The Thing about Love (# 1)

Upington

Upington

The thing about love, Boggel usually tells his customers, is that people look for it in the wrong places. That’s why so many people say never again… Look, he’ll tell them, at our president. Or Princess Diana. Or (he’ll whisper) at almost any movie star you can think of.

“Love isn’t that glamorous moment of shared bliss – anybody can do it. Love is about slogging through the hours and days of worry, raising children, fulfilling each other’s dreams. It’s about compassion, not passion. Selfless serving instead of being served.”

He always pauses when he’s said this, because he wants his audience to reflect on the hard work associated with love – and not the egocentric chase after fulfilment. Of course, mostly this gap in his talk is filled with patrons slapping the bottoms of their empty glasses; but he doesn’t mind – they’ll come back at some stage to tell him he’s right.

Sammie did.

And it changed his life…

***

Sammie leans on the counter in his shop, watching the townsfolk having fun in Boggel’s Place across the street. Gertruida has just finished telling them a story, and now they’re celebrating the unexpected ending.

“Yes, this is how it always is,” he says, not thinking it strange to be talking to himself, “they have all the laughter and fun, while I’m standing here, hoping somebody will want something bad enough to come and buy it here. The outside-man looking in…that’s me.” 

Sammie, despite the many years he’s had his shop in Rolbos, always feels like an outsider. He’s the odd one out, the round peg in the square hole, the smiling shopkeeper with the sad eyes…

Whenever Gertruida starts telling her stories, Sammie wonders whether he should tell her his, but he never does. It’ll hurt too much.

***

He met her in the summer of ’92 on a warm Kalahari morning, when he sat down to eat his lunch on the bench next to the river. This used to be his favourite spot: a place where he can relax and watch the slow, brown stream of water flowing silently towards the sea. At that time, Sammie was preparing for the exams at the end of his first year of study and still dreamt about obtaining his law degree, He had enrolled in the correspondence course UNISA offered to working men and women throughout the land (and the continent, for that matter) in his quest to obtain a degree. So far the year had been great and, due to his diligent work, it was entirely possible that he would pass with a distinction.

Now… Rebecca, he knew her of course – or, more accurately, he knew about her, She was the receptionist at the big law firm in town – Hurwitz, Weiss and Kramer – an establishment respected for its hight standards. A contract done by HWK – whether you sold your sheep or had a prenup drawn up – was as solid as Table Mountain and as watertight as the Titanic before meeting up with that iceberg. 

Rebecca was reputed to have much in common with the object that sunk that unsinkable ship: people said she was hard, unforgiving and as cold as the freezer in the morgue. The few bachelors that had been brave enough to ask her out on a date, never spoke about their experiences. It was easy to recognise them: they had the empty-eyed look boxers get before the referee counts to ten.

Rebecca was beautiful, of course. And witty. And clever. And always dressed to kill. But, despite these wonderful attributes, she hated men. Her parents got divorced when she was ten years old, resulting in her teens being spent with an ever-complaining mother who blamed everything (drought, storms, broken electric kettles, the state of the country and Robert Mugabe – to name only a few) on that deceiving, hateful, horrible man – her father. So intense was her aversion to men, that some people gossiped that ‘she must be batting for the other side‘.

They were wrong, of course. Rebecca was afraid of any relationship. 

“You give your heart, and you’ll be hurt. Just you wait and see. And when happens, don’t come crying to me, young lady. Don’t tell me I didn’t warn you…” Her mother was always telling her about the dangers of courtship and how the woman will always end up being the loser. Rebecca, who saw what the break-up did to her mother, swore she’d never allow herself to be hurt that badly.

So, while Sammie was munching his sandwich on the bank of the river, considering the possible questions in the upcoming exam, Rebecca – the cold and unreachable beauty – was not even a vague thought in his mind.

images (34)Rebecca, on the other hand, needed to get out of the office for a while. She was upset that the latest suitor sent flowers to the office, despite the brush-off she had handed the man the previous evening. She simply agreed to accompany Japie Kleynhans to the movies because she was curious to find out what the fuss about Basic Instinct was all about. Japie let out a drawn-out wolf whistle when Sharon Stone reclined in that chair and he was promptly rewarded with an open-handed slap in his face. 

“You are like all men, you monster!” It was much louder than the whisper she had intended to use. “All you are interested  in, is sex. This movie is horrible. I’m going!”

And she did, storming out and leaving another humiliated young man to wonder why he had the nerve to think he’d succeed where the others had failed.

Sammie’s reverie was interrupted when he noticed her strolling along the water’s edge. Her short black skirt contrasted nicely with the white blouse while her long auburn hair cascaded over her shoulders. The stilettos made her considerably taller than her five-foot-seven.  She looked more beautiful than he remembered her. She ignored him – like she did every other man that had ever stared at her – and calmly walked on.

And then her foot slipped.

And she fell.

Into the river.

Splash!

She disappeared under water for a moment, then came up with some rotten grass draped over the hair that shone in the sun a minute ago. For several long seconds they stared ta each other, too shocked to speak. She found her voice first.

“This is your bloody fault. Damn you!”

“But…”

“Don’t just sit there, you moron! Help me!”

Sammie managed to get his arms and legs working, went down to the waters’ edge and held out a hand. She couldn’t reach it. He leant over, his arms stretched to their limits. She grabbed a hand. Pulled. And he , too, fell in.

***

“I wonder,” Sammie says to himself, “what would have happened if I had taken my lunch elsewhere that day. Would we still have met?” He shakes his head. No… It was fate…or destiny. “I shouldn’t have said anything at that time. Helped her out, walked away. But no…I had to be a hero! What a fool I’d been…”

***

“I’m sorry,” he said as he struggled to his feet in the thick mud of the river bank. 

“Idiot!” she hissed.

And then he laughed, telling her she looked gorgeous. Afterwards he’d wonder why he said that, for her dripping hair and soaked clothing couldn’t have been attractive. But somehow he saw her then as she was: a vulnerable, hurt young woman who used anger to distance herself from other people. It even seemed funny and he found it impossible to stop smiling.

“Come,” he said. “My car is parked over there. I’ll take you home.”

He shouldn’t have done that…

18 thoughts on “The Thing about Love (# 1)

  1. Harold Green

    Can Sammie turn Rebecca? Can Rebecca turn Sammie? Another rich soap-opera is unfolding in Rolbos and our master story-teller Amos is turning the pages. Let Boggel pop a cool, sit down, relax and let your imagination unravel. Twists and turns are comin’ again.

    Reply
    1. Amos van der Merwe Post author

      Ah yes, the long and winding road we call love… The only way to the end is by sheer good luck, a bit of yearning and a good dose of Chivas… Thanks for joining the journey, Harold!

      Reply
  2. Adoonsie

    Jip – First thing in the morning when I walk into the shop. Laptop on. Check rolbos. Long day til tomorrow.

    Your (love) stories always strikes a nerve Amos. Thank you.

    Reply
      1. Harold Green

        Adoonsie, you are so right on. Sometimes I will purposely stay up late so I can catch the next chapter. I also keep Amos, and his philosophical team of characters, on my Kindle. Midnight re-reading of a chapter I have already read, of course. I miss Rolbos when I travel. The characters unravel as I roll down other roads in other countries. Gotta play catch up when I get back to base. Someday, there will be a movie, “Rolbos Rolled Out. (Tom Cruise standing on a wooden wine crate behind the bar, playing Boggel, of course). Maybe an ongoing soap opera on the telly “Characters on the Veld”. Buy the entire tv series at Amazon, “Rolbos Revealed”. By then our multi-millionaire master story-teller will be on the speaking tour “Amos and His African Ramblings”, with Guest Host appearances on The Prairie Home Companion. His marketing identification, Amos under his famous African hat and a palm lightly wrapped around a Chivas neat. Amos, my trusty sidekick, Mr. SLR Nikon, is waiting to click that one. From the campfire, Harold. http://www.throughharoldslens.com

      2. Amos van der Merwe Post author

        Harold – you’ll have to be the director of photography, and we’ll have to get a goodly supply of Chivas to keep us going. But – oh yeah – what fun we’ll have…

  3. Bridge Builder

    Harold, glad to see you are still thinkingg of Tom Cruise as Boggel… I am wondering seriously, where and rather when is Amos coming up with all these rich characters. This is amazing. I am wondering how much longer Amons can come up with this rich bouquet of fragrances of life, it is just too good to be true… Makes me yearn to find the time to write about all these peculiar people too. But some are blessed with doing the chores of love such as watering the tomatoes and washing the dishes and feeding the kids while others do the reporting on the ways of life… And a good story teller depends on good listeners, right? Always fun to read your comments!

    Reply
    1. Harold Green

      Bridge Builder, at 5’7″, weighing 140 pounds soaking wet, Tom Cruise will always be Boggel to me. The makeup team will add a bit of character to his face. A few pock marks, fatter nose, flattened and reddened from the booze and maybe a couple of broken or missing teeth with a military buzz on top. I don’t wonder how long Amos can spin the yarns and create the characters that drag all of us around the world into his books of philosophy and life. I am just enjoying the hell out of the the ride.

      Reply
      1. Bridge Builder

        Ai, Harold, I just can’t help it. Whenever I get lost in a book, I will periodically turn it over, stare at the authors photograph and wonder why, how, who. Like walking through an old park in Europe, with statues, fountains, rollerskaters, musicians and people picnicing on the lawns… I see so many who I’d love to stop and ask about their view on the world beyond the “matrix” we’re all seeing. Never mind. Along for the ride!

  4. Pingback: Daily Prompt: Never Again | The Story of a Guy

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