We had this one neighbor who lived a stone’s throw away from us (I know because I threw stones in the direction of their house when I was young). She used to call me “Mkhwenyana.” Young as I was, I knew what “Son-in-Law” meant. I accepted the name with a hint of fear. I wondered if she could read my mind and see how scared I was of her daughter. See, that’s the feeling when you’re very young – you literally hide from that one girl who makes you feel very shy. She lived on the same street as me, she went to the same birthday parties I went to and we were in the same grade at primary school. I had to work really hard to keep up with hiding from her. I was successful for the most part, until I was selected headboy and she was appointed headgirl at our primary school. What was I to do?
I had very limited experience with feelings. And most of these experiences came from TV anyway. I remember watching the TV series “My Wife and Kids,” imagining that one day I would marry an American girl (lady? woman?). I don’t remember thinking about the Kids – just the Wife. A white Wife, sometimes. I think My Wife and Kids did shape my thinking quite a bit. While in 7th grade, my teacher once asked me what kind of wife I would like to be with when I grew up (everyone in the class was asked this question). “I want a sexy wife,” is exactly what I said in reply. I don’t even have any idea if I knew what “sexy” meant, but I speculate it had to do with how the main character portrayed Jay – the “Wife” from My Wife and Kids.
I might have understood love themes in My Wife and Kids, but that wasn’t the case outside of TV. Once, I made acquaintance with a guy who lived two stone throws away (also verified – it takes two throws to get a pebble to his house). It never occurred to me why the guy, a young adult, would be so interested in a ten-or-eleven-year-old boy. I just enjoyed borrowing R’n’B cassette tapes from him. I specifically remember borrowing R. Kelly’s TP2.com – I liked “I wish” and “Storm is Over.” Again, this was Nkompon’ life – nobody seemed to notice or care that I had made friends with a young adult whom I visited in the evenings. Anyway, there was a catch to all the music privileges that I was enjoying, something I only appreciated much later – the guy sent me with notes to pass on to my aunt, who was only four years older than me. (Hey, I’m just realizing it – she must have been only 15 or 16!). Anyway, at the time, I didn’t notice that this guy was making passes at my aunt. How was I to make a pass to my crush if I didn’t know what a pass was?
I had an opportunity. We went on a school trip one day – the deputy headboy (my best friend), the headgirl (the crush) and the headboy (me). We sat at the back of a pick-up truck on two benches that faced each other. My friend was taunting me the whole time, and finally tricked me into sitting on the same bench as her – like a couple. I was mad. I felt very uncomfortable. Even the fact that she’d earlier given me some of her food, in her lunch box, did nothing to alleviate my uneasiness. Obviously, puppy love wasn’t going anyway. Sharing food wasn’t going to sustain it. Hiding obviously wasn’t going to do it. Not even playing umamtshayana together. Nor being urged by cousins. Nor growing up…
Years later, a girl came along. And she was much, much more than a crush. However, I won’t write about her. There aren’t enough Megabytes of storage on WordPress 🙂