Just Suli and my favourite place

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic
Their love was not allowed or considered appropriate. Set during the Apartheid years in South Africa.

Submitted: July 09, 2008

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Submitted: July 09, 2008

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Just Suli and my favourite place

 

1970

Suli was my bestest buddy in the whole wide world.  She did not go to school like the other kids my age, but she lived in our backyard with her mommy, so I could play with her all the time.  Suli was so lucky that she did not have to go to school; she could play outside all day. I suppose that was why she had such an awesome tan. Suli really was a lot prettier than the other yucky girls I knew. Her mom was a really nice lady too; she baked fresh bread for us every day and did not mind tidying up my messy bedroom. Above all, I liked Suli’s mommy because she sang beautifully, and she was not as serious as my mom was. Suli was so lucky.

 

I was going to marry Suli one day- I was sure of that. No one else made me feel quite as nice on the inside as she did. I told my mom that I had found my life partner, but instead of being happy for me, my mom simply said, “You cannot marry her. “ I was very confused. “Why not, Mommy? I like her. And she’s prettier than the other girls.” “She is different from us, Josh. It would not be proper,” my mom said impatiently and walked out of the room.

 

I could not stop thinking about what my mom had said. I always knew that Suli was different from us: she was much prettier and a lot more fun. I did not see why this should stop me from marrying her though. Suli and I were playing in the sand box and she was building a cute, little house. “One day, we’re going to live in a house like this, Joshie.” Suli had agreed a little while before that to marry me one day. I decided not to tell her what my mom said. We played and dreamt big dreams and spoke about the things of our hearts while many sunny afternoons past away almost unnoticed. Suli was all I could see; she filled my childlike world with perfect memories.

 

 The only thing that I loved nearly as much as playing with my friend was spending time at the beach- my favourite place. I could spend hours gazing at the beautiful water in complete awe, the wind gently touching my face. Suli’s mom told me a story about the African wind goddess and how she sang lullabies to the sea. When I tried to imagine this, I could see Suli as being the wind goddess. She was free and crazy and almost a part of nature itself. My mom never let me play outside when it was cold, but Suli did not think twice about dancing in the rain. Suli was definitely the wind goddess.  I decided that it would be fantastic if I could take the wind goddess to my favourite place. She was all that I needed to be happy. Just Suli and my favourite place.  Once again, my mom ruined my plans and said that I could not take Suli to the beach with me. She said that Suli was not allowed on our beach. I was so angry that I did not speak to my mother for two days.

 

We had an okay family.  Well I suppose so. At least I had both a mom and a dad. I often wondered why Suli did not have a daddy, but I was not sure if it would be polite to ask. The more I thought about it though, the more I realised that it would be okay to ask her about her daddy, seeing as Suli and I were practically engaged. “What’s wrong, Joshie?” Suli asked and I cleared my throat awkwardly. “I was kind of wondering about something. You don’t have to say anything if it makes you sad though. Um…where’s your daddy, Suli?” She looked at me in a way which almost made my little, innocent heart break. “He died when I was a baby and I didn’t even have a chance to get to know him. We were living in a township called Sharpeville then.” She paused before saying crossly, “They shot him.” “Who are ‘they’ and why would anyone want to shoot your daddy?” I put my arm around her little shoulders. “My mom says that they were hateful men who didn’t like the fact that my daddy felt strongly about what was right.” We did not talk about it any further after Suli said this, but I could not stop thinking about what had happened to Suli’s dad. I could not imagine being shot for doing what was right. Mom always told me that I must stand up for what I believe, so why was Suli’s daddy shot for doing exactly that? My theories and beliefs on life were challenged even more in the weeks that followed. I woke up early one morning to find Suli in my room. I could see that she had been crying and she was holding a little suitcase. She told me that her mom had been arrested for going to the beach. It made no sense to my naïve, young mind. As far as I knew, the beach belonged to God. This meant that since we are His children, the beach belonged to all of us too. Nevertheless, the police were acting as if the beach was reserved for a limited minority. They were fighting and destroying families over something which was not even their property. It was because of them that Suli was being taken from my life and being sent to live with her granny, but I knew without a doubt that it would not be goodbye forever. I would see my future wife again soon.

 

 

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1980

 

Mom, I’m home!” I shouted as I walked through our front door. “How was class...who’s your lovely lady friend?” My mom smiled and I knew what she was thinking. My mom was probably thanking her lucky stars that I had finally “Snapped out of my obsession with the past,” as she frequently put it. She was hoping that I would finally forget about Suli and let go of my childish plans to marry her one day. Well, I realised now that my plans had never been entirely realistic, but I still missed Suli dearly and thought of her often. “This is Helen, Mom. She is simply an old friend from high school who I happened to run into today.” I noticed that my mother’s smile disappeared for a moment. I had clearly shattered her perfect dreams for me again.  In the time that followed my chance meeting with Helen, we occasionally spent some time together. It was, however, not attraction, but rather a way to pass the time. Helen was a nice girl, but she was not my uninhibited, passionate Suli. Perhaps Suli was no longer as I remembered her to be and maybe I never would marry her, but I would never marry Helen either. She was just not my type.

 

Every night, I snuck out of the house to escape to my favourite place. The sound of the water and the wind came as a welcome relief of the feelings of entrapment. Mom and Dad fought all the time and Mom nagged at me incessantly about my lack of a relationship with Helen and generally, choosing a marriage partner in the near future. My mother seemed to perceive marriage and love as mere business transactions. “You are twenty years old and it is time to find a life partner and leave your juvenile fantasies behind, Josh.” My mother’s lecture from earlier that evening echoed in my head.  The wind was warm that night and if I closed my eyes tightly, I could imagine that it was Suli, whispering silly tales in my ear. I wondered where she was and what had happened to her over the years. “Josh…” I went cold as I heard my name being called. It sounded distinctly like Suli, but I knew that that was impossible and that my imagination was working over time. “Joshie…” There it was again. I was not imagining it. I turned around and shivers ran up my spine as I watched Suli walk towards me. She had changed from a little girl into a beautiful woman, but I would recognise her walk anywhere. “Suli? I don’t believe it! Is it really you?” It was too good to be true. Maybe I was just dreaming about my childhood friend again.  She stopped right in front of me and then gave me an uncertain hug. Suli still smelt like vanilla. “I…I didn’t expect to see you here, Joshie. I just moved back to town to live with my sick aunt. My granny died a few months ago and I have come to look after my aunty now. I wasn’t sure whether you still lived in your old house, or whether you would want to see me anyway. “I stared at Suli, still trying to convince myself that she was really there. “But, what are you doing on this beach…and at night? Isn’t it very risky for you to walk around with all the cops patrolling the streets?” “I know which streets to take to make sure I’m not caught. The reason I’m at this beach is that I remembered how fondly you always spoke about it when we were children. I just wanted to…be close to you again, and coming to your favourite place was the only way I could do that.” Suli seemed embarrassed as she said this. I was amazed that Suli would risk so much just to come to my favourite place. The police would arrest her without a second thought if they found her on the streets at this time of night. I took Suli’s hands in mine in an attempt to warm them up and said, “I’m glad you’re back.”

 

Suli and I began meeting up every night. We spent hours talking and laughing and we both knew that we had fallen in love all over again. This was real love though, not just childish fantasies. I lived for our evenings at the beach. She often told me funny stories about her family; I never even smiled at home, so it felt nice to be happy again.  One night Suli said, “Joshie, I want us to start praying together. I really believe that God can change things in this country. He is the only one who can. From now on, I want us to pray together every night, before we do anything else. We can pray for the government and for our relationship. I want us to have a future together and I want that future to be built on the right foundation.” I was amazed that she wanted to pray for a government who treated her people so cruelly. It made me love her even more.  After this, we did start praying. I had never been a very spiritual person, but Suli helped me to change that during our time together.

 

“Suli, I’ve been thinking about something. I love you and I want to marry you one day. Even though we’ve been praying for the future, I don’t want to wait until things eventually change. Let’s run away together. We can go overseas as soon as I’m done studying and then no one can stop us from being together.” I had been thinking about this idea for a while already. Suli smiled tenderly as she said, “I want to marry you too, Josh, but I can’t leave the country. My aunty needs me. I am all she has and she’s done so much for me. I’m sorry. Maybe one day that will be a possibility.” I was disappointed, but I understood how important family was to her and respected that. We did not speak about the future again as it was a very uncertain topic. Instead, Suli told me stories about the stars and the moon and the clouds that were jealous of their beauty. I wished that Suli could lie in my arms forever.

 

Like a man possessed, I did not allow myself to think of the consequences of our reckless actions. I did not care. Perhaps it was selfish of me, because there were greater risks involved for Suli then for me. The police got a perverted thrill from punishing nighttime wanderers who were of a different colour to them. The night air was chilly and I pulled my jacket closer around myself, hoping that Suli would arrive soon. “Hi, my Angel,” Suli whispered in my neck as she placed her hands gently around my waist. Something was wrong. Suli seemed distant and when I looked into her eyes, I saw fear. “You’re worried about something.” She nodded her head.  “Yes, Joshie, I am. I have a strange premonition that something bad is going to happen and that things are going to change between us. I folded her trembling hands in my own and said, “Don’t be silly, Sweetie. You and I are meant to be together. God made each of us with just a bit of the same heart. One of these days, the crazy laws of this country are going to change and we will be allowed to get married. Then we can have ten children and four dogs and…” “Three goldfish,” Suli completed my sentence, giggling. “I can’t wait until that day comes, Joshie. I am so afraid that someone catches us.” “I’m sorry I am doing this to you, Suli. I hate the fact that you constantly need to look over your shoulder.“ Suli kissed my forehead softly and said, “It’s worth it, and…” “And your luck is up, Kaffir*,” a man in uniform shouted, shining a bright light in our faces.

 

“Don’t call her that!” I screamed, indignantly.  I hated that disgusting term that white people enjoyed using those days. “I’ll call her whatever I want. As far as you’re concerned, what do you think your parents will say if you end up in jail because of her?” It was only when the police officer said this, that I recognised him. He was a good friend of my father. “Officer du Preez? I… I… what is going to happen to us now?” I asked, more worried about Suli than about myself. “Look, I could have both of you arrested for this. You know that the Immorality Act  states very clearly that this is a criminal offence.” “But, Officer du Preez! We haven’t actually…done anything…inappropriate. Our relationship isn’t like that,” I said in an attempt to defend Suli and I. Suli was an old-fashioned Christian girl and she was very clear about things such as sex before marriage. Officer du Preez laughed obnoxiously and said, “I don’t believe that for a second! These kaffirs are promiscuous, like animals. Listen here boy; I love your father like a brother. It is only because of that, that I am not going to drag both of you to the police station. I want you to know though, that this is the only warning you will get. If I ever see you together again, I will have you both arrested immediately. This is a disgrace! White people shouldn’t mix with filth. Kaffir, you need to leave immediately. Either you leave the town or you just make very sure I never see your face again. I will arrest you if I just see you walking down the road in a way I don’t like! I’ll drive you to the train station right now myself, if I need to.” Then he turned to me and said, “And I am going to inform your parents of this so that they can keep a closer eye on you. They won’t want you disgracing the family name like this.” I was so angry, I wanted to kick his teeth out, but Suli stopped me. “Okay, officer. I will go quietly. Just please don’t do anything to Josh.” She turned to me and gave me a hug, obviously to Officer du Preez’s dislike. Once again, I watched Suli leave me... I loved her so much that it hurt. Nevertheless, I was being told who I may and may not love by ignorant people who did not understand what true love was. I had to find her again one day, because it would be rather difficult to live with half of my heart missing.

 

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1995

 

 

“Don’t forget that it’s your turn to pick Kristy up from day-care!” Helen shouted through the window. I promised that I would not forget and got into my car. On my way to work, I could not stop my mind from drifting to forbidden memories. I waited for Suli for ten years after our last night together, but she never came back and I had no idea where she was. It was around this point in time that my old friend, Helen, popped back into the picture. I was thirty years old and ultimately, I got to a place in my life where I had to forget about naïve romances and dreams. Perhaps my mother’s unromantic views on love rubbed off on me in the end. Helen was crazy about me and I figured that she would be a good, loyal wife and a good mother. We got married a few months later and had our first child, Kristy. I believed that, once I was married I would slowly be able to erase all thoughts and memories of Suli. I knew that Helen deserved at least that much from me, but it was impossible to forget my Suli’s laughter. Some nights I woke up, missing Suli so badly, that I experienced physical pain. Every thing in my life became nothing but a ritual, but at least I could still escape to my favourite place to try to recapture the freedom of earlier years. Then litter and oil spills and other external forces destroyed the beach, destroyed the only thing I had left of my true self and of Suli. Every day with Helen was a charade.

 

It was my turn to do the grocery shopping that day. I began to walk over to the frozen food section to find Helen’s favourite peas and noticed a pretty, black woman standing next to the freezer. She looked oddly familiar…my heart all but stopped as I realised without a doubt that it was Suli. I would never forget even the silhouette of the one I had once loved more than life itself. The one who frequently drifted across my dreams and whose memories Helen had to fight with for affection. Suli seemed to sense that someone was watching her and turned around. She was radiant and the evidence of a new life in her tummy was clearly visible. She smiled at me sadly in recognition; then without a word she linked arms with a tall, dark man- who I assumed to be her husband- and walked out of the shop without looking back. On that day, as I stood next to the frozen vegetables, I watched Suli walk away again and I knew instinctively that this truly was the last time I would ever see her. I lost my best friend and the person who would always hold my heart, forever. Would I ever truly be happy without Suli and my favourite place?

 

 

***** The End*****

 

* I use this derogatory term, only to emphasise the hate and discrimination towards black people during that period of time.


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