By the age of five I had grown accustomed to the name Chris and the juvenile variations of the name people kept coming up with. Different groups would call me different versions of Chris. But I noticed that most people who drank alcohol and listened to American hip-hop called me Criss-Cross. I never knew what they meant by it, but figured as long as they weren’t doing any harm and hurting anybody with their silly nicknames, then everything was fine with me.

By this time my sister, Mazet, had taught me how to read and I had read everything in the house. My grandmother, who used to babysit me when she was off work, didn’t know what to do with me. I went through the books of short stories she brought from work pretty quickly. She figured it would be better if I went to pre-school.

One day at pre-school, right before nap time, I went outside to relieve myself and saw my friend Twin. I called him that because his name was also Chris. Twin convinced me to skip nap time and go to the arcade and play video games. I had some pocket money on me, and Twin had even more. I wormed out through the hole in the fence and went with Twin to the arcade to play video games.

I figured I would play a little then go back to pre-school before they even noticed I was gone. The arcade was in Malandela Street and a fair distance from where my pre-school was, and only a street away from my house.

But our plan went wrong and Twin and I got busted. We lost track of time at the arcade and by the time I snuck back to pre-school, it was already closed.

I figured it must be pretty late so I decided to go home. I told myself that I would come up with a story as to why I didn’t have my book bag and lunchbox. I figured it would be a walk in the park, until I walked in the kitchen and found my book bag sitting next to my mother’s ‘ass whoopin’ belt. I knew I was in trouble.

My mother knew what I had done and I thought I would get the hiding of a lifetime. I went into the kitchen, banging the door as I closed it.  My mother appeared from the room where my cousins and I slept. She sat me down and told me she knew I skipped pre-school to go play video games with Twin. She wasn’t mad. My mother just wanted me to make a choice.

She explained that if I bunked pre-school and went to play video games with Twin, then I was choosing the belt and I would get a hiding of a lifetime. If I chose the book bag, my mother would take a day from work to enrol me in a primary school where I would attend Grade 1.

I was excited at the thought of attending the same school as my sister and some of my cousins. I knew if I ran into trouble they would be there for me, so obviously I picked option two. I picked the book bag and was enrolled at Mangosuthu Primary School in 1999. I was the only one in my family to start school at such an early age and they all seemed to be proud of me.

School was easy as pie and I did my work on time.

The things they were teaching us were things Mazet and my cousins taught me years back. I never forgot a thing, because I too would get to play teacher sometimes and then I’d ‘teach’ them everything they’d taught me. In return, they ‘taught’ me how to be better at sports which I wasn’t good at.


Tell us: Do you think it is important to read as much as you can, like Chris? Why?