In a three-part series in which we excerpt pieces from Christy Chilimigras’s debut memoir, Things Even González Can’t Fix, this second excerpt finds Christy navigating the painful world of catching feelings – and watching someone else lose them for you.
Read part one of the series: When Your Mind Wanders At Night: Does Masturbation = Cheating?
You know that thing that people say… ‘One person always loves the other more?’ It’s bloody awful, but for a long time, I thought it was true. There’s nothing like watching the person you love falling out of love with you. And call it intuition, but I’m pretty resolute in saying that we women just know this stuff. We can feel it in our bones, even while we try our best to postpone the inevitable.
Below is an extract from my debut book, Things Even González Can’t Fix. In it, I’ve been whisked away to Cape Town for a birthday weekend with my boyfriend, The Italian. This was my brief descent into utter madness over my love and lover disappearing.
Best – My best friend
Boob – The Italian’s best friend
Kim – Friend and boss at COSMO
Old Lass – My mom
On my birthday a few weeks later, The Italian arrives at my house with a huge, nauseatingly pink box tied with a bow.
We sit on my bed as I pull at the ribbon. I lean forward, my hair flowing, and tie it around my head. A red-bow headband for the birthday girl, before lifting the lid off the box. Inside there are more bras than I have purchased in the last five years of my life combined, and enough pairs of lacy knickers that I could survive on doing my laundry only every fortnight.
In between these colours and textures is a sheet of paper folded into a paper aeroplane.
A few weeks later, we catch our flights to Cape Town, and while this is a gift to me, I know The Italian is actually trying to sell me the idea of an entire city. He wants to move there, and he wants me to go with him. He doesn’t say when, and he’s busy building a new business in Joburg, but each time he mentions it, he seems urgent and resolute. We check into our Airbnb, climb the impractically narrow stairs to the loft bedroom and I want to have sex but The Italian wants to unpack.
We unpack and head out to explore. We spend four days going on long drives and stopping at every third or fourth nursery or gallery-cum-pile-of-rubble-and-crafts along the way. We sing. My god, we sing. Loudly, terribly, enthusiastically, and these moments are always my favourite.
We climb Lion’s Head and I argue – and lose – with my fear of heights on the way down. My eyeballs sweat as they retreat into my skull and lunge forward out of their sockets.
We have sex on the huge bed each night, and on the couch one afternoon, and I think if this is what Cape Town feels like, I might finally have been sold. I fry us gnocchi while The Italian works at night, and cook us eggs while he works in the morning. I think that there is enough time in between this to have a dream job, that these things will make for a dream life and as I write this I feel ill. And crave fried gnocchi.
Some things, the best things, never leave you.
We return to Joburg and life continues peacefully for the next two months. I write about sex and I eat toasted sandwiches. I have my weekly dinners with Best and Mimika and my almost-daily coffees with Old Lass. The Italian, however, has had an internal shift that presents itself to me discreetly one night through his rolling eyes. As we sit on his black couch, discussing nothing and everything, I say something silly. Where two months before he would have smiled and called me a dork, he rolls his eyes and turns his face away from mine, and I shit you not when I say that in this exact moment I know he has begun falling out of love with me.
‘The Italian, however, has had an internal shift that presents itself to me discreetly one night through his rolling eyes.’
I throttle the voice in my cells so violently that for entire days at a time I am able to pretend that everything is okay. However, on days when it comes up for air, it voices its concern to Kim.
‘Kimmy, The Italian and I haven’t had sex in a week and a half.’
‘Girl, that’s so, so normal. You shouldn’t overthink it.’
‘But it’s not normal for us,’ I say, when what I actually want to say is DEAR GOD THE WORLD IS ENDING I FEEL IT IN MY BONES PLEASE GOD MAKE HIM LOVE ME AGAIN.
‘Just give it a few days. He’s probably just got a lot going on.’
‘You’re right. Thanks, Kimmy.’ When what I actually want to say is BE A DOLL AND TELL ME RIGHT NOW IF ANY OF THE BOYS HAVE HEARD ANYTHING – HE’S CHEATING ON ME ISN’T HE, I BET SHE’S A GODDAMN ROCK CLIMBER.
Throttle, throttle, throttle. Above-par toasted sandwiches and delicious denial.
Before any of us know it, we’re packing our lives into bags and heading off in different directions for our December holiday. Best and I rejoice in the knowledge that after many years of friendship, we’ll finally celebrate a new-year countdown together, so we go shopping and spend money we don’t have on outfits that will be wasted on the Drakensberg festival we’re headed to.
I’ve been begging The Italian to come with us for weeks. One day he is tempted by the idea, the next he is drowning in work. Real or imagined, I can’t say. Finally, the day before we leave, he tells me that he and his best friend, Boob, have decided to go to the festival too.
‘We’ll drive down the day after you and share a tent,’ he tells me casually one day as we walk through the parking lot of the Zoo Lake public pool.
‘You’ll share a tent … with Boob?’
‘What’s going on?’
WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK, YOU SILLY LITTLE MAN! WHY WOULD YOU WANT TO SHARE A TENT WITH YOUR FRIEND WHEN YOU COULD SHARE A TENT WITH ME? YOU’LL REGRET THIS WHEN WE DON’T HAVE A SPACE OF OUR OWN IN WHICH TO FUCK.
‘You are being so weird, Italian. You have been for weeks. When you figure out what the hell is going on with you, best you let me know.’
He doesn’t let me know, and by the time he arrives at the festival I am two parts tequila and one part forgetful elation. The tequila wears off though. It makes way for a hangover and the realisation that I have spent, quite literally, about four minutes in my boyfriend’s company since he arrived.
‘Boob and I didn’t come here to drink and get fucked up. We want to go hiking and climb rocks,’ he tells me when I ask him if we can spend time together.
‘But it’s a festival.’
OH, FUCK OFF ALREADY.
In this super healthy way, me, my mind and my boyfriend bash heads for the first two days of the festival, until the second night where I say the thing I should have said a long time ago.
‘If you don’t want to be with me, you can just end it. Really. There’s no point in doing this if you’re not happy.’
He says nothing.
JESUS-FUCKING-CHRIST, MEN BARELY EVER SAY ANYTHING!
I calm my mind enough to be the ‘me’, the ‘self’, I want to be in this moment.
‘You make me happy, but if I don’t make you happy any more, you need to say so.’
And then he speaks.
‘You don’t make me unhappy.’
OH MY GOD, HE DOES LOVE ME! I’M JUST BEING CRAZY – TAKE THAT, FUCKIN’ CELLS. HAR-HAR-HAR – I’M SO SILLY.
Later in the night, after much vodka has been drunk and many hiking paths have been forgotten, we dance wildly on the grass and we kiss deeply after the countdown as we walk to the tent that tonight we’ll be sharing, I consider the notion that the way you spend new year’s eve is the way you’ll spend the next year of your life.
The Italian is inside of me, on top of me. The thin mattress barely lessens the blow of the hard ground beneath me. I see in my love’s eyes how violent he is in this moment. His palm hovers above my face. For the last few months, it has been hovering over my face whenever he’s been inside of me, on top of me.
‘Hurt me,’ I shout in a whisper.
And he crashes his palm, the shell of an Italian fist, down and it collides with my right cheek. My head is thrown sideways and I smile, and he finishes.
Through the netting of the tent, I see Chinese lanterns floating into the black sky, and I wonder if we can talk about sex now.
Things Even González Can’t Fix is available at Exclusive Books and online here.
Article illustration by Luci Badenhorst.
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