Some would say I had the dream childhood: a giant backyard, a room with my own television, a personal jungle gym and an entire play-room piled high with toys. My favourite toy was a phosphorescent pink Barbie radio that was accompanied by 2 plastic CDs the size of my 8-year old fist. They didn’t play any music but I felt very grown-up slipping them into the retractable CD-holder, built into the side of the radio-shaped plastic, and singing as if my voice was the one etched onto the discs. You can imagine my heartbreak when one Saturday morning I awoke to find my prized possession missing.
My best friend, David, lived across the garden from me on the same property but in a much smaller house made of wood. He didn’t have many toys but I always thought his handmade doll, a bundle of hay tied with rope, was perfect for a game of make-believe. Instead of a television in his room he had a collection of shiny rocks and twisty sticks that he would arrange to make pictures. David was allowed to walk to school by himself while my mom would force me into the car each morning – I envied that. In fact, I was jealous of a lot of what David could do. He was allowed to cook while his mom was at work. He was allowed to eat buttered toast every day for dinner. He was friends with all the kids at his school. In fact, he even told me that one of his friends bought him a phosphorescent pink Barbie radio accompanied by 2 CDs the size of his 8 year old fist.
Arriving home from school one Tuesday afternoon I was met with a hollow scream emanating from David’s wooden house. Curiosity possessed me and suddenly I found myself approaching his door. With each step new sounds came to fruition. First, the sound of a leather whip being thrown against concrete. Then, the familiar voice of David’s father, full of deep rage. Finally, helpless sobbing. My trance was interrupted by my mother who quickly snatched me by the arm and pulled me across the garden.
I entered my bedroom, mind spinning with upset. Who was the owner of those hopeless cries? All of a sudden my question was answered when my father appeared in the doorway holding a phosphorescent pink Barbie radio accompanied by two plastic CDs the size of my 8 year old fist. “Look what David’s dad found!”, he beamed.
What I neglected to mention earlier is how David and I met. David walked into my life and onto my family’s property when his mother was employed to clean our house. David didn’t have a home so my dad built them one out of wood and it stood across the garden. I envied David and his freedom but the truth was that he never got a chance to be a child like I had. His mother needed to work and so he needed to walk himself to school. He needed to cook for himself every night or he would go hungry. They couldn’t afford much more than toast and butter. David stole my pink phosphorescent Barbie radio accompanied by two plastic CDs the size of my 8 year old fist because he never had a real toy before.
Once I realised the cause of the shouts, I decided to take my newly-returned toy out into the garden. I sat with it next to me on the grass, under a pawpaw tree. In the distance I saw David sitting with his face tucked tightly away in his lap. I couldn’t find the courage to approach him. After an hour of sitting uselessly, watching him sob, I returned to my room.
I saw my best friend David later that day with the slightest smile on his tear stained face – perhaps he found the plastic CD I left under the Pawpaw tree and knew that I had left it there for him.