South Africa
Part 88
Based on emails from November, 2002.

Wingnut's predicament kinda reminded me of my own not so long ago... being warned to always be watching my back for enemies. "So how are you gonna handle this situation?"

"Jason and the other guys reckon they can sort these two dickheads out. They've been causing shit this whole year, and just pick on any target they know they can handle. If it was Craig instead of me they would've backed off in a real hurry."

"So how's the cheek?"

"It's fucking sore, man. Fuck them. Let them try whatever. I'm not fucking scared of them. And I told them so as well. They're always causing shit at school."

I felt sorry for Winger cos it seemed as though he was getting himself into a situation that he wasn't able to handle. Yeah, he was all mouth and bravado, but that didn't seem to count for much as I looked at his damaged cheek. It was red, and the bone appeared to be bruised. It was obvious that those two fuckers meant some kinda business. And, no, I wasn't thinking about getting myself involved.

From what Winger was telling me, I gathered that most of his buds were anti those two pricks anyway, and were willing to give them a sorting out of some kind. At the same time, I just hated to see the little dude beaten up like that and feeling helpless. I knew how strong he was, and what a big heart he had, but at the end of the day I figured he wasn't keen on being involved in a real fight situation where there were no rules. It also wasn't cool that those two goons were gonna take advantage of the situation cos they thought Winger was scared of them. As big as Wingnut's mouth was, I figured he was a bit scared of the situation as it was right then. The uncertainty.

So on Friday, I couldn't wait for Winger to get home so that I could phone him and find out if anything had happened.

"It's cool, Steve. Those guys have been giving me a wide berth cos Craig and Jason and the rest of my buds have warned them that I might look smaller but they could end up being fucked up if they tangle with me. So they said to Craig, "Yeah. He's brave cos he's got a bunch of buds." But Craig told them that "the little fucker could do it on his own". Hehehehe. Then he asked them if they'd noticed the size of my hands, and the guy tunes Craig with, "Yeah, cos the jerk had his hand around my throat." So, yeah, Steve, it's cool now cos they're almost like scared of me after everyone's been telling them that I could take them on. How cool is that?"

"Pretty fucking cool. Well, I think it's cool if they leave you alone."

It was true that Winger was fucking strong, and his hands were much bigger than mine as well. Sometimes he would fist me on my arm, and I'd try not to show any pain but "ouch!" Hahahaha! I couldn't help it. Hey, I figured he'd be OK. My little buddy. He could pretty well handle himself in both good and bad situations. According to him, he'd gotten so strong cos of the metal work that he does at school, and fine work with his fingers. He also didn't feel pain... like heat. "So watch out, dudes! You could be biting off more than you can chew!" Except that I knew that my little bud only fought with his friends, so those dudes could count themselves lucky not to be Winger's friends, hahahahaha!

I received a bunch of Halloween email and cards from people. And I got a totally tight mail from Brian 'The Pest'. I read it a few times. Also got mail from June and Jason. At the time of writing this I hadn't replied to them all yet. I'd been pretty wrapped up in my own world the last few days... doing a 'Steve' analysis. When I thought of Sunday [November 3] I took a deep breath and tried to focus on something else. I had nothing major planned for Sunday, but I wanted to be on my own. At least, that's how I felt. Maybe hit the surf or walk up the mountain or along the beach or whatever.

I called off my date with Steph last night. I wasn't sure what the reason was, apart from feeling totally exhausted. I figured that was because of all the studying, which was causing me to seriously burn out. Actually, it had been pretty much a fucked up week. Friday we wrote the first of our math papers. I felt that I did OK to get a decent percentage point with it. The second math paper was scheduled for the following Friday. So this weekend was pretty much gonna be a sleep and relax time.

Meantime, I was hoping to post the story about Cody and TJ in Singapore, but the read-and-correct process was taking forever, and I wasn't really in the mood to do it right then [with November 3 just around the corner]. So, hopefully, by Christmas the story would be up and running.

I intended to logon to the net and mail my news to Gary a little later, but something kinda got in the way.

Hi Gary. WHOA! FUCK! THE WEEKEND HAS GONE WHOOSH!!!! And so did I. But I guess you knew that I would take the fucking easy way out, huh? Oh my fuck, what a total RUSHHHHHHHHHHH... like the inside of a fucking tube except more radical maybe. Like you don't see the end of it.

Saw him there. Yeah, so how's that? He was there. Didn't say anything to me. Just stared the whole fucking time. Yeah, well I'm sorry, Cody. I'm soooooo fucking sorry for taking the easy way out, bud, but I couldn't see myself doing the homage thing and not having a total fucking breakdown.

So that was the way out for me. It was a crackerjack day. Who knew? Nobody. I disappeared into the mists of... Hmmmm. Can't fucking remember now what I was gonna say right there. Hahahahahaha! How fucking fucked up is that, huh?

No. Bruce didn't know either or he would have just sulked the whole fucking day. I'm cool now, though. Myself and my buds were debating whether smoking crack was addictive or not cos it isn't really when you're snorting it. Well, fuck, that's what we decided anyway. It's a short rush, and then it's over. Well, unless you get on to a few of those rides in a day. It's like a theme park of total fun. And he was there. OK, so he was there in spirit.

OK, Gary. So I fucked up totally. It's not what I had planned. But it kinda happened to turn out that way. I had kinda planned to maybe take a walk up the mountain. Not just to sit there and contemplate, but to hike across from one side to the other. Cody used to enjoy that. Along the pipe track and up Kasteelspoort, past the dams and old museum, and then down to Kirstenbosch via Nursery Ravine, and then the forest walk to Constantia nek. He often did that [walk] on his own.

[I've got] two history papers this week. Another math paper. Hahahahaha. Fucking hell, Steve, you need to focus, you stupid cunt.

Steph and Winger? I think they're OK. Never heard from them so I guess they must be fine. Well, there were no messages for me when I got home so I guess they're perfectly cool. Well, I haven't heard from Steph since the other night. Guess I could just pick up the phone but, hey, she made it clear that she needs some space. AGAIN.

Just as well as this [November 3] thing has been so easy for me. At least I'm not battling like everyone else. Yeah! You go, Steve! Show everyone how strong you are, boyo!!! Yebo!

It looks like Lycos is starting to screw around as well [as Eudora used to]. So I haven't been able to check mail. I think it's got something to do with one of our service providers being linked to that Nigerian scam [or is that scum? Hahahahaha] shit.

Got your mail [Gary], though, so maybe I need to have all the mail sent to that mail addy [the one you use]. Let me think about that one. Nah. Fuck that for a moment. Slipping again, huh, Gary? Timing's bad though, bro. I can't afford to fuck up these final exams again.

A couple of the guys [I was with on Sunday] were tripping, and I chose not to. So I guess it wasn't a total disaster. I wanted to, though. But I know that that will be the end of it if I had to go down that road. A bit like a train. If it doesn't stay on the rails then it crashes and burns.

I'll do the mountain walk probably after the exams [are finished]. The difference will be that it will be a day chosen by me and not some cunt driving a car at 160 [kph].

This mail has got all sorts of stuff from last week as well, so I hope you can make head and tail out of it. As you can see, this [mail] is like a week and a half of stuff. Cheers. Til next time.

Peace, Love, Respect
Your friend and the Codeman's


G'day Steve,

And now Steph probably wishes that she hadn't insisted [on going to Jason's braai with you].

I've had my share of stress here, mainly due to Sue's brain being totally away with the pixies. Several times I was soooooo tempted to roll a cigarette, but I didn't. Then yesterday everything reached boiling point. I heard Sue saying something about our doctor not knowing what he was talking about, and that the surgeon was probably going to cut her toe off, so I gave her a piece of my mind. She retreated to her bedroom while Lindsay was mumbling something about my causing Sue to cry. "Things aren't working out," he explained. "We're going to look for a flat [apartment]."

"Draw up a list of everything you'll need first. Everything in this house apart from the old beer fridge in the laundry and your bed is mine."

"Maybe you shouldn't be Sue's carer anymore."

"Fine. I'll quit right now. Just say the word."

"Maybe you shouldn't cook for us anymore. We can get take-aways."

My blood was boiling again. Another day down the drain because I was looking at a whole series of problems including deciding whether or not I'd stay in this house. Writers need to focus 100% on what they're writing otherwise it just doesn't happen. And there was also the problem of how to compensate for my lack of pension income if I ceased to be Sue's carer. On top of all that I'd been depressed about the first anniversary of Cody's death, as well as worried about your lack of mail. My guess was that you'd gone on a binge and I was right. But I still resisted the temptation - no, NEED - to have a cigarette while I was under all this pressure and stress.

Yesterday morning, the problem with Sue and Lindsay was settled. They're staying. But I've insisted that they take more responsibility for the smooth running of this house. Sue also agreed to phone the hospital and apologize for not keeping her appointment. From what I gather, her operation has now been re-scheduled, and she has promised me that she WILL go through with it next time.

Last night, Shaun turned up to borrow some onion, garlic and whatever for his bolognaise. He'd never made it before. We were chatting in my office for a while and he had an unlit cigarette between his fingers. He wasn't sure what to do with it, so I told him to go ahead and smoke it. "It's cool with me. Lindsay still smokes his head off around here and it doesn't bother me." And that's true. It doesn't bother me... at least when I'm not stressed. I've found lately that I lose my cool a lot more quickly than I did when I used to smoke. I'm still pretty touchy. And considering that I'm still fresh outa hospital after a heart operation, I need stress like I need another heart attack.

So why don't I give in to the temptation to smoke when I'm stressed? I remember the coughing fits. I remember the purple bruises they caused when they tore my gut muscles; bruises that have taken a month to disappear. I remember the rubbery bits of mucus that took FOREVER to be dislodged from my lungs. I remember the heart attack and everything associated with it. So I've got some pretty good reasons to decline another ciggie. Mind you, it hasn't always been like that. This isn't the first time I've quit tobacco. The previous attempts failed for one reason or another... lack of resolve or kidding myself that I was no longer addicted or whatever. The only reason it's different this time is cos I was on the receiving end of some pretty convincing wake-up calls; so serious that one of them could easily have killed me if I hadn't been so close to a phone and help at the time.

If someone offered me a cigarette now knowing that I'd quit, and I accepted it, what kinda message would I be sending them? I'd be sending them the same message that you sent to Wingnut when you accepted his offer to share a joint. What will he be asking you to share next? Is it only a matter of time?

Maybe you can explain to me how you can summon the courage to get into a boxing ring with Craig but you can't summon the courage to say no to drugs... cos I don't get it. You've been to hell and back. I would've thought that you had better, more convincing reasons to say no to drugs than I have to say no to tobacco.

Anyway, hopefully it's only an aberration. I was worried about you losing the plot altogether and fucking up your final exams. Once was bad enough. Life isn't too generous with second chances.

I also don't understand how you could "take the easy way out" on November 3 this year. On the morning of November 3 I was reading some of Cody's mail. In one of them he was telling me about a fight you guys had, and how he'd felt miserable afterwards. He'd lost interest in school as well as the swim team. He was even taken off the team for an upcoming meet. He and Darren walked along the beach while Darren quized him about his problems, but Cody lied about them, choosing not to reveal how much he was missing you. And whenever he phoned you at home, your mom would answer and tell Cody that you didn't want to speak to him. Back then [1999] you also "took the easy way out".

But I don't understand what's so easy about the "easy" way out. How can it be easy if it only makes things more difficult? If you hadn't faced Craig in the ring would that have been the easy way out? What would it have accomplished? What did you achieve by turning your back on Cody last Sunday and taking drugs with your dingaling buds? All I did was stick my big toe in the surf at Old Bar and baptize the bead necklace and your wristie. I figured that was the least I could do to honor the memory of the one and only Codeman as well as your gift to me.

I don't understand what you're saying about needing to be strong. I don't understand what you mean by risking a total breakdown by honoring the first anniversary of Code's death. The word 'strong' isn't included in your 'Peace, Love, Respect' signoff. But 'respect' is. And I would have thought that respect was the only motivation and reason you would have needed to honor November 3. But you ran away from it, just like you ran away from Cody some years ago when he frightened the fuck outa you by awakening something about your sexuality. OK, so you learned to accept that, and things between you and Cody were subsequently cool. But what are you afraid to face this time? The memories of November 3 last year? The memorial service? The scattering of the ashes? What the hell frightens you? Reality? Is that what drugs are for? To make reality vanish? Explain to me how reality can vanish. I don't understand.

Yes, I am disappointed in you, Steve. But not surprised. You are a big, strong, blonde hunk of muscle but I wonder about your heart. There seems to be enough heart to conquer all sorts of things, such as your drug addiction earlier this year, your friendships with Mark, Steph, and Wingnut as well as your relationship with your folks, but you can't seem to accept November 3. Why not? It's not gonna bite you. It's a day to be honored. You know how many Cody days there are in a year? 365. Yep, there are three hundred and sixty five Cody days in any given year, plus an extra one every leap year. The only difference between all the other Cody days and ones like November 3 and July 1 is that certain days have a little more significance for whatever reason. But the fact remains that every day is a Cody day. Read the Kyle, Wingnut, and Mark stories. They cover every day of the year, and every day is a special day. Every day is a Cody day.

You're such a worry, Steve. You have an ego but it's made out of eggshell. You're arrogant but fragile at the same time. You can face certain problems but run away from others. Y'know something, mate? The answers to so many questions are really very simple: what would Cody want me to do?

OK, to the rest of your email. So Jason and Craig's folks left their kids to their own devices and went out while a bunch of teens took over the joint and partied. I'm not sure what's happening here. Are parents unaware of the extent of the drug situation? Or do they have the attitude that "my" kids are OK; it's everybody else's kids who have a problem. Maybe one could compare the drug situation to the gay thing: sure I know about gays but "my" kids are fine. No way would "my" kids be gay. Oh, no! Not MY kids! What do they say about turning a blind eye? Hey, I should criticize. That's what I did with Luke. Meantime, I appreciate your being honest with me, as well as honest with yourself. No point in being otherwise.

You were correct in telling Steph that you weren't Cody and that you shouldn't be compared to Cody. Wingnut should be telling you the same story. By the same token, none of us can be blamed for wanting to see a little bit of Cody in each other, and his folks can't be blamed for wanting to see a little bit of their son in his friends. For fuck sake, Cody left a huge impression on all of us! That was his gift. What are we supposed to do with it? Throw it away? We can be ourselves as individuals, but, at the same time, we can also reflect the values that Cody instilled in us, unless of course we choose to reject those values.

You're facing a huge fork in the road now? Which way to choose? I've never understood the lure of the path to self destruction. Actually, I don't understand why it's called 'self' destruction cos it destroys much more than self. You're going to have to explain these things to me, Steve, in a logical way so that I can appreciate the logic.

As I write this, the field in the Melbourne Cup has jumped. Australia's richest horse race; the one that "stops a nation". Normally I have a MrB Melbourne Cup sweep and award prizes of extended memberships to MrB winners. But this year I haven't done it. It was only last night that I realized the MC was being run, and it was too late to organize anything. My mind has been elsewhere.

Much of the tone of your mail reminds me of something a relatively new MrB reader wrote: "One of the sad aspects of Steve's story is his realization after Cody's death that he had experienced a true, unconditional romantic love, and yet he was too self-absorbed and manipulative to appreciate it. When Cody was reduced to ashes, so was Steve's life. Occasionally he reveals an insight into the bankruptcy of his relationships, and I sometimes wish he would confront this more directly in his writing. He wouldn't be doing all he can to keep Cody's page alive if he wasn't profoundly wounded by this experience. He has certainly expressed a sense of guilt."

'Self-absorbed' is the expression that sticks in my mind, Steve. And now I'm getting stuff from you like: "Yeah well Im sorry Cody. Im sooooo fucking sorry for taking the easy way out bud but I couldnt see myself doing the homage thing and not having a total fucking breakdown. So that was the way out for me." AND: "Okay Gary. So I fucked up totally. Its not what I had planned. But it kinda happened to turn out that way." What I wanna know is where is the guy who braves all kinds of weather to ride a wave? Where is the guy who plucked up the courage to apologize to Steph and Wingnut earlier this year? Where is the guy who visited Mark and bared his soul? Where is the guy who stepped into the ring to face Craig? Where is the guy who loved Cody enough to continue his web page?

What am I missing here, Steve? What am I not understanding?

As for Wingnut and his problems with those school bullies, that's pretty much par for the course when you're a teen, especially one with a high profile like Wingnut's. There will always be guys who wanna be smartasses; who think they've got something to prove.

Sometimes I wonder why I bother with the human race. I really do! I should be miles away, somewhere out in the bush, with the kangaroos and kookaburras, living in a tin shed and communing with nature. Hey, if it hadn't been for Cody that's exactly where I might have ended up. But he opened my eyes to many things.

I'm not sure why I'm mentioning this here, but when Sue was complaining of the POSSIBILITY of her toe being amputated during the operation she didn't have, I told her about the conditions that were explained to me AFTER I'd been wheeled into the operating theater after my heart attack. I was told that the operation wasn't without risk, and that there was a one in a thousand chance of my having another heart attack or heart seizure during the operation. Then I was asked if I understood the risk, and was prepared to go ahead. Hello? I was horizontal on a bed and not allowed to walk. What choice did I have? I'm not a brave person, but I recognized the absurdity of backing off at that stage. Backing off would have left me with no gain.

Going ahead with the "procedure" [as they love to call it] would improve the condition of my heart and arteries, provided all went to plan of course. I was in the hands of the experts. And the strange thing, now that I think back on it, was that I never once considered that I was going to die. For some weird reason dying was not an option. I had too many things to take care of, one of which was you, to die.

Give some thought to 'self-absorbed'. Give some thought to your relationships with Wingnut and Steph. What is the priority there? Is it what you can do for them or what they can do for you? Or a combination of both? Apply the expression 'self-absorbed' to me and Cody and what is your conclusion?

Hey, I would love a cigarette right now. I would looooooooooove a cigarette right now. But I won't have one. I'll continue to deny my 40-year habit, and that ain't easy. But I figure it'll get easier. Actually, it's not as difficult now as it was during the first few weeks of quitting.

I bought a kilo of rump steak today, and it's currently sitting in a dish, marinating in Nando's Marinade - Roasted Red Capsicum with Peri-Peri [African chili] - made in South Africa. So if we all die of heat exhaustion or food poisoning or whatever it's ALL YOUR FAULT! I'm gonna serve it with home-made chips [fries] and fresh garden salad, including fresh sliced mushrooms, and black-pepper gravy.

Just now, an email from Joćo arrived: "Last Sunday, November 3, it was a sad day for us, cause it was the anniversary of Cody's death. You can call me sentimental, but I became very sad when I thought how Cody's parents will feel that day. So I decided to do something positive, in the better Cody's style. I went to the beach very early in the morning and watch the sun rising from the sea. It's my modest version of "dawn patrol", and as I like to do, I throw some hibiscus flower into the sea and say a little prayer for Cody. I'm not a religious guy but I think that if God exists He must be good and loves people who does good things. So I'm sure that an year ago He waited for Cody by the Pearly Gates and said: "Come on, boy, we have a lot to do to people that are still on Earth."

And the Melbourne Cup? It was won by an Irish horse ridden by Australian jockey Damien Oliver whose brother was killed in a track riding accident about a week ago. Damien wanted to win this race for his bro. And that's exactly what he did. The trackside audience went ballistic, as they were entitled to do. Justice was done. "Melbourne Cups don't mean anything anymore to me. I'd give everything back just to have my brother back."

So what more can I say? When I was your age, I was driving an eleven year old Morris Oxford in 1963 [the year that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated] and trying to make sense of my life. I didn't have a fucking clue about anything let alone anyone to turn to. Ignorance ruled back then. Big time. It was all about the blind leading the blind. So what's changed? Steve? What's changed? You're supposed to be educating me. Who's leading who these days?

Does any of it matter? If an asteroid hit this planet and obliterated it in seconds would anything matter? That is the question we must ask ourselves. But what is our answer?

I can be sure of only two things at the moment: One: the Nando's marinade is gonna turn that rump steak into a gastronomical delight, and two: Cody was the most special person imaginable.

The most wonderful thing about Cody was that he was like us; he skinned his knees and bruised his shins all the damn time. He was forever apologizing to me and promising to mend his ways, or questioning his motives about his love for you or Mark or Wingnut. Cody was so wonderfully human; so wonderfully warm; so wonderfully fragile. But also so wonderfully tough.

Can you think of a more wonderful person than Cody? I can't.

There are 365 Cody days in every year. On one of them, you will hike across Table Mountain from one side to the other. On another, you will receive your higher school certificate. On another, you will fly out of Cape Town on your way to Johannesburg. By the time November 3 rolls around again, hopefully you will have had enough practice to show it the respect it deserves.

Your friend and the Captain's,


PS: Your friend and the Captain's? Now why did I write that instead of your friend and the Codeman's? Some kind of Freudian slip.

Copyright © 2002 All rights reserved. mrbstories


 Steve Part 89