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decline and fall

extract from: STONES AGAIN - Aryan Kaganof. Pine Slopes Publications, 2004

It was another Sunday. Much like all the other Sundays. Not much happens on Sundays. The day of rest they call it. That means you can't buy booze in shops. So I go to Stones instead. Here I am. But they're out of Castle. Manager Lyle buys me a bottle of Miller's Genuine draft to help ease the disappointment. Nina behind the bar looks ravishing as usual. That girl is fine.

Sikhanyeseleni teaches me some Zulu.

Sikathele kanzima ngoba besisebenza means "we are tired because of working hard". This is an apt sentence for Sikhanyeseleni to be teaching me because he works very hard clearing glasses and bottles all night for very little wage and then walks home for an hour after the establishment shuts down at 3, or 4, or 5 in the AM. He walks home through Westbury. He says he's not afraid of the distance but he is afraid of the coloured gang bangers. Sometimes he pays R4,50 for a taxi to downtown Joburg and then another R4,50 for a taxi to Highgate. But that's 10% of what he earns for a nine hour shift and it takes just as long as walking does.

Sikhanyeseleni wanders around Stones gloomily collecting glasses and bottles. The glasses he cleans. The bottles he throws away in a container. Tonight he's coughing heavily. A cold that he caught walking home in the cold.

He taught me to say "I am drunk" (mina ngidagiwe), "I am very drunk" (ngigakhwekakhulu) and "you are very drunk" (udakhwekakhulu). Aside from an extremely conscientious washer of glasses, Sikhanyeseleni is an observant student of human nature and a wonderful ironist. He asks me, Unayo imonto? (Do you have a car?) and then Unayo intombi? (Do you have a girlfriend?) Then he teaches me to say Ngicela ibhiya e yodwa (please give me one beer) and e yodwa futhi (one more). Then he grins impishly and tells me that I now know enough Zulu to get by.

He asks me U bhalani? (what are you writing?).

I reply Inkondlo (a poem).

Sithini isihloko senkondlo? (What is the topic of the poem?)

Isehlagalo ngeimpiloyami (my life and its problems).

Sikhanyeseleni smiles ruefully. He cannot imagine that I have problems. I have money and a car and I don't have to walk home for an hour. My encounters with Sikhanyeseleni contextualize my misery somewhat. We have different problems. But my problems are no less real for being different than his.

Perhaps love is the only problem that we have in common. Love is no guarantee that she won't cheat on you, or you on her. That's who we are. Animals. Responding to basic impulses. What stops us from fucking around indiscriminately is only the baggage of unnatural artifice called morality. Most of these morals are based on the ludicrous concept of women as property. Something to be owned and controlled. When women resist and burst out of this paradigm all sexual hell breaks loose.

The kind of chicks I like don't give a fuck about romance. They want money and cock and laughs. They despise romantic men. Romance gets in the way of kicks. I have no time for romantic women, they're weak. All of sexual politics is an exchange based economy.

The writer is respected but not liked. The writer is necessary but inessential. We all need to breathe but nobody needs to read.

South African whites scare me when they talk to me. I don't know how not to scare them. They are entirely unprepared for the truth. They want cricket scores. Rugby prophecies. But I am the prophet of nothing. Like a child I tell only what is unpremeditated. This lack of subterfuge, this naked being, this vulnerability, is the antithesis of successful being-in the-world, which is a subterfuge, an aggregation of masks. South African whites have become reconciled to deception. Living the rainbow lie, attempting to live it.

I'm sitting in the non-smoking section of Stones when I start spontaneously combusting. Everybody is suddenly screaming at me, stop smoking! stop smoking! Jesus Christ everybody, I'm on fucking fire! I'm in pain! Sorry boet, we can't make exceptions, rules are rules. What's going on with these people and more importantly, where's the fire extinguisher? Somebody calls the bomb squad. I swear to god I am arrested for being a suspected suicide bomber!

Another desolate night is threatening to end. I'm terrified of surrendering to sleep, to the failure of being alone. I want to stay awake until the sun comes out to find me, I want to find a woman to share the sunrise with. But I don't want to have to buy her a drink. Let her buy me the drink for fuck's sake. The moonlight's glowing on a room full of drunken men. There aren't any women here anyway. I've got to find a way out of this loneliness. Reading doesn't help, that just makes me jealous of all those other wankers who got published.

I'm writing my way towards a style. A voice of my own. Short, staccato sentences. One idea at a time. Keeping it simple. Language you can read thru. Lucid. But with bite. Tangy. City language. My city. Joburg.

Baudelaire was the Paris prowler. Bukowski turned LA inside out. I've got Joburg's streets to stalk. This is where my poetry unfolds itself. Sweet bitter flowers blooming. Not a problem.

Everything that menstruates is an actress.

Delia is a tiny piece of crumpet. She sparkles. Show us your arthole baby. You should check out lithium. If you're bipolar you're bipolar. To be a filmmaker you've got to be out of the industry. I love driving someone else's car. It's so exciting.

The notebook is the secret. Mix in an ear for detail and plenty of discipline. You have to love being on your own in order to be a writer. It's a solitary occupation. Even when I sit in the midst of a large crowd I always grant myself observer status. Participating on the level of the once-removed.