To carry a weapon with the intent to kill is something one never forgets, the weapon doesn’t forget and neither do you. The thing is you, in fact, become the weapon: you are forged within the furnace of your Country’s political and military aspirations and doctrines and then waved and brandished and pointed with, and then finally fired with. Your rifle, tank etc. are mere accessories, you are the weapon and you never forget that. To return to the life of a civilian after military service for most is to sleep above a pit of squirming toads or in a room full of tarantulas. There are unnerving movements and sounds and presences only you are aware of. To continue with the weapon analogy, picture a psyche that looks like an unstable explosive device, sweating nitro-glycerine. All it takes is the slightest bump or bang, or a slight increase in temperature and BOOM! These are some of my recollections of the years after my return from my military service. As usual I have changed certain names and altered certain circumstances and incidents, sometimes on purpose and sometimes unknowingly because of the amount of time that has passed. However I hope that I have nevertheless managed to capture the sense and essence of my emotions and the zeitgeist of the time remains.
Bronwyn was my first love. Infatuations: I have had literally thousands. Lusts: more. But Loves! L.O.V.E. LOVE! Those I can number on the fingers of a single hand. I love with a fierceness, a ferocity, an intensity that very few can withstand the heat of without being consumed. I love with a loyalty and almost-brutal honesty that demands reciprocation that few are able to. I do not give myself lightly or easily. I have always said that I would rather be alone for all the right reasons then with someone for all the wrong. I would prefer not to waste another’s time or mine. I come across as unrealistic, as judgmental, as opinionated, as difficult and as moody but I believe that I am worth it. Hell, if I’m hard on other people its only because I’m a hundred times harder on myself.
Bronwyn was my first love but Grace, oh Grace, how I adored her. She had curly, honey-blonde hair and pale blue eyes. She wasn’t model-beautiful but was extremely pretty in a pixy-ish sort-of-way. What made her gorgeous were her smile and her laugh, which bewitched all who experienced and it was an experience! It would start as an engaging giggle then slowly grow into a laugh, which emanated all the way from her belly. Very few women laugh from their bellies, which is a great pity and Grace was proof of that. Her eyes would twinkle and her cheeks would redden and her body would shake. And what a body she had! Voluptuous! She was big breasted and wide hipped with a firmness, which came from playing first team field hockey. My poor teenage hormones! But along with this amazing package came a personality of the highest order. She was just such a wonderful person, its no wonder I was so love-struck!
She had a crush on my brother, Dave, though and that was how I met her. Dave wasn’t interested but she would come around with her friends to visit in the hope that he would change his mind. For three years I mooned over her, standard’s eight through to ten. It was on her that I cut my romantic teeth, writing her endless poems and love letters and attempting to find that one gift that would win her over. We actually became very good friends over those three years but lost contact toward the end of my Matric year when she got herself a boyfriend: Donald Dexter. He was a spoilt mommy’s boy who was physically large and liked to use his size to intimidate. I called him Donald Dorkster. Anyway, Grace and the Dorkster ended up getting married but not happily ever after. For that I am truly sorry, bad things happen to good people. It appears that the Dorkster carried his schoolyard bullying into their marriage and home. One night while drunk and with Grace pregnant with his child he pushed one time too many. She plunged a kitchen knife into his neck, and watched in stunned disbelief as he bled to death on the linoleum of their kitchen floor. I often wondered how her life would have turned out if she had chosen me instead of the Dorkster. Ah, but therein lies the road to madness: the what if’s and the if only’s. It does no good to ponder such things. I hate that terrible things happen to good people, and she was and is one of the best.
Bronwyn and I, I am told, made a gorgeous couple, our dark looks complimenting each other. We survived my time in the Army, though no thanks to her, and on the day of my return she was with my family at the airport to welcome me home. That summer we were inseparable, spending most of our days at the beach and evenings at Nello’s Niteclub or playing Pacman at the corner shop. Often we would go down to Brighton Beach for a swim to relieve the humidity of a Durban summer. Bronwyn and I were each other’s first real, mature relationship with the other sex, I, having only had my single encounter with Norma to boast of, and Bronwyn, a couple of brief flirtations with schoolboys. We were both very inexperienced but made up for it with our enthusiasm and lust and genuine enjoyment of each other. I explored her body like it were some island paradise, sliding my hands across its rounds and plains, running my fingers through its exotic foliage and partaking of its wondrous fruits and juices. She, however, did not know how to pleasure me and I, just as inexperienced, did not know how to instruct her, as well as being too embarrassed. But for that summer, that she shared her body with me was gift enough. Every night, however, I would return home, moving rather gingerly, afflicted with a condition I only truly understood once I got involved with Bronwyn: blue balls. It is symptomatic of a state of sexual excitement over an extended period of time without any release of said tension. There is a dull ache in the lower abdomen as well as in the testicles, which feel uncomfortably full, swollen and bruised. DSB. Detrimental Sperm Build-up. Males would have females believe that they, the males, can die from it but a cold shower I found works.
Now let me tell you, Bronwyn had a wild streak in her and at the age of sixteen was already going to clubs and smoking. One evening we returned from a swim at the Brighton Beach Tidal Pool and parked my car in her parent’s garage, closing the door behind us. Immediately we pounced on each other, devouring each other hungrily, our hot kisses, spiced by the salt of the sea, were in strong contrast to our bodies, which were still cold and wet from the water. Freed from the constraints of fear of discovery we shed any inhibitions and lost ourselves in the moment. None more so than Bronwyn. She slipped off her white, one-piece costume and placed a foot on either side of me while perching her peach-of-a-bottom on the steering wheel of my car. Her body open to me she leant back, her head against the windscreen and her hands on the wheel, arching her back so that she did not press against the hooter. There before me was God’s greatest creation in all its splendour: woman. As I have mentioned before, Bronwyn was a slim girl so the heaviness of her breasts, and especially of her furred vagina, astounded me, as did the width of her hips. I could feel the ripe fertility of her womanhood and her power of creation. I worshipped at her altar and when she orgasmed, she clamped her thighs and pressed her flushed buttocks against the steeringwheel, crying out in ecstasy as she orgasmed. To this day it is awe I still experience when confronted with Woman but this was the first time that I became conscious of it. My experience with Bronwyn also created within me an enjoyment, or sexual preference, to want please the woman I was with, and thereby derive my pleasure from her’s, rather than from any real effort on her part. This was to be further entrenched by my next love, Paula.
February of the following year I left to study at Edgewood College of Education from whom I had received a bursary. I had wanted to study journalism at the University of Natal and had been accepted. Unfortunately my mother did not have the money to send me so it was off to teaching I went. I had opted to stay in residence, as I was not too happy with having a stepfather and being in a new house. Unfortunately that meant being away from Bronwyn as well, and after my second semester I ended it with her. The truth was after her behaviour while I had been in the Army I did not trust her. She believed it had to do with the fact that we had never made love and begged me to go out with her again so that we could consummate our love. I didn’t though. As I’ve mentioned I demand loyalty and honesty. Swany’s code of ethics and rules.
I waved a thank-you to the security guard as he lifted the boom and I accelerated Batty through. Batty being my tangerine two-door 1300 Toyota Corolla. Batty because of the rubber bat hanging from my rearview mirror. It bobbed its wings to Echo & the Bunnymen’s The Killing Moon, McCulloch’s serial killer voice filling the cab of my car as I passed the emerald fields on my left and on my right the square modern blocks of concrete-gray and brick-red. The copper eyes of the buildings’ large reflective windows observed me with an inscrutable awareness. On my left, turquoise jewels: an enormous swimming pool and tennis courts. On my right, the long double-storied residences and their parking lots: Pinewood, Fieldswood, Martinwood, Essenwood, Cedarwood, Oakwood, Yellowwood, Umdoniwood, Rosewood and Beachwood. I pulled into the Men’s Res parking lot and it rose to greet me, enveloping me in waves of heat. There were a number of cars scattered about, protesting under the February Sun, Summer at its most brash. I was amazed at the variety of number plates: Free State, Transvaal, the Cape, Maritzburg. I turned off Batty and turned down the Bunnymen. Then I reached across to the passenger seat, feeling my shirt adhere in a wet sticky sheet to my back and slid a cigarette from the box lying there. I lit it, blew on the coal as was my habit, smoking being a conscious ritual for me, inhaled deeply and exhaled a cloud at the Bat. I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and touched the stud in my left ear. To leave it in or take it out. In the right ear: queer. In the left: druggy. Neither acceptable for a teacher, even a student teacher.
“Screw it!” I said aloud. I was Andrew Peter Swanepoel and nobody would tell me what I could and could not do, nor what I must and must not do! Those days were long over! Pity the person who tried! Looking in the mirror I brushed my hand through the spikes of my Mad Max slash New Wave brushcut and nudged up my dark tortoise shell shades.
“Yeah!” I clicked my tongue, “Catch ya later.”
Neat printed signs lead me to the Men’s Res Warden, Mr. Leyden’s flat. Wyndem. He was a soft-spoken, pale, bald wisp-of-a-man, as nondescript as gray, save for an odd appendage: a snowy, fluff-ball of a poodle with all the character Mr. Leyden lacked. Modred. Windy Lady and Modey to the students. Mr. Leyden had a table set up at the entrance of his flat behind which he sat. Behind him sat Modred on his throne made of wicker and crimson. The table was laid out as though for the Eucharist or High Mass to carry out some timeless ritual: pay key deposit, sign for keys, receive keys, receive res rules, and finally, Leyden’s Fresher sermon. Welcome, behave, study, enjoy, achieve, behave. I found myself self-consciously presenting my right side to Mr. Leyden but he either did not care that I wore an earring or did not notice. Taking my keys and my copy of the residence rules and other assorted handouts I left as another student arrived. I passed through the interjoining door entering into the residence corridors. Each residence was I-shaped. On the ground floor; a TV room, a lounge and storerooms. First and second floors; student rooms, communal bathrooms, laundry rooms and clotheslines. All, grays and beiges that seemed to have seeped into their keeper, Mr. Leyden. I found my room, 24, opened the door and surveyed the interior. The sun passed through a large double window and within the room petrified, dust motes sparkling within its depths. The window looked out onto the back of Fieldswood; trees and grass, a fence in the distance. An L-shaped desk was fixed to the wall, as were two reading lamps and a mirror. A single orange chair, a wire bin and a single bed were placed on the gray, scored floor about the room along with a moss-coloured carpet. Built-in cupboards and a towel rail were to the right of the door. About me rooms stirred, one or two at first but by the time I had emptied my car and passed and greeted numerous sweating piles of belongings on the stairs and corridors the res was a raging bushfire of youthful exuberance. Music and laughter filled the rooms and corridors as parties sparked grew and moved, spreading through the residences. This was my home! This was where I belonged! I removed my wolf totem from Smoking Joe and hung it from the reading-lamp above my bed.
In the bacchanalian orgy that was Freshers’ Week my newly created persona blossomed, as did my fragile ego. Oh, and my starved ego, my id, was fed and fed and fed. It perceived, took cognizance of the external reality and adjusted responses and behaviour accordingly. The closed environment of real privilege, excess and very little responsibility was the balm to my wounded psyche, the morphine to numb the pain. Oh, and the girls, the ladies, the women, the females! The female students outnumbered the male students five to one: teaching being considered their domain. In macho SA, teaching was what women did, an extension of their nurturing role, while males only did it if they could not do anything else. Those who cannot do, teach. It was considered a place for male underachievers or slackers. Well, they could call me underachiever while I partied with their wives, girlfriends, daughters, sisters and women. My confidence grew as the week passed. It was unlike anything I had ever experienced. I was popular! With the guys, but more importantly, with the girls! It was heady, intoxicating, addictive stuff! I felt like I was the starring role in a movie. The steely ruthlessness, witticism and incorrigible charisma of 007, Bond, James Bond. The youthful cockiness of Tom Cruise in Risky Business. But most of all I based my new persona on Tom Cody of Streets of Fire. And they ate it up, and somewhere in all of it I lost myself. The soldier I had been, that dog of war, wanted that, wanted to just disappear.
FRESHERS’ WEEK PROGRAMME
10am – 3pm “Trial By Jury” (Receiving of First Years)
6pm Dinner (Braai around the fish pond)
8pm “Fame” (Sing-song in Student Union)
9pm Res parties
10pm The Edgewood singalong (Bonfire)
8am “Happy Days” (First year registration)
12am Brown’s School film
2pm-5pm Walt Disney’s Junior Olympics and Fair
7pm “West Side Story” (Party)
8am “Hello Mr. Chips” (Lectures)
2pm “South Pacific” (Gala)
7pm “Oklahoma” (Party)
2pm College Lecture
7pm “Bedknobs and Broomsticks” (Pajama Party)
8am “Oliver Twist” (Rags-lectures)
2pm “Guys and Dolls” (Sports)
7pm “Cats” (Party)
8am Baby Waddle (Walk into Pinetown)
1pm Lunch at Imperial Hotel
7pm “Chess” (Black and White Disco)
9am “Summer Holiday” (Beach)
A FINAL MESSAGE TO THE FIRST YEARS
Here at Pinewood Towers the staff prides themselves in having the ability to emit very useful information.
Here are a few serious hints to all our first years:
To make the most of your college career it is important to get involved. By doing this you will make friends and you will leave this place with a feeling of satisfaction.
DON’T SIT IN YOUR ROOM ALL DAY MOPING!
Get to know the rest of the guys in res if you already haven’t. Most of the guys are genuine and by sticking together as a res we can jol. If you have found a new way of getting into women’s res, please share it with us. If you must kotch please make sure you start and finish in one place. Don’t take your tiger on a guided res tour. If you must emit a particularly big beast, leave him to his abode in the bushes outside Essenwood.
If your pomp isn’t on the pill, please make sure that you place your sticky jiffies in the big, black bins outside res.
Regarding hi-fi sets … it is quite acceptable to try and prove you have the largest and loudest set-up in res but in the case of someone getting irritated it’s your problem as to how you remove the speakers from your bowels.
The men’s res is also prone to little fines (which go towards salaries for the Pinewood Post reporters).
a) caught without beer in hand … R5
b) caught drinking tea … R10
c) caught drinking tea whilst Social Club is open … R50
d) caught passing out … R10
e) refusing to drink … Expulsion From College
Lastly we feel it is our duty to warn all First Years of the mid-year exams. Don’t be fooled. Our very own Pinewood Post editor was wounded by The Axeman but luckily was able to prove his worth in the final exams. Learn Hard.
Enjoy Your College Career!!!!
PS: A MESSAGE TO OUR RES THIEF
It comes to our attention that you had a thrashing holiday because once again you are broke and have found it necessary to lay your smutty little fingers on the possessions of others. Inflation seems to have now resorted to have taken its toll because you have now resorted to stealing the big, brown notes as well as the little blue ones. Because of your twotty antics, the Pinewood roving reporters along with Commandant Kalashnikov and his group of res vigilantes have decided to take the law into their own hands and find you because we are all very anxious to talk to you.
Our lives are an intricate web of intertwined gossamer threads: life paths. They stretch out before us as ethereal as a spider’s web in the light of the rising sun. As we choose one to move forward on, numerous others fork off that single thread, left and right, multiplying, stretching out into an obscure future. Paths chosen, choices made. Life’s little joke on us is that we only see them in hindsight, as in reality, once passed. Ahead they are merely forks in the path through a dense forest. One cannot, to coin a phrase, see the forest for the trees.
Now at any point in time, Kant would divide our judgement or choices into three modes: problematic, assertoric and apodictic. Someone once told of having chosen a path less traveled and that this had made all the difference. People believe in fate, in hands dealt, in karma, in kismet, in God’s will. Everything happens for a reason is one of my personal favourites. Some even believe that we are mere accidents, Nature’s lottery draw. That all is chance. That there is no plan. That there is no reason. Fatalism. What a bleak, bleak way to approach life. I choose not to believe that. I believe we all have our own future in our own hands. The freedom of choice, the ability to choose. Of all of the creatures that inhabit this blue and green sphere we inhabit only humanity has this ability. Life is a bitch! It rolls in on heels and will exterminate you, if you allow it to.
So there I am standing outside the Students’ Union building. On either side of me are my fellow Freshers and about us the rest of Men’s Res, cajoling and capering about like drunken chimpanzees. I shiver, cupping my bare genitals, not from cold but in anxious anticipation. The Rector’s welcoming speech comes to me.
“We welcome the First Year Students to Edgewood and wish you a happy four years here. The Freshers’ Reception Committee will introduce you to life at Edgewood. You will be given the opportunity to meet your fellow-students; you will be introduced to clubs and associations; and you will be shown around campus. Several social functions and lots of fun have been prepared for you as a means of enabling you to join in the life at Edgewood.”
I shake my head as Hakkinen’s high-pitched whining rings in my ears He pleads from the confines of the green Army cabinet, pleads for the door not to be closed, pleads to drunken soldiers. I stand on jellied legs, keeping my spine rigid, a brimful firebucket in either hand. Another initiation, in another lifetime. High school, Standard Six, Matrics hanging Andre from the first floor corridor balcony by his ankles. I see him from the corner of my eye. The full weight of my body is resting on my nose, which in turn is pressed against the classroom chalkboard; my feet are a meter back from that self-same board. Welcome to high school.
So there I am and this roar pulls me from my terrors. I look up and self-consciously pull my hand from my groin. To coin a phrase, the crowd goes wild as the first group of Freshers takes off across the access road and up the steep grassy bank. They are, as we all are, naked. They trail flames, sparks, ashes and smoke from the sheet of Yellow Pages that protrude from between their butt cheeks. Fire and its proximity to orifices and to, shall we say, soft wobbly bits is a great motivator. All reach the summit of the bank in a flash of white buttocks and without any serious damage done.
“Freshers, spread your cheeks!”
A surgically gloved FRC member pushes a wad of paper between my buttocks as I lean forward. A flash of heat about my posterior, the call, a rush of adrenalin, a lunatic rush and both sets of cheeks are flushed.
The Dread Fred, apparently the Men’s Res Pres, congratulates me on taking part in the initiation despite being an older student, having been to the Army. Another army veteran, ou man, had refused. I smile knowing what Fred has to look forward to after he graduates this year. Magnus Malan, Chief of the Army, has a long arm and a long memory.
So there I am but I don’t really understand how I got there. I have a cigarette hanging from my lips, my eyes squinting from the smoke. There is a love bite on my neck and I can feel my muscles hard beneath my black turtleneck, my buttocks firm, my garments tight. I feel powerful. Good old rugby. I have an icy drink. Alcoholic. Vodka and orange. My own. The bar, as Olympus must have done for the gods, allows me to look down on my subjects, these under eighteen clubbers here at Phase Two. To these tender teenagers I am a god. I use the word bar but it is more like a tuck-shop. I sell only chips and soft drinks.
The music throbs with my pulse and vice versus. The multi-coloured lights garnish me as if I were some ancient idol.
“And I get paid to do this!”
The girls, their youth an illuminating beauty from within, look at me with awe and longing. This radiance all the more precious for its fleeting nature. I observe, as I always do, from a space above my head and slightly to the rear. I play a role for this cannot be real.
The world is my stage.
So there we were at half time: 3-17 down but in our eyes was a fire and hunger that raged, growing white-hot. We had given a try away via an intercept. The other points had been for, shall we call it, over-robust play. The Dutchmen were feeling it. We drove at Dokkies as a single unit and our defensive tackling was an offensive weapon, knocking them back, rattling their bones and teeth. The pressure was getting to them and the uncertainty showed in their eyes and their play. One of the Dokkies’ supporters had turned up his car radio, booming out Eye of the Tiger from Rocky 3, the one with the Black guy from The A-Team. He was standing on the car roof in his shorts and slops waving his college flag. On the field his exuberance and confidence was not mirrored. The Dokkies team was bickering amongst themselves. Like any good Rocky movie we had taken our opponent’s best punches and it was now our turn to start punching.
“Swany, Swany! Swany’s our man! If he can’t do it nobody can!” I hear a section of the crowd sing. My tunnel vision wavers and peripherals open as embarrassment and pleasure wreak havoc on my concentration. I look across the field to the grassy bank to the west where the majority of the spectators sit. It is Graham “Willy” Wilkinson, party/event organizer extraordinaire and his bevy of First Year girls. There is a carnival atmosphere to the day. It is the annual intercollegiate game: Edgewood versus Dokkies, the local derby. English college versus Afrikaans college. Braai smoke wafts about filling the air with the scent of roasting meat.
“We are red! We are white! We are fucking dynamite!”
“Come on Edgewood!”
Graham starts banging out a beat on his Zulu drum again, his wild mass of auburn curls celebrate.
“We will, we will rock you! Hooo! Rock you! Hooo!”
It is a warm, clear mid-Winter’s day. The sky; a blue the colour of eternity. Durban rocks in Winter!
“Hey, Swany, you forgot your sunglasses!” a female calls.
I shut my eyes and begin to center myself again. My senses heighten but only to my immediate surrounds, as though I am in a spotlight, the rest darkens about me. I am a primitive man again: a hunter, a warrior. My breathing fills my ears. A shrill blast, a roar from the crowd and, like clans of old times, we thunder together in battle.
Now let me tell you, Edgies had never beaten the ancient enemy before. Never since the college opened its doors in 1966. Such was the pressure to win that even the Prof; Rector of Edgewood had called each team member into his office to chat. At formal assembly we had been presented to the entire College and then Prof had promised a day off to them should we win. It was like something out of an American college football movie! Talk about pressure!
Tim, our eighth man breaks from the back of the scrum, drawing the opposition loose forwards and scrumhalf, and heads for their flyhalf like a scud missile. He smashes into him and passes the ball inside to Rich, our scrummy. The spaces open in their defence and when Rich takes the fullback’s tackle one of our tight-five, Graz, takes the pass and scores.
The crowd is stunned as a silence as visible as fog descends over the field. Then they erupt as they begin to believe.
“Rock you! Rock you!”
We win the game and become heroes. We party for an entire week while Dokkies mourns for an eternity. Oh, and we get that day off. Legends are told of that day but my favourite is the muti one. It seems that some of the Old Boys: Boomer, Baldy, Roach and a few of the Fresher girls had gone to Chip ‘n Ranch to sate their munchies after a night of pre-game boozing. It was in Sparks Road in the Indian community of Overport, on the outskirts of Durban, and made the cheapest, most spicy, aromatic food, 24 hours a day. They had stopped to devour great mouthfuls of steaming roti and hot chips alongside the local cemetery. Baldy, an immense man and not bald at all, had disappeared and returned grunting, carrying a huge, mossy tombstone. He had climbed over the fence to urinate when he had stumbled over this tombstone. He had noticed the name on it and in an inebriated epiphany had devised a cunning plan, cunning to one who consumed Black Labels with a shot of brandy from a hip flask. They put it in the boot of the car and headed off to the Dokkies residences in Glenwood. By some sort of drunken fortune and rusty, stumbling Afrikaans they managed sneak in and place their grisly offering against one Porky Potgieter’s door. The tombstone was the marker for the resting place of one Reno Potgieter, 1877-1913. Now Porky was the flyhalf of the Dokkies’ side and their playmaker about whom they revolved, and, it seems, extremely superstitious. Muti.
So I had broken up with Bronwyn, my Army love, and had become a wild and untamed thing at College, a midnight rambler in Women’s Res, which incidentally was off limits to men, and a DP, Duly Performed, watcher at lectures. I partied up a storm and did the bare minimum at my studies. The old adage that girls like a man with a wicked edge proved true plus the fact that I worked in some of the hottest clubs in Durban made me a celebrity. How do the Toms, Leonardos and Brads of the world handle the intoxicating, perverting, corrupting, all-consuming charm that is stardom? I could not handle my brief moment in the Sun, as you will see. So there I am in Women’s Res, brazenly using one of the toilets. It is just after twelve and I have hooked up with a pretty young thing and we are settling down in her room. But first I need to pee. I love women’s toilets: they are so nice smelling, cosy and just plain pretty. I love using them. So I’m sitting there so as to minimize the noise and start reading this page stuck to the wall, apparently they don’t do graffiti either. It is a list of guys to avoid in College and there I am. Notoriety, girls’ toilets and a p.y.t. waiting for me, I whooped, in Women’s Res, in their toilets! There was an instant hush; I bit my lip, toothbrushes stopped dead in soft mouths, bufpufs frozen to downy faces.
“Hello? Is everything okay?” a hesitant voice asked.
In a falsetto and with drunken courage I answered, “Yes, just College supper making this a pooh a torture. Hurry up and brush those teeth girls before the smell gets to you. I disgust myself.”
There were assorted giggles and the odd eyew and gross but teeth and faces were speedily cleaned and the bathroom emptied rapidly. I rested my head on the cool tiles in relief.
“Swany?” the p.y.t. softly called. What a movie my life had become!
Gentle Jesus meek and mild,
Look upon this little child,
Bless his little eyes and ears,
And bid him not shed many tears.
Touch his tiny fingers and toes,
And guard him from his many foes,
Bless his hands and feet for me,
And keep them where they’re supposed to be!
Strengthen his character to deny,
Any tall, blonde strangers passing by,
Cleanse the evil thoughts of mind,
And bless his stunning, gorgeous hind.
But most of all, I pray to thee,
To keep his thoughts entirely on me.
Paula and Andy. Paula, she was my second love, and my first adult love. I remember her by music: music hath charms to soothe the savage breast. She soothed that part of my totem, that wolf, that animal that would tear the throat out of the night. We fit like two jigsaw pieces, symbiotic spirits, mentally and physically. Not because we were identical or because we were opposites but because we were the black and white in a photograph or the yellow and the red in green. First Princess: fair, flaxen-haired and blue-eyed. First Team Rugby player: olive-skinned, midnight hair and dark-eyed. From different sides of the tracks. One sophisticated and genteel, the other wild and creative. We were a cliché. Hell, we were a Hollywood movie.
Like in John Hugh’s teenage angst piece The Breakfast Club there we were. Except Paula was way hotter than Molly Ringwald, the princess, and I was more a combination of Emilio Estevez’s jock and Judd Nelson’s rebel without a clue. Paula, however, preferred to think of me as a combination of Tom in Top Gun and Mel in Lethal Weapon. Yes, I know but beauty is in the eye of the beholder. She was a blonde in the mold of Grace Kelly: timeless, classic and sophisticated like a Rolls Royce or a Jaguar. So where to begin? Shall I tell you when I fell in lust with her or when I fell in love? What at the beginning? It was 1987 and I was repeating my Second Year (bloody Technical Drawing) while Paula was just beginning hers. She had come back from her Christmas vacation with sun-bleached hair, bronzed and lean attached to a six-pack. We lay by the pool, bored, a week before the Freshers arrived. The sun drowsily painted us in shades of torpor and languor, basting us in our body oils. Nature communed and if you listened you could hear its throbbing purrs like two cats on a woolen blanket. Graz, Townsend and myself observed, through sunglasses, the females scattered about the swimming pool like predators observing a watering hole in the veldt.
“Good grief, Jerome is looking hot!” I said
Paula pulled herself from the cool waters, climbing the stairs at the corner of the shallow end. Her two-piece costume matched her eyes, the blue-ice at the base of a glacier. She lifted her arms, taking hold of her long hair, heavy with water, and pulled it tight. She ran her hands through it, squeezing the water from it. Her actions opened her belly up as well as her throat. The sensual lines of her silken muscularity drew my eyes up and inward to pert, raised breasts and down again past the deep indentation of her navel and then to the junction of her long legs. The light played off the high curve of her breasts and her pudenda while that in shadow hinted at the rich ripeness that was Paula. With her chin lifted and arms raised she bared the snow of her armpits and throat like some exotic creature, then sensing us watching she arched her back, standing up on pointed toes. Tilting her head toward us she smiled and then headed toward her towel on dancer’s legs.
“Man, I’m going to get her,” I mumbled. “She is so hot!”
My companions took this as a signal to add their far more colourful, lecherous ventings. I tuned them out with my florid imaginings, as rich, ornate and vibrant as a theatre minutes before some grand opera. Then curtain and the opening aria: the beautiful song, the bel canto. It grew, expanding and soaring within me, as lush as Paula’s curves. So my emotions took form and coloured.
“Its so soft. So soft. Softer than anything I’ve ever felt. Like a baby’s earlobe or cheek.”
“Hmm. You know that they supposedly use the skins they get from the baby foreskins they get from the circumcisions for skin-grafts?”
“I can believe it. Silly question but do you wash underneath it?”
“Of course I do! All boys are taught from an early age. Why?”
“Well, if you don’t clean properly I can get a terrible infection. That’s why they circumcise you guys. You know, for hygienic reasons.”
“Oh, that’s crap! That’s some sort of archaic practice. Old Testament. You ladies have … this soft shell. This outer lip… here. Hmmm and this inner lip. Your … depths. Surely you have to keep it just as clean. Nobody tells you to have it sliced off. Don’t you dare anyway. You have a gorgeous um fanny.”
“Gee, thanks. Oopsey, somebody’s getting restless. Aw and look, that skins disappeared. Its funny how you can be so hard and so soft all at the same time.”
“Oh, you feel so good. You feel like you go on forever. So hot and so wet.”
“Oooo! Ooo! What did you touch?”
Being with Paula was like sliding into a freshly made bed with clean and crisp linen. She was smooth and lightly scented: warm, welcoming, enveloping. Making love to her was like riding my board on a twilight ocean, the water glassy and calm. She was silent in the throes of her orgasm. But as I held her I could feel her power and depths as I felt those waters below me. Her long blonde hair would fall about my face in waves while her kisses sucked the breath from my lungs.
A cat frightened by a dog reacts intensely while the dog is there but when the dog is gone, out of sight, out of mind, the emotion subsides while the physiological symptoms disappear. The cat does not experience anxiety over the possibility of the dog’s return nor does it brood over the presence of the dog in the proximity. Man, however, I, not only react to the objects and events present but also to the symbols of these events objects and events. Therefore the source of anxiety, fear, anger or sadness does not have to be present to create intense emotions in man, me.
I was an emotional wound after Paula and I split up and to add to it my mother had just got out of a psychiatric ward after having tried to commit suicide. Plus the death of my rugby buddy, Graz Moro. My world had shattered against the hard edge of reality and with it my fragile psyche, still tormented by the Army. It was a psyche that had scabbed over but once that scab had been ripped off, the heated stench of the wound warned of the deep, foul infection. Pus oozed from it, poisonous, putrid, septic and turbid. In my fevered, tortured and tormented existence I twisted and turned, searching for succour, something or someone to save me from this suffering. I was a satellite spinning out of control into dark, starry oblivion having been wrenched loose from my orbit. My body: it fit me like a carcass from which I wanted to tear myself free and soar up, up into the heavens. I would drink myself into oblivion, lashing out at people, wanting them to hate me as I hated myself. I would rant and rave, cursing God, daring, wanting, praying for Him to strike me down and end my agony. I was even too much of a coward to end it myself.
My pain and angst plus a lot of alcohol had driven me, one night late in my room in res, to slash at my wrists with one of Paula’s pink lady razors while listening to Rick Astley’s version of When I Fall In Love. What that pink razor was doing in my room I to this day could not tell you. But at the time it seemed apt that something of Paula’s should hurt me as she was doing to my heart. I had hacked at myself with it and with a broken beer bottle, trying desperately to make this pain tearing me up inside real, a tangible, visible thing that could be touched and healed. Unfortunately everyone thought I had tried to end myself, thinking me new to the suicide game which explained why I had slashed across my wrists instead of along the veins, merely making a mess of them and the green mat in my room. When I had sobered a little, I had wrapped my wrists in toilet paper and gone to sleep. The next morning, wearing a long sleeve t-shirt and an aura consisting of one part hangover, one part depression, one part self-loathing I left for Addington Hospital’s casualty ward. There, though harangued by a huge Afrikaans nursing sister with arms the size of my thighs, I stuck to my story of having fallen caring a dozen beers in my arms whilst running up a flight of stairs. She, of course, did not believe me and proceeded to punish me by scrubbing out my wounds with disinfectant. I awoke with a lump on my forehead, smelling salts burning my nostrils and her voice in my ringing ears.
“Why didn’t you tell me you wus feelin’ faint?” she asked. While she dressed my wounds after putting me on a drip, she proceeded to instruct me on how to cut one’s wrists the correct way: along the length of the veins rather than across. A tough love type of reverse psychology. However, I knew that I had only done it as a result of a combination of depression and alcohol, always a dangerous combination. So it was up to God to snuff my light and end my misery. After my mother’s descent into emotional illness at the beginning of 1988, followed by my break-up with Paula mid-year, the very real chance that I had failed my Third Year finals, my popularity waning plus a home life that, to say the very least, had become non-existent, I went on Christmas break. By now I was drinking as often as I could and as much as I could, howling at the Moon. My weight had also ballooned as my self-worth had shrunk and my self-loathing grew. I lashed out at the World and its inhabitants. Sadly it was an appeal for attention, begging for help in the only way I knew how. It was the indifference that got to me; I preferred hate to no reaction or interest at all.
I was a man called Malice with a macerated soul living in a town called Maleficent. A rift had grown between my beloved Mother and I and between my God and myself. I was no longer at ease with either and felt betrayed by both, abandoned. Now on my vacation I went out into the Summer nights and searched for distraction and oblivion.Nello’s was a nightclub reminiscent of the glory days of disco. Lights in vibrant colours, in the ceiling, the glass-tiled dance floor and illuminating the opulent bar. Reflective stainless steel and deep red carpeting. Billows of strawberry-scented smoke wafting periodically across the dance floor. Booming, all-enveloping music, dance cages and retractable screen. Trendy, label gear matched with the right hairstyles and the right bodies. Clubbers, dancers, models and ex-models, surfers and sportsmen. Strategically ripped jeans, muscle-tops and boob-tubes. The place to be seen. I was a local there and so it was a haven for me, a place where I hoped I would find something or someone to still the rage and pain within; some respite. I wanted company on the way down, a drinking buddy or a sexual partner. To lose oneself in the act be it drinking or rutting. A ritual, no thinking involved. No thinking. I pushed seeking to be pushed back and shoved hoping to be shoved back!
The Nello’s Club Crowd: the superficiality and banality of the interaction between the Bros Boys and myself: the coiffured hair, tight jeans, white tees and boots. “I owe you nothing” their anthem from the boy singing duo of Bros, the bubble-gum pop outfit. The shallow, trivial, puerile perfect comeliness of their female counterparts. Pop: meaningless, pleasant fun. It was what I needed. I, Too dark and serious, and I imagine a little too intense to be considered pop. I would probably be thought of as alternative, a bit of a coffin-kid. To tell you the truth I considered myself alternative. And yes, I was probably only tolerated by the Nello’s crowd because I was connected to the club Mafia.
I stared out of the window of the bus, avoiding contact with the other occupants. My clothes reeked of the previous night: cigarettes, alcohol, sex and sweat. I disgusted myself. All I wanted to do was get to my Mom’s place and have a hot bath. Somehow wash the sin, the baseness from me. I imagined the bus’ front tire bursting as we sped along the Southern Highway at one hundred kilometers an hour. The bus slewing into the slow lane barrier, sliding sideways and then flipping and cartwheeling down the highway like a huge toilet roll, unraveling itself. Bodies flung about, myself grievously injured saving the brat behind me who was kicking my seat. The bus would come to a halt, a steaming, creaking wreck. Broken and bleeding I would aid the helpless and injured from the spiderweb the bus had become. Then, finally, I would lose consciousness and fall senseless to the tar. The blonde, two seats in front of me, would cry and rush over to me and cradle my poor head in her warm lap. With my selfless bravery I would have made right what was wrong and my life would change. Everybody would rush to be by my side in the hospital. They would love me once again and hold my, limp, weak hand in theirs and drip hot tears on it. Months later I would emerge from the hospital, slim and purified, a silver-headed cane to aid me with my slight limp and a rugged, masculine scar across my handsome cheek to remind everyone of what I had been through. Months of self-pity welling in my eyes I got off at my stop and walked down the road to my brother’s house where we were now living. Perhaps a car would jump the curb and slam into me, hurling me over the fence into the Grosvenor Girls’ High property. Where hundreds of women, girls, would love me and acknowledge my existence. Almost at the house and a hot bath and blissful sleep. I wished I could be a vampire. Party all night and sleep all day. Neither regrets nor repercussions because it would be in my nature. The only problem would be the blood bit and lunatics trying to stake me.
A couple of nights later, Friday, and I had again sought out the solace of the superficial void of Nello’s. I had already waded my way through a couple of wine and cinzanos and was working on my fifth Black Label and a belligerent mood to match. I was looking for someone to shove me or someone to shove. I felt the need to bleed. I deserved to bleed. Why could nobody see my pain, my needs? I was lighting another cigarette when someone called my name. I swiveled on my stool; a shining, cherry-topped, ice-cream parlour creation, at the mirrored bar. I leaned back against the bar, cigarette hanging from my lip, eyes squinted from the smoke, sucking in my expanding gut and looked into the face of stranger.
Annus Luctus; the year of mourning. 1988. Brace yourself because I’m going to take you somewhere dark. Let me tell you about how God filled me with grief to bruise and bloody me. How He thrust me into the Forge of Life and like some chunk of ore burned the impurities from me and then twisted and beat me into a new form on his terrible anvil. They say that adversity builds character, that without resistance you do not grow. Man, how I railed, wailed and cursed God; and in my anger I was closer to Him then I had ever been.
I came back from the Army a stranger and to the strange. My alienation manifested itself in a house that was not mine and people I no longer knew. My Mother had a husband for whom she had sold my father’s house and bought another. We fought. We fought. My Brother had escaped the Army’s cumbrous grasp and was in pursuit of his career. In stark contrast, we did not fight. Nothing was the same and as much as I yearned for the old it was gone. So I put these things behind me and made my life at Edgewood, sharing only special holidays, birthdays, weddings and funerals with my Family.
However, in 1987 the cracks in the fabric of my Neverland began to manifest themselves while the Tom Cody character I had adopted and assumed from Streets of Fire began to show its lack of substance and force of will. It began with my Mother’s breakdown, her suicide attempts and her gradual waning from this existence. I remembered my Mom as this young and vibrant friend, not a parent, my best friend.
“If I had a mother like that I would make my own brothers and sisters,” my schoolmates would tease.
I remembered listening to tunes on the 8-track in my Mom’s bug, on the way to the beach with the entire neighbourhood’s kids. Or Friday nights dancing in the lounge to the latest Springbok Hits LP on the hi-fi. Or sitting reading in her office eating toasted cheese and ham on Sundays while she worked overtime so she could give us those things we yearned for. Our house was always full of children and laughter and music. Then I left for the Army and it was never the same.
Imagine, if you will, a child who is abandoned by her parent or parents and placed in a home. Imagine a twenty-two year old left with three children to raise, a large with a large bond and no job. Imagine doing that: paying off the house, putting food on the table, providing clothes. Making ends meet. Alone. Your children become the centre of your universe, your reason for going on. Then when you’re thirty-six your oldest, the one that looks most like your beloved husband, leaves your home to enter a world you are helpless to protect him from. The panic you must feel when your life, when that semblance of joy, of family, of belonging that you have longed for finally attained begins disappearing. You fear that isolation, that solitary existence. So after thirteen years you finally need that man that you never wanted after the death of your first love and so begins a desperate search.
But there are a lot of freaks and pervs out there now. Perhaps they’re braver now. Perhaps it’s easier for them to hide out in the open. Users and losers, boozers and pukers. Nobody would have been good enough for my Santa Maria but she settled when she deserved more. So I come back and she’s engaged to this guy, they’ve sold my Father’s house and they have a new one. My stuff has been moved to their home and I never get to say goodbye to my old life. But that’s okay I tell myself, it shouldn’t be about me. So I pray that she gets the happiness she deserves. That’s all I want. Be of good cheer!
A Swany Phrase: Better to be alone for all the right reasons then with someone for all the wrong reasons. So I leave for College and let my family get on with their lives without me, not wanting to taint them with the inkiness, which threaded my Soul. Holidays, birthdays, weddings and funerals. Then one rainy Sunday I was summoned from the TV lounge to the Men’s Res car park where Uncle Hein, my mom’s sister’s husband waited.
Mom and Stepmonster-to-be split-up.
Mom moved out of the house.
She needs you.
So Sunday. Rain. In fact, it was the beginning of a tropical low over Natal, which would result in weeks of non-stop precipitation, deluge and inundation. Flooding: bloated carcasses of cows and goats and huge trees surging down massive swollen rivers. Enormous crashing waves and high seas battering the Eastern coastline, skies of clouded pearl. It rained as my Mother cried, as those tears eroded the youth from her so did the rain to my Province. I remember final exams were delayed as bridges, water and sewage systems and roads ruptured under the battering rain. I left the house my brother had rented for us and she came through from her bedroom, a shell of the woman I knew and loved.
“Help me, Andy. Oh, God! Help me,” she cried through a wash of tears and a voice strangled by fear and desperation.
I looked at her, helplessly, lost, hurt, damaged and dismayed but mostly, I had to get away from her and I did.
“I have lectures, Mom! What do you want me do? Look I’ve got to go. Sorry,” and I closed the door on her and ran from her, my heart breaking.
On roads like sea currents I washed-up at the Edgewood Campus; a campus like an island, fields like marshlands, paths like liquid ice. Staff and we few res students that had chosen to remain marooned in a world of water, an embryonic existence and I loved it. Paula and I shared her single bed, cocooned by our shared warmth while the rain outside beat against the windows. We made love, we cuddled, we slept and we even studied. But a distraught and needy Andy was something Paula could not deal with and when he emerged she chased me from her room. In Men’s Res we would smoke too much, watch videos, drink a little and play Winter Olympics: water on the floor, add a little washing powder, no clothes and launch yourself down the corridor to land on your naked bottom. Ah, the shenanigans of the bored student.
One day the rain stopped. The clouds opened. The Sun shone. The students returned. We wrote exams. My Mother stopped crying and went back to work. We broke for our summer vacation; Paula leaving for Johannesburg and I for the Bluff where we now lived. A week before Christmas she called me and told me that we would not be seeing each other for the holidays but back at College it would be nice if we could remain friends. Needless to say, the holidays were at the very least, extremely unpleasant.
“You know what! Fuck you, Swanepoel! What’s wrong with you? You’ve become a real arsehole, you know that? Nobody likes you! Nobody!”
“Yeah, well, see the worry in my eye. If they don’t like me they can grease my nought!”
“Hey, you two! Shut up! Let’s get this meeting over with so we can duck to Impies and meet the rest of the guys.”
We both looked across at Laurie Sharpe, First Team Captain.
“Yes, guys. Please,” Shaun Hobbes added. Club Secretary and general toady to those in power. We called him the Towel Boy.
“Yeah, let’s get this over with and go get wasted.”
“You need a lift?” Phillips asked me in a reconciliatory gesture.
“Naw, Graz is coming to fetch me.”
“The Terrible Twins!”
“You know it. Swany and Moro!”
“Wild Thing and the Terminator.”
“Stallone and Arnold.”
“All right you two. Let’s get on with it.”
Graz Moro, my lock buddy. On the field I was attached to his side as if we were one: in lineouts and kick-offs I was his support and in the scrums I bound him in. We were a team within a team, a unit.
He had it tattooed across his lower back. As I lifted him into the sky it would frame itself within my mind, all black ink and sweat upon dusky skin. It was what I would see in my dreams; between that terrorist camp and all the death and Captain Swart. That tattoo. I would see him lying alongside his old maroon fiat which was wrapped around that old gnarled brute of a tree at the entrance gate of Edgewood: The Sentinel. His tattoo would be exposed to those cold stars above. At his funeral I felt it pressed against the velvet of his coffin and I almost lost my senses and fell between the pews as I met Paula’s tear-filled eyes across the aisle of the church. Nothing is safe from the World, nothing untouched, nothing untainted. My Neverland, my Camelot came to an end, infected with a darkness I had brought with me. I was the disease.