My brother is an addict. He contaminated me. I’ve gotten over it. Not he. His eyes are bloodshot. His fingers twitch all the time. He looks haggard. He’s lost and is still losing weight. Whenever ordered to eat something, he says he’s not hungry. My sisters and I have made up our minds. We’re going to sue Nintendo.
Today, I feel sorry for our kids when I see them playing. I don’t even consider it playing. It’s a parody of playing. You don’t play by yourself with a machine. You don’t concentrate when you play. You just let yourself go and...play. Times have changed, though. Poor today-kids; we yesterday-kids had all the fun.
I hated dolls. They bored me. I could not comprehend how anyone in her right senses would spend hours “accessorizing” a stupid doll. What a waste of time. Girls are such sissies. My best friends were all boys. We used to play bad guys and cops. No one ever wanted to be a bad guy. They died when shot. The cops resurrected. We all ended up being good cops who killed each other and resurrected.
It was fun, but we got bored and started provoking each other in order to have a real fight. It sometimes ended with our mothers yelling at each other. The one whose nose got broken...their mother did most of the yelling. We hoped that one day they’d quit yelling and have a real fight.
My best friend’s name was Ahmed. His parents were from Chad but lived in Sudan. His father was a colleague of mine. University professors. He didn’t know how to fight and always got beaten. That was bad, especially in school where it meant a loss of respect. We explained it all to him, but he didn’t understand how important it was not to be the beaten guy. You had to win more often than lose a fight. You weren’t supposed to cry or go tell your parents who did it to you.
Not only was he a coward, he wasn’t a smart one at that. He provoked. Not the small kids he could handle. No. The big guys. One big guy in particular. Oumar was his name.
Oumar was one nasty kid. He was older than us. I always wondered how old he was but never got to know. When Ahmed and I got admitted to school — on the same day — Oumar was three classes ahead. When we passed our primary school certificates exams, Oumar was two classes behind us. We decided he was just a bad kid who enjoyed torturing other kids.
I still have no idea what went on between the two of them — Ahmed and Oumar. During break time, Oumar came over and told Ahmed that he was going to show him good after school for what he did. I asked what the matter was, and Oumar told me to mind my own business. I thought that wasn’t fair; I was just asking, and he didn’t have to talk to me that way. Oumar said fine, he’ll show me too. Ahmed bared his teeth at Oumar. Oumar scowled and said rendezvous after school. Only he was talking to Ahmed, he wasn’t talking to me. What to do.... I had to be there, otherwise my reputation was done.
After school, I had an errand to run for a friend of my mum. She gave me a 2.5-liter empty gallon I had to fill with peanut oil at the grocer’s. When I got back to school, where we would be picked up to be brought home — seven kilometers away — my classmates and Oumar were holding siege. Some thought I’d run away. They cheered when I turned the corner.
Oumar and I took our positions. There was sand all over the place.
Oumar: “C’mon, hit me...touch me!”
Me: “No, you start!”
That’s the way our fights started — you had to touch your opponent for the fight to be declared open.
He slapped me. I almost fell. He snickered. It was no use trying to slap him back; he was much taller than me. I hit him with the gallon of oil. One of his classmates tried to grab it, and I lashed at him. I guess I looked demented because he sure got scared.
Oumar slapped me again. I dropped the gallon and tried to dodge. He started playing Jackie Chan, and his classmates cheered him. My classmates looked worried. If I lost the fight, they’d take the shame too. Oumar was getting excited. I was starting to tire, and he knew it. Soon I’d fall and he’d get over me, slap me some more, and be declared winner. Then, Eureka!
His being tall was an advantage; I decided my being shorter should be too. His next Jackie Chan kick found me prepared. I grabbed his foot. He had nothing to hold onto. The sand was slippery. My classmates went crazy. I pulled and pulled him! He was yelling; I was laughing. I pulled and pulled and he fell. I kept on pulling. The stupid boy started playing mad and got sand all over his face, blinding himself. I sat over him, took up my gallon, and hit him on the face, the chest, wherever I could reach.
My classmates chanted my name. It was great!
The next day, Oumar brought his father to school to show him who’d done it to him. The director came to fetch me, feeling sorry for me because he knew Oumar was a no-good kid. When Oumar’s father saw me, his jaw dropped. He looked at his son, the length and size of him, and at tiny, skinny me. He slapped his son for shaming him and went home.
I wonder how they are doing.