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OP DIE DAG WAT MY NEFIE ADRIAAN
Op die dag wat my nefie Adriaan dood is
was hy 31 jaar en 9 maande oud.
Al die treine het nie gaan staan nie.
Niemand het eers geweet nie.
Ek en Karlien en Lolla het by my ma’le Nuwejaar gehou.
My pa het spesiale wyne oopgemaak.
Ons het gedink dit was ’n lekker aand.

My nefie Adriaan se lyk
is eers twee dae later gevind
in sy eie woonstel
in Tamboerskloof
kaal
op sy eie sofa –
een of ander oordosis.
Daar was nie ’n brief nie.
Niks is gesteel nie.
Die polisie het nie vuilspel vermoed nie.
Dit was dalk ’n ongeluk.
Sy sagmoedige worshond, Neelsie, was by hom.

Neelsie was altyd by hom.
My nefie was ’n dokter.
In Bredasdorp se hospitaal het mense gekla
oor hy sy rondtes saam met Neelsie gedoen het.
’n Verpleegster uit die hospitaal het geskryf
hoe lekker hulle vir hom gelag het.
My nefie het graag stoute grappe vertel.
Hy kon mense goed namaak.

Pasiënte het geskryf om te sê
hy was ’n vriendelike, deeglike dokter.
Ek het nooit heeltemal geglo
dat Adriaan ’n grootmens
of ’n dokter was nie.
Vir my was hy die kleintjie,
die jongste nefie,
die een wat van olywe gehou het
toe ons nog daarvoor gegril het.

Op die dag van die roudiens
was my gedagtes bome in die wind.
My nefie was bipolêr.
Vier jaar gelede het ek hom in Londen
radeloos depressief gesien.
Hy’t vertel van ’n ski-vakansie.
Hy’t gesê die Alpe het na karton gelyk –
so asof iemand hulle vir ’n skool-musical wit geverf het,
maar die NG-dominee het aangedreun…
Op my dertigste verjaardag daai jaar
het Adriaan my Richard Ashcroft se
‘Alone With Everybody’
persent gegee.
Ek het nooit rêrig daarna geluister nie,
altyd gedog Ashcroft is ’n poser,
maar die dominee het aangedreun…
Dit het gevoel of ek op die strand
enkeldiep in die water staan
en die see begin terugtrek.
Die stroom was sterk,
die sand om my voete het verdwyn,
maar die see en die dominee het nie opgehou nie,
want ‘lewe’ is ’n woord
wat die dood terugtrek.


Op die dag van my nefie Adriaan se roudiens
het ons familie se verlede vir altyd verander –
die dood
was skielik sigbaar in ou foto’s
van kinderkersfeeste
het sy koue skadu gegooi oor kleintyd
se strandvakansies
het van ons boomhuis en sandkastele
’n voorbode gemaak
het ons beste herinneringe
se ribbes gebreek.

Maar die orrel het gespeel,
’n lied is aangehef,
die dominee het sy hande uitgestrek
en die woord ‘Adriaan’
se nuwe betekenis
het ons ontgaan.

Buite het die son gebrand.
ON THE DAY THAT MY COUSIN ADRIAN
On the day that my cousin Adrian died
he was 31 years and 9 months old.
The trains didn’t stop.
No one even knew.
I and Carline and Lolla were at my mother’s for New Year.
My dad had opened a special wine.
We thought it was a great evening.

My cousin Adrian’s body
was found only two days later
in his own flat
in Tamboerskloof
naked
on his own sofa –
some kind of overdose.
There was no letter.
Nothing had been stolen.
The police didn’t suspect foul play.
It had probably been an accident.
His sweet-natured sausage dog, Neelsie, was with him.

Neelsie was always with him.
My cousin was a doctor.
At the hospital in Bredasdorp people complained
that he did his rounds with Neelsie at his heel.
A nurse at the hospital wrote about
how much they’d laughed at him for that.
My cousin liked to tell dirty jokes.
He could mimic people very well.

Patients wrote to say
that he was a professional, friendly doctor.
I had never quite believed
that Adrian was an adult
or a doctor.
To me he was still the small boy,
the youngest cousin,
the guy who loved olives
when we were all still disgusted by them.

On the day of the funeral
my thoughts were trees in the wind.
My nephew was bipolar.
I had seen him four years before
desperately depressed in London.
He told me about a skiing holiday.
He said that the Alps looked like cardboard –
as if someone had painted them white for a school musical,
but the Reformed Church pastor droned on …
On my thirtieth birthday that year
Adrian gave me Richard Ashcroft’s
‘Alone With Everybody’
as a gift.
I never really listened to it,
always thought Ashcroft was a poser,
but the pastor droned on…
It felt as if I was standing on the beach
ankle-deep in water
and the sea beginning to pull back.
The current was strong,
the sand around my feet vanished,
but the sea and the pastor didn’t stop,
because ‘life’ is a word
that pulls back death.

On the day of my cousin Adrian’s funeral
our family history changed forever –
death
was suddenly visible in old photos
of children’s parties
threw its cold shadow over our childhood
beach holidays
turned our treehouse and sandcastles
into premonitions
broke the ribs of
our best memories.

But the organ played on,
a hymn was sung
the pastor stretched out his hands
and the new meaning
of the word ‘Adrian’
escaped us.

Outside, the sun burned.