Dear Alma,

Do you remember the first time you saw him? The way he stood, lopsided, his arm resting on a bookshelf, light blue jeans sagging over chunky black boots

The kind with the steal toecaps. You had only seen shoes like that in a Janet Jackson video. Sayowa loved her and had tried to imitate her - jeans jacket, ripped tights and Doc Martins. She hadn’t gotten past the living room. Dad’s arched eyebrows sent her scampering back to the bedroom before they even had time to come back down again. As the eldest, Sayowa had always made the mistakes and you learnt the lessons.

“David Ne-he-ma-ia?” Miss Mary the school receptionist leaned on the heavy teak desk, and peered at him over her glasses, lips pursed with the derision she reserved for students.

“That’s right ma’am,” he had replied, an American twang rolling off blackened lips.

“Go up to the second floor, first door on your left. You will join Mr Koloki’s science class”, she ordered.

As he turned towards the door Miss Mary noticed you.

“You! Alma,” she had called, “Show him the way to Mr Koloki’s class.”

He smiled at you. And as he started walking towards you, you thought you would faint, heat rising past your shoulders, through your neck, up to the tip of your ears.

Do you remember wiggling your hips a bit too much as you walked up the stairs in front on him, certain you could feel his eyes digging into your backside? Your sexy was more a cross between sashay and foxtrot, but even at thirteen, it worked. Within a week, you were his girlfriend.

Your friends teased you. The boys in particular. You blushed every time. But what did you care, they were all kids, and you were in love with David.

The first time he kissed you, in that small corner behind the blue and grey lockers in the school foyer, you thought you had died and gone to heaven. In hindsight, I can tell you now that it was not that good. Too much saliva. And the taste of cigarettes, cologne and peanuts.

Still, when he kissed you, your stomach did a thing it had never done before. It fluttered. Not a gentle flutter but big gravity defying ripples, like the wings of the giant moth that would visit you at night and force you to hide for cover under the sheets.

And when you found out he had kissed your friend too, this time it was your heart that did something it had never done before. It felt like rebel soldiers had come and ripped it out, bitten a chunk and placed the rest on a stake for the vultures.

Do you remember the car ride home on the day that you found out? How you kept the tears inside so that Dad wouldn’t see you cry? Finally in your bedroom, you put on the AC hoping that the loud churning noise would drown out your sobs. The wall was so cold and smooth. You banged your forehead on it over and over again, until it left white paint marks on your skin. Not only was your heart broken, but you also felt like such a fool. Everyone was probably laughing at you. How could your friend do such a thing? How could the others not tell you?

You promised yourself then and there that you would never fall in love again, making life very hard for me for quite a while.  But you know what, time is a healer, and it is true what they say: It is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.

And you can thank David for being the inspiration behind your very own quote: He is just a chapter, not the whole book

So enjoy the ride. And buy yourself a lot of funny fridge magnets with wise sayings.


© Maimouna Jallow

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