Once upon a time when I was 6 years old I had a nightmare and woke up in the middle of the night. I was scared to go to the bathroom because it was in a different room from me so I took a bucket that was close me and did “number 2”, I then shoved the bucket in the passage and went back to sleep. Whoever woke up first must have smelt the bucket and informed everyone. When I eventually woke up, I heard the commotion that Mojo had pooped in a bucket. Mojo was my brother’s nickname. I was scared of getting into trouble so I stood there and inhaled my breathe to give out the longest “Intoni?” in response. So as far as everyone in the house knew it was Mojo who pooped in the bucket. I got away with it, no one knew that it was me… or so I thought.
In 2017 my brother fell out of a moving train. I got a call from one of my cousins and I immediately left the office to go to hospital. When I saw him I broke down in tears. His face was full of bruises, his mouth was swollen and he had stitches on his head. I couldn’t stop crying, he turned around, looked at me and said “sukhala sba” (don’t cry). I continued crying, he looked at the roof and said “uZenande noMama bayeza, sukhala Sba okanye ndizobaxelela nguwe owayetuwe kwelaBucket” (Mom and Zenande are coming, don’t cry or I will tell them you are the one who pooped on that bucket that day). I started laughing and crying all at the same time, I couldn’t believe that this whole time he knew it was me and took the fall. It also broke my heart to see how he was trying to act so tough in front of me even though I could see he was in pain.
See, my parents first son died when he was only 3 months old, so when my parents had another son only a few years later he became their golden boy. They sheltered him, spoilt him and pampered him until they couldn’t anymore. My brother was a troubled soul and my mother prayed for him every single day, she even had days where she would give him money so he could go to church, he never went though, he took the money and just didn’t go. Growing up I always thought my brother was the coolest person in the world. He listened to rap music and knew all the lyrics, he was really handsome, he could eat a whole loaf of bread by himself but never gained weight and he spoke fluent Afrikaans even though he never took Afrikaans at school. Also, he was a “27” and said “Hosh” a lot, I still don’t understand why that was considered gangster, but I believe it made my brother cool amongst his peers, so he was cool in my eyes too.
When my brother was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in 2016 he swore to stop smoking and drinking, we all rejoiced. We were quickly disappointed when he picked up smoking again after only one week of being discharged from hospital. He convinced us he would do everything in moderation, our parents were hopeful. In late 2019 he was officially diagnosed with lung cancer and he could not be saved, that still did not stop my mom from trying. When I was in King for Christmas last year we started planning for a Cape Town Christmas this year and my brother mumbled “if I’ll still be alive by then”, I looked at him and smiled, the saddest smile I’ve ever had. I didn’t want to cry because crying meant I believed him and in my heart, my brother was immortal. He was the guy who fell off a moving train and survived. He’s the guy who was beaten up and survived. He’s the guy who was stabbed and survived. He’s survived so many times before, he was a survivor. He was not the dying type, not in my heart. So I held on to hope and I kept planning our Christmas. My mother kept praying for him, reading the bible with him, cooking for him, taking him to hospital. She did everything, everything.
I called home on the 20th of April and my cousin picked up my Mom’s phone and told me that my mom couldn’t speak on the phone. She was on medication, I asked her about my brother and she sighed. I knew it was bad, I knew it was near the end. My brother could no longer move. He could no longer speak. My mind knew it was near the end but my heart held on. On the 24th of April at 10:00am my father called me, I convinced myself he called to let me know that my brother is really sick, but he didn’t, he called to tell me that my brother had passed on, I don’t remember much of that phone call after that.
I don’t know why but I always thought my brother was immortal. I thought he could survive anything. He would always tell me that he’s a thug forever, I never really knew what that meant because I never saw him being “thuggy”, is that even a word? He told me if anything happened to him he would go to thug heaven. That’s where Tupac is, he would assure me. That’s where all the good thugs go, all the misunderstood thugs. I still have his voice-notes, really weird because as “thuggy” as he wanted to be, he sent me the mushiest voice notes and he would always end them telling me how much he loves me. He called me the other day before he got too sick to tell me he misses me, I could hear he was in the bathroom so I asked him if he still has not told anyone about the bucket incident and he assured me he would never tell on me, we laughed about it and he told me he loves me so much. That was the last phone conversation we had.
I couldn’t go home to spend time with him during his last days because of COVID. On Whatsapp when he could still type, he convinced me that when he recovers he’ll go to church with us, the conversation shifted to how he believes Zola will make a comeback because he’s the best, he also told me to stop swearing so much. Now every time I swear (which is almost everyday) I can hear his voice in my head. I couldn’t write anything for four months because I would break down every single time I thought of my brother. Tall, dark, skinny, straight white teeth, listening to Tupac “Life Goes On”. I mourn him everyday. I mourn the person he was, the person my parents wanted him to be, the potential he had, the dreams he had, the chance he never gave himself. All we’re left with now is memories and his two beautiful children, but to me, he will always be my immortal.
I picture him in thug heaven jamming with Tupac. Hosh Mojo, ndiyakthanda mtase, oko! I hope thug heaven has given you a second chance.