I Saw You Die (Video)

Lumen5 is a new blog-to-video tool that imports your blog post via its unique URL into a simple dashboard and creates a unique video of your words.

Images and music can be selected from open-source / royalty-free libraries, or you can add your own.

Render time is around 20 minutes, which happens in the background while you go on with your life. A download link is emailed or you simply flip back to the Lumen5 dashboard and download from there.

Best of all, it’s free to use. Give it a try, here: https://lumen5.com/

© Dave Luis 2017. All Rights Reserved.

I Saw You Die

I Saw You Die

The rain we’d all been praying for came the night you died. Ironically it was the life-giving rain that caused your death.

The city was a mess. It always is, when it rains. Traffic backed up for miles as hot engines crawled through the wet night. 

We snaked along De Waal Drive and down onto the N2, roadworks conspiring with our inability to drive in the rain to hold us back, hold us down, keep us from an early night.

Inch by icy, sodden inch we rumbled forward, patience long since grown thin, expressed in revving growls and querulous blasts on our horns – an impotent rage against our frustration.

At last we pushed through the bottleneck and the road opened up ahead as rain fell harder on the windshield, blurring out the night on either side of the motorway. The cars ahead broke away as impatient drivers punched their accelerators to the floor. Home. The was our only goal.

I saw the gaps open up between the cars ahead. Speeding up. Red lights ahead flying home on the dark, wet road…then – I saw it happen…there was no time to make it stop, to make it different. 

A sudden crazed flash of brake lights, an explosion of white light on your body caught in the headlamps. The driver had no time to react, to swerve. And you died. 

And I saw.

I saw you arc through the air, a broken doll flung by an invisible hand, legs twisted all wrong… arms stretched out for help to a god who wasn’t there to save you. 

I saw you fall as cars cut to either side of you onto the verge.

I saw you land, splashing oily rainwater as you slid across the tarmac and I knew you were gone. No one could survive, twisted as you were. 

I saw you lying there in the cold white glare of my headlamps. I tried not to stare as I drove past but I had to look, to acknowledge you, man with no name who I didn’t know existed until you existed no more. I had to bear witness that right there at that spot at that time, there lay you – whoever you were. 

You died there, in the dark. In the cold rain. I passed the car that claimed you, its front impossibly crumpled and broken. The driver sat clutching the steering wheel around the ragged deflated airbag, uninjured but damaged forever.

Darkness lay ahead and I let it swallow me and guide me home, taking me away from the horror of that place, that moment.

I am sorry. I am sorry for a lot of things. That you lived at a time and in a country where you had to walk home at night, crossing the motorway to get to your shack in a run down squatter camp. 

I am sorry that as we drive that same route, days later, there is nothing to mark what happened, to affirm that up to that point you were a living, breathing human being. 

It’s as if that night never happened and you never existed.

There is no absolution for us. Let there be peace for you.

Rest In Peace, unknown man.

© Dave Luis 2017. All Rights Reserved.

Cow Farts and Calf Cramps: Surviving Your First Park Run

Cow Farts and Calf Cramps: Surviving Your First Park Run

The day has finally arrived and you have run out of all the excuses. It’s time to do your first Park Run. 

It’s only five kilometres, but will you survive the crowds, bucolic terrain and mad, yapping dogs? Of course you will! Here’s what you need to know:

  1. How do you know you’re ready for a Park Run? Easy. Your friends will tell you. If you’ve just started out with casual solo runs and have vainly posted about this on Facebook, it’s guaranteed that more than a few of your mates will send you links to register (it’s free, by the way) and invites until eventually you submit. Don’t fight it. Just go with the flow.
  2. Early starts: if you’re a dawn runner like me, Park Run is a cinch, because it starts at 8am. That’s practically midday, even in winter. So bonus – you get a lie-in AND a work out. 
  3. Parking: Not sure if it’s called Park Run because you park your car and run, or because you run in a park-like environment. But here’s the thing – do your research and find a Park Run event that is not so crowded. If you make the mistake of going to a ridiculously popular ‘seen to be seen’ event like Root 44 Park Run, you’ll practically have to park there the night before so that you don’t have to run seven kilometres from where you’ve parked your car just to get to the start line of your five kilometre race…
  4. Cow farts: Running causes deep breathing. Personally, when I run I practice a method of counting to four with each breath drawn deep into my belly, and release it slowly for another count of four. But this method could kill you on a Park Run if your venue is a farm. Cow farts are a real thing, and if that’s what they smell like it’s no wonder they’re fucking up our atmosphere and greenhouse-gassing the planet to death. No, just keep your breathing shallow and methane-free. What’s a little light-headed dizziness on a beautiful morning run? You can always just faint next to the track for a few minutes. Plenty of marshalls there to wake you up after a brief rest.
  5. Tricksy terrain: Listen, I am a beach runner and I confess that I have terrible Beach Privilege. You know – soft, unobstructed terrain that you simply forget as you let your mind wander on your run. But this is very important – listen carefully: pay attention to the ground in front of you on a Park Run! No matter if the course seems flat and easy – there are hidden pitfalls everywhere! Loose rocks, stones, and tractor tyre tracks all waiting to twist your ankle if you don’t spot them in time. Cow pats and dog turds add an extra layer of adventure. So pay attention and you won’t end up a damaged, stinking liability.
  6. Mad dogs: Some runners bring their dogs running with them and despite all assurances, none of these are trained or controllable. So as you run you will be barked at, chased, tripped up by wayward leashes and if you get too close, licked ferociously like you’re the latest flavour from The Creamery. Steer clear of the dogs. They may seem cute, but mark my words – they all want to kill you. They make wonderful motivators to keep running, though.
  7. …and Englishmen: It’s a very social event and everyone chatters up a storm at the start of the race…and while they’re running. Now, if you’re anything like me your lungs will not be multitaskers. They simply cannot allow you to run and conversate at the same time. They will get on with the business of stopping you from dying and you will sound like sick freight train as you huff-n-puff around the track. This will not stop complete strangers from trying to jolly you along with some quaintsy pleasantries like you’re in a Jane Austen novel, all country and polite. Just pant and smile and keep running. Nobody’s expecting you to answer anyway. 
  8. Calf cramps and mad cows: Many Park Runs are on farms, and you will run among the livestock (refer to point four above, for breathing tips). Now, cows may seem docile and like they’re just standing around waiting to be milked or turned into a delicious steak, but don’t let your guard down. These are massive moo-beasties, and there are plenty of YouTube videos of rampaging rogues trampling unsuspecting farmers to a cow pat-ridden death. Do not run past yelling “Moo!” at them, unless you speak fluent cow and can talk yourself out of a bad situation in case you inadvertently set one of them off. If you fail spectacularly and you find yourself the centre of enraged bovine attention, run like hell, and screw the pain in your calves. An angry udder to the back of the head hurts more than any calf cramp ever will. 
  9. Toilet humours: Go before you go. There are no cubicles along the route and inquisitive farmyard animals can rather hamper your performance if you duck behind hay bales to speak to a man about a dog. 
  10. Pace and PBs: Use a fitness device to track your overall time taken to run the five kilometre route and to measure your pace per kilometre. This is a fun, competitive way to keep you engaged and inspire you to run faster each time, to beat your PB – your personal best. But shh…here’s a little secret hack I will share with you: the first time you run, that is your personal best. Think about it – as you haven’t run this race before, there is no benchmark to measure it against. This is the fastest you have ever run it, because it is the only time you have ever run it. So if you never run it again, you can never go slower than that pace you ran today. See? Clever. You’re welcome.

But on a serious note – Park Runs are the most fun you can have with a couple of hundred strangers with your clothes on. 

Get out there and get moving!


© Dave Luis 2017. All Rights Reserved.

Life in the Laughter

Life in the Laughter

Now you’re finally home with your sisters and Johan, we know there is peace for you, and stillness from the fragility of body and the pain of heartbreak.

I lose myself in memories of old, of your house – warm and light – filled with laughing children and the aromas of lekker boere kos, and if we were lucky – the best scones in the world for afternoon tea.

I hear the joyful, playful shouting out by the pool. Cousins playing in the sunshine while you old fogeys hung around the braai, talking, smiling, sharing love and comfort.

I feel your hugs, like a giant warm bubble of love. A safe space. A space that told me I mattered, I was loved, was part of your extended family not so much because mom was your sister but because you opened your heart, your home and your spirit to us.

I am grateful – you were there for mom when she needed you, when she couldn’t be the strong one and needed someone to catch her, and shield her from the pain of divorce and again when she grew old and ill. You always made space for her.

I age and see that growing up meant we grew apart, I weep for this chasm.

I ache because I knew that day walking out the hospital I was saying goodbye forever. It was the hardest goodbye I’ve ever said, because I knew you were watching me walk away, and you were still smiling, still loving, still here.

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I am relieved that you have let go, and claimed the peace you deserve.

I will find you again, in the smiles, laughter and love of Anemari, Chris and your loving grandkids.

Goodbye, Aunty Zanne.

A Lesson In Humanity

A Lesson In Humanity

A battered wreck of a car follows me into the deserted parking at the secluded beach I sometimes visit.

I sit with my engine running, watching the four silhouettes in the car which has parked a little way behind me. They don’t move. I don’t move. 

Seconds tick by. I reach for my hijack panic button, unease seeping out of every pore. Friends have warned me about this beach; a man was stabbed here – he died. Right here. 

Two more cars pull in and drive to the end of the parkway. They turn, manoeuvring through broken bottles and late night beach party debris and stop between the suspect car and me.

 Witnesses. Panic fades. Nothing can happen to me now, right? Too many people around.

Car doors open and eight people climb out the three cars, and start putting on their church outfits. 

It’s a church gathering – a beach baptism is about to take place.

These people aren’t vicious hijackers, they’re ordinary folk, just like me. And just like me, they’re here for spiritual reasons. For them, church, worship and a baptism; for me, meditation, serenity and a silent prayer of gratitude for my overcoming drug addiction.


Leaving my car, I scale a rocky outcrop above the crashing waves, drawing in deep breaths of ocean air. 

I am profoundly sad that the South Africa I grew up in has conditioned me to react like I did, to react to other people in fear, because we are not the same race. I am sad, and ashamed. 

I have let our collective mainstream past and the present onslaught of news stories highlighting murder and racial clashes overwhelm my humanity. 

Today, instead of my usual offering of gratitude, I stand here and beg for forgiveness. I am the intruder here, in a place of incredible beauty, I have brought an ugliness. I have brought fear. 

As these thoughts wash over me, a young woman surrounded by members of her church strips and steps into the icy ocean. A baptism of faith. She has chosen life, and hope, and love. How different we must be, standing so close yet in spirit so far apart. 

How I long to be the one drowning in love and spirit, like she is. How I ache not to feel the shame and fear I have carried onto this beach. 

I want to feel what she feels.

I kick off my shoes, roll up my jeans and step into the water. It is ice cold and punches the breath out of me. I can endure no more than a few seconds before I withdraw to the beach. There is no absolution in the waves. They do not wash away my shame. What was I really expecting? 

Eventually the tears come, masked by the ocean spray. I close my eyes and draw deep breaths, unmoving, losing myself in the sound of the waves breaking on the shore. 

Time moves on while I am anchored to this spot. Calming. Breathing. Feeling. Not thinking. 

I open my eyes at last, ready to leave. There is no one else on the beach. They have silently prayed and left. 

I am alone. 

I have been given a lesson in humanity, and in fear.

One I will take with me, the other I offer up to the sea.

© Dave Luis 2017. All Rights Reserved.

Survivor: O.R. Tambo Airport

Survivor: O.R. Tambo Airport

I’ve been here a long time. Too long. Travellers who came here after me have already landed at their destinations. Still I wait.

I’ve been here a long time. I’ve seen the duty shift change. New guards watch as I wander with no destination in mind. New servers ply their wares as I drift past. “No thanks,” I say. I already ate. Twice.

I’ve been here a long time. Crisp morning air sublimated as the highveld sun warmed the earth and air outside. Not that I ever felt that. Inside the terminal silent heaters wilt every living thing here, baking us into a fetid, teeming mass.

It’s been nearly 8 hours now, that I’ve been trapped here at O.R. Tambo, recreating myself as Tom Hanks in Steven Spielberg’s 2004 flick, Terminal. My flight only leaves in another three hours.

I’ve been here a long time. Long enough to know all the junk sold in the kiosks. Long enough to have used at least four rest rooms. The most jocund restroom attendant, Justice, stationed near the food court is a man whose spirit is not thwarted by his daily entrapment in this building. He seems more proud of his workplace than any person I’ve ever met claiming they’ve landed their dream job. What is his secret? Stockholm Syndrome? Maybe.

I’ve been here a long time. I’ve tried catching an earlier flight, but today is not my lucky day. So I wander the terminal like a hobo, unfocussing my eyes to the sights I cannot escape.

I’ve been here a long time. There are precious few chairs for the inert traveller to use. I suspect that’s done on purpose, to drive us into the gaudy eateries and coffee shops. No sitting for free. No loitering. Make like you mean business, and pay your share, dammit! So I’ve snuck into international arrivals, and am sat here next to my cling-wrapped luggage, looking for all the world like I’m waiting for a lover or a colleague, so we can catch our connecting flight to Somewhere Else. Anywhere but here.  

I’ve been here a long time. Even turned off my phone to save the battery. I’m now cut off from everything outside this terminal. There are no cat memes here. No Twitter outrage. Any conversation will have to be with a real person. There will be actual eye contact.

A small child climbs onto the seat next to me and stares at the words I am writing on my laptop. He is not having this nonsense of me losing myself in a world of my own. He pulls down my hoody, pulls my head phones out my ears and yells “I’m going home!” 

Good luck, kid. So am I.

Eventually.

© Dave Luis 2017. All Rights Reserved.

 

Euphoric Recall

Euphoric Recall

The pills came on early that night, twenty years ago, in the queue outside Nexus. The nervous energy they fueled in me made you laugh and we connected.

That night the music set our souls on fire. Just like it did every Friday. Every Sunday in End Street. At every Slippery When Wet on Oxford. 

You remember that music, right? It gets you right there, in the hairs on your forearm. It kicks up through the floor and into your head. It sets your mind on fire.

We connected in the music and the drugs. We became mates. Friends in more than just the weekly rush to get wasted. You and my friend started dating. A perfect match. Plus me. The Three Musketeers. 

For years we managed life, jobs, relationships while we indulged our every whim for loud beats and too many drugs. We did life as a way to play with chemicals. 

That night I died in your house when I thought I was bigger than the heroin, when I died because too much was never enough, it was you who got the ambulance that started my heart again. 

That night was not the only time we came close to death. Both you and I played ‘last man standing’ more often than I can count. There was always room for more.

Life moved on. Marriage. Kids. You cleaned yourself up. I chose crystal meth. I chose to shut you and her out my life when you tried to do an intervention. 

I walked away.

Years passed.

I hit rock bottom.

More years passed.

And you came back. We’ve reconnected, the three of us. The cold years apart are forgotten. I’ve met your beautiful daughters. I’ve witnessed your love for each other; your prosperity, while I revel in my own reignition. My own redo from start. 

Three weeks ago, I celebrated five years off drugs and alcohol.

Tonight I called to wish you for your 40th birthday. I’ve known you for half your life. Half your fucken life! Do you know how incredible that is?

Of course you know. You said as much. How incredible – how miraculous it is – that either of us is alive today to have this conversation. We survived. Against all the odds and machinations of our wild drug binges, we survived. Thank fuck we survived.

Happy birthday, buddy. I am so proud of you. Proud of all of us, for making it out of the chaos, alive. 

© Dave Luis 2017. All Rights Reserved.

Image © Tim Marshall at Unsplash Free Images

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It’s never too late to take that first step and ask for help. If the drugs have become too much, call Narcotics Anonymous and get help. Choose to live. Call 083 900 6962