I was drinking one night at my regular spot in Melville, but I was getting so bored, I decided to go to another spot across the street. When I got there, I bumped into a friend of mine I hadn’t seen for a long time, because she had moved to Cape Town. We went out drinking and it was so nice to catch up with her, but she kept saying to me, ‘Val, I’m so alone’. She kept repeating it: ‘I’m so alone; I’m so alone.’
She eventually told me some things that had happened to her during her marriage. Really awful things her husband at the time had done to her; things I can’t imagine anyone having to go through.
She begged me to go back to her hotel room with her and the next morning, we went out for breakfast. It was then that she told me that she had actually come up to Johannesburg to kill herself. She had chosen to do it here because it is closer to where her family lives, so it would be easier for her family to get to her body. I thought she was joking, but there, at the breakfast table, she pulled out this little bottle of poison she was going to use. I was so shocked, but held my composure, took the bottle from her and threw it away.
We spent that entire day together. One thing she taught me that day was the importance of giving. How, no matter how little you have, you must share it with those who have nothing.
It was a really special lesson for me and I do it to this day. When someone asks me for money or whatever, I give what I have. She made me see that if your fist is closed because you are holding onto something, your hand is not open to receive anything.
Doing that has really made me a happier person; it’s given me life. So, in a way, on that day, we gave each other life.
Valerie Rousseau, 42, as told to Carl Collison, the Other Foundation’s Rainbow Fellow at the Mail&Guardian