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Author: Robyn Goss
And So Say All Of Us is about three Joburg women, loosely connected to one another but at different points in their lives, overcoming the challenges of growing up and growing older: Ruby Fraser is fast approaching her mid-thirties, with very little to show for it: no kids, a dodgy boyfriend, a hideous job and a wobbly bum.
‘To do by October:’ she writes on her cigarette packet, one brandy-soaked evening. ‘Stop smoking. Fall pregnant. Run ½ marathon. Resign from hell-job.’ But nothing runs smoothly and, in spite of her best efforts, things are soon going hilariously awry.
Wealthy widow, Janet Vere, is staring her dotage right in the well-preserved face. After spending a lifetime fighting her body’s natural inclinations (all that plucking, lifting and separating – and for what?), she decides to let it all hang out. But is this new Janet any more real than the old one? She leaves no stone unturned in the process of finding out, as she gains weight, loses her inhibitions, poisons her friends and starts a cult.
A perfectly formed princess with a perfectly formed life, Lulu Green has been fighting the idea that there must be more than this: more than the spectacular wedding extravaganza she is hurtling towards; more than never being seen in the same outfit twice.
But when a real challenge enters her life – in the gorgeous form of Luasi Moyene - she wishes she had spent as much time developing her character as she spent developing her glutes. Join these three enchanting women for a fun, if bumpy, rollercoaster ride through their lives in the City of Gold.
Robyn Goss was a contributor to 180°. In 2001 she won second place in the SL fiction competition, judged by JM Coetzee. This is her first novel.
Cape Times (Robyn Cohen):
They weren’t exactly New Years resolutions, coming as they did on a starry Saturday evening in early April. Rather, they were the result of an unhappy confluence of factors: a bad, bad week at work; the half-jack of brandy that Ruby had consumed, neat, in the back of the car as it hurtled towards the Joburg inner city; her impending thirty-fifth birth-day; and Lukes hand, warm and comfortably settled on one of the rolls around her middle. None of it was as it was supposed to be.
The event was Luke’s company Easter party - a mega-fashionable affair, held in an old hotel, one of the downtown urban renewal buildings that had become so hip in the last few years. It was four stories high, one room wide throughout, and boasted a stunning view of the Nelson Mandela Bridge and the glittery cityscape beyond it from almost every place one stood.
The building was undergoing renovation and was, at present, very trendily gutted - all plaster and edgy-looking wiring hanging down threateningly, skimming afros and promising certain electrocution once things got going. The organisers had crammed in four bars, two dance floors, a swarm of waiters bearing food platters and about five hundred stunningly beautiful people.
It was like a rush-hour party on the Bullet Train - everyone stood eyeball to eyeball, animated only from the neck up, yelling loudly above the music and quite unable to move.
Pathetically drunk already - what sort of person arrives at a party drunk? she berated herself rhetorically - Ruby tottered along in Luke’s wake, greeting, chatting and smiling gormlessly as the conversation soared past her brandy-soaked brain. Someone held out a flame to light her cigarette and an uncomfortable vision of a Christmas pudding popped into her mind.
Lord, I’m drunk, she told one too many people. She heard herself guffawing and hooting loudly whenever someone seemed to have made a joke. I’m not usually like this, she slurred to a blonde model, whose lips smiled firmly while her shining eyes scanned the room behind Rubys head. Ive just had a bad week.
Eventually, after what felt like an eternity of shoving, sharp elbowing and mean little ankle kicks, Ruby had worked her way through the crowd to the balcony. Losing patience at the last minute, she hurled herself at the doors, unable to bear it a moment longer. Luckily for her, the doors were open and she popped out from the crush like a cork from a bottle.
Unluckily for her, the sudden absence of bodies to bolster her made her realise how tipsy she still was, and she weaved her way to the railing, hoping that she looked more like a leggy newborn foal than a woman with too much brandy in her to stay upright. Oh well. At least she could move her arms and get her circulation back.
Lighting a cigarette, she leaned against the railing, watching the lights atop the Nelson Mandela Bridge changing colour from blue to green to pink. But tonight, not even such proximity to the bridge could cheer her up.
None of this is as it should be, she thought to herself. It was all supposed to be better than this. Quite frankly, this was a nasty surprise. She’d never foreseen it, even when she was exiting her twenties with very little to show for them. Everything will change once I’m thirty, shed thought to herself.
Suddenly, men, babies, houses and promotions would rain down upon her. It hadn’t seemed that unreasonable an expectation. At thirty, her mother had had pretty much everything she could expect out of life - house nicely decorated, babies born and husband firmly fixed in place.
Oh, her mother claimed to envy her: Young women today can do any-thing they want! We were expected to stop working when we got married. You can have careers, travel, own houses, businesses. You’re so much better off.
And yet here Ruby sat, with relatively little. No baby, a questionable boyfriend, no house. Precious little travelling went on, excluding the hour or sos commute to work and back. And the work itself was blindingly stressful. Ruby lay in bed almost every night, her teeth clenched, her mind racing through the list of tasks she had to get through the next day.
She had palpitations often, her neck was a constant knot of pain, her reflexologist said her adrenal-gland zones were like rocks. She scored About to Blow on a measure-your-own-stress-level e-mail that had done the rounds of the office. But, frustratingly, the nervous-breakdown fairy was playing hard to get. Like a cold that never really breaks but leaves you weak and sniffly for ages, a breakdown seemed to be hovering nearby, but just out of Ruby’s reach.
This is it, shed thought when she woke up crying one morning. But after a bath and a hot cup of tea, she was fine. Still no legitimate breakdown. Dammit, she regularly bellowed at herself in the mirror. How much more can I take? This has to change, she told herself now, as she stood staring forlornly at the Joburg skyline. I really have to do something.
But what? How to let go of this rather crappy version of the life she’d actually asked for? Dimly, she remembered some advice ... some self-help guru - Tina something-or-other - founded a multimillion-dollar self-help empire based on one principal: if you want to set goals to change your life ... Write Them Down\Write them down! Of course! How simple! Clarify goals, entrench them in the mind, commit to them! Write Them Down.
But on what? Ruby cast around for some implements, in vain. She lifted her hands. An empty glass and a cigarette - useless. Wait! Her bag! Excitedly, she began raking through at least two months accumulated debris - receipts, ATM slips, more receipts. An empty half-jack of brandy (How the hell did that get in there?). Wait... what was that - hah! She grinned triumphandy. A pen! Now - paper. But rake as she might, there was nothing resembling paper in there.
Noooo, she keened gently to herself as she fought against the tide of sadness that threatened to engulf her. No paper. So close to success. But no paper. Oh, but wait! The cigarette box! That had paper! But only on the inside. Where to stash the cigarettes? Aha! Her purse! Hurriedly, Ruby rolled her precious cigarettes into her purse and began tearing along the folds of the box. White paper! Not much, though. They’d have to be small resolutions. Life-changing, but tersely worded. Like that little book of Zen quotes. Do, it enjoined. And do not. Resolutions, Ruby penned, somewhat unsteadily but with great determination.
To do by 35th birthday (October):
When the list was finished, Ruby sat back and thought, for a few sad moments, about what it said about her. She was a childless, single smoker, trapped in a loveless job, with a crappy lounge and puckered thighs. And a boyfriend who had never really committed to her. Maybe it was because other cellulite.
What are you doing? An accusing voice broke into Ruby’s pitiful reverie. Mpeo the Divine had appeared out of nowhere and loomed over her, utterly gorgeous, perfect almond eyes half closed against the cigar smoke wafting around her head.
You look like a maniac. Grinning and rooting around in your bag and tearing things up. I’ve been waving at you from the bar for ages. Jonas and Luke have annexed the TV and are flicking backwards and forwards between the rugby and the soccer. The dessert is all gone, the music is Eighties White. This is a bad situation.
Ohmygod, Ruby gasped, eyes bugging out over Mpeos shoulder. Don’t look now, but it’s going to get a lot worse.
Mpeo froze, a look of horror on her face. Please. No. Tell me it’s not Crystalle. Oh tell me.
Emerging from the brightly lit dance floor into the semi-darkness out-side, trailing smoke as it came, was a pale figure, wrapped entirely in skin-tight white, save for the red and green tinsel around its neck (from where?). It wove its way across the balcony ... closer, closer ...
Fuck! it yelped, as it’s shin connected with a chair leg.
It’s the Ghost of Christmas Pissed, breathed Ruby. Maybe she hasn’t seen us yet.
And they knew it was too late. […]