MY FIRST LOVE

Today, my heart sprints in nostalgia.

Today, old memories come back to life!

You see, I’ve always been a hopeless romantic. I have tucked my head in romance novels so much, that I indulge and drool in daydreams.

Let me tell you a story about my first love. It’s a story that I’ve entombed in the confines of my heart for years and years. This was long before I learned to read love stories in books or even began to watch them in movies. Today I am unearthing it and tossing every pain I felt in the ocean of forgiveness. Today, I choose tranquility over hoarding memories of pain and misery.

I lived my childhood enthralled in fantasies. Every night, I’ll sleep as sleepers do and dream as dreamers do and fantasize away. Even in daytime, I daydreamed too. In my young mind, I was a princess in fairyland, awaiting my Prince charming to rescue me, like the Cinderella kind of story.

Fairies were my illusory friends. I even had names for these fairies and a mental image of what they’d look like, if they were real. I’ll draw pictures of these fairies on paper and paint them in vivid, beautiful, smashing colors; then I’ll paste them all over the four walls of my room. My room was my imaginary castle, where magic happened. That pretty much sums up why I helplessly fell in love in primary 5 (the fifth and last year of my elementary school education).

In 1998, my parents had just transferred me to a new school to complete my elementary education. I walked into the primary 5 class room of High Grade Primary School, head bent like a naive Chicken. I hated to be the center of attention in a crowd. I was going to be in Primary 5 White. There was another class of Primary 5 right above us, Primary 5 Green. This arrangement was only to ensure many students weren’t clustered in only one classroom

I was ushered into the classroom by Mr. David. A high-spirited man from Ghana, he was the kind of teacher any child would wish for. His simplicity was out of this world. He radiated so much positive energy. I still remember his chirpy personality, his many jokes and his amusing dance moves, just like yesterday.

Suddenly, the very noisy classroom became as silent as a graveyard, all eyes fixed on the new girl —me!

They looked lovely in their red, checkered uniforms and for a minute, I felt a sting of jealousy because I had to wait a day or two to get my own uniform from the school’s official tailor. I was introduced to the class and like a lab Rat, newly out of the incubator, I sat in the front row, beside a girl named “Jane.

In a bit, it was break time and everyone trooped out to play, to eat, to ease off and do all other kinds of activities, respectively. I was too shy to mingle; more so, I was yet to get my school uniform, and I felt like the odd fish in the water, so I decided to sit back in the classroom, while I enjoyed my yummy meal of rice, stew and plantains, cooked and packed with love, by my mom. As I heaped the first scoop of rice, I noticed a nerdy boy on glasses staring at me. In that moment, my heart froze! He smiled and I smiled back. He waved and I waved right back. Soon, he dashed out of the classroom.

Even in those glasses, he was the most handsome boy I had ever seen. My heart began to thrum frenzied melodies. I was young and too little to understand so many things, but I sure knew my heart wasn’t playing tricks. I didn’t know what love meant, but my state of euphoria could pass for nothing else, but falling in love at first glance. It was the best feeling I had ever felt in the ten years of my existence. The intensity of emotions was out of this world.

Then the obsession started. When classwork and assignments were due, I’ll ensure that I submitted my notebook right on top of his; and when the notebooks were dispersed to us by the teacher, I’ll excitedly await the moment my name would be called, which was mostly right after his name was called. I disliked anyone who tampered with the arrangement of the stack of notebooks on the teacher’s table or even tried to put their notebook on top of his. Soon, I noticed a girl named “Miss V” was somewhat becoming acquainted with him. I think she sensed my obsession with him and tried to come between. Whatever her intention was, she soon made it to my list of foes.

Days passed, months elapsed and we would constantly smile at each other and speak in languages that no one else understood— just ‘Us.’ We didn’t talk very much, he wasn’t much of a talker and neither was I; but our hearts unified.

He was the class captain and on days that I broke the NO-TALKING-RULE implemented by our class teacher, he could never bring himself to write my name on the list of reprobates, which by the way triggered the rage of the rest of the class.

The year 1999 marked the end of the school year and the completion of our elementary school education, as we all made our transition from elementary school to middle school. The day of graduation was ill-lit one for me. While everyone else whooped it up, my heart was heavy with thoughts of the likeliness of never seeing him again.

“How could I live without the only person I loved to see everyday? The one who made me smile, without having to say a word. The one who made me laugh without even cracking any joke. The one who made my eyes glint, without even igniting fire?!”

I proceeded to High Grade Secondary school and on my first day, I met some classmates from the same primary school and we all bonded, and evolved from familiar strangers to friends. I hoped and prayed that he would attend the same school, but he never showed up.

I began to sink in my river of thoughts; no one could save me. Who could I tell that I was eleven years old and madly in love? It was weird but so true and so real.

Days passed by with no signs of the one my soul longed for and just when I thought I’ll drown in my thoughts, like an interlude in a movie, he shows up. He was ushered into the classroom by the school Principal. My heart leaped in excitement. He was quick to notice me. He winked and I winked back. I was the happiest girl on the planet. My whole year and entire lifetime was made!

I’ve been so engrossed in this story that I’ve given no clue of his name. His name begins with letter D, so I’ll call him “Dee.”

His resumption into that school birthed the new chapter of a perfect, wonderful love story (at least before events began to unravel).

Dee would pass love letters to me, and I’ll toss mine, in return. It was just me and Dee, in our perfect, classic, magical little world.

In the second term of our middle school (J.S.S.1), our school Proprietor stomped into our class, hence interrupting the ongoing class activity. He called out five or six of us (Dee included). He was a stern man and his voice shook the ground, wherever he was. Reason why we thought we were in trouble and almost wished we could grow wings and fly out the window for our dear lives.

We were wrong!

The Proprietor had come to offer us an opportunity that’ll change our lives. He commended us for our impressive academic performance and implored us to join the J.S.S.2 class, the week after (with permission from our parents, of course). In that moment, we were granted double promotion from J.S.S.1 to J.S.S.2, just in the second term of our first year of middle. (To those who wonder why I spent five years in secondary school instead of six, this is why.

Being in a new class with other students we weren’t used to was weird at first, but soon we began to tag along.

A group of girls in the class didn’t like me very much and it was evident. The major ones were Miss X, the other was Miss Y. Even at an age so young, I felt the twinge of hatred, resentment and rebuff. Somehow, I felt uncomfortable in my own class, almost like I didn’t belong there. The class was a cold, unfriendly place for me.

You see, there was always some sort of competition between me and Miss X. From comparing looks, to comparing skills and so much more; everyone seemed to compare us in one way, or another, which only drifted us further apart (even as we were never close from the start). We were a perfect example of the Tom and Jerry animated series characters, only that we never really got physical, but the fact that we didn’t really like each other was perceptible.

The more I was hated, the more I loved Dee. One day, I got in trouble after I confided in a classmate named Miss N about my fears of losing Dee. Miss N told her dad every detail of our conversation and behold! the next day, Miss N and her dad paid my mom a visit and my long kept secret was divulged to her. Trust my African, Yoruba mom, I got the beating of my life. From being told to do ‘frog jumps’, to being instructed to do several ‘squats’ (and so much more), I was inflicted with all kinds of corporal punishments, to the entertainment and satisfaction of Miss N.

I didn’t mind being punished for love (I loved Dee too much, I could take a thousand whips and more for him). What saddened me was the treachery by Miss N whom I thought was my friend. ”How could she snitch on me?!”

That day, I learned a very vital life lesson, which was never to trust anyone again (at least for a very long time, I religiously adhered to my decision).

J.S.S.2 was over, then came J.S.S.3 and soon we were in High school (S.S.1).

That was the point we had to split classes. Dee proceeded to Science class, while I proceeded to Arts class. Gradually, we began to drift apart. I’ll write him letters but he wouldn’t write back. Soon, I noticed he had become quite close with ‘Miss X’, ‘Miss Y’ and others who didn’t seem to like me very much (all students of science class).

Our once sturdy love started to splinter in our eyes. I knew he still loved me, but for reasons (unknown to me, but known to him), he couldn’t evince it any longer.

After the haitus, then came a chance to make up. It was on one of those annual parties of the school. I had carefully selected my outfit for the party. I wore a lovely lilac sleeveless blouse, over a dark blue hipsters jean. My hair was braided and tied up. I looked ravishing and I knew it. Dee marveled at how gorgeous I looked and he was quick to pull me over to an empty classroom. We talked about our hopes and dreams for the future. Over the chit-chat, he told me he aspired to be a Medical doctor. I told him I’ll love to be an actress and a writer. We talked about building our lives together after school and for the first time, he held my right hand and kissed it. The feeling was magical. Passion rumbled my stomach like an eruption of butterflies. That day, I didn’t wash off that spot of my hand that he kissed. Sweet memories of that moment lingered all night and all through the holidays.

School resumed, we were now in S.S.2 and I thought things were back on default, like they used to be, but Dee drifted even farther from me. I was helpless, I was clueless, I needed answers and Just when I thought I’ll lose my mind, Dee tucked a letter in my hand.

I jumped for joy and rushed to a secret place to read my lover’s letter. I thought I could wait till we closed for the day, but I couldn’t.

That letter had the most heart-rending content I had ever read. Dee was breaking up with me. Dee was leaving me. Dee wished me luck in finding someone better. Dee stated that he needed to focus and I was a distraction. I couldn’t hold back the heavy drops of tears, I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t move. I was shattered to pieces, like a muddled puzzle. My once happy, sunny world became a desolate, cold place. A million rhetorical questions ran through my mind like a marathon, one of which was: “How do I face the world alone?” There was no way to conceal the magnitude of my sadness. It was a frigid, dark, showery day! — the worst day of my fourteen years of existence!

Days elapsed to weeks and soon I found out Dee was now in a relationship with Miss Y, the best friend of Miss X. Sources also informed me that Miss X was the interloper. I hated each day of school. I detested them! My soul dripped r-a-g-e!

Our classmates made jokes out of it and I gradually lost faith in humanity.

“They were spiking holes in my heart and they didn’t even know it. How could they play such games with my fragile heart? I was just a girl in love and they took that love away from me.”

Soon, we were in S.S.S.3. We wrote our W.A.E.C exams and soon, our N.E.C.O exams.
I finished first on the day of our final paper. I walked out of the school gate and never said goodbye. I eschewed attending our graduation party. I eschewed reunion events, even years after our graduation. Our final exams was such a relief, because I finally got to lose their shadow. I was heartbroken for a long time. I was depressed for a long time and soon I became an antisocial,unsettled teenager with low self-esteem—the sad aftermath!

I could never be friends with anyone, no matter how nice they seemed to be. I could never bring myself to re-bond with Miss X, Miss Y and others, even years after the events of our High School. A few weeks after High school, a source told me Dee’s relationship with Miss Y ended just as quickly as it started. I’m impishly smiling now like I smiled when I heard the first time. The surmised break up didn’t bring me and Dee back, but hearing that it did was sure a relief. Maybe their relationship truly hit rock bottom, maybe it didn’t, I wouldn’t know and may never even know, because I never got to catch a glimpse of that part!

15 years later, Miss Y is now a Mrs, but she is not Dee’s wife!

We were young and naive, but the events of those guileless years embossed a big pockmark in my heart, which affected how I related with everyone around me—the familiar ones and the new ones I met.

Dee is now a Medical doctor. I’m glad he fulfilled his dreams. I am a writer, but I’ve lost interest in being an actress. If I’m ever in the movie world, I’d best be behind the scenes making things happen, but regardless, truth is I’m living my dreams too!

Today, I sincerely proclaim that I forgive you, Miss X, Miss Y and everyone involved in the events of 2003-2005. I was enraged for so long, (and reason is I left the story all bottled up to the brim, till it began to spill ). I know you are better people now. We have evolved and grown past those puerile years. It’s been 15 years, since my first heartbreak, but it’s the first time I’m telling this story and now I finally feel a surge of liberation.

The pain, the rage, the revulsion is all gone! Vanished into thin air! Never to arise again!

Through all of these, I have come to learn some life lessons:

Fall in love, but do so with your eyes open. Have friends, but be careful who you trust. Be enraged when you’re hurt, but not for too long. Keep secrets, but don’t bottle up the ones that affect your peace of mind. If someone hurts you, let them know. If they apologize, that’s perfect, If they don’t, It’s fine! At least you’ve let your feelings out and you’re free!”

Oops! Pardon my manners. I was so immersed in the narration of this story that I forgot to introduce myself. My name is Tee!

SIDE NOTE: The narration of this story isn’t intended to spite or upset anyone. It’s a significant part of my journey to self-discovery and re-molding. My flee from the aviary of low-self esteem, where I hung my heart for several years — the upshot of the deeds of juvenile.

© Tola Belva

All rights to this story remain with the author. Please do not re-post or reproduce this material without permission.

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