Do you know what it’s like to have a crush on somebody who doesn’t know you? Or even knows you exist?.
So there he is, laughing with his friends, talking to girls from his class and girls not from his class. From your vantage point, peeping outside your classroom window, you’re staring and wondering what these girls have that you don’t have.
Oh sure, they are the beautiful and confident girls always talking to boys, and most importantly, they are tidy. These girls always appear perfect, hair perfect, uniform ironed and clean always, no stains or spills, not even ice cream spills. Their socks are always sparkling white even after school. You on the other hand, have socks so black and dirty sometimes you wonder if it’s from the dust or if everybody lines up to match your feet everyday. You don’t even have hope of ironing. You have no senior friend that could help you iron. When you do have ice cream, it’s like a tornado of stains on your uniform, forming a map from here to the whole of Africa.
And most importantly, you don’t talk to boys. It’s not a hype thing or a classy thing. But somewhere between jss 2 and jss 3, you stopped talking to boys entirely. None, not one. Which is weird considering that you go to a mixed school.
And you have this awesome conversations with them in your head. You know you’re funny and would be great friends with boys. But the shyness. And the persona of the dark, quiet, angry girl who never smiles, is a tough shell to break. Maybe at first they noticed you, but now, you’ve faded into the wood work.
It’s not like you don’t smile. It’s just that every time a boy comes close, a hard frown appears automatically to hide the fact that you’re nervous. So all you do is have crushes on cute guys, and wonder how girls start up friendships with boys. And what do they even talk about?
That’s the big question. I always imagine the conversation to be an intelligent, great one. The truth is, you crush on any guy that even says ‘hello’. Cos you know how rare that is. How about that time you were in Jss2 class, and that guy suddenly started been over-friendly. You could tell he had an interest in you. And you enjoyed that, and started developing an interest, even though you would not have considered him before. That is, until he moved his interest to a tall pretty girl. And not just any kind of pretty. The kind of pretty that everybody notices. Everybody, boys, girls, seniors.
The kind of pretty girls that are popular. I used to think I was pretty too. Then at home, everyone used to compliment me and tell me how tall, slim and beautiful I was. I believed that.
Until I came to school. And I discovered that there are pretty, then there are pretty.
Maybe my kind of pretty needs deliberate and exaggerated lighting. But this girls, didn’t need any of that. Their pretty was obvious. So when that young boy lost interest in me and started running after her, I was crushed. Though he never said anything, I knew he had an interest in me then. I was just waiting for him to ask. The humiliation. He left me for a girl whom we all knew would never date him. She was too pretty and popular for him.
Girls like her, date the most popular and the finest boys in our set. And he wasn’t that popular. Or that handsome. Something that amazes me, is why the Obviously Handsomes (that’s what I call the people who are pretty and everybody knows it. Not me. I am pretty and nobody knows it), would somehow always date the Obviously Pretties.
It always galled and fascinated me. Like, do they call a secret meeting for the Obviously handsomes and Pretties that the rest of us, the ordinaries, are not aware of? Is it not the same class we all attend? Yet, tomorrow, you’ll see one Obviously Pretty, laughing, talking to, and dating another Obviously Handsome and you’ll be wondering, when did all this start? Where are these meetings that I never get invited to?
But enough of that. The state of Obviously Handsomes and Pretties still fascinate me till today. I mean, somehow, I hardly make the kind of friendship I want with the Obviously Handsomes. Yet I know some few girls, who it seems, are friends with all the Obviously Handsomes you can find in any environment. You know, the cool, really handsome, sometimes tall guys that is every girl’s dream. And I wonder where these girls meet them.
Seriously. I mean, it’s not like I don’t meet and befriend the Obviously Handsomes. I even date them sometimes. But it takes a while before one Obviously Handsome walks into my life. It really does. And I can’t wait that long before i date someone. How do they have the patience? Maybe it doesn’t take that long for that to happen to them. And I notice that these girls, are usually the quiet, cool, calm, organised girls. Like the ones in primary school. And secondary school. And university. And the office.
Not me, the scatter scatter. It’s not like am dirty or too loud. It’s just that I use my body a lot, to talk, laugh, gist, shout and play around. I like playing hard. And I don’t even like these cool calm girls. I always feel like it’s just a sham. I even try to be cool and calm. But that’s only when I get depressed.
Which takes me back to my window, where am peeping at a boy I like, talking to one obvious beautiful. It hurts me. A lot. Who is she? Just because am too quiet and shy to talk to boys, does not mean am not fun to talk to. It’s just because am not Obviously Beautiful. So I remove my head from the window and sit down.
I remember one day, I was walking home from class, tired, hungry and angry at my parents for not sending me money the previous weekend.
You see, the thing about boarding school is that once your money and provisions are finished, then you’re entirely at the mercy of the school dining. And God save you if you don’t have a plate.
I was in that boat. Money gone, provisions gone and no friend to lean on. And walking back to the dorm after a tiring day of classes that I hardly paid attention to, my head was down, my mind far away, when I heard the sound of a voice that made me look up.
There, at the four point junction that led to the dining hall, the girls dorm and staff quarters, stood Alex, standing with other male friends and laughing. Normally, as junior students, they would never dare stand at the junction. But the senior students were writing their Mock exams in the dining hall, giving us some few hours of freedom. Of course being in Jss3 didn’t mean much freedom, especially if somebody in a senior class came along. But nobody else was around. And Alex and his friends were taking advantage of this few precious minutes of rare freedom.
But my mind barely registered all that. My heart had started beating fast again and my legs stopped moving. I had the sudden urge to turn back and go the other way. Why are you running? I asked myself. What’s the point? It’s not like Alex knows you exist or anything. So what was the point of all this hide and seek? No point at all.
I would pass there and they wouldn’t even bother to look at me, talk of acknowledging me.
But I knew it didn’t matter much. Even though they didn’t know I existed, I knew they did. Especially Alex. Oh, I knew Alex existed. Sometimes, in my dark bleary world, the only spot of sunshine would be the times I would catch a glimpse of Alex in class or in the dining hall. Which wasn’t often.
You see, though we were all in jss3, I and Alex were not in the same class. He was in D class, I was in B class. Which meant we learnt in different classes. So I only saw Alex in brief moments when he walked down the classroom corridors past my class and I would be peeping through the window. I had made the habit of always watching the corridor like a hawk. Sometimes I think that’s the main reason I chose a seat by the window.
Other times, when I ventured outside my class and walked past his class, I would see him inside his class, never alone, always surrounded by friends. And girls. Always girls. Especially that Miriam girl. Maybe it was the fact that Alex was tall, dark skinned and had a bit of muscles. Or because by far, he was the neatest boy in Jss3 with his sparkling white shirts that were always ironed. Or maybe because he was also intelligent. Me, I was an average student, not at the least of my class but not at the top either.
Other times, I would catch glimpses of Alex in the dining hall. But this wasn’t often. He wasn’t a ‘gruber’ as we called those always too eager for dining hall food. And even when I would see him, he would always be in the company of senior boys.
So you see, Alex was a special special boy. Sure, he didn’t know I existed, but I sure did. I noticed everything, from the small cut he had on the back of his neck from a bad hair cut, to the clean cut fingernails. Sometimes, I would imagine those hands around my shoulders, his face bent close to mine as he talked to me in whispers.
But all that was non-essential. Because there stood Alex in front of me. And I had been standing and staring for a few minutes now. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t walk past them. I would surely miss my step, or slip and fall, or walk awkwardly. No matter what, I didn’t want Alex to see me. No matter what.
Just as I made up my mind to turn back and wait in the parking lot of the Admin block until the coast was clear, Alex suddenly turned sideways, straight towards me.
Oh no! He had seen me. What would I do? I couldn’t possibly turn and go back now. It would be too obvious that I was too chicken to walk past them. Neither could I walk past them. I was too chicken to do that!
So I stood there, then had a flash of inspiration. Turning my head away, I removed my bag, opened it and brought out a notebook, then I nodded slowly like I just remembered something. I closed the bag, still holding the book and turned back quickly, like one in a great hurry, and walked away.
I don’t know how convincing I was, but anything was better than nothing. And I had avoided another disaster. I stood in the parking lot for a good thirty minutes, before I could build up the courage to check if they had left.
The coast was clear. I smiled benignly as I walked past the previously dangerous spot. Of course, the thirty minutes I had wasted meant that the senior students had finished their exams and the moment I entered the dorm room, we were forced to take a siesta. I couldn’t wash like I had planned to. But it was worth it. I think so. Wasn’t it?