“What’s this thing with women, Boggel? One moment they’re blowing hot, the next you’re skidding along head-first on the ice. Look at Fanny now. Yesterday she was full of sweet words and hugs – and today she might as well be somewhere on Mars…or even in another galaxy. I don’t understand it.”
“You’ll have to get used to it, Vetfaan. The intricacies of the female thought process will forever be hidden to the male’s mind. They have trigger points for happy, sad, angry, hurt and rejection that just doesn’t exist in men. We are like the old wind-up toys we had when we were young; they’re like the modern games on computer. There’s no comparison between the two. The technology changed. Of course, seeing that Adam was the prototype, Eve must have been an upgrade.”
“Don’t joke,” Vetfaan sighs as he points to his empty glass, “The old Ford pickup is such a straight-forward machine. It needs petrol, a battery and clean spark plugs – and it’ll take you anywhere. I had a look at one of the new BMW’s in Upington the other day, and couldn’t figure out where the radiator was.”
“Still, the basics remain remarkably the same. Look: what do you want in a relationship? “ Boggel pushes over the cold beer. “Only one word: respect. All the other emotions rest on that one single thing; it is the petrol that keeps the engine running. You can’t love somebody that doesn’t respect you. You can’t be loyal or trust someone who thinks you are worthless. Commitment, compassion, companionship? Without respect, it’s impossible.
“Now, with women it is the same. You respect her, and you’ve got a chance.” Boggel spreads his arms wide, smiling wryly. “Soo… if she is distant today, respect that. Be kind. Don’t push too hard – but don’t pull away either. Distance, Vetfaan, is what kills relationships. If you want this thing to work, you have to be near enough to be there for her – but also far away enough to give her space to work out whatever is bothering her.”
Gertruida lives within a much more complicated mind than Boggel will ever guess at. Her vast encyclopaedic memory banks are the result of a unique combination of intelligence genes, a photographic memory and years of reading everything she can lay her hands on. Ask her about the working of the brain in a man, and she’ll draw a straight line (usually after wetting her finger in Kleinpiet’s beer) on the counter top.
“Connect A with B. That’s it.”
However, both she and Boggel are only halfway correct: ask Kleinpiet…
“It is true that men are blessed with a much more logical circuit in their brains. When it comes to making gears fit and engines turn, men can focus exclusively on the problem and concentrate all their energies to one single task. Women keep on running a number of other programs in their minds, which causes them to spend thinking energy on a lot of unnecessary issues at critical times. This, my friends, is the defect they try to hide. No exclusive focus. Men are streets ahead of them in that department.”
Which just goes to show: nobody has a clue…
Vetfaan drives back to the farm in silence. Next to him Fanny stares out at the barren veld, occasionally wiping a tear from a rosy cheek.
Vetfaan has no idea what to do, or what to say. Okay, so he’ll respect her silence. Okay, he’ll give her space… But what does that solve? Anything…?
The road to the farm is a twisting two-tracked path across the thick sand, forcing the driver to keep up the speed in order to maintain momentum. Too slow, and you’ll get stuck. Too fast, and the vehicle will veer off into the veld.
That’s when, at last, the little light bulb above Vetfaan’s head suddenly glowed brightly.
“You’re a sandy track, Fanny.” He glances over to see if she heard. “I understand that now. To use Boggel’s word, I respect that; and I don’t want to rush you at all. But, whatever is bothering you right now…well, it won’t go away if we don’t talk about it. If we lose momentum, we’ll get stuck. If I push too hard, we’ll lose our way. Now, I’m not sure what brought this mood on; but if we can’t get those pistons to fire again, we’re going nowhere.”
She draws her feet up, onto the seat, to hug her knees against her chest. Gertruida would have likened it to an upright foetal position.
“Do you want children, Fanie? A boychild to follow in Pappa’s footsteps?”
The question catches Vetfaan completely off-guard.
“Shouldn’t we get married, first? And before that, we must get engaged. And before that, I must ask your hand in marriage.” He tugs on the steering wheel to keep the wheels in the tracks. “But to answer the question: babies should be planned, as far as I’m concerned. It’s an issue to be decided between two people, not just one. So…if I ask you, if you say yes, if we get married, and if we wanted a child, we can think about trying. It’s not about me or the farm, Fanny. It’s about us.”
“Fanie!” The unexpected shout almost makes Vetfaan swerve off the road. “Stop! Stop now!”
“I…I can’t, Fanny. Not here. The sand is too thick.”
Her hand flies to her mouth and for a second, her cheeks bulge.
“Fanie, if you don’t stop now, I’ll vomit all over your dashboard. Stop! Now!”
A few seconds later Vetfaan sits frozen with his hands clamped around the spokes of the steering wheel, listening to the retching outside. Slowly, ever so slowly, he feels the blood draining from his face. Even the male mind can connect different sets of dots; and now, with realisation dawning, Vetfaan lets his head sink to his hands.
What’ll Oudoom say…?