One day, during school holidays, my mother left my little sister in my care. She was a baby then, and I must have been six or seven. “When she wakes up, give her some porridge,” my mom said. I agreed and watched as she left for the city center. Being the obedient child that I was, I waited for a long, long time – thirty minutes. It felt like ages. And my little sister had not even flinched during that time. That was my green light to step outside, into the play world that was iNkomponi.
Of course da Vinci was right outside with a new game for us to play. He could get me to play anything and, on this day, he had another ingenious game. We were going to try to hit each other with objects. He was going to use small stones while I was to use dry lumps of mud, “amagade” as we called them. It was actually fair because my side had three people – two older neighbors and me. On the other side was just da Vinci, older than all of us.
We used trash can lids as shields – one for da Vinci and one for the three of us. We fixed our ‘shields’ on the ground about 12 meters (40 feet) apart. As you can imagine, the best way to avoid getting hit wasn’t to hide behind the two-feet-wide shield but to duck. Despite the possibility, or perhaps because of that, the game turned out to be fun. I don’t remember getting hit but I do remember making da Vinci jump. I really enjoyed it – until we ran out of amagade. We were now at the mercy of da Vinci, who still had a mound of little stones to go. “Wait a bit and let us go get more of amagade,” we pleaded with him. “There’s nothing like that!” he shouted back, a grin on his face now. He now threw harder, breaking his promise that he would not throw hard (a promise he had used to entice us to play the game).
We had no choice but to run from the line of fire. Ever more excited, he chased after us. The three of us tried to scatter to make it difficult for him to aim. Nobody noticed he had picked up a large piece of shale. When I turned back, I saw him throw it. Out of all the places it could go, it chose the top of my forehead. I wailed loudly, having never seen so much blood before. “I told you to get out of the way. I wanted to get the other two,” da Vinci apologized. I didn’t say a word. I had blood all over my face.
Six stiches it took to close the gash. I did not cry when the needle and twine went in and out of my skin that afternoon. I had already cried enough. In a couple of weeks I was as good as healed, only with a prominent scar on my head, right where my front hairline meets my forehead. I don’t remember if I spoke to da Vinci during my healing period. I only remember that we stayed friends until he left many years later. And that’s Nkompon’ life – kids can give each other permanent scars and still remain friends.
How about I talk about my childhood crush next time? Too boring, eh? We’ll see.