Sunday, February 17, 2013

a thimble

My heart felt like a thimble these last weeks. Filling so quickly with emotion that it brimmed over my eyelids and had me tearing up a couple of times a day, then leaving me so hollow that I felt as if I'd swallowed an echo.

It started with my reminiscences of Adam, and an email conversation I had with his brother which was so good, but so emotional.
Then a rape and murder which rocked the whole country, got so many stories circulating, so many emotions rising.
I heard of a child from my home town, 18 months old, drowned in his family pool.
A story of a childless woman weeping while watching her best friend breastfeed.
Bad news regarding my friend's continuing struggle with cancer.
1 Billion Rising, and the stories ... god, the stories of abuse.
And then Reeva Steenkamp ...

None of this pain really belonged directly to me but with my shallow heart of late I couldn't prevent taking it on, and spent days feeling exposed, hollow.

None of this pain has lessened in the slightest - so many are out there with their hearts completely drained, their wounds wide open to the salt raining down on them.

And here I am, after a good weekend of friends and family, food, sunshine, laughter, feeling much stronger.
Have I slapped another coat of tin on this heart of mine? Is life sometimes just too much, the only survival tactic we know to clad ourselves against the pain, make our hearts a little more impenetrable, albeit little heavier maybe, and then shoulder on?

We desensitise in order to carry on, but what future do we walk towards if our hearts are plugged against the  pain of others?
What point is there in feeling too much and what future is there in feeling too little?

I don't know, but I need to find a balance this week. I think, certainly in South Africa, we all need to.

Thursday, February 07, 2013


On Tuesday he would've been 37, but he never made it to 21.

A talented surfer, experienced water baby, inexplicably he drowned during a shallow dive on the Transkei Wild Coast a year or so after we all finished school.
He was there with friends who pulled him out the water and drove him over bumpy rural roads to the nearest settlement, but he'd gone in the water. Blacked out and slipped away.

We were all scattered around the world when we got the news, but his funeral was huge. And horrible. I've not seen so many men crying together before or since.

On Tuesday I went to the Red Hot Chili Peppers concert with a dear friend from high school. It was incredible. The music I'd known would be good, but I'd not expected that pure, white hot energy.

I'd been thinking about Adam anyway, I always do on his birthday, and we spoke about him that evening, but during the concert he came to mind again. He'd had that energy - taut, electric, unstoppable we'd thought.

What do you do with a friend who died so long ago? I've no idea what he'd be like now, I can't look to my male friends of the same age and see him in them. Even by the time he died we'd lost a lot of contact, I didn't know what his life plans were.

In my mind he burns a bright 16 year old flame, hot energy, golden light, never still, fiercely bright. We talk about keeping the memory alive, but with him I've never had to try. Eternally young, he lives on and on for as long as those who knew him do.

I've thought about contacting his Mum, I imagine she'd be the most comforted for knowing this. Should I call her to say I remember his smell? Would she want to know I remember how his hair felt, the shape of his ears, how his mouth tasted?

One year, unbeknownst to me, he wrote all over my pencil case: 'Adam is King.' It would amuse him to know that every year, on 5 February, he is. Over and over again.