The day started just like any other day, except you never came home
It was a Monday afternoon, 1’o clock on the tenth of June 2002, basically one month after we lost our car that I received a call from the police. The lady asked me if the motorbike we bought belonged to me. I said yes, it was registered in my name but that my boyfriend rode it. I asked the lady why, what was wrong with it. She asked me if I knew the identity of the rider since he did not carry his ID with him on the bike or in the pocket of his Kevlar jacket. I said yes, why, did something happen, was he ok, could I speak to him?
Without any emotion she told me no, he is dead, and on the way to the mortuary, could I get someone to come identify him. I lost my shit. All of it. At 29 years old I had to bury the love of my life. Oh how Stefan loved that bike. Not even his helmet or jacket could save him. He was doing a wheelie in a busy road, on a long straight stretch and an old man did an illegal u-turn and stalled his car in the middle of the road. By the time Stefan put down the bike it was too late, tried to brake, flipped over and his head and helmet crashed into the front wheel of the old man’s car. Dead on impact. His whole scull was cracked, we picked up pieces of the helmet lying around after the accident when we went there to put some flowers down.
Everybody loses somebody at some point, that is the circle of life, but I never thought I would be put to the option of going to see him for one last time at the funeral home. His whole family wanted to go, but I didn’t I was afraid he was really gone, and that I would not remember him like I greeted him before work that morning.
Then I thought to myself what if I don’t go and I regret it later? There will never be another chance to see him, just one last time. Today I wish I didn’t go. He was no longer there. Because of the head trauma they wrapped his body in a white sheet like you would swaddle a new-born baby, it made me think of the Maria paintings with the shroud over her head. They folded his hands on his chest and then they wrapped his whole body in plastic over the white sheets. His eyes were sunken, his cheeks hollow. It was so very obvious that he was no longer in there. I closed my eyes and put my hands on his cold hands. My fingers recognized his and warmed his hand a bit below mine. With closed eyes I told him goodbye and promised him that his fingerprints would never fade from my life. He wanted to be cremated but his mother could not do it, so they buried him in the local grave yard. I still visit there sometimes.
I could not carry on with the business alone, I had to move out of our rented house, and I had to start protecting my possessions, because his family wanted my stuff. We were not married yet, and even though our solicitor had our will ready, we were supposed to sign it that very night, but we never got the chance. His wishes were clear in it, but they chose not to abide by it. They felt entitled. When we started the company I made Stefan take out a policy on his life to settle the company debt should anything happen to him, and it turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made. With a very clever young lawyer I managed to pay off our debt and buy a little car. I went job hunting and for the second time in my short life, I started over again.
I landed a job working for a big Information Technology (IT) company. They sent me to attend attended multiple Microsoft courses that saw me to the position of training officer and eventually Technical Writer. For my job description, a technical writer is the person that writes those little pesky ‘how to assemble’, or ‘how to use’ booklets nobody ever reads. I stayed at this job for a bit because I found the whole process stimulating, and I had so many opportunities to develop my career.
My brother started dating a girl back when he was away with the air force – he enlisted shortly after finishing high school. She moved back to Pretoria and was waiting for him to also succeed in getting a transfer here. It finally happened in my that year, and the two got married. I love my sister-in-law like she is my own, we have known each other for most of my adult life and I could not be happier for the two of them.
By now I was turning thirty and in a steady relationship with a guy from my and Stefan’s circle of friends who also lost his wife to a car accident six months before Stefan died. We were sort of placed together because we were both unwillingly single, and at every dinner, wedding or event we were placed together because we did not have or want a plus one. A natural relationship followed. I don’t think we were ever in love, but we had the same hurts, and we got on well.
Eventually I moved in with him and another tenant who eventually moved out.
The next phase of my life was about to start.