Figures slender and dark shift shape, contorting to the needs of the terrain. They are wary of the bright eyes that search these warm nights, inauspicious glares looking to reveal the truth of those seeking emancipation. No matter the decade, country, city or town, young boys from this continent always fear the price of forgiveness.
The price this evening is True Gold – mother’s gold…and having escaped the inept watch of a least favoured uncle the run begins. As thin legs and flat feet beat the ground perpetually, they effortlessly navigate the uneven, cracked dirt road of their rural province. The purple twilight is a canvas for a dying flame and its air feels calming; cooling the heat of guilt that often emanates from the brow of sinners and delinquents alike. Whichever title more relevant is an after thought, and the only information concerning the youthful mind is the search for the forgiveness held inside mother’s True Gold.
All Dialogue Translated from French
-“Yaya hurry up! You’re so slow!”
-“It’s not fair you’re older than me!”
-“If your skinny legs make us not get back in time, I’m blaming it all on you and I’ll laugh as I watch you get beaten with the belt.”
-“Well Mummy said that I’ll be faster than you one day!”
-“Not if I eat all your meat! Now hurry up, we have to get back before she arrives!”
The boys, using shortcuts tamed over years of juvenile adventuring, are nearing their destination, a great river that separates two cities with a colonial history akin to sibling rivalry. It was at this location earlier that day that the first of several bad decisions was made…
-“Eight, nine, ten, eleven, TWELVE!”
-“See I told you I could do twelve.”
-“Yes you are so strong on pushups…but can you do a cartwheel?” As Yaya watched Julie the love of his very brief life effortlessly spiral across the riverbank, he could not enjoy her grace as it were meant to be, because all he could think is of outdoing her with another more audacious feat of his own. But just as he was about to interrupt her gloating, his eye flicking subconsciously to his brother. He was standing several meters away with another, engaging deeply in what appeared to him as the kind of heated discussions they’ve had about which character of their animated fantasy show was stronger. He was not very good at reading teenage body language…because second later his brother and the other were kissing. In his shock he quickly looked at Julie and exclaimed
-“Can’t you see? They’re kissing”
-“What? You’re so silly, you’re obviously just making excuses because you can’t beat my cartwheel, see – I am the best!”
-“NO, watch this!” After ten more minutes of their blow-for-blow battle of physical aptitude, Yaya began to tire. As he did awkward silence befell them, not even the vehicles passing on the dirt road behind them could shatter the mute sphere they found themselves in. He attentively observed her slowly catching her breath, and for a fleeting moment something sparked in him, a slight, supple bolt of pubescent sexual awareness. However before the onset hormone shift could take place the feeling was gone, and he noticed her facial expressions of boredom. Worried that she would soon leave, he rummaged through his cluttered mind for anything interesting. And in a corner reserved for secrets and guilt he found it. “Julie I forgot to tell you, I found something amazing.”
-“It’s a magic artifact…”
-“What’s an ar-ti-fact?”
-“It’s something that looks normal but has special powers.”
-“What kind of special powers?”
-“Erm like making you fly, breath under water or run really fast.”
-“Hahaha I don’t believe in things like that.”
-“Why not? They’re real, even my mum says so, you know my uncle even has some he said the doctor gave him to make strong with women.”
-“Strong with women?? Maybe you need that because you can’t even beat me in a fight.”
-“I don’t need to because I have True Gold.”
-“Yes but you can’t tell anyone about it…even my brother doesn’t know that I have it.” Yaya walked towards Julie, reached into the abnormally deep pocket of his dusty shorts and pulled out his closed fist. Inside was the treasured artifact. Was he was trying to build suspense, or maybe just attempting to prolong her company…either way she wasn’t a patient girl and demanded to see the so-called True Gold.
-“Let me see it then?”
-“Yes but be careful, I found it hidden in my mum’s room…she keeps it hidden because she says that if she takes it to work, it will reveal her secrets”
-“So its power is revealing truth? That’s rubbish; I thought it would be something cool like the power to run faster than a cheetah.”
-“It is cool, just look at it.” Yaya opened his now sweaty palm, exposing the True Gold to the elements and watched Julie’s face as her eyes absorbed its latent sun colored gleam. She took a second before reacting, and then looked up at Yaya smiling with deep maternal warmth far beyond her years.
Now back at the same place a different tone fills the night…
-“Have you found the True Gold yet??!”
-“No, not yet!”
-“Look harder, Yaya!
-“Why did you even take it? You know how important it is to mother, she is going to kill you if you don’t find it.”
-“I know, I know, but I swear I put it back in my pocket after showing her.”
-“Why even show her?? You want to impress her? Didn’t your twelve push-ups do that?? Would have been easier to just kiss her.”
-“No, that’s disgusting, she’s my friend.”
-“Well if you don’t find it you won’t live to see her again. Lets check by the bushes by that river edge.”
Two spirits connected by the psychological chains of blood and history search the topography of their surroundings for salvation…so desperate, they kneel in the moist earth, plunging fists into its loose top soil hoping to feel the familiar shape and texture of the lost treasure. The search was prolonged and intense, to the point that fingers were beginning to cramp under the previously soft resistance of the land, and without the sunlight to aid them, eyes were functioning at below optimum capacity. Surrendering to their fate seemed inevitable, like the exposing teardrop of the melancholy first blink. However just before the acceptance of all that could befall them, Yaya’s mind twitched…
-“Hey, stop digging in the dirt like a dog, I have a thought…”
-“You know…I think that girl you’re so fond of has probably taken it…maybe to give to her boyfriend.”
-“Shut up, she doesn’t have a boyfriend, and anyway I don’t believe she would take it.”
-“Yaya I don’t think you can take that risk…” Begrudgingly he had to accept that there was great validity to those words, and so he stood up, covered in dark mud like a child role-playing a Navy Seal’s secret incursion onto foreign land. After taking a few moments to mentally map out the route to Julie’s house, he began a slow defeated jog towards his new goal.
Thirty minutes later he arrived at the edge of the city center… The city lights that were like small, glowing fireflies at a distance had now become clear beacons of commerce and life. Cars of varying size and make zoomed by while food vendors proclaimed the excellence of their barbecued poultry, and shop retailers the complex quality of their fabric; the night was saturated with the intent to sell. Most in his proximity ignore him, after all what use is a child with no money here? Tired from his travels, the young boy walked slowly across the wide concrete road onto the pedestrian path.
-“Be careful Yaya! If one of these cars hit you you’ll end up looking like yesterday’s goat.”
-“I know, I’m not blind.”
-“Yeah yeah…so where does your pretty thief live?”
-“Whatever, she is a good girl, I’ll show you…Just follow me”
-“When do I not little brother…”
Finally outside the place he was told she lived at, and it looked very different then he’d imagined, the large stone building of modern design was somber and less inviting than he felt it should be. Not letting that peculiarity slow his mission’s progress, he rang the doorbell. Temporarily forgetting his age and place he was oblivious to how this situation looked. Before that knowledge could grace him, the front door opened…a mountain of a man stepped forward into the night-light.
-“Boy, why are you ringing my door bell?
-“Sorry sir, but can I speak Julie?”
-“Who?? Listen I don’t need lost street boys waking me up for no reason! Please go away.”
-“I’m not a street boy, I have a house and it’s nice, we even have a big TV.”
-“What are you talking to me about your TV for? I need to sleep. If you want money go and polish some drunk business man’s shoes”
-“Sorry sir I just want to speak Julie Mokemo, doesn’t she live here? She told me she lives here.” The large man kissed his teeth…scanned him thoroughly and said
-“Boy, I don’t know any Julie, but there is Charlotte Mokemo who runs the house of ndúmbás across the road over there”
-“House of what?”
-“Don’t worry you’ll see when you get there, plus I remember hearing that Charlotte had a daughter so maybe that’s the Julie girl you’re looking for”
-“Ah thank you mister!”
-“Yeah, just make sure you at least wash your muddy hands before you go in their, now go away” Yaya barely hearing the man’s advice rushed across the road to where he had pointed. Directing his older brother to keep up, he arrived at the open door in a pant, still blissfully unaware as only a child can be of how wrong it was to run around a city centre covered in mud stains. He locked onto the first person that looked his way and said.
-“ Excuses me, madame, have you seen Julie Mokemo? I need to ask her something important!”
-“Slow down young one, you can’t speak to a lady like myself without introducing yourself first like a gentlemen.”
-“Sorry, My name’s Yaya and I lost something, and really need to find it. I think Julie might know where it is, can you please get her for me?”
-“Okay, well firstly my name is Genevieve and it’s a pleasure to meet you, even if you look like you just crawled out of a river. Secondly, if you’re referring to my boss’s daughter she obviously isn’t here. This is no place for young ones.”
-“But, I have to find the True Gold or…”
-“True Gold?? What is that?”
-“It’s special gold that has magical powers, it reveals the truth of your heart.” Yaya heard his brother’s voice in the back remark, “So that’s why you wanted to show it to that pretty thief”. Ignoring it he continued his pleas.
-“Madame, please help me find her, she’ll know where it is. The man across the road said that she might be here.”
-“Calm down…What I can do is ask Charlotte too come and see you, in fact we’re not that busy at the moment just go up the stairs into her office. Just don’t get any dirt on the walls!”
-“Okay, thank you”
As the answers to all his questions approached like a stranger in the dark, he hoped they lead him to the truth and thus the forgiveness he ultimately sought. As he ascended the slim creaky stairway, he remembered the door lady’s words and kept himself as far from the walls as three-dimensional flesh and bones allowed. As he reached the first floor he saw Charlotte’s office door in front, and on either side the hallway extended further than his expectations of the building’s capacity. He was pleased to be getting closer to Julie, however loose of a thread that sentiment was. He tried to wipe his hands clean, but the mud has dried and without the softening caress of water would remain so. Giving that up he raised his hands to knock on the door, preparing in his mind what he’d say to Julie’s mother. Just at the moment a familiar voice calls out in a loud shrill from down the left hallway.
-“Yannick!!, what are you doing here??” The boy turned to his left the see an anguished face appear from between a door left slightly a jar. “What are you doing??” The woman ran out grasping her soft lacy gown tightly, grabbed Yaya by the shoulders and shouted at him, “ Why are you so filthy?? Do you know what time it is?? Why are you not at home?! I told my useless brother to watch you!”
-“ Mummy…do you work here? Is this the restaurant? I couldn’t tell, sorry but I came to find Julie.”
-“Charlotte’s daughter?? Why would she be here?? Why are you not at home? Start explaining yourself Yaya, or I’m going to get very angry!”
-“I’m so sorry mummy but I…I accidently took your True Gold, I didn’t mean to and then I think I lost it…” His voice started to quiver like the soft vibrations in the air before a downpour, he used all his strength to hold it back.
-“Accidentally?? Did you take my wedding ring from my room Yaya, and now lose it?! Do you know how much it’s worth??”
-“I know it’s special, you always say…I’m sorry…I will find it!”
-“How will you find it out at night like this?! You can’t even tie your own shoe laces.”
-“That’s why Simon is helping me find it, he came with me, and even helped me dig for it.” The boy’s mother paused, taking several seconds to regain control of her emotions, then knelt down to eye level and with a deep empathy saying quietly”
-“Yannick, are you seeing your brother again? I thought that had stopped?”
-“Why does he have to stop? He’s my brother he’s always with me mummy.”
-“It’s not good…I know how much you loved him, he and your father were my world too…but we have to be strong and move on…they’re not here to help anymore, we can only rely on each other.”
-“But…I like him being here…he’s the only person that plays with me anymore…” Yaya couldn’t hold back the tears anymore…any thought of letting the spirit of his brother go broke his small, fragile heart. Seeing the hands of despair begin to reach across her son’s mud-patched face, she stopped her suggestions. Grabbing his hand passionately his mother stood up.
-“Stop crying Yaya, we’re going to find my ring, ‘C’est du vrais Or’ so we can’t just let it vanish, can we? Yaya looked up at his mother, his tears breaking a path through the dry earth on his face.