I remember my first crush. His name was Fred. We were both nine and, he was really mean to me. Always invading my space and tossing tiny mirrors under my dress. Then he’d snicker when he caught sight of my panty. I hated that boy. He never wasted an opportunity to disrupt my life. At games, we’d sing those songs that made a boy call out a girl, and after a really mortifying dance, the girl would be left inside the circle to call out a boy. Fred always called me out as his girl. Then I’d be forced to call out some other less annoying boy. And we’d dance that mortifying dance, then he too would be left to call out his girl. We all got our 10 seconds of humiliation. But one thing was for sure, I was Fred’s girl. And somehow it got wired into me that if the boy was mean to me, he must really like me.
Back then, I was a budding poet. I was a star in my category. One afternoon, I was waiting to get up on stage for my performance. My girls were all around me, prepping me for the show. Then this boy just walked up to me and said;
“I hope you win. You are pretty!”
There was a moment of silence and then my girls started giggling. I just burst into tears. How could he say I was pretty? How could he humiliate me like that? Taken aback, the boy apologized;
“I’m sorry. Why are you crying?”
The tears just came faster. Why was he doing this to me? What had I done to deserve this?
But I didn’t have much time to wallow in my misery. My name would soon be called up. I had to compose myself. Fast.
So I went up on stage, red eyed and disoriented. And of course I bungled my performance, jumbled my words and missed my lines. I was a mess. OK, it wasn’t that bad. I only forgot my lines twice, skipped a whole stanza and repeated another stanza twice! The audience was kind; they applauded anyway. My coach didn’t even look at me. I could see the disappointment in the face she wouldn’t even turn my way. I sat on a stone. It was probably my first real taste of loneliness. But then I felt a presence next to me. The reason for my disaster was back for more blood. He was like a little shark!
“I’m really sorry. You are really pretty.”
I said nothing. And we just sat there until it was time to get on the bus for the ride back to school. I never saw him again. But the girls didn’t let me forget him that easily. They teased me constantly. But in the confines of my school, Fred picked up the meanness where he’d left off the day before. He snatched a piece of my sandwich. And just like that, he restored balance to my world. All was right again with the universe.
I didn’t know it then, but the script had been written. I was drawn almost intrinsically to the brooding, trouble maker types. It didn’t help that I was reading lots of ‘The Hardy Boys’ and Barbara Kimenye’s ‘Moses’ series. Thankfully, my experience was almost entirely restricted to the books I read. After Fred, something traumatic happened that just took my mind off boys. Books became my escape. I filled every waking minute with a Mills & Boon a Sidney Sheldon or a Danielle Steel. I was quite happy to live vicariously through the heroines in the books.
And then I turned sixteen and found myself thrust into a mixed boarding school. I shall never forget, as long as I live, my first lunch in the dining hall. A boy sat opposite me. I was a nervous wreck. The food tasted like sand paper, and I don’t know how I managed to swallow any of it!
Fast forward to three days later, and I had become the mistress of the flirt. And of course I had eyes only for the baddest boys. There was this one boy Jet. Oh my God, he was the center of my world! One time at a school concert, Brandy’s husky voice filled the room. She was asking the million-dollar question “Have you ever loved somebody?”
I watched Jet rise from his seat. I saw him signal in my general direction. Even though my heart was beating furiously, I had the presence of mind to pretend not to notice. Jet kept signaling until someone finally tapped me. I turned expectantly. For one electric split second, our eyes locked. Then the object of my affection mouthed one word
Becky was one of my girls. And she was right next to me. I turned and tapped her as my innards turned to stone. I watched Jet mouth one more word
And Becky whispered
And I just sat there, shell shocked. That day, the rice and beef in my plate miraculously turned into sandpaper in my mouth. Becky was so excited. And I had to be excited with her. She of course, was oblivious to the pieces of my heart, strewn all over the school. Jet was my first heart breaker.
But I healed. And in record time too! It was barely a week before I got all gooey eyed for a boy called Jonah. What was it with me and the letter J!! Jonah was my first rebound. And boy was he efficient with that task. Two weeks later, I was wondering what the heck I ever saw in Jet! Of course Jonah got forgotten eventually. That was his fate as the rebound guy. But he did great. Just like the many other rebounds between the boyfriends.
And so today, I want to signal until someone taps Jonah. I want to whisper to him, over the heads of many others
And I want him to accept this dedication on behalf of all rebounds.
I will nod to him. But I have eyes only for a guy named…. like I’m going to say his name and jinx it! Heck no! I will say this though, he is not a Jonah. He is a lot like that boy who got me all flustered and then sat by me. This time, I didn’t just get his name. I got his number.
The drum rolls sound like they are coming from the general direction of my chest…