I have a vivid memory from my childhood. I must have been 8 or 9 and we were on our month-long family holiday in Plett. My brothers had spent hours teaching me to body surf. And one day, I got it. Eureka! The feeling of being pushed through the water on the tip of that wild, natural energy was amazing, addictive - kind of like falling in love, although with body surfing you have more control.
And so, one day, I was in the surf, desperate to relive that feeling (my God! How little I've changed). I tried a few waves: but my swimming wasn't fast enough or I wasn't positioned quite right. And then the right wave came along. A handsome wave, in my eyes anyway. An edge of danger to it, I suppose, but all the more reason to ride it. And everything was perfect: I was well-positioned, my swimming would ensure that I'd get ensnared by its energy and, come hell or high water, I was ready to commit to that wave, mind, body and soul.
The feeling! If words could only describe. That freedom! I was part of the brethren of body surfers. I'd done it all on my own. I was unstoppable.
Except then I opened my eyes. And peered off the edge of that wave. Below me was sand. Hard. Painful. Menacing. I tried to pull out but I was just too caught up in it.
Nothing, no words of advice from my brothers, could have prepared me for what came next. My body slammed into the sand with a force so great it should have rendered me dead. The air, violently knocked out of my lungs. I was buried, face down, with sand in my eyes, mouth, nose, ears, it was knotted in my hair. It had exfoliated my oesophagus.
My uncle peeled me out of the little-girl-shaped hole that day. My mother would have if she hadn't found the whole thing quite so funny that she was forced to sprint into the sea to relieve herself. She's much more supportive now. Oh, the number of times she's picked me up - winded and broken.
That was the first time I was dumped. And I'm pretty much in the same position now: the wind knocked out of me, muck in my face, snivelling, crying, hoping that someone will pick me up out of this girl-shaped hole.
But it couldn't have always felt like this. How did I get here? Let's rewind to the last time I was face down in the sand. He was a geek. With a perm. (I saw him at Woolies the other day and leopard crawled through the lingerie section to avoid contact.). The pain of that break-up was a small price to pay - I got out, at least. And I'd rather wake up next to Steve Hofmeyer than him.
I made so many promises to myself that time around. 1) Make sure he's really into you (consult single girls must-have guide to dating: He's Just Not That Into You.). 2) Make sure you're really into him (consult one's own stomach - butterflies are imperative). 3). Always leave before being left (consult Marilyn Munroe - trust me to take advice from her).
I dated. I snogged a few boys. I just didn't feel it. I wasn't in the right position or ready to swim or even hot enough to be in the sea in the first place. But what happens? Bham! Along comes - what shall we call him? Larry? - Larry. And, by God, did I want to swim? Did I not commit to that wave, mind, body and soul?
I suppose it was the feeling! - the freedom! - the being part of the brethren, you know: A Couple. "No, I'm sorry, I won't be able to come to Claire's baby shower, I've been invited to meet my boyfriend's family on Saturday.". "Ah, I'd love to attend your child's first birthday party, but Larry and I are away that weekend."
And the desire for that feeling. The countless dirty texts a day: LX - What are you wearing? PL - Nothing but a smile, baby.
The early morning, mid-morning, lunch-time, after work, pre-dinner, during dinner, post-dinner, bed-time, dop n dial calls. The insatiable physical desire. The 'L' word (no, not 'lesbian', he wasn't that lucky). And the declarations of ever-after and more children to add to our modern brood and holidays and DWs and dates and fixing up the house and being on the same team. My word, it felt so good.
But I opened my eyes. Perhaps too late. Or perhaps the exhilaration of the ride made me forget to look. Or perhaps it was his salt that caused a temporary blindness. I'm not really sure. But what I do know is that when I did open my eyes, there was only sand: hard, dry, menacing. Painful. And I was hurtling towards it at a hundred miles an hour. But this time it was the wind of all my life that was knocked out of me.
And so I sit weeks on, contemplating how I got here. Was it just a bum wave? Or if I'd just waited a little longer, would that same body of water have come along and would it have been a safer ride? One that ended with exhilaration still coursing through me? And why couldn't there have been a bloody lifeguard standing beside me, "No! Not that one, Panty Liner. That one's unsafe. It's going to really effing hurt at the end."
I still body surf. My best friend and I do it to escape the stress of adult life. We hit the beach and act like eight-year-olds and get sand in our bikinis and it rocks. But I'm not sure I'm ready to get back into the ocean of dating - it just seems too dangerous. I know if I hang in the surf, another wave will come along. I just hope it's the same body of water.
And please God, if you're reading this, next time around, please can I end up in the foam? I'm all sanded out.