Lettie Gericke stares at the screen while he sings. His music is simple, his voice as sweet as she remembers – but the song and the way he sings it, takes her back to where they used to be. The feeling in the words is just too profound to ignore: he’s singing it for her, she’s sure of it.
Think! She must think! Is this a sign? A coincidence? She walks over to the window to look at the lights of the city. So many people in so many houses. So many couples saying tender words to each other. And here she is: alone and broke and hopeless! For once, Lettie Gericke listens to her heart – yes, she’ll go. She must go!
She’ll take a bus, she’ll go there now! The thought strikes her as absurdly logical. It’s a live broadcast from the Artscape Theatre in the central city – she can catch a bus to take her, can’t she?
Money? What money?
The money for tomorrow’s train ticket! Sure, if she catches the bus, she won’t have enough left to board that train…but she has to go! The urgency inside her grows as she collects her purse, runs to the door, and says a little prayer. Please, please let this work out?
Cape Town has been both cruel and kind to her. For the last two years she has worked as waitress, cashier, receptionist; and once, as a mime at the Waterfront. She could pay her rent, buy the most barest of necessities…and nothing more. One or two young men showed more than just a passing interest in her, but it soon became evident that their attentions were focussed on a physical relationship rather than commitment. And after her encounter with Slick Cilliers…well, she just wasn’t interested.
Slick had what he called CSO – chronic sperm overload – a condition he said he inherited from his father and could do nothing about (he was one of nine children). It’s the way it is, Baby. I have to get rid of the stuff, otherwise I go crazy. He’d pull a madman face and initially she thought it was funny. But soon she realised: the man was in love with himself, although insecurely so. He needed to be reminded – on a frequent basis – that he possessed her, owned her; and that she was his mirror, mirror on the wall who had to tell him he’s the best of them all.
And so she shunned any physical approach; for even holding hands with somebody reminded her of the oily hair and the smell of Brut Slick used so liberally. Needless to say, her social life became non-existent and her isolation grew more and more intense.
When the economy collapsed – especially after the Soccer World Cup – the work dried up. She stuck it out as long as she could, but now she has had to face reality. Going back to the farm was the only option…until now. Oh please…
She’s lucky with the bus; one arrives only a minute after she reached the bus stop. Yes, the driver said, he’s going right past the theatre. He gives her a lewd eye and she rewards him with an internationally recognised finger. He only smiles – these girls all play hard to get…
Will he remember her? Of course he will, he must, they had such good times together. That evening they sang at the agricultural show was such a magic occasion. Afterwards he bought her a gin – the first she’d ever had in her life. And he said he cared. Deeply. That was enough: she knew then he loved her. She called him ‘Maestro’ and told him nobody could make music like he did – and she wasn’t just talking about his guitar, either.
The bus stops a few yards away from the theatre, she flashes the driver a weak smile and hops off. Gerrie is inside that building. Within minutes they’d be together again. She takes a deep breath and climbs the stairs to the auditorium with much more confidence than she feels.
“Ticket.” The man at the door holds out a hand. He’s old. He’s withered. He’s missing front teeth. And he’s serious.
“Ag, no!” The words escape before she can stop them. “I…I don’t have one.”
The man folds his arms.
“You see, somebody just sang. I saw it on TV. I have to see him.”
“Mith, thereth no way you get in here without a ticket. All the girlth want to thee thethe guyth. They go all wonky about their voitheth and then they want to marry an artitht. It doethn’t work that way.” He takes a deep breath. “No ticket, no entry.”
“Then I’ll buy one. How much?’
“Only hundred Randth ticketh left, Mith.”
“But I’v only got sixty-eight…” The dismay in her voice seems to soften the old man. “Please?”
“Give me fifty and I’ll look the other way.”
She hands over the crumpled notes, doesn’t think about the eighteen Rand she’s got left, and storms inside. Where would he be? Backstage? With the judges? Hell, where must she look for him?
Donald McKay, son of the famous radio presenter, has been in the music business for many years. He’s seen it all, heard all the wannabe’s and wrote off quite a number of artists who just didn’t have ‘it’. He maintains that stage personality is as important as voice and performance. This young Smit, who just sang the audience into complete silence, is a rare find.
He gets up from his front-row seat and makes his way backstage. He’s not interested in the rest of the show – he wants to talk to Smit – and true to his nature, he doesn’t believe in procrastination. Many a contract can slip through unwilling, postponing fingers.
Gerrie Smit is packing up his guitar when McKay enters the dressing room.
“Young man, have you got any plans for tonight?” McKay, as direct as always. When Gerrie looks up in surprise, he shakes his head.
Lettie is arguing with the attendant at the backstage door when Gerrie and McKay make their way to the parking lot outside. They’ve missed each other with a few seconds.
“Gerrie Smit? You know him?” She nods as an answer. ” He’s just left, Miss, I’m sorry. I don’t think he’ll be back tonight.”
Lettie feels how her hopes evaporate. Noooo! The silent scream fills her head as she turns around and rushes back to the front door. It’s all been a hopeless, stupid, dumb effort! What was she thinking? That he’d just hug her and they’d connect up again, just like the old days?
The old man at the door watches her as she runs past. Well, he thinks, that was an easy fifty. Then he watches her sink down on the steps to bury her face in her hands. When her shoulders start shaking, he feels a tug of sympathy. Just a tug, and just for a second, nothing more. These young people: who can understand them? They insist on following impossible dreams. And for what? Only to see the wave of hope dash itself into oblivion against the rocks of reality?
He turns around to close the door. It’s getting chilly outside…