Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Seattle Coffee Company, Hyde Park

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Service: N/A
Food: * * * *
Ambience: * * * * *
Babe Count: * * * *

In terms of my ideal world, Seattle Coffee Company in Hyde Park is second only to Seattle Coffee Company in Sandton Square. That's because both of them are situated in book shops in the babe capitals of Johannesburg.

And to quote the nephew of Antoinette (an ex-girlfriend of mine) when he visited my flat for the first time when he was four: "Wow Roy!!! You live in a library!!!!!" And it's true. I spend more of my salary on books than on anything else. So being in a coffee shop in a bookshop is just overwhelming bliss.

The reason Sandton Square edges out Hyde Park is twofold... (1) Sandton Square Exclusive Books has by far the better movie-book and business book sections. (2) The Seattle Coffee Co in Sandton Square is slap bang in the centre of the bookshop, flanked by two incredible sections. In Hyde Park, it's on the outskirts of the shop.

As for the babeage, what more could a bloke ask for? Literate hotties schlepping books to their tables, their breasts pressed against the spines as they bend over to lay their tomes down on the cool marble.

So I'm sipping a grande harmless mocha with no sugar, and I'm more than halfway through a gigantic muffin.

There are two books I'm looking at. One is on how to make art prints. It covers all the techniques. And I'm busy trying to get my linoprinting perfected. It's just that I can't actually get the inking of the plate right. Granted, I'm using water-based inks instead of oil-based ones, and they dry out too quickly, and they don't give great coverage and blah blah blah, but heck... I really want to excel at this linoprinting business. I have a multi-colour linocut that I've promised Jacqui first choice from once I've done an edition.

The other book is by Alan Ayckbourn, the playwright and theatre director. I'm looking at it cos it's called THE CRAFTY ART OF PLAYMAKING, and it distills his 40 years in the British theatre into a nifty handbook of advice for people who want their words to be acted by people. I figure theatre and film are first cousins, if not Siamese twins, and I'm sure my filmcraft can benefit from exposure to a theatre master. I know I'm going to end up buying this book.

What I'm really doing is procrastinating. There are two things I need to do. Firstly, I have to check the graphics on four different scripts for Memar, the Ethiopian educational television project I'm a producer on. Secondly, I have to write my mom a letter.

I've just finished my Tuesday afternoon therapy session with Zahava.

In it, I've expressed bewilderment at why my sorrow and crying and pain is all centred on the breakup with Jacqui, instead of on my mom's rape. I'm baffled as to why I'm cool, calm, collected when I talk about my mom's ordeal to Zahava, but as soon as I just mention the first syllable of Jacqui's name I cry three tissues into pulp.

I've told her about Jacqui's visit to me last night. It was amazing. A massive gift from Jacqui. She smsed me in the afternoon yesterday to ask if it would be okay if she came round to offer me a hug. I sent her a message back asking if I could think about it. What was going on in my mind is that I have to preserve the possibility of a future relationship, and that if I said yes to her coming round, I'd be transgressing the boundaries I'd agreed to with her, and that I'd be ruining all my chances to be with her. So I phone Zahava last night and asked her opinion. "I think Jacqui's offering you her love in a time of extreme duress for you, Roy. I think it's allright for you to say yes." And so when Jacqui came to my place, I had some perspective. And it was the most amazing thing to be held by her. Thank you Jacqui.

Zahava waits, and allows me to say, "Actually, I'm aware of being very angry with my mom. Primally angry. I think this rape has been sent by the universe for me to access that." See, I've spent a lot of time in therapy talking about my dad. How he was almost certainly a paranoid schizophrenic, how he beat my mom when I was a child, how he tried to kill me once when I was 14. All that stuff.

I've touched on the fact that my mom was an alcoholic from the very day I was born. I've glanced over some of the very hectic insults she threw at me when she was drunk. But in some way, I've allowed her to seem like a saint in comparison to my father.

Right now, the anger is flowing.

And then I realise that I haven't actually phoned my mom all day. So I phone. Her line is dead.

I phone my brother's phone. It rings. He answers.

He's driven all the way from Port Alfred to Port St John's in a VW Microbus with only one brake working. The front left one. It's now stuck halfway up the driveway on my mom's hill, cos it's raining there, and the hill is made of clay. He got there yesterday, in time to fetch my mom from the hospital, where she was getting her anti-retroviral course, to kill the HIV/AIDS that may have entered her system.

"How's Mommy, Lance?" I ask.

"Ag, she's okay," he says. "She's handling."

"Is she taking her anti-retrovirals?"

"Ya," he says. "But they're making her feel realllllly sick. She's been vomiting. And she's got bronchitis. Here. Speak to her."

"Howzit, Mommy," I say. I'm clenching my jaw, and putting on half a crisis-counsellor-calm voice (I'm a trained crisis counsellor), and half a cheery-I'm-your-caring-loving-son voice.

"I'm fine, my baby. Thanks for phoning. What's that noise? Where are you? Cresta?"

"No, Hyde Park," I say. And I'm thinking, I don't have to justify the fact that I'm sitting in a coffee shop living my life, you bitch!

"Oh," she says.

"Are you taking the anti-retrovirals?" I say.

"Yes, definitely," she says. "You have no idea how relieved I was when I got them yesterday! But hell they're making me sick."

"Mommy, it's really important that you take them on a full stomach," I say. "They're very dangerous on an empty stomach." I heard on the news this morning that a bunch of people in the Cape had died taking their anti-retrovirals on an empty tummy. But I don't mention this.

"Oh," she says. "The sister didn't know."

"How's your ear, Mommy?"

In my account of her rape, I didn't mention that the bastard also burst her eardrum somehow. Must have been when he clubbed her. He probably slapped her across the ear with his opposite hand.

"No, it'll be fine," she says. "The doctor who examined me is very young. A young black woman. She can't be older than twenty-six. A youngster. She said it'll heal."

"Mommy, that's your ear. I think maybe you should get a second opinion."

"Well, I have to go to Dr Bacher tomorrow." He's the district surgeon. "He's a cripple, you know. Something wrong with his leg. Looks like polio."

"You must take care of yourself, Mommy. Have they found the guy?"

"No. But we're going into town tomorrow, and I'm going to speak to the chief. He granted me the land I'm staying on, so he'll sort this out. Lance is taking me through to Port Alfred tomorrow. We're going to go and look at places for me to stay."

"That's cool, Mommy."

"But you know, it'll have to be rooms in peoples' houses. Small places, you know. Cos of the money situation, you know? Very small places. And what am I going to do about the dogs?"

And if I weren't in a public place right this instant, I'd press the mute button on the phone, and I'd bellow, and scream, and throw things around, and smash tables, and destroy walls, and let out 36 years worth of rage.

But I'm terribly controlled right now. Worryingly so.

"Oh," I say. "Has Lance fixed the brakes yet?"

"No, he's going to go round to Tobie's place and do it there. Willie's going to help him bleed them or something."

"Okay, Mommy," I say. My jaw is hurting from clamping my teeth so hard. "I'm going to say goodnight now."

"Oh, sorry!" she says. "We've been chatting for so long on your cellphone. It must be costing you a fortune."

"Okay, Mommy. Goodnight now."

"Goodnight, my boy."

I put the phone down.

I consider calling Zahava. She's not going to be available for my regular appointment next week, cos of the holidays. So I'm only seeing her on Thursday. I want to ask her if it's appropriate for me to be feeling this huge well of rage, and I want to know if it's appropriate that I'm holding it in so effectively.

I stay with my finger on the dial button, and work it out. In the end, I stand down, move my finger away. It's all appropriate. Whatever I'm feeling is authentic, and that's how it is.

So here's the letter I'll probably not send to my mom:

Dear Mommy...

You've been an alcoholic all my life. You've been a victim since I first knew you. And you've been an expert manipulator. I don't think I can remember you ever asking for something without some kind of twist to it.

Here's what I think, Mommy. I think this rape was sent to you as a wake-up call, as a little nudge for you to straighten out how you're operating in the world. It's your chance to come clean and start living honestly, and without manipulating other people.

I'm feeling hard and cold and callous, and I hate feeling these things. The Roy I know myself to be is a warm, generous, loving man, with an infinite well of love to offer. I also know that my flipside is to be hard and brutal and intolerant of people I find to be thick. But on the whole, the positive me is the one I know and love.

So when I feel these iron-smooth feelings by speaking to you on the phone after your rape because of your well-placed and unassailable barbs, I don't like you. I don't like you because you bring out the parts of me that I don't like. And I don't like you because those parts of me are very likely the defences I learnt when I was a baby in order to protect myself from you and Daddy.

I wish you weren't raped. But I wish you would learn from what the universe is offering you.

I'm trying to find the learning. I'm doing really hard work just going to goddamn work in the morning so I can deposit money into Lance's account to fix those brakes. To top up your cellphone yesterday. So please don't infer that I'm doing nothing.

All of my friends are saying, "Go to Port St John's, Roy, you've got to go, you've got to be with your mom."

And I'm saying, "Yeah, I'm investigating whether or not there are any charter flights there." But in my head I'm saying, I doubt I'll go. I don't want to mess with my fragile space right now. I hate the place she lives. I hate the manipulation. I'm not going.

So, Mommy, I wish you love. But I really don't want to expose myself to the mastery you have over subtle cruelty. My buttons are way too exposed right now. And while this may seem trivial to you, I'm dealing with something huge for me. I'm dealing with the loss of the love of my life. And it's wrenching and vast. As wrenching and vast for me as the rape is for you.

The rape is yours to deal with. I can support you in my way. Not in your way.

So, Mommy. I'm angry with you.

I'm sure the anger will pass. I need to process it, and express it, and let it shift the parts of me that have always been to scared and hidden to express it. I have work to do on myself.

I love you

It's a letter I'm unlikely to send, since it really has nothing to do with her. It's my stuff. And though she's contributed throughout my life, it's my interpretation that's stayed with me. My job is to reinterpret. To allow myself freedom.

Because the universe has offered me two opportunities to really look into my world. My mom's rape. And my breakup with Jacqui. My world has been shaken.

Now leave me alone to finish my mocha and my chocolate chip and orange muffin.

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