Something So Benign: A Love Story (Unfinished and Unedited)

Once, gripped as I am wont by an emotion I can’t explain, I began writing this. After a few paragraphs, the emotion had dried up, and so I stopped writing. I’ve not been able to complete it since, and somehow I don’t think I’m supposed. I usually don’t find it easy writing love stories, but this came fluidly, and it contains the right emotions – I think. I look forward to getting feedback.

​Slowly, very slowly, it’s happening. I know what it is, I’ve felt it before.But because it’s been so long since the last time, it has become strange, and I am tempted to say this is different, special, but I know that each time feels different, special. Specially different. And glorious.

Each night, I stand by the window in my room from where, through your own windows, I can see your kitchen. In the day, it’s mostly dark, but when night falls and the interior lights come on, I can see your sink (or is it your stove?) and the cupboards hanging high up on the wall. And I wait, patiently, to see you. Sometimes a tall slender woman whom I assume is your mom comes in and is busy at the sink/stove, her back turned on me at work, but most times, your kitchen is empty, and I stand wistfully at my window, wishing you’d come in – just please come in.

And I think back to that our first meeting. In your school, where I’d been taking evening classes. I was stooped over the parapet, gazing down boredly, and you came and said, ‘Hi. Shebi you’re Tinu’s brother?’ And I, shocked that you knew my sister, had asked, ‘Yes. How did you know?’ You explained that you lived just opposite my house, a true surprise for me – but I wonder now if you hadn’t been disappointed, if your heart hadn’t broken realising how little you meant to me then. You were interested in me, that much I know. In your eyes, dark and glistening; in your body, slender and long and heathily black; in the way you smiled, those lips, those teeth; you practically oozed it. (But this is only so obvious now, weeks later, looking back.) 

People say when a boy likes a girl, she’s the first to know it, but when a girl likes a boy, everyone but him knows it. But I don’t have that experience. I’ve always been able to tell when people are sexually interested in me – I say people to include other guys, too. It’s always there: that extra attention, that longing look, that subtle, jovial badgering. But most often, it’s the look that gives them away, I never miss it. That look in your eyes, which I, blind in my own grief, had missed then, but remember now. Which told a thousand tales in a moment, tales of togetherness, of intimacy.

Days passed, then weeks. And even without any prompting from me, you came at me – and that expression is deliberate, ‘came at’, for that it how it seemed to me, an attack – relentlessly. Oh, I weep now for how hard it must have been for you, knocking hard, but being shut out. Showing affection, then wanting it back, but being shut out. Being shut out. That afternoon when, waiting for the class to begin, I sat quietly at at my table, studying. Do you remember? You came; even though you must have been nervous as hell, even though your legs must have threatened to give, and your heart must have raced madly, you came, and you spoke to me. ‘Are you solving Math?’

I remember clear as day. I was slightly offended, for I hate being disturbed. And I nodded, grudgingly. Didn’t speak a word. Perhaps you’d wanted me to smile, to invite you to sit, to ask you to study with me. But no, not I. What a fool I was! You lingered awhile, I back at work, and then you walked away.

Or that other day. Class had just ended and I was heading home. ‘Hi,’ you said. I was conscious of the eyes of your friends. ‘Hi,’ I said. ‘We came to your house last week Firday. I wanted to tell you that there was no class. We banged and banged the gate but no one opened.’ And I said, ‘Oh, really?’ truly surprised. And one of your friends said something to you, and someone else said something to me, and everyone was saying something, and amidst all of that, I made a clean escape. 

What a fool I was! Now, I’m reduced to standing at my window, waiting for you to come into your kitchen. And when I don’t see you, I tell myself, ‘I’m going to talk to her tomorrow, surely!’ But we both know that has never happened.

It hadn’t occurred to me to ask who the ‘we’ that came to my house that Friday was; I’d   simply assumed it was you and your friends. But when just last week, you came to my house again, your little brother Tolu heralding you, saying to me, ‘My sister wants to see you. She’s outside,’ I finally realised that the ‘we’ must have been you and Tolu. Tolu, whom I know well, who is Tinu’s dear friend, who often came to our house to play with Tinu. Tolu, who is unashamed to stand at the window in your kitchen, look down in our compound and call out to Tinu, and both of then would talk for hours, until…


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