When I was a kid, I had few expensive gifts and among them was my first and only childhood bicycle. You see this bike was so good it came disassembled in a Japanese box that had a new-shoe smell, I couldn’t even ride on the first day. We had to take it to a garage to be assembled.
With a disassembled bicycle comes great attention from peers; both fiends and acquaintances, even those ones that had big beautiful balls that always denied you a chance to play with them. They usually said, “Team zote zimejaa” or “Mamangu alikataa” or “Wewe utararua” suggesting I had daggers for feet.
One of them was Otim, a dark Sudanese boy with milk white teeth, pale yellow eyes and hair that looked like a bunny’s shit. Before the bicycle, our relationship was like Lil Yatchty’s talent; non-existent. He always told me those silly excuses and it was quite depressing at the time. You know those days a good play session was everything, and a man denying you that was the devil’s butler.
(Today I stayed in school for six hours waiting for a CAT that I really didn’t worry much about. I thought it would be easy since I’d attended all the classes and understood everything I read. In the six hours, I eavesdropped on some girls’ conversation about their friend who got pregnant from rape and it was all quite disheartening. I wanted to leave but I couldn’t, I was hooked to their narration.)
But then, the bike came and everything changed. They all warmed up to me and wanted to ride with me. Otim, being a rough avid rider ever so gently, for the first time, asked for a ride. Now a ride was measured through blocks and buildings passed. A normal ride was to the shop, around 100m away. This was for people I didn’t know/trust. The longer ride was circling around the block, and it was for those in my inner circle. So Otim got a ride while we kicked around his well-crafted leather ball. From there a friendship formed.
Sunday was play day, and I mean the whole of it. After church, we would change from our dusty safari boots and baggy jeans our mothers made us wear and get into play attire. It was mostly shorts, a dull t-shirt and sandals like those of Jesus. And when the doors were open at around noon, the earth below would shake from kids running down the flat to kick balls. Happy days.
Like most friendships, you can’t pinpoint where exactly you became close with someone because usually it’s a gradual process, as was the case with Otim. We grew close and after a while, I could call him mbwa in jest without fearing for my newly growing incisor.
One Sunday afternoon, we’re all bubbling and teeming. It is hot and it looks like a Hawaii Five-O setting. We’re replenished from being overfed and farts are escaping me every time I charge towards the ball. Lethal farts from that hang loosely in the air. We’re playing the infamous chobo-ua while some chaps are cycling behind us.
(The girl who was raped apparently decided to keep the child which to them was rather absurd. One of them went ahead to say, “If it was me, I’d rather get HIV than bring up a rapist’s child,” which I thought about for a moment before realizing it was rather the Pandora’s box. They later left after noticing my oblivious stares that proved I was eavesdropping. They left me with a heavy thought, though. I’m still thinking about it.)
“Simon! Simon! Otim has been gone for an hour now and we can’t find him.” A boy yells from outside the small pitch.
My chest tightened and throat dried up. I was sweating from playing and now, worry. The game came to a sudden halt because we had to look for this goon. You see, everyone knew my mom wouldn’t go easy on me. They had previously heard my screams on nights that I misbehaved so they knew; Simon’s bike had to be found.
Search parties were formed and a meeting time was set to reconvene preferably with Otim. Two hours later, we’ve searched almost the whole of Zimmerman and the boy is nowhere to be found. We meet at the agreed time and as you can now predict, no one saw or heard anything about him. It is there that we realized we didn’t know where he lived so we couldn’t camp at his place and wait for him. We decide to wait for a few more hours with the hope that he’d show up and it would be a big crass joke. We give up at 8pm and go home. On the way, I feel my legs wobbling and heart thudding, and behind it, a mix of rage and sadness for losing my one true bicycle. It was the first time I cussed under my breath.
If anyone sees Otim out there, tell him I got sentimental and nostalgic and I need my bicycle back or else.
(I think I would rather have the baby, though. I believe love for it will breed over time. Also, the CAT was from hell.)
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