THEY HAD always had an eye for each other, ever since their primary school days. Naturally, neither had ever given even a hint of this to the other, but each had carried his and her own slumbering love silently, unspoken, unsubstantiated, deep within each heart.
The primary school days ended and they separated, each going to a different secondary school. Six years of separation and in that time neither had any idea where the other was. And yet their love continued to grow, to wax soft and strong, tender and untouched and sacred, in those recesses of the heart of which even the mind itself is barely conscious.
Every once in a while she would float into his thoughts and he would remember and vaguely yearn and long… then forget again and continue, like other youths, with the demanding task of growing up – until the next bout of longing.
Nor did she ever completely forget him either. And being genuinely of the deep female gender, her ability to call forth his memory in her heart was even stronger. Often she wandered where he was; was he still alive? Was he fine? Was he in love? Would they ever meet again? Would he recognize her? Did he ever think of her? There was no reason why he should; he had hardly ever looked at her in their childhood days. Foolish me, she would think, dreaming hopelessly…
Thus did the years pass by.
He grew up into a young man at the tail end of his youth, matured by love affairs, ideological battles and heartbreaks come and gone.
She grew up similarwise, and if he had loved deeply, she had loved twice as deeply… and if he had believed blindly, she had believed even more fiercely… and if his heart had been broken, hers had been dispersed, ground, into the winds.
Thus did they suddenly meet again in the university.
Who recognized whom? Who was more – or less – eager to let show the fact that silent, unconfessed love had long smouldered in fiercely hidden embers deep within the heart?
Often he would visit her in her room in the evenings and they would crack many jokes, and slowly came they to also like one another. But if he was seeking company with which to cure his loneliness and erase the memories and after-effects of earlier heartbreaks, then she for similar reasons was reluctant to unite again too quickly with a member of the male gender. It was a subtle cat and mouse affair, nothing ever actually spoken, yet both being fully aware of exactly what was going on – and while these things were happening silently in their hearts, outwardly they continued to crack their friendly jokes.
But tensions build and pressures mount and something somewhere must always finally give. And, for hesitation, the tide untaken at the flood, it sort of wilted and softly broke, the potential lost its momentum, the attraction lost its orientation, and it died between the two of them. Gradually they began to see less and less of one another…
One year then passed, during which their paths did not once cross.
She had meanwhile exchanged her room for a new one which she shared with another female student with whom she had quickly become good friends. But never had she voiced it to anyone, not even to her good friend and roommate, that there was someone whom she silently, painfully, loved. –
And no-one could have prepared her for the shock she got when she one evening opened the door of her room upon a visitor’s knock and saw him standing there. They stared at one another with bewildered looks of surprise on their faces.
And then, from behind her, from deeper inside the room they shared, the happy voice of her room mate called out loudly, brightly:
“Oh, Zubi – hi! Finally… you’ve come.” And, bounding forward with barely suppressed excitement, her roommate turned to her of whom this story is about and, taking Zubi’s hand, said:
“Efe, meet the guy I’ve been telling you about… and, Zubi, meet Efe, my room mate.” –
With pain almost impossible to bear, Efe watched her roommate Awa hug, and be hugged, tightly, by him, Zubi, the silent owner of her heart.
Over the next couple of weeks it became clear to her that Zubi and Awa were in a serious relationship and loved each other deeply.
Nor was there anything for her room mate Awa to know or ever suspect in connection with the two childhood friends, Zubi and Efe, for there was nothing that existed or ever had existed between them, was there?
They were just , as always, two casual acquaintants who happened to have known each other in their childhood days and who, today, whenever they met in Awa and Efe’s room would, as usual, aye, as they had always done, simply crack light friendly jokes with one another.
And if they felt anything else, anything deeper, for one another perhaps, then it spoke not, nor loudly, but remained, silent, as it continued to reside in the deep quiet places within their hearts.
– Che Chidi Chukwumerije.