When I was a young boy in South Africa I had a friend by the name of Patrick. We were together at a preliminary school in one of those small towns in the Cape Province.
Patrick was not an ordinary boy. He was adopted and did not have much of a family, therefore, he spent most of his weekends with his school friends and many a time with us, because my mother liked him and she often said that he needed a lot of love. I wasn’t sure what she had meant by it until one day when Patrick started a fight by throwing sand at me. I screamed and my mother ran out demanding an explanation.
“My Mum and Dad are getting divorced,” he shouted and then he broke down and cried. “Then you’ll be sent back to the orphanage, isn’t it?” I asked him cruelly and Patrick cried ever harder.
Fortunately, Patrick was not sent away. He remained with his father. As his father was often away on business, Patrick was looked after by a house keeper.
We were growing up and we were fighting more and more as we had different characters. Patrick was weird, he never liked sports such as cricket and rugby in which I excelled, but he was excellent at maths and reading. Still, we remained close and I thought that we shared all of our secrets together, until one day...
That day I went to visit him as I needed his help with some homework. He was not in but the housekeeper said that I could wait for him. I walked into his room which I seldom visited and I looked curiously around. Everything was spick and span except for the bulging book shelves. Behind the shelves, right in the corner of the room I spotted something new. There was some sort of a table on bricks which was covered with a white cloth. I saw some candles and an incense stick on it, as well as a doll like figurine dressed up in some gold stuff. I giggled to myself picking up the doll and examining it closer, but then the housekeeper walked in and seeing me with the doll had shouted at me not to touch it because it was Patrick’s Modimo. I put it down in a hurry and walked out of the house feeling annoyed with Patrick for playing with dolls and keeping me out of this game.
From that day on our friendship cooled down. I kept teasing him and told him that he behaved like a baby, and that it was time to grow up. However, in spite of my provocations he had never shared his secret game with me. In any case, a year later I left the school as my father was transferred to another town and I lost touch with Patrick.
From time to time I heard about him from some old acquaintances. He wrote his matriculation examination and got five distinctions and then he went to the university to study further. As the years rolled on he had slowly faded off my memory until one day, nearly twenty years later. Often in life when one thinks about somebody in the past, that person suddenly materialises in your life.
I was busy moving house and sorting through my old photographs and papers. There were some pictures of myself and Patrick showing two naughty boys glaring at the camera and making
funny faces. The photo was yellow with age and I thought of Patrick and our happy young days together. To my disbelief my mother phoned me the next day. Patrick was in the country and he wanted to get in touch with me.
I was a little apprehensive of his visit. I had not much achieved during the last twenty years and there was not much to boast about. I had one failed marriage and some debts with the bank, while Patrick, I presumed, was now a respectable professor or a scientist at some Higher Institute of Learning, loaded with honours and cash.
The man who knocked at my door was fortunately none of my worst expectations. He was still the old Patrick, happy to see me and eager to refresh our friendship. We talked and laughed and naturally remembered our younger days. We got on splendidly, so well in fact that I did not even mind to share my latest problems with him; I really felt good in his company.
“I thought that you were such a weird boy,” I laughed. “Remember how I used to tease you about your little secret, I was jealous because you wouldn’t share it with me. What was the name of that little doll you used to play with?”
“Modimo,” Patrick smiled his radiant smile. “My ancestors gave Him that name. It means GOD in Sotho. I still have Him, but these days I carry Him in my heart. There is a saying:
‘Be still and know that I am God.’ I recommend it to everybody who needs help.”
I felt strangely embarrassed by his disclosure, as if he had said something which should not be treated lightly. It was easier for me to change the subject so we talked about other people and happenings in his life and mine.
After he left I pondered about Patrick and his little secret. Finally, I came to conclusion that in some way he had remained as weird as before.