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“So what is your reason for refusing to date me?” I asked her. “I need some time to t...

“So what is your reason for refusing to date me?” I asked her. “I need some time to think about it,” she said for the umpteenth time. She had run out of excuses, so she chose to stick to the same line. Most people overrate talent. They ascribe every achievement to some level of ingenuity; an innate quality possessed by the achiever that few others are endowed with. Somehow, I grew up thinking otherwise, perhaps because I have never been handed anything in life. I have had to work and slave for everything, so I subconsciously formed the notion that talent is not enough. You have to have the stubborn persistence of a hyena…the doggedness of a bulldog to eke out what you want out of life. As if I had never heard her say that before, I followed her down the dusty road on campus with burning resilience. She knew I hated the road, so she opted to take it as a means of dispensing with me as quickly as possible. Like a lion on a hunt, I refused to quit, scooped mounds of dust as she and I walked to her hostel. I was not the type to hang in there with extreme intransigence when a girl says “No.” So, I could not tell why I continued to pester Nkechinyere. Maybe I was seeking a formidable reason as to why she would not date me. Maybe I cared deeply for her.

Before I knew it a year went by and I was still in pursuit of Nkechinyere and she displayed an incredible level of resilience. Whenever we hung out, she was happy to discuss politics, science, geography and the likes with me, but love was off the table. It was a boundary she would not cross with me. Her beauty would sparkle in the sun each time I walked her home. Surprisingly, she would let me walk her home…she would spend time with me discussing intellectual matters. She even asked me to help her with her assignments, which I gladly did. Every moment I spent with her was like an extra dose of oxygen for my lungs. Her succulent lips, her bold, bright eyes and her enchanting voice had a grip on me like nothing else I had ever experienced. The more I thought of her, the more I pursued her and the more she built a mental barrier between her and me.

Soon, it was graduation time. I was one year her senior, so I had to resign to my fate; Nkechinyere had won. Her will and resilience had won over mine. She was to be the one that got away. As I finished my final exams and began to crank away in the laboratory on my research project, I decided to plough my time and energy into what mattered the most at that point in time – my study. Perhaps in an attempt to win back my attention, she began to come around, hanging in the lab with me. I began to wonder if she was addicted to the chase. She would not cut off the pipeline of the chase; something she probably craved like air. Bemused, I refused to be charmed back into the chase. One evening, I had to work very late in the lab. My project partner was not feeling well, so she had to leave earlier than necessary. I ploughed away into the dead of the night, taking care of my experiments and my partner’s. Nkechinyere sat with me, offering a hand when necessary. It seemed as if we were boyfriend and girlfriend. She smiled beautifully revealing her gap tooth that led me to mix the wrong chemicals a few times. I was set back in my work…beautifully though. I would do anything to see her immaculate white teeth glow in the light as her face transformed into an angelic smile. As much as I enjoyed her company, I hated it, just as much. ‘Soon, it would be over and she would go home…leaving me wondering where I went wrong,’ I thought.

“I am glad you could stick around to help me tonight. Thanks!” I said effusively at the end of the night. “I am glad I could help you,” she answered with that killer smile leaving my heart beating faster than normal. “Please could you walk me home?” She asked. This was a trap I was not willing to walk into again, yet it would seem cruel of me to say no after her much needed help that night. I found myself between the devil and the deep blue sea. Shutting my eyes, I grit my teeth and said no. “Why?” She asked placing her soft, tender hand on my shoulder. Her hand felt like velvet. My eyes closed momentarily as I savored every moment of her touch. Despite her carefully calculated ploy, I managed to muster the strength to say, “No.” She seemed immensely surprised. She was sure she had me where she wanted me – I could not say no. Somehow, I did and I stuck to my gun. As I watched her walk away, a part of me wanted to run after her and apologize. I closed my eyes, turned and dragged my poor self home.

“I wish I could explain to you how much you mean to me,” I said to Nkechinyere just before I left university for national youth service. “It makes me sad that nothing ever really worked out between us. I will miss you very much. I guess I am not what you want…the man of your dreams.” She smiled and placed a hand on my shoulder. This time, she left it there for what seemed like eternity. For a while, my brain stopped working and I was pretty sure that my heart stopped beating too. Everything went still. “I have a lot of respect for you,” she said staring me in the eye with her hand still resting peacefully on my shoulder. I looked back at her hoping she’d say the magic words – ‘I want us to finally date’. It was not to be. “You are an incredibly smart person. You seem to know what you want out of life,” she added. ‘Except with you,’ I thought in response to her statement. “I adore you for all that.” ‘Really! You adore me?’ I thought. ‘This is it I continued to give myself false hope.’ She is falling for me finally. My resilience had finally paid off. “I really like you…Honestly I do.” Her hand was still resting on my shoulder, mind you. As those words spewed out of her mouth, I almost had a heart attack out of excitement.

I wanted to wrap my arms around her and hug her forever. “I am sorry, despite my feelings for you, I don’t think the time is right,” she added, killing my short-lived excitement. I wanted to be mad at her, but I couldn’t. A sinking feeling went through me like a rocket. I walked to the bus stop later on partly blown by the wind, ravaged by weakness and emptiness. I smiled feebly to her, pretending that I could handle anything as I said goodbye to her. Surprisingly, I saw a trace of sadness on her face. ‘If she is sad about seeing me for the last time on campus, then why can’t she say yes?’ I wondered. Probing into Nkechinyere’s mind was full time work; one that I did not have the time for…anymore.

Soon, I would sprawl on my bed at night while serving far away from Enugu, staring intensely at her pictures. I made deliberate efforts to shove her off my mind, but she was not the type you shoved away at the snap of fingers. Then one night, I found myself scribbling a letter to her. Half way through, I abandoned the letter, crumbled the paper between my palms and threw it into the trash bin. Weeks later, I succumbed to the same task. This time, I finished the letter but I refused to mail it. After several months, I managed to have it mailed to her. I waited for weeks on end, but there was no sign of a reply from her. I would return from work and check my mail box. I would wake up in the morning and dash to the box in anticipation of a reply. It never came!!!

After youth service, I wound up in Lagos working for a major bank. Somehow, word spread amongst our friends. One Saturday afternoon, I got a call from her out of the blues. I had deleted her phone number to keep from calling her. So, I did not know it was her calling until I heard her distinct voice over the phone. She happened to be in Lagos too, waiting for youth service. Before I knew it, she was suggesting that we meet up. My walls crumbled…shattered. I met her two weeks later. She looked even more beautiful, mature and confident. Soon, she was coming around more often. She led me on - obviously, she wanted us to start a relationship. All of a sudden, I was taken aback. She texted in the afternoon to check in on me. “Have you had lunch honey?” She would ask me. Not too long ago, I was ready to walk across the ocean to hear her call me that. Now, it sounded empty…hollow. I wanted to respond with equal enthusiasm and passion, but I could not bring myself to do the same.

“You seem to be aloof towards me?” She asked one evening. “Am I?” I answered her question with a question in a thinly clad evasive attempt. “Yes you are. You pestered me terribly at university and now that I am willing to go all the way with you, you are being cold towards me,” she complained. “I appreciate your warmth NK, but I am not sure the timing is right,” I pointed out. “I needed time to make up my mind,” she retorted. Maybe she was right, but I could not swallow it hook line and sinker. I straddled the fence; despite my efforts to embrace her, I found myself dragging my feet terribly. She did not cease to be beautiful; however, something was still off.

“I am leaving for London in a few weeks to further my studies,” I said to her one evening. We were in a restaurant with friends. I managed to find a quiet time to chat with her. Her eyes became watery. She was not downright sobbing, but I could see mist forming in her eyes. “Are you leaving me behind?” She asked with concern. I wrapped my arms around her in an effort to console her. I did not know what else to do. “What about us?” She asked. “I don’t know?” I said as honestly as I could. “I have been trying to make this work. I want you. I want you that much now,” she said. Now I could see that her eyes were brimming with tears. That night in the lab, I would have given a chunk of my heart to hear her say the same thing to me after pursuing her for a few years. I wished I could wind back the hands of time so I could hear her say those things to me at a time when I needed them like oxygen. “I still love you NK. I really do. I am not sure that I have wanted anything as much as I have wanted you, but I am not sure it is going to work out between us.” She looked up at me through misty eyes. I managed to return her look. “So this is it?” I nodded. My nod was the nail in the coffin.

She sent me a text later that night: I can’t believe this. You are all that I want in my life now. It is hard to imagine my life without you, yet that is the reality I am faced with. I don’t know how else to prove to you that I want you with all of my heart. Please don’t leave me. I believe we care about each other enough to make this happen. You are a stubborn guy and I am just as resilient. If we try hard enough, you and I can still be together. I trust that if you love me that much, you’d come back for me, because I am willing to wait for you for eternity.

Her text left me in a terribly sad state. A part of me wanted to see her that night; be with her. Another part of me stalled like a stubborn he goat, held back by warning signals that rang like a bell in my brain. I wanted to believe that she truly loved me as much I did love her, but a lot of water had gone under the bridge. I felt a constant fear in my heart that it was not to be. Torn and broken emotionally, I left for the UK. I still took a few peeks at her picture while I was in London. I called a few times, but that eerie feeling never went away. Maybe some relationships are just not meant to be. This one definitely was not to be. When I was dying for her love, she did not offer it. When she was choking for mine, it just did not hit home with mine. Nonetheless, I cannot deny that I felt something crisp and deep for her for quite some time. I like to think that she did too. Maybe I am wrong. In the end, I took solace in the fact that some relationships are just not meant to be….I found out later that I was right on this one. Happiness did finally find me. I guess she did the same too, as she moved on not long afterwards.


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