Once upon a time I was a young kid, way before I even dreamed of my teenage years but slowly taking steps in that general direction. It was during the school holidays, you know that time when you’re in primary school and life’s basically one big yard to ride your bicycle in. It was that time. I think I was just a few months into this bike riding thing but I thought myself a professional.
I held a grudge against my parents because they wouldn’t let me cycle to school. I even stood up and showed them I could look right and look left but still they wouldn’t understand. I still wasn’t giving up though.
So one Saturday during the holiday, early in the morning my parents woke me up. My mum asked me to go to the shops and buy bread. I dreaded it but I also thought this is one of those to show I’m responsible and finally get my bicycle license. Quickly I headed to the bathroom and washed my face then put my shoes on. I nearly bumped into my dad rushing outside to get on my bike, which earned me a glare that burnt holes through your heart and short but firm lecture.
After that I was out, racing through the streets, disrespecting pedestrians and sticking my tongue out at friends. In 10 minutes I was there at the shops and barely out of breath. As I approached the entrance I realized I had left the chain to secure my bike at home. I had a few choices then, just run into the store and hope my bike will still be there when I came out or wait outside until I saw someone I knew. Riding back home to get my chain was also a distant not too appealing option.
After a few agonizing minutes (you know that childhood impatience) of waiting I was just gonna get in the store and risk it all. Then I heard someone greeting me. I looked up and it was a much older guy I didn’t know.
I didn’t think nothing of it. He was probably just being friendly. He asked what I was doing there and I told him I was buying bread but I was worried about leaving my bike outside. He told me I was in luck because he worked in the store. I noticed he wasn’t wearing the shop uniform but again I didn’t think anything of it.
So I gave him all the money I had. It was much more than the price of a loaf but I was supposed to bring home change. Weirdly he started heading behind the store and asked him where he was going? He told me the bakery was at the back and that’s where you get the freshest bread. Again I didn’t think anything of it.
I patiently waited for his return.
The seconds dragged on into minutes. A minute became 10. 10 minutes became 20 and I got worried. After half an hour I decided to go look for him.
I got to the back and no doors were open. I walked around the shops a bit but I found no one. I went back to the spot he had left me and waited again. After another 30 minutes I was heart broken as I realized this guy wasn’t going to come back. I knew I had to go home but I dreaded it.
The bike ride was a solemn journey and the loneliest feeling had overcome me.
I got back home to find my parents standing outside the kitchen, basking in the early morning sunlight.
“Kwanga kusina chingwa? There was no bread at the shops?” My mum asked.
“Changa chiriko asi… The bread was there but…” I went on to explain everything that happened, adding an extra apprehension of sadness to my face.
After I finished my mum said, “Ndiwo macon men arikufamba famba aya… It must be one of these con men said to be running around.”
I quickly responded, “No anga asingatengese ice cream! No he didn’t sell ice cream!”
But my words were responded to by an open palm connecting with my right cheek.
This is the moment I realized as an African English never loved me.