Monday, February 16, 2009

Alice through the Glass.

Things are not always what they seem. The thing is, very often we set our minds on something convinced that it is this one thing alone which will a) Bring you eternal happiness; b) Bring you financial independence or c) Give you your heart’s desires. And then when you finally get what you think you want, you discover it wasn’t what you needed at all.
This came to me when I flew to Joburg for a meeting recently. I’d put so much store into this meeting, my expectations and hopes were high. When I arrived, the person I was meant to meet hadn’t arrived yet. I didn’t mind as it gave me time to go over my proposal again.

Almost an hour crawled by as I sat on the couch. Then a couple came in to meet someone else in the organisation. Eyes slightly glazed by now (I’d been up since 5 am) I became aware of them as they announced themselves at reception. The young man of twenty-something was talking non-stop to his companion. She was older than he was, her hair scraped back from her finely boned face. Her legs were as long and graceful as a thoroughbred horse. There was something very familiar about her. I’d seen her in a film. I stared a little as they sat next to me, my memory doing flick-flacks as I scanned the trillion films I’ve seen. Eventually my brain found the file. Chariots of Fire. Ghost Story. The Borg Queen in Star Trek. Alice Krige. It really was her. I tried not to stare, but I couldn’t help sneaking a few more surreptitious glances.

When the receptionist called me to the desk to say that the person I was due to meet would be arriving soon, I walked back to the couch straight into Alice’s warm smile. “I’m a huge fan,” I blurted as casually as I could. She graciously asked me about myself. We talked and I learnt that she is producing a film in South Africa after just finishing work on Skin, a film to be released here soon. I told her I was producing my own film too.

That’s when she asked for my card. Oh dear. An enthusiastic member of Postnet recently decided to get creative with my latest set of business cards. She’d produced something so awful that I’d thrown them all in the bin. I still hadn’t ordered new ones. Not sounding terribly professional I tried to explain about my lack of cards. Then she and her companion were summoned to their meeting. “Just write your details on a piece of paper, and leave it at the desk,” she smiled as she glided up the stairs.

Well, there was no way on earth I was going to leave a scrawled piece of paper at the desk for Alice Krige. I wracked my brains, and mentally thanked the person I was due to meet for being late. I had to come up with something special so that it wouldn’t be thrown in the bin soon after delivery. I searched my diary. I often keep mementoes in its pages. And there it was. The perfect thing: a beaded dragonfly of delicate beauty which my daughter had made. I’d stuck it on the front page with Presstik at the beginning of the year. That would do. Scrounging an envelope from the receptionist, I stuck the pale blue dragonfly on the front and wrote a note to go inside. I asked the receptionist to deliver it to Alice while she was in her meeting as – at last - I was called in for my own.

My meeting wasn’t quite what I’d hoped for. It didn’t seem as if anything would come of it after all. But as I walked down the stairs afterwards, I saw Alice through the glass walls where she was having her meeting. She spotted me, gave me a huge smile. She waved the envelope with the dragonfly on it and gave me a big thumbs-up. That affirmation was enough. She affirmed that we are two women on a similar path. The outcome of my original meeting didn’t matter so much anymore.

That’s when I realised that we don’t always find what we’re looking for in the places we expect. But if we keep our eyes open, perhaps we’ll find our joy where we least expect it. Sometime even in the looking glass.

FIRST WORDS: Published in The Sunday Independent, 15th February 2009