Before S. there were others. But S. was different, for some reasons that seem stupid to me today. For instance, I fell in love with her, first, because of the way she walked—like Nicola Six in “London Fields”; the way her legs curved, one after the other, like the bend of a river, and the way it made her body appear fluid when she walked.
The night I began to feel my heart hum a tune about her was the night I visited her to give her some biscuits and sweets I bought for her as a birthday gift. After she made me sing “All of Me” to her and she claimed my voice was good, she walked me to the road where I was to take a bike home. As she walked ahead of me, side-stepping murky rainwater in bowl-like holes in the earth, I couldn’t stop looking at her legs. Later, she’d read one of my short stories about a student who had a crush on a corper and she’d notice a particular scene where I spent two long paragraphs describing how that corper walked and she would ask me if I loved her because of how she walked.
Other than the pride I felt walking next to S., there was her sensibility to matters, her attention to detail and how she always made me feel like I was the best thing in the world—and, I would say, if your lover doesn’t make you feel that way, I don’t consider that love to be fiery. I mean, love exists where people see beyond the ordinary in each another, when they see what could be there—and, that only comes from careful observation and the paying of attention, a kind of sensibility, for it is only when we look well enough that we see the miracle that people carry within them.
S. saw me as a miracle. When I was having death tugging at my heart, when living was really a longing for leaving—S. was there. She’d call me every time, chat me up every minute, and, when it was something she couldn’t handle, she’d ask her dad to meet me and talk to me.
There was this day I was ranting and cursing God and posting about my suicidal thoughts on Facebook. She called and I kept saying different things that made her feel worried. Later that day, in the evening, she came with her dad to my school—I was staying in the hostel. She was dressed in this black, a-little-way-from-getting-to-
Her dad, that day, took me somewhere, bought me a drink and spoke about different things, threading every new talk with a Bible verse. Though I was responding, I wasn’t really with him; I was thinking about the girl in the black, a-little-way-from-getting-to-
With all that her dad said, a few weeks after the day he visited, I went ahead and made a suicide attempt, hanging myself to a dogoyaro tree at the back of the hostel.
I didn’t tell her, but she heard it from somebody’s mouth. At first I denied, later I confessed. She said she’d report me to her dad. She never did. All she did was make sure she called me every night to sing for me—she made me sing for her, too. The songs we sang included Simi’s “Smile for Me” and “Complete Me”, Adekunle Gold’s “Sade” and “Orente”, and “No Forget” by both Simi and Adekunle Gold. She also loved Asa’s “Bibanke” and Adele’s “Hello”, and I loved John Legend’s “All of Me” and a lot of James Arthur.
On Messenger, we’d chat and chat till our phone batteries went flat because we always had something to say, because S. was my kind of girl, the one that read my unpublished stories and bad poems and critiqued them without even knowing. S. was the kind of girl who would pluck down the moon to make fruit juice in celebration of an acceptance email I got, and the kind of girl that knew what to say when rejections came in—a kind every writer should have.
When the Babishai Niwe longlist was going to come out in 2018, S. said she was fasting and praying that I make the longlist, though she couldn’t say of what use making the longlist would have been or wouldn’t have been—all that mattered to her was: Holding dear whatever I held dear.
I didn’t make the longlist, and I cried that day, though a year later, now, I understand how bad my poems were then. However, S. believed prayer was important, and because she wanted to have me for a whole day, she suggested I attend a church program with her. The program was happening in Lagos, and we both stayed in Abeokuta. Thankfully, there was a bus that would transport us, together with some other people, to the venue; the same bus would return us to Abeokuta.
I sat next to S. at the back. There we ate cheeseballs and talked and sang on SingPlus and held hands and I just wanted to be there, next to her, forever. Occasionally, she dropped her head on my shoulder and it felt as if I had been dead all my life, until that moment. We listened to love songs on our phones and watched comedy videos by Kenny Blaq. Because there were words too big for our mouths to say in that bus, we wrote them on our phones and showed them to each other. She wrote, I read, I cleared what she wrote and replied.
It was on our way back from the program that S. said we should kiss, but I kept saying no, because I’m that kind person who has the fear of eyes. I always believe there are eyes everywhere, all of them looking at me, waiting to become mouths raining accusations. S. kept poking me, but I just kept saying no. She asked that we place our heads on the seats and just do our thing, but no, I said. She felt I was awkward, I know, but I felt it was awkward kissing in a bus full of church people, too.
When we got to Abeokuta, she began reading me jokes that hinted at sex—but they were clean. Then we got to my school, where I was supposed to drop, and I didn’t, because I really wanted to have that kiss. Halfway from my school and halfway to S.’s house where the bus would stop and all passengers would alight, everywhere had become dark and the lights in the bus had gone off. It was in that time, five seconds before the light was put on, that I pressed my face to hers and our lips met; it was in that brief moment that what will almost ruin me touched me. It’s funny how I still carry a hunger for the softness of her lips; how I sometimes dream about them.
When the bus dropped everybody at the junction that led to S.’s street, I begged her for more. As Ola Pamilerin noted in his essay, the want of a body is hunger, desire is hunger, and that night, having tasted those lips, I was hungry for more. She said it was late, that no, it would happen some other day.
That night, in the hostel, on my bunk bed, my temperature heated up and I was shivering under my cover-cloth.
A few weeks later, yawa gassed. A friend of mine who heard that I visited S. at home messaged me, asking if I was in a relationship with her. I said he should ask her. He said O.K. A few minutes later, I sent S. a photo of cuddling lovers and she responded that I was demanding too much of her, and she said she had a boyfriend, and I said I had a girlfriend, too (it was a joke we threw all the time, I never knew there was a kind of truth underneath it its covers). She said her boyfriend was my friend, and when I asked what I was, she said I was her friend. That night, things broke and the earth caved in and received the ruins; only, it didn’t receive me. That night, I wouldn’t sleep; I couldn’t. I stayed up till 5 am, and when the clock struck an hour, I messaged her and messaged my friend, H., to say that I was still up. But she was asleep, offline.
The next day, I called her and she didn’t pick; when she picked, she said nothing. She later told me she had gone to buy clothes in Lagos with her mom and sister. I cried my eyes out, took selfies of my muddled face and sent it to her, begging her to not leave me in the rain, but she either didn’t reply or replied like I was not the same guy she called every night to sing for and wanted, like hell, to kiss in that bus. I poured hot from my father’s schnapps bottles in the cap and drank one, two, to kill the burning in my heart. Later, I began to do weed small-small, because, though I was young and it was just a five-second kiss, it was, like Ariel said in the movie “5 to 7”, “the beginning of belief.”
Ernest O. Ògúnyemí (b. 2000) is a writer and spoken word artist from Nigeria. His works have appeared/ forthcoming in: Acumen Poetry Journal, Ricochet Review, Litro ‘Comedy’ Issue, Lucent Dreaming, Low Light Magazine, Canvas Lit Journal, Agbowó ‘Limits’ Issue, Rising Phoenix Review, Ink in Thirds, COUNTERCLOCK Journal (The Fellows’ Art Gallery), Erotic Africa: The Sex Anthology, and elsewhere. He is a 2019 Adroit Summer Mentee and a 2019 COUNTERCLOCK Arts Collective Fellow. He is presently curating the Young African Poets Anthology, and he serves as an editorial intern at COUNTERCLOCK.