point of view…

At the beginning of this year, I signed up and completed an online writing course – the same time Dax & I prepared to move city (and move-in). As if that wasn’t enough, his sprawling family descended in South Africa, staying over a month for various celebrations: a wedding, christening and gods-know-what-other-awful-en-mass forms of torture.

{ aside }

You need to understand a few things: Dax comes from a tree the size of a baobab and I, a bonsai. With 3 brothers, 2 parents, partners, in-laws and multitudes more aunts, uncles and cousins the Blacks are huge -  it’s horrific. Coming from a nuclear unit of 3: for most of my life it’s been me, Ma Nguni and little Cameron (who’s not so little anymore). His family render me near hysterical – before they even set foot on the continent (hell, Dax told me his mother is coming for 6 weeks on Monday and I damn near fainted at the news alone).


On the course, I struggled but managed to finish what I started, maintain a little sanity and learn a few tricks (old dog notwithstanding) beside. One assignment I particularly enjoyed pertained to perspective and taught me the art of the nuanced ‘voice’ in storytelling. I used one tale as a departure point and  applied a different narrative (or point of view) with each re-telling. At the risk of stating the obvious, let me illustrate (with apologies American Pie):

1st person narrative: This one time at band camp, I…

2nd person narrative: This one time at band camp, you…

3rd person narrative: This one time at band camp, Michelle…

Here’s the first permutation:

... all dolled up in straps, all coloured in... (The National)

Bowties For Betty

He uses ribbons. Lengths of sheer fabric, like skin, wound around her neck. Knots them above the bone and heavy clavicle. And pulls. Tighter. Draws pretty streamers to her throat, like a necklace, a necktie, a bow.

“Hello! Betty.”

Her eyes grow wide, grow like distress. Pupils dilate to oceans of profound yearning. She smiles at him as her lips turn blue, smiles as her throat grows tight, like she has a lump in it and can’t swallow.

Eyes wide as an open wound slowly fill with tears. Clear crystalline bruises fall down crescent cheeks, landing with a lonely ‘plop’ at her feet. Teeth yawning, tongue slack. She looks back, looks through, looks at him. And she smiles.

“Hello… Betty?”

Someone at the door: knocking.

“Betty! Open up!”

Eyes wide, throat tight, she smiles. Pulls the ribbons firmly as muscle and material mesh in a fleshy knot. Eyes wider than surprise. She feels it cut like an interruption, feels the heat of blood burning, feels her lips cool and set. In a smile.

She’s smiling. Still. She always did.

Even as the mirror shatters and its image breaks apart. Even as she falls amongst the pieces – she’s pretty. ‘All dolled up in straps’. Her ribbons and her bows.


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