By: Nathaniel Okolo
I decided to steal another quick glance at her, the tenth in less than ten minutes, might have been more, definitely not less.
Oops! Our eyes met again, why must she decide to look the same moment I decide to look?
She was a bit on the short side, but I didn’t mind very much after all I ain’t no six footer myself, had a gap teeth in a very weird location, and piercing eyes.
All this description, simply means, I liked what I was seeing.
Our little battle had started a day earlier, on the second day of the conference, I had “jejely” (meaning gently) came and promptly went to sit down in my favorite back sit, then she came and with her pasted on usher smile asked me to move forward, I promptly replied that; “is it a taboo for me to sit at the back”?
This threw her for a while, apparently, she had never heard such a response, and she eventually left me to my vice.
But this was just the beginning for us
I make sure I arrive early to have picked a sit, even though Isaac has been acting like a “dufus” (dumb idiot) all day, contriving we came late to the conference
Anyway I promptly choose my back sit, then go outside to make use of the convenience,
As I am coming back, I am so excited, why?
Because by my calculations, she will be at her post by now, and we will have another encounter.
Don’t let me bore you with all the details, long and short of it all the staring would continue long into the day.
It’s evening, my bladder is full, a boring lecture is being delivered (not every part of the conference will be interesting I guess)
I see her “manning” (or womaning in this case) a cake stand, she hasn’t seen me yet, as I am coming from behind her, my heart skips a bit, but I steady it with a stern warning.
I pass her, straight on to the convenience again, steeling myself for the encounter to come.
(Que suspense music), I approach, she raises her head from looking at her phone, just at that moment (God and his sense of humor) and sparks fly.
Immediately she recognizes me, and “Oh my Lord”, she is blushing (I did not know I could have such an effect on a girl), smiling shyly then quickly averting her eyes.
I try as much as possible to smile back (I have not been known for smiling prowess)
I walk fast past her back to the hall.
“This is my chance” I keep telling myself, that is clearly a green light, I obviously should go and say something, why I am such a toad, I groan inwardly.
At this point, I can hear nothing the speaker is saying.
I stand up, it is time to go to war!
As I approach the cake stand, which thank God is a bit secluded, I notice she is not smiling again, Yepa! (Nigerian phrase for Oops, OMG) My green light has turned to yellow, quickly approaching red.
A man only dies once I say to myself,
“Hello, may I sit down”, I start tentatively, she looks me up and down, then replies, “no you can’t, except you are here to buy cake”,
Rather than deflating me, this emboldens me.
You hate me, I say to her, this, she obviously was not expecting, so she takes a while to answer;
Hate you? I don’t even know you.
That is funny I say, because I like you, and I don’t even know you.
I wait for her to bring up those lovely yes she has been averting.
Why don’t we remedy that, I say; my name is Nathaniel, what is yours?
And out came that one million naira smile that causes ventricular fibrillation,
My name is Berenice she replied.
And I knew there and then that me, the grandson of my grandfather would do the impossible, I would toast a girl
Well, she could not claim to be disappointed, the conference was living up to expectations, even though the last session was a bit of a lull.
She needed something to excite her before the next session, God knows that there were a lot of options, but quality was in scarce supply.
Where could her school mates be at the moment, they were fond of doing this, leaving her and wandering off, she scanned the faces of various medical and dental students, till finally she sighted their oblong, lovable heads, then she made her way towards them
He was even starting to hate her f, he knew he should not, but still the feeling of dislike was building up in him.
What was wrong with her sef (another Nigerian slang) he was sure she knew he had been staring at her for a while, even her school mates had noticed, surely they must have signaled her.
Oh well, maybe some people were just that way, obnoxious and snobbish.
Or maybe she was just interested in keeping to herself, maybe she was even married, and entertaining unwanted attention from hormone driven young men was not part of her reasons for attending this conference (the logical part of his brain chipped this in, telling him not to be stupid and judgmental}
He was just about to turn his attention back to his own school mate who had been yapping away not aware that his attention had not been with him.
Just at this moment, a very fair lady of average height walked up to the group of students containing the girl he had been staring at,
She was not pretty, in the outputting kind of way, she was beautiful though, and her fair skin served to accentuate her looks demanding a “normal brained” man look at her more than once.
Well at this moment, he was not normal brained, and if she belonged to the same school as her of former interest, he would probably be wasting his time.
With that final thought, he promptly turned away.
A mild argument with the usual banter was in full swing as she approached, she promptly did her best to acquaint herself with the topic and the opposing sides, before deciding not to pick any side but remain as an impartial observer.
She had noticed him staring at Valise as she walked towards her mates, and her seen the look of disappointment on his face as he focused his attention back to his own group.
The argument was now getting strained and a bit boring.
She found herself stealing glances at the guy in question, for some reason she found herself wanting to observe his face in great detail, as if she wanted to commit it to memory.
10 minutes later, she had stolen at least 50 glances his way, what was wrong with her.
She had to stop staring at him, he might turn his gaze upon her and catch her staring, now that would be embarrassing.
Okay! One more look, then should would stop, and just at that moment (with the obvious blessings of her village people) he turned his gaze fully upon her.
The redness spread everywhere.
He had caught her staring at him after the tenth time, but had decided to play dumb.
This could get interesting he thought,
Don’t be stupid (the logical part of his brain again) maybe you have a fly on your nose and that’s why she has been staring at you.
Well that did not really sound logical, so I must have been the pessimistic side.
He decided to take his chances anyway, and steal some of his own glances at her.
Right at the moment he decided to commit the crime of glance stealing, she caught her in the very act. Oops!
Well this was problematic, what he should do, should he approach her,
No no no he thought, he would never do that in a million years, there were just many people around.
Then what should he do, he had to eventually do something….. Didn’t he?
And just at that moment, the summons to come and get lunch sounded.
The relief that flooded his every being was beyond unquantifiable, talk about a literal “saved by the bell”
As her stole one final look, he saw the same feeling of relief spreading through her.
And then, they both smiled.
AT THE HOSTELS
It had been a long, stressful, and yet blissful day, a weird combination.
He was grateful to have gotten a bus leaving early for the hostels, meaning he arrived early, had his bath, meal, and could relax a bit before going to bed.
So new delegates were arriving at the hostels, wondering who they were, he asked Tobi (his schoolmate) who seemed to always know what was going on.
Apparently, some delegates had been mistakenly assigned to wrong hostels yesterday, with the error now being corrected, they were making their way towards the hostel he was currently in, which was specifically set aside for members of the central executive council (CEC).
Which probably meant they were “excos”.
He decided to take a stroll, before retiring to bed, before he had taking up to 50 steps, there she was, the “look stealer” struggling with her luggage up the stairs, and apparently she was one of the reassigned.
And for reasons he could not fathom, he found he had broken out in a sweat.
While she was happy to have been reassigned to more comfortable lodgings, she was less than pleased with having to lug her stuff up four flight of stairs.
And none of the people she came across, seemed inclined to help her.
She stopped to catch her breath on the second flight of stairs, taking the time to survey he nee surroundings.
That was when she saw him, he was looking straight at her, it was the guy from earlier in the day, and apparently he had seen her first.
This was a standoff, so what should she do?
Oh my God! She was moving towards her, what should she do, what should she do?
If he spoke to her, what should she say?
Why should he choose to approach her when she was all sweaty, tired and out of her depth.
He was not stopping, this is not happening, she thought to herself, not now, not now.
Wordlessly he approached, bent down, lifted her bag, and motioned her to lead the way.
Till they got to the fourth floor, he barely said a word, and when they got there, he dropped the bag, and made to leave.
What should she say, she had not been expecting this, he was leaving, and she had to say something.
Thank you, God bless you she blurted out 🙆🙆
And then he was gone.
Well that did not go well,
Helping her with her luggage was a nice move, but not saying a word
Where was Michael Jackson to sing speechless when you needed him?
Well a least he had made contact.
AT THE HOSTELS – DAY 3
Today was the day, the day she would force him to speak, she wondered what his voice would sound like.
She positioned herself at tap, waiting, and just like clockwork, he made his way towards her.
But just as he got close, she panicked, picked up her water filled bucket and fled
Well that was a head scratcher, what was wrong with the girl, what could have made her fled that way?
Okay, now … Now she would do it, she promptly placed her bucket at the foot of the stairs and waited.
In order not to look suspicious, she promptly began rubbing her palm in mock tiredness.
Here he came, now she held her waist to exaggerate her condition of tiredness.
This time, there was to be no delay, he strode purposefully towards her.
Opening his mouth while her heart beat wildly;
Hi! I’m Max, may I help you with your bucket of water?
And all she could hear was the singing of angels.