Love, February is a strange beast. Especially this year when I nearly didn’t participate.
Last year’s entries are fun and often frivolous. When they were serious, they were serious in appropriate ways. I had love last year. I do not this year. I’m empty.
But I’m still here.
Today’s piece maybe doesn’t belong here but I chose it anyway.
I wrote it many years ago – more than a decade ago – and found it in a folder of old writing hidden on my hard drive. Moving files to new computers can unearth a million, dusty things.
This is one of them.
I guess that love is sometimes not enough. Or maybe it’s just a cautionary tale for a time like now. Maybe it’s neither. Maybe I just needed to put it out there.
Love, February 2020: Day 5
I am 30 years old, but when I was young I went to London. Of course I did, we all did.
London: land of the great Australian Rite of Passage. Others pierce something, slay something or slice something: we travel. But not to anywhere. No, we go to the land where they speak our language, drink beer, don’t know how to make a decent cup of coffee, and do drugs: lots and lots of drugs.
I am 30 years old, but when I was younger, hipper, happier, social, thinner, more alive, I went to London. It was very impressive, so everyone says, I went ‘by myself’. As though this independence is the true test of adulthood. As though we don’t really need others, even though we contradict this belief in every other aspect of our lives. I went by myself and I found, so many things.
I found a house to visit in, a house to party in and a house to live in. I found new friends, old friends, party friends and endless faceless acquaintances to drink with, dance with and forget with.
This photo is of myself, K and W, partying; this one is of me sitting on C’s lap after giving him the Tim Tam my mother sent him; this one is of W and I wrestling at Christmas; this one is of Alex dancing with L; this of all of us at the pub. Alex has the inevitable cigarette in his hand and his arm around me This photo is of the whole party-house gang, and this is of the night Alex and D paid me with wine to cook them dinner: D threw up in the living room.
This photo is of P and I dying Alex’s hair with red pointed tips for him to go clubbing. He would club all night and come home at 8am and make me tea in bed. He would take speed to dance all night and a joint to come down in the morning.
I am 30 years old but when I was younger, I had a friend called Alex who only seemed to be able to form a bond with those who could ‘have a good time’. His best friends did drugs, he was dumped by endless girls who couldn’t handle being second to his drug dealer, and his personality slowly changed until the friendly, easy-going person I knew became a self-absorbed bastard.
I am 30 years old but when I was younger I danced Sokkie in a Turkish nightclub with Alex. I had to take off my hiking boots and dance barefoot, but it didn’t matter: Alex was always a good dancer. If you ever want to hear of coincidences, hear of me running into him in the middle of a street in Istanbul.
When I was in Turkey, friends I had just met would ask me about my life in London and I would tell them of my lovely South African housemates: the hippie artist, the intense one, and the intelligent, honourable farmer. And then I would mention in passing those who came to the city to get lost in partying, the drug-fucked. When they met Alex they asked if he was one of my lovely South Africans. I had to say no. He was one of the drug-fucked.
The night before I left on my trip, he and others were doing cocaine off a mirror they took off the wall in the living room. I have never been happier or sadder that I didn’t live there. Happy because I could walk away and sadder because I wasn’t there to stop them when they started off on that journey. My friend, F, trailed out after me into the cold autumn air and told me she wanted out of there, she couldn’t stand it anymore. Their partying had turned dark and self-destructive and she now knew why I had refused so often their offers to move in with them.
I am 30 years old and yesterday I found out that my old friend Alex is dead. He sits staring at me from an old photograph but he is a younger, hipper, happier, social, thinner, more alive Alex, in London, so many years ago. My Alex was always going to get better. He was always going to go home, get a job, get married, get off the drugs of London and live the normal life we all want and need. We were going to meet up in some distant place, all of us from the same party crowd, laugh about the old days, discover South Africa and improve our Afrikaans. We were going to be people who lived.
He can’t be that. Ever.
I am 30 years old and yesterday I found out that my old friend Alex, whom I have neglected for several years, committed suicide after a long history of drug problems.
May he rest in the peace he never found in life.