He had always known he was the ‘girl’ in the relationship. It didn’t bother him and he didn’t try to hide it either. Yes, this meant he had to bear the brunt of his friends’ jokes. They called him names like Tok, Mumu, Kojo Besia and other cruel names that we don’t need to talk about today. All this was worth it when Hazel smiled.
Even her name had a special ring to it. Hazel was different…and maybe that was why he didn’t mind being hopelessly smitten. He loved everything about her! Her smile- those teeth, the way her lips parted when she mentioned his name. She was perfect, even her toenails were without blemish. He could still remember the first day he saw her. She was in a white sleeveless top and khaki shorts with brown sandals. It was a sunny day and her sunglasses were daintily set on her nose. She was wearing lip balm, not the in-your-face loud red lipstick or calling-for-attention lip gloss most girls wore at the time. He remembered every detail- the way her calves looked in the shorts, the perfume she was wearing, the lame excuse he used to initiate a conversation, the way she saw right through it and laughed, the leap of triumph his heart did when she gave him her phone number.
Strangely she didn’t remember any of this. Her explanation? ‘I don’t need to remember every little detail. The most important part of the story is that we are together and that we love each other’ And that was good enough for him. It made sense, didn’t it? Well, it didn’t make sense to his friends. The girls, he could understand, but the boys always amazed him. They had this theory that it was the girl who had to love more in the relationship. They said that she was treating him like a dog on a leash- giving him just enough love to keep him happy and loyal, not letting him get too close…
She knew that this was what they thought about her, but she smiled and dismissed it in her cool and calm manner. Nothing fazed Hazel, nothing. She always kept a clear head and a calm disposition. He loved that about her too- he was the emotional one so the balance was perfect. He was willing to do anything for her- even if it meant catching all the herrings left in the world and converting the devil to Christianity, yes, even things like that!
He couldn’t count the number of Champions league matches he had missed to take a stroll with her, or how much of his pocket money he had saved to be able to buy her the pineapple and ginger juice she loved so much. And all for this, just for the thrill that comes with ‘Ato, you are the best’. He was just waiting for both of them to finish school for him to pop the ‘will you marry me’ question. He would have popped it by now, if he didn’t know for sure that she would ask him to wait until they were done with school.
So this was a big surprise!
A break up? He stood there, numb, willing himself to wake up from the nightmare. It didn’t make sense. No warning signs, no hints. She was sitting across him, asking for a break up in her cool and calm manner. How could she be so calm and indifferent? She looked like she was ordering kelewele from Auntie Adjoa’s corner, like they did every Friday. He tuned her out because it was too painful to listen to. Snippets of what she was saying floated past his ears ‘different directions’ ‘more assertive’ ‘love you as a friend’
He felt sick. He looked down, he didn’t want to hate her. His mind was screaming at her, but on the outside, he was calm, like they were just waiting for the kelewele to arrive. He wasn’t worried about what the guys would say. He could already predict the smug ‘I told you so’ theme that would run through their comments. He knew they would try to hook him up with a girl or two. He didn’t want anyone else, he wanted his Hazel.
‘Ato?’, the concern in her voice brought him back to reality. ‘Are you alright?’ His quiet laugh surprised her, he himself was surprised. How could she be asking if he was alright when she was taking away his world? He had loved her with everything, she didn’t love him like that but it was ok, because he had enough love for both of them. This didn’t make sense. Anger began to swell in his chest, it gave way to rage, then fear, then intense sadness. He got up abruptly and slowly began to walk off. ‘I need some air’, he mumbled as he walked towards the door. That was a lie. The tears were battling with his eyelids for prominence. There was no way he was going to cry, at least not in front of her.
Real men don’t cry, even when they are the girl in the relationship…
©Maukeni Padiki Kodjo, 2014