I’m not romantic – or at least that’s what everyone says. The only long lasting relationship I’ve had apart from my family members and my best friend (who is a girl) is with my laptop. We’ve been together for five years and that’s because he’s always there for me and knows how to lift me out of any foul mood. He’s an all weather love (except when his battery dies – but that’s usually my fault or that of NEPA). He’s the perfect listener –  he never talks back, he’s never judgemental plus he’s always dressed in my favourite colours: red and black. He is truly bae! Of course, I’ve had lots of crushes and attempted dates but they’ve always ended with the guy saying the same thing: ‘You’re just not into this/me.’ At the end of the whole drama, instead of feeling sorry and trying to make things work, I leave the scene without a word like a meek lamb and go straight to my room. Then, I curl up to my one true love (my laptop) and watch a really good movie or cartoon and the said guy is history in no time. This attitude of mine isn’t so cool, I know but I just don’t know what to do. The truth is: I don’t even want to do anything about it. The only disadvantage is that it’s fast creeping into my normal friendships too. Keeping in touch is now a big deal for me – except if you are sick (and I know about it, of course) or you are a good/regular caller. Else, I might lose your number for years and not blink about it. But then, I wasn’t always like this.

It all started on Valentine’s Day 2013. I was madly in love with Jethro. He was 6 ft tall, lanky, fair and very handsome. I had met him at Chitis, UNN sometime earlier that year. He introduced himself as a final year student of Mass Communication. I was really impressed by his command of English and excellent choice of words. And because I love a good conversation, we hit it off right away. I had wanted to take my food away but his manner of approach and impeccable communication skills convinced me to share a table with him so even before he asked me to, I had already made up my mind to stay. Although, I was a really shy person then, he made me laugh really loud in public and it felt good. We exchanged contacts and that was how our relationship begun. 

He wasn’t a good caller. I was always the one calling but he had a habit of showing up unannounced and showering me with gifts. He was one person I could call in the middle of the night and he’ll run to my rescue. He was dependable and trust worthy. He had a terrible habit of showing up late to everything except exams. I really hated that because I’m extra punctual to events especially dates, lectures, exams or whatever is important to me. But he was a smooth talker – he had a way with words and knew what to say to prevent me from getting extremely upset with him. We were good together – a perfect match made in heaven but not everyone thought so. My friends and family for some reason didn’t like him because He is a rich kid and was always dressed affluently. I, on the other hand, is from an average family and was always dressed simply. I complained severally and he said that most of his clothes were hand-me-downs from his elder brothers some of whom studied in UNN too. Since, I didn’t have a problem with it personally, I let it slide. My big cousin, Emelda was always complaining that she just didn’t like Jethro but I naturally assumed she was jealous. 

We were great Christians but we attended different churches. I was Methodist, he attended Redeemed Christian Church of God. He was a really good chap. Things were going really well for us. We saw each other nearly everyday – sometimes we had lunch together or dinner. Sometimes, we would take evening strolls – I really love strolling especially when the moon is out. Other times, we would just go for a drive- that was his favourite. He was a great hugger and his compliments had a way of making you blush even when you were boiling in anger. To my estimation, he was just right! I was content. I hadn’t met his family yet and he never talked about how they saw me but then I never told him about mine too – it was still too early for that. 

Life was great until I realized that Valentine’s day was exactly two weeks away and my bank alerts from home were no longer as resounding as they used to be. I had to cut down drastically on the calls. He never asked why but then I guess he preferred physical contact to calling. Around that time also, he became a little busier than usual – departmental and project stuffs were getting serious and exam was around the corner. I was freer because my own exams were further away. I was studying Pharmacy and it runs a slightly different calendar from the university. I didn’t mind the slight distance between us, it was for his own good. We still saw each other but it was reduced to once in three days. I managed to send texts almost everyday but I could barely call because airtime was a luxury I could no longer afford. 

Two days before Valentine’s Day, he dropped a letter with one of my roommates for me. When I came in after practical around 5:30 pm, I opened it and read through it. By the time I was done, hot tears were already streaming down my soft brown cheeks. He had broken up with me with just a letter. What insolence! How could he? I thought we were great together. Actually, No… In the letter, he told of how amazing I was and how lucky he was to have me, how much I meant to him and how he wanted me to have a romantic dinner with him to celebrate Valentine’s day. Then, he said he was outside the hostel anticipating my reply. I literally ran out of the hostel and ran straight into his arms. I was too overwhelmed to say a word. He kissed my forehead and held me for a minute then he shoved a little parcel into my hands. ‘You’ll wear this next tomorrow, my princess.’ I smiled and accepted it. Then, he hugged me and left. I stared at him till his beautiful figure faded into the horizon. This was too good to be true. My First Valentine’s Day date with the love of my life! I ran very quickly into my room; I couldn’t wait to open the package. It was a long beautiful green velvet dress. I was eager to try it on but I decided to wait till 14th February 2013.

13th passed quickly and was uneventful. I had lots of lectures from 7am to 6pm back to back. I came home exhausted and slept almost immediately. 14th February came at last and I was super excited. My love was taking me out and he even bought me a lovely dress! Lectures were few and very short but I wasn’t particularly interested. I was very happy when it was finally over by 12pm. I ran back to the hostel and took my bath again. Then,I wore the gown. It fit me perfectly. It was so beautiful, it highlighted my features elegantly. I was in every way a “slay queen”! My roommates started styling my hair and putting makeup on my face. I decided to call him and know where he was. To my greatest surprise, he was already in front of the hostel waiting for me. Wow! For the first time since I knew him, he actually showed up on time! This was weird……..  in a good way! He asked me to take my time that he had all day. But knowing he was there made me feel a little pressured to round up the makeup session. My roommates told me to calm down while they gave me a super magazine glam look. When they were done, I put on a pair of glass designed slipper and stepped out with my phone and my only purse. Jethro was just standing outside his beige Toyota Camry parked just in front of the hostel. 

      Jethro couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw me step out of the hostel door.  He kept staring at me with his mouth wide open till I got to where he was. As soon as I stood in front of him, I smiled broadly. He just froze in wonder – he was speechless. I had to shake his shoulder to snap him out of it for he was completely mesmerized. ‘You look s-s-s-stunning’, he managed, recovering himself. ‘Thanks’, I said, bowing my head slightly because I was suddenly feeling very shy. He had never looked at me that way before. I looked at him a little closely as we left each other to enter the car. He looked so handsome in his white tee shirt, black jacket, Jean trousers and the perfect white sneakers that sparkled. I dunno if this has ever been used in social media but he was definitely my “slay king”! I didn’t gape like him though although I was greatly impressed. I just smiled to myself, I had the perfect boo! When we got into the car, things were back to normal. We just talked and “yabbed” each other. He drove us out of the school gate but he wasn’t heading towards any hotel or eatery that I was familiar with. He kept driving on and on and on. I paused and looked around, we had left the happening part of town. Then, I asked, ‘where are we going?’ He said, ‘Enugu’. My mood swung to the other extreme immediately and with that my voice deepened and my speech was faster, ‘And you didn’t think you should tell me first?’ The wind changed, everything slowed down. He could tell that I was angry. I had never traveled away from school for any reason except after exams for holidays and I had told him that. My little head didn’t see it from the point of view of him trying to surprise me and make me experience something awesome. All I could see was that he took advantage of the piece of information I had given him and was about luring me with his charm out of town. ‘Don’t see it that way, Rach.. I’m just.. I just wanted to do something extra special for you today. We’ll be back by evening’, he said. ‘You could have told me,’ I insisted. ‘And ruin the surprise?’ he asked, somewhat confused. I glared at him, I hated being wrong! ‘Alright, Alright,’ he agreed, ‘I’m sorry, could we still go?’ ‘OK.. But you promise we’ll be back before nightfall?’, I asked. ‘I promise,’ he replied but I could hear the uncertainty in his voice. The promise was enough for me.

       The rest of the journey was not as lively because of the little tension between us. We drove in silence for a while then I slept off. When I woke up, we were already in Enugu. We had gone through the newly built express which was a one hour drive to Abakpa, Enugu. I woke up and smiled. He touched my forehead and kept driving. We stopped at Celebrities just beside Shop rite. We came down and walked in together hand in hand. He got us a table at the far right end of the restaurant and ordered some rice and chicken and wine. We ate, talked and laughed so hard. It was so much fun. After that, he got us some ice cream. We just kept enjoying each others company. When we were done with the ice-cream, he pulled his chair closer to mine cleared his throat and said, ‘I know I’ve never asked you out officially and we’ve been great friends all this while. Right now, I want to officially ask you to date me because I want us to grow together, have fun together, annoy each other, love each other, be there for each other and hopefully one day, we would have forever with each other. So, Rachael, will you be my love for real?’ OK, I’m supposed to be happy. I means I was, I really love him. He’s everything I ever wanted and more. But at that moment, I looked at his face and decided that there was no point jumping into this ride with him. Not because we wouldn’t get to our destination together but because I didn’t think I was ready for any class differences. I’ve read history, the rich and the middle class don’t intermarry or relate very closely without serious problems or sacrifices even among acclaimed Christians. I knew without shadow of a doubt that in society there was and would always be a distinction between the “haves” and the “have small or have nots”. My mind also flashed back to Emelda’s disapproval and also to my godmother Aunty Chi Chi’s miserable life. Aunty Chi Chi was married a wealthy man but she wasn’t from a rich home. She had been enduring insults and all forms of maltreatment ever since. Her life was such a living hell that the last time we spoke I could tell that she was contemplating divorce. I know that Jethro loved me enough to stand up for me but I didn’t want to put him through all that or put him in a position where he had to choose between his family and me. I know I had never met his family members but I wasn’t ready for anything serious because I wasn’t mature enough to bear any hurt or insult of that magnitude. I loved my self respect and dignity too much to let anyone talk down on me or my family because of material possessions. I know I was a coward that evening in Celebrities. I hated myself for what I had to do next because he didn’t deserve it. 

‘Jethro’, I started with a straight face, ‘I’m really glad you brought this up. Actually, I’ve been meaning to tell you that I can’t see you anymore. We are two different people on two different paths in life. It’s the way it is. You’re posh, I’m not even polished enough to even compare to you. And wait, do you think I really wanted to be with you? I just enjoyed the attention and I’m tired of being dishonest to you.’ As I said these words, I watched his face contort slowly. It was killing me to watch him feel very bad and used. I wanted to cry and tell him that I didn’t mean a word of it. But I had resolved to do this, my will power was way stronger than any common sense or atom of love I had for him. I had to let him go. ‘Seriously?’, was all he could say in a faint whisper. ‘Yes,’ I replied. ‘I’m sorry’. 

The ride home was the longest of trip of my life. Time stretched like till eternity and we were stuck together in that awkward moment for a very long time but all I wanted to do was get out of the car and run away from him and from myself too. I stole a glance at Jethro with the corner of my eye. His face was bland, he betrayed no emotions. Although he was extremely sad, he bore it silently but I know he was crying inside. I was torn apart yet I had to pretend. I told myself over and over that I had done the right thing. I couldn’t look him fully in the eye but I kept checking his countenance through his reflection on my phone. Oh how I loved him! I wished he knew that I didn’t mean a word of what I said! I wished he would just shake me all over and ask me how true it was! I wished he would remind me of all the good times we had and demand how I could fake all the laughter and fun. But he wasn’t like me, he was more inward with his feelings. I knew that a million thoughts were racing through his mind. I knew that sleep would elude him that night. I knew that it might even affect his studies but I prayed that he would get over it quickly. I didn’t pray that he would forgive me, I knew he already had for that was how he loved me – unconditionally. When I got down from the car, I didn’t even say goodbye. I left and walked away quickly to my hostel as though to say, ‘Good riddance.. ‘ but in reality I was going to soak my pillow with tears. Thankfully, my roommates were not around so I cried till I had a splitting headache and my eyes were red and swollen. I kept crying till I lost my voice – I cried myself to sleep. I had a bad dream that night. In that dream, I saw myself killing him slowly with a blunt knife and I was looking him straight in the eye and laughing hysterically through it all. When I woke up, I was worried and prayed for him to be alright but I didn’t contact him at all. Not because I didn’t want to but because I felt it was the right thing to do. It seemed like I didn’t even want us to stay friends at all. 

He came to my room a week later full of smiles and with a package for me but I greeted him with a stern ‘What are you doing here?’ His eyes moistened and his hands shook a little. Then without a word, he just turned and walked away very slowly. I stared at him till he was out of sight. He didn’t even look back, not once. I wanted to pull him back and tell him I was sorry but I didn’t, I couldn’t. I shook my head sadly. I had hurt him again but this time I was getting used to that awkward feeling! We didn’t speak to each other for a while. Our paths never crossed again until one Sunday during my own exam period. I was sick and needed to eat and take some medication. None of my roommates were in and I was losing strength very fast. Everyone I called was either busy or far away. His name came to my mind. I smiled sadly. I knew with everything in me that no matter where he was, he would leave whatever he was doing and help me. I mustered courage and dialed his number. He could tell from my voice that I wasn’t feeling well and he offered to help me. Before thirty minutes, he was in my room with food, water and drugs. He smiled as he greeted me but I could tell he was a changed man now. Our breakup had had a huge toll on him. He was very unhappy but he was taking it better than I thought – my prayers were working. 

A few months later, I called him to congratulate him on his graduation but I missed his convocation party. And we never hung out again till he left for service, got a job and moved to Abuja.. Since then, I didn’t care anymore. I felt that since I could let go of a treasure like him, everyone else was easily dispensable. I lived with this silent mindset at the back of my head and have literally pushed away anyone who dares come too close to break that shield. This isn’t a wall of protection against people but a wall to protect them against what I’m capable of. 

I’m a Pharmacist now, I was inducted on the 10th of February, 2017. I have met lots of good people but no one has touched my heart like Jethro because they’re not half as nice or patient as he was and because I won’t let them. Yesterday, 14th February 2017, I was in my living room watching Barbie the Starlight Princess around 11:30 pm when a call came in. An unknown number. I picked the call, it was the familiar voice that once made my heart dance. My heart skipped a beat. Jethro! I answered nonchalantly, ‘Hello, good evening. Please, I’m a little busy, can I call you back?’ He chuckled, ‘Rachael, Stop it joor, I just called to congratulate you.’ Then, he cut the call…..