“Lettie?” Gertruida’s voice is soft, imploring. “Can you hear me?”
Thick bandages swathe the face of the woman in the bed while the machine with the green screen and the squiggles emits a regular beep-beep next to the bed.
“It’s me, Gertruida. From Rolbos, remember? You have to remember.”
“I just saw Gerrie. He’s off his ventilator now, and doing okay. Not great, but okay. He didn’t know you’re here.”
“I told him you’re here. He’s not up to much, but he sends his love.”
“Yes, I know. It’s not easy. I also talked to the door guard at the Artscape theatre. He remembers you and recognised you from an old photo. He says he’ll give the fifty back, if you want…”
“Good, I’ll be back tomorrow. You better get well, now, girl. You’ve got a lot going for you.”
“I know she heard me,” Gertruida tells Vetfaan and Fanny. They all drove down to Cape Town to see Lettie, just to make sure. Of course, they couldn’t really identify her – not with all the bandages covering her face; but the door guard was positive, and all the pieces of the puzzle fit. He also told them how she ran after the limousine.
I thaw it all, Mithus. That girl got up and ran, thouting ‘Gerrie, Gerrie!’ all the time. Thath when the tackthi hit her. It all happened in a thecond…
“But when a person gets injured like that, you can never be sure what they’ll be like afterwards. She could have amnesia, or her whole personality may have changed. Still, I think she knows we are here and Gerrie sent his love. It might help…a little.”
“Gee, Gertruida, it’s such a buggerup! Two young people in love, in the same hospital, fighting for their lives…”
“Oh shush, Vetfaan!! Now don’t you go all melodramatic about this. Gerrie seems okay, although I don’t think he’ll be running marathons soon. And Lettie…well, she’ll just have to pull through.” She pauses as she fumbles with the handkerchief in her lap. They are waiting in the reception area for Dr Cox to have a word with them. “Don’t you dare start holding funerals at this stage!” Her voice is edged with worry and a touch of anxiety.
“We don’t know, do we?” Fanny waves a despairing hand. “According to what we know, they haven’t seen each other in ages. It’s far too soon to speculate about love…”
“Nonsense!” Gertruida isn’t having anything of this. “Love isn’t something you switch on and switch off. Once it’s there, it’s there. Full stop. No arguments. And I know how those two felt – before her father interfered, the crummy old coot! He should have left them, I tell you. Left them to find their own way. But no! He simply didn’t believe in Destiny…” She realises she’s shouting, and tones down her voice. “He was blinded by that man’s fast talking and his money. And what does that buy: happiness? Not on your life; not at all. You can only be happy if somebody loves you unconditionally, warts and all. That’s what life is all about. Comfort and a few Rands? Pffft! It counts for nothing if love is left out of the equation.
“And I blame her, too. She should have known better. She knew exactly how Gerrie felt about her, but she still allowed her judgement to be swayed by her family. But…that’s water under the bridge, I guess. We always have 20/20 vision in hindsight.
“Of all people, Fanny, you should know this: Love doesn’t ask questions. It’s not a logical thing you can reason with. It transcends boundaries we haven’t even invented yet. Colour, age, gender, religion, politics, race – you name it, and Love will find a way. The biggest sin of all, is to disallow Love the path it has chosen.
“And I saw the two of them. There was a spark that cannot be denied – and won’t be extinguished. Sure, Life might lead them to different destinations, but they’ll always mean something to each other. And you know what? It is one of the most precious things one can experience: the desire of somebody else that allows you to be who you want to be.”
Vetfaan smiles quietly. When Gertruida is upset, she goes into lecture-mode. It always helps to relieve her anxiety. Now, Boggel doesn’t do that. He goes into listening-mode when things get tough. We all have our ways, he thinks.
“But it’s a two-way street, Gertruida. Look at me and Fanie: we do that with each other – I mean we both want the other to excel. Love can’t be one-sided, can it? Like: a relationship can’t work if adoration ends up in a dead end?”
“Oh, it can be just that, Fanny. You’d be surprised how often that happens.” She thinks back on Boggel and Mary Mitchell: Boggel adores the ground she treads on, but she didn’t feel quite the same. Even so, it changed Boggel’s life for the better despite the fact that he remains single. “Suppose she loves him, and he doesn’t feel the same – it doesn’t take away anything from her feeling towards him, does it? If she truly loves him, she’ll want to know he’s okay and that he cares. It’ll help her get better, I think.”
Dr Frank Cox enters the room with the resigned attitude of a man who’s seen too much suffering in his short life. Still, he manages and engaging smile when he approaches the small group of people waiting to hear what he has to say.
“I don’t know what’s just happened, but our Jane Doe – who you’ve identified as Lettie Gericke on provisional evidence – has just improved tremendously. Her saturation jumped, the blood pressure came up and her pulse has slowed down. In fact, I think she has turned the corner. Should be off the ventilator soon.
“As for the gentleman, he’s cruising along just fine, thank you. In fact, he’s showing great interest in this Lettie. It’s just so weird that they both have this Northern Cape connection, and now have landed in the same hospital after being involved in the same accident. Small world, isn’t it?’
With that, he’s gone. There’s nothing to add, nothing more to say.
“He’s a non-believer,” Gertruida says as she dabs a tear with the crumpled hanky, “doctors can be so insensitive. You ask me and I’ll tell you: they don’t understand Life at all.”
Who am I? I am a poet.
What do I do? I write.
And how do I live? I live.
In my carefree poverty
I squander rhymes
and love songs like a lord.
When it comes to dreams and visions
and castles in the air,
I’ve the soul of a millionaire.
From time to time two thieves
steal all the jewels
out of my safe, two pretty eyes.
They came in with you just now,
and my customary dreams
my lovely dreams,
melted at once into thin air!
Bu the theft doesn’t anger me,
for their place has been
taken by hope!
From La Boheme, by Puccini (1896)