It was a Saturday, with the sweltering sun mercilessly unleashing its fury. The unbearable heat made me sit on the balcony of our duplex to savour the pages of Kristin Hannah’s Nightingale while I sip a bottle of cold Coke.
Our house, like many others in my neigbourhood, was a beautiful duplex shaded by a fence and two white gates flanked by tiles walls. The worth of our gates and fence would comfortably build an apartment in the slums of Jos. The floor of the compound was covered with interlocks and a small part beside the house had rose and hibiscus flowers.
My elevated position on the balcony gave me a view of what was going on outside our gate and even passersby — which were usually few. As if prodded by a phantom finger, I raised my head from the book I was engrossed in time to see a lone figure walked past our gate. I paused for a few seconds to really drink in the sight of what I just saw. It stunned me in the happiest of ways that after several years, I had just set my eyes on him.
No, it couldn’t be him. Of course, the face looked familiar. Not just the face, but his slow gait, too. I would have spotted him even in the dark. Why wouldn’t I? Not when I had crushed on him until he graduated from school. It took me several months after he left before I finally got over him.
Let me start from the beginning so that you will have a clearer picture of it all…
We were staying in Abuja before my father decided to move his business to Jos. I was transferred from the secondary school I was attending back then in Abuja to another school in Jos — a boarding.
On my first day in school, during the assembly, the head prefect came up to pass announcement, and that was it. I discovered within the split second it took to lift my little finger that I was smitten. It was not about his looks. He wouldn’t be called handsome by all standards.
What struck me was his diction, the fact that he had an amazing command of the English Language that sent my mind reeling in all directions. Just a sentence from him and I knew he was intelligent and his words sounded like music to my ears.
You can call it crush, if you like, but right from that day, I saw Datong in my dreams and on the pages of the books I read. I would deliberately position myself where he will take notice of me. I guess he had seen me several times.
One day, I sighted him coming several steps from where I was standing and deliberately plotted it in a way that the books I was holding fell right in his front. He proved to be not only intelligent, but chivalrous. He stooped to help me pick every book, even though he was the head prefect, while I was merely a Senior Secondary (SS) 1 student.
“Oh, dear! I’m sorry,” he said as he helped me pick my books that were strewn on the ground.
“Thank you, senior,” I said smiling and secretly enjoying the moment of having him that close. So close that I caught a whiff of the chocolate-like fragrance of the cologne he had on him.
“Are you a new student?” he inquired.
“Yes. I resumed last Monday,” I replied.
Oh…That was a week ago. From which school?
“Madonna Secondary School, Abuja.”
“That’s good. You should be with the other students having breakfast and not to be seen loitering.”
“I am not hungry,” I lied smoothly.
The truth was, I was hungry, but I knew he would be around there and needed just to have an encounter with him. I was hoping it would make him come close to me and in my childish mind, imagined he would ask me out and we will live happily ever. Don’t blame me; it was too much romance novels at work.
“What’s your name?
“Tata,” I replied.”
“Funny name. Tata, a week is long enough for you to know that it’s against the school rule for you to be anywhere, but the dining hall at this time of the day even when you are not hungry,” he admonished in a matter-of-fact tone.
What he didn’t know was that I had taken the bull by the horn and delayed going for breakfast just so this scene will play out the way it was playing at that moment.
“I’m sorry, senior,” I said as I hugged my books and made my way to the dining hall to eat my breakfast of tea, bread, and boiled egg.
A few days after that first encounter, I tried to get him to notice me again.
It was a labour day — a day when general cleaning was done in the school — and my class was assigned to weed the school garden. We were busy at work when I noticed senior Datong chatting heartily with two other prefects not too far from where we were working. I decided to play a fast one. My acting skills came to the fore, and I feigned fainting.
I laid still while my classmates, Datong, and the other perfect rushed to where I laid on the lawn. They immediately took me to the school clinic to be administered first aid. It was apparently my lucky day — Datong followed me to the clinic! At least I had him close for some minutes before I “was revived” and was later discharged from the school clinic.
As the days flew by, l saw little Datong. He was preparing for his final exams — West African Examination Council (WAEC) — and was knee-deep in his studies. Barely a month after I resumed, WAEC was over and he had left. I was heartbroken when he handed over to an acting senior prefect and had graduated.
I couldn’t believe that I have just seen Datong in my neigbourhood. It’s been seven years since he graduated and left me to wallow in the grief of his leaving the school. Just seeing him again had rekindled the crush I thought was dead and buried.
I didn’t know if he was going to return, but I had the hunch that he would. I patiently waited for his return. I galloped downstairs when I saw him coming from a distance barely 30 minutes after he passed the first time. I hid behind our gate and slipped out when he passed. I followed him at a distance and saw him entered the apartment three gates from ours.
I kept monitoring him and found out that his family was a new occupant of the house. I then started scheming on how to meet him face to face and invite him for a date.
Fortunately, I was standing outside our gate one evening when I saw him approaching. I waited until he got close enough, then I greeted him with one of my charming smiles and waved at him. He smiled and waved back. My heart flipped several times, and I felt the proverbial butterflies in my stomach.
I had carefully mastered the time he passed in the evening, obviously back from school or work. I approached him one day. “Hello Datong,” I greeted him when he was close enough to hear me.
He was visibly taken aback that I knew his name. I was equally taken aback that he didn’t recognize me. IT then hit me like a flash of lightning that he only waved at me the other day out of courtesy and not because he remembered meeting me.
“Hello…” he stuttered
“Wait, I take it you don’t remember me again, right?” I asked when my frustration was threatening to come to the surface.
“Of course, I remember you. I know you live here and our paths have crossed like twice, if I remember correctly,” he said.
“I’m not talking about that. We have met before, Datong. You were the head prefect of Mentoring College. Do you remember Tata? You were my senior in school.” I tried to jog his memory.
“Oh! I am sorry. The funny name,” he said while beaming, his perfect dentition glittering in the sunlight.
“You once helped me packed my books from the ground when I bumped into you.”
“I think I remember now.”
Well, that didn’t discourage me from inviting him to the date I had deliberately planned for several weeks.
It thrilled him that I could be that forward to invite him out. He never thoughts a woman could invite a man on a date and that gesture piqued his interest. That became the beginning of several other dinners to follow.
After several years of dating, it morphed into courting, and, yes, he willingly gave me his surname.
Can you beat that!
Roselyn Sho – Olajide works with an Audit Firm in Jos, Plateau State. She loves reading and writing and can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org