I met her at a party at Gavin’s house, and things were never the same again. I’d just moved back to Jo’burg and was working for Aerospray in their hanger at Rand Airport, fixing aircraft and sometimes getting flights in a Cherokee 140 taking spares to aircraft spraying around the Transvaal and Orange Free State. I first saw her smiling at some story told to her by Jack, who had been drinking since early morning and looked like he was going to continue for some time yet. She looked composed, serene, coffee coloured skin glowing in the light from a standard lamp behind her. Everything seemed to go quiet for a second as her eyes caught mine across the room. A slightly quizzical look crossed her brow, causing strangely attractive bumps to appear on her forehead. My pulse was racing, I felt sweat breaking out like hives.
I still remember the song playing as our eyes first met: ‘Stop Making Sense’, by Talking Heads. After that our glances at each other became more frequent. I was too nervous to approach her, and gulped frenziedly on my beer in an attempt to calm down. I spoke to Boris for a while, but could not keep my mind on the conversation. I kept glancing across at her. Jack left her and pushed his way through the throng towards me. The pastel pink walls lent a soft-focus feel to the surroundings
“Howsit Allen, why you standing around like you’re lost?”
“Hi, Jack, I was just looking at that woman you were talking to”.
“Jaqueline? She just asked me who you were. Come on, I’ll introduce you. She’s a friend of Gavin’s.”
I’d still seen no sign of Gavin. He could be working late. He worked on the scenery and props at the Market Theatre. It was just like him to miss one of his own parties. I tried to protest to Jack but he pulled me across the room to where Jaqueline was talking to two guys I thought worked at Capital Radio.
“Jaqueline. This is Allen. I think he fancies you.”
Just like Jack to embarrass the crap out of me. I could feel my face flush as I offered a feeble hand. Her handshake was suprisingly firm. I realised I was looking at her feet, which were encased in pale blue slippers. My eyes travelled up her slim body, sheathed in a pale blue chiffon dress. The light behind her limned her body in silhouette beneath the thin tissue. Suddenly I knew what the word voluptuous meant. I looked into her eyes, and encountered the same faintly quizzical expression.
“Don’t mind Jack”, she said in a light Cape Town accent, “He’s always dropping people in it.”
“Ja. Are you from Cape Town?” I asked, sure my voice was at least one octave above normal.
“Yes”, she answered, “How did you guess? Have I got that much of an accent?”
“Nah. Just enough to give you away.”
She smiled at this, revealing a set of perfect white teeth beneath her full painted lips. Apart from the lipstick she wore no visible make-up, and had kept her hair in its natural style, cropped slightly short, the thick black curls lustrous, well cared for.
“You know Cape Town, then?” she asked.
“I lived there for six months”, I answered, growing more confident. Jack had drifted away, and the two guys I thought worked for the radio station were talking to each other. “Would you like a drink?” I asked, noticing that she didn’t have one.
“O.K., I’ll have a beer. I’m glad you got me away from them”, she whispered, pointing at the two radio guys. I laughed, and we went out to the veranda, where a table had been laid out with drinks. I pulled two cans of Castle out of the big metal tub full of ice next to the table and passed her one. It was about ten at night, and more people were arriving. Hoping to avoid some of them, I suggested we sit on the swinging divan in the garden. It was quite cool outside, and I offered her my jacket.
“Thanks”, she said, smiling, It is a bit chilly. Sure you’re not cold?”
“No”, I lied, Anyway, my shirt has sleeves.”
We sat there for the rest of the party, just talking. It was so easy to talk to her. My shyness had vanished. Before we realised it, we were the last people there. Gavin turned up just as the last guests who were going to make it home were departing unsteadily.
Hey, sorry folks, I got arrested for public indecency. I was only having a piss”, he announced. It turned out later that he was having a piss on a police car parked down near Plein St. It had cost him two hundred rand bail and a beating to get out of John Vorster Square. And that was before he’d paid for getting his lawyer out at ten o’clock on a Saturday evening. In their normal, careful way the police hadn’t marked his face. He disappeared into the house and I offered Jaqueline a lift home. She declined. She had her own car. I had found out that she worked for the Market Theatre doing make-up, which was how she knew Gavin. We arranged to meet the next night when she finished work, around eleven. I drove home, distracted and excited by the prospect of seeing her the following night.
All next day at work I was in a fuzzy sort of state, my mind not on the magneto I was trying to repair. Every time the chief engineer came up to me, I just told him it was fucked. Eventually he sent me to Springs to get some spares. While there I ran into an old friend from Cape Town, Ray, who’d lost his religion since I’d last seen him. I arrived back in Jo’burg around six, and the hanger was closed. I decided to keep the bakkie for the night, and leave my bike at the airport.
Jaqueline looked slightly relieved that I hadn’t turned up on my bike. We went to the Kings Head, downtown. The Pantsulas were playing there. I knew most of the band, and we got in for free. After finding a table we danced. She moved as if the music had been written for her, unconstrained by her skin-tight black leotard and tights. Boris was sitting at a table with Susue, a strange girl who worked in a clothes shop in Hillbrow. He invited us to join them. We ordered some drinks and Boris told us about an A.W.B. meeting he’d been to. He was a journalist, and worked for The Sowetan, a black newspaper. The A.W.B., an Afrikaner white supremacist group who used a three-pronged swastika as their emblem, weren’t too happy about a white journalist who worked for a black newspaper being at one of their meetings, and had escorted him from the hall in Pretoria uttering vague threats against him. As the ska -influenced African sounds of the Pantsulas filled the bar, my hand slid across the table and touched Jaqueline’s fingers where they were tapping out the beat on the red checked tablecloth. Her fingers closed around mine and squeezed them lightly. She looked into my eyes and smiled.
“Shall we go?” she asked.
We had only been there half an hour. There was an electric tension in the air; I paid the bill and we left. We drove out to Sandown in silence. Her hand rested easily on my left leg, and when I wasn’t changing gear I stroked her right leg lightly. When we got back to the house there was no one else there. This was the first of two periods when I lived at the house in Sandown. There were five of us there, three journalists, Harry, and myself. I hardly ever saw any of the others except Harry, who worked at home. Today, however, he had gone to salvage some wood from a building that was being pulled down.
I offered Jaqueline a coffee, which she declined. I took her by the hand and led her to the bedroom. My room was small, furnished only with a bed and a chest of drawers. There was a hole in the window that I never got round to repairing, covered with part of an old tea chest. I took her in my arms and kissed her. Her tongue darted into my mouth, her body pressed against mine. My erection pressed hard against her. I fell backwards onto the bed, pulling her on top of me. Her fingers started unbuttoning my shirt, and I slid a hand under her top, squeezing a nipple gently. She pulled away, stood up and took her clothes off. I fumbled to get undressed. She fell on top of me again, rubbing herself against me. Her breasts were smaller than they had looked when she was fully clothed. My cock slid into her, her back arched, she whimpered softly and then I was deep inside her. I rolled her over and we fucked frantically. Her whole body started quivering, strange grunting sounds emerging as she bit my ear lobe, and I came inside her as her vaginal muscles contracted around my cock. I lay there on top of her for a while, kissing her neck, her lips. My cock stayed hard and I started moving again, slowly this time.
Afterwards we talked. She told me about her family. Her father was in prison for robbery, leaving her mother to bring up Jaqueline and her four sisters alone. She wanted to be an actress, had had a small part in a play a few months ago. It was light before I realised how long we had lain in each others arms. I drove her into Jo’burg, arranging to meet her later. I went to work completely knackered, but with that warm glow that love gives. Yes, I was already falling in love with her.
The whole of the next week we saw each other whenever possible. One day I took her flying in a Cessna 150 Aerobat. We tried to make love in the plane, but gave up when my arse became jammed against the control column and we ended up in a spiral dive, losing nearly three thousand feet, with Jaqueline screaming as I tried to slide across the cockpit, turn round, and regain control of the aeroplane. On the way back from the airport we fucked in some bushes beside the road, giggling nervously at the thought of being seen. We were soon utterly besotted with each other. I had never felt so close to someone before. I went to the theatre when she was working and met a few actors. She was very popular. My friends started remarking on my unsociability. We just could not get enough of each other. Sometimes we would stay in bed for days, Harry bringing us food in the bedroom. Everyone in the house thought she was great. She was always smiling, telling amusing stories about growing up in Soweto. I went out there one day and met her mother and two of her sisters. Her mother was polite, but I sensed she wasn’t too happy about her daughter going out with a white man. Although there was a feeling of impending change in the air, it was still illegal for us to sleep together. It was still a white man’s country.
About a month later we were in bed asleep when, at about two o’ clock in the morning, there was an almighty crash from the front door, which was just outside my window. Before I had time to get out of bed the door to the room burst open and two torches were shining in my face. A harsh Jaapie voice barked out:
“Ja, Kaffir lover, what do you have to say for yourself?”
Jaqueline was hiding under the sheets, crying quietly. I couldn’t make out what it was she kept repeating, but I guessed she was calling for her mother. A burly uniformed cop strode up to the bed and pulled on the covers. Jaqueline clung tightly to the sheet, and the cop hit her hand with a stick. I lunged towards him, naked, and he hit me across the side of the head. I fell at his feet and he kicked me in the ribs. Another cop grabbed my hair and pulled me to my feet.
“Ja, you dirty little shit”, he said, then turning to the other cops, “Kyke hier! (look here) His dick’s still wet!”
Another cop, a lieutenant, told us both to get dressed. “You are under arrest under the terms of the Immorality Act”, he told us, and then told the cop who had hit me to read us our rights. We got dressed. Jaqueline was sobbing uncontrollably. They marched us outside to two waiting vans. I looked at Jaqueline, trying to catch her eye to tell her that it would be alright, but she was staring at the ground. Harry appeared in his dressing gown. The others had gone to the Eastern Transvaal for a party.
“What’s going on?”, Harry asked.
“We’ve been arrested”, I said, “Get me a lawyer, O.K?”
They put us in separate vans. A cop climbed in the back with me. I had not noticed him before. On the way to town he spoke to me.
“Jusses, man, I’m sorry about my colleagues. I don’t hold with this kak. I’m just doing my job.”
“Look, I don’t care”, I said, “You’re here, aren’t you? Why the fuck does it matter to anyone who I sleep with, hey? It may interest you to know that the other people sharing that house with me are all journalists!”
He went quiet, and we travelled the rest of the way in silence. I had a huge bump on my head, a mistake on their part. It wouldn’t look good for them in court. We pulled up outside John Vorster Square. The other van was nowhere in sight, and I was frantic with worry about Jaqueline. I was marched into the station and a charge-sheet was prepared. I refused to sign it, which got me another beating. I did not care. I felt pathetic, I wanted to be hurt, I felt so bad for getting Jaqueline into this situation. I was thrown into a cell with two narrow beds covered in plastic, one blanket on each bed. I took the blanket from one bed, curled up between the two blankets and cried myself into a fitful sleep, dimly aware just before drifting off that I was sucking my thumb.
I woke up the next morning with aches all over, and a monumental headache. A cop was in the cell.
“Get dressed”, he said, throwing my clothes at me. I got dressed and followed him down some corridors to the charge room. Five cops behind the desk looked at me as I came in. None of them had been there the night before.
“You’re free to go”, one of them said.
“What about my girlfriend?” I asked.
“She was released an hour ago”, he answered.
I left the police station and walked up Commissioner Street towards the Carlton Centre. It was cordoned off, and there were police cars and ambulances everywhere.
“What’s going on?”, I asked a fat guy standing at the edge of the crowd.
“Fucking terrorists planted a bomb”, he answered. As change became inevitable it was getting to the stage where anyone could be responsible for something like this. Personally, I didn’t give a fuck. I wondered what had happened to Jaqueline. I tried to call her sister, but she wasn’t at work. I went for a beer in a shitty little bar on Ber Street and ended up drinking about half a bottle of whisky. At lunchtime I went to the Star newspaper and asked Cathy to give me a lift home. On the way I told her what had happened, bursting into tears. She came into the house and made me a cup of coffee. Gavin came round just before Cathy went back to work and offered to drive me over to Soweto. He said that Jaqueline had called in sick. I thought it probably wasn’t a good idea to drive in there in daylight in a car. Whenever I went into one of the townships, I rode my bike with a tinted visor and gloves, so no-one could see what colour I was. We went drinking instead. Harvey, Plet and Max were still not back from the Eastern Transvaal.
The next day Marie, Jaqueline’s sister, came round. She told me that Jaqueline had gone to her grandparents’ house in the Transkei. I said I was going to ride down to see her, and Marie begged me not to. Then she told me that Jaqueline had been raped by a cop. My whole world caved in. I wanted to kill every cop in John Vorster Square. Marie wouldn’t give me directions to her grandparents’ house. Jaqueline never called. I didn’t see her until I had an unpleasant surprise at the Quirinale hotel nearly two years later. I had loved her, and I couldn’t change that. I don’t think it will happen again. Sometimes when I’m down, thinking about it can still bring tears to my eyes. The physical bruises healed within a week, but the mental scar tissue still aches when the wind blows the wrong way.