Death by Death
Sanqa got up on Saturday morning and told the world: Wondering if I should show up at this photography gig later this morning. Just had a dream where I was making photographs at the Table Mountain and witnessed a boy being swallowed by a huge snake; after which the snake came for me, still with a lump on its throat. I was smart though: woke up just before it ate me. This is why I’ve never died in any of my deadly dreams, Sanqaz: I know just when to wake the fuck up.
Sanqaz was what she called her Facebook friends–a derivative of her nickname.
The Facebook update was posted at five thirty; by six thirty – too early for anyone to be on Facebook on a Saturday morning – she’d amassed a total of 46 enthusiastic Likes, a statistic befitting the comic elite of social networks. The Comments came in droves, ranging from the cracking, ‘Kwaaaa! Totally hilarious, Sanqa!’ by her friend Nwabisa Gorgeous, to the less manic, ‘I can’t handle such hecticness in ma dreams,’ by a Lungelwa Malgas.
Flight Ntokozo001, our common acquaintance, asked a question that had the pretentions of philosophy, ‘But is it tragic to die in one’s own dream?’
To which Sanqa replied, ‘You are right, Sanqaz: dying in one’s own dream isn’t so bad, compared to hearing about your brutal murder in another person’s. Ha ha and ha!’
Blaq Rage budged in, ‘Where’s the gig? LOL…’
Rollies wa’a Gcogco said, ‘Sanqa, you are dead my friend. The snake swallowed both you and I – I am that boy you just witnessed being eaten up. I, too, went through the confusion and denial before I realized shit, I’m dead. I’m fucking dead; in a snake’s squishy tummy.’
Sanqa said, ‘*dead*’
By nine forty five, her update was the hit of the day, with Comments in the high 60s, 5 Shares, and a staggering 98 Likes. The latest Comment came from one Call_Me_Teezy, ‘Ma drmz are de west wen im on ma periodz. Killz me lol lol’
On Twitter, Sanqa’s last input was from the previous night where she’d said, ‘Next photography gig: making images of nunus being read to at Centre for the Book, Queen Vic. Str., Cape Town.’ To this, Twitter reported: Random House ZA and 8 others retweeted. Book Quotes and 2 others followed you.
She was considered a late bloomer on Twitter, but her less cynical followers often commented that she was becoming Twitterliterate.
It was the publisher, Random House ZA, around midday that first enquired about her whereabouts, ‘@RandomHouseZA: nunus at Centre for the Book going uuuh aaah as Madosini narrates a folk tale. Anyone sighted the fab @Sanqa yet?’
The books website retweeted the Random House ZA tag, and then said, ‘@BooksaLIVE: Nope, @RandomHouseZA, @Sanqa’s not in the Chris van Wyk reading either. Looking forward to the snaps. #NunusRead’
Elelwani, a fellow photographer, must surely have read the earlier tweets from Random House ZA and Books aLive, for she tweeted at two o’clock, ‘@lwanie: When my girl, @Sanqa, goes MIA O_o. Hope she’s shooting, shooting. Or rather, MAKING ‘em images… #NunusRead’
Sanqa believed one didn’t take photographs, one made them. In a series of one-liners on Twitter, she’d once argued: 1) A photograph -or image, as I call it- is not fruit hanging on a tree: you don’t just take it. You make images. 2) And when you make an image, you are freezing a moment. No moment is the same as the other. No two cameras make the same image. PS: we don’t make images as they are; we make them as we are.
Whenever Sanqa had announced she’d be going for a photography gig, her stans went berserk with anticipation: they’d go to her old albums and start Liking or adding new Comments on each and every image. At five that afternoon, no Facebook album of hers was left untouched. Other friends who had previously Commented on those old albums received Notifications of new Comments and then came in a hurry, thinking Sanqa had tagged them on fresh images.
The cyber suspense on her wall was palpable.
I was in my room at Liesbeek Residence, going through her Facebook, when I received a call from my brother. I never wanted to admit this but he was Sanqa’s boyfriend. They lived together in Tokai. I let the phone ring a little bit, so as not to give the impression that I was too eager. There were unresolved things between us. Besides which, he was always too concerned about my state of mind since our parents were killed in a car accident.
When I’d picked up and said ‘Sharp, Buddha?’ there was a silence.
‘Buddha?’ I called out again.
He said, ‘Mninawa, listen, are you at res?’
‘Are you sitting down?’
‘Yeah. What’s going on?’
‘Please have a sit.’
‘I’m sitting. What’s happening?’
‘Listen,’ he was always asking me to listen. ‘Sandisa is no more.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘Mamela, I am sorry, ‘fondin. She’s killed herself. It was too late when I arrived. Please take a cab to Tokai. The cops are here …’
A part of my soul died that day. Sanqa was my senior by two months, three weeks, and four days, but whenever the issue of our age came up she said I was younger by a whopping three months. For our undergrad we went to Rhodes together. When mom and dad died, my brother decided I should live closer, so I applied for a postgrad place at UCT. While she knew about my brother’s intentions, I didn’t tell her I’d sent an application to UCT – I didn’t know how – and when she found out I’d been accepted she blasted me.
It was our biggest fight.
But she saw me off at the bus station in King Williamston without much struggle. Hardly a week later, around mid-morning, there was a knock on my door at Liesbeek. When I opened Sanqa was standing there with the security guy in tow, helping her with the suitcases.
‘You’re so stupid, Sandisa!’ I’d blurted, utterly amazed.
‘Tshini,’ she’d said, ‘You’re not allowed to just leave.’
We were kids the last time we shared a bed. At Rhodes she’d dive on top of my bed; we might tussle, or she’d ask me to base her scalp, or we’d cover ourselves with a blanky while watching a movie from my laptop, but we’d never spooned. Now with the length of my body against hers, I felt how hairy her body was. The soft, soft hair of her body had this warm current that was pulling me. Her neck was resting on my arm, the hand cupping her breast. The silk nightdress might as well not have been there. The movement of her hand on my face was as though she was an art enthusiast, exploring a sculpture. In a gentle movement I was grinding against her groin from the bottom, and she against mine from the top, but I disappointed both of us by not having condoms. There were none in the bathrooms and a walk to the garage would have been too risky. Though very belated, it would have been a first for both of us.
In the morning I received a letter from the matron’s office, warning me about the consequences of keeping squatters in one’s room. Sanqa had to go and stay at my brother’s in Tokai, while she was looking for a place of her own. Her parents were okay with it. She wasn’t interested in postgrad. Since she had a place to stay, didn’t have to buy groceries, and while looking for a job, she used her money to get the Nikon camera.
It took them three months to disclose that they were now partners. She and I never spoke about it. She tried but I didn’t allow it. What could she possibly say that’d make me hurt less? I stopped going to Tokai. I agreed to meet them separately if they came to Liesbeek, as long as we’d not discuss what had happened. I followed her on Twitter and Facebook – the images were phenomenal – but I never Liked, Commented or Retweeted her stuff. I watched in silence.
Buddha said that morning she was meant to do the photography gig but she’d had this nightmare. When he left the house for a series of business meetings at the V&A, Sanqa was going to see her shrink. She didn’t answer his texts throughout the day. Upon returning, he found her body in the bathtub. I still don’t want to imagine it. When I arrived in the evening there was still a mess. I felt drops of piss squeezing out of me as though I was a nervous dog. She was taken to the morgue. The cops took him in for questioning. I went along to support him. While I was waiting, I decided to announce the news of her passing on her Facebook. The one-liner I posted has to be the hardest I’ve ever written in my life: Sanqa is late.
The mistake was not evident to me until a few seconds too late, when the first Comment from Call_Me_Teezy popped in, ‘Ded, cremayted and buried… ROFLMBAO.’
While I was typing a response, a flurry of Notifications poured in:
Xhosa Guy said, ‘dis z getting beta.’
‘Joek of the day!’ said Mbuzobuciko van de Linda.
Our common acquaintance from Rhodes, Flight Ntokozo001, said, ‘Hello wethu, @Mninawa. Nice to see y’all still together. Lookin good chap *winks*.’
It took me all night to convince Sanqa’s cyber world that she was late as in dead. But even later when everyone seemed to believe my announcement, and when others were already sending their RIPs, a sarcastic Nkem Phillip said, ‘Death by death, Lol.’
On Monday, on campus, I found an email Sanqa had sent me that Saturday morning: It was not a boy in the dream. It was you. It was always you. I didn’t find a way to forgive myself for what I did. So I decided not to stay. I hope you will find it in your heart to forgive me for this one; and please, please Mninawa, live and grow old. I will always love you.