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Anne Townsend

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

A Letter to An Alcoholic ~ Dear David

Dear David,    CapIMG_0035

Where to begin? At the funeral in St John’s Cathedral, in Hong Kong.

What a turn out. It was a Lamma Island event. Sorry I wasn’t there.

As the images spilled out onto Facebook, all I saw were the glasses of wine, the smiling, the laughing mourners, and the glasses of wine.

Nobody mentioned your alcoholism, was what I heard.

Nobody said that your death was caused by a disease, called drinking.

If you’d drowned on a beach, if you’d had a brain tumour, or if it had been cancer, David, the obituaries would not have censored the cause of death.

Taboo words, such as AIDS, alcoholism and incest are a source of fascination to me, so let’s just pause for a sec, and ask, what did you indeed die of?

I watched you once, drunk, cradling your young son, as you and he walked onto the beach on Lamma Island, and into the water and paralyzed I stood.

On Christmas Day, in 2004, I was a guest at your home, and miserably I joined the party, labouring under the weight of the unspoken.

It’s exhausting, David, for those of us who see, who worry, who carry the burden of the taboo words in our communities. Alcoholism. Incest.

Before I end off, (it’s 11:58 pm, it’s silent in my Karoo home, only Radio Sonder Grense, a mouse under the bed and me), I’d like to apologize for my silence, for what feels in hindsight like a massive oversight on my behalf. I noticed your disease, I said nothing.


Anne X

PS: Who are we protecting, is the thing? Ourselves or the person who’s drinking his life away while we watch? Haha, that’s a trick question, David



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