There was a eucalyptus tree behind the watchman’s cabin at one entrance to the school. I used that entrance more than any other because I was dropped there my father in the mornings and took a private bus home in the afternoons. For that reason, it was more special to me than other paths. I walked in through it long before the most children came. A whole school, its paths, trees, chalks and blackboards at my disposal.
In winter, the tree sprouted new leaves which were transparent and red. When the evening sun shone through them, they looked gold. I learnt what that tree was and would tear off leaves to crush and smell. Amazed each time. I couldn’t pluck them when they were gold.
I remember standing one day after school on the path that sloped towards that gate. It was during exams, which meant that school ended early but the buses came at the usual time, giving us a cherished hour or 45 minutes to play in the chill. The best time of the year.
I was stopped in my tracks by the pressure of the moment. It was one of those times you can feel a memory being made. A memory that will stab your heart — two, 10 or forty years later.
The noise of children in the playgrounds on the left and right, who have no use for sweaters. Groups of friends stumbling out of classes, laughing, crouching against the wind, discussing the papers. Older girls parading, watching the boys shoot hoops. Boys shooting hoops and exaggerating their disappointment for the girls.
Me in the centre in my white jacket with brush splats of purple and pink. Breeze on my 10-year-old calves. The tree glowing. Anticipating the flavour of the Hit biscuits in my backpack. Sad that the moment would be gone as soon as I moved.