It’s only Leo

2012-10-15 00:00

IT had been one of those days in Hilton: misty and miserable in the morning, scorching and serene in the afternoon. It hadn’t been a particularly consistent week either. With detention scares and stunning test marks, this particular Thursday fitted perfectly into a series of erratic days. It started off with the best lessons, gradually declining into an agony of the most hated subjects. There was no change to the regular Thursday meetings or the brilliant premeditated excuse for skipping sport practice. Up until 4.45 pm, this Thursday had been a normal day in the week of a high school girl.

And, like any other school day, it was impossible to get my mind to focus on one particular thing. My mind swung from Syria to Lady Gaga to Julius Malema to Leo. Leo. I brooded over how he’d been following me more often than usual lately, friendly dog that he is. Leo is part of the school community. He lives and almost works with the girls of the college. His faded white fur, verging on cream-coloured, on his small Maltese-cross-spaniel body looks like the foam on really well-made coffee and his silent paws are no bigger than the circle formed by my thumb and my index finger.

Now that I thought about it, I had seen Leo in every lesson today. He had rebelliously snuck in and stretched out his neck for a good scratch. Due to Leo’s obsession with soil and running through shrubs, a pat on the head would have sufficed as contact between him and me. However, for some inexplicable reason, I had tussled and ruffled the little dog’s fur all day, almost automatically. I pushed Leo out of my mind and decided to go for a run, just when the sun was beginning to set.

An inviting silence hung in the air like a jar waiting to be filled. I had no desire to listen to my thoughts, so I replaced them with the inescapable noise of my iPod. It was early March and the leaves were asserting their role in nature, leaving their mark everywhere. The sky looked like a MasterChef creation, with layers and layers of sweet colours: first the orange, then the red fading into purple and then the blue — all assembled like a heavenly dessert. As my running shoes thudded heavily against African soil, my mind slowly dissolved all the day’s anxieties. It was me and the breeze, left in intimate solitude.

Twenty minutes into the blissful burn of my run, I decided to take a detour through the forbidden part of the school property. My mind had entered an out-of-body experience and the adrenaline made me believe that I could soar over oceans. The rebellion level was high. As I cantered carefully in to my forbidden Eden, I noticed a tiny movement at my heels. Being raised in a typically Sesotho home where jumping and screaming become the automatic reaction to every fear, the home-bred instinct kicked in.

Preparing myself for the worst of the worst — either a swamp snake or a rodent — I shrieked with passion and fear. I gyrated. It was only Leo. His composed face stared at me. I stared back at him. There we three were: me, the breeze and Leo. The only one communicating was the breeze, softly whispering about the tension in the air. I walked to Leo tactfully. He let me tickle his neck and the outer part of his ears. His fur felt like an old but well-kept rug of the best quality. I knelt beside him and he rolled over for a tummy-tickle. He was so eager to receive and give love it seemed ethereal. I didn’t need Leo to bark or sniff to show how content he was. He closed his brown eyes and wiggled in joy and I knelt there, staring at him in sheer admiration.

Before I knew it, the sun had disappeared. I gave up on the run and trotted back with Leo to civilisation. We walked side-by-side like comrades from battle. I, feeling like the undisputed hero, and Leo looking like the noble steed. Suddenly, the harboured loneliness and the pseudo-confidence that acted as companions in boarding school were replaced by something inexplicable. Leo removed me from the painful masquerade ball that was my normal routine. It was as if Leo had given me a gift and I hadn’t even had to prove my worthiness to receive it. His act of accepting me just as I was at that moment was the greatest act of friendship I had ever experienced and I adored him for it. When I got back to my room, I felt blissful and liberated. Why, I wondered? It was only Leo.

About the writer:

Tsepiso Secker comes from Lesotho and is in matric at St Anne’s Diocesan College. ‘I consider myself a global citizen as I thrive by being surrounded by people and ideas that challenge me, alongside a growing passion for great satirists. My thirst for knowledge overrides all and I hope that this will enable me to change the face of economics someday.’

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