That is when I realised I had found my own destiny. I floated serenely behind him, pulled along by the momentum of his RET and WMC.
As I sat on a bench on the Sea Point promenade, looking out at the grey, roiling ocean, I was struck with an almost depthless sense of melancholy. I realised I had come to a low point in my life.
I had once tried to be a man of God but, to be honest, doing the Lord’s work as a dominee always lacked glamour. And, even though I had heard whispers, during theology classes at RAU, that a dominee could be a big ladies’ man in the platteland, I realised it wasn’t a great way to pick up chicks. Ladies love outlaws – but they love revolutionaries even more.
So I ended up putting the odd thunderflash against electricity pylons. My comrades and I thought we could damage the electricity supply – but our other comrades did that much more effectively when they got into government. Like post-coital depression, my spirits sank low after 1994. No one recognised me as a war hero. No one listened to my sweeping visions of the future. I couldn’t even speak Afrikaans much any more, for fear of being called a sell-out. I had no friends from India. I had no Range Rover.
I was well into my mid-life crisis. And then, I thought: Let me immerse myself in that strange, unhurried world where, far from the gaze of citizens, the oversight committees dwell in the shadows of the side rooms in the National Assembly, as the tides of the political sea heave far above them. It was there that I first met him – quietly furling and unfurling his tentacles as if warming up.
When these slimy appendages moved, it was lightning fast and those watching were not sure of what had happened. Guptas, Eskom, Prasa, Nkandla, State Security Agency, SAA, arms deals, SABC.
His reach was everywhere. He glided with unctuous ease through the murky underwater world.
At first, I followed him at a distance, committing to memory those moves, the way he had with words, of spewing them out, like a slick of black ink, but all meaning nothing when you tried to examine them. He was imparting a life lesson to me – glancing at me everyone now and then over his glasses or sidelong over tea in the MPs’ dining room – that words do not necessarily have to make sense. Logic would be obscured in that dense defence cloud he ejected.
And I marvelled that, whenever he was under attack, he would withdraw to that dark hole under his favourite rock, as the waves of misfortune rolled and the sharks gathered, smelling the bloody wounds in the water. But they couldn’t dislodge him. He was a creature of his world. That is when I realised I had found my own destiny. I floated serenely behind him, pulled along by the momentum of his RET and WMC. His tentacle waved as if to say: You try. So I did. My mother had died and I needed money for the funeral I told people.
A little ripple compared to the tsunamis caused by my Octopus Teacher, but I knew I could swim in that world. I reminded people of my, of our, glorious past as soldiers, how we danced and sang and pledged to die for our leader. I wrote placards on broken bits of cardboard. I tweeted.
While it may storm far above my unique little world, I know My Octopus Teacher has changed me. I, Carl Omari, will never be the same. I hope someone makes a documentary about this one day. It will win awards, I’m sure…