He saw me around the estate. Then he knocked on our door. I was 17, fresh from high school, introverted and shy as hell (still am).
During the day I avoided the outdoors like a plague. There were always boys outside, seated on stones, chatting away loudly and being a bother to anyone with a skirt. If there was some shopping to do I’d wait until sun set.
But now here he was, speaking buttoned-up English, gentle as a lamb.
“Can we be friends?” he asks.
“Yes,” I say, “Why not?”
I can’t tell you his name. But he had a dashing smile, and ear-piercings, and in my book that made him the baddest boy around. Piercings were only for rebels and gothic-looking punks in the movies. This one kept his hair short and his nails neat. He liked baggy jeans, timberland boots, and the Wu Tang Clan.
I took to him like a hand to a glove.
It helped that he got on well with my siblings. He had good manners. Over time he became a common face in our digs. And what a face he had.
He became friends with my mom, too. He’d swing by our house and we’d all hang out as we got to learn about each other. Months passed and we blossomed. Slowly my crush was whipped into a flame.
At my house we weren’t allowed to go to my room, though so we would only hang out downstairs (My mum was smart) this same rule applies to my teenage kids up to today. It’s funny how when we get older we turn in to our parents.
But back at his place we could finally be alone. He had an outhouse, where we’d watch movies and talk and chill. He had a poster of Aaliyah on his wall, and he loved Rap music. The air of his room was saturated with a bouquet of silence so nourishing. I enjoyed his company. I liked the way his deep voice massaged my teenage spirit. I liked the way the light from the window fell on his smooth face.
Then after a few months I asked, “What do you call this. Define it.”
“You’re my girlfriend,” he said.
Sometimes he could be presumptuous.
“Ask then,” I said.
“Will you be my girlfriend?”
I said yes.
He became my first boyfriend. Before Netflix and chill there was us, at the tail end of puberty with a world full of possibilities. On his bed I’d lay my head on his chest and listen to his breathing, and it was all simple and easy.
Look at me now, when did I acquire the taste for complicated relationships?
As you can see I cultivated my directness early. I didn’t beat around the bush. I’ve always felt that my thinking was miles away from my peers. Even now as my age mates flock to bars and obsess over their loud Subaru’s and first born children, I feel like I’m past that.
Maybe it has to do with being the middle child who had to grow up fast. When my dad passed away I had to become my mother’s partner. I’d help in making budgeting and family decisions, and I always took care of my siblings. I was cut from the cloth of responsibility.
It was a pure relationship that added value to each of us. I made him get serious about his schoolwork and he made me come out of my shell. And I loved him for it.
We never went out on dates. I knew he wasn’t loaded anyway. We’d stay indoors and watched movies, took walks in the estate, ate and repeat. I didn’t demand for things from him.
I’m a stickler for rules. So we had this rule: We agreed that we’d call each other every day, in the morning and in the evening. He would come to campus on Wednesdays. And then Saturdays we’d hang at either his place or mine. And we did this for 4 good years.
Another rule we had; if you visit someone’s house you had to bring something with you. I mean, you are eating my mother’s food so you might as well. Which meant our siblings looked forward to the goodies, which were mostly cookies, chocolate and kenchic or mcfrys.
It’s amazing how I didn’t add weight or maybe I did, I didn’t care much about such things then.
But then I outgrew him. I feel really bad for him, the way I broke it up. I can still see his face, his features settling into a freeze as the words poured out of my mouth.
“I’ve changed. We’ve grown apart.”
He became the saddest boy to ever walk in shoe leather. He stayed indoors for days and sulked. Sometimes he’d come to our house and beg me to take him back. His sister, mum tried to talk me out of it, but my mind was done.
“I just don’t feel us anymore,” I said.
I dated another guy soon after that. But it only lasted for a few months, can’t remember clearly. How long ago it seems. He worked for the government. But he was a crazy one. He was the complete opposite. His insecurities were through the roof. The relationship wasn’t cool and laid back like the first one. He was possessive. If we were in public and some other guy talked to me he’d get aggravated. The attraction slowly leaked out, and I broke up with him pretty much the same way.
I was 22, young and ready for new things. Excited about what the world had to offer.
In terms of relationships, though, I’ve had it good. I don’t have many crazy dating stories. Or maybe I just didn’t date enough, because the following year, at an underground bar, I met Mike –18 years my senior, and the father of my six wonderful children.
They say you never really forget your first. And I still wonder what happened to him. I wonder if he still wears baggy jeans. Did life turn out okay for him, does he still eat cookies, is he happy?