Written by Rudolph Bessit.
Hello and welcome back to my column.
It is the year 2011; I was employed by a company with a UK based clientele and service excellence was a thing. I was going through the most. Many of the clients were rude simply because of a South African English accent. I always found myself standing up for what’s right and therefore landed the company in trouble with the ombudsman. I paid fines to clients I stood up to. After numerous meetings with my seniors and hearing that I may have an anger problem, I decided to register for anger management. I doubted that I had an anger issue. It was an attempt to keep my job. Keeping my mouth shut has always been an issue for me; it’s only lately that I find it more satisfying holding onto my peace and swiftly moving on. I’ve been involved in fist fights and most of them were not my fights. I was standing up for someone who needed me to, I wasn’t the angry one. I guess I was the “fixer” in my eyes and remaining quiet when I knew someone was being dishonest, oh hell no! Nie op my TV nie…
During my first visit to the psychologist, we spoke about my childhood. Everything seemed fine besides the fact that I lost my dad at the age of 3 and a little bullying from an older sibling. Some poverty stricken years during high school, quarrels with mom here and there… quite an adventurer actually. We went over my 20’s and discussed how I got ejected from the closet at the age of 21, a tragic and almost fatal accident I had, unemployment and whah-whah-whah.
Her conclusion was that I may be suppressing memories from traumatic events, and that may be the reason for my short fuse. These are the discussions that got me to realise how much I had to be grateful for. I faced and overcame a lot.
I never had a second visit. The psychologist grated my nipples when she booked my follow up appointment. She wanted to see me at 10:00am; my shift began an hour later from the scheduled session. I had communicated my shift situation with her to ensure advanced booking. This frustrated me so much that I didn’t bother to reschedule.
The year is 2014, I had quit my job in 2013 and I was figuring out how to go about my dreams of becoming an entertainer. I was writing my stage production, A Hair Thingy and pretty much trying to figure myself out. I started getting memories almost like puzzle pieces, of a certain house of a particular family-friend we visited with my mom at times, when she visited us in Polokwane. Same puzzle pieces would come up repeatedly, with more pieces added to the puzzle as time went by. The colour of the house, its shape, who was present, what we ate, where we played in the yard, what we played with and certain things that were said. It was a sunny day and whah-whah-whah.
These memories became more intense, puzzle pieces of other days concerning that particular house and its occupants: contradicting flashbacks really. I remembered this man who’s the owner of the house. He helped me climb through his son’s bedroom window at some point, but I could not understand this flashback, because the little memory I had of this uncle was that I didn’t like him. He was rude and always cursing. I thought he didn’t like me, in fact I thought he didn’t like people except for those he drank with, and that he hated kids.
I started getting flashbacks of the interior house and what his bedroom looked like. One of those grand houses in the 90s. I remembered how afraid I was of him and being hesitant to go to his house when I was sent there. I didn’t have much of a choice. Then one day I remembered considering committing suicide at his house, by jumping from the roof. The person I told about my plans convinced me that I could possibly walk away with a broken arm or leg instead of dead, by the way. I just could not figure out why I would want to do that at his place. Why on earth did I choose his house though? I couldn’t let go of these thoughts or memories or whatever that was going on in my mind. And then I remembered wanting to leave a note instructing people to demand answers from him, but why? I wondered. I remember that uncle swore at me to leave his house. I remember him being kind to me, helping me through his son’s window and when his son sent me to get movies from his room. These were back and forth flashbacks. I must’ve been around 8/9/10 years old at the time.
The uncle asked me to visit him for a while, and that after my visit I could take the movies back home. He would explain that it was his fault I took so long. “We were like family mos!” he said. We went inside the house, got snacks and drinks, and we were going to watch cartoons… in his bedroom. The bedding was white. He didn’t want it stained en ek was aan die rowwe kant, so I had to take a shower. I was uncomfortable with him being in the bathroom while I showered, he thought it would make me feel better if he joined me, that way I didn’t have to be shy about taking a shower alone… This was the day when months of repeated flashbacks finally made sense.
How does one forget something like this? Are these real memories? Are they fantasies? How does one forget? Everything but the whole forgetting part, made sense. That’s why I never liked him. That’s why I had the suicide planned at his house. That’s what he had to explain as per the note I wanted to leave. That is why I did not go to his funeral. Maybe this is what the psychologist meant when she said that perhaps. “Seriously, is that what she meant when she said I may have suppressed memories?”
I kept on remembering questions to myself and that which I “wondered” about. “Would I stay true to myself, or would I allow the world change me?”
I was caught off-guard; it took a while for me to make sense of my newly revisited knowledge. I knew I had to decide what to do with what I knew then. I chose to believe and accept that these memories I suppressed was for the sake of survival. I accepted that it was time to deal with those demons I had buried. There was nothing I could do about the past, I had to choose between bitterness and peace, and I chose peace.
I decided to do whatever it takes to stay as far away from bitterness as I possibly can. There are few things that I constantly remind myself of when I find myself in a situation, or predicament, or scenario. The aim is to walk away from it a better me, an empowered me.
This was the first bouquet of flashbacks delivered to me. It shook me, it shook my world and my life was never the same again.
You keep well, until next time.