I remember the sound of the bamboo calling us: whispers in the wind, silently pleading for us to visit. The sun was slowly falling towards its setting, the sky a bright orange floor and the clouds like the dust left behind by a careless sweeper.
“Come on, Tyron,” I yelled, “we haven’t got all day.” He was only a year younger than I, but we both knew who was the commander of the team. I carried a few of the cardboard boxes and he carried everything else.
“I am coming, bra,” he responded, “these things are heavy.”
Extension one wasn’t the best place to grow up in, but nothing could have stopped a ten-year-old boy -with the imagination of the Gods who created him to find adventure in the mundane. Our path was straight, save for a small hill that we had to get over to get to the dump site. It was as easy as counting, but everything is an obstacle when you’re an adventurer. The stench of the dump site was awful, but our destination was worth the journey. Nothing would have stood in our way. Not the stench, not snakes or even the druggies who lounged on a dumped sofa. We were adventurers, and we were fearless.
The bamboo reeds stood high above our heads, it loomed before us like the steep walls of a castle. It was the middle of autumn and the reeds were brown. We went through our man-made tunnel and ended up in the middle of the bamboo trees. There were already cardboard boxes on the floor to protect us from splinters as we sat there every reading comics my mother bought. We often found a few of Tyron’s fathers magazines. We didn’t know what they were, but enjoyed staring at half-naked images of ladies leaning against cars. After reading we opened our bag and enjoyed the snacks that Tyron had packed in. I couldn’t do the same because my mother might have killed me had she known where we were.
Our hideout in the bamboo served as more than just a hiding spot. It was our place of refuge, a place to explore the lengths and depths of our imaginations. It was our biggest resource.
It was the same place we found material to build kites. I remember my first kite swaying in the air, the twine tightly wrapped around my fingers. The wind had gotten too strong and the twine cut my fingers. “Leave it, bra. Your hands are bleeding,” he screamed.
I held on, but the battle was lost. The wind proved to be stronger than the hope and upper-body strength or a ten-year-old boy. The twine snapped and my kite flailed in the sky. My very first creation was lost. My face was stained with blood as I tried to wipe away the tears. I learned then, that letting go was as important as holding on. But a few tears could easily be wiped away.
It was 16:55 and the deafening sound of the Islamic azan was the only reminder that it was time to leave. What better way to get home than a foot race? We packed up as if something was coming, we peered out of the bamboo like a wounded deer still hunted by its predator. “Run!” I yelled and we both bolted out of the entrance of our hideout, over the rocks and through the thickets of grass.
“The Dehaka is behind us, bra!” Tyron screamed as we made our way through the dumpsite. His thin voice blared in my ears as he overtook me and ran in front of me. I might have been the commander, but he was faster and leaner than I ever was. The wind carried us as we made our way back into the streets.
Little did we know that the terror was not behind us, but lay at the front gate of our homes as we saw my mother and Tyron’s grandmother waiting for us.
“Grounded for a month? The lashing of my life,” I thought. But nothing could have prepared us for what happened. We got to the gate and Tyron’s grandmother grabbed him by the arm and took him in her arms. I saw the sadness in my mother’s eyes, but did not understand.
“He’s gone, my child. Your father is gone,” his grandmother said. That was the day my best friend’s world fell apart and I stood there, puzzled. I embraced him and tried with all my might to hold the pieces of his world together.
A week later, I remember the street was filled to the brim. That’s how it happened in my neighbourhood, everyone would attend your funeral. Some to pay their respects and others to enjoy a free meal. No one ever judged them, the support was all anyone saw, but of course, there were those who whispered the truth behind closed doors.
Tyron stood at the gate, the heaviness of his heart was written all over his face. His eyes were bloodshot and puffy. He was the result of a failed marriage and the parent who had won custody no longer had breath in his lungs.
I vowed to myself that I would create a world where no one would have to endure the pain and anguish he suffered through. I made my way over to him and embraced him. “You may not understand this bra, but it is for you. It’ll always be for you,” I said. He did not know what I meant at the time, but the tears in his eyes were a sign that he understood, and so the dying embers of my best friend’s joy became the spark that ignited within me a flame of stories that could never be extinguished. Stories that reminded him that life does not lose its meaning when we lose the ones we love, stories that made him the hero of his journey despite life’s adversities.