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Aryan Kaganof


Aryan Kaganof

Kaganof is a filmmaker, novelist, poet and fine artist. His films include SMS Sugar Man, Western 4.33 and Giant Steps. Novels: Uselessly, 12shooters and Hectic! Published verse: Jou Ma Se Poems, Drive-Thru Funeral and The Ballad Of Sugar Moon and Coffin Deadly




 Glock for Sale

Glock:    a short recoil 9 mm Luger semi-automatic pistol with a standard
magazine capacity of 17 rounds of ammunition

My good friend Moose and I were walking through the Emmarentia Dam park grounds discussing phenomenology and bagels when this tall so-called black man pulled a gun on us and demanded stuff.

Phenomenology I have never understood, despite many attempts at reading Husserl and even Heidegger whose use of language makes Adorno seem like a telegram typist. But I digress...

The thing is that Moose and I had seen this tall so-called black man earlier in our perambulation, he was with a much shorter so-called, but that one was wearing a security guard uniform and hence we felt disinclined to be worried about the possibility of getting mugged.

Now here I feel predisposed to mention the words "mugged" and "perambulation". These are both good words in very different ways and I like the fact that they are nestled comfortably in the previous paragraph. I also like the way that "nestled" itself is nestled in this paragraph. The truth is that writing about a nasty event is a lot less nasty than the event itself. I should imagine that reading about the event has a similarly diminished quality. And this of course is the problem.

Because I honestly don't have the words nor the talent to describe to you how awful it felt to walk slap bang into the barrel of that 9mm. It felt like a big turdypoo had just pushed its way out of my bum as I was about to deliver a perfect pickup line to the most beautiful barely legal 18 year old girl you ever laid your eyes on. It felt that bad.

So the hands go up, and the next thing both Moose and I are being patted down by the very tall very black so-called black's accomplice, who is none other than the so-called security guard. He even has a badge with his name on the uniform to prove it, and for all I know it is his real name and he does work for the security company and is only doing the mugging in his spare time. In order to earn some extra tom to pay for his driver's license.

What is mugging? What is a perambulation? Where do these crazy words come from? Etymologists make it their business to find out but I'm not one of those birds. I'm currently a visiting Professor at a University in Sweden. I walk through the park here twice a day and every night very late after putting in long hours behind a keyboard where I compose these little stories that are my way of making a living. Nobody ever mugs me in the parks here. I perambulate. I don't get mugged.

Back home in Jozi I walk with Moose, who is by no means a nancy. Moose used to be with the Mossad and knows from the old tough guy routines believe me. But what can we do. It's hard to argue with the barrel of a 9mm in your face and the very tall so-called black man in front of you looking nervous and his finger wriggling itself all over that trigger.

The ex-security guard feverishly pats me down and takes R300 in cash notes and my Sony Ericsson w900i limited edition cell phone. Then they are both running away. Not perambulating but running. Mugging all done now the running's begun.

Here is where my little story becomes exceedingly painful for me to write. I drop to my knees and lift up the trouser leg of my baggy camo trousers. I exchange glances with Moose who sees my Glock and nods to me as if to say "yes". I pull the gun out of its snug ankle holster, cock it and lift it.

Probably in the real world the time it takes to lift the firearm from the position it was in when I cocked it, to the position it is in when I have the tall so-called black man's back in my sights; the position change from vertical to horizontal; is no more than a fraction of a second. What they call in fast stories a "split-second". But this is not how long it takes.

A phenomenologist like Husserl would be able to give you a very good reason why it takes me so long to lift that gun from the vertical to the horizontal, to traverse 90 degrees of Euclidean geometric space-time. But I wonder if Euclid, Husserl and Heidegger together, if all three of them could explain to you (or to me) why the gun is suddenly so heavy.

Maybe it would make more sense to try old Newton, after all, he was the one who was made clever by a falling apple. That was a moment of what the Japanese zen monks call "satori" - a sudden dislocation, an abrupt opening unleashed by the unforeseen experience of strangeness. You might have noticed that the previous sentence seems like it was written by a much smarter person than myself, and it was. That sentence was written by Georges Bataille in his book called "On Nietzsche". Now "On Nietzsche" is I think a very funny title for a book. I'm one of those very literal kind of guys who likes words to mean what they mean. So when I read On Nietzsche I don't immediately think it's a book about Nietzsche, I get an image of Nietzsche lying down having a snooze with Bataille's book covering his head, on Nietzsche, guarding him from apples of the falling kind and other misadventures that might cause bodily damage. Like mugging.

So, what comes to my mind as I lift the Glock 9mm is that this moment, just like Newton's apple moment, or that Eureka moment when Archimedes jumped into the tub, might very well be the most important moment in my life to date. And it is. And it only takes a split second in the world they say is real, but in that moment, in that sudden dislocation, my life is forever changed. I can never be the same person again.

You see there is a part of me that wanted to kill the so-called black man. That wanted to blast him in the back with my dum-dum bullet, knowing full well that he would not survive such a wounding, that he would not have time to turn around and fire back, that he would in fact be too dead to do such a thing. Then there is another part of me that was thinking, "if you shoot this man in the back whilst he is running away from you, while there is no direct danger to your own life, the result of this shooting will be murder and the consequence will be imprisonment of your own body to which your mind and soul are irrevocably attached and therefore all three of you will be imprisoned.”
As you can reasonably deduce from the above, a goodly amount of consideration was taking place between these two parts of me - the part that wanted revenge, and the part that didn't want to go to prison (that was in fact three parts) - and all of this consideration was taking time.
And then I knew that I could not shoot a man in the back, that it simply was not the right thing to do.
And then I fired.

The bullet is probably still in one of those gorgeous oak trees in Emmarentia. Both so-called black men started sprinting in different directions. The tall one that I had shot at turned around and shot back.
Nobody had ever shot at me before. I shot again. He shot again. Moose and I running. Again I go on my knees. Shooting as deliberately and calmly as I can. Shooting into trees or leaves or clouds, whatever, but aiming at the tall so-called black man's back. Aiming. Doing my best to create gross bodily harm to my mugger. Eventually five of my shots miss him. Eventually five of his shots miss me.

Moose and I keep on running after him. We are joined by a group of tall so-called black men who probably hail from Kenya, they have high cheekbones, are very black, and run like gazelles. They also reek of dagga so they run like very slow, very stoned gazelles. Meanwhile Moose and I are both realising that we are not what we used to be in the running department. Or maybe it's just that our mugger has so much adrenaline pumping through his long legs that nobody is ever going to catch him.

He exits the park, now there are at least six of us chasing him. A minibus swerves to avoid him, crashes into a high wall. He keeps going. A bakkie knocks into him, he falls down, jolts up again waving his gun at the bakkie driver's face. The hands go up. The mugger keeps on running. I jump into the bakkie next to the very rattled driver. "After him."

We lose him on Barry Hertzog drive. He might have jumped into a taxi. I see two security bakkies parked on the side of the road. Rush to them, tell the bulldog-faced security guards what happened.

"Show me the kaffir, I'll kill him for you."
Two double-barreled shotguns are cocked loudly. Oh no, I'm thinking, we've just travelled back in time to 1976. The security heads keep on stopping their vans and poking their shotguns into the faces of any youthful looking so-called blacks strolling by on their way to the taxi rank. I keep on having to explain to the security toughs that these aren't the right ones. They're eager to kill. They have a valid excuse. They want to make the most of the occasion.

Eventually we see a cop car parked erratically in a driveway. Two white cops pointing their handguns into the faces of a very old grandfather and his kwaito-hatted grandson.
"These are not the muggers."
I'm out of breath and quite angry with the security guards and the cops for being so trigger happy.
"Are you sure?"
"I'm sure."
They drop their guns. The old grandfather pushes up one of the smiley masks I remember from the sixties.
"Dankie baas."
His grandson looks at me with pure hatred radiating from his eyes. He's ashamed of his grandfather's theatrically played out gratitude, outraged by the blatant unjustness of the situation, his dignity ripped out and left in tatters on the ground. I understand where his rage is coming from, but what can I do? I've become the bad guy in his scenario but I'm still the good guy in mine. There are no so-called blacks or whites anymore, just a dirty shade of grey called reality.

I ask the cops if they can give me a lift to the station. They look disbelieving, at me. "No look, sorry, we have to pick up our supper from the Wimpy." The bakkie driver has caught up with us. He gives me a lift back to the park where Moose is waiting for me. We go together to the cop station to lay a charge. "A tall and a short one? In a security guard's uniform, yes we've had that description before, they've been working all week in the park."

"Then why don't you do something about it? Put plain clothes policemen there?" She looks back at us vacantly, the idea seems like too much effort. I'm thinking, "working?” Working? I suppose mugging is working. And it's quite an interesting thought, that every morning the muggers wake up and they hop into a taxi and mug all day and then they knock off at 6pm when the sun goes down and go home and watch tv. Just like any working person.

So what happened? What changed my life? What was the moment of satori?
I realised that I am a big bullshitter. I have been pretending to myself that I am some kind of macho tough merely because I carry a loaded weapon with me. When in fact I am utterly useless at killing, I have no instinct for it, no passion, no killing sensibility.

But even more ridiculous than this, I have also been pretending to myself that I am a highly moral person, with strong ethics who always weighs up choices heavily and makes the best possible decision under the circumstances. This is not true. I didn't miss my mugger's back for ethical reasons. I missed because I am a lousy shot. I did three weeks of training five years ago. I probably couldn't kill myself if I tried putting the barrel in my mouth and pulling the trigger. The bloody Glock would misfire.

A few months after my mugging the country erupts with xenophobic passion. The left-wingers are all up in arms about how terrible the xenophobia is. I'm thinking about my mugger's accent, about which country he was from. Whether he's been necklaced by a crowd who weren't inhibited by my lack of killer instinct. South Africa is a war zone. More than 25 000 people are murdered each year. Hundreds of thousands of idiots like me walk around with loaded hand guns waiting for the opportunity to shoot themselves in the foot.

I still don't know what phenomenology means. I'm selling my gun.

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