The first of many car crashes occurs days after the matric dance, weeks before I am due to leave town to go study in Cape Town. We are driving the car home to my parents place. Andrew is driving, I am still under the age and anyway haven’t learnt yet. I think we are on acid, something, and I decided to see if we can make the car fly by flapping the doors. I’m not sure how it happens, but Hallucinogenics, the car door is ripped off its hinges, but still hanging on, by something we pass, or passes us. When we get home, we manage to “convince” my mother that the door was open and we caught it on a pole parking. Next night we borrow Dad’s bakkie, smash the windscreen with a mistakenly popped champagne cork.
The first of many run-ins with the police. We are in the back of some truck, having hitched a ride. It’s 1988 and we are not so aware, so we don’t realize that getting a ride with two black men might be a problem for white boys. The cops pull us over, one of us starts to freak out, he has a matchbox of marijuana on him, the truck is enclosed there is no way to throw it out. The yellow cop van is idling right behind us. No escape. For some, goodness knows what, reason the police give us a cursory search, find the match book, spill out it’s contents and drive off. The guys giving us the lift, drive off, turn the corner, order us out. It’s too dangerous. For them, we are not a concern.
There was a club we would go to, played the early parts of dance music, was in an apartment building in Point Road, started sneaking in at 16, place called 330, it grew as we got older, taking over other floors, swapping staircases, getting into commercial house, but in my earliest experience, we had to pretend to be eighteen and gay to get in. Dancing in the pounding strobe and hanging out in the women’s cloak rooms, watching the older patrons line up to get to the toilet. Whole evenings spent, sitting on the floor, with only an occasional dash to the dance-floor to throw ourselves about under the hard strobe to New Order.
A fire drill one night, I am wearing my green sequined flares. We are all standing on the pavement. Suddenly the profusion of police means it’s not a fire drill, it’s a raid. Drug dogs everywhere. Somebody says, “I thought there was a fire”, Nicky O says, “It’s Roger’s pants that need to be on fire”.
I will remember this moment later when I am vomiting after spilling amyl nitrate on myself in Nicky’s squat in Brixton (London, Not JHB) three years later, everyone mooning about Smashing Pumpkins, me vomiting up my only meal for days, dry take away chips. Wanting to just go home with Eve, who is not consoling me, just wanting to go home, me not having a home but a bedsit, Eve, meaning her mothers house, me seeing the whole affair falling apart. Feeling self righteous in my vomit, not realizing, how wrong I had been.
Essentially there were five of us in that art class who were pushing forward, whether we were any good is a question for a later debate. Besides us gang of four, there was Bryce Gordon. Bryce was a pasty faced, greasy haired, pimply, biting sense of humour guy who painted De Chicero derivatives with technical aplomb. No matter how we tried, we couldn’t get him to join in, come out with us, anything.
In matric Bryce Gordon won the Art Prize, something we had all secretly desired but had claimed we wouldn’t receive on Dadaist grounds. He had won it the year before as well and on the evening of it’s announcement and presentation we all showed up at the school, lint free uniforms, all hoping it would be us. The award is announced and the principal stupefied by the fact that Gordon is simply not there. He did not show up. It wasn’t on any other grounds, as it simply meant nothing to him. It held us in awe. But Bryce didn’t care for other reasons.
After Matric exams, the news reaches us. Bryce and his whole family have committed group suicide. They got into the family car together, with the dogs and gassed themselves, all of them. It seems they had applied to immigrate to America and had simply been waiting for Bryce’s matric results which, although the top of the class, had obviously failed to raise whatever profile the family had in the eyes of emigration. A whole family gets into a car with the dogs. Mother, Father, Brother, Sister and agree to end their own lives. It cannot have been an instant decision, rather something that took place over a long amount of time and disappointment and frustration. I think now back to the existential gesture of refusing to, but actual being one of resignation, knowing it’s no longer important to, receive the art prize. The many times we tried to get Bryce to go out with us, teased him for not, the disdain he showed, all exterior signs of large responsibility and in the end signs of defeat. They simply could not live here anymore.