The Root, 1

To really tell this my story well, I have to go down memory lane a little farther.

I guess every teenager feels the same way at one time of life or the other.

As puberty sets in, it brings along with it, feelings of attraction and naïve ‘love’.

Some have called it infatuation, others call it crush.

I may not be certain of my own nomenclatural choice for the feeling, but I’m certain I felt a lot of it for Ruth when I was 14.

Back then, I became uncomfortable and shy anytime I saw her, and every love song reminded me of her.

I still have a vivid memory of me lying on a three-seater in the middle of the night with earphones on.

It was the popular ‘Palito’ speakerless radio that played the song ‘Angel of my Life’ through the earphones that night as I had imaginary pictures of Ruth smiling at me.

That song, with other love songs played for close to one hour made me fall deeper and deeper into a state of utterly helpless feeling as I thought of her.

By the end of that night, I was made acutely very much aware of what the heart can feel when one allows it to linger on thoughts of love.

But in reality, it was a different narrative.
Though we saw each other very often, Ruth and I never exchanged a word, it was all glances and smiles from afar.

I never could string words together to make any sentence when I was around her. Not that we lacked things to talk about.

We lived in the same street and attended the same church every week.

But I guess the pride that also comes with puberty and the snobbish attitude of teenagers didn’t spare me.

The times we met in the street, I walked past her without even a wave of hand or a mere genuflection of recognition.
It was a bit similar story when we see in church.

Though we never really spoke any word to each other, we exchanged glances and even our friends knew we had a certain ‘something’ for each other.

Looking back now, I realize all the classic signs of attraction were there. I just was too naïve to know better.

In our company of friends, both of us acted as if we hated each other. When she laughed among her company of friends, I often had the feeling that she was making a mockery of me.

And in response, I often went out of my way to whisper words to my friends, so they would laugh and she would feel the same way I did.
In the midst of all the open-hatred, hidden-love, her friendship with one of my sisters didn’t help either of us.

She wasn’t a friend of my sister per se; it was a school daughter-mother relationship since they attended the same secondary school.

She visited our house many times and not one single time did we exchange pleasantries.

Whenever she was around, I either went with my friends to play football or acted as if I was indifferent to her visit.

But all my pretence never fooled my sister, nor my mom.

My sister always teased me about it and say I was too shy while my mom called her my wife.

My mom’s tease was worse.

She went as far as calling Ruth’s mother ‘In-law’ and the woman also reciprocated the gesture.
After a church service one Sunday in the early 2000s, I was standing beside my mom for some reason when Ruth’s mother walked hurriedly past us.

But my mom didn’t allow her attend to her business just then.

‘My in-law, won’t you greet your son?’ She called.

The woman stopped and laughed and then asked how I was doing.

‘I hope you are reading your books well so that you can become a Doctor and come and marry Ruth o’; she said amidst smiles. 

Hearing the statement, I was too embarrassed to respond; it was the closest my face was to actually blushing red.

I was left scratching my hairless chin, smiling foolishly and looking at the ground as both of the parents went on talking.

My ears didn’t pick any other word from their conversation till we left the church premises and went home.

And though I was too shy to reply the proposition, I was secretly happy within me, as it seemed the universe had married Ruth and I while both of us were superficial enemies.
As I got a bit older, though we grew further apart, the feelings remained with me and my confidence grew stronger.

I became taller than her  and it gave me the needed inertia to finally act as a man though I was but a small boy.
On one of our church’s annual camp meeting for youths, I made up my mind to break the norm and talk with her.

The friends I rolled with in the camp meetings, Samuel, Bayo and Jide all laughed at me when I mentioned my plan to them.

They said I wasn’t man enough to actually do it.

As every guy would tell you, boys hate it when you tell them they can’t do something.

And I was no different.

The doubt and mockery of my friends fuelled my resolve as I put my plan into action.

It was the breaktime of the day’s programme and though the sun was hot, the weather was cold.

It rained the previous night and the sun’s high intensity of the day warned of another round of heavy showers.
At the entrace of the campground, there was a makeshift supermarket that sold snacks and provisions.

As part of my plan, I stayed at a shed close to the Supermarket and waited for Ruth and her friends to make their daily visit. Those who didn’t take the beans shared for lunch always used the Supermarket for backup.
I stood there in my hiding place for close to ten minutes before she arrived. In the meantime, I rehearsed and practised my opening speech and moves.

Once I saw Ruth was looking over the goods in the Supermarket with her friends, deciding what to purchase, I went closer and made my move.
While they were talking with the woman selling Biscuits, I approached the other woman, who sold satchet water.

I just drank water some moments before then and wasn’t thirsty but I bought a satchet nonetheless and got nearer to Ruth’s clique.

‘Buy the biscuit for two’, I said towards her general direction as I stood just beside her. 

I was hoping for a helpful reply that should have started a conservation but it seemed I failed terribly.
They heard me all right; but instead of any answers, all I heard was laughter.

Ruth looked around at her friends and they looked from me to her in return.

And then they all laughed again and left.
I looked on as they departed and standing there, I felt as if someone had poured dirty water on me in public.

I felt as if I was the biggest fool in the world and when I finally got hold of my sense of locomotion, it took great strength for me to resist from running away with the proverbial tail between my legs.
I made a decision on that day never to ever talk with Ruth or any other girl for that matter.

And though the resolution didn’t last a year, all my feelings for Ruth evaporated that day.

Or so I thought…





‘The Root’

Episode 1.


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