Our fathers were friends. We became friends and together we whiled our childhood away. They were days of wishing our fathers owned CNA, just so we could have every Sweet Valley book we wanted. Only Aaliya was smart enough to swear by Nancy Drew instead. Of Friday afternoon street cricket with Vijay. Vijay, the Hong Konger who spoke with a London twang and walked with an irreverent swagger but never minded a bunch of kids haranguing him to stay for cricket. Of Friday nights, the four of us, Sulaiman, Ragiema, Aadila and Nabila packed into the back seat of my dad’s car, giggling and squealing all the way to Eastgate. Of days playing hide and seek in the corridors of a Makkah hotel. Of murmured agreement of long-held suspicions on the hallowed mats inside the Mosque of the Prophet. Of first crushes and first conquests. We’d rather not own up to them now. Of days we checked out of school early, ostensibly sick, Zaheeda and I, careful to be home in time for the 11AM MNet film. Of attempts at tennis. I never thought a serve could be that hard. Or that the courts would be so large that the ball would bounce three times before refusing to cross the net. Of days and days and days playing Kiddie Bekker during break. Of kicking the ball into the yard of their newly-wed, new neighbours, over and over again, until an exasperated woman wearing only a man’s shirt asked us, a troupe of girls on her doorstep apologetically entreating her for our ball, to climb over the wall and fetch it ourselves should it ever fly over again. ‘Well you know what they are up to…’ someone whispered excitedly. I nodded sanguinely, pretending I did. Of the times we argued, and then made up. Of KTV kids market days where I first learned the word ‘scrunchie’. It was all hair stuff to me before then. Of days eating pop corn, watching Now and Then. Of days I first had my hair done at a Killarney salon. Of days walking from school to their dad’s surgery, noisily filling the waiting room with our bags and complaints and then taking advantage of the account at Video Shakti next door. Of a Winter holiday spent at Shireen’s culinary school where Fatima was teacher’s pet. Of school afternoons staying in for netball practice, Zaheeda and I contested the shooter’s defence bib. My netball career was short-lived. My affinity for sports always falling short of active participation. Of the only times I left off my hijab. Of nights at the theatre, of PJ Powers playing Janis Joplin. Of nights watching the Springbok cavalcade depart beaten from Ellis Park when we’d been next door, holidaying on ice.
Winter nights, Summer mornings, we really did grow up together. And then we grew apart. Now we meet in the Grand Bazaar of the Plaza, at other friends’ shindigs, delighted to see each other, ask after each other’s parents, comment on how much time has passed, remark at how much Sulaiman has grown and then promise to get together for coffee sometime.