The other day Wise Guy introduced me to one of his friends named Mogamat. I have probably passed by Mogamat more than a million times before but never noticed him, and neither of us were interested in conversation with the other for whatever reason. I shook his hand and he immediately introduced himself as the “second longest stroller on the Parade”, Wise being the first. Then he went straight into how he never bothered talking to people that worked with the kids, especially not foreigners; i guess he was giving an explanation of why we had never spoken before. I also told him i don’t have all that much contact with the “older guys”. My excuse.
He told me how he came to the streets. He was only 5 years old. He was a part of the Kaap se Klopse and he was left behind one evening. He met up with a group of kids and they introduced him to glue and the rest was history. After that was a exciting, yet painful chain of events. 27 years later Mogamat looks like someone who traveled through the desert for years. His skin is brown and weathered, his eyes are wrinkled on the sides from a permanent squint, he is missing several teeth, his left eye is continuously blood shot, and he has several scars on his face. His hair is curly and unkept, his clothes are baggy, dirty and falling off of him, and he speaks slowly, often slurring his words even when he is sober. He has had a tough life!
I have enjoyed hanging out and talking to my friend over the past week or so. He prefers to be drunk. He has terrible asthma, along with other sicknesses, and has to use a pump. He showed me a refill for his pump that he bought from his “friend”. He needs it to be able to breath; most especially at night. Without the pump he could have an attack and die. His “friend” saw which one he uses and told him he has one laying at home. He brought it and sold it to him. Mogamat says he does not have any family, and few friends. He often says, “There is only one guy out there for me and that is Ralph Morgan (Wise Guy)!”. He also says, “When i do good, no one remembers. But when i do bad, no one forgets.” He says it in a way in which i can see he feels it as the words come out of his mouth. He wants to tattoo it on his forehead. He also loves my “Peace” tattoo on my neck and wants one exactly like it, but he would rather go for the front part of the neck.
Mogamat is honest. Honest about where he has been. Honest about where he is now. And honest about where he is going. It seems he wishes for another life, and time, in which to live…maybe a second chance, but he knows that he will not get one. A lot of the younger guys don’t respect him one bit. They see him as an “old drunk”. They speak disrespectfully and he fears that they will beat him up in his sleep. Mogamat is alone. It breaks my heart! When i sit and speak with him i look deep into his eyes and try and see that kid that first came to Cape Town 27 years ago. I want to grab that kid and hug him! Tell him to go home, leave the glue and stay in school. But i can’t. It is too late for Mogamat. Though he is only 32 he looks no younger than 60. That kid is long gone! I can’t change his past, but i can work my hardest to change the present and future realities for the present and future Mogamats. And in the meantime, i can sit and laugh and talk to Mogamat.