All year I had been looking forward to Freedom Day. Last night, I called Ted. “You do know what day it is tomorrow, don’t you?” There was a long pause and a great shuffling of papers.
I sighed. “No, you moron. It’s Freedom Day.” He was still whooping and cheering when I put the phone down.
At 6.45am he arrived at my house with a bakkie full of beer. Not cans or bottles, but actual beer. He had lined the back of his Isuzu with plastic sheeting and filled it with what looked like a foaming quagmire of dangerous toxins.
The idea, he said, was to run two hoses into the cockpit and drive around town siphoning the filth into our mouths until either the beer ran out or we passed out. I was a little concerned that the latter might happen sooner than the former, causing us to plough into, say, a bus full of Aids orphans on their way to the beach for the very first time. This could put a serious dent in our Freedom Day plans and was clearly not worth the risk. I told Ted it would be safer to back the bakkie up to my house, then run the hoses through my study window and straight into our gaping maws.
Of course, I hadn’t taken Brenda into account. “You never do, you selfish pig.” She didn’t actually say that. I heard it in my head. That’s what happens when you’re married to someone for too long. The trick is to leave it there. If you continue playing out the argument in your mind, you will start self-medicating and when she confronts you for real, all you will be able to do is shuffle your feet and shake your head like a discombobulated buffalo and say, “Psshhhh.”
Sometimes, though, they surprise us and say things like, “Fine. Drink yourself to death. See if I care.” This is when we love them the most. If only they knew. If only we could articulate the words.
When Brenda saw Ted reversing through her patch of Leonotis leonurus, she tried to put an end to the festivities. I took her gently by the throat and explained that on Freedom Day, men were free to do whatever they wanted. In response, she took me gently by the testicles and claimed this was not at all what they meant by Freedom Day.
“They?” I said. “Who are these they of which you speak?” She had no answer, mainly because she was no longer in the room. I could be excused for misinterpreting the spirit of Freedom Day since I had been prevented, by law, from voting in 1994. It was damnably unfair and I still have the scars from trying to fight my way into a polling station in Durban.
I pulled Ted out of the bakkie and dragged him to the Confessional, an old tree at the bottom of the garden where people go to admit their sins and weep openly at the futility of their lives. When I say people, I mean me. Ted had a few choice things to say about the practice of confessing old sins so that fresh ones may be committed, which I won’t repeat here for fear of offending the suicide bombers in the Catholic Church, but he did suggest we adopt a freedom charter for the family. This is all we could come up with before being overwhelmed with emotion and a powerful need to lie down.
“The husband shall govern.”
This will see a return to the glory days when married men were in charge of important things like the TV remote. I suggested an addendum: “The husband may delegate governing duties should he find himself incapacitated.” However, all powers revert to the husband the moment he regains consciousness.
“The relatives shall not share in the family’s wealth.”
Cousins can smell money within minutes of it being made. The best method of keeping them at bay is to deploy snipers on your roof.
“None shall enjoy equal human rights.”
In every family, some are more human than others. Children, especially, are feral brutes who would not hesitate to tear out your throat the moment you begin treating them as equals. Wives will still have the right to cook, clean and do the laundry.
“The doors of learning shall remain shut.”
The abuse of knowledge often leads to wives becoming too clever for their own good and education continues to destroy families across the country. An illiterate home is a happy home.
“The garden shall be worked by those who use it.”
Gardens are not places for real men, unless they need to rest in a flower bed on a Friday evening. They are the domain of women and children and, as such, must be maintained by them. The ideal garden will feature a mixture of crops and hallucinogenics.
“There shall be peace and quiet.”
Communication is the single biggest cause of divorce in South Africa. Less talk and less action will go a long way towards improving the mental health of husbands everywhere.