I never liked her much. Didn’t think she was taking it seriously enough. Her studies you know. And not committed enough to the struggle. Always hung out with her gang of girls. Walking as if they owned campus. And partying hard. Not my kind of girl thank you. We never spoke to each other. Not a single word. For almost 2 years. Nada. Nothing. Zilch. Zero. And she was English. South African English, but English still.
We attended the same university. We were in the same class. Studied the same subjects. Political Science and Philosophy. But we were light-years away from each other. I sat right in front of the class. Always prepared. Always asking questions. Always willing to give my opinion. She thought I was full of myself. And she was right of course.
She sat at the back or middle somewhere. I didn’t look around to check. I was too consumed with my studies. And too consumed by myself. She hung out at the back. She and her gang of girl friends.
I did see her in my pub every now and again. De Akker. It was my home away from home. Where I could hang out with my fellow philosophers. Kitchen philosophy. Thinking we were so bright. I think it was just an excuse to drink more Tassenberg and Castle. She didn’t need an excuse. She just drank it and had fun. Ha. She wasn’t serious enough for my gang of guys and girls.
I saw her at the Neelsie – our local cafeteria for student. I played bridge with my gang. And drank coffee. At our table. Yes, our table. No one was allowed to touch our table. It was always ready and open just for us. And you would know if you stepped into our little world. You will get ignored. And told to please leave the table. She hung out with her gang a few tables away. Laughing and joking with each other. Jeez. Can’t they be serious for a change? I didn’t like her much. This girl who shared some of my space on campus.
I knew this guy. Not really a friend. Just a guy called Sven. Not Swedish. And he was trying to talk some courage into me. You see, I wanted to ask this girl out on a date – not the girl I didn’t like. But had no guts. I was always a little backwards and shy when it came to women. Never knew how to talk to them. But I wanted to ask this girl out on a date. So he was encouraging me to just go and ask her. So off I went and started talking to her. For two long hours.
We spoke about her family. Her studies. Her interests. Where she lived. What she wanted to do. Everything. But never managed to actually ask her out on a date. So I made the slow walk back to this guy I knew, tail between my legs. And there she was. This girl I didn’t like.
I nodded my head in her direction and she gave less of an acknowledgement back. I look at the guy and he asked, “So, did you ask her out?” I just shook my head and sat down. Sulking. This girl I didn’t like looked at me and just shook her head. Stared at me for a little while and said, “You’re such a pissy”. And with that she turned around and walked away.
I stared after her. Not because she of what she said. Not because of my stupid inability to ask the other girl out on a date. Not because Sven was laughing at me. Not because this girl I didn’t like walked away. None of that. I stared because my heart just stopped. The blood drained from my body. It hit me like a lighting-bolt. I just had a vision of my future. I was going to marry this girl I didn’t like.
I knew it the moment she looked at me and said those words. I felt like running after her and telling her. Telling the world. Even Sven. But I just sat there and stared. Because I just met my future.
I couldn’t wait to get home and tell my mother. I blurted it out as I got home. “Mom, I just met the woman I am going to marry.” She looked at me. She saw my fair share of girlfriends. Never liked any of them much. You know me and my mother. But she realized I was dead serious. And she wasn’t impressed. But I was ecstatic. I met my future wife! Goddamn pissy indeed! Now all I had to do was show her what a cool guy I am and let nature and instinct do the rest.
But she had other ideas. It seems as if she was interested as well. Maybe not in marriage yet, but at least a little interest in exploring a bit further. She knew my history of asking woman out and knew she couldn’t wait for me to make a move. So she asked me out. Okay, not in those words, but she did. I think she did.
I was sitting playing bridge with my gang when she walked to our table and started talking to a few of the other people at my table. Telling them about the party at the De Akker they were having that evening. And asking them to join her gang for some fun. She never looked at me once. But as she was about to walk away she turned around and looked at my friend Kevin and said, “And tell that man he can come as well if he wants.” And then walked away. Not looking back once. She asked me out for a date. Right?
Of course I went. It was De Akker. So it would look odd if I didn’t go. But I went straight to where she and her gang would be. Not my usual seat. Not even my usual room. But I bolted for her table to get my seat. And sat next to her the whole evening. Just talking to her. Not touching her. But so close to her. And the gang were real loud. Thanks Nicola for standing on the table and singing Sinead O’Connor’s Last Day Of Our Acquaintance – you gave me the chance to lean in closely to talk to her. Whisper in her ear. My lips almost touching her cheek. And she would turn to me and lean in closely to talk to me over the noise – her face an inch away from mine. But I had to control myself. This wasn’t just fun. This was my future.
I had no pressure on me. None. Because I knew I was going to get married to her. I could take it easy. I didn’t have to kiss her. I didn’t have to hold her hand. I didn’t have to sleep with her. Nothing. Because all of that will come in the years to follow. For now I just wanted to be next to her and get her to have the same feeling for me. Let her get to know me better. (I know, it’s a risky strategy!) So I could just soak in her presence and get to know her. I sat there next to her and we just talked and joked and laughed and drank a bit more. And then it was time to go. It was a Thursday.
I couldn’t wait to see her the next day. But I had to play it cool. I wanted to be cool. I wanted her to see how cool I can be. Mr Cool. That was my strategy. Mr Cool. So I met up with her at the Neelsie. She was at my table when I got there… I had a coffee with her and didn’t join in the game of bridge. Just sat there with her – leaning back in my seat and chatting away. After and hour or so I asked her if she felt like going for a drink. Yeah, why not. It’s already 10 am. So off we went to De Akker.
We sat there for a few hours – drinking and talking. Still not touching. But having fun. She was off to her folks for the weekend. 400 kilometres away. I wasn’t going to see her for a few days. But that was okay. She was here now and we were having fun. I was telling her that my dad was the worst driver I know. How he reversed into the gate at our house a while back. And we shared stories and joked a bit more. And then it was time to go. I was driving her to her car. But first we had to get there…
The first mistake I made was trying to be Mr Cool. I am just not naturally cool. Just not me. I can’t act cool. Because I am naturally clumsy. So I was asking for trouble trying to be Mr Cool. It was an accident waiting to happen. And it did. The accident – literally.
We got into my car outside De Akker and I reversed to pull out of the parking bay. And reversed straight into the huge ditch next to the road. Stellenbosch is full of these water channels running next to the road. Used for watering gardens and getting rid of rain water. Old style, but still in use. And I managed to reverse straight into that after I told her about my dad and his driving. Not Cool. Especially not with a flat tyre that came with my little accident. Goddamn pissy. She laughed at me and I laughed back. A Cool manly laugh of course.
Well, we said goodbye – no kissing. Just a goodbye and see you next week. And I was left there changing my tyre. Laughing at myself for being so stupid. But I was going to stick to the Mr Cool strategy. It can’t get any worse now can it? Yes it can.
She got back and we continued with our drinking during the day and night. And going to class slightly tipsy after visiting the pub just before joining the rest of the class. And it was fun. Just sitting there with her and talking and talking. For two weeks. And I did nothing else. Didn’t kiss her. Didn’t even hold her hand. But I knew I had to make my move sooner or later. I mean really, how long can I just talk to her before she loses interest?
But then one day I was to meet her at the Neelsie like we always do – to start off our day. And she came in and I saw she was upset. She hardly talked to me. I didn’t know what was going on. But I thought I did something wrong. Maybe she got sick and tired of always doing something but also doing nothing. Maybe she was sending me a message – “Sorry buddy, you are way too much of a pissy for me”. So I knew I had to make my move. Game on.
I ran quickly to buy some flowers and two bottles of Tassenberg. I was going to take her to my secret spot at the river. And I was going to make my move. Come hell or high water. Today was the day.
I rushed back and gave her the flowers. She smiled and gave me a hug. “Thanks”, she said, “but it wasn’t you”. Her uncle died. It wasn’t me. But still. I had two bottles of red wine. And a plan that couldn’t fail. So off we went to the river. In my old 1978 Mazda 323 with a Cat Stevens Greatest Hits tape that’s been stuck in the tape-deck for the last 2 years. No, it wasn’t that I liked him that much – it just got stuck and I never had the money to fix it. So we listened to Wild World and Oh Very Young while driving to my spot at the river. I was going to be sooo Mr Cool.
We got to my little beach at the river. No one else around. Just the two of us. It was early summer and hot. So I just flipped the two bottles into the river – nonchalant – knowing it will fall softly on the sand. But it didn’t. The second bottled hit the only bloody stone around and broke. Mr Cool indeed. I grabbed the bottled before the precious liquid drained away and filtered it through a cloth I had handy. But I was determined to be Mr Cool. The bottle was just a little slip. It couldn’t get worse. Right?
It was hot and I took off my shirt and decided to go and sit on one of the rocks in the river. You know – the way Mr Cool would. I managed to get to the rock without falling into the river – a minor miracle by itself. Settled down and we talked. Me sitting on my rock and she sitting on the little beach. Cool, right? Yes, until I looked down. And walked on water.
I will kiss a snake if I have to. I will fight off a lion with my bare hands. I will charge a rhino at full speed. But just don’t show me a spider. I can’t stand them. Really can’t. So when I looked down and saw this little spider my instincts kicked in and I gave a yelp and a scream, jumped up in a flash and ran to the little beach as if I was being chased by a pack of hungry wolves. Not Cool.
I gave up on being Mr Cool. I was just going to be me. The “goddamn pissy”. We laughed about how silly I was. And how silly I looked. The tears were running down our cheeks. She leaned against me while we sat on the beach because I was getting cold from my little trip to the rock and back. And we joked a bit more. And drank our watered down red wine. And we kissed. On 11 October 1990.
Yes, me and this girl I didn’t like. She is my wife. But then – I knew that. Even though I was a “goddamn pissy”. I love my wife. We have fun. And haven’t stopped laughing since that day at the river. Always fun and always love. And today is better than then. And tomorrow will be better than today. Always. I love my wife. More.
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