THE FIRST TIME WE… KISSED
“Stealing With Kisses”
I can hear my blood in my ears, or is that my heart? I’ve never seen anyone this close up before, not even myself and yet I want to be closer. So close I will be bathed in his scent, well, more like the smell of Tom-Tom, but let’s not get into that. His eyebrows are so full and that jawline bearing the beginnings of a to-be-glorious beard. I’ve never seen his eyes so close and for the first time, I can tell they’re brown, not black. Dark brown, like unwilling dark chocolate. I’m so close I can see where his lashes start and I’m right there when they begin to flutter. What is it with kissing and closing our eyes? Is it so all our other senses come alive until we’re bursting at the seams with sensations? Is it because our eyes are the least connected sense to our feelings? I’ve never been much of a rebel, so I close my eyes.
“Mhonum, look at him! How can anyone be so fine?”
Mhonum, my best friend sneers at me. “Please, I know finer boys. And this Wole one is just there, always feeling like the world is at his feet”
“But Mhonum, the world is at his feet. His family has everything and…”
“And so? We should disappear? Abeggi”
“I don’t care, he’s fine”
I want to be good at this for him, impress him, but nature can only lead me so far and so when my lips touch his, I freeze. I’m waiting for him to lead me, show me how to be good at this. And so he does. I try to taste his life through his lips. How many tears have fallen this low? How many lips have they met? How many cheeks? And did they quiver when he was afraid, unsure? And oh, how the softness of his lips belie his hard exterior. Oh what truths they tell.
“Ofei, your boyfriend is fighting again” Mhonum hisses
“Where? Where? With who?” I’m scrambling out of my seat.
“See how you’re running! Do you have a boyfriend?” Mhonum is shaking her head in that way that reminds me of my mother. With her plump hips and full chest, she almost always feels too motherly for her fifteen years.
“Does it matter? I know who you mean, so that’s all that matters. Do you wonder why he’s always fighting?”
“He’s an entitled brat, that’s why. Come to the library with me?”
Mr. Bassey is holding Wole by his belt and almost pulling him to the principal’s office.
He catches me looking at him. I want to keep staring, everyone else is anyway. But I feel caught. Invaded.
Wole is hesitant, but eventually, his tongue is in my mouth, searching, perhaps for truths of his own. I’m worried for a second that he won’t like the truths he finds. Will he taste desperation on my tongue? Will he taste my inexperience? Will he hate it? Will he taste my “practice” mirror? Will he want to kiss me again? Or will I never be able to tell if I simply dreamed this? I’m sure he can taste the questions on the tip of my tongue.
“I saw you looking at me”
“And so? Didn’t you see other people looking too? Please shift, let me pass”
“You were looking at me differently. I know what you want”
“You don’t know anything about me!”
I’m finally beginning to lose myself in his warmth. To glory in this feeling, live in this moment. I forget I’m against the wall with the weak paint. White paint that begins to chafe and fall to pieces whenever it’s touched. I’m not thinking of the huge white mark I’ll have on my uniform or how I’ll explain this to Mhonum or my mother. I’m only thinking of Wole. Of how dreams come true. Of how this moment will live in my heart forever and how I’ll replay it over and over like that “Khona” song Mhonum played for me. I never want this to end.
“I’m… I’m sorry about what I said before, in the hallway”
I look up at him. I’ve never seen Wole Oyeniran look so subdued. I keep looking because this is what I do. I burn this into my memory, by staring. I have a slideshow of memories, unlike anyone else. I don’t just live things. I memorize them. The essence of them.The sounds, the smells, the feelings, the tastes. Even before the sights.
“I forgive you. Go and sin no more”
He laughs and my heart stops. He laughed at my joke! Mhonum should hear this! I’m funny!
“So what’s with the fights? Didn’t anyone teach you about dialogue?”
Wole doesn’t say anything. Then he sighs and sits next to me.
“I don’t know. I’m just angry.”
“Why? Why are you always so angry? Your life is perfect”
“That’s the problem. No one understands the difference between appearing perfect and being perfect. They expect me to be happy and loving and I don’t know how to be either of those things. No one taught me”
I’m so unseated by this news. No one taught him? Who teaches you to love?
“What does that mean?”
“Who taught you? To be happy, to love people?”
“I don’t know, I just do”
“You’re lucky then. My mother loves Jack Daniels more than she loves anything or anyone else and my father doesn’t care. I feel like a hollow person. Like I’m a walking hole. No one likes me, I know”
This was my chance and I was going to take it.
“I like you. I can show you how to love people. It all starts with doing nice things and being thoughtful. It’s really easy”
“Then kiss me”
When we finally pull away, I’m smiling. He takes my hand in his and says
“Thank you for showing me what love is, but, I don’t think this is the sort of love I wanted”. He winks at me and walks away leaving me clutching my heart. It’s still beating, but it’s bleeding too.
“I will not cry, I will not cry” I tell myself a million times over. He isn’t worth my tears. But even as I say those words, the tears of shame fall shamelessly. Humiliation is so hot against my chest and I do not tell Mhonum. Even when Wole winks at me in Math class, I do not explain to her. I do not kiss Wole again until we leave school.
The last time isn’t like our first. It’s on cold asphalt as I try to resuscitate him ten years later. He never did change his bad boy ways.
The First Time…We special is proudly sponsored by SureGifts.com.ng
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