somewhere round 1981 when my mom was (finally) divorcing my paedophile-monster-step-dad and things at home were hell, a sandy-haired, flidgerty (flighty+fidgety) young man with the most beatific smile (and for some reason this stays with me all these years later – the most gorgeously shaped calves and eloquent hands and feet!) took me in for about 6 months. he asked no financial remuneration and at a time when it was against the law for me to be staying in the then-white enclave of rosebank, he was flagrantly defiant.
i remember i had an old tape cassette player. he had some boby dylan tapes. i would play “lay lady lay” ad nauseum, usually right before bed, till he’d come in and request that i please, PLEASE, give it a break.
i always wondered about ronald’s sexuality. though i don’t know why i even wondered cos people like zackie achmat (one of south africa’s foremost aids activists) would pop in and out of the apartment and i knew ronald was close to dr. ivan toms (r.i.p.). i really didn’t care. ronald was my friend and one of the many guardian angels who’ve appeared opportunely throughout my life and for whom i’m eternally grateful.
once i moved out into my first commune and got caught up in university life, drama school, and eventually moved to johannesburg and then l.a., we lost touch. i googled ronald over the years, but never found anything. till a few days ago. i tried again. i googled “ronald louw port elizabeth” and my heart sank when the first item which popped up, was an article by zackie achmat.
ronald louw, law professor, activist, exceptional human being, died of aids on the 26th of june, 2005, a month to the day before i came back to south africa. despite being best friends with one of the foremost proponents of hiv testing, ronald did not get tested. i feel selfish to be mad at him, but part of me is, because now i will never get to see him again. he was one of those people who was the change he wanted to see in the world and i benefited from that. i have tears in my eyes as i sit here writing this; i will never get a chance to thank him.
against his bedroom wall, ronald had painted a scene from “the little prince”. i only remember now that he was the one who introduced me to that masterpiece. through his generosity of spirit, he opened up the world for a young teenage girl from the cape flats. i haven’t seen him in over 20 years, but i will miss, and be grateful to him always.
he was a prince among men.
“Goodnight, sweet Prince.
And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.”