14
Feb
14

A Story For Valentine’s Day

Fire-Heart-Wallpaper-HD1There’s a story I’ve been meaning to share with you guys for some time now and it being Valentine’s Day and all, I figure now’s as good a time as any.

Two days before J-Rab was scheduled to go in for her caesar, we decided to drive out to Stellenbosch and go back to where our life in Cape Town first started.

We were like two star-crossed salmon, swimming fin-in-fin back upstream to where it all began. It was early spring and the sun was beaming down on us as we rolled out the city, skyscrapers and ocean fading to mountains and vineyards.

It’s a different world on Stellenbosch side, the air tastes fresh, mountain air. You imagine it floating down from somewhere snowy and clean and pure.

We drove back to Eikendal farm where we used to live rent-free in this wooden shack with a thatch roof. It was the type of place you’d call “rustic” and you’d imagine yourself living there in the middle of the wine farm and you’d think “Damn, I want this life” because in your mind you’d be sitting on the wooden balcony upstairs sipping an icy Chardonnay and watching the blazing sun burn the sky orange and red as it set over the tranquil horizon.

The reality was that the house was overrun with rats, Spotted Eagle Owls kept us up all night hooting on the roof, Egyptian Geese chimed in every morning at about 5am on the dot and Anatolian Sheep Dogs barked continuously from the pens behind the house.

When it rained, water poured down the walls. When the wind blew it came through the gaps in the walls. When the sun shon, the house turned into an oven. The thatch played havoc with J-Rab’s allergies and acted as a giant nest for every kind of creepy crawly imaginable.

But there were good times as well. It was home to where our new life in Cape Town began, it was a fresh beginning for us at a time that we needed it badly.

So we went back there to visit that crazy little “shit shack” and relive some of those early memories only to find… nothing.

Turns out one of the dams on the farm had burst and the ensuing mudslide had obliterated the shit shack completely. Here I am posing on the empty spot where we used to live:

 

 

It felt fitting somehow. It’s nice to walk away from a place with absolutely no regrets and to be able to leave the past right there in your mind where it slowly fades and blurs and becomes softer with time.

We left Eikendal and headed for Jonkershoek Nature Reserve which we visited once years ago when we still lived in Stellies. The plan was to find a perfect little spot, lay out a picnic blanket, eat some Woolies sarmies and drink in the beautiful surroundings.

So we struck out up this path that ran parallel to a pine forest which I wasn’t sure was a good idea as J-Rab was basically 9 months pregnant and the path was getting steeper and further away from civilisation with every step.

“I’m going to go on ahead and see where this actually goes,” I eventually said, “because if you suddenly go into labour, we need to be somewhere I can deliver the baby safely without being attacked by bears or something…”

J-Rab agreed to hang back while I jogged up the rutted, dusty path, scanning our surroundings all the while for this ideal spot to eat our sammies.

To my right through some dense vegetation I could hear a river flowing which conjured mental images of wide, grassy banks, weeping willows and a comfortable spot to spend the afternoon in the dappled shade.

I turned down the path to jog back to J-Rab and bounce this idea off her only to find that she’d gotten bored of waiting and had already covered half the distance between me and her.

She was out of breath. My stomach butterflied up.

“You ok?” I asked, “Why’d you come up here?”

“I was bored. Besides, we’re halfway up this path already, might as well go the whole way and see what’s there.”

“Well, sounds like there’s a river to our right, might be a nice spot to lay the blankets down.”

“Ok. How do we get there?” she asked.

We both turned to look at the wild veld between us and where it looked like the river was. The word “impassable” came to mind.

“Shit, I dunno. I guess we’d have to bulldoze our way through that.”

“Fuck it. It’ll be worth it when we get there.”

“Ok,” I said trying to mask my nerves, “you’re right. Fuck it, we’ll find a way.”

A funny thing happens when you wander off the beaten path into dense veld with your 9 months pregnant girlfriend miles away from civilisation and out of cell phone reception – you start to get a little panicky.

Your mind throws out all kinds of bad, unhelpful shit like “Hmmm, don’t snakes like places like these?” and “Wow! Is that leopard shit? Pretty sure that’s leopard shit…”

But we soldiered on, tearing our way through bush so dense you half expected to come across the skeleton of some long-forgotten explorer with his dorky beige hat and ink-drawn map still clutched in his skeletal fingers.

Eventually we got to the river only to find that it was about a foot wide and completely surrounded by even denser undergrowth than what we’d just fought our way through.

“Shit,” I said. “Now what?”

J-Rab surveyed the situation, catching her breath. It was a beautiful shady spot, we’d nailed that part, but as for a wide, expansive grassy bank to lay our blankets and eat our sammies on, we had failed dismally.

“I dunno,” she replied. “But I’m seriously hungry so whatever we do, can we just eat something first?”

“You know what…” I said squashing down some of the undergrowth with my foot, “I reckon if we just pull the sleeping bag out and squash it down right here, we could lie down and it might actually be quite comfortable…”

So that’s what we did. And yeah, if you didn’t mind the odd pokey stick / sharp rock in your back it was super-comfy.

The great part about that spot was that we were so deep in no man’s land you couldn’t see any trace of anyone anywhere. No bakkies hurtling down distant dirt roads, no other hikers missioning along designated trails, nothing.

Just blue skies, endless mountains all around, and us – J-Rab, me and the little girl we had yet to meet.

Before we left the flat I’d grabbed my complete works of Byron as we were heading out the door because chicks dig poetry and I thought it would be romantic to read some to J-Rab after we’d had our lunch.

 

 

Believe it or not, back in varsity I actually read the whole of Byron’s epic, unfinished poem “Don Juan”, all 250-odd pages, and I remembered one particularly moving part that takes place in Canto II after Don Juan survives a shipwreck and claws his way to shore. Minutes away from dying, he gets saved and nursed back to health by this beautiful young girl who he falls hopelessly in love with even though they don’t speak the same language.

I figured I’d read the shipwreck part as a build-up to the falling-hopelessly-in-love bit so that J-Rab had some context and she could understand how much this poor guy suffers to find true love.

So I began reading. J-Rab listened intently, which was unusual for her because her attention span for these kinds of things is shorter than Lindsay Lohan’s last sober spell.

After ten minutes, Don Juan and the surviving members of his ship were STILL floating on the lifeboat in the middle of the sea, slowly going mad from hunger and thirst and losing their shit completely as one by one they caved and succumbed to drinking sea water.

Then they decided to snack on this one dude’s spaniel that he rescued from the sinking ship. Then they decided to eat all the leather boots, belts and anything else they could chew and swallow because it had been two weeks and they were shit out of options food-wise.

“What the fuck are you reading me?!” J-Rab eventually asked.

“Don’t worry, it gets better, just bear with me.”

“Ok…”

Once they’d snacked on all the leather goods they went all “Dawn of the Dead” on one another and started eating the guys who are dying. Not satisfied, they decided to take things to the next level and ate some of the guys who were still alive.

“Umm… this is pretty fucked up…”

“Yes. Yes, this is very fucked up… I’m just going to skip ahead to the romantic bit if that’s ok?”

“Ya, if you don’t mind…”

I eventually got to the part where he clawed his way to salvation, met the girl of his dreams and was nursed back to health by her but to be perfectly honest, it was a bit meh.

“Hm,” I said. “Don Juan ladies and gentlemen.”

“Awesome,” J-Rab replied.

As I was putting the book in my backpack, I realised that I was waiting for something that would never happen, some perfect moment I’d built up in my head that had grown so big over the years and that I felt so pressured into getting right that in the interim time was ticking by, days were turning into weeks, into months, into years.

In two days we’d be parents.

The time for fucking around with romantic ideals and bullshit poems that you remembered as being so amazing but that were actually about cannibalism was fucking over.

I took the tiny black box out my pocket and kneeling there, with no one around us for miles in that perfect place we made, I asked J-Rab to marry me.

 

 

We didn’t stay long after that, partly because we were spooked all the excitement might cause J-Rab to go into full-on labour and partly because as we stood to start packing up, something rustled in the bushes behind us.

Not five metres from where we’d been picnicking, a largish-looking baboon was staring intently at us and wondering why the fuck we were standing between him and the river where he liked to take his afternoon tea.

Again, my mind started throwing out unhelpful shit, only this time the threat of it actually happening was a lot more immediate.

What followed was probably the most hilarious packing-up effort you could ever imagine with J-Rab and I simultaneously trying to pack up as fast as possible without making any sudden movements that might spook our new, already suspicious-looking, friend.

To make matters worse, we very quickly realised he wasn’t alone. He’d come with what they teach you when you’re learning collective nouns is known as “a troop”.

Believe it or not, things got even worse once we actually started moving because the troop leader (who was about the size of a very stocky pre-pubescent rugby player) decided it would be a good idea to bark at us just in case we didn’t get the message that any minute now he and his cronies were going to seriously fuck up our day.

The flood of relief once we’d finally made it back to the path was such a rush J-Rab and I burst out laughing because only the two of us could ever end up in a situation where our big moment was secretly being watched by a troop of thirsty baboons.

 

 

That’s my story for Valentine’s Day.

Real love is real. It hikes up mountains when it’s pregnant, it squashes whatever’s in its way to make a place for itself, it realises that romance is a nice ideal but that real life is where it truly blossoms.

And sometimes, it has baboons Winking smile

-ST


8 Responses to “A Story For Valentine’s Day”


  1. 1 Jax
    February 14, 2014 at 2:54 pm

    Sick story dude.

  2. 2 dp
    February 14, 2014 at 6:01 pm

    Well done. Both of you…

  3. 3 Jenny Glazier
    February 14, 2014 at 11:22 pm

    too lovely xxxxxxxx

  4. 4 guitar jon
    February 15, 2014 at 12:33 am

    I remember that shit shack…it was wooden panels and beams and an implausible staircase up to more wood and beams…I came round for a dinner, a hi and how-you-doing?. What I found there was my friends Tony and Jess, living and being and staying together. Being together. We were all just trying to figure it out. The crazy lives we’ve conjured. Betwixt all that chaos of the heart and mind, lay a couple of souls that ran in sync. Foils for each. Fire for a compassionate tinder. The sense that this subtle mayhem would right itself, through the guide that is created when we love the one.

    • February 17, 2014 at 10:56 am

      It was total chaos in that shack, nothing had a place, we just made it work somehow, we just drove it home with one headlight.
      Thank you for the kind words Guitar Jon, we are still trying to figure it all out, still making it up as we go along.
      I’m not sure there’s any other way to do it 😉
      -ST

  5. 6 Jenna
    February 15, 2014 at 8:43 am

    Beautifully written!!!

  6. 7 Michael
    February 15, 2014 at 11:09 pm

    When my Brother Georgik proposed to his girlfriend at the time, he took her up a Koppie and decided he was going to play “their song” to her on the guitar and then propose. It was some collective soul song and he had spent weeks learning the bloody thing.

    Yet when he played he was so nervous that he kept fucking it up. So Caroline told him to play “zombie” by the cranberries because that is like the only song he could actually play. So he just strummed a few chords of Zombie and then proposed. Perfect moments make shitty stories.

    Happy Valentine’s day, you three

    • February 17, 2014 at 10:51 am

      Hahahaha! Nice dude, I love that story. As a guitarist who frequently fucks up everytime I try to play to an audience, I can totally relate.
      “Zombie”, that’s too awesome. Very romantic 😉
      -ST


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

CommentLuv badge