“No, I’m not going to come to Rolbos.” The tone of her voice silences Gertruida’s the question. “The last time I did that, there was this Italian girl clinging to Boggel. It was so humiliating, so terribly embarrassing. How can you expect me to forget it? No, I won’t do it.”
Gertruida lets Mary ramble on a bit. She understands Mary’s need to voice her frustrations, knowing that pent-up words only do harm in the end. Silence is never the final grave for anger. Only when those feelings are put to words and let free, will healing start.
“I know how you feel, Mary,” she says when the torrent of words dries up, “I loved a man once, too. He left me to protect me, and died when eventually he tried to find me again.” She allows the words to sink in before continuing. “Mary, life is too short to waste the few opportunities that come your way. Don’t waste this one.
“I made some enquiries about you. You’re a very successful businesswoman these days. You’ve achieved such a lot – and still you’re single. Living in Clifton might sound like the ideal life to many, but that doesn’t mean you’re happy. Who rubs your back when you’re sad, Mary? Who smiles at you in the mornings? Do you like making one cup of coffee at a time, and then listen to the silence as it fills the room around you? When you dress in the mornings, do you do it simply to put on some clothes?
“No, Mary, that’s no life. That’s simply existing to survive. You need more than that to be happy.”
Gertruida hears the breathing in the mouthpiece as Mary tries to come up with a suitable answer.
“That might be true, Gertruida. I’ll admit that. But I’m not going to drive all the way to Rolbos with my hat in my hand to tell Boggel I want to brew coffee for two in the mornings. No way. If he wants to see me…well, you’ve got my address.
“Now, please, Gertruida, let this be. I’ve been hurt enough times already.”
With that – and a soft click – the conversation ends.
“What did she say?” Boggel leans over the counter eagerly. “Is she coming?”
“She’ll will, eventually, Boggel. But not now. She’s a very busy woman, you know? Lots of appointments and deadlines. The recording industry is a hectic one, Boggel. So give her time, she’ll come back to us, you’ll see.” Gertruida, who knows everything, believes every word.
Gertruida will tell you (should you ask) that the English word ‘yearn’ has a long history. Like so many words in the language, it is an adaptation of earlier forms of expression. In Middle English the word used to be yernen, from Old English giernan. Maybe the old Greeks gave their word even more meaning: chairein means to rejoice.
Today people use ‘yearn’ to express longing; without thinkng about the ‘rejoice’ bit. Yet, when the feeling is dissected, it is clear that ‘yearning’ involves both longing and rejoicing. It is, according to Gertruida, impossible to long (or yearn, to be more specific) for something that doesn’t warrent rejoicing. She says yearning is a celebration of the good and wonderful things in the past.
It is widely accepted that Gertruida is never wrong. She knows too much to make a mistake,
So, when Mary puts down the telephone, she’s in deep thought when she walks to the kitchen to make a cup of coffee. One cup, not two. When she sits down on the couch, it strikes her for the first time it really is meant for two.
Damn that Gertruida woman! Why did she have to phone and make her think about Boggel again? For many years she’s been able to keep his memory hidden under layers of work and other responsibilities. Oh, he popped up in her mind once in a while, but she managed those thoughts by simply getting busier and busier.
But now…now that Gertruida yanked open the door to the memories that now refuse to be ignored any longer.
I’m still young enough... why, Gertruida, why? She gets up, undresses and stands in front of the full-length mirror in her bedroom. It’s been ages since she last had a good look at herself. She stares – almost in awe – at the reflection.
Yes, she is still in good shape. Her twice a week visit to the gym sees to that. In fact, she must admit, she carries no excess fat (well, maybe a little around the hips) and her legs are as long and shapely as ever. Cooper’s droop? No, not really. Maybe the tiniest sagging, but still – when she turns to take a side view, her profile remains proud and even a bit inviting (even if she has to say it herself). Flat tummy. Firm bum…
Surely she can’t be that unacceptable? Why then, is she still making only one cup of coffee every time she puts the kettle on?
There have been men. Quite a number of them had been interested, in fact. She accepted the occasional invitation to dinner, only to be disappointed every time. Men, she found out, weren’t interested in friendship. Mostly, they seemed to expect to be rewarded for a scrumptious meal and an expensive bottle of wine with… She shakes her head. No! Not after the abuse by her father in her youth!
It’s the eyes, she tells herself as her gaze travels up to her face. People spend thousands of Rands on clothes and cosmetics to look attractive – but the secret is in the eyes…always. Her would-be suitors would start off the evening with smiling eyes – and as the evening progressed, something cold and unforgiving always crept into their gaze; if she didn’t want to play the game, they’re wasting their time.
And now, as she stares at her own eyes, she realises they have lost the warmth of youth. The eyes in the mirror are cold, old, tired…even sad.
This, she realises, is why she prefers making one cup of coffee at a time. It is so much less complicated. The words ‘pain free’ seem to fit into that scenario,
Damn that Gertruida!
Boggel…the bent boy with the soft eyes and the sad smile. He, at least, never had that man-look when he stared at her. He always told her he could see inside her; that he could see the hurt and pain. That, and that he could see the vast potential she refused to acknowledge. Boggel, she realises, didn’t care what she looked like on the outside; he was fascinated with the person she kept hidden inside.
She never fully understood what he meant by that. Or maybe she didn’t want to…
The reflection in the mirror pulls a face.
You’ve been a fool Mary Mitchell, the reflection tells her. Didn’t Gertruida say that the Italian and Boggel never hit it off – and that she’s gone back to Italy? And that Boggel is yearning…?
She sighs, puts on a gown, and goes back to the kitchen. One cup of coffee, that’s what she’ll make. One cup. She’ll drink it slowly.
And then she’ll phone that damned woman, Gertruida. Give her a piece of her mind, she will! After that, they can talk about Boggel. Yes, that’s how she’ll do it. She needs to put her anger aside – maybe it’s time to be a little bit adventurous…
And yes, maybe she should stop blaming the past for everything. Did the past not bring her here, to the present? She, now successful in her own right…didn’t all the bad things contribute to the good life she is enjoying?
She stops in mid stride. Boggel always said there are no bad things. He said suffering is the cement that holds us together – keeps us focussed – in the good times. He said you can never be happy if you didn’t know how to be sad…
One cup of coffee.
Then she’ll phone.