The first time I saw him, I was on my way home from my GCE class, in the company of Tosin, Adun and Oreoluwa. Tosin said something funny and I remember all four of us laughing so hard, our sides hurt. I cannot remember the joke, I remember keeling over, holding my sides to mitigate the effect of the laughter. I raised my head and then, I saw heaven.
There he was dribbling a defender on the football pitch across the road and he fired a low shot to score a goal. Instead of running as most footballers do, he stood still and raised his hands in the air his eyes closed, a wonderful smile on his face. That pose reminded me of the Abami Eda poster my older brother – Jide had in his room.
Needless to say, I took it all in, his wonderful smile, he had one as mean as Denzel’s his six packs, his glistening body, to top it all, he was the cynosure of all eyes on the football pitch, and I felt a stirring in my loins. It was the first time that would happen, see I was fifteen, in SS2 and he as well as most boys on the field was either in school, or seeking tertiary admission.
My friends nudged me, it must have been a full minute, I thought ashamed.
“What was that about?” Tosin asked.
I shrugged, and started walking. The other followed my lead and we were soon away from the mysterious boy.
When I got home, that evening, instead of studying Physics and Chemistry, I was lost in my own imaginary world. Where he also saw me, smiled that wonderful smile at me hugged me so tight, before kissing me so intensely my legs would give out. I was lost, and it is a good word, lost. For the boy had no inkling I even existed and there I was, pining.
I stalked the football pitch, and after a week I found they played Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Oh, those were glorious days. I walked slowly past the pitch to catch a glimpse of him; I would accept errands that would take me past their playground. Still he didn’t notice me.
So I took the bull by the horn, I went to the football ground and asked after him, describing him in detail.
“Derin,” the guy I asked said without missing a beat. “I don’t think he’ll be here today o. He was saying something about going to school.” He started walking away, “wait, do you know that CAC church that’s adjacent the farm down the road?”
I nodded, I was not sure my voice would aid my cause.
“Good, when you get to the church, stand in front of the church gate, his house is the one directly opposite.” He didn’t wait for thanks or anything, he just jogged off.
I found the house. I was about entering the compound when their nosy neighbor stopped me.
“Who are you and who are you looking for?”
I was temporarily stunned, I told him my name and offer that I was looking for ‘brother Derin’ I didn’t want to raise any suspicions.
The suspicion was already there, “I’ve never seen you here before.”
He then proceeded to tell me that Derin had just gone to school. His bike left not quite five minutes before I showed. I thanked the man, and rushed back home. Both sides of my pillow became wet from tears. It was apparent now, I was in love, and the guy did not know.
I stalked his house and field for a couple of months, nothing. So I resigned to fate, I would see him again, I believed. And so I did.
Two years later as a Jambite in Unilag, I was returning home at Ibafo after a hectic day at the registrations offices. When I got to Ibafo, I decided to see Tosin, before walking home. The bike I took dropped me in front of Tosin house, I paid the fare, turned around and there he was.
In the company of other boys, they were arguing, football maybe, he was his old self laughing; smiling and I found two years had made him more handsome. I didn’t know how long I stood there till caught myself and went into Tosin’s.
The next morning, I stopped by his house on my way to school. Nosy neighbor wasn’t around, in his stead was a woman I tagged bitch.
“Please ma, can I see brother Derin?” I was still careful to use the ‘brother’ title. Ours was a very conservative community.
“Ah!” She exclaimed like someone had died, “Derin done travel since yesterday.”
“Ma’m, do you know when he’ll be back? It’s kind of urgent I see him.” I press the little advantage
She raised her eyebrows and observed me well.
“Na for this town you dey live?”
“Yes ma, thank you very much ma.”
I left the place dejected. Again, I was so close, yet so far.
I didn’t see him again until two year’s time. I was rehearsing with my drama troupe when I saw someone bounce into the main auditorium I was momentarily distracted and missed my lines. I peered and I could see he was the one.
The drama director threw a fit, I smiled, he gave us a five minute break. I followed the people into the auditorium. I found out it was a church program and they registered before going in. I saw his name, and mobile number. I turned to look for a piece of paper, by the time I looked back, the register was gone. There were several, registers still on the table, but that particular one was gone.
I looked at the ushers who were coordinating the name writing and they just stared right back at me. One of them must have swiped the register and hidden it. Witches.
Our drama rehearsal finished on time. And whilst most of the troupe members either went to the hostel or to their house, I stayed put, I had to see him, we had to talk. I had to know, that I wasn’t running mad. So I waited.
About an hour later le boo shows up worried and protective.
“Babe, what’s the problem? I was scared when your group members told me you were here by yourself.”
He looked sincere, but it was apparent to me, like all the other boys, he was sure whether or not I was cheating on him, and he wanted to know. If only he knew.
“It’s nothing; I just wanted to take some time to think.” It was a believable lie, I hope.
“Okay, let’s leave this place. I’m sure you must have had enough time to think.”
As we make to start leaving, people from the auditorium started coming out. I stalled le boo – Lekan a little, hoping to catch a glimpse.
He came out in the company of friends, smiling as always. He was with a skinny girl who was just below six feet tall, he stood above six feet. They seemed the perfect couple, I turned away, I had seen enough. I hustled le boo and we were out of there in no time.
That night for the first time I thought about it. I had always thought, always expected that he would be single when le boo, was the third boy I was dating in the school. I realized a little flaw in my thought pattern and sought to right it. It was a tad too late.
Life went on and I finally resigned. The fates had decided to titillate me with such a fine man without allowing me touch, hold or even speak to.
The final time I saw him, was three years after the auditorium brouhaha, I had completed my NYSC and mum was driving me to see her friend. As is usual with her, she stopped the car and started greeting people. I was very angry. If only I had gotten out of the car and walked a few feet, if only.
After waiting for ages in the car and mum was still missing in action, I finally decide to lock the car and stroll. As I rounded the corner, I saw him talking to the vulcanizer.
“E joo e ba mi se awon tyres yen daa daa ona Ibafo yi…” he shook his head.
I was giddy, his voice, like his face and smile… divine. I was about accosting him them when I heard mum’s voice shouting my name. Simi!
I turned and started walking away, but by some irrational, inexplicable act, I turned back only to catch him staring at me. Our eyes met and he smiled that wonderful smile. I had been chasing him for eight years, and when he finally noticed me, we could not talk.
Then it dawned on me. He might be my first love, my true love. Still, he was the love that had eluded me, the one I couldn’t have. I smiled back, sadly as I rounded the bend and went to my mother’s car.
PS: I’m just trying to unleash the story behind the smiles. Every day we see strangers and before we realize it, we are smiling at them, sometimes waving… What is the story behind those smiles? Wouldn’t you want to know?
PPS: Do share your thoughts.