by Tayo Fasuan
As I started writing this piece, I was sincerely hoping Kemi (surname withheld for security purposes) won’t get to read it because it would reveal to her what really went down that day over twenty years ago. If she did, I’m hoping she would laugh about it without giving me a punch, because thinking back now, I think I deserve it. It happened when I was in SSS 2 or SSS 1 in Christ’s School, perhaps in year 2000 or 2001.
It was on a cool afternoon after school, and instead of going home, my friends and I decided to detour to Omega Coaching Centre, arguably the most popular and biggest extra-lesson and coaching centre in Ado-Ekiti back then. I was with my usual clique – Tosin and Toyin – the same guys present when I toasted that girl that turned preacher on me. However, a certain guy called Tope was also present.
Tope was a confirmed rabble-rouser back in secondary school, and he had the ability to talk anyone into doing what they normally wouldn’t do. He also had a nasty mouth, and he could tease and bug the life out of anyone he focused on back then. Our classmates always wanted Tope by their side in any fight or quarrel because he would help you win the verbal battle of that warfare. And this ability to use his mouth to wreck havoc was what got me into trouble once again that day.
As you can already guess, it was another case of ‘I dare you’. I was a sucker for daring games. I hated someone telling me I couldn’t do something, and up till now, I still respond to that ‘stimulus’ of daring. It’s a weakness. I apply matured sense to dares these days though. It’s not every challenge one must undertake.
So when we reached our destination at Omega, the whole frontage of the coaching centre was crowded. We quickly settled down under one of the vacant market sheds that were in front of the centre building. Students were just arriving; those who came for classes were going in, and some with no clear cut mission like us came to just feed our eyes. If you are familiar with the differences between holiday coaching centres and after-class coaching centres, you will understand this scenario very well.
In the midst of the rowdiness pervading the surrounding, Tope saw and recognised a group of Christ’s Girls students; he waved at them, and they waved back. Of course, our next discussion would be centred on them, and in no time, we had analysed and concluded on who was dating who, who had boyfriends and who didn’t. Kemi fell into the last group. Not only was this surprising because other guys unanimously agreed to that information, but I was also told no guys could approach her. I asked why, and I was told it was because of her name was Ojuyobo, which meant ‘The Popping Eyes.’
Remember I told you in one of these series that I had a thing for eyes? Well, I wasn’t about to agree that this was their reasons for Kemi’s lack of boyfriend or toasters. Of course, a short but great debate ensued, and it ended with Tope saying I didn’t have what it takes to ask her out. Knowing Tope’s nature, I didn’t take the bait immediately; I wasn’t going to get into that today, I told myself. However, Tope wouldn’t back down, switching from needling me, to cajoling me, to abusing me until I had enough and agreed.
I told them I would do it.
Tosin and Toyin were alarmed. I didn’t understand why. I told them is it not just ordinary eyes. They told me I would soon understand.
Tope had immediately swung into action, walked toward that group of girls and managed to pry away Kemi from their midst, isolating her for me under one of those market sheds. He came back to our standpoint, motioning to me to go and meet Kemi, and I did, walking like the Don I thought I was to her shed. As I moved closer to her, I realised she was a beauty to behold. She had this slim figure and beautiful legs that were endlessly long. I guess this was where I got my obsession with ladies with long legs as well.
As I got nearer, I realised she was bespectacled, and she didn’t appear to be using it just for fashion because of the way it was attached to her ears with rope. When I got to her, I greeted her and she responded, looking away, possibly shy. That was a cue for me to launch into my speech, telling her that I like her, and I want to be her boyfriend, momentarily forgetting about why I was there in the first place. After delivering my lines, there was a moment of silence
“Why?” She suddenly asked. I was momentarily stunned. Why what? Did anyone need reasons to be someone’s boyfriend back then?
“Because you’re pretty,” I replied, recovering faster then I even anticipated.
“Are you sure?” She paused before asking, all these while still not directly looking at me and with a thin smile on her lips. I said yes, already seeing this as perhaps the easiest toasting I had ever done, even though they weren’t many as at then. Her perceived shyness and that sweet smile were telling me I was closer to a historic moment.
And it turned out to be truly historic.
Suddenly, she changed her posture and stance, turned to face me directly, removing her eyeglasses and looking at me squarely in the face, the shyness gone, as she asked again with the smile still on her lips “Are you sure?”
I literally stopped breathing.
Once again, words failed me, and this time, I couldn’t recover fast like before.
What they said about her eyes was true – she had the most popping eyeballs I had ever seen. They shot forward like they wanted to drop out of their sockets, and with them so fixated on me at those moments, they were truly unnerving. What prevented me from bolting or moving away from her was my pride. I was simply terrified. Now I understood why she was called Ojuyobo. The nickname was a perfect fit.
I didn’t know how long it took me to respond, but I realised that she was staring at me intently, and thinking about it now, I think with the intention of gauging my reaction. Of course, I’ve lost my zeal to continue the toasting, but I couldn’t just walk away maybe because apart from my pride, I was also a nice guy. Something told me in those moments, walking away would hurt her more than I. So I summoned whatever nerves I had left and said some words I can’t remember up till today. All I remember was that she was impressed enough to fix another appointment for us. Or maybe she had pity on my barely concealed, terrified look and offered to let me go.
Before I left her, she put on her glasses, and I was surprised how they transformed her and her eyes completely to a less threatening entity, and I made a mental note that if and when we would see again, I would insist on her not removing that spectacle at all. My friends would proceed to laugh at me from that moment till we parted. They saw the terror in my eyes, and I told them I won’t be seeing her again when they asked me.
However, the information spread like wildfire in the next few weeks. Some of my mates who knew her were in awe of me for having the nerves to talk to her; while I was told her own classmates were clearly amazed that she could be asked out at all. I remember one of her classmates even challenged some of my own friends why I couldn’t ask her out instead of Kemi. It was really crazy for those few days. Kemi didn’t make it easy too with the ways she was asking after me, having broken the appointment we were supposed to have.
I had to agree to another meeting with her because Tope won’t let me have peace of mind. Note that I didn’t say date. It was meeting were having back then and not dates. I met her one more time on her way home one day, initiating a general discussion with her, clearly avoiding the boyfriend-girlfriend talk because I couldn’t cope with publicity of such affair since I realised she was actually a popular student just like myself.
And also because of those eyes as well.
She was a pleasant and brilliant person though and I enjoyed those minutes with her. We met years later also and we’ve remained best of friends till now.