In a shoe box lay 7 locks of hair. Long black rich hair with shinny specks of rock to revise the memory of my loss. Why Oh why, I cried myself to sleep a while before I realized my head was covering tremendously and finally agreed to trash my treasure. Mama shaved my head bald and reminded me that she had warned me against playing games with my hair. I was not particularly enthusiastic about plaited hair and had no joy in having my head touched. No one but mama and she slapped me a couple of times before it grew long enough to lock seven.
Dawn broke when we stepped out heading to school. The girls attended one school and both boys separated at the doorstep. Elementary was one fun place to be. Kindergarten was hell with crippled Ms Elizabeth making life impossible for me. She dressed me in that colored dress of shame every afternoon after kicking my bed whenever the cleansing salty water hit the floor. I was completely oblivious of stare and not ashamed anymore. I could not understand why I wet my bed everyday. The dreams were good with games that echoed laughter until I excused myself to use the bathroom and hell broke loose out of my dream. At three years, I demanded school not so much to learn but to accompany my eldest brother to a world of toys and play games children play. Ms Elizabeth’s kick was not sending any right message as I learnt to wear a mask with a positive attitude.
Time flew and class four had me carrying a bag full of heavy books that made our short walk a soldiers drill. The dilemma of being eldest was the expectation of discipline. Waking earlier than my siblings, helping the help in the kitchen and assisting the younger children was routine before Evril, my neighbor called out to walk with to school. Tardy or late was never a word in our school years. We arrived timely with enough spare time to play a game or two.
We sat on benches with enough room to accommodate our load of books in three’s. My desk-mate Irene lived a block away but did not impress me as a good friend. Our academic performance brought challenges to a none developed relation even with James seating between us. Everything we did bore competition. James made our lives miserable for lack of ethics and challenged us to a bout. We were both not up to it until he laid his garage under the table. Showing us his wee did not ring a bell. We were too naive to understand why but one sure thing was, the emptiness we enveloped at the tender age of undeveloped sexuality. We both kept our distance at the end of the desk and wrote our notes sideways nearly falling. One wonders why the teacher did not see or figure out a wrong in two shy girls seating with an extremely social loud boy. James would not stop instigating. We took our battle to a field near home and Irene boldly slapped the rock off my palm to begin the fight. A passer by rescued her from my thrashing and named me bad. I walked home feeling guilty but jubilant for being a winner in my first match and have not fought another since.
Our 15 minutes break would be spent around the safety of the classrooms reading Hardy boys or making little girly talk. The boys rushed to continue yesterdays’ soccer game in the field. They’d return after the bell rang still planning on who was in charge of providing tubes and plastic bags to beef up the worn handmade ball. The most crucial bell for lunch was treated with urgency like a gun shot to release an Olympic runner. Without those heavy bags, we were home in minutes and swallowed our lunch in time to walk back before the afternoon session bell rang. Money was a no-see item but when Evril produced a coin on our way home, she could not contain her excitement. The exhaustion of a full school day, then carrying a load of books in our back packs with plenty of homework was out of her picture as she begged me to cross the road to purchase some patco (candy). If caught crossing the road by a neighbor, I would have to face mama’s disciplinary action and the thought of seating on a hard bench with a painful behind was enough to completely refuse Evril’s request. Without much persistence, she hang her heavy backpack on my left shoulder and jumped a trench before plugging into the road. In a split second, I could have sworn I was still thinking of how best to convince her not to cross the road but I watched as the green range rover crushed her little body and dragged her to a stop. The driver bolted out and ran disappearing between the row of houses and shop walls. Word traveled fast and a crowd was forming as I silently contemplated my next move with my hand covering my mouth. The weight of our school bags was pressing me down as I moved slowly dazed. Near home, I met Evril’s older brother and handed him her bag informing him how, why and where I left his sister. Without a word he dashed out as I hurried home to narrate my story to mama. Seconds later, the wind blew shrill voices of wailing bringing a hollow feeling of sadness especially for me who had not shed a tear yet. I had registered some strange kind of shock and sat numb staring into space. Mama stepped out towards the scene just in time to witness a policeman, chalk in hand asking to record a statement from a witness. That would be me telling an unfolding dream. I completed my homework and ate my dinner silently. Witnessing death changed a perception of life in a portion of my existence that I would struggle understanding the rest of my life. I overheard mama ask my brother to let me go to sleep at an unusual eight o’clock without watching my one hour movie that ended at 11.00 p.m. every night.
I lost my second friend and it felt sad. My first was Marion. We grew up together playing dolls till she got disfigured with stove burns. Her whole body had changed drastically and my fear of the new Marion made it impossible to leave our house to play. That was enough and while everyone comfortably followed the procession of viewing Evril dead in a coffin, I was unwilling to change the big smile I had seen of her last moments alive. They wailed and walked back and forth around the coffin but I still had no tear to shed and could not even look at a gone spirit.
No more friends for me, and the birth of a book reader ensued as I took my milestone entering boarding school. A place I dreaded with a passion.