I went on a trip to the beach with my friend and her church in the summer of 2009. While at the assembly point, where we were counted and put on coaches, all we could rave about was who was cute and what tunes were the latest out of Naija. We were glad we had shorts we could change into and possibly attract the eye of our love interests. Then I noticed him: a shy little boy of about eleven. He was friends with my friend’s little brother, so I said a quick hi to him and continued with our conversation and gossip.
We got to the beach and quickly changed into our shorts and tank tops. We decided that church boys were too mainstream, so we sneaked off to parade the beach in search of fresh meat. I was oblivious at the time but I remember now that we had an uninvited guest following us. At first I thought he was off to get some ice cream but the farther we went, the farther he went with us keeping in the shadows and six to ten feet behind us. Bayo called my attention to it. She saw him out of the corner of her eye when we stopped for ice cream and motioned for him to come over. He looked so shy and went bright red when I spoke to him.
Bayo started laughing. “Awww, have you got a crush on my friend?”
I thought it was impossible, but he went redder. Oh my God. A little 11 year old had a crush on me and had followed me around like a lost puppy. I didn’t know how to react, so I bought him an ice cream on a cone with extra toppings and walked into the sea leaving Bayo to take him back to the fold. Later in the coach on the way back, he gifted me his Rubik’s cube. I was touched. I was uncomfortable. It was the beginning
Fast forward seven years and I was in the same situation again. I was working at a not-for-profit firm in Lagos and used to frequent a restaurant across the road from my office. It was small and greasy and the food was cheap and cheerful. I hated going in at lunch time because it would be full of lawyers from a court nearby in their mostly ill-fitting black and white attires and they would be talking at the top of their voices like it was a competition to see who could out-shout the other. It was chaos. So I’d drop in at 10 or 11 o’ clock and get my food to go or come in at 3 o’clock just before they shut and eat in the quiet.
That was where I met Dara. He was a medical student doing an internship at the hospital down the road. I first spoke to him when he let me have the last portion of plantain when I came in on one of my 3 pm late lunches. I smiled at him and asked him to join me. He was funny and confident and I really did enjoy his company, maybe too much. We went to Afropolitan Vibes, swimming; we hung out at the National Museum, Oniru beach, and took long strolls to CMS sometimes to buy boli after work. I was comfortable with Dara until a few days to his birthday in March.
“Oh really? How old are you gonna be?”
“Nineteen?” I was stunned. I could have sworn he was twenty four or above because that would have made him older than I was.
I hid my discomfort well and we carried on walking to CMS arm in arm. He asked me out officially on his birthday, 16th March 2016. It was a no from me. Dara was devastated. He thought I had led him on. I was hurting too, but I did try to make him understand that I could not date someone younger than I was. He said he knew I was older and since it didn’t matter to him it shouldn’t matter to me. He told me to get over myself. Words were exchanged, words that hurt. And that put an end to it. I may have missed out on something great, but I guess I’d never know. Anyway, I lost his number along with my old phone so that’s that.
June 2016, I made my way to Jigawa state to begin the National Youth Service. Within a month, I was settled at my place of primary assignment. I attended the weekly Community Development Service religiously, until November when I met Buchi. He was my spec: tall, caramel skin and he had the whole beard gang thing going on. Ugh! I swear I saw him before he even saw me and was swooning under his spell already. Sometimes he wouldn’t turn up for CDS for weeks on end, so I waited and waited and gave up.
He strolled in at the end of one CDS meeting and my heart leaped. Somehow, we got talking and I was super excited to get to know him. He was fun and very reserved and seemed unaware of how breathtakingly handsome he was. Did I mention he was reserved and yet somehow a free spirit? That juxtaposition fascinated me endlessly.
Again, with the birthdays. He told me he’d be 21 on the 15th December and I became deflated. Why do they have to be younger, every damn time? Like his predecessors before him, Buchi followed me around as though he were a dog on a leash. He wrote beautifully too.
I knew we had come to the end of it when he’d no longer ring me up and read his poems to me like he used to, because, in his words, only I could understand him. Maybe I was being foolish. I also forgot to mention all the other googly eyed ‘yungas’ who somehow found me attractive but didn’t meet the minimum age requirement for me to consider. I guess it’s my loss but I’ve always nursed the fear of being an experiment to them you know? Like they could go brag to their friends that they had dated an older girl. Dating a ‘yunga*’ would make me super uncomfortable because I feel like nothing lasting can ever come from it and that they all probably have mummy issues, which I will not be a part of. Or I might just be denying myself good things? No one can really know these things.