When Adam's life fell apart, he turned to his brother for help. But charity can be hard to swallowby Damon Galgut / June 29, 2008 / Leave a comment
Published in June 2008 issue of Prospect Magazine
A set of unfortunate circumstances had led Adam to this point. In the normal course of things he wouldn’t have been here at all, but his life hadn’t been normal for a while. Everything had unravelled for him a few months before when two things happened at the same time to undo him. First he’d lost his job and then he’d lost his house.
He shouldn’t have been surprised about the job. All the signs were there, but Adam was oblivious, and it was a deep, cold shock to discover that the young black intern he’d been training for the past six months was, in fact, being groomed to replace him. His boss had been apologetic, talking about racial quotas and telling him it was nothing personal. But how could it not be personal? It was he, nobody else, who had to pack up his desk and take his pictures off the wall and walk through the door for the last time. Afterwards, remembering this scene, what he felt most keenly was humiliation that he hadn’t seen it coming.
The house was a different story. It had been clear for a long time how things were going. The area of Johannesburg in which he’d bought—trendy and vibrant and multicultural when he’d first moved in—had been sliding badly for a few years. All his friends who lived nearby had been selling up and getting out, and they’d urged Adam to do the same. But for some reason, some passivity in his character, he hadn’t done anything about it. He’d just sat there, watching it all go to pieces: the gangsters taking over, the squatters moving in, the crime and drugs getting worse and worse, until it was too late. He couldn’t find anybody reliable to rent the house and nobody wanted to buy it. In the end he couldn’t even give the place away. The bank didn’t want to repossess it and they only took it when they saw that Adam was in no position to keep up any repayments at all.
It was a real mess, a real stroke of bad luck. In just a few months he’d found himself stranded—alone and futureless in the middle of his life. Eventually he’d had to turn to his brother for help. Gavin was three years younger than Adam and had always done things in a very different way. He was down in Cape Town, at the other end of the country, and they had stayed only tangentially in touch over the years. But since Adam had got into trouble, Gavin had been calling a lot, affecting serious concern.