A 12th Unniversary

Twelve years ago today I got married. We lasted just under eight and a half years. We’d been man and wife a week before I wondered whether I’d made a huge mistake. After the initial wobble, the first year was blissful, the second challenging. He wanted a Wife, and somehow, for all the sensible St Michael’s counselling and our excellent communication skills, we’d never had this conversation. Not properly. Year three nearly finished us; years four through seven were fine, mostly. We spent most of year eight apart, quite happily, when I lived Sydney and he stayed in Joburg to sell the house and wind up his mother’s estate.

The last eight months, some in Sydney, most in Joburg, were agony. It took me a very long time to recover; I’m not sure I have completely, yet, if I ever will. There were suicide threats, threats of lawsuits, visions of page three of the Sunday Times. We were counselled by an Anglican priest who used to be a nuclear engineer. (He was going through marital difficulties of his own; I wonder if his marriage lasted.) We agreed to get divorced just before I traveled to Cape Town for the 2009 Loerie Awards; when I got back, I hired a car, moved in with my grandmother, and took a lot of schedule 5 pills for things like depression, anxiety and insomnia. The Implosion, I call it.

(Oddly enough, the Loeries is now one of my clients, though that all happened long after.)

I’ve long since written about that in chapter in a book that almost nobody has read; I’ll tackle this material in more detail once I’ve got my next project out of the way. On Thursday, I fly to Sydney to tie up some loose ends, reconnect with a friend, visit Adelaide in an attempt to understand why JM Coetzee moved there of all places, and try to make peace with my past. I will be writing about the trip as a Mampoer Short, and all things being equal (and the editor being happy), it will be available two months or so from now.

I am incredibly busy at the moment, and the timing is horrible, but I have no choice: I have to go to Australia before the end of the month. That’s when my permanent residence visa expires; I’m not allowed to enter the country after March 31 2013 and I have bank accounts to sort out, threads trailing from the hems of a previous life. Money is useless when you can’t access it.

I fly back early in April, on QF63 from Sydney to Joburg, back in time to a life I thought I’d left behind for good five years ago. From there I’ll fly to George to join the rest of my family and meet my seven-month-old nephew, out with his parents from the UK. I’m not leaving much time to mull over the finality of this, of how I’ll feel having been forced on the fence where I’ve been perched for all these months. It is, shall we say, less than comfortable: many South Africans have dreamed of having this visa in their passports, and the knowledge that it cost a lot of time and money and tears to get it has weighed heavily on me.

In some ways, I stayed married because I felt that I had an obligation to help my ex-husband get into Australia. The 5 extra points he got thanks to me ensured that he qualified. He’s married to an Australian now, with a second child on the way.

Before I return home, I might meet with him. He always said he wanted to have a drink at the Opera Bar at Circular Quay. There’s a lovely view of the Harbour Bridge from there, and the ferries chugging in and out. I don’t know what will happen, though this story has a compulsion of its own. Let’s see where it takes me.

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