I had the offer in my hands. I was going to Joburg! Or was I? I wondered as I walked into the palace, that is, the very first house I ever bought for myself. It was a palace of two tiny bedrooms, each two steps away from the bathroom, three steps away from the kitchen, that was in turn just one step over the edging separating the kitchen tiles from the lounge carpeting. My palace, one of the decisions I took despite good advice. I had bought it earlier in the year after I came back from the December holidays.
It was while I was at home in Cala that I made the decision to buy myself a house. I told my friend, Bulelwa, as we were taking a walk into town. I particularly remember this moment because we were walking past La Gilda Hotel. Some guys we had grown up with were hanging out on the veranda and we stood and had a chat with them. One of them asked if I was married yet, to which I said no.
“So, you are still playing hard to get?” he scoffed.
“If not wanting you means playing hard to get, then I still am.”
“It’s gonna take you a long time to get married.”
“I still wouldn’t want to marry you,” I said, a bit irritated.
“Voetsek! I don’t want you either.” He threw the words at me and walked into the bar.
Bulelwa and I walked on, passed Nosizwe’s home where her kids were playing skipping rope made of old pantyhose.
“I want to buy myself a house next year,” I told her.
“A house?” she asked as if she did not know what a house was.
“Yes, a house. I am tired of paying rent.”
“Don’t do it.” She cautioned.
“You will never get married if you have your own house.”
“Men don’t want women with their own things. You already have a car. If you add a house to that, that says you are independent.”
“Oh, I didn’t know that.”
We walked on in silence.
As we got to the corner of the second hotel in Cala, whose official name I never knew since everybody just called it KwaNkcenkce, the thought struck me: “What does having a house and a car have to do with being independent?” I asked Bulelwa.
“It says you can get your own things, you don’t need a man to provide for you,” she said slowly and clearly as if explaining to a child.
I was dumbstruck.
For days I was in doubt as to whether what Bulelwa said was true and whether I was prepared to follow my heart anyway. Her words had taken root in my mind because she was married and younger than me. I was not averse to marriage. In fact, I was hanging onto an on-off relationship that I was hoping would eventually blossom into something permanent.
I went back to Cape Town a woman of two minds. However, a month after yet another thing breaking in the flat I was renting in Claremont, I took the plunge and bought this palace. If I was meant to get married, it would happen despite the house and the car. Mind you, the car was not even mine. It was a company car.
Now, here I was on a Friday night, standing in the middle of my tiny lounge, with an offer of employment to a marketing and design agency in Joburg. I was thrilled by this offer. The company came highly recommended and I would be working with people I held in high regard in the field of marketing. But I also had some reservations. Joburg’s reputation as a fast-paced city with sophisticated and highly ambitious people scared me. Doubts flooded my mind – would I be able to live up to this image of sophistication and ambition? After all, I was only a girl from Cala. Lastly, even though I was sure my relationship with Themba was dead and gone, he kept making contact occasionally, making me wonder whether I had not been hasty in ending it. Some days I really thought we could make up and everything would be fine. On other days I would remember why we had broken up and wish I could get over him once and for all.
So I stood in the middle of my palace’s lounge wondering, “Where is that Voice when I need It?”
I had until end of Monday to accept or reject the offer. I sat on the tiny two-seater couch waiting for The Voice to come.
I thought of turning the TV on but decided against it. I wanted to hear The Voice loud and clear on this issue.
I got bored and went out to join some friends for a catch-up.
Saturday morning came in the continued silence. I went ahead with my day, running errands and shopping. The beauty of living in Kenilworth Park was that Kenilworth Centre was a short distance away. I could easily go and watch a movie there to while the day away.
“So, you are torn about the Joburg offer.” It was as if The Voice was waiting for me when I got home.
“Actually, yes!” I said with attitude.
“What are you torn about exactly?”
“Whether I should go or not.”
Was It stupid?
“What’s your heart telling you?”
“Well, on the one hand I want to go, but on the other I don’t want to give up the possibility of things working out between Themba and me.”
“So, what’s your heart telling you?” It asked again.
“I don’t know. That’s why I need your advice.”
“Really? Do you need my advice or do you want me to make this decision for you?”
That was odd. But, truth be told, it would be nice to have someone make this decision for me. I realised, as I went to into the kitchen to get some water, I had been making decisions by myself for a very long time now. I was tired, very tired. But I was not about to admit that to The Voice.
“No, I don’t want you to make the decision for me, I just need your advice,” I lied.
“Alright, here’s my advice – do what feels right for you.”
“Is that the best advice you can give me?”
“You must understand – every decision has consequences. It is better to make your decisions yourself because, if the consequences turn out bad, you are not burdened with living with them as well as the resentment and anger you’d feel if someone else had made the decision for you.”
“But I can’t tell the consequences of any decision I make now,” I protested.
“The trick is preparedness. Make a decision where the consequences, whether good or bad, you are prepared to live with.”
Good theory, I thought as I stood up and took the two steps into my bedroom. As far as I was concerned, that conversation was over.
That evening Themba came by. We had a conversation about the Joburg offer. I hoped that it was going to be a long conversation, covering the pros and cons of going or not going. I was even hoping he would ask me not to go. Instead, it was short.
“You must do what you want. It’s your career,” he said after I explained my predicament.
“Look, it’s not that I don’t want to be with you. It’s just that I have seen how important your career is to you. Right now, I can’t promise you anything in terms of where this relationship is going and I don’t want you to place your career on hold because of it.”
I could only nod to show my understanding.
As much as I felt Themba was rejecting me, there was some truth in what he was saying. In the journey of building a career in Cape Town I had had my fair share of tribulations. What had pulled me back from the brink of resigning from some jobs had been the mantra, “I came to Cape Town to work for my family.” At the hardest moments, this mantra held me together. It was no surprise that Themba understood that my career was important.
“So, what happens to us if I go to Joburg?”
“I don’t know. We’ll see.” He looked down.
At that moment I knew I was going to Joburg and that my relationship with Themba was finally over.
There was an awkward silence. We tried to get back to a comfortable, easy conversation. We even tried to cuddle, but we could not find a comfortable position. I understood, just as I was gone from Themba, he too was gone from me. We parted with a friendly hug at the door.
I was, yet again, back to being the queen of an empty palace. I cried over the death of this relationship. I cried for having to lay to rest any hopes of a future with Themba. I cried for the friends and family I would be leaving behind. I cried for leaving the palace I had not even lived in for a year. I cried for the advice Bulelwa had given me which I had ignored. I cried for this, I cried for that, I cried for any and everything. I cried until I was emptied out of any hopes and dreams I had of Cape Town. The hopes and dreams forming in my heart about Joburg were starting to shine brighter. I made contact with people who I had either grown up with or knew through work. Everyone was supportive. I remembered The Voice’s words from years ago when I was going to Mount Arthur, “Wherever you go, people will be sent ahead to receive you.”
My mantra changed from, “I came to Cape Town to work for my family” to “I came to the city to work for my family.” In accepting a job in Joburg, I came to realise that I was prepared to go to any city if it promised good prospects. Above all else, I was prepared to live with the consequences.