It was July, and the rains were already upon us. I peered out through the windowpane of my dingy room to gaze as the rains consumed the succulent green grasses that encircled the hostel. And right with me, as I stood at the window, was her picture tightly clutched in my hands – close to my heart.
* * *
Maria was not the most beautiful girl in college, but she had a fine, fair, friendly smile and demeanor. Chocolate-skinned, a beautiful nose and orange lips, she was the sort of woman that struck a chord, not in the pants of men, but in their hearts and mind.
My first encounter with Maria was brief but bliss. I had been in class when she breezed by, chuckling with natural vigor and chatting with a friend – her friend. I dropped my pen, hurried out of the class and watched in wonder as she walked on; I thought she was a beautiful rose flower breathed into by God.
Being a boy still struggling to find his feet on the shores of romance, I could not sum up enough courage to walk up to her. Everyday – or maybe almost – I saw her walk past me in the large corridors of school halls; at the cramped cafeteria of hungry stomachs; at the place of God; and sometimes even on the streets, when it did not rain.
I prayed to God. I knelt down at his holy altar and sought for favor. I prayed that the angels would be my mouthpiece, that they would woo her on my behalf and show her a vision of the love in my heart. I really prayed.
Then, on a sunny Saturday afternoon, as I entered the school gate, I met her, again. This time, she was alone and seemed distressed for the smile that forever perched on her face had vaporized.
“Hey!” I said, my action surprising even me. “I…I. . . I . . . hope . . . I hope there is no problem?” My voice quavered.
She looked up at me, her eyes innocently peering into mine. For the first time, I had a close-up view of her countenance. She had a pointed black spot just below her left eye.
Then, she smiled. My heart raced.
“I’m sorry, my phone just dropped into the gutter and I can’t reach out for it.” Her voice was warm, like the tender feel of the morning sun.
“I think I can help.” I replied and gently jumped into the empty gutter and retrieved her phone.
“Thank you so much,” she giggled, “you just saved my day.”
I saved your day? I smiled within me and suddenly felt like the charming prince that rescued his princess from the hands of the dragon.
“Erm, my name is Maria.” She said.
I know, I wanted to say.
She offered me a hand and we became friends.
* * *
We talked about a lot of things. We shared memories and I read her my personal memoirs. Every moment with her felt like heaven, a particle of paradise. I felt her draw closer to me, my life and strife. She wanted to hear my stories and share my sorrows. For the first time in my life, I felt what it meant to be loved for the sake of love.
Maria was an extraordinary girl. I wanted her, not just as a friend, but as something more. I did not want her to be just a piece of clothing that draped the windows of my life; I wanted her to be a bedcover that rolled with me on the bed of life. But I was not sure of what she really wanted.
When we talked, she always had this dreamy glint around the corner of her eyes, like she wanted something from me. A proposal? I thought in my love-stricken mind.
I wanted to bare my mind during one of our many conversations, but I could not. I felt something draw me back, like a magnet, prodding me to retreat. I knew it was fear; fear that I may never ever get to deserve the golden treasure I sought.
* * *
“Tell me,” I said, “what are the criteria for the man of your dreams.”
We were seating on a bench outside the classrooms, the moon our shade.
She giggled, as she would always do, a glistening glow in her eyes. “He must be hopelessly in love with me.” She stated.
That’s me, I thought. I should have talked, but I did not. I was scared of the unknown. I was scared of the damning consequences of ‘forever’.
* * *
“Are you mad ni?” Femi cried at me. “So you want her to make the first move abi! Wake up Sam! Wake up!”
Femi was my friend – a trusted fellow with a gracious spirit. After narrating to him the fix I was in, he advised me to go for gold.
“The worst thing that would happen, Sam, is that she would say no. You’ve got to wake up man,” he tried to convince me. “Just give it a try, from what you’ve told me, I’m sure this girl likes you.”
“Likes me? Sure. But not as a lover.” I replied.
“Really, but how can you be sure?”
Because I can see through her heart, I wanted to say. I looked into Femi’s keen expression, our eyes locked for a moment. Then I looked away and decided to take my destiny into my hands.
It was evening; the sun had said its goodbyes. I adjusted the HP backpack hanging on my shoulders and breezed into the class. She was sitting at the back, just beside the window.
I walked up to her and sat, facing her.
She was looking a bit weary; her hair was not neatly combed and she was wearing no makeup. Yet, her beauty remained, stark as reality, sticking its originality into my nostrils.
I looked into her eyes and confusion creeped into my brain. Where do I start from?
After mumbling and shoving the words out of my heart that night, she merely stared at me, her face expressionless and vague. She said nothing, intimated nothing and suggested nothing. She just kept staring.
Her silence shattered my world. I had prepared for the ‘no’ and the ‘yes’, but I was not prepared for this. Personally, I felt I had betrayed the friendship between us.
I said sorry and left.
* * *
As I stand at this window, her picture still clutched in my hands – close to my heart – I feel a deep gnawing in my heart to hear her voice and hold her hands. I feel like I disappointed her. I feel bad about my love. I feel like I’m the villain of the story.
Still, as I watch the rains sweep away the dirt of the earth and herald more radiant clouds, I feel like I may have a second chance to kneel down and ask Maria one thing – “Love me”.
Yet, something tells me, it is a scene that can play out only in my dreams.
This story is dedicated to RUTH OMONE OLABODE for aid beyond reward.