The way these things end depends on a variety of things. The weather. The place. The state of our hearts and whether we knew each other’s favourite colours. Or the shape of each other’s dreams. My favourite colour was blue and you knew this. You made a point of making sure I knew that you knew; trying to sell yourself, I guess. So willing. You were so willing to dive into whatever I was made of and discover everything there was to me; to clothe yourself in my scent, my opinions, my laughter. You were the kind of guy who describes a girl he likes by saying things like, “She’s an enigma; I can’t understand her and I can’t stop trying.”

The way it ended was with your broken heart in my palms and mine intact within my chest.

If we’re being honest, I was the one who should have been screwed over by whatever it was we had going on. For a number of reasons:

  1. I had never dated before.
  2. Because my mother had made a point of letting me know just what vile creatures men could be, I was generally wary of guys and had never really interacted with one. What was normal, what was not, what to expect. I didn’t know.
  3. I was young.

But you, in that gentle, easy way you had, decided that this slight-bodied lightskin was your future. I really had nothing to fear.

We talked continuously when I was home. You acted like my stories were riveting and you could listen to me all day. Your stories about basketball and cooking were the highlight of my days. I loved talking to you, make no mistake. I thought you charming and I appreciated that you had a sense of humour compatible with mine. But what do we do when words alone are not enough?

We rarely saw each other. I refused almost every time you asked. Because, yes, you were gentle and kind and sweet, but:

  1. You were a guy all the same, and capable of vile things by virtue of this alone.
  2. You were in your first year of college. I was a step or two behind.

Girls in college wore nice clothes and make up. They were fully formed. They had breezy, self-assured laughters and they knew what they wanted out of life. I was just me. What was it that you were looking for in a girl that you couldn’t find in them but found in me? You insisted that they just didn’t do it for you, that you were tired of materialistic females who only thought about the here and now. But I was 17. I only didn’t think about the here and now because my here and now wasn’t that great. You didn’t care. You only wanted me.

So though I refused to see you, you persisted.

We texted. You said good morning every day, and hoped I had a fantastic day. You said goodnight before you slept. Reluctantly, because:

“Don’t wanna close my eyes,

 I don’t wanna fall asleep coz I’ll miss you baby,

 And I don’t wanna miss a thing.”

 

For a bit, everything was good.

***

The first time you called me ‘babe’ I freaked out and switched off my phone. You were moving too fast. It was almost two years after you had first declared your affections and I failed to return them.

The thing was, I had waited my whole life to have someone call me that. To be someone’s ‘babe’. But it sounded misplaced coming from you. Like a tux at a garden barbeque. I wasn’t sure what I wanted from you, but you knew exactly what you were looking for. Three days later I switched on my phone again and there were your 19 text messages, pining after me, asking what you had done wrong, begging me to talk to you so that we could make it work.

I didn’t know what ‘it’ was.

I told you I needed some time off. Instead of demanding answers, you told me to take as much time as I needed. That you would be right there when I was ready. However long that would take.

I said, “Okay.”

***

All that my mother had ever told me about relationships was this:

  1. That they were to come only after school was done, because ‘books before boys’.
  2. That you should never cook or clean for a man who has not married you, because then you reduce your value.

It wasn’t much to go on. It didn’t help your case. If anything, it reinforced my wariness. But there you were, persisting like the answer to all my questions. When I said I would rather wait until I was done with school first before you could label me anything of yours, you said you would wait. I never had to worry about the second point: you were studying to become a chef, so you could cook for me. Lord knows nobody tells a man that he loses value when he cooks for a woman he has not married.

***

When you are paranoid and pessimistic, you are always looking for a reason to defend yourself. And my, how I looked.

I contrived to find fault with you and I failed. Had you been the soldierly type, I would have said that there were no chinks in your armor.

  1. You never lost your temper with me.
  2. You never treated me with anything but utmost respect and a little bit of awe.
  3. You made effort: chocolate, compliments, cheerful stories to lift my spirits when I was down.

You would have been the perfect boyfriend. Me? I was just happy to have someone who was always there. But I couldn’t picture myself letting you hold my hand. When I finally did, it was the beginning of the end. It was on the bus after we had our first date, kind of by accident. I was going to town to buy Christmas gifts for my family and you embraced the opportunity to finally spend time with me in that kind of setting, ever willing, ever eager.  It was a cold, rainy Saturday and as far as my mother was concerned, I was going to meet a friend called Sharon. Because girls don’t decrease your value the way boys do. When I had bought everything I needed, we had coffee at The Mug. My first time having an espresso. God. Never again. On the bus home, I dozed off and when I woke up I found my hand in yours and my head on your shoulder and a smile on your face. I wanted to yank myself away (That’s no way to start a relationship, is it?) but I didn’t. The rest of the way I sat very still and kept my eyes closed so you wouldn’t know that I was awake. I felt that I owed you this one thing after all the effort you had made. And when I got home, I washed my hands and wondered why I felt like I had touched something I shouldn’t have.

***

This is how it ends.

On a dull weekday in a church compound, with tears glistening in your soft eyes after I say that we can only be friends. That I am not attracted to you. That I never was. That I realized I was only attracted to the attention that you gave me. That I am sorry. That I didn’t do it on purpose. That I didn’t know. That it took a while to figure my feelings out.

It ends with guilt beating in my chest because I couldn’t swallow your love and I am now spitting it out in your face. With you wondering how it could not work after you had done everything right.

How would I explain to you that you despite everything you were and everything you did and three years of trying to make me happy…you didn’t make me feel The Zing?

It ends with you still asking to take me home.

It ends with me getting home and finding a text from you, saying that you still think we can make it work and me ignoring you until you give up because I realize now that you can do everything right and still not be the Right One.

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