She met him in secondary school. He’d transferred from another school to hers. For the better part of junior secondary school years and the first year of senior secondary, they’d exchanged no words between each other.
She admired him a lot, for his humility. From the corner seat towards the back of the class where she normally sat “to herself” troubling no one, nor expecting to be troubled she could see him come early, to take as usual his seat in the front. She’d watch him wipe the blackboard clean with a wet foam before classes, in between classes, and even during class when the teacher needs the board wiped.
They became closer during the penultimate year in school, not intimately but as study partners. She isn’t sure now if she was infatuated with him then, but if he was with her, he didn’t show it. He was businesslike in his approach when she asked, often for explanation of certain topics like “Longitude and Latitude” in maths for instance. Though he couldn’t be said to be a patient teacher, he was however not proud, nor did he appear to flaunt his knowledge while at it.
Throughout the rest of their time together, he never mentioned nor used intimate words towards her, and as with the brilliant third of class, left at the end of school year. She did come back to redo final year, because she fell so ill during regulation time that she missed out on some of the core papers, the rumour mill was agog with news that she must’ve gotten pregnant, or even attempted to abort it. She paid the rumour mongers no heed, she felt bitter though that the one she thought should care was more concerned about acing his papers than bê bothered with her, or her predicament.
She made her papers at second attempt, and secured admission into a Polytechnic. Then out of the blues, the letters started coming, because as fate would have it her younger sister was attending the same medical school with him. He wrote about how he’d always thought about her back in the day, and how that infact he’d found that he was in love with her. She was excited by the letter, as with the ones that came afterwards and the replies she sent. On the outside she tended to tread carefully as one could never tell with these medical students and their wayward ways. She was determined not to allow herself to be carried away by the smoothness of his written words.
Several correspondences later, he paid her a visit in school (her home was out of bounds because her strict Dad wouldn’t have any of such, her classmate who tried the last time will keep what happened to him in his head for life. He stammered for days after the barrage of verbal abuse to which he was subjected). He looked so young, like he’d not aged a bit since they last met, though he’d become a lot darker. The acne he had back in the day must have contributed to his lighter colour back in the day. He must’ve been taking better care of himself now in terms of hygiene than he used to.
He was still his old self, keeping his thoughts largely to himself. He couldn’t bring himself to speak of all the lofty words he inundated her with in his letters. She wondered why this was so. She decided not to make any move if he didn’t. So they talked about sundry things and all that happened since the time they saw each other last. Twas the drabbest of time she’d ever spent with any male, she found him to still be shy, but she put it down to possibility that he might have just come to study her and she felt she must have done enough to thwart his intentions in giving away nothing out of the ordinary.
Soon, he’d run out of words and asked to do the best thing anyone in his position would do, in asking to leave to her great relief. She saw him off, went back to class to pick her things to leave for home. She could never understand why she ever felt there could ever be anything between them in the first place. If this visit was anything to go by, then that was it. NO FUTURE!
It appeared he’d come to survey the grounds on his visit to her school as that was what she could glean from the letter that followed. He wrote about how he wasn’t sure she loved him, and infact thinks she must be seeing another, especially in her class or school. She found that quite amusing, especially coming from someone who had the opportunity to vocalize his feelings yet kept quiet hoping that his letters alone will do the tricks.
She elected not to fire him with the same intensity with which he wrote his last missive, but simply told him she was seeing no one, and that she loved him. He looked like someone still naive in the things pertaining to the heart and she didn’t want to be the one to burst his bubble, and definitely not now. She doused the fire before it became a conflagration.
She agreed to a second meeting, this time at his university campus where she’d gone to see her younger sister. He must’ve told his roommates that she was coming as they simply disappeared once she arrived citing absurd and incredible reasons why they had to leave.
This time though, he was forthcoming. She noticed that his voice faltered a little initially but it stabilized after a while. She wasn’t impressed with the cheap canteen he took her to, but she found it intriguing that he used cutlery for his eating chore ensuring not to touch his food nor plate with his hands or fingers. Even as a food scientist she could never achieve such a feat. On enquiry, he said he came to that decision after touching many cadavers. The food wasn’t drab and his company was better this time as he seemed more relaxed and comfortable in her presence.
Back in his room (with roommates still A.W.O.L) they chatted about trivia. He laid no hands on her, made no attempts or moved in a way to suggest such, though she noticed he had a “hard-on” most of the time. He later saw her off to the bus park, and she left happily for home.
The weeks that followed witnessed a flurry of letters between them. On Christmas of that year, she got a card from him, with a message of love. She was so touched and overwhelmed by the gesture from someone whom she hadn’t even shared a kiss with, talk more had sex with.
That card will be the last thing she would get from him, and the message it contained the last she would hear or read of him for the next twelve years.