One of the things about living in South Africa is that it inures you to shock. When Cyril says he’s shocked, you can be sure he is being sarcastic.
I miss the days when I’d hear about some or other outrage being perpetrated and have to lie down, get someone to loosen my tight clothing and cover me with a warm blanket. I miss not expecting the unexpected. The fact is, it’s impossible to live here and be shocked by anything.
I try to imagine what kind of headline might at least surprise me. Maybe something like, “Convicted rapist runs fake events company from prison before staging own fiery death, later seen shopping in Woolworths.” But, no. All that got from me was a snort and a smile.
It must’ve taken considerable ingenuity, powerful connections and bags of cash for Thabo Bester to have pulled this stunt off. If he hadn’t chosen a life of raping and murdering, yet retained his criminal bent, he could have gone far in the public service.
It’s been almost a year since some poor bastard had his head bashed in and got set alight in a cell in the G4S-run Mangaung Prison, allowing our Thabo to make his way through many locked doors, greasing palms as he went, and disappear into the Bloemfontein night. In all that time, he’s been among us, wearing designer sunglasses as his only disguise. Me? I would’ve been at the Bram Fischer International Airport before sunrise and on the first plane out. I’d be living in a modest casita on a private beach somewhere in Argentina, not shopping in Woolworths.
Oddly, the notion of faking my own death recently crossed my mind. Back in 2001, a smooth-talking financial adviser charmed me with a free lunch and chatter about policies designed specifically with people like me in mind. Financial illiterates, in other words. People who fritter away every cent they earn in the belief they will never get old and the future doesn’t exist.
I suspected the adviser might not be genuinely concerned about my fate should I fail to change my irresponsible, profligate ways. She was, after all, a complete stranger. My own blood relatives barely cared. To be fair, they’d given up trying to talk sense into me.
The restaurant table was covered in documents and empty beer bottles, none of which were hers. Life cover. Occupational disability. Income protector. Annuities. Critical illness. Accidental death. Dread disease. She seemed to think I should take them all. I told her none of that would be necessary because I had a guardian angel. She quickly cut me off, whipping out every insurance salesman’s last resort guilt trip card.
“What about your daughter? Don’t you want to leave her something when you die?”
I choked on my beer. “I think you mean if I die”? Her eyes narrowed. Is this man dangerous? Was he dropped on his head as a baby? She signalled for the bill.
Why do we have to leave our children anything at all? Isn’t it enough that we spawned them, changed their disgusting nappies, paid for their education and scarred them for life? I suppose inheritance can be a way of making up for all the things you did or didn’t do as a parent. Bit late, though, what with being dead and all. Still better than nothing.
So I took out a life insurance policy, mainly because I felt bad about her coming all this way just to watch me drink beer and flirt with the waitress. She burbled on about terms and conditions but I was beyond caring. Nod and sign, nod and sign.
I think the premiums were R150 a month. A dozen beers. Maybe 18 in the right shebeen. I imagined how delighted my daughter would be when she discovered, an hour or two after my death, that there was a policy in her name.
Two days ago I found out that I am now paying R3 000 a month on this same policy. Apparently, I am not as inured to shock as I imagined. How did this happen? I lay down, loosened my tight clothing and quietly hyperventilated.
Later, I saw that my loinfruit would get R3.8 million if I died right now. That would put a smile on her face, I thought. But would it though? She is, after all, living in a magnificent villa in Costa Rica. The money does not come from her side of the family. Thing is, as I know all too well, marriages can go off quicker than Spar’s bananas, and she may one day need this bonsella to start afresh.
And that’s when I started thinking about faking my death. I could do with some of that R3.8 million right now. It is, in a manner of speaking, my money. Kind of. It seems unfair that the insurance company won’t let me have any of it simply because I refuse to die.
I haven’t broached the subject with my daughter because there’s a good chance she’d refuse to split the payout. She might go for 70/30, at a push.
On the other hand, my plan might well take an unexpected turn.
“We’re meant to be faking this, remember? Hey, put that down. HEY!”
“Relax, dad. You won’t feel a thing.”