6 November 2014
I want to tell you about Rosie Brooks. Picture in your mind a perpetually smiling blonde with star tattoos who loved music.
We met many years ago at work. We were both ad-copy writers for an e-commerce company in the city. We hit it off as only two broke girls trying to be independent could. We decided to share a small cottage in Harfield Village.
It was chaotic and fun and thinking back, we were both far too young and irresponsible to live on our own. But neither of us would give up that independence for anything. Somehow we made it work.
I rather liked our modest little household.
We took the train to work together, which was always an experience. We would eat tomato Fritos while we waited for the train to leave Cape Town station. Quite often we had to change our route home to avoid a creepy southern line stalker. (He once threw stones at our window and we realised that he had secretly followed us home).
One night we walked to Rosmead Spar to buy emergency supplies and pretended that the drunks lurching around the streets were zombies. We ran home half laughing, half screaming.
Another night we sat huddled together in the lounge with all the candles we could find and listened for possible sounds of a break in. It was during a time of rolling blackouts and our street was experiencing a crime wave. Three families moved out after repeated robberies, so during the night in question we were surrounded by empty houses on all sides.
We forked out money we didn’t have on ADT.
She was convinced her room was haunted. I think we were both more frightened of ghosts than we were of burglars.
We were always stone broke. I used to store my non-perishables for the end of the month. On more than one occasion I would reach into the cupboard for a tin of tuna only to discover an IOU. I put stickers with our names on them on our respective cupboards. Despite this blatantly passive aggressive move, Rosie would always share her food with me. She was incredibly unselfish and always wanted to know about you, about your family, about your pets.
Sometimes we would clash and these fights were legendary. Many notes were passed under each other’s doors. She would blast Metallica when I wanted to go to bed. I would slam doors. We always made up afterwards.
Neither of us could afford tickets to attend Cokefest at the nearby race course, so we sat on fold-out chairs in our garden and listened to Muse and Chris Cornell, both heartbroken that we couldn’t go. Thankfully the music was loud enough for us to hear perfectly clearly. Korn was so loud I couldn’t sleep that night.
Doing nice things for people was second nature to her. She sent her beloved sausage dogs to live somewhere else so that my cat Hannibal could stay. Even though her dogs were there first. She loved Hannibal. Every time I ran into her she would ask after him.
Rosie was a Fighter. She had successfully assassinated her demons and had levelled up to Survivor. She would host support meetings at the house and afterwards would toss all the cups in a crate which she would hose down outside. In this way she taught me how boring housework could be tackled creatively. I still wash my clothes in a bucket in the shower. Lots of stomping is involved.
I was the first to move.
I’m sorry to say we didn’t stay in touch.
Over the years we ran into each other a few times – at Woolworths, at a work function at the Strand Hotel, at Home Bar where we were both on disastrous dates, in the waiting area at my office where she was applying for a job.
I knew she was sick, but she was always so positive, so strong.
Last year she came to my book launch and I could see she was fighting for her life, even though she refused to say it. She wouldn’t stop smiling and kept asking after my Dad and Hannibal. She said she was seeing someone that made her super happy.
I found out this morning that Rosie passed away. Even though we lost touch after our brief time as housemates, her death has derailed me. She was so vivacious, so full of life, so infectiously happy.
She left a mark on me like one of her star tattoos.
So now that you know about her, I ask you to never forget.
Remember her for her smile, her generosity and her fighting spirit.
Please remember Rosie Brooks.