Weekdays were, of course, about what our parents wanted. Studies, doing chores, doing chores while studying. Basically, all the things kids at nine disliked. But Saturdays were ours. Time to finally think and plan for ourselves. And Bibare was big enough for our thoughts.
None of us had witnessed real challenges or tragedy as our parents, so when it came to thinking about our dreams, we were very optimistic and determined. But as it would not surprise us even at our young age, the hands that fed us needed to remind us of the unrealism of our dreams. “You will not always be what you want,” Thierry’s dad would say.
But despite our parents’ morbid TED talks, we were never discouraged. Tommy had watched James Bond four consecutive times and had convinced himself he would be a spy when he grew up, despite having his mother turn his dreams into her sweet opening story when welcoming guests as a form of breaking the ice.
Marc, the oldest in the group, was a juggernaut on the ball. With swift legs and quick reflexes. He dreamt of becoming the next Ronaldinho on the court, but he sat with us last Tuesday to watch the actual next Ronaldinho on TV.
Rose was the better version of us all. Clever and yet tender despite being the youngest of the group, she wanted to be a dancer, a ballerina of all sorts. She is still waiting for the industry to travel overseas.
The rest of us hadn’t yet figured out what we wanted to be. We just knew profoundly in our hearts that we wanted to go someplace far. Far from home, far from our parents.
On most weekdays, after school, we would all gather in the playground to regroup before heading home. We would wait until the last of us six was there, then take the same long walks down the terrains of Rwahama, pass through the fences of Mr Roger’s farm to pick some fruits that we’d, of course, be stealing. And whether we would get caught or chased down by dogs, those were our precious moments when the world seemed so far away, and no one was in control.
On one afternoon when the weather was too cold for us to pick mangoes from Mr Roger’s trees, Thierry, who always looked philosophical to me, finally knew what he wanted to be with all his heart and soul. And no, it wasn’t remotely related to being a doctor or an astronaut, or even as banal as it can be, a director of a chocolate factory. Thierry dreamed of plainly and unambiguously ‘being understood’.
“Whoa,” everyone exclaimed. No one else had gone to such lengths to dream something that even we found unrealistic. Nothing else mattered if there was no wealth involved.
“What made you think of it?” Rose asked a minute later. Thierry told us how he first wanted to create puzzles and crosswords for a newspaper company because his father loved them a lot. “I had just finished last week’s crosswords that dada had forgotten to do and realized it would be amazing creating such things,” he said. However, before he could even launch the topic at the dinner table the previous night, his father shushed him, ordered him to finish his food fast, and continued discussing his political analysis on the then-current democratic status of Uganda.
Even the long teary stare towards his mother didn’t amount to anything. Not like it used to at least. So, when he laid on his bed that night, the only thing he wanted and wished so dearly was to be listened to and understood. To the matters of how he would achieve this new and seemingly here-to-stay dream, Thierry had no clue whatsoever, but he knew this time around, he would not tell a soul until fulfilled.
Our minds were baffled so much that no one said anything else for the rest of the walk. Everyone was reconsidering their dreams and wondering if maybe, just maybe, we could be more ambitious. All we’d ever thought about when it came to the future remained on the coast of simply getting jobs.
That night, after finishing my homework and Mom tired on the couch, I murmured, “Thierry told us his new dream today”. I turned towards her, “he wanted to be appreciated.” At that moment, Mom put on the same face she usually had when we asked for money, stared at me so long I forgot what I’d told her, then walked away. I didn’t know what had just happened, but my best guess was in all the declarations of dreams one could have as a kid, needing to be acknowledged is by far the most unanticipated and unchildish of them all.
It simply speaks to many people in the world. For, when you’re young, all there is to wish for is blatantly materialistic, whereas when you’re grown up, the magic resides in the heart, and feeling like you matter to someone or something is the real gold. That was the truth Thierry had uncovered. A truth so truthful, all truths in the world were mere mirages compared to it.
A week later, on our usual Saturday meet up and strolls around town, Sandy, my next-door neighbour and a calm girl at the time, brought a painting she had done with her auntie to show us. It was a colourful drawing of a woman’s head, with sprayed black and dark hair that stood up by itself. Everything around the head was glowing brighter as it reached the edges.
“I told my aunt your dream, and we made this to show you,” Sandy told us, glancing directly at Thierry. “It represents a woman who’s fully…” Sandy couldn’t remember the remaining description of the drawing. So, we were content on simply gazing at it until our eyes hurt. No one understood anything about the painting, but we all thought it had something to do with putting our emotional goals over worldly goods when drafting our dreams from then on.
When we got to sit down after our little stroll in the Kimironko market, I thought of something. “What if we are not supposed to have it all figured out by now? What if we can only dream of what we want to feel when we grow up but don’t need to know what we’ll do to feel like that?” Everyone looked at me like I had cracked the safe of the richest man in the world.
“That would explain why our parents never became what they wanted to be as kids,” Rose remarked. We all stared at one another and, for a long hour, argued and disputed whether that was true. No one came out a winner. Nevertheless, we all had an understanding that having dreams should not simply be about getting jobs but about what those jobs should accomplish in our lives.
Sitting right there all together seemed like a movie, except Tommy wasn’t Bond yet.
It turned out that what Tommy really wanted was to feel special. So, he now lives in the same five-star hotel he designed in the middle of downtown Kigali.
Rose, while waiting for her ballerina career to kick-off, became a world traveller. She needed to move and feel the breeze.
Marc did love football, but unfortunately, ended up being drafted into the national volleyball team. But on Saturdays, he plays his favourite sport because that’s when no one else’s opinion matters but his.
Sandy became a famous painter and digital artist whom we occasionally see on TV and YouTube.
And Thierry, old Thierry, died of an overdose.
We were never in the same room together again after primary school. Maybe two or three out of the bunch would make it to the so-called reunions. But never everybody. Especially, when the man who shaped our dreams suddenly wasn’t around anymore.
I guess we don’t always get what we want in life. Maybe we wanted to go someplace far away. Even from each other.