4th grade, 9 years old, Valentine’s Day.
It was a Thursday or a Friday afternoon. School was almost over and we were in the school library picking books. In came Sonia, the beautiful popular girl in middle school, my age, but she was in another class. She asked the teacher to see me, and she handed me a custom-made Valentine’s card, in front of all my classmates. I was embarrassed, but this isn’t the embarrassing part. The embarrassing part is that I did’t have anything to give in return. I didn’t know she was my girlfriend, although I had had a crush on her since 1st grade, and everybody kinda knew about it.
8th grade, 13 years old, Lycée SOS HG.
I was new at the school and my deskmate Fernand told me the beautiful girl in 7th grade had a crush on me. I was like, Damn! I would certainly date her! Next thing I know, during break time, Fernand kicked everybody out of the classroom and locked me in it, with her. No prior warning. Before shutting the door, he told me: Mubwire ko umukunda! (Tell her you like her). I stood there in the classroom, staring at this girl to whom I had never really talked to before, smiling nervously… and then for some reason I started drawing on the blackboard. I don’t remember what I drew, but I remember I never told her I liked her. I don’t think I said anything at all. Fail.
A year before that, at a different school, my friend Steve liked a girl in our class, but he was too shy to ask her out. I decided to play the hitch. I told him what to tell her, drew flowers for him to give her (my drawing skills were on point), and some afternoons after school I called the chick to tell her how much of a good guy Steve was. They actually went out for like two weeks, until one day girl called to ask me: est’ce que, tu m’aimes? I kinda did, so I said yes. And this, my friends, is how I stole my best friend’s gal, and how I became an outcast (too embarrassed to hang out with the guys) for like a week. But I didn’t care; I had a hot girlfriend.
8th grade again.
Mobile phones were the new thing and all the cool kids in town had “800” numbers (Africell) which came with free text. I wasn’t allowed to own a cellphone until like 4 years later (my parents, Hm!); but my aunt Mandy, who lived with us, had Africell and she used to lend me her phone. Many boys my age used to “secret-admirer-text” pretty girls whose numbers we got from our friends. One of the girls I used to text (her number ended with 018 – I still remember it ibaze!) was Ricky’s friend, and one day he arranged for us to meet at Entente Sportive. I showed up early, jumped into the pool, but when I saw her arriving with her friends I chickened out. I started swimming underwater to avoid being seen. I nearly drowned.
Ricky and I were at Dany’s house. They had told me about this “awesome movie” they wanted me to see (but wouldn’t lend me), so I rode my bike all the way from Kabondo to Kinindo, on a bloody hot afternoon, to see it. Dany slid the cassette into the VCR, hit the play button, and boom! A white erect penis poped onto the TV screen. I let out a shocked YO! and Dany’s mum walked into the room… but not before Dany hit stop (Phew!). She asked why everybody was laughing out loud while I looked like I had just seen a ghost. I had never seen porn and I didn’t even know it existed. I don’t remember what lie they told her, but thank God she never found out what we were watching.
7th or 8th grade.
I had two bikes (well, one was my dad’s but I was tall enough to ride it). One day, Dany came to visit, and instead of walking him back home to Kinindo, I told him to hop on one of the bikes while I took the other. I didn’t quite think about the logistics of coming back with two bikes, but it was early so I thought I’d figure something out.
Arrived in Kinindo, we crossed paths with a former classmate, who asked for itour. I gave him my bike, and the guy disappeared. Five o’clock, Six o’clock… the guy was nowhere to be found. I rode back home, past my curfew (problem number one), with one bike (problem number two). Luckily, I got home just before my parents did.
We used to keep the bikes in the den, which also doubled as inzu y’inkoko (a hen house). My dad rarely went there at night, but on that day, for some reason, he decided to go “wish the chickens good night”, and he noticed that one bike was missing… CHRIIIIIISSS!!!
If I am here to tell the story it means I survived that night… oh, and I got the bike back the next day.
My mum had been teaching me how to drive for about a year. One day, in the school bus (said like this it sounds glamorous. I mean Otraco) Ricky and Philip made fun of me ngo I can’t drive. Philip was older so we assumed he could, and Ricky had older siblings whom he claimed used to let him drive.
We had an old Hyundai Excel which my mother used to drive (it would later become my first car), but it had problems every other week – the day Ricky and Philip made fun of me happened to be during one of those weeks. I didn’t know what was wrong with it, but when I switched it on (while my parents were at work of course), it worked. So I drove it to Kinindo, just to prove Philip and Ricky right. Obviously, they were like, let us drive! I did and it turned out I had more driving skills that any of them! Mxxxm!
Anyway, just when I was about to head home, we saw fumes coming out of the hood and the car stopped moving. Panic attack. Philip, who was a little more experienced with cars than any of us, figured the radiator was leaking. So we filled it up with water and I started heading home. The car stopped in the middle of the road 3 more times (the engine was too hot) before I reached my destination, safe and sound… and before the parents. Phew!
My parents never found out… until I confessed myself to them not long after the event, He-He.
5th grade, Ecole Saint Michel Archange, 10 years old.
My parents asked my (older) cousin and neighbour Hughes to pick my brother and I from school. He drove an old Fiat Punto which also had problems like every other week. One day, it decided to die on us on our way home and Hughes asked me to come out and help push it. I was like, “ariko sinkunda gusunika imodoka”. (I don’t like pushing cars). I don’t actually remember this scene. I only know about it because Hughes tells the story every time we meet and asks if I’m still a snob. I still don’t like pushing cars but I won’t say it out loud now, Ha-Ha!
I think that was the last day Hughes ever picked us from school.
I used to keep a “secret diary”, which wasn’t so secret because I let my friends read it. I acted like I didn’t want them to read it, but I always kept it somewhere visible so they’d pick it up and start reading. I wasn’t very clever at communicating my thoughts (and especially crushes I had on girls), so I figured I could write them down and let people read them. I did it for like a year, and then I got over it.
And last but not least, at around that same period of my life I wrote a song, Haha! I had planned that my friends and I would start a boy band and this was going to be our first hit. The chorus went like this:
“I love what you do,
I love what you say,
I love it, when you make me feel that way;
I’d like you to stay,
And make me feel what nobody can say”