She stepped out of her exam hall and looked about her. Then above her, her childish grin breaking the solemnity of her face. She smiled so long and so wide, anyone with a pinch less melanin would’ve had their face flushed by then. She looked about her for the last time. The peculiar blue of the sky which she was sure was only found here. The shrubs and stubbornly adamant grasses which would bounce right back at you if you didn’t wield your thin bladed machete with tact. The rusty brown pods that crashed ever so loudly beneath your school prescribed sandals and sold you out in a jiffy if you were an amateur in the art of breaking bounds. But those were only seasonal, thank goodness. The neatly gravelled car park at the side of the magnificent administration block that incited many varying sentiments in the many people the school had churned out right from its inception. She took it all in, and then turned in the direction of the building that had housed her for the last couple of years.
Catching a glimpse of a classmate from the corner of her eye, she run to give him a hug.
Now he flinched. He’d been watching her the entire time and he’d just about had enough. He could not believe himself. Four years! Four long years and he had been unable to say a thing!
He’d called himself a sissy many more times in the last couple of days than he could count. It didn’t exactly make any difference saying it again. “Sissy”, he muttered under his breath and kicked the innocent earth beneath him.
He dragged his last few shreds of self respect together with himself to the dining hall, little affected by the classical music meandering its way from the music school to him. On any other day, he might’ve whistled in tune to the music, but not this day. It floated right over the top of his head and into oblivion, a little distance away from him.
A few paces to the dining hall, he stood upright, snapped his fingers and could all but restrain himself from shouting “Eureka!” You could almost see the lighted light bulb above his head if you looked hard enough.
Before he could make a move for it, he was flanked by his classmates. They had been searching for him since the paper ended, they claimed. He was too excited to make anything of their babble and let them drone on until he was no longer the focus of their attention.
With a not so tangible excuse, he slipped into the dining hall, mastered his excited hands and put his contact number down on a slip of paper. Slipped it into the right pocket of his khaki shorts, slipped out the rear exit of the hall and ran as fast his legs could carry him.
He arrived in front of her house just as she dropped her last bag on the backseat of her father’s pretty outdated Range Rover. As she waited for the driver who had gone in search of a place to ease his uncontrollable bladder, or rather his bladder that seemed to control him, she saw him. Kwabena. She waved at him and then walked to meet him.
He suddenly felt faint and regardless of what he would’ve rather believed, he knew it was not because he had run about two hundred meters without a breather to his present destination.
“Hey Kwabena,” she smiled, “looking for someone? I could call them for you…”
The possibility of him fainting seemed much more realistic now. This was her longest sentence ever to him in four years! He was just one of those random ‘friends’ she always said hi-bye to.
“Don’t be a fool Kwabena. Just say it. She’s not a tigress. On the contrary, she’s a very nice person. The worst she would do is decline nicely. What’s the harm in that. You probably wouldn’t see her ever again after today… YOU PROBABLY WON’T SEE HER EVER AGAIN AFTER TODAY KWABENA! WHAT ON EARTH ARE YOU DOING STANDING HERE LIKE A DUMMY YOU SISSY!”
No, no. I just, I just, I was just taking, a walk… yes, a walk through the school and I saw you so, I thought I’d come and say, say bye to you. He mentally slapped his head, rolled his eyes and kicked himself all at once.
His hand was in his pocket the whole time, fidgeting with the little piece of paper. And the driver was back and honking his horn.
“Oh, bye then. I have to go now. My driver, you know,” she said, pointing behind her. She began to move away.
He wasn’t doing this to himself, was he? “Hey,…” She looked back at him. “Have a good life Yaaba”
She was at the open front passenger door of the car now. She sat, closed the door, stuck her head out the window, smiled and mouthed “good bye” at him.
The driver revved the engine and sped off like he was in a race against time, leaving a cloud of dust behind to envelope a defeated Kwabena. “Have a good life? HAVE A GOOD LIFE??”
He walked back to his house with a dejectedly hunched back. His hands in his side pockets, his eyes, unseeing.
He wouldn’t notice the many smiley faces he’d meet along the way. He wouldn’t recall the automatic responses he gave to those who cared to speak to him. He wouldn’t hear the birds chirping their goodbye songs. He wouldn’t hear the music beneath his feet from the cracking of the dry pods. He wouldn’t notice the pretty girl in his class who had asked him out stare sadly at him as he went past her house.
He would wait with his luggage in front of his house. His father would show up within some minutes and he’d pack his luggage into the car. He’d go home with his father. He’d go away from this place where he’d found a pearl, but had been unable to pry open the oyster which cased it to have it.
“Oh Kwabena! And now she’d never know!”