And from there, our romance unfolded in the most natural and uncomplicated way. Well, possibly complicated only by the fact that we lived in 2 different provinces. But we spent the time flying between each other’s cities. I met his family and he met mine. The most incredible and freeing part of the relationship was the safety he gave me in communication. Never before had I felt so heard and so understood. Even in moments of disagreement, the respect and love he paid towards my feelings and viewpoint were something so foreign to me. And to be honest, to this day I have still never found anything like it.
I loved the way he integrated with my family. I loved the way people responded to him and how he held himself in a room. I remember this one moment at a family function. For some reason, we had a typical Sunday family braai that was overloaded with guests. I think my parents were excited to introduce him to the extended family. I was making a salad in the kitchen. And he was surrounded by my 2 aunties, my mum, and my mum’s best friend. They were swooning over him, laughing, hanging on to his every word. And as I gazed at him, I remember feeling this sense of absolute adoration, but more importantly with pride for how much I loved WHO he was. That was a life-changing moment for me. He stood so tall (literally at 2m’s) and figuratively in the way he held himself in such strong values. As my heart melted, he caught my eye and the smile that erupted through us was almost Hollywood scripted.
I suppose you have worked out by now that we have not ended up together….and so what happened?
Well in order, to respect his privacy, the details will remain slightly vague, but the basic story goes like this. After having just come out of such a long relationship where I totally lost my independence and my voice, I was so scared to go straight into such a deep connection without spending some time on my own. My plan, pre-Magic Man had always been to go back to the yachts, to finally be a Chief Stew, and to cover some really expensive expenses for myself(a house). I needed financial independence. As this scenario played out and the potential of an 8-month contract came onto the table, the conversation around our relationship was fast-tracked.
There was no doubt this man was something I could not let go of. I had never been more sure of anything in my life. For me, 8 months apart was so doable. For him, 8 months apart was hell. He had his own reasons for this. And so, he tried to help me find work in South Africa, contacting every person he knew to get me into a position that would open up exciting avenues for me career-wise. And I was so tempted. But, this need to do something for me felt so strong. Did I make the right decision, I will never know? Ultimately it led to the end of a great love. One that has changed me forever. I will never forget sitting on the top of the rooftop of Piano Bar, having a drink with him before he was going to meet all of my friends for the first time. I had just had an interview with the potential Chief Stew position and as I got off the phone smiling, I looked at him with tears in his eyes, he knew he was going to take it, “You are so excited, I can tell.” He said to me. My heart was twisting in two, this was such a big career step for me, one I had always dreamt of. But this man, sitting in front of me, was also the realistion of a dream.
And from there we oscilated, back and forward, do we do long distance? can we do long distance? Do I take the job, do I not take the job. So many big questions came up for us. Arguments, vast declarations of love, moments of self-doubt, insecurity, past pain for both of us, deep respect, and then ultimately acceptance that what will be, will be.
Our last time together was a disaster. I am someone who pays attention deeply to ceremonies and celebrations. I love birthdays, I mark farewells and occasions and I never forget special dates. These things are important to me, quality time is my love language. Magic Man, on the other hand, hates farewells. And so, he had come down to Cape Town the week before I was due to leave, for work, but also to say goodbye before I flew to Italy for 8 months.
We stayed in a beautiful apartment and did the most beautiful things. The morning of the day he was leaving, we had a beautiful breakfast and as he started to say his teary farewell to me, I said, “but I will see you this afternoon. I will obviously take you to the airport.” This had not been his plan. He was planning on working ( a stressful day of meetings), catching an uber, and heading to the airport. I fought with tears rolling down my cheeks, saying NO, I could never know he was in Cape Town for the whole day and not get to see him before he flew. I was adamant I would drop him off at the airport. He capitulated, seeing how important this was for me.
And so, I did my thing and he did his. I excitedly collected little gifts for him and wrote him a letter. At the agreed time, I was so excited to see him, drove to the city centre and saw him come out of the office, having a heated discussion on the phone. He saw me and came towards the car. I had a whole plan, we would grab a quick and romantic glass of wine, drive to the airport affectionately, telling each other how much we meant to each other and then tearfully say our goodbyes. Still, on the phone, he reached for my hand, as I guided him across the road and to a wine bar. We sat down, I gesticulated to find out what he wanted…still on the phone, he looked at me annoyed, WATER he mouthed. WATER??? this was not the plan, my emotions started to rise. So I canceled our order and took him back to the car. He was still on the phone. Finally, he put the phone down as I paid the car guard and pulled out of our bay.
He could tell I was cross. This was not going according to plan. As I tried to fight my frustration and ask him how his day went, his phone rang, he answered and I could hear he was talking to his boss. 5 minutes passed. The traffic got heavier. 7 minutes passed. He was still on the phone. I moved my hand away from his leg and turned my body away from him. 10 minutes passed. The airport was getting closer. The tears started to well in my eyes. Still, on the phone, 14 minutes passed. Tears fell down my cheeks. 18 minutes passed. Heated debates on the phone, as I indicated to turn towards the airport. Towards the drop off he finally hung up the phone and tried to reach for me, noticing I was crying, tried to ask me what was wrong, I asked him to leave me. He went to get a trolley, as I got out of the car and went around the side and wept – ugly tears. This was the last time I would see him for 8 months and this was it. This was our goodbye. He filled the trolley and came to me, placing his gentle hand on my shoulder to pull me around to him. I resisted, I was in major defense mode now. His response was to get angry with me, which made me stiffen. Finally, he softened and pulled me into a hug, “I’m sorry, I didn’t want this farewell, I wanted to get an Uber, this is too much for me, my heart is breaking. I can’t do this farewell.” And there we stood, sobbing. I shouted back at him, telling him how important this was for me and how I had looked forward to seeing him the whole day, thrusting his gift towards him. We managed a teary goodbye after a really shit coffee at Mug and Bean. And like that, we parted, 2 broken-hearted and disappointed lovers, neither of us getting what we needed. What we wanted. I balled for the full 45-minute drive back to Noordhoek.
By the time, I had calmed down and had a shower at home, he had landed in Joburg and obviously had some time to think. He sent me a message, “Baby, I think I just saw your love language in action. Quality time is your thing and you just really showed me how much you loved me. I am sorry,” I wept even harder, for the first time in my life, my emotions were understood. This man had taken the time to reflect on what I was saying when I couldn’t say it. He had reflected enough on the airplane to read more into what had happened than just the frustration of the situation. I had never had that before. And in that moment, I made a silent promise to myself, that this is the single most important thing for me in any future relationship. I need someone to be self-aware enough to reflect like this. To take a moment of confrontational and to try to understand what is really going on. To see my vulnerability as strength. To see me as human, flawed and all. To love me for my entirety.
The time apart was difficult, We struggled our way through a few months of long-distance. Had some amazing online dates (this was pre-Zoom) played backgammon online and drank wine. But I felt him break apart, this was his Achilles heel, long distance was his absolute nightmare. And so when the time came that I had to respect his decision to look after himself and walk away from long distance, I had to give him the same respect as what he had given me. After all, there was no doubt in my mind that this was it, this was real, and this is what fairytales are written about in the modern day. I was a Modern-Day Cinderella (working on a yacht).
But happily ever after was not our story and I had to endure the pain of seeing him fall in love with someone else. I had to get the notification that he was marrying someone else. And I had to be happy for him. We had both made decisions to preserve ourselves. And, as they say, timing is everything.
But, nothing has ever taken away from the fact that this man has shown me what it is like to be loved for the whole part of me, this man has shown me the value of real and honest communication and he has shown me how important it is to stand with pride next to the man I love. I will never settle for anything less. And I have made peace with the fact that I made a decision to choose myself and put my independence first. I have to believe that that choice will pay me back incrementally in time.