Ted called me this morning and said there was a parade in Cape Town. He suggested that we get onto it right away. As former military men, Ted and I always have enormous fun at parades.
During the war Ted was a sniper and I was a signalman. This is a perfect combination in times of peace and whenever we find ourselves in a large, unruly crowd of young people high on drugs we split up and use the old Zulu pincer movement to isolate the vulnerable females and herd them into the nearest bar where we ply them with cheap philosophy and offers that they hardly ever refuse.
I strapped on the old boots, boshoed and bayonet, went round to Ted’s place and hid in the garden giving the coded signal that in our army days meant “we attack the refugee camp at dawn”. I waited for the appropriate response – “women and children first” – but it never came. This time, I heard a signal with a chorus line. Something about raining men.
All thoughts of Cassinga were driven from my mind as Ted stepped out of his front door. He was wearing some kind of floral lilac dressing gown affair with one of his wife’s brassieres strapped to the outside. I was rooted to the spot, incapable of moving or even speaking. The entire course of the war could have changed had Swapo gone into battle dressed like Ted.
“Come along, old chap,” he shouted. “We’re off to the parade.” I hadn’t even got my voice back and Ted was congratulating me on my uniform. “Military,” he said. “Very sexy.” He started humming the theme tune to Yentl.
“Enough!” I barked, and ordered him to tell me what the hell was going on. He looked at me in surprise. “We’re going to the Gay Pride Parade,” he said. “I thought you knew. You’re certainly dressed for it.”
I was outraged. You don’t get more heterosexual than a former SADF signalman. Obviously I can’t say the same for the snipers, but I always believed that they were real men, too. I could perhaps understand it if Ted had been one of those parabatty boys, what with all that leaping from aircraft and drifting through the sky like big brown snowflakes. It’s just not natural.
Then they were upon us. Boys dressed as girls, girls dressed as hermaphrodites, flagellants dressed as Lutherans, preachers dressed as prostitutes, dogs dressed as cats.
This was pretty wild stuff, even for Green Point. I grabbed Ted’s arm to make sure we wouldn’t get separated. “That’s the spirit,” he said, taking me by the hand. I smacked him sharply on the side of the head, setting off a chorus of high-pitched squealing from a passing pack of sadomasochists.
I backed up against a wall, breathing heavily, fearing that someone would smell the testosterone on me and hand me over to this outlandish authority figure in a skin-tight camouflage skirt carrying what looked like a flexible pink plastic truncheon. “Relax,” said Ted. “Strapadictomy. Quite harmless.”
It might not have been Haiti, but I began to get an idea of how Jean-Bertrand Aristide must have felt in 2004. He was trapped in Port-au-Prince by roaming gangs of blood-crazed voodoo merchants. I was trapped in Green Point by roaming gangs of sex-crazed methylenedioxymethamphetamine merchants. At least Aristide had the option of exile.
Ted broke away and sashayed into the crowd, swinging his hips like a damn schoolgirl and shouting something about beers for queers.
Then an eyeballing situation began developing. People representing at least three separate genders started trying to make eye contact with me. I kept averting my eyes until I realised that this could also create the impression I was being coy. And nothing gets a deviant salivating quicker than the prospect of gnawing on the flesh of a shy virgin in combat boots.
I quickly changed my strategy and began darting stern no-nonsense looks at the perpetrators before letting my gaze trail away to the nearest woman. However, homosexuals operate on a secret code of mixed signals so there was a very good chance that I was letting them know that I would be available upstairs at Cafe Manhattan in twenty minutes. Anyway, the strategy was doomed from the start. I looked around and there wasn’t a woman in sight who would have been prepared to step in and save me from being licked to death by a baying mob of erotomaniacs in leather suspenders and fishnet stockings.
Just then Ted broke through the crowd and grabbed me by the shirt. “Let’s get the hell out of here,” he shouted. I saw that he had lost half of his dressing gown and his bra was hanging from one strap. He still won’t tell me what happened out there. Whatever it was, it turned him right back into the irascible old homophobe that he always was. He says he is organising a Straight Pride March. It’s open to anyone who owns a gun and is prepared to take a polygraph test in a controlled environment.