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Wednesday, October 05, 2005 

They come back to haunt you

Let’s all hop aboard Chitty’s Flashback Express for a minute, shall we? The year is 1990. It is my first year of high school (standard 6 / grade 8) and I am 13 years old. Puberty has just started to kick in and I am drowning in a turbulent sea of my own hormones. I love my newly-discovered freedom and the manchild I have become! 1990 is the year I come into my own and discover what it takes to be cool and popular at school. It is also the year the Chitster is born, and I begin my lifelong quest of finding myself in embarrassing situations. There are two things that stand out in my first year of high school, apart from the fact that I sucked at school work, especially science.

  1. The amount of time I spent (as most teenage boys do) trying to look cool… and the amount gel I put on my hair every morning. Hey, a cool guy needs cool hair… so don’t mess with the freakin’ hair, ok! Aramis Hair Gel, yuk… that is what I used. Every day I would walk to school with my head swathed in a cloud of Aramis. You could smell me coming a mile away. What was I thinking back then?
  2. And then there was SHE. The girl of my dreams. Every morning when I saw her, my heart would jump out of my chest and hide in the farthest, darkest corner of the classroom. She is perfection personified. There are no words to describe her beauty, her perfection, her radiant smile. I am in love as only a 13 y.o. could be. Completely, utterly and with a savageness that ravages my soul. My nights are without sleep. I write long letters, but I never give them to her. I have an image of coolness to uphold and she can never know.
I could talk to all the other girls in my class, but not to her. Yet in all this time, I know… one day she would fall in love with me. I had five years to fulfill my dream, and nothing, was going to get in my way. But infortunately, something did... I got in the way of myself, and that which I wanted most. By late 1990, puberty goes into overdrive… full throttle (pardon the pun). I am dating my first real girlfriend, and it is also the year of my sexual awakening. (A little too much info, I know, but I have to paint the picture, so bear with me!). I am Mr. Self Confidence impersonated. I am drunk on testosterone, and all of the things that makes a young boy of my age tick. Suddenly, winning her over is no longer my only goal. There is so much to do, so many new things to learn and to experience. Eventually, the two of us become friends. Yet, I always felt like she was the one that got away and, perhaps, a part of me never gave up on the noble dream of there being an “US”. High school ends, we all go off to university, I leave Cape Town and move to JHB and I never see her again. Flash forward to 2005, Saturday morning, a week ago. I am in Rosebank. I park my car on the side of a busy street, and walk across the road to a CD store. It is a hot a spring /summer’s day. As I reach the other side, someone calls out my name. I stop and look around. And there SHE is. She looks just as she did all those years ago. Perfection! Suddenly, I am 13 again. So many years have passed... and at the same time so many have not. I feel awkward as I walk over to say hello to her. Wow, what are the odds of this happening? Dream girl and I meeting on the streets of Johannesburg. We start talking and catch up on old times and recent events. We laugh at the silly things we did way back then. It could not have been more than 10 minutes, but it feels like an hour. All of sudden, I notice a hand appearing on her shoulder. It is a man. I did not notice him coming up behind her while we are talking. On his right hand is a little boy, no more than 5 years old. She introduces us. Her husband and her son. She mentions their names but I can’t hear what she says. We shake hands and I smile, but I feel trapped… and foolish. I can feel the heat rising in my chest. The crystal ball that is my teenage heart… shatters. I look down and see a million broken pieces scattered around my feet. For a brief moment, they reflect the bright sunlight with blinding intensity and then... they are gone. We say our good-byes. I think she said something about keeping in touch and “we must get together soon”. I say, “Yeah, of course we must do that”. Inside… I know we won’t. I won’t call nor do I want to see her again. I walk back to my car, the CD shop completely forgotten, and sit there for about 5 minutes reflecting on what had just happened. I pick up the cellphone and call my gf. I ask her if she wants to come over and have dinner with me at my place that night. I’ll cook. She laughs and says ok, but she’ll bring the desert. I look back across the road; to the place where my youthful dream was shattered. I realise it was never my dream to begin with, just the silly notions of a 13 year old boy. I start the car. Suddenly, there's the faint odour of Aramis hair gel in my car. A residual memory. Haha… Damn, I spent a lot of time gelling my hair way back then. Some things never change. Reality and fantasy aren’t meant to meet. Not on a sidewalk in the suburb of Rosebank in Johannesburg. The odds are stacked, the bases are loaded and reality always wins.


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