Your secondary school crush. You sent a letter through her best friend, and it took her two weeks before she replied. And then she did. And that day all of your clique read it over and over again to the point of memorising every line like a prayer. Then the relationship started. She’d sneak her mum’s phone into her room to chat with you on 2go every night – to tell you how deeply she loved you and how she’d never want to lose you. But the next day in class she’d pretend as though she wasn’t the one who had sent all those messages. She wouldn’t even give you a decent gaze when you attempted to flirt with her in front of your friends to prove to them how amazing your relationship was. Yet you chose to understand. She was shy and from a type of scrict family that didn’t allow too much socialising especially with boys. But whenever you were together alone, she would be nice and sweet and romantic. She said it’s disrespectful for any of you to use the pronoun “I”. She said it must be “We”. Such as “We’ve headache”, “We’re thirsty”, “We saw her yesterday.”
You finished secondary school and both of you wrote JAMB. She got 209 and you scored 186. She got admission to study Biochemistry and you couldn’t get admission to study Quantity Survey. You decided to wait till next year to write another JAMB while she went to university. By then WhatsApp was popular and you continued communicating. It was warm, as though going to the university had renewed the relationship. She was even sympathetic that she had to go to university before you but she assured you it didn’t matter. “Love is all that matters,” she said during one of your chats. You screenshotted and sent to all your friends. Like a gospel verse.
Whenever you’re sad, whenever you logged on Facebook to see your secondary school classmates tagging you on their pictures at their various universities with captions like “Lecture Thingzzz”, “ABU Gangsters” etc, with their two fingers raised in front of them and with colourful shades and the coolest pencil trousers, you’d feel depressed, you’d feel you were a failure. The world would darken and your feet would feel too heavy to carry you up. Everything around you would start to appear bigger and your body would be getting smaller, as if the world was about to suffocate you to death. Then you’d remember the words “Love is all that matters” and your spirit would rise. Your lost self-esteem would start to walk back to you. A type of magical energy would surround you. And you’d smile and continue living.
Then your university girlfriend would started to respond to your WhatsApp messages after five or six hours of delivery. When you complained she’d say you liked to forget she had lectures to attend and practicals to do and cooking and resting. You chose to understand because love was all that mattered. But her attitude became unbearable when she began taking a whole day without responding to your messages. You complained and she told you that you’re too impatient and “You refuse to understand that you’re at home and I’m in school”. Those words were terrifying to read. You almost knocked down your phone after reading. Your eyes red, your forehead getting wet, you read it over and over again interpreting it in all angles, in all languages, in all disciplines, but the fundamental meaning that kept resurfacing was: We’re no longer on the same level.
Shock. Extreme shock.
After you tried to calm down, you tried to give her many excuses once more. You said it must be university stress especially ABU. You also accepted the reality and spoke sense to your head that whether she had expressed that truth or not, it was a fact. You were not on the same level. So it was even better that she was brave enough to carry the truth and placed it on the surface to the sight and consciousness of both of you. So that there was no need for any shallow denial of what’s continuously felt. It was better that that reality was now boldly placed in front of you and every decision would be made with all the underlying circumstances taken into focus. No denial. So somehow, that rationalising of the scenario consoled you greatly. Love was all that mattered.
But things didn’t change. In fact it began deteriorating. She began placing rules and regulations before you. She began to tell you when to call her and when not to. When to chat her up and when not to. You even begged to come and see her at the university but she said no instantly without even giving it a thought. You asked why, and she said “Distance doesn’t matter when two hearts belong to each other.” The words sounded sweet and poetic and it pleased you. But you felt that she just said it to appear sophisticated, to show you the level of her enlightenment. To show you that you were not aware of the latest trends in the world of love. Yet you agreed even though it wasn’t even an option.
You tried to speak to Aliyu Jalal who you used to call SkyBoi. Though SkyBoi wasn’t your best friend, he was also your classmate in secondary school and was part of your clique and knew almost all the details of your relationship. But the actual reason you wanted to speak to him about her was because he had also got admission and was in ABU with her though different faculties. Somehow you thought he could have an insight you were lacking regarding how to handle university girls. You thought possibly there were adjustments you needed to make and fit how to be a university girl’s boyfriend properly. SkyBoi listened to everything and then dropped a sigh and said “Just leave this girl, she’s playing with your emotions too unnecessarily.” And you wished you hadn’t spoken to him. Everything in SkyBoi’s world was simple. A girlfriend misbehaves, leave her; a friend is insolent, fall out with him. There was even a day you had told him that your Dad complained too much about you listening to music all the time, and he said you should pack your clothes and come to spend two days at their house. “If you scare him this way, he’d realise your value and stop treating you like a kid,” he advised. Jalal was that crazy. Everything in sharp edges.
Now you were at a point where the only thing you wanted was not to lose her. You resolved to tolerate her enough until you joined her at the university to work things out properly. You abided by her rules of not chatting her too much, of not calling her too much, of giving her space to have fun with her friends and read her books. But one night around ten p.m., she rang your phone and after you picked, she said “Go to your WhatsApp.” Four-word command. No “Please” attached. Your data subscription had finished that time but you went out and walked on the street and bought airtime and subscribed and went to WhatsApp.
“Can we just be friends please?” Was the message you met.
“I don’t get you…”
“I mean we should stop being boyfriend and girlfriend and start being just friend and friend..”
“Whaaaat? Are you joking??? Whyyyyy??? After all these years…???”
“I want you to understand that I can’t handle the burden of a relationship at this moment of my life… I need to fix myself together.”
“Wait Don Allah don’t do this to me. Let’s keep being boyfriend and girlfriend even if we’re to communicate only monthly… Wallahi I can’t do without you…pleassssseees.”
“This is not negotiable fah… I’m sorry. Bye. May you find somebody better.”
“Waiiiit, listen please…”
“My Heartbeat please don’t go..”
You called her number over fifty times in the next one hour but was switched off. Sent countless of messages. No response. Three days later you continued the same routine each day but didn’t hear anything from her.
You stood in your room alone, in singlet and boxers, a glass of water in one hand and some tablets and capsules in the other, the house was quiet – it was a working day and your parents had gone to work and all your siblings had gone to school. The walls began swirling and moving closer and closer to you. You dropped the glass to the ground and it broke and the water splashed up to your laps. You slacked down to the ground and spread your legs on the broken pieces of glass, then you allowed your heart to also break in all the number of pieces it wanted to.
Aliyu Jalal is a poet, essayist and storyteller.