Let Slip The Dogs Of War: (Part 9: NAFI)

After two years, that glorious day came, time to clear out of the South African Defence Force! My duty completed to my country, my mother’s sacrifice to her country completed, (well apart from my yearly one month camp obligation). These are my recollections of that time.

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NAFI: No Ambition Fuck-all Interest

 I stared up at the cloudless afternoon sky above me, as blue as an angel’s eye, my head resting on my balsak (my army kitbag). The tarmac below me was warm against my thighs, buttocks and back. The muted conversations around me lulled me into that trance-like state between sleep and consciousness. Uitklaar! My last day of the Army! After the Ops I had returned to teaching the adult Bushmen at the AEC (Adult Education Centre) with Mrs. Donald, and had been offered a job as barman at the Officers’ Club with Martens, which I had accepted. Captain Swart had moved to Oshakati with a commendation and a promotion for his part in Ops Phoenix. I had been happy to have him gone.  Above me the Flossie circled, climbing higher and higher, its drone harmonizing with the whirring of the gunship on the outskirts of the camp. A Flossie was a huge transport plane the army used to move troops, armaments, gear etc to and from South Africa’s colony, South West Africa. Woody shook my left boot. I lifted my head, looking at him questioningly.

“Yes, makua?” Bushman for White man.

“We’re up, Swany. Home time, my china.”

“Yes, at last!”

I pulled myself up. The two lines of soldiers forming the group I was part of shook itself into action like a wet dog. Two other groups to our left remained sprawled on their duffel bags in anxious inactivity, viewing us with envious eyes. We had all been there since ten that morning, waiting on the Rundu runway for our airplane home. I put my bonnie on my head and hoisted my heavy balsak onto my shoulder. Woody was chatting away like a demented chipmunk in front of me. In single file we edged forward to the huge plane on the runway while a group of Military Policemen perfunctorily checked us for contraband and exotic souvenirs such as pets, pelts and various forms of ammunition.

“Woody, you still drunk from last night?” I asked. We had had a braai at the transition camp where we had stayed for the past couple of days while in the process of clearing-out. Woody had consumed rum like a sailor, not that that was something new, which was attested to by the ruddy features and aromatic sweat he wore today.

“Buddy, we’re gonna party like its 1999 tonight. We should get to Waterkloof at about eight tonight. My old lady and old man will be there to pick us up. We’ll go back to my place in Mondeor and get ready. Then we’re off to Q’s where all the Kes boys hang out and where the Bryanston and Houghton women are. All the rich bitches! Or we can go to Sash’s where all the rich Jew girls are? Pick ourselves up a kugal. Orrr … we can go get down and dirty and kick to Bellanapoli’s and pick up a Poro or Leb chick. If all else fails and we don’t get lucky we can always go to Rocky Road and see if we can pick-up a whore to share.”

My look told him what I thought of that idea. “Okay, kak idea. Which reminds me, did I ever tell you about Josh and me going to Sun City? We got wasted, won big at gambling at the casino and picked up some whores to celebrate with. Real classy sluts. We get them back to our room and one thing leads to another and there’s Josh and I on the job. Let me tell you, we’re trying like mad to avoid eye contact with each others’ brown eyes, if you know what I mean. So I’m focusing on the job at hand but this bitch has got her legs gripping my arse. Yes, it was a lot slimmer in those days! Plus she had fucking long legs all the way up to her guava. And they were strong? She could kick-start jumbos, broer! Anyway she’s pumping me with those legs and I can’t stop her so I spurt pretty quickly, but I keep going so she asks me all puzzled like if I haven’t come yet. I say yes but what about her, and she bursts out laughing. Her buddy as well. So I instinctively turn and look across and her mate’s got her finger up Josh’s arse so I shrivel. So my whore says ‘Oh, I see you have. That’s really sweet, lovey but you paid me to get you off. Don’t worry about me.’ Then these two whores’ while they’re getting dressed tell us that ‘no offence’, that we’re nice clean boys and quick, and we must look them up anytime. They’ll even give us a discount on a group rate if we bring more of our friends. I swear, like they’re fucking travel agents. What were their names? Purdy and Simone? Something like that. Anyway since then we’ve all called Josh, Rimjob. You’ll meet him tonight.”

“Woody, now why on earth would you think a story like that would make me want to pick up prostitutes?”

“Okay, Pastor Swany. Get off your fucking high-horse!”

“Anyway, what if we only got one girl but she was keen for us to share? We’d have to do it with our eyes closed. Well, I would ‘cos I sure wouldn’t want a view of your pimply behind! Imagine. What if we reached out and touched or grabbed one of each other’s … bits, you know? Eeyew! Know what, I mean? So count me out.” Woody turned and stared at me, incredulity increasing the ruddiness of his cherubic features. “What, you think I’m that much of a wet that don’t know squat about sex?”

He burst out laughing, his little budda-belly jiggling. “Swany, you never cease to fucking amaze me, my china. Wait ‘til we get home. We gonna watch the Thriller video and then we’re fucking going to party! Oooh!” He imitated the Michael Jackson exultation.

“Anyway, you know I’m seeing Bronwyn.”

“Okay, Pastor. I promise we’ll just party! I’ll save sex for when you’re gone. Just don’t bend in front of me once I’ve had a few, you sexy thing! It’s been a long time since I had a woman. I swear there were times when those Bushy women and some of these Owambo-meide around here looked like blondes! I could have naaied a couple of them, no lies!” Moonwalking backwards, he tapped my crotch with his free hand.

“Hey, you sweaty pervert. You wish! I should be so bored, drunk, desperate, blind and hard-up!”

“Oooh!” He falsettoed, grabbing his crotch. “That’s how he reaches those notes. He crushes his balls!”

There was a roar of laughter from the soldiers around us, and it spread, reaching even those waiting for the following two Flossies as Woody’s story was quickly recounted. The mood lightened and it was as if suddenly all those soldiers: Men. Sons. Boyfriends. Brothers. Grandsons. Friends, realized that it was over, that they were on the brink of freedom. They had survived and the World lay spread out before them. Their faces relaxed as tranquility and hope for that moment infused their beings and their spirits lifted up, up into the cloudless climes above them.

 

Omega Army Base

 

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I shivered with the cold and scrunched my neck down into my bushjacket. In the noise and the icy, pervasive gusts of whistling winds of the Flossie’s belly all were silent, most dozing or deep in thought. Myself? I thought, meditated, mulled, contemplated and dreamed of Bronwyn, as I had done for every month, every week, every day, every hour, every minute and every second since our momentous meeting. Let me tell you about Bronwyn: she was slim and petite of limb yet surprisingly full-breasted, Elvin-featured with a smile which would germinate emotion within even an angel, and eyes the colour of a winter’s sea, her hair dark against her lush, pale skin; this was my Bronwyn. She was that first bud of Spring, fresh, crisp, new and vital. She was a Persian kitten, irresistible and heaven to the touch. She was the scent of a rainbow created by the Sun in the drops of a Summer drizzle. She was the juice of a freshly picked strawberry on the lips. She was relish to the touch, she was rapture to the senses, a fervour, an ardour and an ecstasy; she was my addiction, my passion.

Let me tell you’ only the young truly understand and embrace obsession. To them it is as natural as breathing and as normal as eating. Every love is eternal, all-consuming and life and death, and so it was for me with Bronwyn.

At the age of ten I had my first girlfriend, Jan. She stayed in Orchard Gardens, the block of flats overlooking my house and road. Her father had been manager of the Checkers Supermarket, just up the street, and her and her sister, Susan were at Parkside School with me: she in Standard One, her sister, in Standard Two and I in Standard Three. I had been infatuated with Susan and had hung around the building with the flat kids in the hope of winning her over but it was Jan who had shown interest in me and shown me her little pale, spotty bottom. She had invited me up to her flat, and while we were listening to her father’s new Ringo Star album she pulled down her underpants and she showed me her bum. Apparently that meant I was her intended, that we were an item, as she had given me a ring of sorts, ha ha ha. For a while it was fun and I got to spend a lot of time with Susan, who being quite sickly, was at home all the time.

Jan and I would play The Mod Squad together with Craig who also lived in the building. Jan would obviously be the female lead and Craig and I would Ching-Chong-Cha for whom would play the White guy and who the Black guy. The loser played the Black guy and also did not get to get the girl. I did not show enough interest in Jan though, as I always had my eye out for her sister, and so ended up being the Black guy without the White girl. Craig started going out with Jan for real. After that I drifted back to playing with the Dawson Road kids rather than the Flat children. So, my love for Susan became an unrequited one, a secret and silent yearning until the sisters’ father was transferred a year later. This was to be a trend throughout my youth. The girls I liked were not interested in me while the ones I was not interested in doted on me. I was the King of Unrequited Love, a Romeo doting on his Rosaline, his often forgotten infatuation. That was until I met Bronwyn.

Bronwyn was a family friend’s daughter, and like the Ringo Starr song said all those years ago, she was sixteen, a luxurious desert, intoxicating and my dream.  I was on leave from the Border when I really began to notice her. It was a Friday afternoon and she was in the lounge with her friend, Sabrina. They were watching music videos she had taped from television, their young legs, sprawled across the wooden floor, blossomed from below school skirts suddenly too short, lithe and sublime: both unsure of these limbs as a young foal as it trots across a paddock for the first time. It was in that instant as I entered the lounge and took in the splendour that was Bronwyn that I realized my Bronwyn was growing up. While I had been in the Army becoming a man, Bronwyn was maturing into a beautiful young woman. She had breasts, for goodness sake! Her friends too were no longer irritations but suddenly possible girlfriends, creatures to be flirted with rather than ignored or teased.

Bronwyn looked up at me, those marvelous, stormy eyes, veiled by her long, dark fringe and highlighted by her high cheekbones. Her pale pink lips hung like jewels on the satin that were her features, and they shimmered as they turned into a slight smile.

“Andy! Hi! Sabrina, this is my friend, Andy. He’s down from the Army. Andy, this is my friend, Sabrina. She’s in my class.”

“Uh … Hi,” I greeted and stood staring at Bronwyn. With great difficulty I wrenched my gaze away from her and saved myself from any further embarrassment. “Well, better go get ready. Andre and I are going partying tonight. You girls have fun. You staying here tonight, Bronwyn?” I asked casually, my heart matching the rolling drum beat emanating from the television.

“Yes. Where are you going, Andy?” she asked.

“Um… We’re probably going to Nello’s. Why?”

“Oh, my sister parties quite a bit. She owns that hairdressing salon in Malvern Center. Her and Ronald go to Zodiac and Ronnyz quite a bit. Have you been?” I shook my head. “But I’d love to go to Nello’s!” she continued.

“Well, maybe you can come with us some time?” I was immediately infatuated with her. Under Love at First Sight in the dictionary see a picture of me.

“Hey, what about me?” Sabrina squeaked.

“If you behave yourself, girls, and if your Moms says it cool.”

“C’mon, Andy. You know my Mom will let me go if it’s with you.”

“Okay, we’ll talk about it this weekend. Nice to have met you, Sabrina. See you ladies later. And yes, you can listen to my records.”

That night I went out but only because I did not want to let my friends down. As soon as I could leave and still retain my credibility I did and raced home with a spring in my step and a song in my heart, nerves a-tingle. I stopped off at the corner shop and bought three slabs of chocolate, one for Bronwyn, the other two to cover the fact that the first was a gift. To my mother’s incredulity I was home just after twelve and to my joy the girls were still awake. They were happy with their chocolates. I do not know a female who is not happy with chocolate: chocolate is to women what sport is to males. They were happy but I was overjoyed for the twenty minutes I got to spend sitting in our spare room chatting to them, Bronwyn in her sleeping-shirt with cute kittens on it. It said, “We’re purrfect!” I could not help but think that what lay beneath would also be perfect, twins, pale in complexion yet robust in shape and crowned in rubescence. I went to bed with the world a better place, the stars a little brighter and my heart a little lighter.

 

Ah, Love is a wonderful thing. Sing on oh Venus and Aphrodite, sprung from the foam of the sea, goddesses of beauty and sensual love! Freyja, cry golden tears of love for me! Cupid, with your strongest bow and your best arrow you have knittethed two souls together and prospered love!

 

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Border Patrol

 

The co-pilot weaved his way past, stepping over outstretched legs and carry-bags. Every now and then he would stop and check the exposed cabling and tubing which ran the length of the airplane inside the bare hull surrounding us. Watching him do this I was still unnerved by it, despite the many Flossie flights I had endured. Watching him inspecting the tendons and arteries of this great bird reminded of my utter fascination and primitive awe of the fact that something constructed of metal and weighing tons, could claw its way into the Sky and stay there. I returned his nod and grin and closed my eyes again.

 

Bronwyn. We had gone to the movies the next night, the girls and myself. We were all horror freaks and The Twilight Zone was showing so it had been an easy choice. Bronwyn sat between Sabrina and myself, this having been skillfully and effortlessly managed by these two sixteen year olds. In the darkened theatre I sat inhaling Bronwyn’s heady scent and the smell of popcorn. There were times that I wished I could have bottled that combination for it was the fragrance of innocence and ripening sexuality. At one stage I inhaled so deeply that Bronwyn, concerned, asked if I was getting a cold. Sitting next to her I underwent one of my most exhausting physical workouts I have ever undergone. Tension held my limbs and muscles rock-hard, my heart beat like hailstones on a car roof, erratic and rapid and I controlled my breathing with intensity of a Nazi meeting Hitler. Although cool in the theatre, sweat ran down my spine, puddling in the crack of my buttocks and collecting behind my knees. Like The Hand in a creature feature I inched mine forward torturously, stalking Bronwyn’s hand with much trepidation and uncertainty. Finally as a ghoul was asking some pour sap on-screen if he wanted to see something really scary, I touched her hand and they enveloped each other instinctively, finger alongside finger and palm to palm. She also liked me! While the rest of the audience screamed in terror as the said ghoul showed them something really scary, Bronwyn and I smiled at each other warmly in the flickering light as we caressed each other’s hands. And that is how it started. However, the first kiss, the real test, only followed a week later at Louis Botha Airport when I left to return to camp. It was tender, warm, soft and wet. It started hesitantly with the brushing of our lips together and then as our breathing quickened so our mouths opened and our tongues dipped into each other like hummingbirds sipping nectar from the exotic blossoms we had transformed each other into. My mind became purely a sensory receptacle overloading on the stimuli rushing in from the single source that was Bronwyn. The satin of her mouth enveloped my sensitive tongue and mine hers. She was in me and I in her. The chemistry was complete; we fitted like strawberries and cream.  I carried the taste and feel of her with me all the way up to Omega. In my wallet I kept a photograph of her, which she had scented with her perfume. Often I could be found on my bed with the photograph pressed to my face, dreaming of her, mesmerized and draped in melancholy.

 

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Army travel id

 

I thought back on that day, how perfect and storybook it had been. When we were together it was like that, we fitted together. But apart was a problem. She would go out, and sometimes even go on dates with other guys. But worst of all, she barely wrote to me: out of sight, out of mind. I realized that part of the reason was that she was young, but I was in the Army, helpless with Time weighing heavily on me, and though I knew I could be forcing her to send me a dreaded Dear Johnny letter I harangued her in my own letters, seeking some sort of commitment or vow of love from her. She never did though, but it was the not knowing that ate at me. So the first and last days of my leave would be nightmares as we viciously tore at each other. However, the days between were wonderful, and everything that I dreamed love and relationships should be: the stuff of storybooks, movies and dreams. I wished this trip were over, that I could go to her right now, and finally get an answer from her. I doubted if she would even be at the airport tomorrow with my family. I shook my head. Love was like this Flossie. It climbed up, circling higher and higher to the rarefied altitudes above but coming down it simply dropped, leaving your stomach up in the clouds. Bronwyn was my Flossie. Woody kicked my foot again. The beast had arisen.

 

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The Me I remember, I sometimes find in that place between sleep and wakefulness, between Nod and Nid, on the coattails of the Sandman or in the shadow of Erebus. In this place I often return to my childhood home at Twenty-one Dawson Road, Malvern, sometimes to the corridors of Edgewood, on the rare occasion to the kimbos of Omega and now and then to the rugby field. The loves of my life often feature in these ghostwalks of mine: Gail, Bronwyn, Charon, Paula, Pam and Laura. I am pure in this place, chaste, innocent and carefree.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.

  I lay on my back, my hands behind my head I dozed, floating on the meniscus of Sleep. I would slowly sink below its surface only to be brought back by a myoclonic jerk, my body starting and my heart pounding, and then as I relaxed again, I would drift back into my ghostwalk. When I was thirteen I had liked this girl, one of Pierre, my next-door neighbour’s friends. I think her name was Madelein. She was blonde in a way a lot of the Afrikaans girls are: pale, almost-white hair and natural, athletic beauty; a throwback from their European-Dutch heritage. I spent one whole winter school holiday infatuated with her. I had met her at a house party where we had played spin-the-bottle in the family garage. She had had to kiss me, and although it was merely a brief and gentle pressing together of two pairs of lips in the dark of the garden, it was my first. To most a kiss is just a kiss, but to me it is an expression of reverence and adoration or an intimate greeting or farewell between friends. The Romans thought kisses were of great importance; watch any Mafia movie and you will know this to be true. These Romans even had specific names for the various types of kisses such was the importance placed on them: a kiss on the cheek was called an osculum, a kiss on the lips a basium and a kiss between lovers, the whole wetworks, was called a suavum. To me it’s all about romance, longing, desire and all that emotion that goes with it. Sex is just the final act of a play coloured by all the rest, and the kiss is the beginning of it all.  I am of that school; I have always loved kissing and placed enormous importance to it. It is the most important compatibility test of all.

O Love, O fire! …

With one long kiss my whole soul through

My lips, as sunlight drinketh dew.

  In the mind of the romantic dreamer that I was, that was enough, we were star-crossed lovers meant to be together. We were a Bee Gee’s song.  I loved with the intensity of a Shakespearean character, more in love with the act, action, emotion, verb, than the actual person. I tongued it like a mouth ulcer, unable to let it alone. I mooned over Madelein at night in my bedroom, and devised intricate machinations to get myself into her presence. Finally, after seeing a film together in a large group of friends including Boetie, I made my dramatic gesture. After disembarking from the train, on Malvern Station I gave her, with palsied hand, a poem expressing my obsession with her. Then I spun around wildly and sprinted off home to hide in my bedroom. Needless to say, I never saw her again and was teased mercilessly for weeks after by those in my neighbourhood.

 My fatalistic yet totally optimistic brand of Zen was one of the things about me that I think scared women. Perhaps they were just more realistic than I or perhaps, like most people, they were just afraid to live, to take a chance, to wander down that less-traveled road that I generally found myself on. The Chinese have a curse-slash-blessing: may you live in interesting times. I did not want to be on my deathbed and to regret unsaid things and opportunities not taken. So let the bones fall where they may.

But, oh! To kiss Bronwyn again! The witchery and sensual magic of the voluptuous, silky, smooth, warm, soft skin of her lips. The tart fruitiness of her tantalizing tongue. Her smooth, pearl-like teeth. The peach of her cheek and the light touch of her hair. Her scent, her warm breathe. I closed my eyes and drifted away to the melody of my own soft snores as I left the War behind.

 

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It seems that in everything there are seven: the seven deadly sins, the seven steps of human development and the seven stages of consuming alcohol. Stage one begins with a sense of freedom, looseness, and a growth in confidence and lack of inhibitions – a buzz. This is followed by the sudden onset of stage two, which is numbness, vertigo, a deteriation in motor skills and increase in all the primal and baser instincts  – Hulk. Stage three is when you know you are in trouble, the saliva begins to pool in your mouth, hot and salty as the world tilts on its axis – wasted. Stage four is the inevitable projectile puke – Huey, Ralph and the rest of the crusty gang. Stage five, the bile, dry heaves and bargaining with God. Stage six is a slight sense of relief and euphoria as the nausea passes and eventual oblivion, and the final stage is the dreaded hangover. I was at the end of stage five passing over to stage six and hours away from the hangover.

 “Wave to the crowd, Swany, you big pussy! Didn’t they teach you how to drink in the Army?”

“Yeugh! Oooar!” I heaved, spat the bitter, bile and saliva from my mouth and gave him the finger. “Its not the booze, you fuck-up! I’ll drink you under the table any day! It’s that shit dope that you scored. Its Labrador man, Labrador I say! Nobbed again, Bob! Nairobi!” I howled.

Deano laughed as only one stoned can and I joined in. I straightened up and reached for the bottle he was holding.

“How’s some of that Lecol lemon juice? No, not the tequila! Just the lemon! Just the lemon! I need to get rid of this kak taste!”

“Here you, big wuss! Like I said. Can’t take the punch.”

“Listen, twot. I’m not going to score a babe if I’m fuck-drunk and drooling all over myself like your mother does over me.”

“Hey, cunt! Let’s leave mothers out of this!”

“Cool. Then just give the fucken lemon, dork!”

I snatched the squeeze bottle from him, swigging from it and then I swilled, gargled and spat, wincing at the taste of the sour, tart liquid. I bellowed, my roar echoing down the dark alley where my car was parked. Then I daintily wiped my mouth on my sleeve, slung the bottle into my tangerine Corolla, slammed the door and looked over at Deano.

“Shall we go, my good man?”

Deano grinned at me, nodding his long, dark ringlets at me.

“Let’s go hunt some honeys, Swan.”

“Yeah, deathbreath and all,” I mumbled. “Shit! I almost stood on my own tiger! Give me a beechie, please. Shot, bro!” I said as he handed me a piece of gum. “Right, let’s go do it!”

We swaggered and staggered up the alley, heading toward the bright lights of Smith Street and its plethora of car dealerships and old buildings. Behind us the bustle of the harbour and passing trains faded as the music from Nello’s grew in our ears.

 

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I returned from the Army to a life that had moved on without me. While all I craved was the familiarity of that old life prior to the SADF it no longer existed. Alienation attached itself to me like my shadow, and as dark. Within, desolation whispered to me. The World that I had been introduced to upon leaving school was nothing like the naïve image I had had of it from my bedroom at 21 Dawson Road. I had seen what skulked and savaged behind the curtain, and upon the matted, foul fur of its hulking shoulders, it wore Apartheid. By association I was its bastard son, by the colour of my skin, by my surname, but mostly because I had fought in its Army. I was ashamed and proud, but mostly I was afraid of the beast within me that had been unleashed, the one that liked carrying a rifle, that liked being a weapon. I remembered me and I howled at my loss. My innocence, my dreams and my hopes had been taken from me, like a rape victim’s and there was no way back. Frustration and anger boiled and seethed within me like jets of scalding steam and the sibilant hissing filled my ears. I wore violence like some acrid scent: it hung on my clothes and hair, puffed out of me in my breath and oiled my skin in my sweat. During the sunlight hours I would push my body to the breaking point, to exhaustion, in the gym or on the road and at night I would seek oblivion in alcohol, drugs, sex and violence.

One afternoon as I sat on the kitchen stairs staring out over the horizon, smoking and sipping on one of my mom’s husband’s beers, she looked down at me, tears in her eyes.

“What wrong, Andy? What happened to the smiling, fun-loving guy we all knew and loved?”

I wanted to scream at her. Ask her why now? Why did she finally care now? She would be getting married soon, was selling the only home I had known and my last keepsake of my father, she had moved on, and suddenly now she cared? This made me hate myself even more as my guilt and wish for her happiness warred with my anger. I wanted to tell her that I no longer liked myself, that I hated the world I inhabited, that I could not foresee myself making my 25th birthday. Die young and leave a good-looking corpse.

Instead, “Leave me alone, Mom. There’s nothing wrong. I just want college to start now so I can get out of this house and on with my life.”

 

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Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to make out as if I were some White crusader fighting for my oppressed Black brothers. I was disenchanted youth! Prior to my Army service I had been the adult I always felt my mother had needed. Upon my return I found that I was no longer needed: my mother had a man that was to be permanent, there was a world that neither cared where I had been nor that I had returned. So I went about showing my contempt to this world, recreating myself, and feasting from the Tree of Knowledge.

But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it; for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

I challenged Death or Retribution, taunting and daring it.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to make out as if I were some dark anarchist, bludgeoning at the foundations of Society. I was selfish youth! Had I gone to the University of Natal and studied Journalism, as I wanted to do, my path most definitely would have been different. Knowing myself I would have joined the End Conscription Campaign group and perhaps been recruited by the ANC. Then again I probably would become one of those pseudo-intellectuals, grown my hair, smoked dope and hung out with unshaven, militant, feminist sisters, talking and posing, and little else. However, financial constraints led to my accepting a teaching bursary to study at Edgewood. Edgewood Teachers’ Training College. E.C.E. Edgewood College of Education. College: a body of colleagues with common duties and privileges.

                                            The land of faery,

Where nobody gets old and godly and grave,

Where nobody gets old and crafty and wise,

Where nobody gets old and bitter of tongue.

That was Edgewood.

Now don’t get me wrong, I was well aware that mine was a melancholy that Youth wore as they did acne, erections and moods, as they had through the ages. From Fred Flintstone, the cave dude to Britney Spears, pop babe to Buzz Lightyear, space guy we have all been afflicted with that malaise. Strangely enough though, not Archie Andrews and his other comic book buddies. Imagine, if you will, Sabrina, the teenage witch, with pms. But I digress.

NAFI! An Army term, another of a myriad of colourful adjectives and phrases which disguised the worm in the tongue.

To snarl at all things right or wrong,

Like a mad dog that has a worm in’s tongue.

 NAFI

No Ambition Fuck-all Interest

NAFI

This was my malaise. This was Youth’s malaise. This was a condition of Humanity.

But!

Mine was coloured, twisted and contorted by my little stint in the Army as part of Uncle Magnus’s Brown Shirts. Like an adult afflicted with chickenpox or measles my late blooming caused my fever to be that more dangerous, that more violent and that more deadly. A few days after New Year, 1984, a couple of weeks after my release from the Army, I champed at the bit. I needed, with a fearful desperation, to get away from what was my home, my family life, from Bronwyn, from me!

Edgewood was to be where I would recreate myself. A place where my hope for salvation and the future rested upon: the salve for my angst.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am well aware of how pathetic, self-absorbed and self-pitying I appear, but my funk was a groove, a beat that hung upon me like heavy sludge on a horse trapped in a quagmire. It dragged at my limbs and clung to my coat and no matter how much I shook and twisted I could not free myself. So at the age of twenty I decided that the old Swany was dead and that Andrew would be my reinvention. So in the laboratory of my mind, like Doctor Frankenstein, I worked on my creation.

Take the spirit of a cherry-skinned, razor-cheeked Native American, add a dash of a childhood of bikers, their leathers and their hogs. Take a gazillion superhero comics, most notably Batman. Take hundreds of movies and thousands of books. Take the darkness and discontentment of the music and culture of the Alternative movement. A little rock and finally add the imagination of a child. Put them together and what do you get? Magica-boola bibbidi-bobbidi-boo! A talisman and totem of Brother Wolf, a biker legacy from my father, the father-less Batman, the imaginary world of books and movies and music equals Andrew Peter Swanepoel Mark 2. The Creature LIVES! The final step? Place this unnatural being in to the fertile and enchanted world of a tertiary institution, where Hope and Dreams and Youth spring eternal. Immortality is an accepted thing in this world. Dreams? A matter of time, a mere formality. Hope? Only a wish away.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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