We stood in line for ballroom dancing and from my calculations; I would be waltzing with my crush. Just as the procession started, a girl jumped the line and squeezed herself in front of me. I ended up dancing with the largest boy in class who stepped on my foot on every third beat. I hated him then; but later asked myself if my feet didn’t get such a beating because I was staring longingly across the room at what my seven-year-old self thought was magic.
I was one of those kids who got picked up really late from school almost always. So was the boy who asked my friend to be his girlfriend because I said no to him. When my ride showed up, I started to walk to the car when he ran out of the class and yelled, “Pemi, I love you!” It was dramatic, it was special. I paused but didn’t look back; I entered the car. My friend had said yes.
Another boy walked up to my seat during a free period. He leaned forward and pressed both my hands to the table then said: “I like you.” He stared into my eyes without blinking. I closed my eyes and shook my head and my heart went faster. How did he know to hold me down? After a struggle, I ran out to the corridor, away from his words and into a possible punishment for being out without a pass.
It was my first year in university and we were walking back from Studio. Our shadows converged under the streetlights and as his words strayed from funny to pensive, he deepened his voice and confessed to feelings. The distance between us and my hostel suddenly felt like a trap made of length. My insides played a game of Twister. He wanted to know what I thought, what I felt. A hot choking terror closed my throat and I searched for a panic cord to pull. I clutched my bag to my chest and didn’t stop running till I was in my hostel where men were denied entry.
We sat in his car in front of my house. He had been waiting for me at the estate gate to give me a lift home, again. I was trying to understand how it wasn’t stalking. “Marry me, Pemi.” Just like that. I sat still, confused, wondering about the distance between strangers and life partners and how many steps should cover it. I muttered something, yanked the door open, and blocked his phone number. I started passing the long way home.
I pulled away from the kiss and smiled at the smile on his face. His hands were light on my waist, feathery. I watched the emotions on his face morph from surprise to contentment. He leaned in again. “No, you have to go,” I said. I walked him to the front door, allowing a few feet between us so my hands wouldn’t betray me and reach out for him.
Cold air rushed in when he opened the door. “Have I done something wrong?”
I shook my head, no. He tried to approach me again, but slowly—as if I could fly away at any sudden movement.
“You have to go,” I repeated. Because if he stayed, he would stay and I didn’t know what happened after that.
His head lay heavy on my stomach that quiet Saturday morning. My hands played with his hair. “Stop freaking out. You’re being irrational,” someone had told me. “Love is not a trap; a relationship is not a cage.” But what does it mean when someone builds a castle in the sky and urges you to enter it? How do you relay the asphyxiating fear of entering in with concrete shoes? My hands froze in his hair and his head became heavier and heavier and heavier on my belly, pressing me into the bed.
© ‘Pemi Aguda 2016
‘Pemi Aguda writes short stories and flash fiction that have been published here and there. Her short story Caterer, Caterer won the Writivism Short Story Prize 2015. She co-curates the website, Nik-Nak.co
©Timi Yeseibo 2016
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