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Part 10 – Jumping off the cliff

16 September 2018

I ended in Part 9 with my father’s departure from this world. Shafiq did not take long to propose after my tragic loss, and I graciously, if somewhat cautiously accepted. My dad, who had a unique long-term perspective beyond existence on earth, would have endorsed my marriage. Some may have thought it callous, not my father. “If there is a marriage and a funeral that are to happen on the same day, he said, do not let the marriage wait.” Macabre as it may seem, the connection between death and marriage is not that remote. Not that marriage is a death warrant, although some would argue that it’s a potentially worse fate, but it certainly is the closing of one way of life and the crossing into another. Some even interpret marriage in a dream to connote death. No matter how many times you have been married, and I should know, holding the title of “Lady of the rings”, (the female counterpart of “Lord of the rings”, a title which is held by a male friend of mine), the crossing over is a crossing into the unknown, much like death.

So, having spurned tradition yet again, I was proposed to and married in the midst of my grief for my father, gratified at having someone at my side during that time. Shafiq and I broke tradition again (this is becoming repetitive, I know), by having the actual nikkah (Muslim marriage) in the presence of everyone, not through a proxy of the bride who takes the vows to the groom in the mosque where the Imam seals the union with prayers. The Imam married us in the hall, in the presence of everyone and the ceremony was broadcast live on radio. When I walked in, my little nephews, one who was one and a half years old and needed a kidney transplant, and his older brother, held my pale cornflower blue chiffon veil behind me. My beautiful mom was in the back with my step-mother and my aunts working on the catering. I hardly saw my family. My mom had always been there for me although she was not privy to my second adventure in marriage to the Arab, she had cried much with me at my first wedding. Being behind the scenes I didn’t see much of her this time. I searched for the faces of my 2 brothers, all the while, feeling a huge void. My wedding felt incomplete without my father. I cried inwardly and sometimes outwardly, throughout the reception. At the same time, I relished the thought of spending my life with Shafiq, who had sealed a place in my heart and my life.

He looked incredibly tense. After all this was his first ‘jump’. Although it was old hat for me, I felt a waft of uncertainty and fear. Was I making the right decision this time? Would he know what I needed? It never occurred to me to find out what his needs were. Of course, at the smart age of 31, I presumed to know what he would need. I had all these ideas about the kind of husband I wanted Shafiq to be. Weren’t we all taught as little girls what to look for in a husband and that Prince Charming was going to come and rescue us? Even in my thirties, with 2 degrees behind my name, I was drawn to the fairy tale image and pictured my Prince riding off with me into the sunset in his blue Mazda Midge. Having run away from the first 2 princes, not much rescuing happened. This time I was going to make sure, or so I thought. I made the universal subliminal mistake of planning to change him to meet my needs if he failed.

We set off on honeymoon in his blue metal steed via the garden route to Cape Town where we would meet his family. As we proceeded down the long road, I was overcome by a feeling of unreality. I looked at this man driving the car and felt like I did not know him at all. I felt like I was in the Twilight zone, and that at any time I might wake up and find myself in a more familiar world, relieved that this was all a dream. I was going to spend the rest of my life with a man I hardly knew. Sometime later Shafiq admitted that he had the same feeling when we were driving off to our honeymoon, and we laughed about it. We were not young newlyweds looking at our futures through rosy tinted glasses. I was a third-timer with baggage and misgivings that stretched out longer than the winding road ahead of us. He was a first-timer who had spent much of his adult life avoiding jumping off the marital cliff, and was still reeling from the drop, and after having hit the ground, he was trying to claw his way back up to safety. I was also afraid of the intimacy, hoping not to be faced with the usual pain I would have to endure. It was a long road, but this ‘stranger’ would be the one to lead me to sensual healing within a year of our marriage. In the meanwhile, we were off to enjoy our honeymoon. Having stopped in Mossel Bay in time for Jummuah salaah (Midday Sabbath congregation prayer), we could not find a mosque in 1998 that accommodated women. I made my salaah (prayer) on the beach after which I got into the water with my diving gear, snorkelling around the rocks, while Shafiq went off to Mosque. I wasn’t too happy about it, having expected him to stay and pray with me instead of leaving me alone on the beach. I nonetheless agreed and while I was snorkelling I lost my diving knife, which I always kept on me in case I needed it. I suddenly felt alone and experienced a sense of abandonment. I got out of the water and dried myself off, and Shafiq was hastening towards me, with a happy smile, returning from the mosque. He came to hug me, and instead of returning the hug, I became petulantly sulky. I immediately lashed out at him and I’ll never forget the puzzled disappointed look on his face. I did not have the maturity to articulate my misgivings, so I had a mini-sulking tantrum instead, until I eventually came out with how I felt. It was the iron fist maiden again, who was being let down by a man, so she was going to take out the weaponry. Negotiation and discussion had no place on the battlefield of love. Shafiq, being the gentleman, he is, said that he shouldn’t have left me alone and agreed that he should have stayed behind and prayed with me instead. That was the beginning of a pattern of misunderstanding that clouded our marriage for a long time.

At the Heads in Knysna, I introduced Shafiq to snorkelling, by putting my snorkelling mask on him and asking him to put his head in the water. There was no turning back for him. Years later, when we moved to Cape Town, we both had wet suits and snorkelling gear and regularly did boogie boarding and snorkelling with the kids. That was a great moment for me, sharing the beauty of a passion I had since childhood with my husband, who took to it up with aplomb. Knysna always holds that memory for me. In Plettenberg Bay, we found ourselves at a seafood restaurant, engaging the owner about his prawns, at which point, he plonked himself across Shafiq in the spare chair at our table and proceeded to gaze at Shafiq’s eyes, remarking all the while about how beautiful and unusual his eyes are. Shafiq started shifting in his seat almost trying to back away, and I stifled a laugh thinking about the audacity of someone trying to get into newly-wed action via the backdoor. We ate our meal, to be polite, and got out of there in a rush laughing all the way at the rather brazen restaurateur. When we reached Cape Town, Shafiq’s friend, who was heading the management of Robben Island at the time, invited us to his cottage on the island for a couple of days. I was allowed to dive off the island which, at the time was off-limits to the public. I was in 7th heaven. Shafiq ventured in with his feet and jumped right out when a sand shark turned towards him. I remember a uniformed woman guard who kept an eye on me while I entered the water. I was lost in an aquatic paradise as I saw sand sharks, fish, lobsters, and glowing electric eels, swimming around me. I became a bit nervous about the eels, stinging me, but it was not enough to get me out of the water as I marvelled at their luminescent glory. I also saw abalone, which was plentiful at the time, before they became threatened by the greed of man. I never understood the appeal for their taste. I recall my granny who lived in Cape Town, cooking some which my dad had caught for us in Cape Town when we were kids. I never wanted to eat it again! Whether it was my granny’s culinary skills as it concerned abalone or whether it was the taste of the animal itself I will never know, but I never bothered to find out. I was always happiest when I was under the water. That day, was cathartic for me and the only thing that that would have made it better, would be if Shafiq could have shared those moments with me in the water. We had a lovely time on the island, were taken on a tour of the prison and Mandela’s cell. We ate lovely food, had wonderful company and relished every moment of it. The honeymoon would have to end though…

More next time, God-willing
With love, Radia 💙