The first time I tasted Milo I was nine years old in Standard 2. On our way back home from school, someone came up with the idea that we should go to Dipuo’s mother’s house. It was a tiny shack- a one bedroomed place with a neat little kitchen that had a table in the center with three wooden chairs surrounding it. The shack had a faded, once blue paint on its exterior- parched and now almost off white owing to the unrelenting heat of our village, Phokeng- or maybe just owing to the bad quality of the paint. Either way, if you forgot and leaned against it, your mother would remind you, with a thin stick against your scrawny legs, of how her hands are those of a human being- and not of machines that can wash, everyday, your school uniform as-if-you-are-a-CHA-E-L-D! Are you a small child, Refentse? A question you had to be very careful about when answering.
The kitchen was always kept clean – neat in every aspect. The teaspoons were at their rightful place and the carpet, the brown carpet (which still retained its mustard colour in some corners) acted as floor tiling and had merged with the brown of the earth so that you always needed to lace the kitchen with droplets of water if you wanted to sweep the floors.
We were coming back from school and instead of going home we all congregated inside Dipuo’s mother’s kitchen.
To say we turned the place upside down is to undervalue the ruthlessness of our actions. There might have been about six or more of us in the small house- touching this and that, asking what is this? oh you eat it? what does it taste like? oh you drink it too? with hot or cold water? Show me. Let me taste that again. Really? Let me taste it again without the water. Now let me taste it with the water, add a little bit of sugar, won’t you. Wow, this is incredible. When we were afraid to finish the Milo completely, we did other things we would never have done at our own homes.
When it’s about to rain, you have to hold a handful of rough salt into your right hand, stand on the doorway, facing outwards and toss the salt upwards and backwards so that it lands on the roof and makes a shhaaaaa sound as it crashes against the corrugated iron. I see some clouds gathering, we better do this to stop the rain.
Let me try that too- I also want to do it- give others a chance, you’ve already done yours- no don’t finish all the salt, I haven’t gotten a chance, now you’re spilling it everywhere- I’m next…
It never did rain that day, thanks to our efforts. Dipuo and her sister, we heard the next day, were beaten up by their mother to an almost unrecognisable pulp for all the crimes committed. We never went to Dipuo’s mother’s house again after that -it was a permanent ban. I never felt any kind of remorse though and I accepted, deep down in my heart that our friendship was all worth that Milo.