Tuesday, August 06, 2002An intense coupla days. Sitting here, thinking back, listening to Travis, it's really been quite weird. Take today.
Before lunch, I get back to my office in TV Block at SABC3 and find a six-page document lying on my keyboard. It's a survey questionnaire on sexual harassment at work. Before filling it in, I spend a moment chuckling to myself at the pun potential if 'harassment' had only been spelled 'herassment'.
So I fill it in, killing the few minutes before I make my way down the long tunnel to RadioPark. I'm meeting Kim (this isn't her real name, for reasons that will become apparent) for lunch. She's just broken up with her longtime boyfriend, and I'm cautiously thinking of hitting on her, maybe, possibly. I'm cautious cos I'm also out of a long term relationship, and I'm still partially hooked on Antoinette, even though it's been a year since we split. I'm cautious also cos Kim's a little bit on the manic side, and I'm not sure I want to spend the energy.
Anyway, I drop the survey into the special box in the foyer, and there's Kim sitting in the shortest miniskirt I've had the privilege to observe close up. Jeepers. This chick's hotter than the inside of a Woolworth's Thai Chicken with Chili after twelve rounds with my heavyweight microwave. What's worse is that we're sitting at a glass-topped table, and all I can do is pretend not to stare at the white 'V' of her panties.
I sit next to her, keeping my eyes peeled. I'm a bag of laughs today, so I open conversation by saying, "Wow, Kim! Beautiful dress. I'm sure wearing something like that constitutes grounds for a sexual harassment case."
She sorta smiles. Nothing too committed. I've just blundered. Bigtime, as it turns out.
I ask how she's been, what's happening in her life, how the breakup's treating her. "How are you?" I say.
She looks at me for a long time, and I can tell that she knows I'm looking at her panties. She says, pointedly, "You DON'T want to know."
Red flag time. "No, I do want to know," I say, putting on my crisis counsellor voice.
She says a few more times that I don't want to know, and I insist I do. Eventually, she says, "Well, very awful, in fact. Sunday night I had some friends round for supper. I don't usually drink, but this time I had a glass of wine. About eleven o'clock, I started feeling a bit weird, and I was quite surprised when everyone started leaving. It was like a signal had gone off. They all went home, except for one guy. By this time, I was finding it hard to move. In fact, I felt paralysed. I couldn't speak, even though I tried to."
My eyes are no longer on her crotch. I'm doing full eye contact with Kim now. My face is all scrunched up, like someone's about to hit me, and I'm waiting for the punch.
She says, "And then everything went very woozy, and all I remember is feeling utterly terrified. I've never felt that before." She pauses, and I'm wondering if she's going to cry, but she's actually quite numb. "I woke up at five in the morning, and this guy was still with me. He said I had some kind of epileptic seizure, and he stayed with me and helped me through it. I asked him why he didn't take me to the hospital. He said I was in good hands. Then he went home. I slept most of the day, and when I woke up, I found bruises all over. I'm wearing a load of foundation on my neck today so you can't see the bruise."
I'd noticed a bruise on her bicep when I sat down, but tastefully refrained from making some quip about nights of passion. Thank goodness I've got SOME restraint.
"I think I was drugged," says Kim.
From the way she's told me this story, I know she was drugged. And I know she was raped. But I know that she hasn't been ready to know this yet. "Uh," I say, trying to figure out a non-crude, non-threatening way of saying what I'm about to say, knowing that I've got to say it regardless of how it sounds. She's my friend, for godsake. "Uh," I say again, "when you woke up -- were you sore -- I mean -- you know -- uh --" and I point at her crotch, and whisper sort of the next bit, "your -- your vagina?"
"Who is this guy?"
"No, I can't say. Cos you know, maybe he didn't do it. Maybe it was a seizure."
"Kim, it wasn't a seizure."
I take a breath and go into fullscale crisis counsellor mode, right here in the middle of RadioPark, between Metro FM and 5FM, in the lunch hour rush. We talk a lot, for about an hour, and we formulate a plan for her to follow. Step one involves going to a therapist. Step two involves talking to the therapist about the need for all the medical tests. Step three involves getting supportive people around her tonight.
I drop her off at home and she promises to let me know what's happening. Later, while I'm viewing an episode of RELIC HUNTER III for editing tomorrow, she lets me know she's seeing the shrink in the morning, and that she's called her ex and told him what happened, and asked him to be with her tonight. I'm relieved, and happy that she's taken control of this hectic situation.
I want to break things. I want to find this guy and rip his eyes out through his nostrils. I want to hurt him. I want to force him to take AIDS tests. I want to force him to say whether or not he used a condom. I want to make him feel the things I'm feeling. And the two things that stick in my mind are the bruises on her body and her vagina, and the terror she experienced. My imagination tells me that this sonofabitch was probably hurting her really badly and doing seriously psychotic things to her drugged mind.
Then later this evening, I'm watching an episode of MANCHILD, the new British sitcom that's going to start on SABC3 in a month or so. I'm working late cos the inervention with Kim took a really big bite out of my day.
So who phones me while I'm in the swing of things with this wondrously funny comedy about a bunch of 50 year old dudes living out a second adolescence? Yup. My ex. And boy, is Antoinette sounding sexy? Yummy. Reminds me why I loved her. Why I suspect I love her still.
So we speak for half an hour. And then, near the end of the conversation, I mention why I was peeved with her last Saturday. "It's because you tried to coerce me into coming to your party," I say.
Her voice instantly changes from bubbly-babe-in-a-bikini to hatred-Queen-of-New-Orleans. This has pushed her button. She's furious with me for being angry with her. So we end up saying goodbye to each other a bit more forcefully than either of us is happy with, and agree that we'll speak to each other again. Someday. One day.
Which reminds me of this past Saturday. Sitting in ClockWise in Rosebank with this intensely lovely babe I met at the Herbert Evans sale the Sunday before. Carine. She's a pharmaceutical marketing person who paints. She's recently divorced after a long marriage that she really tried her hardest to make work. No kids. One of the nicest bodies I've yet to see.
"What gives you the most joy in the world?" I ask her after we've been connecting hard over lunch for an hour or so.
She ponders. "That's a reallllly tough question," she says. She's wearing stunning horn-rimmed spectacles, because she can't wear her contacts at the moment, since she's still recovering from the flu, and her eyes are scratchy.
I nod. What's the use of easy questions when you're connecting with someone?
She says, "Being with my friends, with people who know me, love me. Being myself." She nods. "How about you?" Her hair is looking ravishing. She's just been to her appointment at Terenzo's. She sees Terenzo himself. And he's done his salon proud.
"When the September 11 thing happened," I say, "I told myself that if a plane hit the building I was in, I would want to be doing something I love. So I've created a motto for myself. 'I live my art in prosperity and abundance.' What gives me the most joy in the world is a set of two connected things. Creating and connecting."
"I'm going to change my answer," she says. "I wish I'd said that."
We're most certainly going to be seeing more of each other. And I really hope to peruse that body more closely. Maybe she'll let me sketch her.