South Africa
Part 100

When I began writing the Daniel, Mark and Wingnut stories some years ago, Cody chose the name Kyle for his character. But for this final chapter of Mark, let's use Cody's real name. MrB

When I arrived in Cape Town the day before Cody's Memorial Service, it was like Cody would still be there. Everything else was there. The city, Table Mountain, the beaches. It was all just so fucking normal. I was half hoping that I'd see my buddy again, and that his death would somehow be a mistake, like it had never happened.

As usual, Cody's dad was there at the airport to collect me. I was like a son to him. But when it was just him and me in the Kombi, travelling back to the house, I knew for sure that there had been no mistake. Cody was gone.

Mr T and I chatted on the short drive home, but it was mostly small talk. Neither of us really knew what to say. What could anyone say?

"Did you bring your tribute speech?"

"Yeah. Took forever to write, though. My mind was blank. I'd write something, then trash it. I did that several times. Candy was a big help. She and I kinda worked it out together."

"How is she?"

"She's fine. I don't think I could have handled the news of Code's passing without her. She's been very supportive. She knows how much Code and I meant to each other. I've never stopped talking about him. How's Wingnut?"

"Taking it pretty hard. He spends a lot of time in Cody's room. But we give him as much love and support as possible. He's part of the family."

"Yeah, that's the way you guys are, and Cody was. Just so full of fucking love it was unbelievable. It was Cody who taught me about love and friendship... as well as you and Mrs T. I have a lot to be grateful for."

When we arrived at Code's house, Mr & Mrs T and I shared more than a few hugs, and shed lots more tears. But it was great to see them again. The house was still full of my buddy's presence. I could sense it. When I checked his room, it was just as he'd left it. Surfboard on the wall, the Endless Summer poster, his desk and chair, the spare mattress, his bed, the CD player, tapes, clothes folded and hung neatly in the wardrobe. The room even smelled like Cody. And I certainly knew what Cody smelled like. He and I had spent quite a few nights together in this room. Oh, my fuck! How could this be?

I spent the night at my mom's place. My old room seemed kinda strange to me now. So much had changed in such a short time. My move to Johannesburg. Living in Finger's house. Meeting Candy. It was a whole different world over there. But the old house brought memories of Code flooding back, like the times I'd cook dinner for the two of us, and we'd chill out on the back terrace. We made love there.

Next day, I went around to Code's house, then travelled with Mr & Mrs T to the Memorial Service. The place was packed with hundreds of Code's friends. That dude sure knew how to pull a crowd. I saw lots of familiar faces: Steve, Steph, Wingnut, Ross, Kevin, Jumbo, Darren... all the swim team, including many of the juniors that Code had helped train.

Paul was first to read his tribute. He and Code had known each other since they were in kindergarten together, and became inseparable friends. Well, inseparable 'til Paul's folks decided to move to England. But even then, they were in constant touch via email. And just last year, on Cody's 18th birthday, Paul came to visit. How could anyone forget that mask party, and Paul surprising the hell outa Code. Code was totally blown away when Paul's mask came off. And so was I. I liked Paul straight off. He was as cool as they come, and a great buddy.

"Hi, excuse me if I ramble a bit. It was very difficult to try and find something special to say about Cody because everything he did and everything he was, was special to all of us. Not only to his family and friends, but to his school mates and neighbours as well.

Cody was the first real friend that I had. We were both toddlers when we met and we became closer than brothers in the years we spent together. He could take the worst situation and turn it around. He taught me to appreciate everything around me. He had a passion for the outdoors and we used to go up to the top of the mountain together and sit and watch the world move below us. He was a friend in his laughter and his silences. He could manipulate those around him to do the most outrageous things. I remember on one of our hiking trips when the sun was beating down on us and Cody got all of us walking along the trail with nothing but our backpacks on our backs and acting as innocent as if it was normal when a couple walked by and didn't know where to look. He was a fun loving person with a sense of adventure."

At that moment, Paul had to pause, and wait for the laughter from the assembly to subside. Paul was also wearing a big grin. Then he continued his tribute.

"Cody was on the school swim team and he used to push himself harder than all of us. He even wrote an essay about going to the Sydney Olympics and getting a medal. It was a story he wrote as a motivation to himself. Was he disappointed that he never went? No, because he knew that there would be many other opportunities over the next hill.

Everyone who is here was touched by Cody in some way or another. Whether you were a school buddy, or on the swim team or hiking or surfing or working with him, you were all his friends. Cody gave his friendship to all of us unconditionally, no strings attached. We could take it or leave it. Not many of us understood what that really meant. I remember Cody spending many of his school breaks, when he wasn't swimming, in the computer lab at school. He would be catching up with his friends around the world that he met on the net. On days when the systems were down he would be angry as hell. I used to tell him that he was being crazy and that they weren't real. They were as real to Cody as you and me in this room. Friends were very important to him. If his friends were in need, Cody would be sure that the need was filled. Cody was also tough. He would not tolerate bullies and there are a few who found out the hard way to what lengths Cody would go to protect his friends or the little guys at school.

Time was something that Cody had for everyone. On some days when the surf was crapping out, he would go down to the beach and sit on the rocks and talk to the fishermen. Often he would take food down and sit and eat with them. He would take time out to talk to the juniors at school or the hobo on the street and absorb what they were saying to him.

He had a great love for his folks. Where a lot of guys would not be seen going out with their parents, Cody thrived on it. He enjoyed the closeness of sitting in a restaurant with his mom and dad and sharing thoughts and stories. Him and his dad would tease the waitresses while his mom couldnt find a place to hide. His folks became folks to his friends. Cody's home was our home, and Cody's room was our room, and being at his home gave me some of my most wonderful memories. Cody kept a mattress permanently in his room for when his friends slept over, which was often.

There is a rule that Cody lived by, and that was to hug and kiss his folks whenever he went out. It was a rule that his mom had told him about, just in case you never see that person again. On the Friday morning that Cody went to work, when he would normally tell his mom "Seeya", he strangely said, "Cheers mom, loveya."

For all of us, there is going to be a piece of our lives missing and a sadness knowing that we will never see the Cody smile again. I know that the Codeman is with us now and he will be in the surf and on his mountain and he will be looking out for all of us like he always did. Christmas is just around the corner and I'd like to leave you with this thought about my friend. His gift to all of us are the most wonderful memories that anyone could ever hope to have. It's a gift to last a lifetime and one that will bring smiles to our faces and a warm feeling to our hearts. We can all be thankful for having known Cody in some way or the other. We have become richer for having known him and he will live in our hearts forever. I'm going to end with one of Cody's favourite quotes: "Loveya Stacks."

Rest in Peace bro, loveya stacks."

My speech, by comparison, was short. I hadn't known Code for as long as Paul had. Nevertheless, I knew him well. As my buddy well realized, I'd always hated being in the spotlight. Speeches weren't my thing. But I owed Mr & Mrs T, and I owed Code. I walked up to the podium, swallowed, gritted my teeth, then began, hoping I'd get through it without faltering.

"I just want to say a few words about my friend Cody. I want to tell Mr and Mrs T that all our thoughts are with them always, and I want to thank them for taking me into their home and treating me like a son.

I'll tell you how special my friend was. When other people were writing me off, and I was really on a road to ruin my life, Cody came into it. We got off to a pretty rocky start by trying to beat each other up at school. I realised then that Cody was dangerously full of courage, and I was determined to beat him up and show him who was boss. How do you beat a spirit that wont die? After one of my many other encounters, and I ended up in hospital, the only person from school that visited my bed was Cody. Even then I didn't appreciate him. In fact I never trusted his motives. Maybe he was there to smirk. At least that is what I thought. I accepted his friendship with a degree of suspicion. As I got to know him, I realised that he was gutsier than I thought. He was like a dog with a bone, and worked hard at winning me over. I was stubborn and suspicious. As our friendship grew, I came to understand the enormous love that Cody had. Not just for people. He loved the mountain, which he called his mountain. He had a passion for the sea in which he spent so much of his life. Most of all he had an enormous love for his family and friends. There were some of us who were closer to Cody than others and my heart goes out to Wingnut, Paul, Steve and Steph. We knew Cody probably better than most, besides his folks. He shared with us a love that has no measure and I will forever be in his debt because God help me if Cody had not fought his way into my life. He has given me lessons of life and memories that I will hold dear for the rest of my life, and which I will treasure with every breath I take.

So how do you beat a spirit that will not die? You don't. You take it with both hands and put your arms around it and love it with all your heart.

We love you Cody. Enjoy your new green room buddy."

Whoa! That wasn't easy. But at least I got through it without falling to pieces. Besides, if I had choked on a word or two, Code would've called me a fucking wuss, and there was no way I was gonna let than happen. No way, Codeman. No fucking way.

But there was worse to come. Early next Sunday morning, dressed in our boardies, we gathered at Code's house, then all went down to the local beach. Mr T had Cody's ashes with him. I'd never seen a person's ashes before. How the fuck could the Code we all knew and loved be in that fucking jar?

The group of us included Code's dad, Steve, Wingnut, Paul, Steph, me, and a few of Code's other surfing buddies. Code's mom stayed home. One reason for that was that she couldn't paddle a board. She wasn't the only one! How the hell was I gonna get out there beyond the back line?

"It's one of those magic mornings," Mr T said as we arrived at the beach and assembled on the wet sand near the swirling wash, "just like the dawn patrols that Cody and I enjoyed together so often. Doesn't make this any easier, though." Then he turned his attention to Wingnut, who was sobbing uncontrollably. I couldn't blame the little dude, but his sobbing was certainly testing our resolve to maintain control of ourselves. "Wingnut? I'd like to give you the honor of paddling Cody's ashes out beyond the back line. He would have wanted you to do it. The rest of us will follow you."

"I can't! I can't!" the grommet said between sobs; tears streaming down his young cheeks. "I can't do it! I just can't do it!"

Mr T's eyes were tearing the whole time, and I couldn't understand how he'd managed to resist bawling his eyes out. For that matter, I couldn't understand how any of us - apart from Wingnut - managed to keep a grip on ourselves.

Mr T offered the ashes to me. "But I can't paddle a board! Not properly, anyway." My refusal didn't work. I was getting one of those sad-eyed Cody looks from his dad. Finally, I took the ashes, then grabbed my buddy's board, and began to paddle out toward the back line.

For some reason, I was inspired. I'd had almost nil experience paddling a board, but I'd seen Code doing it many times. So I somehow copied what I'd observed him doing. I wasn't going like a train, the way he always did, but I was getting there. "Are you with me, Code? It sure feels like you are."

The surf was pretty gentle: more glassy rollers than anything else. As I sat there on Cody's stick, I watched the rest of the guys follow Mr T out to join me. Eventually, I was surrounded by the group. We all sat on our boards for a while, being calmly lifted and lowered by the ocean swell in the shadow of Table Mountain, not quite knowing what to do next. Then, all of a sudden, Wingnut's grommet voice broke the dawn silence as he piped up, "So what's going on here? What's all this sad faces bullshit? That's not how Cody would have wanted this to be!"

The grommet was right, so I kinda took his lead, and began telling the story of how Code and I met; the fights, and the laughs we had. Cody used to laugh almost all the time, when he wasn't slamming his fist into my face or somebody else's. But my main purpose in telling the stories was to postpone the scattering of the ashes. I was trying to keep Cody alive for as long as I could. Once we were back on shore, that would be it. Finito.

Eventually, the stories and laughter trailed off, and an empty silence reigned once more. The only sounds were the lapping of the waves over our boards, and a few gulls overhead. Mr T took the ashes, and scattered them over the sea as we watched. That was really just so fucked up, and way more than any of us could handle. Wingnut paddled off, and just sat on his board, staring out to sea. Pretty soon, he was joined by me, Steve, and Paul - buddies together - and we all sat there, watching the rollers and the horizon. Code was out there somewhere. But where?

 

I'd made a promise to Code that Candy and I would visit him in December for Christmas. And I kept that promise.

On Christmas day, a whole bunch of us spent the day with Cody's folks: Wingnut, Steve, Steph, a couple of guys from the swim team, plus Candy and me. Cody's folks were my own folks, and Cody's friends were like sons and daughters to them. None of us wanted Mr & Mrs T to spend Christmas without their son, and none of us wanted to spend Christmas without our buddy. He was there alright. Maybe we couldn't see him, but we could sure feel his presence. While ever we were alive, he was alive. Somewhere.

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