Coming up for Air

We all had to make the transition from Primary School to Secondary. I must admit that even for me it was different but I had to adjust. Looking back it wasn’t too bad, having had my friends with me. You see we didn’t have to split up, we chose the same subjects unlike some of the other students. I remember that She had to change classes and none of her friends were with her. I wonder if that was what started her down that road? I guess we all get influenced by the people around us. Anyway I digress…

She was your typical Indian “good girl”. She came from a good family who were quite wealthy and up until secondary school, she mixed with us. Once she changed classes, she started mixing with us less and less. The friends she hung out with were mixed, from different backgrounds and eventually we stopped talking altogether. So what I know about her is things we saw or things we heard along the way. I guess we were all abit fascinated with it. Hah!, who doesn’t like abit of gossip.

It started with her and her friend Naz mixing with the older boys and girls in the school. They were all well known for being the trouble makers. All wanted to be gangsters. She started missing class alot and eventually that turned into missing days of school and somehow she managed to get away with it. Not long after she started to smoke. She always seemed to reek of cigarettes and I don’t know again how she never got caught. Yet at the dot of 3 she would wait outside the school for her dad to pick her up, like the good Indian daughter she was meant to be.

Slowly but surely she started getting called down to the office for different things.  Not long after we heard that she was smoking marijuana and she was hanging out with different gangs. For a while I even thought it was tall stories to try and be cool but eventually it seemed to be the truth. She was popular you know, really popular. All the guys got along with her, in every year. I see the look that passed over your face. She might have been alot of things but she wasn’t loose. She never flirted with the boys, she was one of them. They treated her like they did the other guys and they seemed to be able to talk to her. She got along with lots of the older girls but hardly with any of us. I guess we were pretty harsh judges and we looked down on her. I think we couldn’t believe one of us had become that.

She started to date this guy. He was a thug like all the people she hung out with. It was quite disgusting. She seemed happy. By this time she was clubbing all the time and we heard rumours of her being high all the time, marijuana.  She got caught smoking at the back of the school. They were smoking weed and she was going to be expelled. Her boyfriend and his friends threatened the principal we heard and she was just suspended. I don’t know if her parents ever found out or not.

It was during the December break when she and I stayed in the same apartment block at the beach and we kept bumping into each other. One night we got talking and we talked all night. She had changed in so many ways. She seemed so much older, yet there was so much of the girl I used to know in her. It was nice to have a connection again. I must admit, I was envious. She seemed to have such an exciting life, she had so many friends, such different experiences and she seemed happy. That entire holiday we talked often, even hung out abit and once I went out with her and her friends. I witnessed a drug deal and it freaked me out to high heaven…. I actually had heaps of fun.

Then school started and I knew I couldn’t tell the rest of the girls that I spent so much of time with her over the holiday.  I didn’t say anything and I prayed that we didn’t bump into her. On the second day we did, and she came up to hug me and say hello and I held myself stiff and barely greeted her back. She pulled away, looked me in the eye and walked away. I told everyone else she is weird and I had no idea what it was about. I felt bad about that for a long time but I couldn’t risk my reputation.

It was the day before Eid, when there was a shoot out just before Maghrib. Her boyfriend was shot 5 times and died.  I guess you live by the gun, you die by the gun. It was a hard time, her parents found out about her relationship and everyone around her knew him and it seemed like half the school was in mourning. She lost weight and seemed to be dazed all the time. Even my group of friends felt sorry for her. All her friends though proved themselves and took good care of her during that time. His best friend and her seemed to move as one person. They never left each other the entire day at school and no one could do anything about it. It seemed like their grief bound them together. She began to smoke weed the way other people smoked cigarettes.

If I remember correctly their grief lasted a long time. It was over a year before they started to party again. They got into Raves instead of the RnB clubs. With that started another type of drug. It was Amphetamines. XTC and Acid combo’s. It seemed what had started out as a fun thing to do once in awhile became an every weekend thing. Everyone talked about how high she was every weekend. People were talking about it all the time. By this time she had met Him. He was besotted while she seemed to have just been messing around. He tried to get her to cut down but it didn’t seem to work. None of us could understand why he was still with her. He came from a good family, good background, wealthy. He could have had any girl he wanted and yet he chose her. I guess we were all incredibly jealous. We believed he should have picked someone like myself or my friends. We were the type that suited him, not her.

We only heard about the overdose the Tuesday after it had happened. He didn’t want to go out and she did, she insisted and he agreed only if they didn’t take any pills. Apparently she agreed but when they were there, she slipped away and managed to get some but it must not have been pure. She had a bad trip and ended up collapsing and being rushed to hospital where they pumped her stomach and all sorts of things. Half of the things were rumours I think. She definitely ended up in hospital, I know that.  She almost died and I think that was what scared her.

He helped her get through you know, he made sure she stopped. We heard he talked to doctors and he read up on addiction and he helped her through. We never understood what he saw in her, why he would do so much for her. My friend even told him that when she met him at a wedding. It’s funny that, it was their mutual cousins wedding and my friend and him got talking leading up to the wedding. On the day of the wedding she plucked up the courage to tell him he could do so much better and that he deserved someone better. He told her to come over to his mums table and see what his mum thought. It was only when she got to the table, she saw Her sitting next to his mum, deep in conversation. We spent weeks after that trying to figure out how his family allowed him to be with someone like her. We couldn’t understand how everyone in the family knew her and accepted her. For me, I guess I knew that he loved her. I think I was really envious. I didn’t think it was fair. She was the girl who played around, messed with drugs, went clubbing, had a bad reputation and yet she had this fantastic guy who loved her.  I didn’t go out till late at night, I mixed with decent people, I didn’t smoke or take drugs, I studied hard and got good grades and yet, I didn’t have someone who loved me in my life. It was unfair.

I think though, that all the things we do in life catches up with us. Now, I know I’m glad I was never like her. I have a husband and kids. I’m happy. My husband is the CEO of his company you know, yeh he is doing really well. From what I know, she didn’t really ever catch up with school and ended up failing Year 12 and she didn’t end up with Him anyway. He was dating this girl I know a few years back. Yeh, I think we all reap what we sow, it’s a shame though. Once she was a nice girl…

I think I might have gotten caught up in my memories there, why were you asking if I knew them? What did you want to know about her?

I can’t believe that! Are you sure? What is the Man Booker Prize?…

I’m sure He will get a shock if he saw her now. Oh right, right. Married with kids you say. Well that’s good that he finally maried her after being together for so long.

What is the name of Her book?

Coming up for Air… Coming up for Air. That’s what she had said when someone asked her what love felt like. She had looked at Him and said, coming up for air.


16 thoughts on “Coming up for Air

  1. Once she was a nice girl….
    hmmmmmmmmmmmm…. sometimes i think there is a message somewhere for all of us in the things we write and experience… and then when i put myself in the story and try seeking an answer, i get lost.

    I haveso many questions and answers to none.
    i have not been like the girl in your narration… and yet i suffer… i wonder if there is a twist some where

  2. It’s all of us in a way. We have expectations set from the day we are born, to be a certain way in accordance to who we are born to. Some of us stick to that road no matter what. If it brings us happness or grief, no matter what, we stick to it. And other, we make our own life, we make our own mistakes and no matter how much we cometimes try, we cannot fulfill these expectations. We live the way we choose.

    This piece whould have been written better and I will edit abit later. Another blogger friend and I are are choosing a topic and then writing anything about it and we have a deadline.

    I never know where I got this saying from, but it really resonates with me.

    “We are defined by how we live our life not by who we live with, and certainly not by what we give up to be with that person”

  3. brill…
    some how i feel a connection to your story.
    i feel and see similarities that echo in my life and others…
    all i hope is we all can come up for air…

  4. definitely living the way i chose over what my parents must have thought i d live like.
    i am not regrettin any part of the life i lead, but some how i wanna go back and re check on what hearts i broke and what misery i caused to be in a position where the sun wont shine on me.

    but your brilliant piece of writings needs no editing. it touched me and i am sre it will touch anyone who reads it.

    the piece which resonates with you has an echo far reaching breaking boundaries… definitely tickled the chords of my heart!
    thank you!

  5. I loved this post, the narration could be mine with a different ending though. She ended up with my brother.

    We were antagonistic towards her, (read closed-minded and biggoted)

    But she taught me the hardest thing is to be myself, regardless of others’ opinion.

    Makes me want to go to my sister in law and give her a hug, for always being true to herself and never blaming others for her mistakes.

    Maybe the lesson is that at no point are we ever qualified to pass judgement.

  6. Thanks girls 🙂

    Zk- We grew up quite similarly in ways and we both lucky to have amazing families. With that tho, we still had to live a double life in many ways so that we never broke their hearts and also stayed true to ourselves. Well for me anyway 🙂

    Aasia- You are right, none of us are qualified to pass judgement but we all do. I’m yet to meet the person that doesn’t 🙂

    Being able to be true to yourself is so important. It has been in my life.

    I guess for me, it’s also about making such a huge change. Having the courage to recognise that change is necessary and then making that change for me is very admirable.

    The words of teachers and people who said I would amount to nothing still ring clearly in my mind. The fact that I proved them wrong without trying will always be my proudest achievement.

  7. lol you know i still don’t tell them much because it will hurt and pain them.
    unfortunately it also doesn’t help my image 😉
    esp since i’m in jhb now sigh

    you and me need to chat soon 🙂

  8. lol. I’m still at home so some things did need to change on their end and I think that came with age as well. They turn a blind eye and pretend it doesn’t happen. The advantage of Australia is the anonymity in a way. Nothing will ever compare to my neighbour who everytime my parents went away kept a diary of my coming and going and who came to our house, what they did there and how long they stayed for and gave it to my parents when they got back.

    We do need to chat. Swap war stories 😀

  9. i personally think that the biggest achievement of a person is that s/he does break away from all the expectations of the society and live life on your own devised path and on your terms


    Well the Ozzie mafia are strong- I just don’t know them. This post was about the SA Gangsters to be honest 🙂

    As for the other posts- alot of the young Muslim males here in Oz are desperate to be hardcore gangsters. Some of them even succeed which is even more unfortunate. Working with and around these kids, it’s just in my face.

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