The song claims that ‘suicide is painless’. I wish it was but I'm afraid it's not. Thirty eight years have gone by since that humid night in Durban, South Africa and yet the whole thing remains with me as though it happened yesterday. It haunts me when I close my eyes and try to sleep. It’s watching from the shadows every time I look into the beautiful eyes of my smiling children and loving wife. And it's the place I've disappeared to whenever somebody laughs and says:
‘We've lost you again Mikey, stop daydreaming and try to keep up!’
But I'm a little like an actor. After all, my backdrop is a stage. As a musician, I'm at my best in front of an audience. I know how to play a part, how to sell a song and how to hide mistakes. I know how to paint the picture I want people to see; how to hide things, manipulate the past and bury the truth. And when someone says, ‘we've lost you again...’ well, these are the times when I've dropped my guard. These are the times when I've gone back to the time and place that has shaped my life. Yes, these are the times that I've returned to Durban, South Africa during the months of November and December, 1978.
The suicide happened a few minutes before 3 AM on Wednesday, December the 13th. Durban's streets were quiet at that hour even taking into consideration that the summer holidays were already in full swing. But most sun seekers from upcountry towns like Johannesburg, Pretoria and Bloemfontein were safely tucked up in their hotel and apartment beds by then, eager to get in some rest before beginning another day on Durban's golden beaches. Most of them would be completely unaware that anything untoward had happened during the previous night as they tucked into their cereal, eggs and bacon and watched the sun climb over the warm Indian Ocean. Some of them would later glance at an article on the fifth page of the local Daily News that afternoon, but chances were that most would simply shrug their shoulders and think, ‘what a shame’ to themselves.
I was probably the only person to cut out that article and paste in a scrapbook which I still have today. Only the first three pages of that scrapbook are used. The first page has that Daily News article while the second features a much longer story from the same paper which appeared on the front page a few weeks later. To the casual reader, neither of the two stories have anything in common. Pasted on the third page is a hand written note scrawled on a piece of A4 note paper which has obviously been torn from a ruled spiral-bound notebook.
I've never shown this scrapbook to anyone. It lies in a locked drawer in a desk next to my keyboards, speakers and computer in my small and compact music studio. Now and again – usually when I'm alone in the house – I unlock this drawer and place the book on the music stand of my electric piano. Then I usually play something quietly on the piano – something like those moody chords from 10cc’s ‘I'm Not in Love’ while I read both articles. Then I try to read the hand-written note, but usually don't get to the end of it. You would think the thirty eight years is long enough to get over something. But it's not.
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[The famous sign on the side of the Fairhaven hotel on the beachfront]
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