A few weeks into his post graduate studies Chawe realized that his memory did not work as it used to. He had lost his photographic memory and was struggling to remember things he had read. As soon as he would read something five minutes later it would be cleared from his mind. He was reminded of the online test that he had to take a week earlier for financial accounting where he scored 60% but the pass mark was 75%. He simply could not remember some of the information and he thought perhaps it was his medication. On the morning after his finance test he had decided to go and see his doctor to see if he had any remedies for his memory loss. When he walked into his doctor’s office his doctor Dr Vukile was busy with his casework as always writing in a fever pitch the notes he had from his previous session. Dr. Vukile was an emotionally imposing man however with an aptitude for empathy that Chawe had never experienced in his time seeing various doctors to be treated for bi polar manic depression.
“Good morning Dr. Vukile how are you”?
Dr. Vukile could tell Chawe was a bit off and he had something that he wanted to discuss. Chawe’s shoulders were slouched signaling some kind of loss of confidence, and his voice was mellow to the point of not being heard by Dr Vukile.
“Come in Chawe and take a seat. Tell me how are you and how is your wife Zodwa”?
Chawe hesitated for a moment trying to find the right words for Dr Vukile. Dr. Vukile liked patients whom spoke with clarity especially when they had some form of mental illness. Speaking with clarity for Dr Vukile meant that a patient was getting better and able to cope with the cycling moods of bipolar depression. In other words he liked patients to display what he had referred to on many occasions to Chawe as exact speech.
“All is well sir and my wife is fine. She complains a bit too much but what is to be expected from women. And even if I complain about her complaining no one will listen”.
Dr. Vukile let out a roaring laugh and signaled Chawe to take a seat.
“Well, you are starting to get your sense of humor back and so that is good Chawe. I get worried sometimes that you are allowing this illness to get you down and to affect your self-confidence. You know you can live a perfectly normal life with this illness if you put your mind to it”.
“Sir its just the medication, although it gives me a feeling of overwhelming wellness, sometimes I feel like I cannot feel anything weather happy or sad as if my feelings have been numbed”.
Dr. Vukile begun to write in his notes with a fever pitch. As he wrote he also began to address Chawe.
“Well Chawe that is one of the side effects from the medication because it effects your serotonin and dopamine levels which are used for your imagination and also feelings, and balances them out in your brain”.
Chawe still could not get the words to explain to Dr Vukile what he had come to see him for so he thought of something else to say which would eventually lead to what he wanted to say.
“You know sir the mornings with the medication can be really tough. Sometimes I wake up in the morning and I feel like I have been run over by a truck and I have a hangover from the medication. I think it is the syriroquil I take in the evenings. If affects me badly in the mornings and sometimes I have trouble getting up from bed”.
Dr. Vukile did not waste any time responding to Chawe.
“We all have problems getting up in the morning Chawe and some people have a lot of energy in the morning but when you have a mental illness too much energy in the morning can mean that is the onset of mania. With or without the pills, mornings in general are difficult for everyone. How much of the Syriroquil are you taking at night now”?
“I think its about 300 milligrams per evening”.
Dr. Vukile continued writing on his notes and then looked up at Chawe once again.
“And then you take the Xeplion injection once a month, correct”?
“Yes sir that is correct and also in the mornings I take 150 milligrams of Welbutrin to wake me up and also as an antidepressant”.
Dr. Vukile continued writing.
“But sir I think the cocktail of these pills are affecting my ability to study in that I cant remember vast amount of information once I have read it and also I find concentrating in class is a bit difficult”.
Dr Vukile stopped writing to ensure he was giving Chawe his full attention.
“It’s not the medication Chawe but it is the illness of bipolar depression that affects your memory. Many people whom have bi polar complain that their short and long-term memory is not the same once they get diagnosed. I know some patients whom have stopped taking their medication and they still complain about memory loss. Doctors believe your memory is affected because of how the illness affects the brain”.
Chawe sat up on his seat.
“Oh ok sir, I don’t think I am going to be able to do justice to my post gradate studies with my memory in this shape”.
Dr. Vukile wanted to make sure he did not do further damage to Chawe’s confidence by saying the wrong thing.
“Well Chawe, many people have had bipolar and still managed to do their studies but also it depends on the amount of information that one receives in their course and how one manages to cope with it”.
Chawe had struck out on his luck with his course. He knew that the information he had to cover was too much for him and although he could digest and understand the information, he simply could not remember it when he had to in a test environment.
“I have done some post graduate studies before in London but with this course that I am doing at Witz there is just information overload sir. The vast amount of information that we have to read in between courses is too much and I can’t cope. Last night for an example we had to read five chapters of a complicated finance book in order to prepare for the lecture”.
Dr. Vukile was listening to Chawe intently and starting directly into his eyes to make sure he understood that he was giving him his undivided attention.
“Chawe when you told me last year that you were going to do your post graduate studies I did not want to tell you not to study, but I know how difficult it is to accept that your memory patters have changed and your ability to concentrate with the illness is diminished”.
Chawe slouched back on his seat.
“I think I am going to have to withdraw myself from the course, I don’t want to set myself back with my treatment by taking on something which is going to bring up my stress levels and increase my anxiety”.
Dr. Vukile did not take his eyes off Chawe even though he could tell his energy levels had decreased.
“I think you are making a good decision Chawe and a difficult one as well. This has nothing to do with the fact that you are above the average intelligence as most people with mental illness are, but you must also accept you constraints with bi polar depression in a constructive manner. I believe you are making the best decision for yourself in this regard”.
“My biggest regret is that I can understand the material in my classes but for the life of me I cant remember it. But on the inverse of that I find that in life in general I can remember the things that I enjoy”.
“That is the way the brain works Chawe we only remember the things we enjoy. For an example if someone slaps you and then gives you twenty rand after you will remember the slap but not the twenty rand”.
Chawe could not quiet understand the example but he nodded his head anyways thinking to himself that he would make sense of the example at some later point. This was the way in which he had decided to deal with his memory lapses and inability to concentrate. The things he did not immediately understand he would file in his mind for later when it made sense.
“Chawe I know that was not a perfect example, try not to overthink it as you do with many things, take it at face value”.
On many occasions Chawe overthought many things in his life and before he would make a comment or speak in a group setting he would go over his sentences over and over again in his mind until they were perfect. To some people they would think either he was not listening or that he was not interested in the conversation and this lead to a lot of misunderstandings with his friends. “Yes I will take it at face value sir, no problem”.
Chawe still had two problems however after deciding he was going to leave his postgraduate studies as a result of his poor memory. The first would be how he would tell his father whom was also his chairman at work that he was leaving his course and also how he would tell his trustees that he would withdraw from the course after only one exam. His grandfather had left him some money in his will which was to be only used for education and he felt that he was squandering it in some way by not going forward with the course even with his poor memory. But he knew the health costs of continuing with the course were greater than the potential benefits of a formal post graduate degree. When he left his doctor he called his father’s PA to make a meeting with him when he got back to the office from seeing Dr. Vukile. Although his father seemed to understand his position he also recommended that Chawe perhaps take a course at UNISA correspondence university, which might be easier. Chawe could not explain to him that it was not that he did not understand the content of his course work but that he could not remember it and the same problems were going to follow him to UNISA when he would have to take an exam and he simply would not be able to recall the information he had studied. After he reached consensus with his father and chairman that he should withdraw from his post graduate studies the next step was informing his trustee of his educational trust of his decision. He wrote them a detailed letter of his condition of bi polar depression and told them how it affected his memory and inability to concentrate. The response from his trustees was as he had come to expect, cold and uncaring. They asked him if it was possible to get the money they had spent on the registration of his course and for him to find out from the Witz University if he could get the registration money back. After numerous email exchanges with Witz University he wrote his trustees back informing them that they would not be able to recoup the funds he had spent on his registration. He started to feel somewhat defeated and guilty for withdrawing from the course since his trustees had responded back in such a militant manner. But he remembered something his mother had said in that the trustee selected by his grandfather did not care about the beneficiaries of the trust but simply cared about being trustees of his trust and the social benefits that being a trustee brought to them. Chawe’s grandfather had developed some patents for a number of inventions during his life and he was a well-known businessman whom was respected in South Africa. During his life he had failed to adequately deal with intergenerational passage of his business from one generation to the next and had rather selected trustees whom would manage his funds after his death for the benefit of his children and grandchildren. However the trustees he had appointed took a mercenary approach to how they dealt with his grandfather’s family members and considered them to be burdens on the trust rather than beneficiaries. This lead to many conflict between the family members and the trustees whom refused to step down and be replaced with trustees that they family members wanted. They were hell-bent on being trustees for the foreseeable future with no intent to change the way in which they dealt with Chawe’s family. This was also another source of stress in Chawe’s life were trustee’s whom he wished were more caring about the family members, but he knew this was not something he could change and therefore gave up on hoping that they would eventually change. His mother was the one whom had the energy to deal with them and trying to get them to step down was her greatest ambition so that they family could benefit from his grandfathers work. Chawe’s mother was firm and astute but very soft and caring when it came to her children. She was a source of strength for Chawe through his battle with Bi Polar. After Chawe had finished addressing the trustees he settled into his work and he begun to think about his journey with bi polar illness and how it had brought him tragedy and joy. His relationship with the illness was less than convenient but it was something that he had learned to manage and derive life benefits from. His life with Bi polar depression was something he referred to as the lament in that he had suffered so much with it but at times it had been the source of enormous joy. His loss of memory was a tolerable loss compared with the joy he has experienced with the illness in experiencing self-discovery and self worth.
In the last two years Chawe had come a long way in dealing with his bi polar illness as a spiritual affliction since the day of his calling. He had learned to deal with it as a way to commune with his ancestors and derive a sense of authentic direction for his life. His treating practitioner Dr. Vukile had told him that his bipolar illness was his anchor to the magical and he was now starting to understand his perspective. Bipolar illness was an illness, which affected Chawe’s moods, where he would cycle between extreme happiness and extreme sadness with some remissions. Chawe had found a middle ground with the moods in his dreams, in the space in between the moods that made sense and he understood that all the suffering with his illness was for a reason. For Chawe the evenings and the chance to dream were the part of his days that he treasured the most. He referred to his dreams as ‘the dreams from Kemet’ because that is where the ancestors told him they were going after they had finished communing with him. Kemet was one of the earliest civilizations of ancient Northeastern Africa, with a history that can be traced from at least 2000 B.C. onward and was home to one of the African empires. Kemet is a region along the Nile river, located in what is today northern Sudan, and southern Egypt. The people of Kemet were advanced in mathematics, philosophy and astrology. His dreams always concluded with the Lords prayer before he awoke. It was a ritual through hearing the voices of the ancestors in his dreams had developed with him over the years. He assumed that because his dreams ended with the Lord’s Prayer that God himself had sanctioned the ‘dreams from Kemet’. In his dreams he dealt with the metaphysical parts of his soul, which were a call from his ancestors to reconstitute his spiritual life in a constructive manner. They were also his opportunity to understand magic so that he could better live out his calling. Magic has become a central feature of his life since he had received his calling. His magic presented itself as the red being within himself that he would often see as the reflection of his spiritual self. The being looked as he did and had all his facial and bodily features. The difference was that it had dark red skin and the eyes of the universe, which often consumed him in his ‘dreams from Kemet’. The being was his internal voice in the most difficult of times and would act as guiding spirit when he needed it to. It seldom spoke to him directly and was rather like some kind of spiritual observer within himself. Somehow he knew that the being within himself wanted him to follow the ambitions of his soul. The suffering with his bipolar was a guide to the God force, which he had come to know as the magic. The magic was his place of solitude in his dreams that he knew would eventually lead to the redemption and emancipation of his soul.
“We are living in hell”. This was a thought that had been running through Chawe’s mind for the last couple of weeks, which he could not get out of his head. The two World wars in the last century, the countless religious crusades before then. War had become a natural state of human existence over the centuries. He thought about the endless human suffering, the daily murders he heard of in Johannesburg and the endless senseless crimes. Recently he had almost become a victim of the crime himself when a robber posing as a taxi driver attempted to gain entry into his home at the early hours of the evening. The conversation with the robber was brief but only served to confirm Chawe’s idea that we as humanity were living in hell. It was about 3:30 in the morning when his intercom rang. Automatically he grabbed the intercom and was preparing to press the button to open the gate without knowing who it was. It was a response he had repeated on so many occasions. Late at night he would open the gate for his cousin of his whom lived with the family when he came back late at night from one of his drug and alcohol binges. Upon opening the gate he would often hear his mother in the upper part of the house yelling at his cousin and asking he when he was going to stop taking drugs and drinking. It had become a ritual for him to open the gate followed by his mother yelling at his cousin. However on that evening as Chawe picked up the intercom this time he also realized it had been a couple of months since his cousin had moved out of the house. As he put to the intercom to his ear he heard the voice of the taxi driver.
“Hello I am with Uber and I am dropping off someone whom asked to be brought here. He is very drunk so he cannot speak”.
Chawe’s mother’s voice bellowed from the intercom. She had one in her bedside as well and was not a deep sleeper and had also answered hers.
“Listen if you drop someone off at my house who is drunk at this hour I will call the police on you. Take them back to where you found them but not here not my house”.
Chawe was silent and just listened to his mother handling the situation. She could be very stern and he was just grateful that he had not followed his automated response and opened the gate. Maybe his cousin was back from Cape Town and perhaps he pressed the wrong address when he called himself an Uber and was the person drunk outside in the taxi. The taxi driver became aggressive and started swearing at Chawe’s mother.
“Well then voetsek”. The taxi driver seemed desperate to get into the house and now he had become frustrated because Chawe’s mother was not conceding. She bellowed back at the driver.
“Now you are just being rude and I am definitely calling the police”!
By this time Chawe’s wife Zodwa got up from their bed to look at the security feed from the cameras outside the house.
“It’s a white Toyota”.
Chawe thought it could not he his cousin and that his cousin had moved from Johannesburg to Cape Town and it could not be him that was at the gate. The Uber driver was trying to break into the house he thought, under the premise that he was dropping someone off. His first impulse was to open the gate go out to the taxi driver and reprimand him for his rudeness. It was not the first time that he wished he had a gun. Maybe if he had one he could go out there and threaten the driver and perhaps scare him enough never to do what he was attempting to do again. He then thought about how organized criminals were in Johannesburg and that perhaps there would be some more of them waiting outside of the gate with the taxi driver. He suddenly got very angry as he thought about how innovative criminals had become in his town. Chawe was still half asleep and without noticing it he begun to mumble in to the intercom.
“This fucking hell, God does not care about humanity, he is just watching people kill and maim one another and simply sits by when they pray in angst to him day in and day out without answering their bloody prayers. Now we have to deal with this shit another random attempted break in from some armature whom wants quick gains”.
As he spoke he heard tires screeching away from the intercom and his wife came back into their bedroom.
“The taxi is gone, they sped off in a hurry, what happened”?
Chawe began to fully wake up from his slumber.
“Oh I think my mother said she was going to call the cops on them and they left. I think it’s a new tactic to get into people’s houses at night by saying they are dropping someone off”.
Chawe’s wife was now afraid and did not know what to do. She picked up her phone and started pressing at the buttons in a furry of anger.
“Zodwa whom are you contacting at this time of night”?
She continued typing frantically.
“I am not contacting anyone, but I am reporting the incident on the 702 radio website so I can raise awareness so that people don’t mistakenly open their gates at night and allow criminals in”.
She listened to too much radio, Chawe thought and placed too much importance on social networks. Her generation had lost the human touch and their lives revolved around social networks and the Internet. That was their reality and this event for her was going to be addressed by going on social networks and discussing it. For Chawe he would address the event by making a police report and also calling the security company to be aware that there was a new scheme in the neighborhood to break into people’s houses by claiming to be dripping someone off late at night. For Chawe social networks were just another abyss of this hell that he found himself living in. Although he went to church every Sunday he spent his time thinking about the fictional nature of an all-knowing God and that he did not listen or that he was man made. Often he would hear the priest lamenting to God at every service to make peoples lives better, cure the sick and give people strength. He went to church rather for Zodwa to stop complaining about his relationship to God than for him to gain something spiritual every Sunday. It had become more of a chore for him that he had to dis-gruntingly do than something that gave him meaning. Whilst sitting in the pews in church he would often think that if there were a God then the fortunes of black people would be much better than they were today. He thought about the poverty in South Africa and the difficult lives of the have not’s in comparison to those whom lived in closed communities with endless food, 4x 4 ‘s and high gates whom never complained about not having enough food or their electricity being shut off for months. As far a Chawe was concerned we lived in hell and religion was yet another illusion of this hell people found themselves in. Church for him was a way for people to rationalize their misery here on earth and find happiness in the fiction of faith. As he put down the intercom, he could hear his wife Zodwa typing widely with her phone and could not bring himself to go back to sleep. Its God he thought, he was testing him again with hardships. This is what a modern Christian God was good at, bringing misery onto to peoples lives. He seemed to only give the truly loathsome and decrepit people what they wanted. He thought about some of the people he knew who were rich and happy and what arseholes they were and they were barely tolerable human beings. God had been testing him for the last ten years without reprieve. Ten years ago Chawe’s life took a downward spiral where he had spates of long-term bad luck. He remembered the moments right after he had finished university where life had made so much sense and he was positive about everything and everything he touched turned into gold. However somehow his modern Christian God had decided a life of success was not for him and decided to confer the worst of luck to him to ‘test’ his faith. Along the path he had been diagnosed with Bi Polar illness. During the first couple of years of his bad luck Chawe went along with his modern Christian God and prayed more and read the bible from cover to cover on three separate occasions. But when he saw that after some years, that he was neither receiving revelation, nor was his luck changing he begun to become very negative towards God and blind faith. He started to think that God did not care or that God was determined to spite his life and not give him the life he thought that he deserved. God for Chawe had become greedy for praise and worship and was not meeting his part of the deal of conferring success and wealth upon Chawe’s life. Chawe knew he could not pray for success but could pray for revelation or the knowledge to bring him the success that he so desperately wanted. For Chawe success in his fields of endeavor in financial services and writing would bring him the happiness that he so desperately sought after. As Chawe tried to go back to sleep again, he thought that he was tired of worshiping a psychotic modern Christian God whom had inflicted so much punishment and death in the first testament for a chosen few. Why would he have created humanity in its entirety if he was going to choose a chosen few, make them march in the desert for forty years and allow them to kill and maim all those whom came in their path under the guise that he God was leading them to a promise land. And then there was a guy a Jesus with misplaced intentions of loving your neighbor’s even humanity seemed to loathe itself and its proximity to a universal God. Humanity needed the human sacrifice of Jesus to be forgiven for its sins. Chawe began working himself up now. Why could God just not forgive humanities errors without the sacrifice of his first born son? For him this only added to his views on the psychosis of the Christian God. It was a God full of contradictions with murderous intent even for his own children. How then could he give humanity the lives they sought through prayer if he was willing to allow his own son to be killed for the sake of forgiving mankind’s sins that he had made. Maybe it was God whom had made a mistake and sinned by creating mankind. Maybe he was wrong to bring all of humanity into his heavenly universal mess that he called living. He was neither merciful nor all knowing but perhaps he was more confused that humanity itself and suffered from a universal schizophrenia. Chawe sat up on his bed and begun to take deep breaths in order to calm himself down from his thoughts. He had been wrestling with God for years now. His wife finished typing on her phone.
“There now everyone knows not to open their gates for Uber drivers at night”.
To Chawe he was somewhat shocked to think that his wife thought twitting something to 702 radio station would make the neighborhood safer rather than being active and going to the police and calling in the security company.
“Yes sure sweetie that will make a hell of a difference in people’s consciousness”. He said whatever he could say for her to feel good about what she had done and then go back to sleep again. His thoughts were racing and he needed just some moments of silence to gather his them again and be somewhat positive about God and the universe. Over the years he had tried to imagine God, the Holy Spirit, and Jesus as the black African Egyptian trinity of Isis, Osiris and Horus. This had gone a long way to assist him to see the divinity in mankind because for him at some point the African trinity had human form in Osiris (God) Isis (Holy spirit) and the Horus (the son). The African trinity seemed to have a basis in humanity and understood human challenges unlike the modern Christian trinity where God sent his son to die for mankind. Over time Chawe had started praying to the African trinity and that is how he would find spiritual peace but believing that we as humans had the God force within ourselves and that we did not have to pray to an external Christian God whom was somewhere in the heavens. According to Chawe’s studies over the years about an African God, God was within each human being there was a God force or that the trinity was within each one of us. It was in acknowledging ourselves and our internal divinity that he could find a way back to God again. His wife fell asleep with her phone in her hand and he tried for a couple of moments to meditate and to get the image of a modern Christian trinity out of his mind. He tried to focus on the black African trinity and think about what they would have looked like. This was a challenge all on its own as he had been taught through church and school about a white Jesus and white God and white Marry. He was working against what he had come to know as rational belief, which culminated in irrational outcomes for his life. After some moments he was able to imagine the black African trinity and begun to feel a calm washing over him. He still had a long way to travel on his spiritual journey in terms of understanding the African trinity but through the years he had decided to put his faith in it and his life was slowly turning around from his battle with his years of bad luck where everything went wrong and seemed to have no spiritual explanation. Modern Christian religion had been developed for him as an exercise in power and an attempt to govern mankind through the fear of an eternal hell if one did not believe in generally accepted doctrine. For Chawe the fear of hell was not enough for him to believe the generally accepted doctrine. It could not be any worse that what was on earth he thought. If there were a hell then living on earth would be the perfect practice for an eternity in hell since life had become so shit over the last couple of years for him. Kwesi took a couple of deep breaths and assured himself that this hell of vacillating back and forth from an African trinity and a questioning of a modern Christian trinity would not last forever. He would in the end emerge from the descent into his own kind of hell and find his nirvana and this process would not kill him but it would make him stronger and a more conscious African. Zodwa put her phone on her side table and turned to Chawe.
“Chawe is everything ok”?
“Yes honey everything will be ok, just go to bed”.
Zodwa fell asleep with her phone in her hand and Chawe drifted off into one of his comatose sleeps that he would often have as a result of his medication.
Mornings for Chawe were always a bit of a blur and it usually took him a couple o minutes to adjust to what was going on around him.
"Have you heard that Tatyana Taylor is trending"?
It took him a while to, register that it was a question. He did not know who Tatyana Taylor was or why she would wake up to whom was trending on Twitter. He and his wife Zodwa were a generation apart. He did not believe in social networks and to her they were like a limb. It was not that they had different upbringings either, as he was born and grew up in the village of Cofimvaba in the Eastern Cape, and she was born and raised in Wembezi a village in the midlands of Kwazulu Natal. The reality was that there was a nine-year age difference between them and although most of the time it seemed insignificant, her generation’s obsession with social networks was something he could not wrap his mind around. Every morning she would wake up and the first thing she would do is log on to Twitter. Her last hour awake each night was dedicated to reading Twitter messages. He considered the ritual a terrible waste of time and effort, particularly because she was an African. He would often think to himself why they had not created an African version of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat. The Americans had the full attention of African youth he lamented to himself, and they were being fed foreign a foreign culture on a daily basis and they loved it. Perhaps the age of African indigenous thought was over and it was just boring and that is why the youth did not gravitate towards it. He considered himself a staunch Pan Africanist although to his friends he was more post modern than he was traditional, a paradox he spent all his social time with his friends trying to correct. He slowly slid out of bed still in mental disarray...
"Who is she"? He asked reluctantly.
The bipolar depression pills always took about ten minutes to adjust to before he knew what was going on in the morning, or what new topic was now trending on Twitter. Each morning he woke up to what he would refer to as a chemical hangover from the cocktail of medications that he had to take to abate his illness.
"She's that girl from that song Google me baby".
"Oh yeah". He said hoping the conversation would end just for even one minute, whilst he got his bearings and adjusted to yet another emotionally gruesome morning. All he wanted to do was to take his morning pills just so the chemical hangover would end. His doctor had told him that all pills had side effects and that he needed to take a cocktail of pills to adequately deal with the side effects from the pills he had taken the night before.
"I don't know why she is trending but maybe you will find out from your friends whom live in the US on your Instagram".
She hesitated for a moment to see if he was ready to talk.
He slowly loitered into the bathroom and stuck his hand into the mirror cabinet until he could feel his morning pill on the tips of his index finger. He reached out the grabbed his morning pills called Welburtin. They did not have a taste of any sort, and they were quite small compared to his evening pills. That is what made them bearable or else he would not take them because they sometimes made him feel like dying or have thoughts of death, although at the same time they gave him mental clarity and a general feeling of wellbeing. As soon as the 150mlg Welbutrin tablet was in mouth there was a sudden feeling of clarity and energy. He guessed it was about the body thinking it had taken the pill more than actually consuming it that made the difference. The morning Welbutrin pills were smaller and easier to swallow than his evening 300mlg Syriroquil pills, which would take a couple of gulps of water to get down, since they were the size of the tip of his fingers. He needed his sleep and that was what the Syriroquil was for, and in the mornings he needed to recover from that deep sleep and thus the Welbutrin. Once a month he would get an injection of 150mlg Xeplion, which was somewhat of a stabilizer in between the Welbutrin and Syriroquil. The cocktail of pills and injections had become familiar to him and he had formed a religion around them. It was the religion of pharmacology and he strongly had to believe in it against reality that the pills were not making him better. All they succeeded in doing was numbing his emotions to the point that he could feel nothing, neither happy nor sad, just emotionally numb. His doctor had told him that the cocktail made him cope with the illness much better and was good for him. That is where his religion of pharmacology emanated from; he had to believe that he was getting better within his emotional numbness. He would tell himself every morning that he was getting better since believing one was better, was proven to be an important part of recovery from bi polar. However he thought about when he would often wake up feeling hung over everyday, or he could not go to sleep without the medication, or when he was feeling suicidal on a daily basis, feelings he did not have prior to taking the pills. As long as he took the pills on a daily basis he was getting better he would often tell himself. He would repeat the mantra of wellness everyday whilst his life and meaning were slowly slipping away. He often wished his life would end peacefully in his sleep or that his guardian angel the red being within himself would heal him of the illness once and for all. If his guardian angel healed him, he would not have to desperately hang on to his religion of pharmacology. Everyday was a struggle and the medication kept him on a constant high whilst keeping him emotionally numb. The morning conversation in his mind started.
“I am not cycling between very happy and very sad so that is good. I am stable now and that is what the pills are for”.
Stability had brought him the loss of his visions, and the voices from the ancestors, which to him was an acceptable trade off for mental stability. It was another day where he would try and convince himself that he was alive and that the needs of his soul could wait to be fulfilled in the next life. The conversation in his mind went on. He was waiting for a moment in his life when it would all make sense. He knew what he was waiting for and it was a confirmation that it had been all for a universal reason. He had been searching out this moment of clarity for months now without success.
“Yes my next life will be better, I will be happy in my next life and I will not have this illness. I have imagined it in my daydreams and have lived it over and over in my sleep and I am sure it will be glorious, fun befitting of my suffering in this world. My next life will make up for all of my suffering in this life”.
That was one of his morning rituals, talking to himself about his next life. He had lived this present one and no longer derived joy from it and it would end soon, if not from the depression then perhaps by some universal chance aliens would abduct him and his wife and take him away from Johannesburg. The depression was at its height in the mornings and he would rely on his morning rituals in order to get him through it, whilst relying on what was left of his imagination to provide him a whimsical escape from reality. In the self-inflicted prison of his mind the city of Johannesburg had become his prison warden and she would not allow him to escape even in his mind for a moment of solitude. She gave him a job that made him just enough money to eat and pay his bills but never enough to get out of town even for a weekend. She wanted his soul. She was going to fight tooth and nail to claim it in the end. All she wanted from him was a night out on her street corners in her bars with him looking for his manifest destiny at the bottom of a bottle with his mania and psychosis in the search for the joys of life. His soul was the only thing he had left and he was not willing to barter with her even though her streets were as inviting as the curves of a sexy woman after a couple of drinks. His cocktail of pills were his way of fighting back and letting her know he would get better one day and he would escape her clutches. Over the years she had become both his warden and mistress, as he would contemplate handing his soul to her each morning.
“Maybe if I stopped taking my medication for a couple of days she would let me leave perhaps to another country or even out of town for just a week. Maybe then if I give in just for one night to her temptations, she will think my soul is not worth fighting for”.
It was the flirtation of going back to his mania where everything made sense. The bars of the city were a way to commune with his mistress and warden in the endless abyss of the bottle. She wanted him back and she would do anything to have his old self back again. But he had worked hard not to be unfaithful to his wife and stop cheating on her with his mistress Johannesburg, and her brothels. He was not going back to his old life. If she wanted his soul back she would have to fight for it. She would be a constant warden waiting for him to slip up even if it was for a momentary affair with the bottle and she would know it was possible to have his soul. She wanted to be loved by him with nostalgia, reminiscing over her and the moments that he had had on her streets and corners bars. She wanted his mania to feed his ambition just one more time. She wanted a return of the voices and visions from his ancestors and for him to dream the universal dream of self-realization. She needed him to do it one more time, an escape from the medication for the evening and he would slip out with her for one night of a torrent affair with his dreams and ambitions at a local bar with the bottle. She would not win this time as his religion of pharmacology had become stronger that her desire to show him moments in time on her streets.
His wife Zodwa was trying on the dress again that she had went to bed fitting on to see if it was the right size. He caught sight of her at the corner of his eye whilst rummaging through the closet for his work clothes.
"I guess so, my maybe my friends in the US will post something about Tatyana Taylor by the time I get to work”.
He wanted to show her that he was paying attention to her all this time but needed some time to adjust to the morning. He hesitated but finally found the words he thought would not be offensive.
“You should not wear that dress it's too big".
She was standing in front of the mirror of the walk in closet trying on a dress that his sister had given her the day before. This was a hangover of black relationships in urban South Africa, where even if one had enough money to buy themselves new clothes everyday, older sisters always felt the need to pass down items of clothing they had learned to appreciate in hopes that their younger siblings would derive the same amount of appreciation from them. She adjusted the dress a bit and looked at the mirror again with a tense look.
"I just need to get it tailored and it will fit".
His wife was always optimistic which at times drove him to heightened states of anxiety. He was more measured bordering on behavior that was morose and pessimistic. But to him that was reality. Life had taught him to be negative until proven wrong, and then he would adjust his behavior to accommodate moments of passive aggressiveness, which he would interpret as momentary lapses of judgment and then revert to being morose. He was no longer sure if the mania was still there and the pills were just suppressing it since he was still always passively aggressive. But this was life, it had made him this way, experience had made him this way. He would assure himself by telling himself over and over again that his wife was young and had not experienced enough of life.
Brushing his teeth in the morning was his chance to meditate. It was the only ritual that he had that was repetitive enough for him to know what the outcome would be. Every morning he made sure to squeeze the toothpaste just right so the right amount of toothpaste would come out. Anything more than the right amount and he would have to start the ritual all over again, first by rinsing his toothbrush to make sure it was moist enough and then reapplying the toothpaste. A quick glance at the mirror, and then the application of the toothbrush to the mouth. Four rotations on the top teeth and four rotations on the bottom teeth. That was the exact extent of the ritual and that was what gave him so much calm in the morning through the trepidation of the medication, because he had full control of the ritual and nothing was left to chance. Another quick rinse of his toothbrush and, a quick shake of the water off the toothbrush and he was ready for her conversation.
"Zodwa, I think my writing bug is over".
She knew that he was finished his morning ritual and now he was ready to start talking again.
"Shit I am late again. Why don't you finish what you're supposed to be writing and then decide if it's over or not"?
He desperately wanted it to be over, as he could not deal with another blank page and filling it with words. Writing for him was a solitary endeavor that took ones mind to the debts of their best and worst selves. Each word had to be crafted to suit the next and each sentence had to fall pleasantly into formation with the paragraphs and pages as they attempted to decipher the writer’s story. It was an exercise in emotional futility and a testament to one’s motivation for the art of story telling. However he still had the vigor to continue writing and committed himself to finding the words to tell his story. He begun mumbling to himself trying to make sense of his racing thoughts.
“I have held my creative mind prisoner as my warden and mistress Johannesburg did. Maybe a week of writing without taking his pills would be the solution. But the voices. I don’t think I could cope it the voices returned”.
But once again the religion of pharmacology prevailed. He had become addicted to it now and could no longer cope without the pills. That was one thing his mistress and warden the city of Joburg did not know was that addiction was more powerful than love, and it was his addiction that would allow him to hold on to his soul. He mumbled something to Zodwa as he slid open the closet door.
" Yeah I guess that's a good idea, I will keep writing and see what comes out".
He was trying to lament just for a moment. His wife Zodwa was in a hurry and started clamoring around the room in search for her workbag.
" I will tell you why she is trending later. Have a good day".
Zodwa opened their bedroom door took one step out of the door and walked up the stairs from the basement area of the house where he and she lived. Ten more months he thought until their house would be finished, and then they could have their privacy back again.
"I will never build my own house again". He murmurs to himself whilst sliding on his grey dark blue kaki pants. He had two work pants, one blue and one beige kaki, anything more and he would get confused about what to wear. He had been like this since childhood where lots of clothes added to his confusion rather than contributed to an overall sense of style.
"Damn, gym today". Another murmur and then a quick lament.
" I hope God hears my prayers today".
He wanted another job, or wanted to be somewhere else, anywhere else than where he was. He still was searching for that moment where his job made sense to him and it constitutes an extension of his soul’s desires. He was waiting for his universal confirmation that he was going in the right direction and the universe had put him in the correct job to pursue his soul’s desires.
"God when is the last time I travelled"? He tried to remember the street names in the red light district in Amsterdam, and then it came to him.
That was the last place he had travelled to in Oslo Norway.
"The angry child at Vegeland Park, the woman fighting the serpent".
Another murmur which was bubbling under the baritone of his voice. One day whilst working in Sweden at Swedish Royal Post office he had just gotten up from his desk handed in his resignation letter, went home and packed his bags and got on the train to Oslo Norway. His work was not providing the meaning that he was searching for and as a young African he felt out of place at his work. He tried to think about what was missing but could not put his finger on it. All he knew was that at that moment it no longer made sense for him to be sitting behind his desk and he had to start his search for meaning at that moment and not hesitate for a minute. He had to find universal meaning behind his work or else it was a futile exercise full of stress. He could not deal with the monotony of sitting on his desk everyday awaiting instruction from his boss for yet another report on some nebulous aspect of his work. He remembered that a stranger that he had met at a bar once had told him if he ever went to Oslo then he could stay with her. The train ride was about four hours and aside from getting up once to go to another coach to buy a coke he spent the entire four hours looking at a mother taking care of her child. The child looked happy and the mother looked like she had meaning in taking care of her child. What he would have given at that moment to start all over again and done something that he wanted to do with his life instead of following his grandfather’s dreams of a corporate life. When the four-hour train ride to Oslo ended he found a pay phone and took out a small sheet of paper, which was barely legible with Anna Brunger’s number written on it.
“Hi Anna its me Chawe, the guy you met at Hush in Stockholm”.
Silence. They had spent one night together two months ago performing a ritual that she had invited him to in the old town of Stockholm. She was a member of the Friends of Kemet club, which believed that a new age was dawning on mankind and it would be found through mankind recovering its spirituality. The new Friends of Kemet club worked with a lot of companies in Scandinavia as a consulting company to create work environments that fostered innovation and a sense of meaning using a lot of old African spiritual ideas mixed with African traditions. They were also a social group, which would meet informally every now and then to do group divination or meditation circles and invite new members whom they thought were a fit to the social group. In Stockholm she had invited him to a trance ritual where he and five other members of the Friends of Kemet club danced and meditated through the night. He referred to it as a ritual because once the dancing got them all in a trance they sat in a circle holding hands to share their group energy and they meditated for over seven hours until the sun came up the next day. The ritual was about finding your inner soul and one’s internal voice and listening and talking with it until one knew in which direction it wanted to go. Since Chawe was in a foreign land he did not mind having new experiences and any group he encountered that sought to understand African spirituality he was more than happy to be associated with. There was an immediate connection between he and Anna and her fascination with African tradition. When he met her at the bar in Stockholm and they immediately felt comfortable around one another and quickly became friends.
“I live on 101 Frognervein Street. Welcome to Oslo I was kind of expecting you yesterday, but today will do. I got your room ready last night. I am still at work but you will find the keys for the apartment in my mailbox. Please feel free to freshen up and I will see you after work”.
He was baffled, as he had not even contacted prior to his trip to let her know he was coming. Whatever he thought to himself, its one of those situations. Inexplicable but he would accept it for what it was and not question it. He started looking around for a way out of the train station and to the main road. He felt a tap on his shoulder.
“Excuse me my name if Ulf, do you need assistance”?
He turned around to see a typical Norwegian deep penetrating blue eyes and dirty blonde hair almost brownish but not brown enough to call the color brown. Chawe and the stranger had the exact same outfit on, blue Lacoste polo shirt and black Nudie jeans with dark blue suede loafers.
“I can see you are looking around the train station as if it is new to you and you might perhaps need assistance with directions”.
Another pause and then a thought. Perhaps Ulf was trying to pick him up. He thought about the percentages of the LBTG community in Oslo and could not ever recollect reading about them. He knew all of the stats for Sweden and also how the young man tried to have a “gay” look to pick up the young girls, but he knew nothing about the LBTG community in Norway. Ulf reached out his hand to greet Chawe. As Ulf grabbed his hand he lightly tapped Chawe’s wrist twice with his index finger and then smiled and put his hands in his pockets.
“Oh, ok hello Ulf, I guess you are also a friend of Kemet”.
Ulf grinned at Chawe for a moment as if asking how he could not have known from the moment Ulf spoke to him.
“It took you long enough. What did you say your name was again, Chawe right?
Another weird coincidence, he did not remember telling him his name either but he would not call Ulf out on it and he would allow him to explain. Ulf could see the sense of confusion in his face.
“When you are fully engaged in the energy of the old ways of Kemet you will also be able to understand that people’s names are also part of their energy and you will also be able to read them from their energy. It’s kind of like African shamanism I guess if you know what I mean”?
Chawe did not have the faintest idea what Ulf was talking about but he shook his head in agreement.
“Its kind of being like a Sangoma I guess”.
It was the only response Chawe had although he did not even know enough about Sangoma’s to qualify his answer.
“No Chawe not like Sangoma’s like African shaman. Sangoma’s commune with the ancestors right? It’s more like an Inyanga, being a spiritual healer without communing with the ancestors. As a frind of Kemet you will come to know and also realize through your own effort and transcendence that the ancestors are gone for good to another plane, and we cannot commune with them but we can use their knowledge to better understand the world and to make it a better place. Like an Inyanga, like an African Shaman”.
Chawe was reminded of the time that he went to a Mariam Makeba concert in Stockholm at the Grand theatre and he was the only person amongst an audience of Swedes whom did not know the words to her songs. For some reason Nordic nations seemed to take a very proactive stance to educating themselves about African cultural practices which other nations did not.
“Yes an African Shaman. I know very little about Sangoma’s or Inyanga’s and what the different between then are”.
Chawe was not embarrassed and felt comfortable telling Ulf what he did not know.
“Well Chawe they are all motivated by the calling, like when you left Stockholm today, got on a train and went somewhere where you felt like you were being directed by the calling to go somewhere where you have never been before in search for a lady that you had met once”.
What else did Ulf know? Did he know his whole life story? He looked back at the train he had taken and could see if said Stockholm to Oslo on the front. Thank God, he thought Ulf perhaps had seen him get off the train and he had surmised that he had come from Stockholm and he was not some saige. He reluctantly continued the conversation with Ulf still not understanding how he knew his name or how he knew he had come to see Anna or that he had only met her once.
“Yes I guess it was the calling, like ukthwasa, the spiritual illness”?
Chawe was now grasping at straws.
“There is no illness with the way of the African shaman I am talking about, nor is there any interaction with the ancestors as I said before. Just a marriage between the apprentice and universal energy or God force”!
It seemed like Ulf was getting somewhat annoyed with Chawe, but for the life of him Chawe was not quiet sure how to address Ulf. Chawe contemplated asking Ulf for directions but he was interrupted.
“I would not take out conversation too seriously Chawe as there are many things out there that are unknown to man. Some things however are like a string that connects us all in the universe and if you tap into that energy you will also become one with kind of a universal genius like being part of a universal string. I wish you all the best in finding your friends place and I hope you enjoy your time in Oslo”.
Ulf patted Chawe on the back and pointed to the train station exit.
It was a good memory and it was enough to get him to forget the depression and bi polar just long enough for him to look forward to work and the day he would have. He had spent a lot of time retracing his steps with his illness and he was close and could feel he was close to evolving again, living again. He was slowly finding the answers each day whilst writing down his life story. It was a ritual that that he had committed himself to which was retelling himself his own life story in his own words. It was one of the first lessons that Anna had told him which was the key to the beginning of transcendence and unifying with the universal or God force. He had met Anna five years ago exactly one year after being diagnosed with Bi Polar illness at a local hospital in Cape Town called Stickland before accepting his job at Royal Swedish Post. At first he had not taken his illness seriously until his life became a spiritual experience he could not control, direct or manage. He would slip between he corporeal and the incorporeal as it they were one moment. His dreams and days were becoming one moment and he was more positive than he ever was before about life and the future. It was what the doctor called mania. He would often feel so positive that at times he would become unnecessarily proactive with his ideas and when they would not work out he would become exceedingly depressed. His doctor would identify this as hypomania and when combined with mania it was called rapid cycling or rather yet the medical term was bi polar depressive illness. His mother was a spiritual person and also a strict Jehovah’s Witness. When Chawe got sick for the first time and was diagnosed with Bi Polar Depressive illness, she employed him to get his universal energy right and start praying to Jehovah more to give him guidance along with seeing a psychiatrist. His father was more scientific and researched the best medication that money could buy and opted for pharmacological management of the illness. To Chawe the illness was both physiological and spiritual and he would pursue his management and therapy of the illness from these two angles. He had become too addicted to the pills to now stop and he liked the idea that they subdued his emotions. On the other hand he missed his spirituality and thought he was not paying enough attention to it as he should and he wanted to nature it a bit more. That was when he started writing his life story as Anna had told him five years ago to do. He had in the past ignored her recommendations to disastrous effects. The fact that he was not nurturing his spirit turned him into an emotional volcano which subdued ambitions, and pacified emotions which he would take one pill after the next hoping they would exercise from his soul, all form of ambition and spirituality. Anna had told him five years ago that he had the soul of an African Shaman and he would have to find ways to deal with his calling or he would get sick until such time that he was able to acknowledge in which direction the universal energy or God force was directing him. Five years later he had to start from the beginning again and starting to re write his story not as he had experienced it as how he had lived through it as an observer rather and a conscious participant. He had to understand the calling not as bi polar illness but something that had a universal meaning. The red guardian angel he often thought of inside himself was perhaps the form his own spirit had taken in order for him to take notice of and himself and was speaking through his second mind or subconscious for him to take notice of himself. All he knew was that it had been present since he met Anna and was not going to leave him anytime soon. It was part of him, it was his own spirit reacting to its subjugation from his sedating medication with one vision after the next and he had to deal with it.
"Another day with my friend bipolar depression". He lamented.
Although they did not like another Chawe and his bipolar illness had become accomplices in the monotony of his life. Bi polar depression was the serpent he battled every day and every night in his dreams. He remembers reading the warning labels on his medication: "this medication can cause unusual dreams". But for him life had become one endless dream it seemed he could not wake from. Themes from his dreams carried on in his daily life, which he could not rid himself of. Maybe it was his guardian angel. Whatever or who ever it was, all he could remember was that it was red with the universe in its eyes. He contemplates taking an extra pill for good measure. Maybe if he took another pill the visions would go away. Maybe it was finally time to either go and see an Inyanga or go in for Inyanga training. But if he had the spirit of an African Shaman, he had to find out how to live with it. If he did not want to be admitted again he had to make peace with his guardian angel, as an extension of himself or his soul, which made things much easier to cope with. As long as it did not talk to him like in his dreams while he was awake he would be fine. He thinks about all the times his visions had come true. Lucky guesses he laments to himself. Bi polar was a lifetime illness his doctor has said with some remissions every now and then. It was easier to think of his visions as an illness and that way it made it easier to medicate them away with each pill and with each monthly injection. The universe no longer told him its secrets since he had been on the medication, and the world no longer seemed understandable either. There was no emotion, no thoughts of the future, no happiness and no sadness, just a mist of nothingness, which he called Chawe. He did not feel like dying today, although he had given up on life long ago, at least he did not feel like dying, it would be a good day. He remembered the documentary he had watched the day before and it stated more people had died in mental hospitals in America whilst taking medication than all the American soldiers whom died in World War 1. A gloomy stat he thought whilst taking additional Webutrin pill for good measure.
"This shit will kill me one day I swear".
He had however resigned to an early death, which would be eventually brought on by his medication. It was inevitable he thought. At least he had saved up some money for his wife so she could start again without him. What would she tell his son or daughter when they came of age he thought? Children were his greatest fear and his wife's greatest aspiration. But he would tell her over and over again the time was not right yet.
"One more year", he would ask her. "One more year, then I will have a handle on the illness".
She had heard every excuse he had made about bipolar depression and she was patiently waiting for him to start living the life God had given him. Men always seem to labor through life whilst women endure. It was the curse of his ancestors he thought. They were not happy or it was Jesus, he was not happy. All improvable, he needed something more tangible. His doctor would tell him over and over that it was the chemicals of the brain that were off balance and he needed to take medication to balance them. But he needed a test a way to really prove what his doctor said, but there were no existing test, which could prove it. He had an illness of conjecture, which lacked any scientific explanation, which he had to be medicated for. He had accepted the illness but in doing so had ostracized his humanity.
After a minute the Welbutrin took effect in his system the negativity started to decapitate and he started feeling positive again, however with thoughts of dying still. That was the side effect of the medication. It gave one a general feeling of wellbeing whilst also allowing your mind to be mildly morose about life.
“I am almost there he thought one more step and then I will have discovered the full extent of my magic”.
He had to finish writing his life story and that was the project he spent most of his work hours doing. The universe had created an opportunity where he could focus on himself during his work and he was taking full advantage of the opportunity. Now that he was positive thought about how much he loved his work but sometimes when the medication would wear off in the afternoons he would feel like finding another job and become morose and negative, which would carry on until the mornings where he would take his anti depressants Welburitn.
“The cycling is because the ancestors a