Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Category: deeply personal (Page 1 of 97)

where did that come from?

I joined a fun and informal writing group and then promptly missed two Mondays (I was away for one and working for the other).

Last night I went back for what I was hoping would be a jolly bit of relief after a relatively crap day – I reversed my car into an extended piece of pole that I couldn’t see and smashed in my rear windscreen, only to discover Outsurance wanted me to pay an excess of R1250 and take it to PG Glass who would charge them an additional R3000 for the job. This seemed like a terrible idea since I could get the glass from an SABS approved place, Commercial Auto Glass, for R1600 in total. I had to speak to Outsurance at least four times, first to find out about and then to cancel my claim. So, I worked out that I am paying Outsurance monthly, to not have insurance. I decided it was time to cancel my non insurance with them and got put through to the whatever department to speak to someone who would convince me not to cancel. Suddenly my excess for glass was reduced to R250 (not for this claim, but for a future one!). What a bunch of crooked chops. When I pointed out that THEY were in cahoots with a company that were ripping them off and that I could get them a better deal with another SABS approved company, they dismissed me. Their arrangement with PG Glass is a stinky quagmire of insurance corruption. Anyway. I needed distraction.

Our first exercise was a two word prompt to write for ten minutes. The words were acrimony and winter storm (I know, three words, but). This was my first story.

George threw the last piece of dry wood onto the fire. He had left it too late and stood, with his hands on his hips anticipating disappointment, expecting that the log wouldn’t take and then he would have another thing to feel bitter about.

 “Margaret. Is there more wood?” he half mumbled, but with energy. He absolutely knew that Margaret would hear his voice but not the words and he counted down. Five four three two one.

 “Sorry George, I heard your voice but not your goddamn fucking words.”

 She stood in the doorway with an unlit cigarette in her one hand and the special fire matches in the other. “I am going to stand on the stoep and smoke. There’s a storm coming, and I want to smoke before it rains.”

 “I don’t need an explanation for your idiotic behaviour.” he said to her retreating back, but he timed the words to coincide with the down beat of her expensive stilettoes. She wouldn’t hear, and he wouldn’t be brave enough to say that to her face.

 George turned his own face of disappointment to the fire grate and was irritated to see that the log had caught after all. A golden flame curled around the flaky bark and was making inroads into the hard, fragrant fig wood underneath.

 He heard the wind pick up and thought about Margaret outside, trying to light her cigarette with a match. He couldn’t help himself. He smiled. He reached for his wine glass and swirled the purple liquid around before sipping it. He felt like he was in a life insurance ad.

 The rain came, slashing hard against the lounge window. The loose, wooden frames rattled, and the curtains sighed even though the windows were shut. George went to look. He watched as a giant branch ripped free from the Elm and tore straight into Margaret’s head.

Not exactly cheerful stuff, but hey. I could blame the prompts.

Then, for our main exercise we were asked to write three questions on pieces of paper and to hand them out. We had to ‘answer’ the questions in our next piece of writing.

These were the three questions I received.

  1. Can you trust a liar?
  2. What did he/she take from the store?
  3. What is at the centre of Jupiter?

And here is what happened from my brain. Trigger warning. Violence against women and children.

Del walked along the road, dragging her feet and making tiny dust puffs behind her. The back of her white cotton dress had already picked up the red of the dust, looking like old blood, washed out but never totally removed. From the back she looked like a ten-year-old child, bored and lethargic in the summer holidays, with no plan, no urgency, no direction.

From the front she looked broken. Tear tracks ran into her neckline and smudged the dirt and her mother’s rouge on her cheeks. Her top lip was swollen, and the fine, black curls of her fringe were stuck down with sweat.

She repeated a line.  A marriage vow. “I will. I will. I will.” Over and over. Through thick swollen lip.

Suddenly she stood still. She heard the sound of a car. No, truck. She bent her head. Saw her bulging pocket. She remembered.

Del had gone to buy cigarettes for her mother. She was always buying cigarettes for her mother. When her mother needed her out of the flat, when she had to talk to some man. Sometimes a strange man. Sometimes a familiar man. Del went to buy cigarettes from the store exactly fifteen minutes away. Fifteen minutes there and fifteen minutes back.

Today Del had pushed open the shop door without thinking. Mr Kamaldien was bent over the counter and Del thought he was sleeping even though she had never seen him sleep before. His black hair was lying in blood. Without thinking Del had approached him and put a brown hand on his stripe shirted shoulder. “Mr Kamaldien.”

A skinny man boy had jumped over the counter and pressed a knife to her throat. He had pushed her against the cold drink fridge and smashed her head into the glass door before pulling down his pants and trying to do something to her, squeezing her and shoving his body between her legs in a sharp and breathless way. She had thought about Jupiter. A planet. A familiar man had said that if you went to the centre of Jupiter there would be space candy there. The kind that pops in your mouth.

The skinny man boy had shouted. It sounded like he had scored a goal. There was something wet and warm on her legs. The skinny man boy had said “I’ll kill you if you tell!” and ran. Del got up. She went behind the counter and filled her pocket with two packets of Styvesant Blue. Then she took two fizz pops. “I will pay you later Mr Kamaldien.”

“I will. I will. I will.”

This is the bleakest and most violent piece I have written and it has shaken me.

Finally I got to the lightness in our last warm-down exercise. It was another prompt one. This time our story had to move from one emotion to another. I got from jealousy to apathy.

Mrs Hartley watched as the silver Polo Vivo negotiated the tight parking space. Three manoeuvres and it was in. The car door popped open with no effort and Mrs Hartley was reminded of her own stiff Honda Civic 2007’s door. She breathed out a puff and the net curtains separating her from the outside gaze shivered.

Dale jumped out of the driver’s seat and then folded his body back in to fetch something. Mrs Hartley had a perfect view of his designer jeans wrapped snuggly around his taut thighs and bum and the blush of shame coloured her neck.

“Cara, he is here!” Her call rang out and floated upstairs. She hoped it sounded light, chatty, warm, friendly.

Dale made his way to the door, his face obscured by a bunch of almost opening St Joseph’s lilies. Mrs Hartley flushed again. They were her favourite. “Cara!”

Cara’s footsteps were muffled. She was still in her slippers. They shloop shlooped along the landing. Sponges sucking all energy out of the room. “Mom, please. Tell him to go away. Mom.”

Mrs Hartley’s smile fixed itself to her face as she opened the door. Dale, about to present the flowers, noticed it was her and pulled his arm back. Their eyebrows expressed individual shock, shame and confusion before settling into polite and friendly.

“Come in Dale. Come in, Cara is nearly ready.”

As the door shut behind him Dale felt the heaviness of the home come down and on him as Cara’s slow, disembodied voice dragged itself down the stairs.

“I do not want to go on another of your arranged dates Mom! I am a lesbian, mom. A lesbian. A LES. BE. YAN.”

I’d love to know what you think.

Pete

I had a full week of improv teaching and facilitating last week, including running 5 short 1 hour and ten minute sessions for a school celebrating 2 days of end of term Art Jam. I worked with groups of between 8 and 14 students and we played warm up games and they learned some improv basics in a fun and interactive way.

In my second session of my first day I encountered Pete. I could see (it was obvious) that he was out of the ordinary. He struggled with eye contact and found it difficult to do the fun and spontaneous silly stuff when we went around in a circle, but he seemed to have a spark of enjoyment about what we had done and that was great.

After a fifteen minute break I got ready to receive another group, who were coming from doing something else entirely. Who should join this group? Pete. This time he was bolder and more silly. When it came to the final game (an interview game with two players playing the talking characters hands) he volunteered, sat down, and when I asked for an expert he announced that he would be an expert in Soviet monkeys. And that is what he was; confidently, loudly and hilariously. The teacher who had joined this group told me afterwards how delighted he was that Pete had participated and spoken up – he never says anything in class.

Pete was one of the first kids to arrive the next morning for the first session. He was becoming an expert himself. Funny, clever, silly and totally committed, he had an absolute blast. And so did I, watching him. He tried to come to the last class too he but was hurried off to the session on his schedule. I don’t know if it was any good for him.

But I was so chuffed to have had him choose my improv sessions. I saw the deep magic of it in practice.

Deeply Personal reflections on The Jewish Literature Festival

I came home early; undone, dismantled and teary. I would have been stronger, held it together better if I had seen it coming but I never do. And I should have trusted my instincts.

When I was invited to participate in the first festival last year (by the amazing, driven, talented and deeply caring Caryn Gootkin – of Souper Troopers) I said an outright no. I still bear the keloid scars of my personal horror story at one Limmud once, and I know that these spaces are a deeply challenging one for me. So, what changed my mind this year? Did I bring this onto myself?

There are probably a few reasons why I agreed. The first and main one was a general softening in me towards the Jewish community of Cape Town after the way From Koe’siestes to Kneidlach was received here. It was a great success. Our play was understood, appreciated and enjoyed. The second was that I had agreed to be in conversation with someone, who then wanted to do their own thing, and I think the inclusion of me in the programme as a speaker in my own right was an afterthought. I knew. My body told me that this was true and I didn’t listen. And the third was, ever since Tali’s Wedding Diary I have been getting genuinely kind recognition from many Jewish Capetonians (and South Africans) for my tiny cameo in it. I thought I may have developed a little traction. And also, I always want to share my knowledge. I love talking about the stuff I do.

I Ubered to the festival. Shafiek was nervous as he stopped to let me out. Suspicious glances from the guards outside the Jewish museum gate turned to recognition once I climbed out and waved him on. I got my presenter’s pack, dashed inside and joined a packed and rapt audience in a warm seminar room for Stephen Sidley’s talk on Science, Jazz and Stories. Then, in the same space I listened to Lisa Chait in conversation with my old friend and hero Mark Gevisser. Then I went downstairs to find out where the Book Lounge venue was for me to present my interactive ‘workshop’ on scriptwriting.

Baffled by the poor woman on a microphone who was struggling to read to an audience in the main outside thoroughfare, I made my way to the info table to find out where the venue was. That was it. I was going to be running my session there, in that main thoroughfare. At lunch time. It is fair to say I lost my shit. A main organiser tried to tell me that the space was perfect. A volunteer was dismantled. A woman was trying to run a mindfulness session while people ate their lunch wraps and ordered coffee.

Phillip Todres (and a few others) saw me at my hysterical worst and jumped in to help me. At last my venue was changed to a boardroom that had been reserved for the slightly bigger kids. I cleaned up the room, removed tomato saucy plates and sweet wrappers, piled paper and pencils into heaps on the table and then ran my interactive workshop. For 6 people. Husband and son of an organiser, my cousin, two teenage girls and a man who wasn’t sure he was in the right place.

It was clear that Henry, the man, had been sent by the gods. He needed my workshop and I needed him. The other five were sweet and kind and cooperative, and I do hope they got something out of it, but I don’t know.

I wanted to stay and listen to Gus Silber. I wanted to hear Sugar Segerman (whose wife kicked in to high gear to help me while I sobbed). But my roast vegetable wrap got lodged in my throat and I couldn’t swallow. Alan Glass tried to lighten my burden with jokes but I couldn’t. I came home with my tail firmly between my legs.

Did I bring this onto myself? Am I delusional and hysterical when I believe I need better consideration? Why is this struggle with this particular community always so fraught for me?

And then there is the self loathing. I was the only one who made a fuss. Who refused to do it there. I watched others suffer, but they pushed through with greater fortitude than I, a performer who should have been able to, was even prepared to try.

 

 

SA life #snapshot

I had such a beautiful uplifting and heartwarming night last night at the second opening of From Koe’siestes to Kneidlach at the Auto & General Theatre on The Square. Honestly, I could not be prouder of this work that has evolved and grown into something I am so aligned with; magical theatre and storytelling with a human message.

It was with a bittersweet heartache that I woke up, ready to get back to my home, partner, animals, other pressing work and Cape winter storms, knowing I was leaving this show, and Chantal, in Jozi, as well as my hometown and city that I long for, love and hate in equal measure. The only way to describe my feelings for both of these cities is in the SASL sign for ‘it’s complicated – a frowning face with wormlike fingers moving from out to in front of the signer’s face.

Lucky, my Uber driver, was chatty and we spoke about how ridiculous the SA banking system is. He needs a loan to buy his own car, but the bank won’t give him one because his previous loan is paid up; something he did way before the time, even paying penalties for early payment. How will someone like him get ahead, he asked.

I had a tiny epiphany. We have to take a risk. Individuals, groups, corporates, banks, governments, friends, neighbours. We have to help each other. Build trust. Have something to lose and risk anyway. Help someone with their education. Help someone take out a loan instead of saying no. I don’t know how, but I know it is so, so necessary. Let’s do this thing. Let’s help each other.

I was going to write more, but I boarded my flight, felt sad about the homeless and vulnerable in stormy Cape Town, and lost my gees a little bit. Still, one thing I know is that I am going to try and help more, do more, be more.

Edit: I bought a bed for 5 nights for a homeless person from The Haven. It cost R60. It is the easiest thing to do. Go to The Haven and buy one. If you do, let me know.

 

Jozi Musings

I am up in Jozi to put From Koe’siestes to Kneidlach into the Auto & General Theatre on the Square and I am working very gently so I have a bit of time. Here are some random musings about Jozi; my hometown.

I get off the plane just before 9am and it’s cold. I can feel the cold through the soles of my takkies. The sky is crystal blue. It is one colour. The whole sky is that blue. Everything else is still golden. But the air. Where is it? It is so thin. I take big breaths but they feel shallow. The inside of my nose dries out.

My Uber driver Lwezi is chatty. He lives in Berea. I tell him I used to live on the border of Berea, just up from Abel Road. We discuss housing. He tells me there are some flats in Hilbrow where 12 people are paying R2 500 a person to live in one flat. I say I am sure you could rent a flat in Sandton for that amount of money. He says black people would never think about that. And besides, nobody would rent their flat in Sandton to 12 people. He tells me that he has been taking and fetching travellers from the airport for four years now but he has never been on a plane. That’s his goal this year.

I decide to walk to the Spar. There are no pavements in the suburbs. People have spread their house property right up to the street here. The people who walk are invisible to the people who live here. People who live here drive. A woman is blocking the road in her 4×4. She is hooting like a lunatic and she is talking on the phone. Her electric garage door is half open. Brown arms grab the underside of the door from the inside. Worn slippers, a faded housecoat, bare legs. The arms start pushing the garage door up. The car woman hoots. I glare. She is unconscious.

I stop to watch a gardening/tree felling team. A man on a rope is at the top of a long palm tree with a chain saw. I watch him with bated breath.

I stand at the till at the Spar. There are a range of chocolates with messages on them. Happy Birthday. Get Well Soon. I love you. Wishing you a good Shabbos.

We go to a restaurant at Sandton Square before going to the theatre. It is a Thursday night and the restaurants are heaving. The whole of old rich, emerging rich and wannabe rich is dining out. Even though I come from most expensive Cape Town I am taken aback by the prices. It is seriously expensive.

The play is Visiting Mr Green. It is an old play, with timeless relevance. An old Jewish man is visited by a young man doing community service in New York City. It is a beautiful, poignant play about love, loss and prejudice. The audience were 90% Jewish.

The sun starts going down from 5pm. The light is golden. Mossies, Starlings, Mousebirds and Hadedas perch on bare branched trees. The air is still. The sun goes. It gets cold in an instant.

 

An open letter to Facebook

I am finally done. I cannot both support my Facebook addiction and leave myself open to the kind of horror I experienced today. Today, while doing a Facebook-on-my-phone-on-the-loo session I saw a thing that I will never unsee and I don’t know how to stop crying, or to even carry on living in this world. I saw a dog being held down and blowtorched in its mouth. I did not even let myself properly register what I had seen and have no idea which of my ‘friends’ posted it, or why, but I cannot. I cannot live and work and be in my positive world of genuine interaction knowing I come from this human race. I must forgo the trite, funny, warm, loving, newsy, idealistic, passionate and even sad posts and interactions. I must find another way of marketing myself and my shows, I must find another distraction/procrastination space.

Recently I was flagged on Facebook because I had left a comment on someone’s post that had the words ‘white’ and ‘die’ in the same sentence. The meaning was something to do with white people in denial and dying before admitting something. Facebook deleted my comment as hate speech.

Today I saw this. Facebook allowed me to see this. I cannot. No. I cannot. Please, real friends, colleagues, connections, I adore you, and do want to stay in contact, but Facebook is not a safe space for me.

This has broken me. This is what it took.

 

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