It’s 00:46 and I’m still awake. This after a week of sleeping about 16 hours a day and spending a whole day at work today I would’ve thought I’d be asleep by 11. Instead I’m WIDE awake. See, I found something out tonight that has rocked me just a little. Maybe a lot…
I know it’s a Friday evening and I’m a sad little being for not being out and partying, but frankly I haven’t done that in weeks, and well I’ve been sick for a week. Earlier I was just floating around Facebook just trying to find in my head some people I’ve known in the past. You know how sometimes you just wonder where they are and what they’re doing? You know? I know I’m not the only facebook voyeur out there. Anyway, so I go searching for this girl we shared a flat with in London. (We being my brother, and his wife before she was his wife and some other people.) I find her, and she’s looking EXACTLY the same. Like nothing has changed in 8 years.
Now let’s go back to then. In 2001 I was living and working in a South African youth hostel in Earl’s Court. It was a hideous dive of a place but I made some awesome friends there, and I met my brother’s wife there, so all in all good times were had. I was due to come back to SA for my 21st and about a month or so before I met this girl called Cornel. We were both from Durbanville and had vaguely the same kind of background and we started partying together – this basically consisted of walking 500 metres to the Richmond and getting completely plastered between the hours of 5pm and 11pm and then walking home and drinking some more. Rinse, repeat.
At that point, Cornel was loud, funny and often rather obnoxious but ALWAYS up for a party. She was also coming to SA around the time of my birthday so I invited her along. Being a chef and rather overbearing in her nature she arrived early on the day and taught my mom a few things in the kitchen and generally kind of took over. Not that I think she meant to be rude or over the top, just completely in her nature.
Later that night – the bits I remember – she basically voted herself in charge of the music and pretty much told my best friend her speech was boring, and got onto the coffee table in the bar and told a few off colour jokes and about how much we were drinking in London. I remember being rather mortified and kind of annoyed because of the way she was taking over. So that was my 21st.
Back in London I was living in the youth hostel again, and her and my brothers wife and some other buddies had moved into a flat – even closer to the Richmond, I could crawl without breaking a sweat – and at some point they asked me if I’d like to move in. I was tired of the youth hostel, there was a bunch of new people who believed they owned the place, much like we had the year before, so I was just kind of gatvol and moved in.
We had some awesome times in that flat. The 2 boys I shared a room with taught me some Afrikaans words I didn’t know existed and a whole lot of other things I won’t go into at this time. I don’t think I ever had a fight with those 2 boys, but Cornel was a completely different story. I can’t remember the extent of the arguments, but I do know that at some point – drunk as a lord, and perfectly well meaning – I told Cornel, in my infinite wisdom of course – that I thought she was gay and it was damn well time for her to get out of the closet.
She was PISSED OFF. There were loads of loud words and I know at some point she said that I’d had a crush on her all along – those of you who know my taste in women, would know she was NOT my type. Anyway I thought it was funny, and really I have no idea of what happened from there on. I can’t remember if she moved out or if I went home or what.
Now this here, is a very long story and for the sake of what do you ask? As I said, earlier this evening I was floating around finding some people on Facebook. And there was Cornel’s face. And also a group “In Loving Memory of Cornel ****”. She’s dead. She died in a car crash in March last year. I’ve said mean things about her, and now I can never take them back. It’s not like I thought I’d see her again, but it wouldn’t have been impossible. But she’s gone. Forever.
Now, I’m not really a stranger to death anymore. More people have died in my family in the last 5 years than in my entire life. Seriously. But most of them were older, and most sick for a bit. Cornel was a year or 2 older than me and she died. And she wasn’t close to me, but I can’t go have a drink with her and remember the old times and laugh about getting drunk on red wine in the afternoon and telling her she’s gay. I don’t know if she was. I don’t know what she did for the last 7 years of her life.
When Mari died last year it was a huge shock and many people are still incredibly sad, I still get tears in my eyes almost every time I see a post from Mariska to Mari in my news feed. But I know Mari had a full life, and she was always the life of the party and somehow I think she did everything she could’ve in the time she was here, but Cornel to me is different. For more than a year I didn’t know, we weren’t close, but we shared some memories. And now I’m the only one holding on to them.
I suppose no one is going to read this, but I think mostly I needed to say it in words. To realise again what we forget. Tomorrow really could be too late. The last thing my Dad said to me – well it was a text message, which was good because I could look at it for years – was: “Enjoy your health now”. There’s more than that though; enjoy everything and everyone now and hold on to the memories, but let go of that which you can’t hold on to…