Lockdown Story E3: Trampoline

trampoline-club-5

The rain fell softly on his voluminous afro. He stood on the small trampoline in the middle of the colourful garden, fat droplets raced down his tight brown skin over his toes which almost touched the ground through the taut trampoline material. Clive was twenty-two, one point eight meters tall and weighed 85 kilograms. He was one of the youngest financial advisors at a popular firm in the northern suburbs of Johannesburg. The first born in his family, the first to graduate, the first in his family to get a job that did not involving gardening or mining, the first to drive a car that was in his name, the first to own a house, well it was not a traditional house but gated communities had fast become tradition.

The first time he encountered a trampoline was when he was six, he was playing with his friends on a neighbour’s wall; they liked to climb the tall wall to create songs and dances on it, the thrill of the danger of falling down made this play most favourable to him and his friends. One day, while standing on the wall, he saw bodies of boys and girls flying up and down into the sky, he prodded his friends who were caught in song and signalled to them to look in the direction of his dusty finger. The kids at once jumped carelessly off the wall, almost cracking their knees and ran towards the flying bodies. In the middle of a field, where waste was thrown openly by the community, was a steel frame with a black smooth material stretched out at the sides by steel coiled springs. A man with a whip beat the frame and the four children on it would get off and another four would get on. Clive and his friends abandoned the wall from that day and spent their days on the trampoline which cost ten cents for five minutes and so their menial pocket money was invested into this past time.

The rainwater was pooling at his feet and he decided to bounce of the trampoline. He dragged his feet as he walked into the house because his legs ached, his calves were hot and bulging with veins. The walls inside were white and bare, a large flat screen television hung from the ceiling and a beach chair sat in front of it, Clive plodded himself onto it. He switched on the tv and put it on mute. He knew what to expect from the news, the number of Corona viruses would have risen, the channel would show people contravening the law on day three of the lockdown and another politician’s statement would be released. He scratched his afro, hung his head to the side like a willow tree and attempted to read the newscaster’s red lips. The images of soldiers on the streets and the homeless being shuttled away into hotels made him unmute the tv but then he heard a squeak and giggle. He sat up, listened intently and again the sound of a squeak and giggle. He dashed out of his living room into the garden and found a little girl jumping up and down on his trampoline.

“Get off that, it’s not for play!” he shouted but the little girl did not desist.
He walked closer to her and crouched down to her level.
“Listen, you need to get home, it’s raining and you’ll get sick. Are you lost?”
The little girl stopped bouncing on the trampoline. She had an afro just like his, shiny and soft.
“I’m not lost Clive” she answered while putting her shoes on, “and it’s not raining anymore” she chuckled and walked away.
“Wait, how do you know my name?” he asked her but she kept walking towards the wall, climbed up it and then stood at the top before jumping over to the other side.

Clive thought she looked like his little sister before she grew up and decided she wanted to be a boy or neither; Kay was always changing her mind and this confused him, especially with all the jargon her people used like “non-gender conforming” “non-binary” and “queer”. Why would anyone be proud to call themselves queer.
“Like you’re proud to be odd?” he had asked her once.
The child was odd, cute but odd. He considered ringing the neighbours and telling them about the little girl but then he assessed that no damage had been done. The girl must have been bored and wanted to jump on his trampoline except it was for exercising and he was strict about using equipment solely for their function. The trampoline was for building his calves and strengthening his legs, if the girl returned, he would inform her and return her back to her parents.

He missed Kay, he missed how she could keep quiet for a whole week, how she seemed to know everything about everything and her sense of humour which was unparalleled, witty and dark. Kay’s jokes required a degree of intimacy with her to be fully understood. He was the one who introduced her to the trampoline when they were younger. He was the leader of his friend’s group and was adamant about girls and boys playing separately, but he noticed how on a particular day Kay seemed bored, that not even her books seemed to entertain her. He knew that his friends would not fight him if she brought her along to their play because he kept the collected money for the trampoline trips. Kay was excited when Clive invited her out with him and she wore her favourite green shorts and his jersey; she liked how it hung loosely over her body. Clive did not mind the sharing of his clothes but they both knew that they had to hide it from their mother who had beat Kay senseless the day she found her wearing his tracksuits. He did not fully understand Kay but he vowed from that day on to protect her from anyone including his mother. They both made sure that their mother had gone out before sneaking off to the trampoline. That was the day he remembered seeing Kay laugh the most, she did not normally play with the other girls, she was always on the sofa reading or up the apricot tree with Neli but on that day it was just her and Clive on the trampoline. Clive, seeing how happy she was, had paid extra so that it was just the two of them bouncing up and down into the sunset.

The more the years passed the more different and broodier Kay became. Neli’s sudden absence deepened the dark plunge and he did not have the vocabulary to probe further or the emotional intelligence to mitigate the silence she had fallen into after she came out as transgender. He thought of calling her but their phone calls usually ended abruptly because of her insistence that she was busy which was untrue because she resigned from work after coming out. He would offer to send her money but she refused it.

He thought of the township that birthed him; he and Kay had vowed never to return to the impoverished place that caused their mother to wake up before dawn and come back from work in the evening fatigued and irritable. Kay had something to return to, he knew what it was or rather who it was but for him there was nothing; some of his friends had died in high school from criminal activities, others were selling drugs while running brothels, and others were simply unemployed and destructive. He planned to go down to the beach and video call Kay; he could fly her up to his house but he would not visit because he could not return to the place that swallowed young black men whole. There were eighteen days left, he was certain that the national lockdown would be extended because the virus was spreading like a wildfire, nonetheless he was optimistic, he returned to the beach chair and watched the news on mute.

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