Dear Dumisani Mbewe,
This is my response to the suicide note, which served as a letter you wrote to our family before you took your own life.
I did not read the letter, but I felt the need to respond anyway.
It has been four months since you were laid to rest, but I still think about the day I received the news of your death. Do you know how I knew it was bad news even before I answered my phone? It is because it was Khongozi's number flashing on my screen. As you have always said it yourself, our cousin Khongozi never calls unless it's serious. In fact, the last time Khongozi called us was five years ago when he requested that we go and negotiate amalobolo on his behalf eShowe.
I was feeling sleepy inside the taxi that was moving slowly on the N1 from work, when my phone rang. I answered; "Sure Mkhongo, huzet?"
"Ey mfana kuyabheda". He said in a low tone of a voice. "uDumisani akasekho".
He did not give me a gap to ask what happened. He asked for my mom's number and after I gave it to him, he read it back to me and said, "Okay sharp ndoda", and he hung up. Yeah, just like that. Leaving me sweating furiously.
I suddenly felt my stomach turning upside down and I felt like vomiting. I asked the guy sitting next to me to open the window.
As if aware of my horrific state of being, the driver of the taxi picked up speed. As though to allow me to get home quickly so I could process the horrible news I'd just received.
I got home and locked myself in the bedroom and dialled my mom's number to confirm the news.
It was true. You were no longer with us.
"Uzibulele,"mom said with a sad voice on the other line... and she hung up.
Immediately your images filled up my mind.
My mind only holds well the last memory of you in your brown bemuda shorts that were always loose on your waist, (I swear you were allergic to wearing a belt), your white takkies and your dark face that is typical of the Nyaja people. I found myself laughing when I saw an image of you walking with your lower back slightly bent, with both your hands working together to consistently pull up your loose pants. Something made my eyes water.
No, let me say it. I cried. I wept. I was feeling like a lunatic every moment I realized that I am unable to control my emotions but my emotions were controlling me, every reaction to any memory of you was spontaneous. I'd find myself laughing at one thought and crying at the other.
Dura, mfethu, I will not ask why you did it. I will not ask why you overdosed on those pills deliberately to kill yourself. I will not judge you. I do not know what you were going through.
We were bros, man. Even though I grew up addressing you as ankel because you were almost the same age as my mom's younger brother, ankel Mandla. Ah, man, won't you please greet ankel Mandla for me when you get to 'heaven'. Even though I referred to you both as my uncles, you were actually my brother because your mom and my mom are sisters. It's what Jozi people would describe as "Umamam nomamakhe abantwana bomuntu". Phela Jozi people talk funny, my brother.
Mara wena Dura mos you have never been to Jozi neh? Oh wait, I remember you once admitted that you have been to Jozi only once in your whole 40 something years of your life. You hated iGoli, you said, without stating your reasons. "Umbhedo nje lento yaseGoli". You'd said dismissively, in one of our drunken conversations.
You decided to work in our hometown in Vryheid your whole life. Working for a company with which you started from scratch and worked for until your last days on earth. I would hear you say, masesidakwe yi-Smirnoff sakho; "I made that man rich. That man is rich because of these hands", you'd spread out your hands and start swearing.
And I heard from mom that your employer did not pay even a dime, in appreciation for your long service, after you died.
Yabona ke banjani abelungu mfethu? Izinja! After twenty fucking years all they said was, "Condolences to the family". Nx! Fuck! I hope you get to heaven and tell their God how cruel they are.
Hhawu, I mentioned Smirnoff just now. Phela uQekeqeke was your favourite drink. Remember one Christmas eve when you whizzed into Tops and shouted, "Hhey wesisi, awulethe iy'Minofu eziwu-4 lapho, bese unika nangu umfana wami i-Red Lable eyodwa. eGoli abawuphuzi ugogolo omhlophe".
We took four bottles of Smirnoff and a Jonny Walker Red. Safika ekhaya eMondlo simanzi teh.
When I think about that evening I hear my mom's shrill voice shouting at us, but more directly at you, "Kodwa Dumisani nawe uvele uphenduke ingane nje, udakwa nezingane umdala kangaka."
You died before I met any of your kids. You always talked about your three kids that no one in the family met. You always claimed ukuthi babaleka nomama wabo. At most times, you avoided the subject of your kids. I still wish I could meet them.
I love you, man. I am sorry I did not make it to your funeral. And I will always regret that. I have made a deal with Nkule that he will take me to see your grave when I go home to KZN, soon.
And about the letter, I have since decided that I will not read it. I don't want to know what’s in it. I don't want to understand. I will never understand. I will heal in my own way and I will find peace.
One day we will be together sipping heavenly Smirnoff with angels in the world of eternal peace. Lala ngokuthula bhut' wami.