I went today to a sheriff’s auction. The house was on a street I passed often with Robert on our way to the park, so I thought I might as well go and see how these things are done,  because auctions are usually where you pick up bargains. I was going for an educational excursion, I did not want to buy the house which was clearly beyond my means. I was not prepared however for the emotional aspect of watching this happen.

First I was surprised to recognize the place, because I often looked at it with envy I am ashamed to say. The outside renovation preserved so much of the character of this old building, then I went inside and I was struck by how much of a building site the place was. There was a living room at the front of the house which looked disorganized then a hall with nothing but cans of paint. The kitchen was a dark place with merely a fridge, bare counters and boarded up windows. There were exposed pipes and wiring, floors that still required tiling and naked roof rafters. The upstairs is where those people probably spent most of their time, and here you stumble on their personal lives. There were three bedrooms with books, computers, and study desks. I saw posters, and personal items. One of the beds had a small aquarium with tiny goldfish right next to the bed. It felt so wrong to be tramping around people’s belongings, as they were about to lose the roof over their heads.

I spoke to the owner briefly. He was taking it very graciously but his pain and regret was palpable. He is an architect, who overextended himself loving and preserving what he thought would be his permanent home. He said that the hardest part was telling his children that the bank has foreclosed on their home, because they lived with them in this mess for two year, I could relate to his pain. I briefly experienced living in a renovation site while I lived with my ex husband in Gonubie, and the situation was a threat to sanity.

The owner said that he spent so much time an effort recycling the old brick and trying to preserve whatever he could of the character of the old home, he was not doing it for comercial purposes he was doing it in pride of ownership, and Ironically this was what brought on his downfall.  On one kitchen wall he taped the architectural drawings and concept of the house, which he could not finish. Now all his and his wife’s efforts are going to become some investor’s gain. I never saw the wife, but I could imagine her, as her husband told me, scraping away 12 coats of paints from the wooden steps.

There were more than twenty people like me tramping around the old house, but when the auction started only four or five where active bidder in addition to the bank.  In the end the bank representative ( a woman and apparently they are always women) told the last remaining bidder that the bank would buy unless they got a certain price, and the bidder met the required price. There was handclapping and the auction was over, a family lost their home, just like that.  Everyone went on to congratulate the new owner. There were insensitive comments like : Ah, you can knock the whole place down and sell the empty lot, and you can get your money back. I thought of how the owner may feel hearing these jibes. I left with a heavy heart, wondering whether I really had the stomach for auctions, perhaps they are the domain of hardcore investors only. All the way home I kept thinking of the man and his two teenage boys who still do not know where they are going next, I was grateful to have my own roof, even a rented one.

The gray cloud of sadness did not lift when I came back home to examine again a package I received from my mother. I collected it earlier today at the post office and discarded its empty box, noting with disinterest the post office tape which said it was found open and secured by postal workers. The package contained the items I expected and some additional ones, so I was happy. Only much later I discovered my mother’s little note where she said that she had included a packet of wine gums (gummy Bären) which was not in the box. The realization left me bitterly disappointed. The sweets are perhaps the least valuable item in the package but they were still sent with love from my mom to her grandson and the fact that some crook in the post office had actually taken them out makes me feel betrayed.  It is such an effort to send things halfway across the world like this. The postage is frequently more expensive than the item itself, and I am definitely going to complain at the post office. Mostly I will be wary, and I will ask whoever sends me stuff to give me a listing of the items sent, so that I can at least confront the post office right away. Now I will have to complain without valuable pieces of evidence, like the box I threw carelessly away.

Auction Blues

The highly anticipated auction date for the house in Gonubie was yesterday. My conversations with the auctioning house have been sobering lately because I can sense that there isn’t much interest there and they are definitely struggling to show a presence in Gonubie, when they do not even have an office in East London. Compared to the hype they stared with I was preparing myself for disillusionment, but I did not anticipate its monumental proportions. They called me yesterday afternoon to tell me that they had a single bidder for R 400,000. This is even less than what was actually paid for the house. I was sorely disappointed and lamented the money I threw away at this auction ( R 10,000 for the auctioneers + R 1000 for cleaning the pool) in addition to refilling the pool with water, and god knows what this will mean to my final municipal bill.

My dreams of breaking free from this existence at Jackie’s have been shattered, and I was caught at an extremely low point when I spoke with Ron today. I could sense that he wasn’t doing well either, perhaps because the expenses are much more than he bargained for. He said that perhaps he should have understood the triangle of conflict in our life together and how we interchanged the roles of villain, victim and benefactor. He even said that perhaps we should have tried counseling. My personal situation is so bleak that I cannot sympathize with him a bit. By and large he was the one who led us to this particular turn of events. I can hardly remember myself being the villain in this relationship, and he rarely -if ever- played the benefactor. The imbalance was starkly revealed with the birth of our son and his almost hostile attitude towards him, which really frightened me.

When my ex firmly stated that he wanted OUT, he could not understand that my first impulse as a nursing mother would be to protect and defend my young one. The response is not unique to us humans, and is widely observed in the animal kingdom. Females display uncharacteristically hostile and aggressive behaviour when there is a threat to their young, it doesn’t matter whether the threat is real or perceived. His threatening behavior provoked my anger, hostility and aggression and I retaliated very strongly and decisively, by filing for divorce and going through with it this time. I saw with my instinct that a man who can shut out his wife and his newborn son simply doesn’t love her anymore, and perhaps doesn’t even love his son enough.  Yes, I did hurt at the time, and I still do. But I know one thing for sure, I have no regrets. Even though I still care for the man, my trust for him is completely gone, and that is why there is no future for us together anymore.  All I want now is a place of my own, I have had it with living under the dictate of other people.