03 7 / 2012
All of a sudden, there was a lump in my throat.
Tears gathered in my eyes as I watched Tomi cry, threatening to reveal the turmoil I felt inside. I swallowed hard as I fought the urge to put my arm around her shoulders and comfort her. I dug my fingers into the back of my chair till they hurt, willing myself to remain seated. It was better to let her cry, to leave her to settle this on her own.
It hurt me even deeper to see her hurt so. The sight of tears wracking her body, throwing her lean frame to and fro like a leaf before the wind, would haunt me for years to come. The sound of her crying would wake me from my sleep, stabbing at my heart in an endless rhetoric: “What If?”
I met her my first day on campus, November 28 2006. I was sitting in Spices, drinking Coke while I waited for my food. It was half an hour since I placed my order, and I was becoming angry at being kept waiting. I stood up to ask the waiter what the issue was, and then I saw her. She had beautiful hair, neatly combed and fit into a loose bun that bounced with her every step. She had dancing eyes, here this moment and there the next, leading you on and on till you fell under her trance. Her voice had a singsong quality: strong, yet alluring. She was beautiful. I sat down again.
She asked if she could sit with me. I mumbled something unintelligent in response. I was lost already. She tried to make small talk. I stammered incoherently. I had not beheld such beauty so closely before. I was suddenly clumsy. I spilled my drink. I set the glass down hastily. She reached over and steadied it. Our fingers brushed for a brief second. It was done. I was taken.
The meal passed in a blur. I offered to walk her to her hostel. She laughed, deeply, throwing her head back and swaying her neck from side to side before responding that I needed no permission. I swear there was a twinkle in her eyes when she said that. I walked with her to Mozambique. We sat at the bus-stop and talked for an hour. When she stood to leave, I offered my hand for a shake – hoping to feel the velvet of her touch again. She brushed it aside, and hugged me instead. I almost died.
We became best friends, inseparable. We would walk to class together, sit together, and return together. I attended classes for courses I was not registered for – just so I could be with her. I joined the fellowship of her choice against the will of my friends. I spent my breaks with my Aunt in Lagos so I could visit her at home every day. We would talk about her plans for the future, argue about how many children she should have, and plan her vacations ten years ahead. Friends and family referred to us as ‘5’ and ‘6’, and most of our acquaintances assumed, wrongly, that we were in a relationship. This went on for three years.
Then I asked her to be my girlfriend.
She pretended not to hear the first time. I waited a week, and asked again. We were sitting at the Sports Main-bowl. We had gone there to pray, but somehow her head had ended up on my laps – my arms around her as I said the words. She laughed, rocking from side to side within my embrace – and said: “We are best friends. Is that not enough?”
I pressed harder, but she would not budge. I tried every trick in the book. I sent her flowers. I read her poems that seemed to bore her to death. I bought her Fossil watches and Louis Vuitton bags. I told her how much I loved her. I told her it was not enough to be best friends: that I wanted to grow old with her; I wanted to die lying in her arms; I wanted to share everything with her. And she would just smile. This went on for a year.
I became confused. She would not say a yes, or a no. I was lost. I had been so certain all I needed to do to ‘formalize’ our relationship was just ask. Now, I had become the laughingstock of my friends. After all, how many guys ‘chased’ a girl for four years? I prayed. I sang. I fasted. I thought. I dyed my hair. I got a new perfume. I changed bathing soaps. Nothing changed; well, maybe something did – my grades fell, alongside my self-confidence.
And then I met Sayo…
written by: Koye ‘Gbeke