My handwriting is very scribbly these days, so here is a transcription of the words on the pink bit of paper:
Someone in the tax office today reminded me how much I dislike the sound of finger nails drumming on wood.
Since the arbitrary delineation marking the passage of time has recently clocked the addition of one more unit to the number years, I shall give you one more story than I usually do. That’s not really the reason. The real reason is thematic, as you will see. Also, there are not too many stories left, and there are other things to write about; there are three more weeks before I myself clock another year’s existence on this planet; and I am about to get very busy all over again, even though I do not recall having had a break for quite a long time.
Today I could not find any curriculum vitae of mine on my computer in which I had the actual names of my university degrees written out in full. Some blasted form I had to fill in needed them.
I suppose I must have known the names affixed to these degrees by heart once upon a time and I am glad of the learning I received at the institution in question.
But let’s get real. We all know that universities present amazing and privileged opportunities for one to accumulate a wealth of embarrassing moments. Let’s just say that I wasted no time in that regard.
THE WRONG IMPRESSION
When the newness and intensity of events became overwhelming, I was given to fainting.
I pulled off a pretty spectacular one in the dining hall on my first or second day at senior school.
In my first week at varsity, I became the envy of all other females at the table in the student cafeteria. We were in the company of some guy they thought was good-looking. He wore his post-graduate status with a certain amount of dignity, and arrogance.
While nobody was looking, I fainted sideways on the bench. My head banged directly into the crotch of Steve. Thus, I gave quite the wrong impression for quite a while before anyone realised something was wrong.
Once conscious, I did apologise. He said it was all right, really.
Going to university implies travel. In my case, there was a train trip involved. I still love trains, but I can confirm that this was the best trip I ever took on a train:
Twice a year, I travelled roughly 2,000 kilometres to university from my home in Harare, Zimbabwe to Grahamstown, South Africa. It involved two aeroplanes, with the last 100 kilometres by train. The overnight “all stations” journey took about 11 hours. My second trip was more eventful than the first.
Well, hey! The slow train to Grahamstown was full of Zimbabweans and a couple of Malawians that night. Some guy had a guitar. Our carriage was chock-full and rocking. At some point, all the wine and beer on board ran out.
My luggage contained an amazing communal solution: A bottle of Mazoe Orange Crush*, 2 bottles of duty-free Gordon’s gin, four white coffee mugs, and a teapot. We mixed it all together, with a touch of water from the washbasin on the train.
*A uniquely Zimbabwean product; the best-tasting orange squash in the world, normally mixed with water.
I could tell you about the “shelf reading” job I had at the university library. We got paid ZAR10.00 (Ten Rand only) per hour to read the Dewey Decimal numbers on the spines of books to check that they were in numerical order, left to right, top to bottom. If one found a book out of place, one could either put it in the correct place or, if that was too far away, simply place it on a trolley with large castors which one dragged from row to row. English Literature starts with the number 820.0. There are lots of those. Enough of them to make one cross-eyed in no time at all. It is not only shelf reading that can do that to a person.
I journeyed through a number of awkward but interesting encounters owing to poor choice of partners in terms of gender or gender orientation – or both.
I had a mountain of bad poetry to prove it, until I burnt it all in a 44-gallon drum about a decade later.
None of what turned out to be my rather sparse experience, compared to my age-matched peers, dampened my enthusiasm for this wondrous activity one bit.
The gentle glow became something far more delicious to contemplate than any energetic game of hockey I had ever played.
Plus, I now possessed a great pair of dungarees.
Some people have an easier time of it than others as they journey through the rites of passage. It may take an instant to realise, yet decades to confirm, that by what we are defined and how we define ourselves are most often two entirely different things yet – strangely – both can have the dual qualities of being simultaneously malleable and constant. (If feel like adding “Discuss.” after that sentence, but I won’t.) Despite all the literature on the matter, I think that after “transcombobulation”, the following is the neologism I am most proud of:
This is not a condition suffered by lesbians. It is not yet recognised as a disorder by conventional medicine, although it should be.
Lesbianitis primarily affects some mothers, sisters and even friends of lesbians. Not all mothers are affected. As the word suggests, it is an irrational inflammation of those parts of the brain responsible for speech and social behaviour.
Onset of lesbianitis can be sudden, or gradual. It may be triggered by something the daughter-lesbian says or, quite simply, by the obvious.
Symptoms may last for months, years, or decades, even. Lesbianitis is contagious if not kept in check. Severity of symptoms – chiefly that of unpredictability – varies from person to person. Occasional flare-ups after apparent cures are not uncommon and may reach fever pitch. Those who suffer persistent bouts of lesbianitis should seek professional help.
**Not a real word. (I made it up.)
Before you know it, it will be Valentine’s Day which, as I understand it, is the occasion on which all those unsold chocolate Santa Claus replicas will have been re-melted into heart-shaped chocolates, re-boxed, re-wrapped and returned to the store with a “recycled” label somewhere on the packaging. The good news is that before that happens, you will get a snippet of a love story here.
If you are curious, and cannot wait for an as yet undetermined date in the future, you can purchase the real book immediately from Amazon, if you like. To order your own copy – or 10 or more as gifts to all those relatives who have already finished reading all the books you gave them as Christmas gifts, click on the picture below:
© 2015 Allison Wright