It happened so fast… I couldn’t even say his name. He became superman, flying really fast and landing with a soft thud, like wet wood, broken in pieces and wrapped in school uniform shorts and a superman top.
His real name isn’t Tinki-Tinki, his name is Peter. We all call him Tinki-Tinki or Tink because of the way he began most of his sentences with an informed “I FINK…” He is the pampered kind of child. The type you would find in the home of parents who bled to hear the cry of a child within their walls, the one-and-only-treasured kind of child. Why wouldn’t they pamper him? I was eighteen or so, when he was born. They had waited for years before he came. Their predicament formed the center of every neighbour’s background thoughts; everyone’s prayer, everyone’s jeer. Fast forward to 2 years after Sister Yemi, the preacher on our street gave her gazelle-flogging prophecy about how a woman who has been barren on our street, would give birth to a baby girl, Peter’s parents bore him. I remember going to visit the family in company of my mom, to felicitate with them. Sister Yemi was there, reminding everyone about how God has answered her prayers and brought the child, with the ‘exact sex’ He promised through her to give. I opened my mouth to counter her point on the sex of the baby in her prophesy but mama who seems to know my every move before I maon them, almost nicked me with a vein piercing pinch on my left thigh.
We watched him grow before our eyes and every late afternoon aside Sunday, after he had returned from school and his ‘teacher’ parents would have made him finish his home work and siesta, he would come to our doorstep and yell to my younger brother, to “com-mand play”. His oblong head and my brother’s sailing in the wind while they ran to the next street to meet the bulk of their friends almost always made me smile. Peter’s witty approach and knowing sometimes, earned him a few knocks from yours truly and others. Our frequent remonstrance of ‘thinki-thinki you talk too much’ would be met with his poker face and one or two sarcastic retorts which were supposed to be too complex for him to even comprehend.
I must have been staring at it for about 30 seconds as the screams seared my ears. Except for the white stuff sticking out of it, it looked just like my favorite fruit; watermelon. The oblong mess was still connected somehow to its members, all bent and broken and red. I had seen red like this before. When Kola my right hand pal in school hit his head on the lawn tennis court floor, when he slipped while playing. His head opened a peep and liquid flowed out. It was quite some and seemed to go on and on… why did it have to be liquid in us? Why not sand or wood or air? Stuff we could just lose and refill like a car in line for gas, or one of those ballons we fill in festivities…
He and his mom were standing by the fruit stand at the end of our street, when I joined them at the second cart to make my purchase. I remember exchanging pleasantries with her, while she bought some apples; his favorite fruit. He quickly engaged me and soon started telling me stuff about school and what he drew in fine-art class. He looked quite cute with the paper airplane he was holding as he chirped on. I really wasn’t interested in what he was saying but I goaded him on.
‘How is school?’ He threw at me, after his elaborate reply to the same question.
‘School is fine Peter.’ I replied.
‘So, if school is fine, why are you here? All older people are still in school.’He pressed.
‘We are on strike.’ I returned.
‘Oh. Strike? What…?’
The seller by now had my change and buy ready, so I just thought of giving him one short sentence in summary of what he wanted to know before he could think up something else to ask.
‘The people who teach us are protesting their salaries. They are…’
I turned to face him but he wasn’t there. I didn’t know or remember when he stopped talking. The breeze must have taken his paper airplane into the road, and made him run after it. The screeching of tires jolted me into jagged reality. I had only enough time to see the bumper of the Volkswagen ram into him before he took to the air in an amazing moment of flight.
Superman is his favorite hero. He had lots of polo shirts with the red ‘S’ in front of it. He would run around with my younger brother as his side-kick after watching “superman returns”, making swishy sounds like a supersonic jet cutting through space. Their mock fights and power flashes was always worth watching. His acts and swirl, quickly earned him a place as the unofficial smartest five year old on our street; a little hero to his parents and our collective hero… somehow. He sure looked like superman in a blur of red as I watched him fly, and watched him fall head first about ten feet away while the Volkswagen bounced over him at full speed. But the blur of red wasn’t superman was it? Superman would have lifted those wheels as they sailed right on him. He wouldn’t have melted with a squish, like some take-away pack filled with slices of watermelon, painting the tarred road, a flowing red with its life source. Superman at best would have rolled off the road… he would have flown away with a supersonic swish but no, he wasn’t superman… he was Tinki.
They crowd round now singing… No, screaming… the earth kissing their faces with its essence; dust. More tires screech and halt and I am punched back again to reality but not the one I had before. This was a new consciousness of screeching tires and doom, filled with gory images of unused talents squished.