“Say cheeese.” Say…Say… Lotsuuuu” Click—No flash. There was no camera. It was just my fingertips put together to represent a ‘finger box’—our own camera. This was one of our photo sessions, my best friend and I. His name was Lotsu. We started taking selfies before the rest of the world made it a big deal. We were both black—ebony black. I remember his mum telling us, “Don’t stay out too late, the night would be jealous of you and try to snatch you away.” We still played until the moon showed its head, yet the night never did what was foretold. Something else happened.
It was a school day. We failed in our ‘Mental’ tests as usual. ‘Mental’ is the other name for extremely tough arithmetic tests (exercises) usually given to primary school children before lessons began. We were not even sad. We were just itching to leave the classroom. We had come to a conclusion that school was not our thing. We loved other things better—one of those things was visiting our strange friend.
Our strange friend lived in his ‘under a mango tree’ castle not too far from our school but far from our homes. Nobody liked him. They said he was mad. Lotsu and I didn’t think so. If we had a trio, he would be the third person. He taught us many things, like how to catch rats and discover termite’s in their hiding places. Most importantly, he taught us to laugh. He laughed at almost everything we said, even when they were not funny. In return, we would give him leftovers from our lunch and mangoes from the mango tree he lived beneath. It was strange how he could not see that he lived under a mango tree, even when the mangoes fell on his head.
Today was different. Today, when we went to see our friend, he did not laugh. He just sat, staring. He did not take our food or our jokes. He spat. Lotsu and I, we just sat and stared with him. We tried to spit too, like him. Our spits did not go as far his did. They were just dry, children’s spits. When our mouths were dry and we had seen enough of our surroundings after spitting and staring for such a long time, we left our strange friend. That was the last I ever saw of him.
That was the last time I saw Lotsu too.
Today, I am a grown man. I left my village a long time ago. I have moved on from all the things in my past, except one thing—what happened to Lotsu after we left our strange friend. That scene haunts me every single day…
Lotsu and I decided to go home after that boring exercise with our strange friend. We were hungry. Going straight home is not typical of little boys. We did not go straight home. Straight into the bushes we went, searching for wild fruits and berries. The weather was dry so we could not find anything juicy. Everything was dry and thorny.
It was after this fruitless search that we made the decision to part ways and search for what we will never find—the worst decision I have ever taken in my life. I went east. He went west.
When I returned, Lotsu was not at the junction to greet me with what his findings. It was not as if I had any. I went to the tree under which we made the decision to part ways. Lotsu was not there. I went to the bushes we had searched earlier. Lotsu was not there! Lotsu was not anywhere!!
Oh wait…Maybe we went to drink from the pond. I run there just in time to see two hands and a head in the air. Two hands, with one hand holding unto a shoe. The head belonged to my friend, the hands too. He was sinking in the famous Amekuku mire. His entire body was gone.
I tried to hold his hands but they just slipped. I held tightly unto the shoe. It slipped too, until all I holding tightly unto was his shoelace. He screamed first and then he was gone. I screamed too. I could not help my friend. I brought up the ‘splitting’ idea.
I cannot go on with the story….
Painfully, apart from all the memories my friend left me with, he left something else—a dirty shoelace. I still have it today.
Author: Joy Blebu, threesixtyGh Writer