not for sissies!)

So. Again. I think i want it to be that I have got ..... No family. No husband. No children. No houseman and maid. No dependents at all. God, forgot about the dog. No dog. How heartless is that? No dog. I’m so gone that I forgot I even HAVE a dog. What’s wrong with this picture?

Have I lost my heart, my ability to “attach”, my connection to my own community? Is my soul gone, or utterly damaged?

Now I am alone, for the time being, .... and gosh, it’s ...( surprise!!).... so lonely!!

Dimwit. For a remarkably intelligent woman, I can be so stupid.

When my sister and I were little, my parents used to read us stories. One of my favorites was The Secret Hiding Place. It was about a little hippo, who was tired of being looked after and fussed over by everyone in the herd. He went off to look for a secret hiding place. He met up with a turtle who suggested having a shell (impossible), a bat who suggested a cave (too dark and scary), and a couple of other animal advisors. Finally he met up with a lizard, who said, ‘come with me...’ And the lizard led the little hippo to the top of a hill, where he could look down upon the hippo herd and be near them, but they wouldn’t know he was there, because “hippos never look up”. So the little hippo could be “alone, but not too alone....”

A charming story, and so appropriate. It’s such a lovely dream to be alone and carefree... and then when you are alone... you do get lonely. One needs to find a way to be alone, but not too alone.

And also of course, having been to Africa, I do happen know that hippos certainly DO look up. Their eyes are practically on top of their heads fer cryin out loud, where else would they be looking? Ah well, we’re not looking for zoologic anatomical accuracy in a kid’s storybook, are we?

So, how can I be “alone, but not too alone”? That’ll be the trick.

But perhaps you’re asking, “how did you end up alone, E? In fact, where the hell are ya? Last we all heard, you were driving your Mini round South Africa! And where's Mr. D?”

Oh, it’s been interesting. Basically, I’ve been back in the UK since mid-July. I cooked up this plan in April or May or so, to housesit for anyone who’d have me in England. Lots of friends take long holidays back in America, so it seemed like a great option. Be with the girls in England, take a break from crime in South Africa, relax.

So I landed a house-sitting gig with a friend for July and August, and the girls and I hung around in England, and walked my friend’s dog, and generally tried to enjoy ourselves, and pretend we were back to living our old life, from before South Africa.