I was seventeen, and he was seventeen too.
He joined my school in secondary school 2. Then, I was the only girl who still had no boyfriend in SS2, the only girl who loved books more than the mirror and makeup. While most of the other girls went into boys back in JSS3, I remained virgin. I was more interested in unraveling the mysteries surrounding life. I wished to become one of the greats. I wasn’t in a haste to know boys; I waited for the day the love of my life would sweep me off my feet, like my heroes in my Mills and Boons collections.
Raymond was from St. Louis, one of the top academic schools in our time. I was drawn to him, to his brooding personality. He was so handsome, tall, dark, hunky, and with flashing white teeth. His eyes crinkled at the corner when he smiled. He didn’t know how mouthwateringly handsome he was, and that was the charming thing about him, the icing on the cake.
It was the first time I would see a boy not wanting anything to do with the girls, especially the dull-brained girls that sat with the stupid boys at the back seats in our class. Yes, I was drawn by these all, but what really made me gasp was the level of his intelligence. He was the best at maths, geography and every other course. Before he came, I was the one who always came first, who scored the highest in our tests. He beat me and took that position, and I was challenged. I loved being challenged, and I loved solving puzzles. I wished to know why he beat me so easily from the position I held since JSS1. I wanted to know why he was always quiet, why he always hid his handsomely cut hair in his books. He puzzled me.
While I read for tests and studied for exams, I had another job to do – to unravel Raymond. And so, for the first time in my life, I used the flirting trick. I went after him and lured him into my world. I made him my friend. I made him see that I loved books. He became interested in me because I talked about nothing else but books. I switched seat with bored girl next to him and permanently fixed my place beside him. And gradually, we became the best of friends.
We solved maths. We solved geography. Chemistry. Physics. And every other course. He began to let down his guard, smoothen his bristly edge. At first in our relationship, he was a little hesitant, hesitant that he cringed when I rubbed his palms when taking a pen from him. But in time, he stopped cringing. He smiled when I gave him side hugs, and when I shook his hand. He smiled when I sat close to him, so close that I could feel the rustle of the hairs on his hand, so close that my breathe would fan his neck when he turned sideways.
He stopped brooding totally, and began to ‘get’ into me. Soon, I was like his air; he was always unsettled, pacing nervously when I wasn’t around. I would watch him from the window as he asked classmates if they saw me, as he searched for me. I deliberately made him want more, search more. I left him breathless. He would chase me down the school block during breaks when I tried to evade him after a prank. And when he caught me, he crushed me against him. I rubbed my hips against his body, so smoothly that our bodies melded.
Raymond became different… free, so free that his mum visited school one day, to see me.
I was scared at the sight of the tall woman who had the body of a model and the eyes of a hawk. She stared at me, without condescension or likeness. Her eyes were totally blank when I sat opposite her in our empty school canteen. Raymond sat beside me, holding my hand as if to strengthen in the tsunami about to come. I felt bolstered. But I withered when she briskly said, “Honey, please excuse us. This is girl talk”
Reluctantly, my Raymond left me there. He looked unsure as he stepped out, and I held his eyes, a tad longer, hoping to get all the strength I would need in the storm. I wished to yelp, but I sat their opposite her, while she searched for something in my face.
“You are a very beautiful girl, Nneka,” she started, she pronounced ‘Nneka’ as “Ne Ka”, like one of those ‘janded’ women. It occurred to me that she might be ‘janded’, that Raymond might also be ‘janded’. It was then it occurred to me that Raymond had never told me anything about his history. I felt stupid.
I watched as his mother dug into her bag, brandished and flipped open a cigarette pack. I sat there, bewildered and scared, that our principal would barge in and I would be in trouble for sitting close to a cigarette smoker in a cigarette-banned school.
“Raymond has been…” she waved her hand, searching for the word, “free…lately.”
She nodded too, and her jaw tightened. She took a long whiff, her throat elongated like that of a swan. Then she puffed right into my face, and said, “He no longer broods or concentrates. He talks about you,” she said and stared in my eyes, “A lot.”
I struggled from sputtering in coughs as the pungent smoke enveloped my face. I opened my mouth, to respond, and the fading smoke traveled down my lungs. I started coughing. Wild sputtering that shook my body. I wheezed as tears ran down my eyes. My inhaler was in my bag at the class, and I begged her to help me. She didn’t come to hold me as mother does whenever my asthma upsurges. She sat calmly on her chair, and watched me with the mien of a scientist observing the reactions of her lab rat to a new experiment.
I coughed, wheezed, cried, and she started saying words I couldn’t make meaning out of. Words like, America, deportation, girls, and hurt. Then her eyes flashed, while I struggled to breathe, while I begged for my Bentolin. I slumped to the floor and snaked through the chairs, to drag at her legs and cry for help. She quietly stood up, got out a perfumed spray which she flitted the air with. Then she patted down her mini dress, and left me there on the floor. Seconds later, Raymond dashed into the class as I hovered between wakefulness and oblivion. He was screaming for help, his voice from a very distant land, before I slipped into quiet.
Weekes later, Raymond still asked what happened to me. I only smiled and waved his questions with a “It’s one of those things, baby. It was the asthma again.”
Did the experience faze me? Hell, no! I was fired up, and seriously, I didn’t know what made me want more. I felt it was a battle for his heart. I wanted to have him to myself. I wanted him to be free from the clutches of a mother controlled his life with her remote.
In weeks, we became so inseparable that Raymond wished to go home with me. I made my mole on him. I kissed him first, deeply, letting my tongue into his mouth, running it round his mouth and then sucking his lips. Raymond became fevered. He became addicted to our kisses. We did this, always, behind the big church in our missionary school. I made sure to bribe the church gateman after I convinced him that we wished to study privately for the upcoming exams.
And privately, we studied. I took our relationship to the next level. I let him hold my breasts. Men are always babies when it comes to those particular appendages, and since I was very well endowed in that area, Raymond wished for nothing else than holding them after he unhooked my bra. He moaned like someone in pain, and kneaded it, armful. His eyes darkened, as if a veil was drawn over them.
“I love you, baby, please don’t hurt me,” he begged, almost crying. His voice shook and his hands, unsteady.
“I won’t, baby,” I always promised.
I didn’t bother to know why he always begged me not to hurt him, to reason why he always said that. Perhaps, it was my wanting to care for him, to make him mine, that diffused the sense of reasoning. I stuck with him, and he was unnaturally loyal and faithful. He became overly addicted to me, to my company that I waved away my initial resolution on sex after marriage. I wanted him to be my first.
WAEC loomed, and I prepared to give him the ‘gift’ after our graduation party. He seemed to know this, though he had never wanted more other than holding my upper body.
On graduation day after the senior examination, he became withdrawn. I tried to cheer him up. I brought him to the dance floor and shimmied around him, in a sexy dance. He followed, but a bit…a bit.. scared. It was then I saw fear boldly written on his face. I wasn’t fazed. I was happy that such a boy had fear for me, for my body.
After the party, at about 7:00pm, I took him to the room up in the hotel were we held the party, to give him my gift of love.
He was quiet as we climbed the stairs, and as we walked to the room. He was quiet as I unlocked the door and as I shut the door. I slotted in the pornographic movie I bought the previous day, and soon, his gloominess evaporated. He was frenzied as we watched the white girls doing it. Then I was fired up, and was allover him, tearing at his cloths as the girls did, and rubbing, and tugging. He was fevered up too, but with fear and same muttering of “please don’t hurt me.” He voice sounded so small, like a child’s. I tore at his shirt and stripped down his trousers. His heart thudded so loud he breathing became unevenly paced. I slithered away from my dress and pounced on him again. He lay on the bed, flat back, and watched my eyes intently when I pulled away his boxers.
At first, I was shocked, and nearly yelped at the sight. But I stopped and the real meaning of “please don’t hurt me” finally sank in.
He stood before me, an erected member not even bigger than my thumb. I looked into his eyes and we locked eyes for seconds, or minutes. Then his face contorted in pain, tears began to fall, and he went limp. My mind did ingenious calculations and I found the implications to any actions or inactions I would take.
“I will never hurt you, honey,” I whispered. I found that I was crying. The salty wetness trickled down in rivulets, and unto his laps. He started crying, so deeply my heart broke for him. I dressed him up again, and held him so tightly against him as his shoulders shook. I cooed and comforted him.
“Baby, will you leave me?” he asked me, his eyes red-rimmed and pleading, and his voice shaking in fear.
“No, baby, I will never leave you.” I looked into his eyes, making sure he found that I truly love him, that I wouldn’t leave him. Then he melted into me, holding me tight and shivering. We lay on the bed, his head pillowed on my chest, while I thought of how to help him, without hurting him.
Three years later, I was still a virgin standing beside his grave. His mother was no longer the bitch. Her eyes were red from crying. She looked so small when she begged me not to leave soon. My Raymond died in the 9/11 attack on the America. He had gone to finally make peace with his father, a father who left them to marry a rich white woman. I made him go on that journey even when he wanted to be in Nigeria with me. I knew he would never really be happy if he didn’t make peace with his father.
He had told me about his history after that graduation night. He poured out his heart, and told me the story of a father who emasculated him because of the size of his sex organ, and how his father’s girlfriends made fun of him after his parents were separated.
Though I wished to consummate our relationship (if that was possible), to prove that I wouldn’t leave, he wanted us to wait till our wedding night. I didn’t hate his mother anymore. She was only protecting her son.
Days later after he met and made peace with his father, he called to tell that his father found him a temporary job at the world trade centre where his father worked. He also wanted me to come over.
Two weeks later, I got my visa. I was surprised it came out that fast.
On the day I was supposed to take my flight out, the States was attacked. I listened on the phone as my Richard cried that his father was instantly killed when the first aeroplane smashed the 100th floor. I listened until his screams deafened my ears. And then there was complete silence.
His mother and I travelled together, to bury what remains of his son; a locket with my picture which I gave him on his nineteenth birthday. Then, she went on to mourn him forever.
Till today, I still can’t tell how I felt when I heard the news of his death. I still can’t tell if I was relived or heartbroken. He had become a slight burden, and annoyingly jealous and insecure too. He wanted me to smile only for him, he was scared whenever I talked to any other boy.
I still think about him sometimes, I still search the face of any man I see, searching for any semblance with my Raymond.
I still search for him.