We live so that we might die

There are rules for this life, I know. There are ways of being. I have chosen my way. I am 28 now, but I won’t resort to clichés about how old that makes me. I am as old as today, as the time I woke those few minutes before my alarm beeped its unpleasantries, until this moment when I drew these thoughts towards me. I am not afraid of this life.

I am not afraid of getting old, because I know that my mind will adjust with these changes. It is only when I go back to the place where I grew up that I see how far I have come, or rather how far away I have gone. I walk streets and know memories; know who I was and what I did once. I am not that person and perhaps I never was. How can we really know ourselves when we change so quickly – our skin cells shedding en masse, as much as our memories do?

It does not matter what you did to me. The beauty of age is the art of forgetting that one learns, or perhaps the art of beauty is forgetting how to learn, because we love most that which we know. You only matter to me if you are present, if I can remember the colour of your eyes and know the smell of your breath. You only matter to me if what I feel now is dependent on you. I have only fond, fleeting glimpses of time’s past and I am happy to live by remembering to forget.

There are rules for life. They are scattered around the internet as a means to feel better about oneself. They contradict and confuse more than they help. Don’t pay too much attention. Truthfully, no one can show me how to be happy, not even me. I am what I am. I just have to trust that with sadness comes happiness and that I won’t feel that same way for the rest of my life.

I am no longer afraid to be alone. I have to trust that statement. I have to believe that my purpose will become clear in time. My life is endless, boundless, an eternity, because tonight I will close my eyes and today will no longer matter. It makes me invincible. Let go. Trust in growth, trust in time.

We live so that we might die. Our certainty comes from death, our uncertainty from living.

A Place to Lay the Bodies

I guess it is inevitable, that as I get older, the body count will rise. Without the instruction manual for life, what can you really know about the endless little ways in which you learn to live with these cadavers? Right now I feel as if they are weighing me down because I wasn’t close enough to them, or because I didn’t love them, or know them well-enough, or because they have others doing the mourning for them. That doesn’t mean that this loss is not mine to feel. My heart swells with it, bleeds an invisible stream of the darkest blood, rivulets which filter into my veins, travelling on a gruesome journey of reminders. My memories are tainted by this invisible stream of blood that I don’t feel entitled to bleed.

My pain has always been mine alone. I have carried it through a solitary wilderness within me. This is no different.

My apologies to you. Yesterday your life ended so abruptly and all I can think of is how selfish you are to die at this time. I wasn’t doing so well and I made it known. With my face bowed beneath my tears, I forgot to look up to study your face that one last time. I couldn’t find it in me to laugh at your jokes, or ask how you are. You are selfish to have died before I could say sorry. And now? Now you have reminded me, in the most heart-breaking way, how short this life really is. I need to go on living; with and without my cadavers. It will only get worse but I have to do this alone. A solitary wilderness is the best place to preserve the remains of these memories.

Dear dad

It’s been a year now. I still haven’t forgiven you, but neither have I accepted your dying. I still haven’t forgiven me and it’s time to say I’m sorry. With your death you taught me something vital; it was the only time you taught me anything at all. It doesn’t matter. At the moment when life drains away, your regrets will tell you what is most important to you.

I am sorry that I stopped taking your calls. I am sorry that I was afraid to be honest, to sort things out between us. I stopped being brave because I thought I was being true to myself. I am sorry that I didn’t seek help, that the only time I was forced to confront my pain, it was all too much for me and I walked away with my face on fire. You took away any strength I had, because you were my father and there is nothing like love to bring you to your knees.

Maybe, just maybe, if I had loved you more, I would find it easy to love now. Maybe if I had accepted you, instead of launching a silent attack without words or movement, my hunger strike of the soul, I would be less likely to speak harshly, to criticise and to judge.

Dear dad, why did we never speak, why did you offer no guidance? How can I break through the trenches, enter enemy lines and still live to survive? The warfare we created, a battle of wills and humanity; it was driven by fear. I was afraid to love, only be to hurt again. Nowadays I am afraid to be hurt, only to be in love again.

My self-destruction is subtle, it is enacted in small ways through offering all I have and standing vulnerable and exposed in front of every man I meet, only to watch their backs as they flee the scene and feel the crushing dread of my self-imposed loneliness. This is my survival, but it is also my suicide.

About Anthony

Dear world

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.

To read about Ant.

There was never enough oxygen to breathe

The phrase “the suicide victim” has always baffled me. Who is the “victim” of suicide; the one who kills him/herself or the people that are left behind? Am I selfish to suggest that it is us, those left with no answers, when all along we had not the empathy to know you well enough?

However, the truth is, there is something indescribable about being the one left behind. I know I barely knew you, but your death makes too much sense to go unnoticed. We are fools to experience this world as more that what it is: a world filled with senseless-ness, feelings frayed and forgotten, sympathy and empathy all but murdered by commercialism and consumerism. We are shells walking the seashore below the million dollar houses. I once described the life of the adult as that of playing monsters. We stalk each other constantly, wary of showing our weakness, wary of showing kindness; it has always seemed like just a game. You hardly remember me, but I think you would have liked that analogy.

Your death fills me with sadness, not because you escaped our world, but because you left me behind. You took all you could from life and it was never enough. You travelled the world in search of something, and you never did find it. You were the beautiful one, and yet we let the world eclipse you. But what does that say for us? Fools in an unforgiving world.

So, yes, I hardly ever crossed your thoughts, but you were still a small light in my life, one of many. I think back to our few moments of interaction and I realise that it is only now, that you are gone, that I can see the scope of your humanity. You were learned and wise; the most beautiful man that I have ever laid eyes upon. I doted on you in my innocence and you were kind and humble in return. Sometimes it requires but brief moments to see something in someone, and you made more of an impact in brief moments than many others have and will. Such was the brightness of your star.

And so I quote again your friend when she states “Isitya esihle asidleli”. You were beautiful and you were looked up to and now you took yourself away.

So now those left behind are faced with the struggle to forgive you, to fight the anger they feel and answer the questions they are confronted with. Was there a lesson in this, did you attempt to try to tell us something of this world? Could it be that you are telling us that this isn’t enough, that we are lost in our worldly playground, unfulfilled in our meaningless actions…? I know that more now than I knew it a moment ago.

You continue to speak in death (saying more to me than you did in life), and I am grateful that you have reminded me: “Give up the game”, you say, “Where is the kindness?”

Now I cannot yet leave this alone; your Lecturer was right: “For, to know and to trust that we are loved, is the most difficult thing.”

People have said “Hamba Kahle” but I say “stick around and burn and burn and burn.” We must live for you, through you, in memory of you, all around you but without you. Do not tolerate our clichés and do not let us expect more from life than we are willing to fight for. Break us down, challenge us, do not let us get away too easily. This life is not simple, yet only the weak survive. They do not demand more, like you did. You cared too much and there was never enough oxygen for you to breathe. But now we can build a house out of your ideas and passion, and keep warm by the fire of your memories.

Six months

My father died in September 2011. Six months is a long, long time. But the thing about grief is that you never know what shape and form it will take. My problem has always been that I have no one to tell – no one I can explain things to. I have so much anger inside of me and recently it has arisen with a depth and breadth that has changed me. I want to scream from rooftops.

Life creates cycles. My cycle has become a cycle of men; each of which fails me somehow, even whilst I fail them too, deliberately, predictably. I have become such a boring cliché of night after week after month of the same damn predictable heartache. I am too kind, even as rage builds inside enough for an avalanche. I am too interested and too eager and too serious; too much of everything that leads down a path of masochistic tendencies and the same boring outcomes.

Last night I sang songs (badly) and ate grapes (which were deliciously cold) and felt a movement. He was the water which soothed these fires. For a moment I found an abyss in which to bury my bandaged heart. I knew him, I saw his watercolours; I knew his rage and his joy. He is not afraid to be vulnerable. I tried to be vulnerable too.

My pain is known to most. It’s the cohesive glue of being human, that we all share grief in all its forms. When I saw those boys, with girls that don’t belong to them, I shared the grief of their lovers back home. When I sobbed like a child, with all the ugly, twisted, racking shame of the mess of death, I shared the grief of all humans. Betrayal and death – the rites of living.

My father died in September 2011. Six months is no time at all. And yet, when I tried to be vulnerable, all I felt of the ugly, twisted, racking shame of nothing; rising up from the abyss where I rested my heart. I want to scream from rooftops. This rage is smothering me.

A Father Wanted

In September 2011, my father passed on from this life. Through his eyes he may have passed onto something infinitely better; a blessing, an omnipotent love without judgment. My eyes saw nothing but the closure of doors. Months before this, I spoke of his death because I knew that it was coming, even if no one had said a word. But it was still unexpected. Mourning was confused, my mind empty and dark, and every day I have to remind myself that he is gone.

Yesterday I told a stranger about my life. Perhaps I could have said nothing and I tried, I swear, to skirt around the issue; merely hint at certain possibilities. But when I spoke the truth, as dispassionately as I have always done, so far removed from those funeral songs, he turned his eyes towards me in a way no one has ever done. He looked at me with recognition, as if he understood what I was trying to say. Until that moment, I did not realise that there was something I wanted to tell him.

His own father had died before he was even born, just like a dramatic romance: a piece of the hero left for the woman who loved him, as pregnant and alone as any storybook heroine. His son, now a grown man, still thrashes around with breath and life and desires. He will not accept death as easily as I have done: he burns with its fire, he longs for its secrets to be revealed.

His burden is bigger than mine. We both lost something we never had, fathers we knew, understood, loved, wanted, and now we miss that which we lost. It leaves us empty, grasping at holes, breathing in dioxides, more alone than we ever felt before. Except, I lost something of possibility: memories seeped in alcoholic oblivion, a memorial, a song. He doesn’t possess even one memory and I want to throw mine away. I lost something I never wanted; he lost something he has continued to want for all the days of his life.