Chapter 2 – Mandisa – New Beginnings
“New Beginnings Are Often Disguised as Painful Endings” – Lao Tzu
Michael: “That’s a beautiful name”
Me: “I am black and you are white, of course it sounds beautiful to you”
Michael: “Where do you stay?”
Me: “Protea Glen”
Michael: “Where is that?”
Me: “Do you always get involved in other people’s issues like this”
Michael: “No, but I need to take you home”
Me: “I know where I stay”
Michael: “Please let me take you home, I need to make sure that you are with people who loves you”
Me: “Don’t you get it, the only person I have ever loved his getting married next month, last night we went to bed together”
Michael: “Come, let’s go, today you have me” He phoned someone to bring the car for him, then we waited downstairs, next to the building I was about to take my life, we took a walk to Fish and Chips shop.
Michael: “What can I get you?”
Me: “I am not hungry and who told you that all black people likes fast food”
Michael: “I love fast food, everyone loves fast food”
Me: “Well, I don’t”
Michael: “Okay, I will get you water then”
Me: “What where you even doing in the street of Johannesburg? White guy in Johannesburg cbd huh”
Michael: “I was visiting my friend when the accident happened, Johannesburg is for everyone”
Michael: “I am trying to be your friend here”
Me: “Then you should have let me die, you have no idea what being friend mean”
Michael: “Sorry, I didn’t mean to upset you, okay, that’s my driver, I will eat in the car, let’s go”
Me: “Okay” We got into the car, I wasn’t even worried if he was Human trafficker or some rapist, for the first time I wasn’t scared to get into a stranger’s car in Johannesburg, and to tell you the truth; deep down I was hoping that he turns out to be a serial killer or something.
Michael: “Hi Tom, sorry to phone you while you are on leave”
Tom: “Is okay Man, I wasn’t far, so where must I take you? Your house or your father’s compound?”
Michael: “Mandisa, please direct him”
Me: “Sure” I wasn’t bit disappointed, they were really talking me home. we arrived at my home and Michael got off the car with me.
Michael: “Is there anyone I can call for you?”
Michael: “Okay, then I am staying with you”
Me: “And where do you think you gonna sleep? I really want to be alone, and if you are worried that I am going to try again then you shouldn’t because tonight I have to do something and I can’t do it if I am dead”
Michael: “I am not convinced,” He went close to the car to talk to Tom and I started opening the gate, then I noticed the Polo Vivo, for a second I thought Mxolisi was back for me. Michael finished chatting with Tom and followed me.
I went inside, put on the lights, checked all the rooms and Mxolisi wasn’t there, he or the person who dropped off the car had used the kitchen window to leave the keys and the car papers. I didn’t understand why he was still giving me his car and the house if he didn’t love me anymore.
Me: “He is really gone, at his work they gave him new car and now he wants me to have his old car”
Michael: “Is his way not to feel guilty”
Me: For ten years we have been together, three these while we were in high school and another damn seven years here in jhb and now he is throwing everything away for some Xhosa girl”
Michael: “Don’t be hard on yourself, the pain does go away in time”
Me: “And how would you know?”
Michael: “Because I once saw my whole life with someone and now she’s married to some old guy, back then I blamed myself but I have come to realisation that she never deserved me”
Me: “I am going to the garage”
Michael: “I am coming with you”
Me: “Whatever brings you peace, I guess I am a prisoner in my own house. Grab a throw in there by the couch, is bit chilly”
Michael: “Are you going to be long? “
Me: “Stop asking so many questions”
We went to the garage and I started sketching my day, putting everything I had seen and felt in the paper.
Michael: “So you are an artist”
Me: “I don’t talk while I am working, over there, is the cattle and everything you need to make coffee or tea”
Michael: “You make tea in the garage?”
Me: “Stop talking please”
I sketched everything I could remember, every building, every object, for the first time I managed to have the entire Johannesburg cbd in one paper, one piece in clean pencil sketch and the other one with paints. At five 5am I decided to go to bed, Michael was still sleeping on the sleeping couch in the garage room, left him there and went to bed.
As I was sleeping I had a door opening and woke up from my sleep.
Me: “Mxolisi, is that you?”
Michael: “No, is me, Michael”
Me: “You still here?”
Michael: “You left me by the garage remember”
Me: “You need to go, I am fine”
Michael: “I have already asked someone to bring my router and laptop, I will work from here, that’s if is okay with you”
Me: “Does it matter if it is okay with me or not, you just gonna do as you please”
Michael: “I have also asked him to bring me clothes to change, I will be out of here as soon as I am sure you are okay”
Me: “And when is that going to be?”
Michael: “That it depends on you”
Me: “You are very strange man”
Michael: “I am just worried about you Mandisa”
Me: “Stop talking like you know me, is 10am, I need to take a bath”
Michael: “Don’t you have a shower?”
Me: “Oh, you now want to shower with me? That’s off limit buddy”
Michael: “I just don’t want you to do something under my watch”
Me: “I am an artist, you think I am gonna take my life in a bathtub?”
Michael: “So you still thinking about going ahead with your plan”
Me: “I don’t know, I am not sure and right now I feel like you are my evil imaginary friend and you are just on my way”
Michael: “Okay, take a bath, I just feel there is still more I need to know about you and taking your life means taking my chances of getting to know you”
Me: “Are you a shrink?”
Michael: “No, I am business consultant”
Me: “I was being sarcastic”
I went and took the bath, when I finished I was hungry, I went to the bedroom and he wasn’t there and I was praying that he will be gone, then before I finished my prayer I smelled scrambled eggs, I dresses up and went to the kitchen.
Me: “You are making breakfast!”
Michael: “Yes, my laptop is here, I am just gonna shower and join you, then do some work”
Me: “And everything for you to bath”
Michael: “Yes, he brought the toiletry bag as well”
Well, in short, that’s how Michael ended up staying at my house for two weeks, he would work on the lounge while I paint sorrow away, I had decided to turn the second bedroom into my studio, since the person who was using it as study room was gone, his WhatsApp and all his social media where just her, people they were shocked on the comments but some they were congratulating him, after some few days I decided to block him on my WhatsApp, deactivated all of my social media pages, it was hard to see him happy with someone else.
Michael: “It is a beautiful Saturday morning, I think is time I go back to my place” Just as I was starting to like him, he said he was leaving, I didn’t want him to leave but I didn’t show it, I didn’t give him excuse to stay, he was only there because he thought I was danger to myself and after these two weeks I was starting to accept my new reality and he could see that I wanted to live and my suicidal thoughts had vanished.
Michael: “Yes, my back is tired of the couch”
Me: “Okay” I was bit disappointed but all I said was ‘okay’
Michael: “But before I leave, can we take a walk, you haven’t been out of house for the past two weeks”
Me: “Okay cool, I need to go buy food at the mall, is not far from here”
Michael: “Okay, so we are using your car then”
Me: “Is not my car, I am still thinking what I am gonna do about it, I think I am gonna sell it and send him the money”
Michael: “Come on, keep the car or want to sell the house as well?”
Me: ” Of course not, where will I stay?”
Me: “Okay, I will keep the car but we are still walking to the mall, don’t worry someone will help us with the trolley and forget everything you have read and had about townships, my hood is very safe”
Michael: “We all say the same about our homes, I would probably say the same if I was to relocate to townships”
Me: “are kidding me, white person in townships”
Michael: “Why do you always but a line between race?
Me: “But you are white”
Michael: “We are all human race, you need to also forget about everything you read about Caucasian people, I drove around last week and I didn’t see anything which was out ordinary”
Me: “Okay, you are different, it is bad that you have to go back to your suburb”
Michael: “You are unique Mandisa, it is strange that I was also starting to enjoy your company even with your occasional insults”
Me: “Come, let’s get going”
We went to the mall, when we got back to the house we made light lunch together and spent the whole afternoon just talking. He was becoming a friend, but again he was about to leave me alone, he was the only person who knew what was going on in my life.
Michael: “So, listen, I showed someone the photo of your sketch”
Me: “You what? And which one? My work is the only thing I got, you cannot be going around sharing my work without my concern!” I was getting furious but at the same time I didn’t want to snap on the only person I had.
Michael: “Don’t worry, is a big cooperate they won’t use your work if you don’t want, they are one of my client, they would like to buy your sketch for the City of Johannesburg “
Me: “What did you tell them? That I tried to kill myself then made the drawing?”
Michael: “No, I told them that you are a talented artist and they want to buy the sketch and want to contract you as well”
Me:” What does that mean and why do they want my sketch”
Michael: “They are into property, they want to build what they call ‘new Johannesburg’, it is going to between Midrand and Pretoria”
Me: “So why do they need me?”
Michael: “They would like you to work with their architecture”
Me: “You do know that I have never worked with anyone or worked for someone before right”
Michael: “I know, but this is your chance to show the world your talent”
Me: “I am an artist “
Michael: “I know, and that’s why we think that this job is for you”
Me: “I need to think about it”
Michael: “They would like to have a meeting with you on Tuesday, I will also be there”
Michael: “And have you thought of showcasing your work?”
Me: “I am supposed to have some of my work at Tony’s Gallery in two weeks’ time but Mxolisi was the one who was going to pay for my work to be there, as you know, he is gone”
Michael: “That’s big, every artist is fighting to hang their work at Tony’s, you need to get the money and make sure your work is there”
Me: “How do you know Tony’s”
Michael: “Come on, headlines and my mother was an artist”
Me: “Oh so there is a lot that I don’t know about you, you are not just different”
Michael: “We can be friends then you can have more time to know more about me”
Me: “What happens when your woman gets back in town”
Michael: “Which woman? I don’t have anyone”
Me: “Okay, I thought maybe she’s out of town and that’s why you have been babysitting me”
Michael: “No I am not seeing anyone, I am too busy with work”
Me: “And not too busy to spend two weeks with a stranger in the townships neh”
Me: “Okay, before I forget, I don’t have your number, I will need to let you know if I am going to make it on Tuesday or not”
Michael: “I have save them already in your phone”
Michael: “I crossed the line again, didn’t I?”
Me: “Is okay”
By late afternoon he left and it was just me at the house. It was clear that Mxolisi wasn’t coming back and I was starting to accept it and was also seeing more reasons why dying wasn’t the option. I spent the evening and Sunday afternoon painting to make sure that I had enough pieces for the showcase, I wasn’t yet sure where I was going to get the money for my work to be at Tony’s gallery but somehow, I knew that I was gonna have the money before their deadline. By Monday morning I phone Michael and told him that I was in for the job he had told me about.
Tuesday morning, I reached out to my friend Monica and asked her to come to my place to style my dreadlocks, and before she started doing my her I told everything which had happened, she was supportive and I knew that I could count on her if Michael he was to disappear on me.
Monica: “My friend, I have never seen you like this, you really look like a business woman” I was wearing a black pencil dress with black shoes.
Me: “I prefer my tracksuits”
Monica: “Yes, you can wear them when you paint but, you need to start going out like this, you not going to meet someone on your tracksuits”
Me: “It has just been just two weeks my friend, I am not looking to be with someone”
Monica: “My friend, you have needs and I am telling you, do you think Mxolisi he is gonna come back to his senses?”
Me: “My friend I don’t want to ever here that name ever again, Mxolisi he is dead to me and I have mourned him”
Monica: “Okay my friend, I think your Uber is here”
Me: “Okay, let’s go. Thank you for doing my hair”
Monica: “You welcome, at least now you don’t look like some junkie” Before that I had never really styled my hair, the were always loose and I would just tie them at the back while working, most thought that I also smoke weed, but somehow it never bothered me.
Me: “Very funny, I liked my hair as they are, I don’t really like styling them”
Monica: “So, are you gonna sell the car or you gonna take a license?” She said while we were getting outside of the house, the car was still outside where Mxolisi left it.
Me: “I don’t know hey, I will see”
Monica: “Okay, I love you my friend and have a productivity day”
Me: “Love you too”
Monica got into her car and left, then I also left with Uber. We arrived at the headquarters, I asked the driver to help me with the painting I had with me to the reception. Michael’s assistant was already waiting for me by the reception, he helped me carried the painting and then escorted me to the boardroom where everyone involved in the project was already waiting for me. Michael stood up to welcome me, he was wearing a black suit with black shirt, he was looking more professional than the days I had spent with him. I showed them the original work that Michael had taken a photo from, they liked my work, Michael told them that I was going to consult with my lawyer about my terms and payments of my work and they concluded that the next meeting will be with me and their HR. After the meeting everyone left the boardroom, Michael stayed behind.
Michael: “You did well”
Me: “Thank you”
Michael: “I almost didn’t recognize you”
Me: “This is all my friend”
Michael: “You beautiful and sophisticated”
Me: “Thank you, I don’t have the lawyer and right now I cannot afford one, why can’t we not do this without a lawyer”
Michael: “Because I want you to be a senior architect for this project”
Me: “I am an artist and not an Architect”
Michael: “I saw some of the house plans you had at the garage”
Me: “You went through all my things?”
Michael: “I am sorry, I just got carried away. but the point is, I saw some nice plans you did”
Me: “These where for houses and not the entire city”
Michael: “You don’t get it, do you? You have a gift, you see things that us can’t see, you visualise everything, you see the dimensions that we normal people can’t see”
Me: “I am normal”
Michael: “Sure, but with extraordinary gift, we have seen several proposals from experienced Architects and none of them had something close to your drawings, the board is impressed about your work”
Me: “These plans where edited by a real Architects and I was just doing them a favour”
Michael: “Exactly my point, you become the senior Architect then the company can hire one or two junior Architects to work with you”
Me: “This is too much, I just want to be an artist”
Michael: “And you can be both, for this project we need an Architect and an artist, you will focus on the interfaces, the art and your team can focus on scientific and technical concepts “
Me: “Okay, okay”
Michael: “Okay then, I will set up the meeting with my lawyer, don’t worry about paying him, he is already on my payroll”
Michael: “Let me walk you out to my driver, he will take you home”
As we were walking towards the reception, I noticed Mxolisi and Latisa, my body started to shiver, I felt like there was not enough oxygen, it was that feeling you feel when someone heavier is sitting on top of your chest, I stopped walking and balance myself with the wall.
Michael: “Mandisa, are you okay”
Me: “That’s him”
Me: “My ex, that’s him at the reception, Mxolisi and his new fiancée”
Michael: “Oh, they are also consultants here, they work in the same Financial firm”
Me: “We need to turn around”
Michael: “is too late, he saw you”
Me: “I don’t care, is there another exit?”
Michael: “No Mandisa, we are going to pass by the reception, you gonna smile while we pass him, if he greets you, you will greet him back while smiling and happy”
Me: “Are you nuts? I am probably gonna breakdown, how can I smile? I still love him so much, this feels like a dream”
Michael: “Shh, stop crying, you need to stop giving him power, he needs to see that you can survive without him and don’t show him your pain”
Me: “But I can’t”
Michael: “Look at me, him leaving you it had nothing to do with you, stop imprisoning yourself, you need to let go, you need to start living your life, it is your life, you have a choice to choose happiness or to dwell in the past and continue to feel sorry for yourself”
Michael: “Come here” He hugged me before we continued walking, as we were about to pass Mxolisi and Latisa, he turned to check us out and I did as Michael had told me, I smiled at them, it was hard but somehow, I found the strength.
Latisa: “Hi Mandisa”
Latisa: “Are you stalking us now?”
Me: “What are you doing here?”
Me: “No, you know what Mxolisi ummhm…” I was about to tell him about the opportunity the company was about to offer me then Michael jumped in before I could even find the right words.
Michael: “Morning Mr Zulu, Miss Mandisa she is one of our consultant, she came here to meet the board members, please excuse us, see you later during our OPs meeting”
Me: “What?” in my heard it was ‘What slut?’
Latisa: “You look very tidy today”
Me: “Thank you” I said with a smile. It was an insult statements but again, I managed to be strong, it was as if I was drawing my strength from Michael, then Michael took me to his driver.
Michael: “Are you available to night for drinks?”
Me: “I think I need be alone”
Michael: “I hope you not going to let this opportunity pass you because of your ex”
Me: “No, I won’t. I need to building something for myself”
Me: “See you Michael” I said.
Michael: “They pain is not there to stay, remember that. It will one day pass”
After that Tuesday, my life changed drastically, after a month I became a Senior Project Architect for a 20 billion Rand project, of which it was just Phase1, I had my own office at the headquarters and three smart junior Architects in my team. During evenings, I was taking Architecture short courses. There was a lot going on in my life and there was no room to think about Mxolisi, I would bump into him every now and then but he wasn’t my priority anymore and I was done with dating, my work became my partner. Michael was like my mentor, he was there when I needed him and his insights in the project and more than anything, he was there as a friend.