How many times have you dived into a book with excitement, only to realise a few chapters down the line that it is just not going well? At the last NERDAFRICA book club in Jo’burg, it became quite clear that this happens to the best of us. It was there that I met a lady that has only read “a book and a half” in her lifetime, one who has started a number of books she has not been able to finish, and a gentleman who has been stuck with a copy of Eat, Pray, Love – all because it was a gift.
I’m Not Your Weekend Special was the most recent book I struggled with. So much so that it put me off of reading for a month. The book, edited by Bongani Madondo is a collection of accounts of Brenda Fassie’s life by family and friends.
I’m particularly sad about not being able to finish this book because, like for many other my age, Brenda was the epitome of my childhood. Mi-do-do is everything! To this day I still dance along from beginning to end. But more importantly, I’ve always been fascinated by Brenda Fassie and her relationship with men. I’m convinced MaBrrr died of a broken heart, not of anything else.
“I’m so good and so loving that men don’t believe it.” This is my favourite line from the Afropop diva. Then there’s “I wanna be loved. I just wanna be loved.” You’d think that someone as famous and revered as the “Madonna of the Townships”, the envy of many women of the time, would have no issue in this department. But of course that is an unfair assumption. She, as a woman, had her fair share from a patriarchal society.
I found a copy of this book on his book shelf. It was yellow, the shelf, crammed into the corner of a bachelor apartment in the Jo’burg CBD. The book was purple, with title reaching out in white. We had been a “thing” for a while and I was beginning to do just the thing I had warned him against, in those early days, when I’d catch his starring, “Don’t fall for me,” I’d say. “Don’t fall for me.”
Clearly I had fallen for him instead. And when I found that note to him and his girlfriend from the author, on the first page of the book, I felt something sting, deep inside me. And like ink on fabric, it stayed, throughout the entire episode, no happy memory, no amount of loving, would make me forget that I was the other woman.
When I picked up my own copy of the book more than a year later, I was sure I would have a great time reading it. That there would be no emotion attached. I had tried three twice before, and this time was determined to pull through. I started slow, noticed Basquiat in the dedication (I’m a huge fan), and allowed myself to be taken by Bongani’s candid, almost tsosti taalish style of writing, and was done after the first chapter.
Memories came flooding back, urging me to open a door I had battled so hard to close. If soul mates were anything to go about, he was mine. But it ate me up, the secret of it all, the waiting, the silence that ended up engulfing the very best parts of my selfhood. With each page turned, a fear brewed. Dark, heavy. And to keep myself from pealing bandages and poking at wounds half-healed, I shut the book.
We read different book for different reasons. Different people come into our lives for different reasons. There are paths we need to walk down to find what is at the end, and there are those we are better off not walking. There is no sin in an unfinished chapter.