It is said that everything happens for a reason and every experience is simply another brush-stroke in a Maestro’s master-piece. I always laughed at such statements, and I still do sometimes, I have to admit. I know that life is not quite straight-forward; I learnt that with you.
It was six months ago, when we ran into each other at the Grand-Stand Hotel in Enugu, at a Conference organized for medical students by the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN). You were a 400-hundred level student and I was in 600-level, just a few months away from writing my final exams, looking eagerly towards being a certified Medical Doctor. It had been a three-day conference, and that was the final day. I was standing at the parking lot of the Hotel, waiting for my friends to join the bus when you walked over to me, with eyes bearing a mischievous twinkle.
“Hello. I’m Adaeze, but my friends call me Ada. I saw you a while back and I thought we could be friends.”
I was a bit shocked. In my head, being from a very strict home, ladies were never to approach men first, especially not to ask for friendship. It took me about twenty seconds to unfold my tongue and utter a barely audible response.
“Hello. I’m David. My friends call me Dave.”
Now, thinking of it, I know I sounded rude. Not in the words said but in the tone and the way I stared at you as though you were just out of a Sanitarium. I did not know what the coming days were to bring with them? Do we ever know? After that, I turned away and stepped into the bus, without saying “good-bye” or “nice to meet you”, or any of those other niceties which civil communication demands. I know you must have thought me proud. But I was just taken aback by the look of your eyes, by the glowing suppleness of your dark skin and the rich texture of your voice. For some reason, I was scared then, as though danger lurked nearby and I needed to shield myself from it.
The next day, when we had both resumed school in the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, I saw you, just as my class ended. You had a class too, in the same hall, but your lecturer was yet to show up. And I stared at you, yet again. I realized I had been rude the previous day but I did not know how to apologize to you. And so I walked up to you, and apologized. Do they not say that the best way to learn how to do a thing is to do that thing? You smiled at me, and said you would not accept my apology until I explained my reasons for acting that way. I laughed in response, a lot. I found you funny then, and interesting, and intriguing. And I did explain. You smiled when I was done, in an understanding way which I would come to recognize as being borne out of your struggles with finding your own identity. Your lecturer was approaching the classroom then. I was caught in two minds then. Should I ask for your number? Would that be too soon, too forward? I decided against it, and looked at you as I said my good-byes. Again, you were staring at me, as though you could read my thoughts.
I walked out, and talked with Boniface, my friend. And you walked out too. I cannot recall why you did, now. But at that moment, I knew it was a sign. And I walked up to you, and opened the middle page of my note-book and gave you my pen, standing sheepishly.
“Can I get your number, please?”
You flashed a smile, revealing your brilliantly white set of teeth. And you scribbled your phone number on the page and handed it back to me. As you walked into the class, you looked back at me with your right-hand shaped like a telephone, pressed to your right ear, and mouthed “Hey, call me.” And I was ecstatic, barely believing my good fortune, still expecting to wake up from the crazy dream I was having. Guys like me were never supposed to be that lucky with ladies, right? I was the nerdy looking guy and you were straight out of a fashion magazine.
The months afterwards are a bit blurry. A few days later, we agreed to hang out, and the following day, we took the first of our five night-walks through the residential area of the University Campus. There was a full moon out that night. And it was heavenly. I sung to you as we walked along the lonely road, admiring the stars and feeling on top of the world. And you laughed, mocking my voice, saying it sounded like the croak of a frog with a stone caught in its throat. Perhaps you wanted me stop singing then. But how could I? How could I stop singing with so much joy in my heart?
The following day, we took another night-walk. This time though, it was not as innocent. I let my emotions get the better of me, and we ended up going down a path I thought I wanted then, but which you had grave hesitations about. I should have listened to you, then. The following day, you felt terrible. You felt as though the world had its accusatory eyes trained on you, as you walked back home. And I tried to feel good. This was what guys were supposed to do, right? Despite my best efforts, the feeling of unease failed to deaden. We were not the same afterwards.
On our next night-walk, I knew we had made a mistake. I had made a mistake. But I did not know how to correct it. From our talks, you wanted someone to love you, to be there for you at all times, a shoulder to cry on and a rock to lean on. You wanted a Romeo to your Juliet. And I knew, deep down, I could not be that guy, not then. I wanted to explore the world, have fun and be free. At least that was what I thought I wanted. I looked at you, as we approached the Exit gate of the Campus. And I asked,
“Would you like to go to the movies with me, tomorrow? It would be fun.”
You looked straight into my eyes, and silently nodded a “yes”, and you walked away, in the direction of your hostel which was close-by. And I turned in the opposite direction, walking towards the park at which I would get a cab. We went to the movies the following day and you held my hand, all through our stay. And afterwards, you told me that was the last time we would be hanging out together; you were in love with me and you knew I did not feel the same. And I understood. I felt sad, yes. But I knew it was for the best.
A couple of months later, two days to my final oral exam, you happened to be staying in my hostel, with a friend of yours. You had been there for about three days before we ran into each other at the gate, as I was returning from school. And I could see the hurt still there in your eyes although you tried hard to hide it. We exchanged greetings and parted ways.
Later that evening, you came up to my room and watched a movie on my laptop. I needed it for work but I let you use it. Somewhere along the line I said something that hurt you, though it was not hurtful in itself. You flared up, shouting, letting out a load of pain and frustration long kept in. Your academics had suffered because of me, you said. You had suffered. I knew you needed that. I knew I had been manipulative and inconsiderate, leading you on, only to let you go. When you were done, we talked some more. And you told me if I still wanted to be friends, it was up to me. I wondered what kind of person forgives so soon?
The following day, you came over and helped me rehearse for my exam. You sensed that I was tense and asked me to talk about it, about what I was feeling. I talked. I remember you bringing out a notebook and a pen, and writing down all my answers; this took about three hours. Thinking of it now, I thank God for that day, for those three hours. I thank God for you. And then you uttered those words I would never forget.
“I believe in you. I know it sounds cheesy, but I do. I really do. Please do not let me down. Please do not let us down, all of us that believe in you, and I am sure we are many. Promise me you would do your best. You would try, always. You would make us proud, yourself too.”
At that point, I knew I was going to succeed. I had no doubt of it. You made me look within myself for the belief and faith which had been there all along, but had been relegated to the background by more negative thoughts of fear and the consequences of failure. I needed that talk, that day. I think, more than anything else, you saved me from myself.
Three months later, you are doing really well. I am proud of you, of all you have become and all that you are yet to become. When I told you of the results of my exams which I passed my exams in flying colours, you screamed and said “I knew it. I never doubted you would do it”. I am currently doing my “House-manship” in the University of Nsukka Teaching Hospital (UNTH). I can say now that we are friends, again. It has been a rough ride for you and for me, but in many ways, we both needed that journey to find peace with ourselves, to find strength which we had never fully acknowledged. The fear of what the future holds no longer exists. As you say, everything happens for a reason; just always keep moving forward. I remember that. How can I forget?
It is said that everything happens for a reason and every experience is simply another brushstroke in a Maestro’s masterpiece. I always laughed at such statements and I still do sometimes, I have to admit. But now, I know that life is not quite straight-forward. I learnt that from you. Continue reading “Night Walks”