That first time we had sex was the only time we did before I gained my admission into the University. I pointedly avoided any intimate or sexual interaction with Chinyere after that afternoon. It wasn’t like I wouldn’t have wanted a repeat performance, but I was scared. Scared of what that repeat performance will do to me. Up to that point, girls were not on my agenda. At least not in the sense of where I and Chinyere had been. And knowing that school will be full of them, I needed to brace myself against future temptation. I was not cut out for girls.
My admission was a welcome relief and a much wanted escape route from another inevitable sexual encounter, which to my mind may snowball into something unstoppable. Plus, I was still fighting an inner war as to my sexual orientation. Yes, I recognized it for what it was – I recognized myself for what I was. The more reason I need to tread softly. Higher institution is definitely not like me cooped up in my room wanking away.
While I tried my best to cut a disinterested exterior, Chinyere was more matured about the entire situation. I was positive she knew what I was trying to do, but she never complained and she never threw herself at me. She came around as usual, sometimes bringing some little presents – biscuits, fruits, even a couple of Complete Soccer newspapers; we would sit for hours and talk. But this time, she did most of the listening. Allowing me to fill the vacuum of silence that would have been very awkward in the circumstance, with the sound of my voice. I told her loads of things…my dreams, my fears, my immediate problems with WAEC and JAMB. Everything and anything to fill the time and take our minds off any discussion intimate or sexual.
So, when I finally sorted out my admission it was a relief for me. At least for a while I could be out of the sphere of her presence. I could try and lay time and space between us. Maybe then she would forget about me. Or I about her.
She came on the eve of my departure for school. She looked lovely in her usual casual way. She rarely spots make-up and is always looking lovely in her variety of jeans pants, which she alternates with cheap but very nice tops.
That day it had been a blue turtleneck sweater and a blue cap with the Nike Logo prominent in the front to match. She had come in the early afternoon, and judging from the black bag she had dropped by the side of the door when she came in she was on her way back from the market.
Silently, she walked in and planted a peck on my cheek. It was the only show of intimate affection which she had shown to me in the two weeks since we had sex. I had not permitted more. Not even a hug. She understood and never pressed.
“How you dey?” She asked me as she sat down and made herself comfortable.
“Fine. You nko?” I asked her, noticing she had hidden her hands behind her back.
” I just dey come form market. The sun ehn! But, I am alright. At least I believe so.”
I understood her veiled message. I knew in my heart I was going to miss her too.
” I am going to really miss you. I don’t know I am going to cope or if I can sef, time will tell sha.”
“Don’t worry. We can always write each other.”
She sighed. She didn’t venture her acceptance of my solution or disagreement to it. She just sat quietly, looking straight at me. I could feel her probing look. She was trying to judge how I was going to handle the separation. At last she had smiled, it was a bright smile.
I smiled back at her. I knew my eyes had betrayed what my mouth had refused to say. And she had seen it, she had recognized it.
“I brought something for you,” She announced excitedly beginning to remove her hands from where she hid them at her back.
“What is it?”
” Before I give it to you, promise me two things,” she returned the hands behind her back. Waiting to extract my promise before revealing what she was hiding.
“Okay,” I was beginning to fear for the worst. She might ask me for what I had been running away from for the past two weeks. A valedictory present. The kind I was determined not to give, even though I was not sure if I could hold on much longer to that willpower.
” One, that you will accept my gift without question; and two, that you will not open it now.”
I sighed with relieve. Those were easy conditions to meet.
” Okay, I promise.”
She handed me a parcel and told me not to open it until I was in school. She then hugged me and left. She avoided my eyes as she left, but I noticed the beads of tears welled up under her eye lashes.
I kept my promise. I didn’t open the parcel when she left or the next day either. I kept it safe at the bottom of my traveling bag.
All through my three-hour trip to school, I was silent. Only answering my dad’s questions with a cursory nod and a few mumbled words.
“Leave him alone honey. I think he must be thinking how school life will be like,is that not?” my mom asked.
I just sat quietly looking out the window at the fast rushing greenery as our car sped past other cars on the Lagos-Ibadan expressway.
” Don’t worry. All is taken care of and remember, if you need anything just call or write,” My dad had said in turn. It must be the umpteenth time he was repeating that same instruction.
“Okay.” I didn’t offer more.
After a few moments, mom had turned away to continue her whispered conversations with my dad. I was glad they left me alone to brood over the future alone in the back seat. I couldn’t wait to tear open the parcel and see what gift Chinyere had left me. I was as anxious as a young boy who had been left a wrapped box at the foot of the lighted Christmas tree.
There had been no problems at the school, I had not expected any. And I resented being treated like a child but my protestations that I could handle myself had not cut any ice with my mom or even my dad. So, I sat in the car while they went about taking care of my business- paying tuition and other sundry fees at the bank, opening a bank account for me (where I only came down when it was necessary to sign the papers), shopping for my personal effects at the local market and even while they argued with the porters over what was allowed in the hall or not. At the end, they settled everything and arranged for my stuff to be moved to my room. I didn’t step out of the car even while my stuff was transferred to my allotted room by the porters. I didn’t want my co-hall mates to brand me a mommy’s boy.
It was after the last item had been removed that I stepped out of the car. My dad had crumpled a few notes into my front shirt pocket for exigencies. I waved at them both and bolted up the stairs before anyone observed me with them.
Fortunately, I was the first person to arrive in my room. On entering my assigned room I was glad for it, judging by the sight of the four unoccupied bed frames privacy was going to be at a premium.
I moved my mattress from where it was placed on the bed nearest the door and placed it on the one near the only window in the room.I put down my bag and removed the parcel.
I tore the fancy wrapping paper and opened the top of the box of staple pins, which had been disguised with the wrapper. Inside the box was a charm necklace, the kind made by Hausa-Fulani with a small carved tusk as pendant. It was the most unusual gift I have ever received. It was also the most symbolic. At that moment my heart ached for Chinyere. I knew then that I have to try as much as I can to forget her, because in my heart was a deeper ache.
I just needed to find a way around this new bend. The factor that started with a capital C.
As much as I promised myself that I will do all I can to forget her, I also knew I was going to keep the necklace. It was a symbol of my first true lover – even if it was a misplaced love.
I wore that necklace all through my four years in the university and well into my late twenties. It was my luck charm.
Looking back now, I think it saved me from a lot of difficult situations.
Starting from that very first day in school.