Enoch doesn’t watch me anymore when I get out of my car. He is not standing at the neighbours’ gate. For 20 years he has waited there, some would call him a loiterer. But for him, that was his job. He was looking after the house. Sometimes he sanded the paint off the windows. Sometimes he weeded the lawn. He kept his clothes there, my kind neighbour cared for him. But nobody knows where he lived. Now nobody can ask, because Enoch is gone. He was taken in by the police. They say it was for drunken behaviour. But after signing in at the cells, he ended up with blood on the brain and he died.
So its time to wrap up his mysterious affairs. It’s a little shady. How did he die in the police cell? He was a quiet man of bushman origin from Lady Grey in the Eastern Cape. He knew all the number plates in the country. He knew where they were all from. You could call him a modern tracker. A hunter-gatherer. He walked the city highways and byways as his ancestors would have walked for days in the veldt. He knew the ways and he knew how to survive on the edges. It was a dangerous place. He was often badly beaten up. He was almost homeless, almost nameless, almost voiceless except when he was drunk. (Then he got more demanding.) He survived mostly on meals provided by my kind neighbour Margot, who is a nurse. She works at a hospice, easing the way for the dying.
Enoch is dead now. It’s most unexpected. He was such a presence. Almost part of the furniture. Standing at the gate. Waiting for Margot in hopes. It feels strangely empty without him there, knowing that he is not somewhere else with a new job, but actually he has been removed permanently from this plain by some violent act. I wonder if his ghost still waits at the gate. Hardly anyone knows he died, just as hardly anyone knows he lived. He was an almost invisible man because people avoided making eye contact in case he asked for something. But he loved it when he was acknowledged. I spoke to him sometimes in his mother tongue. I only knew a few words. He loved that.
I once gave him an African instrument- a bow like instrument made of bamboo. I thought it would appeal to his tribal spiritual self. He was delighted. He went off twanging it. However, I pruned the bush in my garden recently and I found it there. He kept things in our bushes, deeply hidden. He couldn’t carry things he owned. He travelled light. His home was the universe. Just like a bushman, no baggage. Or perhaps he just lost interest.
But now he’s gone and nobody knows what happened. There are many like him. I worry about the invisible ones. The ones who are almost invisible in life. Then when they die, what happens if nobody remembers them? In the Mexican animation “The Book of Life” – the souls who die and are not remembered by anyone are doomed to fade away. All the colour bleeds out and they slowly disappear. (That’s how they showed it in the Mexican animation.)
But Enoch is not forgotten. Not lost. Somebody cares. There are angels out there. My neighbour Margot was an angel to Enoch. And Margot’s mother Anne painted a picture of him, which they gave to his family at his funeral. Enoch’s family (he did have a sister, who Margot kept in touch with) was very pleased with the painting. I imagine that they were surprised too, that their wayward relative Enoch, (who they may have seen as a lost cause, he was certainly damaged and had extremely low self-esteem, possibly from some kind of emotional abuse) had actually been the subject of a painting. And for Enoch it must have been healing to stand and pose for it. To be seen, and to be photographed. Before the painting, Margot says, the family only had a tiny torn photograph of him. Enoch is not there anymore, but he has not completely vanished.
It goes without saying that our country has a very dodgy history when it comes to people vanishing while under police custody, especially during the apartheid regime. Gone but not completely lost. Their souls still have wings. Consciences creep as does consciousness. Soul consciousness continues even when one has passed on through the veil, I believe. One can not really make a person completely disappear. There are invisible powers that bring consciousness to the dark places where things like that are hidden. Everything will be revealed when it’s ready and peace will have to be made. This is the process we are seeing in this country and it’s not comfortable. It’s the creeping light of consciousness and it comes in so many different forms.
(Note to readers: Just in case you think I have become obsessed with morbidity and death, this is the third in a triptych of blogs that started with Franziska about three souls who parted in one week. They were Fransziska Blochlinger, Anton van der Merwe and Enoch.
As a special friend once said: “I only really started living when I accepted death.” She was dying of AIDS at 26, and had lived her life very hard and fast up till then. But what she meant is that she really came to terms with herself and made peace with her life when she accepted the inevitability of death. This is a lesson I face as I move into mid-life. Lucky to still be alive.)