Short Stories, Part 3, a continuation of Short Story books Part 1 and Part 2. Called "Perpetual Eros", an homage to erotic love. Book V continues with seven stories, starting off with the oncoming spring in South Africa, as observed from the lounge, where abundant bird-life on a feeding tray in front of the main window has a paradisiacal background to the protagonist's secret love life. Life has changed for the poet, who has a lively exchange with his dedicated girlfriend. They enjoy writing love letters to each other. The stories revolve around the poet's spouse and his girlfriend, with who he cultivates ongoing high-level communication. Life has turned around. Physical expressions are enjoyed lively through the medium of virtual communication. With Aleta, the poet creates 'Azza Isle' - the virtual domain for their relationship, away from the daily humdrum in 'Fields of Desire'. Love play on an airplane in 'A Flight Back to Africa', is an exciting first for the poet. The lovers experience in'Inner Concorde of Opposites' that comparisons in love are just futile, as long as their libidos will work just fine. Book VI depicts 16 stories, with love seen from different angles and through strange coincidences, or are they? From love at a museum and another in the niche of an entrance to a Byzantine church, from self-pleasure to meet a sensual woman in a bookshop in Puerto de la Cruz. Love emerges between a couple searching for a pen, fallen out a library window in a modern suburb of Johannesburg, and the making of an erotic movie with Chelx, a talented designer and the poet's love interest.
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“To have her in bed with me, breathing on me, her hair in my mouth – I count that something of a miracle.”
“Retrospectively, I would agree with Luis Bunuel that sex without sin is like an egg without salt.”
“Love loves to love love.”
A Rousing Dialogue
Fields of Desire
Figure of Eight
A Flight back to Africa
Inner Concord of Opposites
Love among the Statues of Classical Art
Love has a Room set aside
Love me to Death
Sundays with Aleta
The Blue Notebook
Meeting for the First Time
I wasn’t ready
The Mandarin Pen
Bus Ride to Aline
The Story of an End
Inner Concord of Opposites
Suddenly the wind stopped, and instead of the howling and waving of the purple branches of the wild plum tree outside the drawing room windows, they threatened to get into the room by scratching a way through the glazing of the large panels. The usual visiting birds appeared, daily guests at the birdfeed that’s constructed like a miniature house with terraces all around for laying the birdseed on. Clambering on its edge the landing birds balance themselves amidst wild swings of the bird house, picking unwaveringly and greedily. One by one they arrive trying to find a place, squeezing into gaps left by birds already hanging on. The golden weaver is the first one, before the lazy doves arrive, with his black mask out of a Zorro movie. Athen the grey couple of tits where she is feeding her mate at all times, followed by a succession of more weavers who fly in from their selected tree branches, where the male birds are busy weaving their artful nests they hang from them. His usual and regular weaverbird, he called Weberl, has been a longstanding and trusted friend for some years in a row now. This year suddenly a new bird arrived, could it be an offspring?
However, he quickly attuned himself to the garden and he enjoys the same privileges as the birds before. However he misses Weberl and his wing shaking performances, whenever he talked to him. No one since had been as talkative and chatting to him as Weberl was. He seemed to have that extra bit of sense being able to communicate with him. He even could sense the bird’s attitude of being joyful or sad, having had a good time or a bad one, chasing his mate, who sometimes came to eat with him in the morning, when he filled the emptied wooden tray with new seeds. How enjoyable was it to see the young weaver children sitting in between the dense leaves of the wild plum- and the wild peach tree, waving their wings and trying out their flying skills; he counted four so far.
As soon as they emerged from their nests and started flying, the father destroyed their nest. But soon a new weaver arrives, whoever received the message to come here to this garden. It seems that birds hand down information to their successors for their preferred breeding grounds. Now the next generation carries out the chain of their succession.
There is chatter and the usual feeding noises that arise out of rivalry and the pecking order. Weberl always was first in the morning, because he was feeding him early, long before the weighty doves arrived. There is the regular young couple of doves, with their innocent and large eyes, who live here, like house birds. During the daytime they rest always on the roof or close to the gutter that carries the birdfeed now. Since the white ants had invaded the branch of the flowering peach that was closer to the cottage, he had to cut the perforated and dead branch off and move the bird feed, now hanging from the gutter bracket close to the drawing room window. So he and his spouse B are now in a favourable position to watch the feeding birds from behind the translucent curtains.
The arrival of the rock-doves usually signals that nobody else can get near the bird feed now, as with their huge bodies and their heavier weight they cannot keep the balance on the feed for very long.
He feels today a bit under the weather. It is due to the last weeks in the year, as the pending holidays have slowed people down and a general tiredness bears on them. His mind is not with his present day to day running of the household and with the management of their budget, but with the creative process that had suddenly deserted him. It has left him in the lurch with the anticipated first draft of his first novel he had attempted all year to write. He did not yet have a title he thought suitably short and original. He wanted to call it something like The Great Rise, in connection with its erotic content.
Since some days now he was unsettled and behaved even unruly and rough, despite not indenting to. The work in the cottage had grown way above his head, as he pushed the days to clean up just forward, without ever to stick to a routine of order that would facilitate their living and be necessary for the hygienic conditions of their existence. And although he was in a bad position to carry on his domestic duties, with his spouse unable to do, due to her chronic state of illness, he realized that he had still two tough years ahead of him until he could reach a decision of settling somewhere, where he felt comfortable to live in this world that had changed its face at a much faster pace than he was prepared to accept.
He thought of Aleta and he had a longing to settle right now close to her, in order to be motivated to continue his research for his follow-up volume, he wanted definitely to write. He was certain that he could still finish his first novel, despite the fact of his days off, the sudden lack of enthusiasm, and his creative groove that he could not get back into. He could write poetry and short stories that came to his mind, as if something of an inside power tried to divert him from his path, he had been fond of for such a long time to continue on. Maybe it was time to finish the volume as it was; maybe there is an art to finishing a novel, even if it is volume one, which he had not yet mastered.
He desired to be close to the pulse of a city, well about a two-hour maximum distance by bus and subway, so he still would endure that kind of travel in times of need, but more motivated in seeking a closer contact to her. He had chosen a new profession and he was far from being skilled at it, other than having written some essays, letters, poetry, and scientific reports for corporate clients, about viabilities of projects and about a research from an architect’s view of some projects that were his own creation.
So he was well aware of the creative process from that side, writing about inner moods and dialogues was a bit foreign to him. He had become superfluous in an emerging world of a mass of people whose ruling class did not think to raise levels of education of their own people in a hurry, and that had abandoned the need for employment of foreigners and immigrants to a great extent. He felt that however long he would stay, he was always looked upon as a foreigner and as an immigrant, be it by the former government or by the following. He felt unsettled, rejected, and despite his qualifications, there was no use for him anymore.
The fire was burning in the barbecue kettle outside on the terrace of his cottage. The concrete tiles, still warm from the day long absorbing of sun energy, again flaring up in the late afternoon, somewhat strange in this weather patterns, like the world around him that had changed its attitudes towards its citizens. There was a continuous flux in all levels of life, in fact throughout the Western World. He thought back of the world he was growing up in and he wanted some of its pleasant ways back again.
He prepared the chickens to be barbecued and as soon as he had stuffed them with onions and garlic and some dressing of paprika, he settled down for a ritual of green tea and waiting for the tea to infuse into the boiled water, he poured himself a tot of whisky. The pale amber liquid seems to settle his upset tummy and he continued to drink, despite his wife’s continuous reprimanding words about his habit of late to reach intoxication rapidly.
Once the chickens were safely placed on the grill of the barbecue, he closed the lid, lowered the regulator to smaller air input and the process of smoldering heat from the charcoals would sap the meat of most of its fat and grill the birds to perfection in about an hours’ time. He continued to prepare some brown rice, as his spouse had given-up cooking a year ago, unable to work with her permanently sensitive hands, either in water or in food related processes, especially in contact with tomato sauce. Then he attended to the roasting of the red onions and the green and red peppers in olive oil.
He took a breather and sat in his favorite chair in the corner of the lounge in their beloved cottage, taking out a copy of the paperback edition of the Acropolis, he had bought fifteen years ago, when he visited Athens with his wife and then continued to the island of Santorini on their first trip to Greece. Now in a nostalgic mood, he remembered the times they had back then and the many changes that had since then taken place. Every year they traveled to Europe to see his Mom and every time she used to be bitter about the fact that he was stuck in Africa and in an angry mood she called it the 'ass of the world'. However much he did explain to her that he could not find work in the small country town of his birth and she might have heard that too from other sources, but she wanted him close-by as he was her only son and then there was a demand in her voice and she transferred into a forceful manner in which she behaved as if she had to convince him to change his decision and come back home. She did carry on always from the first moment they met, year after year, and instead of her just enjoying him and his stories he had to tell about all he experienced, she always ended up in a fight with him. She sought all kinds of avenues, even the blame put on his wife to be the reason that he would not come back. That was too much for his spouse and him to bear and they had always to pack their goods and leave, prior to their plans, as peace was now broken and a war zone opened up between his Mom and them. The red-hot wound that festered in her heart that they would not settle in time in the house of her parents. He supposed to do it like his cousin Teeb and pursue his career from the place of his Mom as a professional architect. There were by now quite a few other architects in the small country town, with work being sporadic and at an all-time low. Most of them had alternative posts to support themselves. That's why he carried on with his stay in Africa that continued to offer him employment.
The chickens were ready together with the rice and vegetables. He served some rice and chicken into the plate for Ted, his corde poodle, who was the nervous member of the family as he was taking in all the smells of the preparatory work since hours. He was very fond of chicken, as all poodles are. Then as Ted gorged himself over his portion, he served some for his wife and last for himself. All was tasty and wholesome.
Since two years he had taken over the reins in the kitchen with Bea incapacitated by her nervous sickness and although he enjoyed the preparations of food, he stuck to a simple way of nourishment, not affording too much time for cooking. He was at most times carried away in some manner in his creative work that left him only some spare time for either cooking or housework. The garden, the home and the general life to survive were secondary to him. Bea resting most of the time rather like a guest than his wife. He had become used to a life that he didn’t entirely enjoy or call his own, but he had adapted to it caring as much as he could for Bea and then fleeing into the realm of his creative tasks that let him endure these times of trivialities, as he called these functions of cleaning-up and tidy-up generally enough for a reasonable survival.
He cleaned the dishes and prepared the kitchen to be ready for the next meal preparations. Then he felt suddenly tired, as if he would have an attack of a physical collapse. He thought, until he was due to meet Aleta for conversation and an update on literary news, he could take a short snooze. He woke well passed the time he had set aside to meet her and he noted that his tummy was feeling better, but he had intoxicated himself with single malt whisky and now he had to send Aleta an SMS to explain, otherwise she would worry about him, not knowing what had happened as he always kept his times, never once disappearing without letting her know.
Just as he sent her his message, he noticed already messages from her and soon he could explain his dilemma. She was glad he was all right. There were too many bad reports depicting violence and other crime-related incidents in Africa that were well known throughout the globe. Enough to set its image into a negative light, with negative thoughts, especially lately with the killing of tourists, who in their ignorance did not hand over moneys demanded by the criminals. The unusually high number of traffic accidents that had multiplied not only in the urban areas, but also along the main routes to the holiday destinations. There was a surge of crashing vehicles, mostly taxis owned and driven by blacks that caused accidents, due to a number of factors. As one waiter at the coastal hotel, we used to frequent for decades, told us. “They are driving all the time, without a proper rest, without sleep, without attention to the vehicles. So they fall asleep on the wheel, unable to control their fully loaded mini-buses that then crash at high speed into passing vehicles or force others off the road.”
This incidence of having overslept his time of his usual time for a late afternoon or early morning conversation, was for the first time, as if he had a slight breakdown, physically and mentally, needing a break he never wanted to admit to himself. Too greedy for her words, her gentle touches that he always desired, and this love he had forged with her. Although stealthy in its character, it was certainly born out of this need for pureness and innocence, combined with a deep-seated desire that was stirred in both of them since its inception, thirteen months back. He was toying in his mind to review the rough statistical figures of their meetings and their exchanges of this enormous amount of communicative material in the form of letters, messages, websites, instant sessions, pictures, anecdotes, poetry, and reading matter that was heaping up to a giant hill that he hardly managed to save on diskettes, as he lacked the better facility of a CD storage system.
He would stand in front of this library that had grown during these thirteen months, something many do not manage to collect even in s lifetime. Such is contemporary E-life. Then he discarded these thoughts that became too frightening to him in their Atlantean image, the Goya like figure that rises like a dark mountain on the horizon. He was reviewing the times of love, when they did exchange their feelings, their desires, and when their bodies and their minds had fused, having become attuned to each other through instant communication with the use of words and sometimes voices, and the reflections that they bounced off each other, penetrating deep into their skins. Reaching further into their innocent state of being, pure desire, longing, burning want, and pleasure, the exhilarating experiences of online-love.
He was desperate to talk to her, but it was already too late this emerging evening of the 13th December that fell on a Friday. So he just settled to send her his messages, instead of the usual opening of their communicative window, and he sent her a SMS-message too, in case the high volume of Internet traffic caused delays in sending all on time. Thanks God for cell phones he thought. However he did unlock something through this unconsciously brought about denial of meeting her, in himself, having missed his most important time of the day, when lovers meet and when animals gather at the watering holes.
She had become all for him, everything, as he did not appreciate anymore his ordinary life that had pushed itself during the years onto him and it had made him exert promises, he did want to keep, despite the fact that he had fallen in love with another married woman. He never intended to abandon his wife, however hard it would become. He had promised once to his mother-in law to stay together with her, since then he had kept to it, even if he had some one-night stands, some short affairs, always discreet, as she demanded that from him. She would do for him the same, he was sure about that, although at one stage in their married lives the role of faithlessness was played by her, he was fearing that he would lose her for good, as he knew the man she was in love with, who wanted her and as she was touched by his charms, stirred up by his mere presence, the way he talked and his social standing in his community together with his wealth. He intended at every opportunity to show it, in his way suitable to his projected image, even sometimes in a gentleman’s way, yet indicating with references his different background, throwing some words of weight into his conversation that often was accompanied with a glib mannerism, as if he would not like to talk about these matters, not worthy to talk about, but enough to kindle one’s curiosity with enough shards of information, to let the cat out of the bag. Bit by bit in conversation he indicated his position of wealth, his excellent breeding that was more related to his mind than to his manners that seemed artificial and restrained, matching well with his image he projected to the outside to be counted to the top of the heap in society.
As he once said to him in an acted casual way, as if he would envy him only for one thing, “you do not have to do this, you are lucky, you can do as you like,” as if he was in this straightjacket of a society he had joined for the benefits and the privileges that came in huge quantities, yet at the cost of personal freedom and of choice of women he liked to be with were limiting him to considerations by his mind and by politics rather than the choices of his heart. Zed thought E. had rather an extraordinary talent for matters of finance and for medicine, but in this constant dualism he was often caught in, as he enjoyed enormously increasing his personal wealth, but also failed to enjoy living. Yet he married a woman who was topmost in society first, who was not interested in his looks, but his potential to sire a son that was endowed with a good brain and many talents, his worth as a first class surgeon and therefore also a life that provided her with all amenities and friends, so she felt always wanted, even if her husband did not marry her for love. Now after so many years since his first wife’s tragic death, he was maybe unable to exist without any other strong minded woman, who held the reigns in this post-colonial society, still modeled on the antiquated structures of an English society that thrived in the one of their former colonies, morally drawn to the British Commonwealth.
Zed was waking at four in the morning and he heard the faint intonation of one bird that announced the day’s rise and the time of the receding of all night’s apparitions and shadows. He switched on the bedside lamp and he started to take down some notes he wanted to write to Aleta. He received one of her messages quite late, due to his message box filled with her previous history of messages from three months back, whose most touching he kept, unable to extinguish them. He kept everything of her, even messages, until he wrote them down. He had an urge to cast into stone all of her words and his, and show this conversation to others, so they could take something of it for their own use, maybe have the same feelings he described, understand that way the lives of their contemporary peers. He was meeting her only in three hours’ time, so he could carry on with his work on an essay about the Acropolis that had since his early days of studies of Architecture, featured as the cradle of western civilization and whose art was infested in his mind. Now as his desire of creating art lay dormant most of his life, crusted over with the actions of his working life, he had always a longing for creation, even from the slightest simple matter, using often as an excuse to work in his profession, he felt suddenly the process of creation seeping into his inner being and he started rendering a piece of paper, some scraps of paper that grew into the symbols and signs of his flowing imagination. Suddenly all has surfaced again, like a dream and it shaped in front of his eyes like the most important icon he did yearn for in the arts. The words of Aleta became for him most important, and her poems touched him in such depth that it had subconsciously influenced his own poetry with his own distinct expression that slowly forged his own style.
This happened now, all of a sudden he thought he had found a door open that let him enter into this room that had writings exhibited all over the walls and the showcases that let him have a glimpse into his ways of expressions, his development from his childhood art into the last quarter of his life’s achievements. He has found a way that enticed him to work, some kind of payback in the wellbeing of words he strung to sentences and feeling the moods in their respective descriptions that did match his own. Has it taken long hours and many days that became many months of their friendship to flourish? He realized that it was their combined effort to express their fondness and love that has brought about the ripeness of the fruit they now devoured with rising eagerness. Spending more time and effort suddenly into the world that has been dominating their existence all the time, but had been alive below this skin of their sensualist natures that they had masterfully tuned into a satisfying concerto that made them come together spiritually and physically, every time.
Long hours and many months of writing it was now in the thirteenth month of their relationship that he did realize this on this second day of the New Year. Now on the 13th of December, in the thirteenth month of their togetherness he had come already to this conclusion after he missed that regular all important talk with her in the early hours of the evening. There was this fight with words, both being annoyed and tense, he had picked with her on the slightest triviality. He sensed that it could escalate into a fight of great proportions, if he carried on with his drilling into her privacy, which she was considering as sacred realm, like Athenians considered the Acropolis as their sacred rock, dedicated to the chryselephantine Goddess of Athena.
But he also knows from previous fights that there is a point to stop, if he does not want to lose her, but only test her temperament. However, even if she is astonished about him, after a time of four days sexual abstention, what does she expect? At one stage she thought earlier on that physical love online would be unimportant, as libidos will fade fast and instant sex is exciting only the first few times. Then she found herself engaged into this mutual masturbation, she prefers to be called a love-act, and they both could not get enough of their mutual stimulations. She followed him suit, although she queried intermittently: “How should this go on?” He smiled and swept these thoughts aside as he enjoyed to possess her online, let her bloom into a passionate woman that was fellating him the way he desired.
What absurdity, what nonsense, his conscious mind kept telling him, when he was sobering from the lascivious togetherness that drove his libido into these never sated highs, the ever more of want and the relieving feeling of wellness in their pleasures. “This all is really an illusion using allusions of lovemaking you compare to in your erotic memory banks that have stored all information from experience and watching pornography and reading erotic tales, now bringing some strings that pull your libido alive through fantasies you still want to live through, before you get older and the coals of desire get cold.” This physical distance of six thousand miles did nothing to lesson his libido, on the contrary. Once he had seduced her and she responded the same way to his feelings as he transferred to her, he could never stop to get into her skin and pussy at any meeting they ever had. Even if they abstained from expressing their sexual feelings, there was this air of suppression they both felt that pulled like an invisible string on their hearts with every word and sentence they exchanged and connected their bodies with stirrings.
Now as he entered the New Year and to be able to see her physically really present in only 15 days that separated them, having passed 333 days successfully since they knew that they would meet, without ever panicking too much about that, now seemed to become a huge mountain of doubts and fear that overshadowed all their meetings and sessions. As if he would meet another person and not Aleta, maybe Anetha, one of his protagonists in his writings that became thus suddenly alive again, or perhaps Ana, the passionate woman that loved everyone? He was confused. He summoned his mind and then he felt like writing a love poem to her rather, than a letter that would have become a serious pondering.
So, while she came again online, he felt still her aloofness towards him and he tried hard to unlock this stance of hers, as he was ready for love and he told her. She replied “I can do it, but my heart will not be in it tonight.” So he abandoned his desires and his notion of making love to her, on the one hand not be selfish in getting-off by himself and on the other to bide his time for a more successful reconciliation with them both enjoying it fully. He could also only enjoy any sex with her only if it was mutual and as all the other three hundred times or so. This had certainly not happened to him before for this extent of time, nor her, so it was rather unusual and also not negative, even healing in one way. Were these signs of estrangement that only surfaced, as the date drew nearer to meet? He suddenly disliked the idea of meeting altogether, as it watered down the stealthy state of their liaison and he thought it did that to their excitement too. But she believed rather in showing everybody her love and he did not. Not for the moment and certainly not to others, what for? But her thoughts were different there. Maybe she wanted to live with him openly, not worrying to hold his hand or kissing him whenever she felt like it anywhere, without fearing any retribution from her family and friends. Would he ever want to renounce the secrecy, this drug of constant desire that pulled him like a magnet to her? For the sake of bringing this love down to earth from the lofty heights of clouds, the distant island of Azza’s paradise? Would the prize of having been sanctioned as lovers do justice to the sweetness that would be lost through this?
Well, he mused, he was never hiding anything from Bea, neither did Aleta from her spouse. This being the first time for him and for her. Bea was sensing the regular times he excused himself to write, to the confines of his study, separated from the main house, lying in a secluded corner of their property, where he could even sing or dance without anyone overhearing him. The adjoining tenants, who lived in the close adjoining studio like his own, kept to themselves, sometimes switching on music louder, not particularly bothering him. So now on the first day of the New Year, she has serious thoughts about their relationship and she tells him to think about her thoughts too. Bea will know more about it one day, so why worry her with pressures she does not take to well, besides she has headaches all the time. Just off the cuff, he will do nothing that concerns Bea. Maybe discuss it once further ahead, as she is still his best friend. Like as if Aleta, once she met her and accepted her, belongs now to the extended family, which she is already for him anyway. Now she does get cold feet, she talks of abandoning her family perhaps for a while, go to some different country for a break maybe?
Well he cannot follow her, even if he had the means, he is starved of funds for the coming year, he has to live another two years in this place at least, the crucial years as he calls them, to strict budgets and maybe with a lack of income, except his meager investment that did all right, but how will all continue? Prices tend to rise all the time. He’ll starve a bit, but he won’t die. Two years to endure until he is illegible for some pension income that might just help to scratch through, until he has sold the inherited home in his place of birth, then Bea suggested to move to an island, where she can live more relaxed. He is guessing that she feels bad here on the mountain city of Egoli and that her quality of life is daily threatened here by the lack of oxygen and the increasing pollution from industry and aggressive men. Will he then, as he sees Aleta this year for the first time, be able to move to an island or be close to a city, where she lives? Will she fall in love with him and accept the situation as it has unfolded and keep its secret character instead?
He guesses that she is cut out for literary art as much as he is and she strives to get there, meaning that it will be their sessions that will have to suffer, maybe as they’d meet from now on only once a day, he can feel that now as she drops all the cues, she has sent him regularly, since days. She does complain to him that she has no continuity and coherence in her work, having no time to do all necessary. He is fond of her, so he is standing back, but maybe that is the break sensitive writers need. This will free her from her time he has pinned her down with and their libidos will have to be transferred into their beloved pastime that has become a dominant force now through the love they have extended to each other in their relationship. Freed from marriage constraints and duties that are done as part of a contract. Here is of course so much speculation still that stirs up their fantasies like a spice. She speculates still more than he does, as he soon afterwards abandons that idea and he leaves all in abeyance for their meeting in real life. They both live a life, maybe unhappy with their spouses but yet secure and changes they want only appear to make them happy, but at the same Time desperately insecure. Maybe a combination of both lives will do. Staying as they are but to meet and see how to continue.
He senses that she is worried to really see him alone, unless they do all meet together. He can compromise, but he can never hold back if his feelings are confirmed, he desires then to touch her, anywhere, anyplace, even in a restroom’s cold environment. He has maybe a fixed idea about the consummation of a love well tried in words and letters, messages with calls and voice, now in its thirteenth month. Can you tell me who would not be? Whatever happens he will report truly his feelings, he asks himself for whom? Well for anyone interested in reading truths, even if it is covered into the cloak of fiction. Of course he changes names and locations, all that could lead to a personal identification and lots of grief.
Since she came back from her summer leave, she has lost her continuation of her writing world, she now wants to re-connect with, re-connect with her writing self. Can she do it without his help? She needs her break now, he can sense it, he’ll give it to her, as he intends to write himself much more. They both will write. He cannot wait to meet her, it has become a drug, she is right. Now on the eve of a new era, the historic meeting of two poets, writers, friends, and online-lovers, she is getting nervous, thinking of breaking away, maybe after they’d met, it might be good for her. Be alone with herself, her writing, her self-realization, and her intimate thoughts. He wishes he could through a coincidence visit his cousin in Mexico City, so he could see her, when she visits her family, any arrangements that could be made, as she does not plan anything at all. He will plan, contrary to her, it was once his trademark when he was engaged professionally do design and lead a project single handed in practical project management, which became a great success. More personal, mind you, as there was a lot of jealousy between the executive partners of the firm at that time. For many years he held his own, before he finally went on to be also the sole owner of his own architectural practice.
She told him that she was not born to be a mother and a wife, and she lives for herself, she does what she wants. He cannot yet totally do that, but he will, the moment his stepfather died. He has dreamed of seven days with her, maybe five, and how he would meet her. In Cairo, visiting the pyramids, maybe a boat trip down the Nile. An idea that has become ingrained into his mind and follows him in his dreams. Maybe now she can write about her conflicts, if not he will do it his way. Maybe she can do it from her viewpoint one day, as he loves this title “Conflicts in Love,” he will use it for a poem, he’ll write it for sure. And as he kisses her, she fades away, and he let her apparition go. He watches her sitting in her room, bent over her laptop, as she writes.
This Monday morning I woke surprisingly early. Having engaged into some self-hypnosis yesterday evening, I had consciously talked to my innermost to wake me up early in the morning. I had to get organized, have breakfast, and dress with reasonable speed to avoid getting into an angry mood.
I was dealing with Ted, our dog, who was grumpy this morning, as I was, yet he did not refuse the food I warmed-up for him. Bea refused breakfast as she felt an oncoming nausea and she could not even smell the food, the warmed-up oats and the fruit. As I chewed on my food, which I consciously shredded to as small bits as I possible could, I mused about this silly municipal final notice a piece of printed paper with half a torn-off piece stapled to it and it carried the address and the outstanding amounts owed and the penalty for disconnection and re-connection, I was not even aware off happened here at our place. It then struck me that the blackout we had a week ago was indeed their willful switching off our supplies to warn me. Warn me for what? I remembered. I had a dispute with City hall on the peculiar way of presenting their monthly bills that did not show payments of the bill by myself, although it had been done, thus adding the last months bill again to the following month and so distort the account as if I was never paying on time. I mused about this silly municipal notice ordering me to pay instantly or else they would take me to court like a criminal. However there was no sense in phoning up, as nobody answered and the lines were kept off the hook. There was no way of faxing either as a dialogue was out of the question, as demanded by the fine I had to pay fifty percent of the consumed monthly electricity as a penalty, I found an absolute insult.
However I remembered my former master’s voice: “You can’t fight City Hall.” This piece of loose paper lacking an official envelope and also a signature caused me to feel this Monday to be a painful day. Fortunately Bea did not have a migraine this morning, so she was adamant to accompany me to the offices of the Electricity Department, which are now situated in Braamfontein, a place called 'Jorissen House' on number 66. Thinking back that lack of communication on their behalf had caused me grief, with computers suddenly terminated by the loss of power, losing my work, and on top the annoyance of the cooking cooling off rapidly during the blackout. However they were not even prepared to ring me up and warn me, or even send a warning beforehand, or communicate in a way grown-up people do, and they showed neither interest nor a will to do so. Bea said to me “just pay and forget the matter,” but for me it was unjust and an immature act, reminding me of childish games rather than the way we should treat each other in the light of a new constitution that had not yet been put into practice by those who think that power and governance are by the whip, not by the system that has to be updated to serve the people rather than the people serve the system. I had written to the civil servants and explained my situation, all I did ask was to reconcile my account and get all back to orderly accounting. I was told by someone who took the phone, after I had tried numerous times to contact them that I should fax the documentation to them, which I did. Then I waited patiently for a reply for two weeks. I tried to phone, but that was a futile exercise.
One Friday afternoon, when I emptied my postbox at the front gate, I found the open page with a portion attached to it, torn off from a copied page of a full size paper. It read: Consumer disconnection card and stated the amount I had to pay and the penalty for disconnection. So my efforts to get my account reconciled had ended in being blamed and punished. How could I have been so arrogant to ask that in the first place and to expect an answer to my letter in time? This reminded me of the old days when the slogan has been coined by an anonymous inventor: 'Die wet van die Transvaal - kak and betaal' somewhat crude I thought back then applying my knowledge of German to Afrikaans. However it seemed that old habits did not die and were just taken over even if the same persons taking over swears he hated his masters who taught him; as far as racial issues were concerned many of the Boer population were killed in a cold bloody war that followed the independence of the country.
There it was, the piece of insulting paper that had to accompany the payment. It could only be paid at City hall, not even through any other monetary institution. The cat and mouse game was indeed being brought up to another level, where one could feel who was in power now. I had no interest in power games and wanted to be treated in line with my human rights as an individual that had never any party political affiliations, but was a well-educated professional, demanding the respect he extended to his peers and contemporary human beings. 'Stop that cat and mouse game!' I shouted ‘start to seek the blame at your own doors!' Nobody listened. The accounting techniques of City Hall are thus never decipherable for any average citizen blessed with an average intelligence. I was ordered to pay, possibly to negotiate terms, or else to go and face a court action and in my mind that ringing of the register added the costs up. However I tried to talk to the transferring bank first and only to be told to face the civil servants, who issued this inextricable loose paper, all by myself.
'There' my wife said, 'just pay and then we can relax again'. I did some re-calculations by just adding up and subtracting the paid amounts to them and I arrived every time with different figures. My confidence that I had done the correct calculations faded with every try. There was a cryptic method and I was not allowed to know so I could not check the figures I was presented with. So much for transparency intended to be the new policy. I have to add that the statements were not always in time, not arriving monthly either, never regularly, even the meter readers changed on a regular basis, as their company changed. Sometimes even the account numbers changed. Too many changes in too short time, no administration system could digest that. Either the system was outdone by the new technology that had not yet been mastered, or it has been hampered by the inefficiency of the civil servants. After all they are civil servants, supposedly to serve us. Or are they serving the party, the state?
It boils down to people. So I had, after the initial rush of adrenalin to my system, started to curse and hate to live in Joburg. I heard my wife interfere: 'Just pay Z and it will be over and done with! By now you know how they are! In the end it will cost you double, if you fight it.’
'I just want to know what I am paying for', I said. ‘I am not stupid enough for this and I refuse to pay a penalty for something which makes me the scapegoat for an insolent deed I have not committed!' My moralistic monologue went on and Bea became impatient with me to the point of a shouting match, we did engage in with our nerves tested to the edge. It was then that I realized it was not the money that caused our inner world to crumble and to kick and perform like highly irritated mules, not any more reacting to a reconciliatory candy, nor to a hard stick.
All I wanted was a bit of peace and quiet, being withdrawn for the last years of my existence from a noisy and dirty city, pestered by pollution and soot, ignorance and racism in reverse. I am adamant to move as quick as possible back to my retreat, surrounded by high shrubs and trees that grew with abundance the last ten years I have not cut them too much, left it to nature to just thrive and thus keep the dust, dirt and noise off my property and house, keep my nose reasonably dust free, as it is allergic to all pollutants. The dust in the air, the flight of pollen, that is in this dry climate characteristic for Joburg and the numerous people sneezing violently without a handkerchief in hand. Then at that moment I realized that this was like a watershed for my future direction of living and that I felt like saying already good-bye to all the people I became fond off living here the past 33 years, and who, for the majority of the suburb we dwell in, are intelligent and warm human beings. For years I must have harbored already a growing tendency of getting away from Joburg’s gilded clutches like a lover from the suffocating arms of a never satisfied woman. All it needed now was the slightest occurrence of any bad happening that would set the time-clock of leaving into the alarm mode of a particular space I was prepared to accept, considering all the circumstances. Then I drove to town, Bea sitting at my side, chewing on a piece of white bread she’d taken along. Her tummy was in a delicate state this early morning, and while I was observing her consciously, my mind traveled out the windshield and jetted to a place in the Mediterranean Sea, where I desired to live one day. If I did pursue the idea hard enough and created the funds to enable me to get a morsel of the cake everybody desires, I certainly could do it. Now was the time. I painted in my mind a concoction of places I have seen traveling through Spain’s’ South coast and some of Italy and then abandoned that idea for the benefits that an island can bestow on one.
And so my early morning’s daydream steamed ahead. Into this mental fata morgana the sudden emerging traffic woke me, and the drabness of a public garage with its filthy entrance of thrown away wrappings of take-away foods brought me back to Joburg’s ground with an instant soberness. It felt like this when we came the first time to Africa in the seventies. The reins of power were in the hands of a minority of whites. However I was open minded, never interested much in all details of politics, more in the people who populated the land. Life has taught me always-positive approaches, politics have not. I felt like an adventurer back then, descending onto a place of near primeval landscapes and the great stillness of nature, where one could be lost, feel alone in its vastness on the one hand, and into a place far away from civilization, where much still had to be achieved in the field of building and construction, the creation of new cities and the design of skyscrapers, which was the prime reason to have undertaken the journey in the first place. Back then, young and energetic, there was room for development and I believed in a self-made man’s paradise. Only later did I realize the opportunities one was chasing and had embarked upon were mainly there for the members of the ruling elite. One had to be part of an establishment in order to achieve the harvest of the fruit, the labor of the native hands and the skills of the emigrated technicians and professionals did bring about.
The right persons and the right team were necessary to be successful in a fast city life with styles changing speedily, increasing with the stream of new arriving immigrants. There was the excitement of adventure and the first contact with game in nature reserves. The first sighting of an elephant close by brings up still the memory of faster heartbeats. Since I was a kid, my mother had made me a toy elephant due to the lack of toys after WWII. It was sown together from pieces of thrown away cloth and I was so fond of it I took it to bed with me. It lived all my life in my bed and sat next to the cushions, even when the bed was made. It had a good place, until now, when I missed it from my home, as my mother might have given it away to another kid in the immediate family who now hopefully loves it as much as I did. Maybe that kid will travel to see the real Elephants as well one day with this historic toy having created an image that desires to be experienced in reality.
Today I felt the opposite. After years of work and practicing as an architect I felt I had as an independent professional contributed quite substantially to society and to the communities I lived and worked in. Due to changes in the political structures, the situation for further work did also shift away from the independent professionals and the opportunities surfaced less and less for presently active consultants, and I found myself out of work and income. Not even repeat clients seem to have any more programs of expanding their businesses as in the past. The tendencies of a shrinking process have pervaded the corporate structures like wildfire. There was no demand for planning and design, neither for project management. I had to find employment for my talents and I had to eat. I continued to write regularly, establishing a daily routine, like exercises.
The attitude nowadays towards the architectural profession that has been always at a disadvantage with its fuzzed image in the public’s eye, had suddenly become completely abandoned for any consideration of future work with the lacking of a national building program, but with the exception of private work. The state did employ their preferred plan makers and did the utmost minimum to stimulate the economy in the building sector on a national basis.
Now on the verge of the 21st century, and within eight years since Nelson Mandela gained his freedom, becoming not only the first democratically elected president, but also an icon that stood for reconciliation, nation building and forgiveness. The changes that were promised in the euphoric atmosphere of his landslide victory and were intended to change millions of lives for the better, were in the minds of the masses catapulting into high expectations, but did not materialize in the years after the free elections and even after President Mandela handed over the leadership to his successor President Mbeki. Maybe the masses of the people had expected a miracle to happen, seeing themselves already as owners of houses and cars and television sets and Hi-Fi’s for the youngsters, living a life they had seen the minority of the educated whites lead. But they ignored the fact of striving for qualifications to meet the basic requirements of those positions they were craving by the images they desired to identify with. Worst of all those living under dismal conditions in tin box houses and makeshift huts increased in numbers and the problem of the squatter had urgently to be addressed. Unfortunately for them always a hot potato for a politician to handle, never even tackled with the slightest educational program, nor with the methods of self-help as seen for many years back now, already undertaken successfully in the Americas.
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