She hands me the keys. “How is he?”
I look at her as if to say, let it be, but instead sigh. “Alright.”
Jabulani (or “Jabo” as we called him) and Lizzie were two of the first people I met at Garnet. First-year orientation had just wrapped, and I was a lonely somebody. Jordan—who I seemed destined to meet while traipsing through the rose garden on my way back from the PAC (Performing Arts Center) to my dorm room—had invited me to a “welcome back” social at the Black Cultural Center (“The House,” as everyone lovingly referred to it), hosted by the African American Student Union. It started at 7pm. Enough time for people to get to the dining hall and decide they didn’t much care for what was being served and make it back up the hill and to the other side of campus. I arrived at the big stone house at the end of the walk-way, at around 7:20 pm. A cascade of chatter and laughter greeted me at the door. And there, as I entered, on the landing at the top of the stairs were Lizzie and Jabo entangled in one another like a modern sculpture. Jordan called Lizzie over to the table where she was setting out more food and refreshments. Jabo naturally went over to help. Not knowing anybody but Jordan, I walked across the room to where they were at. And for the next few years we were each other’s business.
Now, Jabo was going back to South Africa as one of the first generation of what Bishop Desmond Tutu named the new “Rainbow Nation.” His term for the free South Africa. Proud and charismatic and with his engineering degree to boot, Jabulani Mdima, the great-grandson of Nokutela Mdima-Dube (the first mother of South Africa’s Black Freedom Movement), was headed back to his homeland alone. Only a year earlier, we were all together at The House with a small group of other students gathered around the tv in the living room, to watch Mandela win the first post-apartheid presidential election in South Africa.
A little over a month ago, he’d asked Lizzie to marry him. It took her less than a week to say, no. She’d actually decided two days after that night when they made love and she was finally in her own bed. She awoke earlier than usual. The rain in the background only adding to the constant ache she felt dig its way into the small of her back and up into her shoulder blades. An ache so deep in her bones it left her breathless.