To Cheikh [R.IP. – 2015]


A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds. A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love. – Saint Basil

The two invisible cappucinos are cooling; they presently reach 0 degrees Kelvin and evaporate into nothingness. It is too late for everything. Or rather: it‘s never too late to begin something unless you are deceased.

Dammit. Death has swooped down and taken one of our number. We were going to have a cup of coffee one of these days and shoot the ineffable breeze but now his days are numbered and gone. He has stopped breathing. But before he stopped breathing his heart stopped, traitorous muscle right there in the middle of life. What the damn?

And the trite question is sadly reaffirmed: why do the good die young? Cheikh was like life itself, powerful, radiant, a flash of pure goodness in the too frequent greyness of one-day-after-another. I had the privilege, yes, that‘s it, the privilege, to get to know him, to be touched by his radiant optimism. And so now, though on an infinitely smaller scale than his family, his girlfriend, his loved ones, my brother Sipho hurts, I too hurt.

Ahhhh…. Cheikh, why‘d you go? Why‘d you go? I know you couldn‘t help it but still. Couldn‘t you stay a little longer still? Instead your heart is still. Still, everything still now, silence and undrunk coffee. You left so unexpectedly that when my brother‘s shadowy voice came from the phone it felt as if a switch had been flipped [by who?] just one moment, and gravity had been reversed: everything was in the wrong place, falling towards the nightsky.

Then one can only shed a few tears, feel helpless, grow angry and curse the indifference of reality to the strong, fragile bonds we have with family, friends and life. Fists ram into the couch, achieving nothing, tears flow down the face, not reversing a thing.

How can this be? It cannot. But it certainly is. Cry, beat the wall, curse. He was only an acquaintance, he was an acquaintance, he was a friend. The moment he began talking to you, you knew Cheikh was your friend.

The unreality is like an immovable irritant in my chest. There is nowhere for it to settle and disappear. And what one wants, what we all want maybe, is an acceptable why. How could Cheikh, such an optimistic, life-affirming, uplifting young man, strong, funny, fluent, sublimely black, be taken from his family, be taken from Lucerne, be taken from humanity at the height of his powers? Where is the bloody point in that? This life of ours, so beautiful and yet so inscrutably unfair.

And I can see now somehow, in a slanted way, how it would make more sense that in a dark corner one evil person stuck a pin in a Cheikh-doll‘s heart than that this great man died by random chance alone. It would be vile but at least minimally meaningful. Or, who knows, it was just a matter of matter: a cardio-genetic cripplement passed down generations in the desolate heat of Senegal‘s seasons, come to fell Cheikh in the middle of his days. Now instead, without an explanation, there is only the void: no conversations in proficient/broken french anymore, no radiant smile to upgrade your day from a C to a B-plus, no more si longue handshakes where your hand feels sheltered in the refuge of his vast palm.

Cheikh, dear friend, that heart of yours, too big, too big, what a shame – we wish you were still here with us!!! But when the days are counted we will be so happy to see you again. À plus tard mon ami!

∞ † ∞ † ∞ †∞


About tmabona

writer, reader [bolano, DW, bellow, deLillo], runner, badmintoneer
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