Sunday, December 22, 2030

# 9: Aggenuys to Poffadder

A big, sleek and beautiful looking eighteen wheeler came rushing up the long, empty road.  It saw me from a ways off and began to slow, two men in the cab, and they slid in beside me.  I reached up, high, pulling at the handle.
'No, you can’t mos stand out here like this when it’s all empty,’ said David, a boy from Zululand with a dik Zululand accent sitting there round-backed and comfortable in a sagging seat,  a retro trilby on his head and Durban board shorts on his legs. George was his brother from another mother, a man with no smiles and an overbite, quiet who shifted over to the middle so I could sit in the passenger seat, bare feet splayed in front of him.  These guys had spent hours and hours in this truck together, they’d been everywhere together you could tell in a glance, a half a moment, they talked exactly the same.  I fired off some of the usual questions and nothing hit.  These ous were not Hertlas, there was no racism here.  I leaned back and watched the road, endless fields of scruffy tufted bushes, little platoons and colonies and armies of them like little men buried in the sand with only their carrot tops showing and the low, hot, brown and sand-drenched mounds crouching off in the distance.  
I saw that this vehicle was not sleek as her first impression told, she was old, cracked and bumpy but she ran, eating up the tar. The subject of my appendix came up.
‘No,’ I said, ‘I was in Stellenbosch and started feeling funny.  Just not lekker, my stomach hurting a little like I needed a shit the whole time, but nothing would come.  Then that night I started feeling worse.  I tried to eat some yoghurt but it didn’t help and then at about one o’clock I vomited, and by the next morning I was very unlekker.  My friend said that her brother had had appendicitis in the past and it sounded like mine was just like his so I decided she must be right so I drove myself to Groote Schuur where the doctor poked me in the stomach and immediately said, “you have appendicitis.”  Then they took me to surgery and cut it out.’
‘But it didn’t end there.  I had a cough at the time, so I was lying in the ward at the hospital and I kept coughing with this new cut in my side with five stitches.  It was fuckin sore and eventually the thing popped inside and I saw my intestine come bulging out, pushing up against the skin.’
'Aarghh!' squeals Dave with the big wheel in his meaty mitts, 'I can't handle pain! If I feel a little bit, a small anything, I pop a pill.' 
KFM is playing, smooth oldies swirling through the cab and praising summer.  
‘Ja,’ I say, ‘in Durban I went to … what’s that?  Joe Kool’s?  On the beach?’
‘You like Joe Kool’s?’ says Dave, back to his round-backed self.    
‘No, I don’t go there,’ he says, ‘I don’t dop anymore.’
‘You don’t?' I say, 'I don’t actually either. What’s your reason?’
‘Hey, too many problems,’ he says, handling that wheel while George, his silent number two, is thinking.  
‘I said to myself,' continues Dave, 'this drinking of mine, it’s making a problem, so I left it.’
‘Ja,’ I add, ‘nowadays I go out and I spend twelve rand.  Three lime and waters.  My friends will spend two-fifty, three-hundred.’
‘You only drink lime and waters?’ says Dave, offhand, watching the country and the time roll by, eating it. 
‘Ja.  And I’ll have just as much fun, hey. I just vibe with everyone else, it’s like I get drunk for free.’
‘I’m two years,’ says George suddenly.
‘Is it?  Do you go to AA or anything?’
‘No,’ he says, ‘I didn’t go.’
‘I go to NA.’ 
‘Ja,’ shouts Dave from over on the other side, the radio blaring, the truck roaring and smoking, ‘but that’s bullshit, man.’
‘You think so?!’   
‘Ja.  They just want to remind you of drinking alcohol. There you must go in and say, ja, my name is this and I’m a alcoholic.  Why must I always go in and remind myself I’m a alcoholic?  I say it’s over.  If I don’t drink I forget about it, why must I talk about it? You know there where I come from there are people that drink and they go to AA, then they drink more.  You mustn't remind yourself. You mustn't put it in your face.  Also, although it brings you problems, there is good times in between.  You can remember the good times.’
‘For sure,’ I say, ‘but the thing with AA and NA is that that's just the very first little step …’
‘Of what?’ demands George.
‘Saying you an alcoholic and talking about alcohol,’ I continue.  ‘Then there’s a shitload that comes afterward that‘s got nothing to do with that.’
‘Ja I know,’ says George.
‘…and it’s got everything to do with moving forward, so, I hear what you saying, and it also sometimes bothers me, but actually the big reason that I go and say I’m an addict, or I’m an alcoholic, is for the ou that comes in there that thinks he’s got a problem and thinks he can’t stop.  He checks these ous sitting there who all say they've got five years, six years, ten years saying yes I am also an alcoholic, I’ve also done these things, been these ways, and I've made it, I’m clean.  That’s really the reason.’
‘But in AA they have these things,’ says George, ‘they take money.  They just making money. Like the rehab.’
‘Ah, but rehab’s not AA, hey, that’s totally different.’
‘You get fucked there in rehabs,’ shouts Dave, ‘my friend went to rehab, for what?  I just say I don’t wanna drink.’
‘I think everyone finds their own way.’
‘Me,’ says George, ‘I had a problem, but I found my own way.  Everyone said, "hey, he’s going to drink again." Because me, my man, I used to drink a lot. Joh, I drank a lot.  But then I came to the time where I stopped.  I was robbed.  I was stabbed.  Every single time that I drived I made a fuck up.  I crashed everything.  In the township I fucked it up.  I done that for a couple of years.’
‘I used to drive with one eye closed so that there’s only one road,’ I say, ‘cover the one eye with one hand.  It’s a fuck up, man.  I was also one of those guys who drive better when I’m drunk.’ 
‘I was just always drunk,’ says George, up and at 'em.
Talk turns naturally to accidents.  

‘My friend was there,’ George is saying, ‘he was drinking together in bars. And he had to go and get his wife so we go in his Isuzu, a big double cab, and we drunk bru.  We coming down this bridge and there’s a robot at the bottom, I don’t know what happened but we flew into the red robot, the top of the robot.  That thing wasn’t like a car anymore, it was a write off.  The car was all over the robot, fucked up the whole thing, covering the whole thing.’
Both these guys are laughing now, babbling over each other to relate more and better news of those days, those good days.  
‘I went down a mountainside there by Ladysmith,’ drawls Dave.  ‘Hey bro!’ he says, pointing with his meaty fingers at memories in the air, ‘the road has got a curve like that.  I was going like forty, but I was tired, I wasn’t even drunk.’
‘Hey, bro!' he says, 'I just went straight through the barrier, through the stones, through the trees, down the mountain into like a river almost, into the water.  I only had a broken rib, that’s all. Only a few scratches and a broken rib.’
‘Tell him about the Cressida,’ says George.  
‘There was about seven people dead,’ says Dave, ‘the only guy that survived was the drunk guy in the boot.’
‘I was coming on,' he says, 'it was a open road, going like ninety or something.  There's a Cressida standing by the stop street so it looks like they waiting for the truck to pass, indicating.  I think they going that way, I’m going that way.  I can see the old man is looking.  He’s looking left, right, left, then he just pulls out straight in front of the truck. Jussis! I don’t know what he was thinking.  The car was going slowly, like in second gear or something, half stalling, he was looking up at me, I can see his face, then I wiped him out.  It was a family.’
‘They dogs, man,’ says George, ‘because they don’t think.’
Dave shakes his head, the trilby on top of it, his board shorts and old t-shirt, his truck.
‘The fucking Cressida went right under the wheels,’ he says, ‘it got stuck in the trailer.  Heads off.  Mince-meat. Only the guy in the boot.  Fuuck!’ 
He laughs, shaking his head.
‘And the ous with the bicycles,’ says George, ‘you take them off their bike twenty metres off the road.’

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