I don’t mean to write this in order to sadden you. But something recently happened and I need to talk about it, even if it just via the internet. I just need you to listen. I guess it is also something that should be noted down for history’s sake, so that a memory can be made more concrete.
I never told you the truth about this boy I met at a garden shop in Johannesburg. There is much more to it than what I said. I had been passing that same garden shop for a month when I lived in the area with my friends. One day, just before I had to catch a flight home, I was in the area and decided to stop in to buy some plants. I met Anthony. He was wearing this cowboy style hat and a Rolling Stones hoodie, and he was so awkward and intense. We spent a good hour together talking about our lives and our childhoods. Ant came from Pietermaritzburg and knew one of my friends from Rhodes. In that hour, he brought back so many memories of my past, it seemed like the most incredible conversation to be having on a winter afternoon in the middle of Johannesburg. Before I left we promised to have tea. At the time, he never indicated that he had a girlfriend, so I walked away from that hour with him with a beating heart. It only really subsided when I was finally on the plane. I imagined that this was fate. Even if we only became friends, I knew that there was something special about the connection we formed.
I never saw him after that. I made Facebook friends with him due to my Rhodes friends insistence. My friend confirmed his uniqueness. Ant took amazing photos and loved nature. He followed a dream, not because it was logical or because it would lead to better things, but because he was troubled and needed a way out. My friend told me he was always unhappy. I was constantly worried about Ant, he seemed like such a lonely kind of person, but he never returned a message I sent him so I dragged my feet about seeing him. I recently got a new car and promised myself that I would stop by, no matter how difficult and awkward it would be.
My friend told me yesterday that Anthony had died on Sunday. On Saturday I had sent him another message. I had ended it by saying “Look after yourself and be good” – which was innocuous at the time, but rings out now. What an empty thing to say. On Friday he was riding his bike home from seeing his girlfriend and tried to avoid riding into a person stepping off of a bus. He flew over the handlebars and was declared brain dead by the time he got to hospital. He never read my message.
Ant was an organ donor, and so far a 13 year old girl and a 40 year old man have benefited from his kidneys, and a burn victim has benefited from his skin. Other organs are ready for their beneficiaries.
I was Ant’s newest facebook friend. I never got to know him beyond that one hour, but I have long known that sometimes that is all you need to create a connection that will stay with you for the rest of your life. I will always remember Ant and how bummed I was that he never contacted me. Now I will never have that chance. I can no longer hold it against him. But it is inspiring that his organs have gone to people in need. It seems only right – he was the kind of person who cared enough to do that. Unfortunately, in life, I think he lived too much by his own emotions. Not everyone liked him, he was not a reliable person, but it was easy to recognise the other side of him. It took me only an hour.
My Rhodes friend wanted to be assured that Anthony was happy again. As far as I could tell, he was. He loved the plants he worked with, he was excited to go biking along the rivers in Johannesburg. He has spoken of being lonely living out on a farm, but seemed optimistic about this new world, a starkly green world in the middle of the bustling city. I am sure it was the best place to feel calm. He had only been here for a few months. Hardest for me was realising that I had become a channel for his feelings. I had to think back to every little word and gesture, figure out what it meant, so that my friend can say goodbye knowing that peace had come at last. Ant and I did laugh. We laughed about gnomes. There is that. But I have no idea about the rest.
So, that is the story of Anthony, or perhaps the non-story. Perhaps there should be a point to this story, or maybe a lesson. What would he want us to learn? I know that I am going to register as an organ donor today. It seems only right.