Pondering the conversation after ‘I love you!’

David Macgregor
DD070324 Dave1 David Macgregor
Image: Supplied

Sun rose on my face. Gleaming metal shield, full blast at dawn. But I am enjoying it in a darkly thrilling sort of way.

I have a 47-minute hiatus before the swim wagon arrives loaded with high-energy semi-naked women all about to drop me in their swim dust.

Will it be three or four kilometres up the silky Gonubie river, wild foliage and scents folding to the water’s edge, as we stroke on, olive darkness, pastel blue, breathe in, out.

In this free-flow window I am thinking of a dead friend.

Guava was a master skelm. An artist, a hustler, someone who cheated the system.

And I liked it!

All of it while being hyper-focused on being free of its insidious web, its axe blows.

I know it was costly, I had a keen experience of the wreckage he left in his parting.

So much short-spear rage and yet, hey, I totally shared his passion for stepping out and beyond.

Who am I to judge the behaviour of a soul craving the meditation, the hours, legs gently clamped around the rails of a board, your gut in a gyroscopic dance with the ocean’s eternal lullaby.

The short, so brief explosion of surf energy, scribbling your message and beliefs, your courage and dreams on a ribbed, heaving, spray-streaming wailing wall.

And often, mostly, it ends A over T, flying over the falls, getting pummelled. Satisfying.

This was the sparkling side of escape into avant bohemia.

There were also long gruelling hours of labour building and maintaining his fantasy surf castle, fetching the boys, taking out the trash.

If it was a drudgery, there was always the guiding light — this was his chosen life.

But now he’s gone. Last week. We suspect his heart gave one last hammer, and he was cleaved, toppling onto the board as the ocean lapped, lights dimming, then out.

And what was that life all about? Did that tax return, municipal water bill, RA, have the slightest relevance?

Or is it the tedium and refuse littering, polluting, our lives?

What difference does this make if you eschew it — but for the repressive consequences for yourself and loved ones?

So my friend who waged a cosmic battle to attain a free life without being a socioeconomic predator, in fact the very opposite, endless acts of random kindness for those roiling in the dregs of the barrel, so how did it all turn out, David?

We hear so much fatuous drivel about rich guys not being able to take their wealth to the grave, but what about my dudie, ciggie behind the ear, porkpie hat, orange shweshwe pants, Renaissance-era bangs who gave up journalism as a hostile, selfish, greedy, censorial place ruled by suits — though I do see he left a trove of 3,120 printed stories in our archive.

He takes nothing to the grave. Instead he leaves us reaching for air, trying to grasp the big meaning. Of rebellion and finding inner resolution.

Look at how much we have to find out about people when they are dead!

It’s revelatory, it’s shocking, answers the questions, completes the picture. But it’s too late.

Our journey together started out in the mid-90s as youngish desperate but idealistic men.

Working journalism, freelance, having children, watching our surfing lives head out the door with the nappies.

Not him though. He stayed with his polyamorous love, the surf, to the end.

And he kept the rest together. For my sins, he worked for me. Gosh, he was amazing.

East Cape News built an entire weekend service around David Macgregor’s journalism.

He went from down-and-out to flying in big weekend papers, big trials, big horrors, big writing, sensational stuff as the public likes to say.

Of course, they are wrong. To us who are driving hard to get these stories it’s simply the revelation that matters, the angle, the breakthrough, the interview that shines the light, the rebuttal that provides fullness and fairness.

That was the thrill. But for David, it wore thin and he became disgruntled.

See, besides working for the “suit” he said I had become, he had a plan to return to the forest and keep building his own dream, Shaka Lodge, Surf Camp and Surf School. 

We rowed, I let him have it. The gauntlet was thrown down. I would be at his house in Kowie at 5pm and we would pound each other. 

I rocked up outside his tall gate and he emerged. 

From behind the gate he says with such sweet intensity: “Bru, we are not going to fight. I love you bru! Let’s go for a wave.”

And that is how the second phase of our relationship went, a gentle acceptance, even though for my sins I landed up as his news editor on the Dispatch but this time it was just work.

And it was lekka. He was spinning out, in the last phase of working for the man, and finally left to run the camp and surf school.

Now that I have the luxury of hindsight, I can understand how pleased I felt for him. He was going to finally be free.

This Christmas, I did a piece on the school and how it saves lives on the beach in Kowie and I was so proud of what he and his sons and friends were doing.

But why did it have to take his death for all these inner, more profound thoughts and feelings to come out?

Why must we wait, living in a world of denial, or shallow normality and shallow jousting to take these leaps of faith with each other?

Why didn’t we have the next conversation which comes after ‘I love you’? 

This is more about our “who” and “why”? His mom sketched a little guy who felt an enormous empathy for the homeless, taking over plates of food she had made.

And his love for horses, later for stray dogs and people too!

He pushed trolleys as a kid until at 11 he could afford to buy a pony. I did not know.

So, while we are alive and love each other, let’s be brave and raise these questions.

You don’t have to. Why live in the land of heaviness when what we most want to do is play, to feel energised and euphoric?

Just don’t be left with horrible regrets, issues you needed to raise and explore and now you have only a corpse to address.

You have to speak up — even if only for your own selfish good.

So do it now.

• A paddle out in memorial of David Macgregor will be held at Kellys Beach, Port Alfred, at 2pm on Sunday. People have been asked to bring hibiscus flowers.



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