I have been somewhat hesitant to write anything for the last couple of days. For some reason, I had convinced myself that I couldn’t do it. That I had waded into uncharted waters and I was at the end of my road. But I had thrown a mini tantrum and I had to roll with it. I tried again over the weekend and it was the same. I didn’t even know what the intro would be…and those usually come easy to me. It was tough. I had the whole story, it was just a matter of putting it in prose form. So I said I was going to stop. I cut the thinking about it, I put my notebook away and I watched movies and listened to music back to back. I stopped being so obsessed with writing about anything and everything, and I waited.
He said we should call him Eli. He had always liked that name. The first time he fell in love with it was at a restaurant with his family and there was a set of twins on the next table. The girl was Eliza [read ‘i-lai-za’] and her brother, Elijah [read ‘i-lai-ja’]. He loved how, when they were not in their mother’s vicinity, she would shout out “ELI” and the two of them would come running while holding hands. It was their own Marco-Polo version. So the name Eli stuck with him.
Eli liked a girl in campus. She was pretty and smart and really funny. “She always made me laugh,” he told me. But he was scared to tell her. It’s not that he did not have the words to say it. I mean, he said it to the mirror each morning. He knew it in his gut that he was in love with her. He felt it in his bones every time she laughed because he tailored his jokes just for her. He lived for her. Seeing her would fix any bad morning there was. He was smitten but she was unaware.
Her boyfriend was one of those campus celeb-politicians. The ones who owned anything that needed to be owned. He made decisions on what would be sold on which days. He was the mayor and she the perfect first lady. The doting girlfriend who stood by her man on every podium at every debate and defended him against anyone who dared utter a negative word against him in his absence. Eli loved how passionate she was about her relationship. “It showed she was ‘relationship material’. The kind of girl who would stand by her man through thick and thin,” he says.
Now, you already know this is not a happy story. Our protagonist is dealing with a chronic case of unrequited love. He was aware of this. “I knew I stood no chance. There was no way, even in my greatest fantasy would she ever want me. I was her friend. And yeah, we would meet around school, but I would always just smile at her, say hi and walk away.”
She belonged to another, he says, and he wasn’t one to run unions that the universe had blessed.
Fast forward to about a year later, the politician boyfriend was campaigning against some dirty opponent who had had him followed around. The opponent’s paparazzi came out with two photographs, one on the night of the first debate where Eli’s girl’s boyfriend canoodling behind a common school building with a girl that was not Eli’s girl, and the other of him supposedly “writing a mwakenya”.
“You can guess which photo I was excited about. I mean, sure, cheating on an exam is wrong and all that bull they tell in school, but cheating on the girl of my dreams? That was bullshit! She was a nice girl. She loved him. I couldn’t get it.”
A normal 20 year-old sex-deprived, hopelessly in love boy would have struck while the iron was still hot. He would have swooped in and saved her from all the heartache by offering a shoulder and then some. He did not. “I knew every guy in school wanted the same thing. Her. She was the dream. And in that time, when she was vulnerable, they would all flock to her desperately waiting for a chance.” He was not desperate.
He went on with the smiles and the hi’s until one afternoon, he was walking past her as usual when she stopped him. He forgot to breathe. For twenty two seconds she spoke more that two words to him. He was ecstatic! This was a thing of fairytales. Snow White dared utter words to the bell boy.
“All I remember of that conversation, which she said all of the words, was the last part. She said, “Yeah, so I’ll get it from you later tonight?” and immediately I was out of my reverie. Get what? I thought. A kidney? Gladly. But kidneys aren’t given overnight in a boy’s hostel. Get some? Naah, she wouldn’t. Or would she?”
He couldn’t think for the rest of that afternoon. He doesn’t even remember if they had a class. A shower was had: a rare occurrence considering he “doesn’t sweat”. He applied Vaseline to his cheeks. All cheeks. He wore his favourite shirt. The one that “brought out his best qualities” and he waited, giddy with excitement at what it was that she could possibly want from him.
She came that evening donning a pair of black sweatpants and a grey hoodie. Her braids were tied in a bun on top of her head. She looked docile, yet still managed to possess the same grace she had when walking through lecture halls.
“I hope you have good ones,” she said immediately he opened the door.
My strokes? He thought. “Of course,” he said instead.
“How do you want them?” he added, trying to put tomato sauce on his flirting skills.
“Here,” she said while sitting on his bed. “Where are your roommates?”
He couldn’t out rightly say he had sent them on exile, and he was the Pharaoh now. “They’re around,” he told her, hoping for the opposite.
“So…,” he started, because there was no better way to do this. He wanted to be a gentleman. Make sure she enjoyed this as much as he was sure he would. “Do we just get on with it or is there something you would like me to do first?”
Then she laughed.
It wasn’t a flirtatious laugh. Not a laugh that a girl makes when she likes a boy. Some girls can’t even speak right in front of a boy they like. There was no way she would laugh like that just before getting it on. But it didn’t register to him then. The troops were aligned. The soldier was in position and ready to fire. He had no blood left in his brain to use it to at least a functioning capacity.
She stood up and he knew that was it. It was happening! She started digging into her pocket. There it was. I mean, that’s a little bit of a weird dance but she was gorgeous. She course hop like a frog and he would still be into that. She sat back on his bed, a little closer than where she was the first time. “I knew she was speaking with her body movements. Telling me to get closer to her.”
“Do you have it?” she asked, her lips inches from his.
“Oh shit!” He had forgotten the soldier would need protective gear.
She laughed again.
“I’ll be just 5 minutes. Don’t move,” he said already getting up for the school bathrooms where the helmets were stored for everyone.
“Oh, no. Don’t worry about it.”
He stopped in his tracks. Was she saying what he was hearing her say? Or was it his imagination.
“We can use mine,” she added.
“Then I looked at her outstretched arm,” he tells me,
“And in her perfectly manicured hand was a big black Transcend flash disk. She had come to get a movie. I never felt like more of a fool like I did that day.”
See, one of her friends had mentioned that since she was single, to kill her boredom, she should ask the geek guy who says hi to her all the time of he had movies, “particularly those geeky superhero ones”. He never stood a chance with her. She only saw him as her movie plug all through. Her geeky movie plug.
“So she never knew you two had different pretexts to your conversation that night?”
“Even if she did, she did not let it show.”
“Did you ever tell her how much you liked her?” I ask.
“How? How was I supposed to ask that when I was hurt and embarrassed and had a bruised ego all at the same damn time? I couldn’t even speak to her. I just nodded through all her questions about The Flash and Arrow and let her go. Besides, she got back together with the celeb guy the next day. I stood no chance. She was never going to be my girl.”