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“To Shy Away in Silence” by Phumlani Pikoli

“To Shy Away in Silence” by Phumlani Pikoli

F12 toshyawayinsilence

I suppose there are worse things out in the world than to be bored. Like, being entertained at the price of someone else’s life. Man, that documentary really fucked me up. But that’s all right, I guess, it makes me empathetic, doesn’t it? After growing up you get less and less time to yourself and need something more than barely amusing. We need fulfillment in whatever little pockets we can find it. Maybe fulfillment comes from understanding, like the feeling one gets from fully understanding the meaning of a joke shared versus laughing at the abstract. It sucks when that happens, when you’re the only person who’s laughing to go along with the group but don’t have the grammar to actually get the joke. Maybe that’s what that doccie was about, the need for a reflective outlet that can mirror the same feelings you can get, without having to be put in that situation. I wonder why we love pain so much, or at least value it. I guess if there was anything that would get me to have a serious look at animal rights it would be that. Seeing people capture these motherfuckers in the wild and contain them for their own amusement is completely fucked.

I think I’ve had enough gin for this concoction to work. Three quarters of a bottle? I’d say that’s fair enough. Now, to stand up from this couch and head over to the cabinet, where the real journey should begin.

I wish I had stronger meds, though, but what’s the chance of me getting prescriptions without a medical aid card? Trying to check out on weak meds will be a gesture and not a real attempt at ending all of this.

I’m thinking about the last time I went to the hospital to try and get myself the kind of meds I was looking for.

“Do you have anxiety problems?” the nurse asked with that fucking pump thing around my arm beeping faster and louder as my heart rate caught a fit. There was no way I could get away with that lie, but as they say, once you’ve started something you gotta finish it.

Fuck off you stupid nurse I paid a good R450 for this fucking consultation and you’re in the way between my boredom and my release!

“I don’t,” I said with the monitor beeping the fuck out. I felt like a mule being found by one of those Nazi four legged mongrels.

He smiled at me and told me the doctor would be with me shortly.


“So what seems to be the problem?”

Motherfucker wasn’t even looking at me.

I stammered and bumbled about abdominal pain, cramps and such, being short of breath and having the shitters.

Dude frowned like I wasn’t paying for this consultation with the last money I had. Motherfucker! I had a date to catch and all his red nosed ass could do was look at his chart.

He put on his gloves and touched me in all the places I complained about and then told me he couldn’t find anything and that I would be fine. Without once touching his blues with my browns dude walked out and left me there feeling more useless than I was bored.


Well, I suppose I can count that as an adventure.

Back to the present. The flat comes back into focus. My flashbacks are proof that time travel exists and that the mind is in control of all of it.

The cabinet only has these useless paracetamols, fancy word for panados. They say on this thing that 40 could be lethal, especially mixed with liquor. 40 could be lethal mixed with liqour?



Just how weak are these motherfuckers really?

I empty the container on my kitchen table, enjoying the heaviness of my coordination. There’s nothing better than being on a drunk sway without the sanctimony of uninvited eyes.

The strings playing in the background are perfect goodbye music, too, like, yo, when you find me, here’s a song to play at my funeral or remember me by, whichever you choose.

40! Nah, this is why I bought a second pack; going with 60.

I empty out what look like 20 more before having one last scroll through my timelines.

Instagram: crush after crush comes up. I say goodbye with my last hearts.

Twitter is up next; I don’t open links, I just favourite and retweet what makes me chuckle, I wish could make memes as inspired as the ones I find on my timeline; sadly I’m still not entertained!

Facebook: Tshepo’s status gives the location of his hotel and an open invite. He’s in town? It’s just a few blocks away, so there’s no reason for me not to go.

Hmm, it’s not that far, a goodbye in person would be more dramatic, I guess, and a good story should live after it. Guess I’ll choose that then.

I leave the pills strewn across the counter and leave for Tshepo’s hotel. The uber dude is only a minute away. I’ll catch the pills when I get back; hopefully 40 with liqour and whatever else I’m going to find at Tshepo’s should be more than sufficient.

Down the stairs I go.

I buzz myself out the gate, where I find the silver corolla idling on park by the side of the street. I open the door.

“Sho Bongani,” I say still looking at my screen as I sit next to him.

“Sho boss. Where are we going?”

“Hayi ko kude le ndau esiyakuyo, ndizokhu bonisa.”

“Shap boss, you can show me the way.”

That’s the problem with my accent, anyone can pick up the English in my Xhosa.


This guy isn’t responsive, so I think the directions will do for him. His attitude probably comes from the fact that by giving him directions it means it’s not a well-paying trip.

The problem with city lights is that they are obviously fake. We can’t see the stars properly ’cause the city itself is fake. It’s all off the imagination of some bigot whose name or story I’ll never know, but I sure as hell know his family is still all up in my purse.

Why the fuck am I so bored?

I get out, enter the hotel and tell the receptionist the room number. He asks Tshepo to come get me as if my going up alone would be a security hazard. He is probably right. But it would be nice if he didn’t assume on my behalf, ’cause now I have to fulfill the prophecy.


05:00 and we’re still at it. Tshepho’s friends are wild. One of them set fire to the carpet to prove that deodorant could be easily extinguished and it wouldn’t singe anything. Obviously a false theory; the carpet is fucked. I feel bad for the manager who’ll have to take care of this bill. I feel bad for Tshepo ’cause he’s fucking up his career believing in the invincibility of his talent. Muscians these days are a dime a dozen, something Tshepo doesn’t yet understand. We live in a post ADHD age and the democratisation of access to information means that he could be easily replaced tomorrow by some kid with a better Soundcloud and YouTube channel. They’re going to drop him and he’s going to go broke and find himself in my position. Tired of asking his parents for money, he’ll realise that he has no bankable skill outside of his interests. He’s as fucked as I am. Maybe just as bored.

We made it onto the hotel roof. We’re spitting liquor down trying to hit whatever objects happen to be moving. We’re screaming at the world as the city sounds reemerge. We’re hearing birds and seeing car lights. There are others like us screaming to be heard, as they leave their bars and fight off sobriety as much as they can. Trying to watch my vodka land, I begin to envy it and remember one of my suicide readings. Apparently, I’m high enough for the impact I desire.

There’s a lightness within me that allows me to imagine and enjoy. Perhaps now is the time to take this final step I keep on fucking procrastinating about. Tshepo’s friends giggle as I approach the edge. I stand there looking down, imagining what my thoughts would be as I fall. What would kill me? Would it be the shock or impact? I raise a foot halfway over the ledge. One of Tshepo’s friends screams, and the others begin to scream too. I realise how inconsiderate I’m being by trying to kill the buzz. That’s why the pills are on my counter; trying to take my life’s something I need to do in private.

“Sorry, just wanted a better view.”

Tshepo stares at me, smiling. He knows there’s nothing to fear, even though his friends complain to him that I’m crazy and laugh it off.

It’s time to go.

When I get home, the pills are scattered on my kitchen counter still, a reminder of unfinished business; they watch me; I’m too tired for that kind of sleep now. When I wake up, I’ll surely need to finish the deed. Let me have one last dream, I might enjoy it.

In my dream, I’m talking to myself and rediscovering more readings on how to end one’s life. A ginormous pair of lips are moving and producing sounds in front of me. I’m a spec in front of them; they open and close, they wet my entire body as saliva sprays out of them. The voice is too loud and distorts the audibility in my eardrum.

Something about self-murder being split. Something about blood and men and women. Something about understanding. In this dream, the pills are a disgusting bitter mash in my mouth. My chest is sore. There’s a heavy feeling pressing me further and further into the bed. I’ve stopped breathing. I want to breathe. I can’t breathe.

I shoot up from my bed, gasping for air. There’s too much sun in my room; my eyes are sore, I need water, I need food, I need to shit and vomit at once. I need it all out of me. I need so much more inside.

Why can’t I take pain?

Sitting on the toilet seat, I expel all of it. My ass hole stings and I realise I need to push the water in my stomach out in bursts, searing as it shoots. I can’t control my stomach; my mouth needs to have its say; I turn and let my mouth add to the shit in the toilet bowl. The projectile splashes my cheek.


I’m gasp for air, but the taste of shit forces more vomit out of me.

This is far from my finest moment. The pain from the repeated convulsions is almost unbearable. The vomit sticks to me and I can’t get rid of the smell. I angle my face into the basin and run the water. I watch as the bile trickles from my mouth and slithers down the drain. I soap my hands and rub my face. Slowly, I let air into my lungs, in and out, in and out, until I am breathing normally. Then I wipe my ass and wash my hands again.

I walk past the tablets on the counter. They remain patient.

I consider how useless they’d be to me now that I’ve rid myself of the gin and the booze I drank at Tshepo’s. Perhaps I should think of a new way to entertain this idea of banishing boredom. Back to the internet.

I’m on one of those online community boards where the bored live. This one is about how to check out without really saying goodbye.

“All you jerk offs deserve to die, here’s the quickest way out that worked for my sister. Put a gun under your chin and pull the fucking trigger and stop whining.”

Where could I possibly get my hands on a gun, though? That’s also a bit loud and messy, a bit too intrusive. But maybe the quickest way out…

I never understand people who come here to be mean to others. Like, there’s an established community of people who are trying to help each other do what they have to do, or feel like they have to do. These people are the reason that a lot of us are probably here, those who can’t keep their own misery to themselves and need to exert theirs on others.

Listen to what the fucker writes: “I’m writing this here because I hope it can reach at least one of you and help you change your mind. I just want to share my experience about why doing what you’re thinking of doing is the most hurtful and selfish thing you could ever think of doing. A few years ago my little brother was getting bullied and teased at school. We didn’t find out about it until it was far too late. All my parents and I thought was that he was just a boy going through puberty, being rebellious and getting into fights. Because he didn’t talk to us much at all, we could only make those assumptions. You see, in his first year of high school, he suddenly changed and we thought it was puberty, when he became suddenly withdrawn and quiet. A stark difference to the happy go lucky top ten achiever in primary. I was in matric when he first started this sullenness, so I didn’t understand why he had become alone. I thought he’d snap out of it and return to being the popular kid he once was. When he came home with bruises all over, he’d tell us that he had gotten into a fight at school. My parents put it down to growing pains and I trusted their judgement. A year later I was at varsity and my brother and I weren’t particularly close so I really only spoke to him when I came home for holiday. He was still sulky and moody and we had come to accept this by then. It was only on the morning that my mother discovered his body dangling from a tree in the garden that it hit all of us. You see what people with depression don’t do is seek help. If only my brother had been honest about what was happening to him at school, then we’d have understood and helped him. But he didn’t, therefore we couldn’t, and now we are left scrambling to pick up the pieces. He’s left us to deal with the problems of his life and now trees are forever tainted for my family and I. My father is no longer the tower of strength he used to be, what my selfish brother did to him shattered him and he is a shadow of the pillar of strength he used to be. So, I urge you please, before you do anything, read this and think about the people in your life who you will be killing too if you decide to go through with this: survive.”


I hate these stories. I don’t understand why people who don’t identify with a group choose to force their own inane goddamn projections onto us. Most of us here aren’t commenting or trying to help each other out anymore ’cause of these fucking trolls. They’ve infested our fucking space and forced us out. We’re rejects once again. We’re pathetic and selfish. We no longer belong again.


The acid in my stomach is now living in my chest. This is torment. But then again, there’s still gin. Perhaps that’s what I should do. I stand and spin with the room for a while before leaning against the wall and dragging myself to the kitchen.

The tablets smile at me and welcome me back. There’s no gin without us, they tell me. I smile and wave and then try to ignore them. I quarter some lemons and throw them into a large class with ice and some sugar and add the much needed gin. Things would feel a lot better if it was hot. But the rain beating on my window, the lack of a heater and the wind forcing its way through the cracks under the door and partly closed windows make me shiver. My first sip.


The differences in approaching suicide are largely gendered. Where’d I hear or read that again? The suffocation dream returns and it’s an all too familiar hole that I find myself sinking into.

The gin’s excited a part of me that I awoke last night, but it’s too early to do anything, my body is set to flatly refuse. I think about the message on the online board about the woman’s brother’s great escape via the noose. I’ve never contemplated this form of suicide before. But there must be a regal air to a looming presence… How hard can a noose be?

Perhaps I should try it out.

But there is no place from which to suspend myself, no sturdy beam to support my weight. I take a seat on the couch and stare at the door. I barely remember the climb up the staircase this morning; did the lady next door see me? Wasn’t her door open? She was watering her plants, wasn’t she? I like her. She always looks at me the same way. A half smile, as though she is wondering about my life. We’ve spoken very little, but she looks like someone who would be easy to like. I don’t know her name and she hasn’t asked for mine. I wonder what she’ll think, when eventually I’m carried out on a gurney. I hope she’ll ask questions.

Tshepo told me I was too chicken shit to do anything this morning. Watching the sunrise from his hotel room window he implicated himself as well. He told me that we had absolutely no reason to do what we obsessed over. He looked me in the eye and said that our lives had been bought. I didn’t know what he meant so I just stared at him. He asked me if I ever fuck or get fucked and told me I should. I just looked at him. He said that I hadn’t done anything to deserve a release and was going to be trapped on the precipice of indecision my whole life, the same way I couldn’t make the decision on the ledge. Maybe you don’t need to fuck or be fucked, ’cause you are. He left me sitting alone, watching the sunrise. The rays hurt my eyes. The after taste of stale liqour was heavy in my mouth. Then I stood up and left. The driver brought me home. I slept. And here I am now.

Sent from my iPhone

Phumlani Pikoli (@scoutgumbee) is a South African journalist with Eyewitness News. He’s a playwright and videographer who derives great pleasure from impolite conversation in polite company.

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