When I met Tino, I wanted to be her. She was everything I imagined was an embodiment of success. She was intelligent, well-spoken, confident, and accomplished. Her dread-locked hair and African clothed body spoke of self-assurance and comfort with her roots. I could tell that she was just about my age, and that made me slightly jealous and curious at the same time. I wondered what it was that had moulded her to be that way; was it her background, did she go to the ‘right’ schools, or just a case of very high intelligence? To sum it up, Tino was my girl – crush.
Talking to Tino was completely accidental. I had not intended to talk to her, being too intimidated to approach her. When I talked to her though, I realised that we had so much in common, and although we came from different countries, we had shared dreams and aspirations for our countries. Ours was a union of hearts, and a marriage of minds. Tino was like a waterfall; energetic, inspiring and just fresh. I got so much from her, and felt guilty that I didn’t have as much to offer her.
Over the years, we managed to stay in touch, hopeful, but uncertain that we would meet again. I almost fainted when I got a call from Tino, telling me that she was in town, and inviting me to a conference, where she would be making a presentation. Not wanting to miss a single minute of her presentation, I got there in time to listen to her speak. I took out my note book and my pen, popped up my ears alert ready to listen to every word that Tino had to say. I knew Tino would have just the right words, leaving the entire room energised and inspired.
They say, great expectations make frustrated (wo)men, and I was to learn the meaning of that saying on that day. Tino was not her usual self. I attributed it to fatigue, given that she had just arrived the day before. Even then, I knew that she would deliver, and I waited anxiously. Contrary to what I expected, Tino was flat, dull and even annoying. Her passion was missing, and her radical ideas had been replaced with the conventional. The poor, the homeless, the dead and the dying, were no longer people, but objects of statistics and intervention. Rather than feel energised, I started to feel lethargic as energy was slowly sapped out of me.
As I listened to Tino, I began to experience waves of emotions. First came the shock, at the transformation, then denial, followed by anger, and a sense of betrayal to the cause that we stood for. We had taken on an unspoken oath to defend and fight for equality, justice and truth. At that point, I wanted to stand up and protest, but the ‘dignity’ that masked the room, and perhaps my own uncertainty, held me back.
As she continued to speak, I realised that Tino was no longer with us, but had joined the living-dead; her soul was dead, and she was not even aware. She was like a tree with decaying roots, seemingly alive, but could not bear fruit.
At that moment, I could not stand it anymore. I walked out of the room, my throat choking, as I held back tears, my mind going insane with thoughts, my heart filled with emotions. As I got into a taxi, I asked myself, what had killed Tino’s soul. I reflected at a time when my soul had died. I cried as I remembered the pain of carrying a dead soul. I cried in empathy, at the thought of Tino experiencing the same pain.
My heart bleeds for Tino’s soul. The dilemma I am in is enormous. Where do I find answers to the questions that have been running through my mind? I lay sleepless at night pondering how to awaken a dead soul. I fear for the security and stability of my own soul. I wonder if I am up to the task to resuscitate the soul of a woman that I once looked up to.
My phone is ringing now. It is Tino…”hallo”…..