I don’t think I have ever really retold the story of how Darren and I came to be and it’s been playing on my mind how fortunate we are to have the relationship that we share. I met Darren when I was 18, and we got married when I was 19 – some would say that we wasted no time, but man, those 18 years without him were a wait long enough.
In all seriousness, from an outsider’s point of view, I can see how things seemed rushed. Within 3 months of meeting, we were living together, and 1 year, 1 month and 1 week after we had started dating, we were married and expecting Axl. I met Darren while in the midst of matric – I had bunked school to work at the Top Billing Auditions, earning experience from working at media events. I didn’t really have a reason to work the event, but it seemed like a good idea at the time. The 2-day auditions were long-winded, I sat at the entrance where hundreds of people would pass me their application for me to ensure they had everything that they needed, while they asked if they had the right look and most of them realizing that the odds probably weren’t in their favour.
Across the room was a brown haired girl, with piercing blue eyes, she was also working the event, but in another room. She waved and smiled, and that was it. We had a brief chat during our lunch break, but nothing major. Until well, 2 weeks later, when she managed to track my phone number down and started her pursuit of setting me up with her brother. In all honesty, I was on a bursary in matric and working toward earning another bursary for university, I had no real interest of getting in another long-term relationship, having ended one recently. At first I declined, but what I hadn’t yet realized is that a Botha girl has the determination like no other, and if she says you need to meet her brother, you are probably going to end up doing it – how long you draw it out is entirely up to you, but you truly have no choice in the matter. After about 3 weeks of declining her, I eventually agreed to take her brother’s number, the night before my first matric trial exam.
Although we wouldn’t meet for another 2 or 3 weeks, my days were pretty much filled with talking to Darren about absolutely everything and anything. I talk… a lot. I can out talk anyone, but he never seemed to mind. He would stay up with me until the early hours of the morning, and be awake before I headed to class – he always had time to discuss everything from politics, history, to the Hannibal Lecter series. For the first time, I had found a human that I could intelectually connect with – something I had always struggled with in high school. So eventually, it came to going on our first date and while I’d love to tell you that it was perfect, it wasn’t, in fact, I went home and messaged him to say, “let’s not do that again.” Darren was pretty much ready to stop talking, and I was okay with that, but then the next morning came and we both messaged each other. Three or four days later, I suggested we go for a movie and maybe a drink afterwards. Thinking back, it wasn’t a planned date, I had come home and made a comment to my dad about me hating that we watched his fishing DVD over and over again, so he told me to go out. I messaged D, asked if he was still in town and if he was up for a movie. He was, so we went to see Men in Black 3, where I witnessed a grown-ass man cry. Yep. cry.
Darren wasn’t like anyone I would usually go for. He is 5 years older than me, he smoked, has tattoos all over his arms (and one on his butt), he listened to loud shouty music, and he clearly had a bunch of history – oh, he set his school hall alight that one time (I was months away from being named head girl of mine.) But that didn’t bother me because he would listen – and talk and he is easily the funniest human I know. If you’ve spent an hour with me, you’ll know that I can jump between one hundred topics, and for the first time, someone kept up with that, he understood and he actually knew what I was talking about.
Three days after our successful second date, it was the school holidays and I was due for a visit in Jo’burg where I’d visit my mom. We hadn’t planned on seeing one another again until I returned, but the day that I was set to leave, he asked if we could meet for a milkshake before I got on the bus. I never say no to chocolate milkshake, so we went to a small restaurant around the corner, where he gifted me the Steve Jobs biography, written by Walter Isaacs and a pack of my favourite imported lollipops, for the bus drive. I have never been able to find those lollipops anywhere, but he somehow managed to track down the importer and bought me a large bag of them! The book was extra special; on our first disasterous date, I had mentioned as we passed a book store how if I was chosen to do the final matric address, I’d quote Steve Jobs, because in my head, in order for a speech to be official or memorable, you need a quote and my matric year was very much inspired by Steve Jobs. The book had only just been released, but considering I was already on a bursary, the R800 biography would have to wait. It wasn’t a big conversation – it wasn’t enough for me to think he actually heard how Steve Jobs inspired me, but when he gifted me that book, I was in awe… he listened, even when I didn’t think that he was.
So things in Jo’burg went a bit wonky – my mom was in an abusive relationship at the time, and I was ready to get back on the bus around the same time that I stepped off of it. I chatted to Darren a lot while I was visiting my mom, he spoke of building me my own castle because I deserved the world, we chatted about growing up, discussed the book that he had bought me, we’d watch series together while separated by a 12-hour drive, and then he did something crazy… He woke up at 3am on the Saturday morning and made the long commute from Port Elizabeth to Jo’burg to fetch my sister and I, because he didn’t like the idea of us travelling on the bus. We drove back to Port Elizabeth, the very next day where I would also meet his family for the first time.
That was basically the start of our relationship. We went on to spend the next year travelling to nearby towns for weekends away, I moved in with him 3 months after his spontaneous trip to Jo’burg, I matriculated where he sat in the audience as I collected my head-girl award, and within the next year we had started trying for a baby, and planning our wedding.
Something that always stands out to me, about our initial dating phase, is how much I could sleep – it was crazy and so weird, but I remember lying in Port Alfred, on a winters morning, curled up and thinking about how relaxed, content and how safe I felt. I was at peace. My high school years were complicated; my mom and I were stalked for more than 8 months making me scared and insecure, my mom and step-dad fought until they eventually agreed to get a divorce, I moved to Jo’burg with my mom and then back to my step-dad a few months later where we had to work at building a relationship, I changed schools 11 times in 12 years, was bullied throughout my schooling history, we had everything short of our beds repocessed and lost the family company – we built and rebuilt over and over again, and there never seemed to be calm. Darren brought calm and even after 5 years, he continues to bring me calm.
Darren and I live together, parent together, and now we even work together. Some days, he probably wants to kill me, but thankfully, he just puts on his headset and goes to play a game of DotA. We have strange and very inappropriate jokes and for the first year or so of our relationship, I believed his appendix scar was actually a scar caused by a drug lord stabbing him when he tried to rescue a girl (it was believable at the time!). My husband also happens to have a tattoo proposal on his ass, with another girl’s name. I can’t make this up, even if I tried – but hey, shit happens! Truth is, there is no other human better shaped to face life with, by my side. He gets me, he laughs at me, serenades me with Westlife songs while we drive, and he always believes in me.
And that’s how our love story started.