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EXTRACT | ‘Mad Bad Love’ by Sara-Jayne Makwala King: Real life doesn’t give a flying f**k

03 August 2022 - 11:12


On the face of it, life is good for Sara-Jayne Makwala King. She’s a popular radio personality, a best-selling author and she’s recently been reunited with her long-lost father, nearly 40 years after being given up for adoption as a baby. Best of all, she’s just found out she’s about to become a mother, with Enver, the “love of her life”.

She’s convinced she’s finally heading towards her “happily ever after”.

But six weeks after discovering she’s pregnant, Enver relapses on heroin and disappears. Devastated, Makwala King checks herself into The Clinic and despite the little life growing inside her, realises she’s never felt more alone.

In the much-anticipated follow-up to her best-selling memoir Killing Karoline, Makwala King — for the sake of her unborn child — is forced to save herself. But to do this she has to work out why everyone leaves her. Why, like that song, is she always looking for love in all the wrong places? And why can’t she seem to break free from mad, bad love?


I am a bad mother. I’ve always known I would be. I come from a place that insists that I could never have been anything else.

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. A scorpion is a scorpion is a scorpion. Here I am, not yet swollen with the anticipation of what’s to come, and I have already failed at motherhood. I have failed and the guilt of it gnaws away at the same place in which I must nurture new life.

You cannot heal in the place you got sick — and yet this is the place I’ve come back to again and again. A place of healing and of sickness. The place where I met him. The one who, once upon another lifetime, seemed sent to save me from myself, and who, a few weeks ago, in the before of it all, delivered unto and into me what I’ve longed for all my life. But now he is gone, taken by his own demons, leaving me alone with a piece of his heart beating inside me.

Some people hate places like this. Places where there is a suggestion of dis-ease, a reminder of illness and of death.

Perhaps that’s exactly why I like it here and why I am no stranger to this place.

Every year I check myself into The Clinic. Every. Single. Year.

If I were “normal”, I’d head to Plett or Knysna. Or maybe Thailand and lotus-pose the living shit out of myself, or perhaps I would float to Indonesia on a cloud of self-righteousness to rescue bull elephants from having bloated, sunburned tourists hitch a cultural lift on their thick-skinned, sturdy backs. I might even prostrate myself before wizened old babas in India in the hope that their eons of patiently perfected spirituality might somehow rub off on me through prayer, proximity or osmosis.

Real life does all of this and then, when it’s properly anchored, takes an enormous, unceremonious dump on the false promise of make-believe.

I retreat to The Clinic when the sound of my heart crashing against the inner wall of my chest is louder than the beat of my own drum. When “real life” has begun to interfere with the life on-life’s-terms type of life I’ve been trying to live since the first time I found myself here. Real life is the stuff that happens in between all those bullshit #lovinglife #lifegoals hashtags. It’s what happens after you check in to your own arsehole on Facebook, or sanctimoniously post some dry witticism on Twitter, or send a plate of garlic-butter prawns into the Instagram ether just to let who-the-fuck-knows-or-cares know that you’re #cleaneatingagain.

Real life is what happens between the “I’m fine”, the “Thank you for coming” and the “For sure! See you next week”. It squeezes itself into the small, guff-filled crevices left by the “we simply adored Paris last summer”, the “Can’t wait for First Thursdays!” and the “Look how fucking happy and in love and satisfied — sexually, spiritually and, of course, financially — we are and here’s a picture to prove it”. It deftly seizes the gap between “I’d love to” and “Just tell me when” and “Of course I don’t mind truly” and it takes hold, burrowing its gnarled roots into the precarious, sandy foundation of this perilous adventure called life.

Real life does all of this and then, when it’s properly anchored, takes an enormous, unceremonious dump on the false promise of make-believe. Given the opportunity, real life can, will and does jam its ugly, calloused, verruca-riddled foot into the door labelled False Sense of Security and kick you half to death. It’s more than happy to leave you strewn across the bathroom floor, arms freshly diced and sliced by your own hand, gaping red and pissing self-hatred all over the Italian tiles. #Nofilter.

Real life is a leveller. Real life is sneaky as hell. Real life doesn’t give a flying fuck.

One day I’d like to get to the point where the choice is maybe the Maldives or The Clinic. When the lull of the ocean has the same effect as 40 milligrams of Prozac, or when a walk on the beach at sunset provides a perfectly adequate alternative to Jungian therapy. “Holiday or hospital this year, SJ?” I’ll muse while contemplating my half-packed suitcase and, before I’m even aware of what I’m doing, I’ll fling a high-cut polka dot two-piece into the case, kick the lid shut and that will be that.

The ill-fitting bikini will seal the deal. But not this year. This year, because it’s what I do, it’s The Clinic.

Extract provided by Melinda Ferguson Books, an imprint of NB Publishers 


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