The sun is scorching, the birds are singing, the sky clear, and ‘Kasi music’ blasting loudly from the neighbour’s house. I had woken up on a beautiful spring morning. A new season of happiness, new beginnings, of forgetting about the agonies of past seasons, and of yellow daisies smiling with hopes of peace and love.

Days like these are unbearable but fun to have. Unbearable because of the heat and fun because almost everyone is as happy as can be. Children in the hood, using buckets to splash one another with water because they believe it’s summer. Not that it is but because of the heat. “Hooray, it’s summertime!” they shout.

Children singing, running and screaming on the streets, while their parents scold them not to play with water, else they’ll catch the flu. Although this seems to be cliché, children will always be children; carefree and never mind the consequences of their actions, they just keep playing anyway. Teenage girls wearing bum-shorts and crop tops as a way of cooling off. The guys wearing caps, shorts, and vests, betting on street soccer matches.

The game is called iTim-tim in the hoods of Katlehong. Two teams of five (usually) bet and play against each as guys sit on benches with 2 litre drinks, watching, waiting to refresh the players should they get tired or thirsty.

The winners get the money and buy more drinks and kotas, which is a ghetto meal you can get starting at R10. This delicacy is made with an unsliced loaf of bread, cut into quarters, stuffed with potato chips, French polony, cheese and all sorts of fillings and served with sauces or atchaar (a salad made from mango).

This is the most fun season for the youngsters in the hood.

As I reminisce about my youth, I come to the realisation that we had many more fun moments than these youngsters, who are now all hooked up with smart gadgets that have games and texting apps. We used to play with marbles, mkoko (hide and seek), skipping ropes and hopscotch. And all these fun games have been substituted by technology; smartphones, tablets, and laptops. Well, I cannot blame it on the kiddies because it’s the times that have changed. Things aren’t what they used to be. But I can guarantee you that we had our best times as ‘nineties’ babies.

Today is rather about recalling the past and shared moments.

I was with my high school crush, whom I’ve had crush on for 11 years. I felt like I’d known her forever. I’d asked her out several times but she never gave me a single chance, to get to know me. But I still felt like she knew me more than any girl I’ve dated. People saw us together laughing, excelling, progressing, fighting, competing in school work and forever loving and hating each other. One would think we were a sweet teenage couple.

Nomangwanya was her name, a Swati babe with a perfect physique, witty, with a dotted right eye (which mesmerized me even more) and intolerant of sexists. She simply knew how to deal with assholes. I had fallen deeply in love with literature when I was matriculating and I would request some anthologies from Mr Moyake, some pieces of Njabulo S. Ndebele, Bessie Head, Dambudzo C. Marechera. Oh God bless this man! Yes…

He was the one who encouraged me to join the National English Olympiad when I was rebellious and apathetic about most imaginative things. I was struck by reality that it wasn’t for people like me. I couldn’t afford to join such creative writing competitions because I didn’t have the joining fee.

I can still recall the moment when he came to my desk after his English lesson and asked, “Kumalo, why don’t you join the English Olympiad?”

I looked at him with an unpromising face and told him, “I want to but I can’t join because I don’t have the joining fee.”

That man was cool about it and said, “Hey, show me your willingness by writing a motivational letter and we’ll take it from there. I noticed your potential, young man.”

He did the same with Nomangwanya and we were exposed to Rabelais’s “Gargantua” literature and Lord Prometheus’s intertextuality from Greek mythology in Mary Shelley’s Gothic 1881 piece; Frankenstein.

A few months later, we slew the competition, succeeding those who paid for it. We were modest about it, but what I disliked was the fact that she excelled far greater than I. Our competition was healthy, so they said, when they were complementing our performance at school. She was quite a good writer, grammar-conscious and an avid reader. But her ego was eating her alive. Her narcissism blended in with her rudeness and savage moods.

She’d tell me how much she hated me, how much she wished I’d get hit by a bus someday and it was something I’d always love to hear from her. It kind of made me like her even more. I’d smile at her leering gazes towards me. I knew how to annoy her to a point that she kissed me, even in the most awkward of places.

Like this other time when we buried our former principal and we kissed at the graveyard, in front of other learners, then quickly acted like nothing happened. It was more like a solemn pact we kind of telepathically made. Her story is unfathomably incredible and special in a way, but time was a result of us growing apart.


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