Danila Botha is a fiction writer based in Toronto. Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, she has lived in Ra’anana, Israel, and in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She studied Creative Writing at York University and at Humber College’s School for Writers. Her first book, a collection of short stories called Got No Secrets (Tightrope Books, 2010) was praised by the Globe and Mail: “The force of the writing is formidable … the staying power lies in Botha’s carefully inflected first person narration.” It was also published in South Africa (Modjaji Books, 2011). Danila has guest-edited the National Post’s “The Afterword,” and her short stories have appeared in Broken Pencil’s fiction issue, Douglas Glover’s Numero Cinq Magazine, Joyland, The Fix, and the Adroit Journal. Too Much on the Inside is her first novel.
BOOKS, PUBLICATIONS, PROJECTS
Excerpt from Too Much on the Inside (Quattro Books, 2015)
People open up to me a lot.
I work at a bar, the 9:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. shift most of the time, and around 11:00 p.m. people start to talk.
There’s a guy who cross-dresses, wears the clothes his ex left behind, panties and tights under his jeans to work when he misses her, and full-out drag—her dresses and eye shadow and bras—when he’s sitting in what used to be their home and he’s tempted to call her.
I’ve heard about a woman who has sex with another woman a lot despite being married to a man.
I’ve heard about men who don’t love their wives or girlfriends, women who don’t love one or all of their kids.
None of it is shocking anymore. What I’ve learned is, what people want is to tell someone, anyone, their problems. Even quiet people don’t seem to mind telling a stranger. They want to talk without being judged, to process things by hearing them said out loud. All they want to know is that someone is listening.
Sometimes I offer customers a drink on me, a tissue, sometimes I offer them some drugs. Our bartender can hook you up, I tell them, and he usually does.
Sometimes people ask about me, but I never tell them anything.
Where would I begin?
You have to have real clarity in your life to be able to talk about it.
It’s easier not to say anything, or to make it up.
It’s easier to smile, to ask people what they need, and to give it to them.
Having a job where you serve people is much easier than being yourself.
It doesn’t involve any real thinking or acknowledging of your own needs.
When I leave the bar, I take the long walk home, past the white, sky-high buildings that glow in the dark from the inside against the star-free sky.
The only stars that people are interested in around here are the ones on their TVs. TV hosts and members of bands I’ve never heard of. No one misses nature here. No one misses the quiet.
When I get home, at around 4:00 a.m., my boyfriend is usually still at work.
He doesn’t get home until 5:30 or 6:00 a.m.
I wait up for him most nights, and then neither of us talks much about what we did.
In Israel, one of the most commonly used expressions is ein li coakh—I don’t have the strength.
We collapse into bed together, ready to start again the next night.
We don’t talk about the details because it’s pointless.
We don’t talk about ourselves because we both have too much to say.