Today my boet Stefanus aka Stephen Bruce Evans would have been 44. He introduced me to the Sex Pistols, reggae and the twilight zone of evading hospital police guards. He suffered from genius and creeping gatvolness and these plagued him throughout his life.
He almost had me jailed for 15 years after passing out in my bedroom while on awol from the army. While the cops who had come to haul him back to the army got all excited about a Nelson Mandela poster in my room he very quietly. Escaped. Not forgetting his two litre of brandy and coke. It was his dagga smoking gardener friend Andrew who burnt the evidence that I had cycled off with while the cops arrived with reinforcements so I didn’t go to jail. He spent a month in DB and got kicked out of the army. The police initally thought they had found themselves a terrorist. But it was the drunken polony cookup in the army kitchen that finally had the army fed up. His friends, who had pretended to be mad and flat footed to get out of conscription, were cross that they had not thought of that themselves.
He ran away from home when he was 13. To Durban. He came back when some alley oke took his last R5 and kept him waiting for hours for a pair of off-the-truck Levis which would have gone well with his blanket shirt. He won the class prize in the John Travolta lookalike competition. He got marked wrong on Lilongwe as the capital of Malawi because the new name wasn’t in his text book yet and he had to learn what he was taught said the teacher at the time. My mother walked to the school to complain, because it was the difference between 19 out of 20 and 20 out of 20. This was standard three. He later rebelled and test-drove some of the top schools in the country, and very quickly figured out how to get the maximum points to be allowed to leave De Bult reform school.He did ace wheelies on his red yamaha 50. He finished the rubik’s cube before anyone else had figured it out.
He had a bad motorbike crash one night and spent his life in constant pain and far too much time in the emergency rooms of the country’s hospitals as he battled to not have his leg amputated. His relief was the marshmallow world of pethedine and syndol. Stefanus’s resume included being a manager at Clicks, a miner, a bar manager, a waiter, a plumber.
His other affliction was alcoholism. It tormented him and no matter how hard he tried, it kept coming back. After crashing into a BMW he went on the run from insurance companies wanting him to pay. He lived in the church yard at Rhema in Durban. Paying the local wishy washy to wash and iron his work clothes, and showering on the beachfront, until the alloted claim time lapsed. He said Mrs Rhema was very kind to him. It was on a similar mission that I inadvertently drove the escape car from Helen Joseph Hospital with his friend Ian after being called to come and fetch him after another episode which this time involved an injury and a police guard.
For his international travel he chose Bulgaria and Hungary and Egypt and he was pleased that he not done the “London sheep” thing.
Brendan once had to go to court to be him when he did his usual of crumpling up a fine and throwing it out of the window. He used to give Brendan’s name because he didn’t have a licence and they looked alike in their ID books. The two of them spent hours fixing my cars for me. Loud music pumping, quarts of Black Label at hand. He crashed my Beetle twice coming back with a completely plausible story of how he and his friend Paul encountered someone running across the road in their path. His second last crash was into a dominee’s car. It was do not pass go time. But the dominee took pity and got the police to agree to him going for one last treatment so he didn’t go to jail. He was sober for two years with the help of an antabuse patch. He was with our dad when our dad died. The patch ran out. He kept putting off the replacement appointment. He drank. He crashed into a Beacon sweets truck in Melville. He survived that but the shit was creeping back into his life.
He survived for two weeks without the patch. On his last night alive he drove around Honeydew trying to find an AA meeting. He couldn’t find it and went into Zandspruit and bought some quarts instead. Brendan phoned me to say Stephen had shot himself. All I could think to say was in journalese: Is it fatal? Brendan’s reply in shock was: I don’t know what the fuck fatal means, but he’s dead. I went to the toilet. I nearly fainted. I packed some clothes.
I met the ambulance on the dust road on the way to his cottage. Its red light flicking lazily over the highveld sand and bush ahead of me. I stood under a thorn tree when his body was taken away. It was an exquisite morning. Misty, fragrant. If he had not shot himself he would have found a reason to carry on living, no matter how kak he was feeling. But it was too late. I hope his girlfriend Sharon is okay because she was with him that night. Funny thing though. He hated birthdays. RIP my boet. Jah love.
(First published 15 Sept 2010)