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At the tender age of nine, I fell in love for real. The object of my desire was my classmate named Zodwa*. She was tall, petite, light in complexion and extraordinary beautiful. She exuded class and confidence. There was a sparkle in her eyes. I was mesmerised by her mere presence. Zodwa*’s voice was kind and sounded musical in my ears. She had a self-effacing demeanour about her. Clearly, I was head over heels for Zodwa*.
I had for the lack of a better word found my true love in Zodwa*. Whatever that means when you’re a lower primary school pupil. I spent the first five years after having met her (if you can call it that) stealing glances of her. Every-time the teacher left the classroom or during those lovely things called “free period”, I will move from my desk/seat and position myself elsewhere where I could have a better view of her. I would stare at her for minutes on end. However; any accidental eye contact, I would have swung my eyes and neck faster than Usain Bolt.
For five long years, I never said a word to her. It wasn’t so much as for lack of trying. In fact, words just escaped me. And, I couldn’t bear the thought of not being in love with her just in case she said no. So, I decided that it was better for this love affair to be a one-way street kind of love. It suited me just fine. Most parts of this paragraph aren’t true. I wanted Zodwa* in my arms. I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her. I wanted her all to myself and myself alone. Don’t ask me what I was going to do with her because frankly I did not know. Don’t judge me. I am trying to tell a love story here.
At some stage when I was doing Standard Four, I devised what I thought was a perfect plan which will separate Zodwa* from her friends and then result in an accidental meeting between me and her – just the two of us. The plan was pretty simple. It went like this – after the Class Prefect had decided on the cleaning duty roster for the week and pasted it on the wall; I would sneak back to my class after school and change it making sure that Zodwa* was separated from her group of friends. The grand idea was that she will be left behind during the classroom cleaning business making a perfect accidental meeting between me and her. Perfect.
For my part, I will also let my friends go without me. As soon as everyone had disappeared except the cleaning crew, I would do a recce to satisfy myself that all was clear. I would then leave the school and hide in the bushes a few metres away. I would wait in anticipation. The waiting period was never wasted as I practised my lines. Something along these lines… Hawu Zodwa* yini uhambe wedwa namhlamnje? Ngicela ukukuphelezela. (Why are you on your own today? May I accompany you home? The thing is Zodwa* was a smart girl. As soon as I emerged from the bushes, she would go first… hey we-Walter uyazi uMama wakho ukuthi ula (Hey, Walter does your Mom know you’re still here?) – I would mumble something while my heart was pumping faster and faster. Simultaneously, I would be sweating as though it was raining inside my shirt. I would lose my voice immediately. While trying to recover, Zodwa* would be a kilometre away on her own. Ya right, perfect plan my foot!!! The scene outlined here re-played itself over and over until we finished primary school.
At high school, although my confidence was up, and I still hoped to lay my hands on Zodwa*, somehow it never happened. It seems she grew faster than me because she suddenly had a boyfriend. I was devastated. Nonetheless, we were good friends. I still loved her, yet no formal approach was ever made. I was consumed by fear of the unknown.
By the time we finished high school, she might have dated 10 different guys. There were rumours that she had already committed abortion four times by the time we completed Matric.
I lost contact with Zodwa* after Matric. I met her only once in 1999 at the Eshowe taxi rank while I was visiting some of my friends. She was a changed woman. She was now darker and the glint of beauty in her eyes had disappeared. She just looked like another ordinary girl. I later learned that she had contracted the deadly virus, HIV/Aids.
In my Witness/Echo column published in 2003 I wrote thus about Zodwa*: “It is now history that I never got closer to Zodwa*. Today, Zodwa* is part of our new breed of celebrities, popularly known as People Living with HIV. She has been living with HIV for eight years. Her two children died recently as a result of HIV/Aids. Unlike many other people living with HIV, Zodwa* was not raped. She had sex with a variety of partners and in the process contracted the disease.”
In 2013, when I went to Eshowe to bury a half-sister who had died of Aids, I enquired about the whereabouts of Zodwa*. Sadly, I was told to look into the majestic mountains of Mpehlela – “lower your eyes and spot a white tombstone – that’s Zodwa*’s grave.” Apparently she had died a few years after our last chance encounter. Goodbye Zodwa*. I shall forever love and miss you. Zodwa* was the greatest love of my life. A love greater for being unfulfilled.
write by ALEJANDRO GONZALEZ