Life in the outskirts of the city is drab; lame things happen. Common people, plebeians are dime a dozen; they litter the streets as they lumber for bread and water, some others, for answers to the cause of their incurable misery. This is where I grew, where people were too pedestrian to bring home the beacon. I survived years in this suburb. I was egged on by the discordant mixtures of lack and comfort. I found happiness most times by hanging out with buddies around. You see, growing up here had a lot to tell on my average. Sometimes, when you see the rich misbehave, the best counsel is that they should be pushed to the edge of straw a little bit. Lack and want interlaced with happiness and content is a purifying tequila. It sharpens the mind, it sculptures the demeanour.
I grew up in a home where the skin is pale but the smiles are genuine, the money is ramshackle and dirty but the kindness is unadulterated. The hood was my home. Footballing was my forte as I grew up. I loved football because it was the only thing that consumed me. In the field of play, I saw my darkest self, my happiest moments and my pains. This trilogy earmarked me as a maestro. In the field of play, I lost my head to bottles from fights, others lost theirs in my fury. On the same field, I saw true happiness from the inside, Loyalty and strength in unity. Knuckles hurt, muscles tore, joints fractured and the freshness of the skin whispered its goodbyes as the sun smashed out its juice like ping pong into nothingness. It was just like the only thing I was meant for. The trilogy of feelings became quadratic when I became a convict.
It was 4th September 2009. That morning, I left home for the field with a friend. We had a mutational training. My team seldom had morning trainings. Duteous enough, we were punctual as we rode in bikes each. We sauntered about the haze, the dew and the eeriness of mistletoes on the field. As we were in wait, a certain man arguably in his 40s walked into the field. He quizzed our presence. He wanted to know why we were around at such wee hours of the morning. We tried to explain but his questions were galore. This man owned the dilapidated building; a school that kissed the field in which we had our trainings. Usually, we would sit on the slabs on the building before entering the field but this day, we were in harm’s way. He accused us of stealing the kindergarten books he kept for use. It was as ridiculous as it was spurious. As of then, I was almost rounding off secondary school yet he blemished me with alleged thievery of petty books. He complained that he had lost so many of such books to our sticky fingers but this time he wasn’t going to let us have our cakes and eat it, having bitten off more than we could chew. We both disapproved of his allegations and told him we only came to have football trainings. All we said fell on deaf eyes. Stiffened by his acerbic threats to incarcerate us, we sought to flee. Very funny situation but real. He chased us with recusant interest but I manoeuvred his aging feet effortlessly. Bingo! My friend was caught as he tried to climb his bike. He sought to race out in his bike but before he could gather momentum and projectile, the man caught him by the waist. Lame move. I already grabbed my bike by the hand running with it out of the field, quietly avoiding the histrionics of the moment. I was already far in front when I realised he had been caught. Just then a thought struck me. ‘Run away,’ it said. Another voice kept asking me to stay. The man held on to my friend, after all, one is enough. I heeded the former voice. I left him there. I couldn’t afford being caught by the police over something I didn’t do, Never did, never will do.
I was already a spitting distance away from home when I changed my mind. I ran back to the scene and saw that the man had put my friend in an empty room. He cried loudly for two reasons – to express the excruciating pains he felt from the beatings the man had attended on him and more importantly to call the attention of passersby to his rescue or at least, to garner the sympathy of the book owner who was super ready to punish him more for the alleged malfeasance. I felt bad. I went to him wanting to him to stop punishing him for what we didn’t do. Before I could say Jack Robinson, he flourished a moronic slap on my face. It was too sudden to be true. I bumbled around in confusion and then found myself in the same room with my friend. We both sat down and cried out. None the least, it was better for us both. Sharing pains with someone sometimes could be very sweet. He felt relieved he wasn’t the only one. I felt that somehow we would eventually leave together. Truth is, I love my friend. He was my assistant as I was the captain of our team. Mental pictures of how we both used to jug along the road for hours in the mornings, how we played football together, won competitions and lived together all ended up with us crying together in a building for an allegation, the description of which we by no means answered to.
This man called the police and they arrived in less than 10 minutes. What seemed as if it were a joke had morphed into a full blown case. The police men first beat us both to a degree that exemplified their love for money over human dignity. Nobody cared to listen. Funny no other member of my team came up that time nor did my coach. Neighbours presented a cacophonous stew of opinions. Some said the faces were familiar and that we were no more than boys as we regularly played football there. Others, particularly Papa Rooney, a purple seller (a seller of fairly-used clothes) and father to the boy whom I beat up on the field at a time, told the policemen he had seen us both marauding the precincts and hauling books with wheel barrows late at night. Such a huge lie rested contentedly on our heads as nothing we said held water. The Chief Police Officer, a glabrous headed man with a pilose face tied my friend and I together with our jerseys and conveyed us in the truck to the police station. Trust me when I say this, we were seriously beaten. Just then I called mother. Yes, mother. Thanks to my eidetic memory as of then, one or two numbers came in handy as I learnt them by heart. She saved us both that day. What accompanied the release from detention was more. Shame, pain, despair, regret. I regretted going back. I hated the feeling that I was arrested and detained. Mother spent hell trying to bail us out. I hated the dim view she took of me afterwards. I was violent and vile. The aftermath of my regrets bore the records of my worst deeds, many of which I’m not proud of.
In my dark times, in my hood, the first thing I learnt was simple. People got your back only when you got theirs. Loyalty was what kept us going. Loyalty is the street. You ever wondered how the frustrated, the poor and the necessitous all survive? They all know what the big wigs will never learn – loyalty, respect for your fellow man, unity and cooperation. These are the lessons from the hood. Loyalty is not what you practice when all is well. Loyalty is tested on the altar of conflict. Friends will say they love your poetry, your music, envy your taste in clothes, your wit and maybe they mean it, often they do not. Men are more ready to repay an injury than a benefit because gratitude is a burden while revenge is pleasure. So-called friends will give you reasons for revenging and give excuses for not being able to show gratitude. For friends, there is almost a touch of condescension in the act of loyalty that secretly afflicts them. The injury comes slowly. A little more honesty, flashes of resentment and envy here and there and before you know it, friendship fades. The more you try to revive it, the less gratitude you receive. The rule of friendship is simple: Whoever cannot be undividedly loyal is not a friend. If he is not loyal as a friend, drop him off. Instead, make an enemy your friend, he has more to prove to you. I keep my circle of friends too small only for the loyal and the fortunate. The more people you deal with, the more bullshit you handle. Loyalty is never in great numbers. Look closely. Loyalty is not just a word, it’s a concept that forms a man’s integrity and reputation. Be loyal.
I may not have the talent of Michelangelo or the draft skill or Mackenzie Chalmers, I am the voice of the hood, unveiling the chronicles of the street and its lessons, I am putting two and two together, I am simply talking turkey. I am Mr. Possible.
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