On one of the sunny days in Pienaar, two friends, aged between six and five, were playing tag in a rocky outcrop. The day was filled with laughter and the sweat of happiness tightened their skin to their shirts. Their feet tapped to the music they listened to. It was an age of enjoyment, back when life never went the wrong way – at least they believed so. The more they ran and jumped across the rock, one after another, the more fun it became. Each second they grew more tired, danger came closer, but they believed they were getting stronger and stronger.
One of them, 5-year-old Sifiso, was on and was trying to tag the other. He fell into desperation since he was exhausted now and couldn’t jump and run fast enough to tag Thapelo. All thought of safety was washed away as he leapt between the rocks. Strange noises played in his mind like grinding metal, taunting him to the fact that there was no time left to lose. His heart raced faster and his feet tapped even faster. He took a high jump towards a sharp-surfaced rock. His jump was not long enough to clear the gap. He crash-landed on to its sharp surface and grabbed it by his teeth.
In seconds, the whole play flashed through his mind in silence as a dream, and then he bounced back to reality. He was blasted by a severe pain in his mouth. It was watering with a sour mixture of blood and tears. The blood coloured his white t-shirt.
Thapelo got frightened and disappeared like he never existed. Sifiso was left alone crying. He got up and crawled his way home. The pain was like the end of the world to him and felt near insanity.
Jabulane – one of the neighbour’s older boys – came to Thapelo’s rescue when he heard his screams. Without asking, he picked him up and took him to his mother.
When he got home, Thapelo found he had cut his tongue in half in the fall. For two months he had to eat all daily meals using a straw. He couldn’t talk, but gave signs for what he was trying to say. But because of the mysterious healing power of the body, today his tongue has healed.
A scar may not be visible on the surface of his tongue, but it is in his heart and childhood memories.