Balozi, December 2018.

It is dusk again at house 77. The broad leaves of banana trees are peeking over the hedge like nosy relatives. The laundry line is sagging with towels I accidentally left in the rain last night. Neighbour kids are playing in the street and their voices are gathering from every direction, oozing into the yard from the passageways between walls and windows and hedges.

I am amazed by the change twelve years has carved into this neighbourhood. When my family first moved here, we were one of the only built houses, settled in a magnificent jungle of concrete and glass and dirt. My older sisters and I ran free among the blocks of cement and repurposed every home into a hideout, a secret spy base. The house in the corner was our headquarters. In its unfinished living room, we assembled fragments of broken tile, glass windows, cigarette butts and abandoned paraphernalia from the construction workers. They were our treasure, our ammunition, our sacred whatever that we had to keep safe from our invisible adversaries. I remember how impressive I felt, climbing through jagged holes in chicken-wire fencing, crossing rickety boards, and jumping through open windows, outfitted with “spy gear” and a scrawled out map of the neighbourhood. My sisters and I would wander the streets like ninjas, like vagabonds, bearing regal staffs of twisted metal.

Now I’ve returned to the neighbourhood as a guest, and the skeleton clubhouses have evolved into gated homes. An ibis calls overhead and the 6:30 mosquitos usher me inside. I’ve put the kettle on to boil. I am alone in the house.

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