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In the Garden

by Marli Meyer, illustration by Alastair Laird / 25.07.2011

Fifteen year old Marie and her boyfriend Rob’s romantic Sunday picnic in the Trim Park at Blue Crane restaurant in Pretoria turned out to be a feast for a group of sexual predators.

“Fuck him!”

“Fuck him or we’ll fuck you.”

Sexual harassment felt richer in the Mother City. I was here studying and the comments flung from the back of bakkies had left me feeling ripe with sexual potential – in a bad way. “I wanna naai you!” And “hey sissie!” All the smooching imitations from passersby. I felt like a flecked, blushing labia parading down the street. It was completely unnatural. The Jacaranda City I left behind surely had less of this, sleepily buffered by its sheath of purple. I came to dread walking to Rondebosch on Main and longed to be back home where I imagined it was safe.

Then I got the call from Marie. Halfway through the picnic, three men approached. They were very high, with blood shot eyes. They wanted “stuff” – cell phones, wallets, anything really. Marie was composed over the phone up to this point. She was forced to take off her bikini bottoms from under her skirt. All the men stared and touched her. The next step would obviously be gang rape. But to her surprise came the demand to “fuck” Rob. And they did with virginal stumbling and inexperience before the threesome’s terrorizing gaze.

“Fuck him.”

“Fuck him or we’ll fuck you.”

After their Sunday “sexcapade”, they took Marie and Rob’s stuff and left. They had her favourite perfume – Marc Jacobs Daisy. That scent was now the trigger of disgust.

It could never compare, but listening to her, after my experience on the streets of Cape Town, I had an inkling of what she felt. The invasiveness and violation. The sickness of being sexualized against your will. It must have been just as wretched for poor Rob. I have known Marie all her life, and she lost her virginity like this.

The purple bubble of my hometown burst. It was a lie. The stark reality is this: there is is a real threat to women wherever we are in this country.


*Illustration © Alastair Laird.

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