I saw him today. Daniel Kayode. He had come on a condolence visit and even from the far end of the room, the magnetic pull between us was still there. I searched his face looking for the skinny boy I had fallen hopelessly in love with as a child, but the man before me was nothing like the boy I last saw 10 years ago. While everyone else was engaged in pointless crying I let my mind drift to a time when I was young and free. It was my 16th birthday the night Daniel kissed me for the first time; at the back porch of his mother’s house; It was as I had dreamt it would be.
I kept my eyes open at first, not sure what to do or where to put my hand, All I knew was that a Daniel’s lips were on mine, and it was terrific I had never been kissed before. So when we finally kissed on the back porch where we used to eat mangoes and “odara” as kids under the leap year moon, I knew nothing would ever be the same again. The kiss led to dates, which led to dating. Daniel held my hand in the halls and placed his arm around me as we walked out of school and the next thing I knew, I had a boyfriend.
Daniel had this rough hair that always seemed messy, brown eyes and a laugh that made my heart beat. He was tall and handsome, two years and one class older than I was. Daniel wrote me love letters that I always showed to my best friend Emma who called them the “marriage letters.” They said things like, “forever and always my heart would beat in tune with yours”. I think he loved me before I knew how to love myself or how to let a man love me. Every day after school, we stole a few kisses, the crisp air on our cheeks, saying our hurried goodbyes before his mom picked him up and took him away from me. On those days all I really wanted was to kiss the boy I loved while our hands strayed to other places.
Daniel left soon for college in London because he could afford to. Before he left, we stood under the coconut tree behind my house. He gave me a letter. In the letter, he wrote “I might get lost sometimes, but your love will always find me”. In that moment, I felt the emptiness. Even though we both promised to write, to call, I sensed a shift already, as if he was leaving me behind for something better, and he would never look at me in the same way again. Turns out I was right; things had changed. Because I got into college I had gotten too “busy” to return his calls or text him. I had convinced myself that I was young, I needed to live, experience people and places. I think he got tired of my attitude and finally he stopped calling just like I knew he would.
I was brought back to the present by Daniel’s greeting. He asks if I want to go for a walk, and I say yes. I search his face for a little animosity but there is none, and it annoys me because he’s acting like 10 years without me had been easy and had no effect on him. He asks how I’ve been, I say “fine” after all that’s the Nigerian answer to the question. I ask about his mother who doesn’t like me, he smiles and shakes his head but he doesn’t deny it. His mother thought he was too good for me. When we were younger, he had introduced me to his mother as his “friend” (which every Nigerian woman knows is code for a person they like more than normal) she had just given me a nod and subsequently I had gotten just a single word from her as reply to my greetings. Not that I was expecting family dinners, though.
He tells me his girlfriend Beth is an artist, a white girl he met in London and has been dating for a year. I wonder if she is sophisticated enough for his mother, she probably is. I tell him about Femi my 31 year old boyfriend who is a lecturer of human psychology. Femi my safe, almost boring Femi. Somehow we end up at the lake side. The water is calm as the evening breeze blows gently across it. His eyes are glowing underneath the setting sun and my heart is beating faster than usual. The sexual tension is so thick I can cut it with a knife. And just then I hear the question that has been there all along.
“What happened to us?”
I stare blankly at Daniel, because I do not have an answer to his question, because there is no answer. And just as I open my mouth to pour out some bullshit excuse, his lips closes over them. In that moment, with Daniel’s lips on mine as his hands make their way under my blouse, I’m 16 again, and I realize why it had never really worked out with anyone else. Nobody else had made me feel like Daniel had 10 years ago.
As I struggled to hold on to my sanity, I try to remember I have a faithful boyfriend in Lagos, and Daniel has his girlfriend. But I couldn’t bring myself to feel guilty. This isn’t cheating, Daniel had always been mine, and as his lips found their way to my breasts, I knew this wouldn’t be the last time I would let him touch me.