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Wednesday, June 27, 2018

THE STUPID ZONE

Episode 1
I stood at the corner of the class corridor as I watched her kiss him. I felt my heart shatter into a million pieces and my palpitations become rapid as I saw her circle her arms around his neck pulling him down towards her. She seemed to be enjoying it and with that realization, I died a little more inside.
My heartrate kept increasing and I imagined those who died from high blood pressure probably felt something like I was feeling in that moment. It was suddenly hot and yet I had been shivering from the effects of the morning cold in June just a few minutes earlier. What was really happening to me?
I could not see anything else save for the image that was before me and no matter how much I wanted to look away, I couldn’t for some strange reason. I kept wishing I was in the guy’s shoes, the one she was kissing.
I had watched my crush Naomi hop from one man to another and my heart broke with each new guy she dated. Naomi and I had met a couple of years earlier and we hit it off immediately. But it was either, I was too shy and timid to make my intentions known or maybe I was not just in her league and she would never look at me that way.
My mind trailed back to the day, we first met. My mother had sent me to the market to buy groundnuts so she could mix them with the vegetables at home. She seemed to like visashi (the fusion of vegetables and groundnuts) but I hated it. It was however the only way we could have a balanced diet because we could not afford protein giving foods and so we depended on the proteins from the peanuts.
Whilst on my way to the market, I saw this pretty little girl being harassed by two big boys who were trying to kiss her. They were pushing her back and forth fondling her breasts while she cried and tried to get away.
Without thinking twice, I ran towards the trio and started hitting one of the boys. He was way bigger and taller than me, I bet he used to eat meat at home and so my malnourished frame was no match for him.
He and his friend beat me to a pulp and they took the money I had with them. I had lost the fight, but I managed to save the girl because she ran away and hid when they were beating me and she came back to check on me after they left.
My left eye was swollen and my bottom lip was split but I did not care especially after I saw the girl hovering over me with tears in her eyes and a smile on her face. I wondered how someone could smile and cry at the same time. She looked at me with so much innocence, I fell in love with her right there and then.
I had a strong urge to wipe away her tears but I did not want to freak her out so I just lay on the ground and smiled back at her.
“Are you ok?” she asked me.
I smiled at her again as I tried to sit up. She helped me up and helped me dust my clothes, brushing her hand on my southern region in the process. She did not even notice her mistake as she continued dusting me.
“Its ok, its ok. I will do it,” I said as I moved her hands away from me.
I had just turned 15 and my blood was boiling at that time. You know how it is when you just hit puberty and all you can think about is sex. Well, I was at that stage of life but for some reason, the girl in front of me made me feel more than just sex. In fact, that was the last thing on my mind at that time. I just wanted to hold her in my arms and keep her safe. To wipe her tears away and make it so she never had to cry again.
At that age, I was battling with my identity, a cracky voice that my sisters used to make fun of and a host of pimples on my once smooth and baby face. I was also beginning to grow hair in strange places and I did not adapt to the change well. I used to live with my mother and sisters and so I had no male figure to guide me through transition. My mother did not help either as she tried to talk to me about sex and puberty in front of my sisters which I did not take so well.
“It’s normal, there comes a time when a boy transitions from a boy to a man and a girl grows into a woman,” my mother had started one day when we were gathered around the brazier as she cooked dinner.
We did not know where the story was going so we listened intently.
“For example, you my son is blossoming into a man. I’m sure you have started noticing changes on your body and feeling things that…..”
“Ah mammy, what kind of topic is this?”
My young sisters giggled as I assumed they had not reached puberty yet.
“I know you are hitting puber…….”
I rushed towards mom and covered her mouth with my hand. In the process, I tipped the pot on the brazier spilling all the okra we were supposed to have for supper. Mom beat me with a belt that night and she made me eat sandy okra while she roasted dried groundnuts for her and my sisters which they ate with nshima.
Mom raised us with an iron hand because she said she didn’t want us to end up like her so whatever little thing we did according to her deserved a beating. I could easily stop her from hitting me but I respected her too much so I just silently took the blows. She hated that I never cried when she beat me. Well, I was a man and I believed that crying was a show of weakness, it was for women and so no matter how much I felt like crying, I never did.
“Why are you looking at me like that?” the girl I had just saved asked me shyly disrupting my thoughts.
“Oh, I am so sorry. Was I staring?”
“Yes,” she giggled.
“I am sorry, you are just so pretty,” I said before I could stop myself.
I regretted it immediately because I thought that would freak her but I saw her mouth widen into a smile as she stretched her neck to look up at me with puppy eyes and my features relaxed a little. Oh yeah, I didn’t mention, I was tall, still am. I was way taller than most of my friends and the fact that I was very skinny made them make fun of me. All of my pants were loose and I had to put a string made from the bark of a tree as a belt to hold them.
It was either that or moving around naked, both were embarrassing so I chose the lesser evil.
“What is your name?” I asked her.
“Naomi,” she said with a wide grin.
“Can I escort you home Naomi?”
She nodded her head and I walked her all the way to where she used to live. It was not a rich neighborhood but it was much better than mine. She pointed at the house she lived and promised she would repay me somehow someday for what I had done for her. During our walk to her house, we spoke about a lot of random things and the conversation flowed liked we had known each other forever.
It was the first time, I was that comfortable talking to a girl since I reached puberty and I loved how things were going. I was going to ask Naomi to be my girlfriend, I decided. I went home all smiles that day and mom hit me with the belt for losing the money and getting in a fight but I did not care. Nothing could dampen my spirit because I was in love.
However, the days turned into months and months into years but every time I tried to tell Naomi how I felt, something always came up. I kept waiting for the right time until she had her first boyfriend and then a second, a third and a fourth and she packed me safely in the friend zone asking me for advice and coming to me to cry whenever a boy hurt her.
A breeze hit my face on the point a tear drop had fallen and it brought me back to the present. I quickly wiped the tear away reminding myself that men don’t cry.
It had been three years since Naomi and I had met and I was still in the friend zone. She had no idea how I felt about her and she would call me brother in front of her boyfriends. Naomi would also hug me, leap on me, ask for piggy back rides and a lot of favors and even though I felt it was inappropriate, I always obliged because I loved her.
I stood there thinking about whether I should go talk to her, maybe get her out of the arms oof the boy she was kissing maybe I should just walk away like I always used to. Apparently, that’s what used to happen all the time and it always ended in me chickening out. So that day like any other, I walked away broken hearted, the only sound I could hear was that of my heart breaking into pieces.
That day, I decided I was not going to continue being friends with Naomi, I was not going to stay in her friend zone anymore, not when it hurt that badly. I decided not to pursue her anymore and I was starting my life over. I had realized that what I was in was not even the friend zone, I had graduated from that a long time ago only I did not become her lover but I got stuck in a zone between.
My name is Richard and I am in the stupid zone.
To be continued

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