The day I was going to secondary school, now senior high school, my mom sat next to me on the bus and followed me to the school. On the bus going to Cape Coast, she told me, “Don’t allow yourself to be distracted by boys. Stay focused and get good grades. When you become who you want to be, many good men will come along and you’ll be ready to select the fine one among them.”…CONTINUE READING
Before she bade me goodbye she repeated her advice, “Remember what I told you. Boys. Be wary of them.”
A girl next to me heard what my mom said. When my mom turned and began walking away, this girl next to me chirped; “Your mom is like my mom. Why do they think boys would be the end of us? My mom said the same thing when she brought me here.”
I looked at her and she was beautiful and she wasn’t a boy. I smiled and said, “They are scared we would bring pregnancy home instead of good grades.”
That girl was called Erica. She became my friend until my final days in school. Erica is still a friend. She was at my graduation when I completed the university. She was the bridesmaid at my wedding. When I had my first child, she was there for the christening. She lives not too far away from me. A friend who had become a sister. We bonded on the common advice our parents gave us.
My class had more boys than girls. When we were being arranged in class, I was made to sit next to a boy. The advice of my mom was still fresh in my mind so I never saw anything good in this boy. When he asked for an eraser, I felt he was going to use it to erase the good things in my future so I didn’t give it to him. When he asked for a pen, I asked myself, “What if he uses it to write his name in my heart? You can’t trust boys.” I didn’t give it to him. When he tried saying a word to me, I turned away, thinking his words would penetrate me and get me pregnant. I resented that boy but the only sin he committed was being made to sit next to me.
After class each day, me and Erica met at the dorm to discuss how we triumphed over boys during the day. I would talk about the boy who sat next to me and how I was making his life uncomfortable and she would talk about the guy who said hello to her on their way to class that day. We felt like soldiers at war and our enemies were boys.
In the second year, Erica fell in love with a third-year guy. It felt like a betrayal. “Have you forgotten what your mother told you so soon, Erica? Get your head straight. This boy will impregnate you and run away, just look at his forehead. He means no good.”
A girl in love is a girl in denial. Erica looked at me and said, “I didn’t say I’m going to sleep with him. No matter what, we’ll marry men in future so why don’t we rehearse how we would stay in love with men?”
Our friendship suffered a little but she didn’t give up on me. I saw her as a betrayal of the sisterhood. The soldier who surrendered in the middle of a battle. She continued seeing me as a sister so she drew closer with the stories of her new boyfriend until I had no option but to take her into my arms again.
Everything she said about the boy was good, “Can you imagine what he bought for me today? He got me chocolate and sent it to me with a letter.”
We read the letter together. I’ve forgotten what the letter said but I remember how the words smelled. They were sweet like a fresh perfume. I asked myself, “Anaaa, I should find someone too? A boy I would love and see how it goes. They are not as bad as Mom wanted me to believe?”
The guy I found was my English teacher. I convinced myself, “This one is not a boy. He’s a man so technically I haven’t disobeyed my mom. I stayed away from boys and gave my heart to a man.”
This teacher made me the centre of his focus because he said I looked like his cousin. Whenever he was in our class, he treated me with soft gloves. He made the whole class aware that I was his favourite student. It wasn’t about love from his end but from my end, love grew slowly and I chose a subtle way to let him know that I could be a girlfriend instead of an imaginary cousin.
Love grew into confusion when he was not giving me the same energy. With time, confusion grew into obsession and that obsession led me to propose to him. Sir Ernest. I wrote him a letter. In the letter, I told him what I was feeling for him was different. It wasn’t the kind of love between cousins. It was the real thing. It was so real I could feel him in my arms each night when I was in bed.
I put the letter in his book when he came to teach. The rest of my day was filled with dread. I was imagining everything that could go wrong. I could imagine his frowned face as he read the letter. I saw him picking up a cane and rushing to our class. I imagined the worst so when I didn’t see him the following day, I fell sick.
A girl came to class and told me, “Sir Ernest is looking for you.”
My heart skipped a beat. I felt like going to the toilet. “To the staff common room? That means he has told all the teachers. Oh God, I’m dead.”
He saw me and he smiled. He signalled me to sit on the desk in front of him. The room was empty. I sat timidly with my head on the floor. He asked questions. I couldn’t answer all. I was too shy to even look at his face. He said, “It’s alright. Let’s see how it goes.” I lifted my head and looked at him. He smiled again. “You’re a nice girl. Let’s see how it goes. But don’t ever mention it to anybody, not even your friends.”
I nodded yes and hurriedly left the room with a wide grin. Did he say I shouldn’t tell anybody?
“Erica, guess what, Sir Eric accepted my proposal. I have a boy. Me too there’s someone for me.”
So it started. The two of us were hiding. He didn’t live on campus so on weekends, I would run out of school to go and see him. He was pleased and careful at the same time. I built romance in my head but each time when I was with him, I got disappointed. He didn’t touch me like Erica’s boy did to her. He didn’t kiss me when Erica had had a lot of kisses. He would sit me down and talk to me as if I was his junior sister.
I didn’t like it. I wanted changes. I wanted more. He kept telling me I was too young. “You’re not eighteen yet. sixteen? That’s too early.”
I was in a hurry to experience true love’s kiss. The one we read about in the romance novels but he wasn’t ready. He cared about my studies. He cared about how I would do well in class and get better grades. He would stay longer on campus to teach me. He was an English teacher but he taught me everything. Erica laughed at me. “You ran away from your mother’s advice only to get a father,” she would say. I responded, “He says when I’m eighteen we would do wild things. I’m patient.”
From second year to third year, I didn’t even get a hug. It was killing me on the inside when Erica talked about love and I didn’t have anything to say. So one day I lied to Erica that he kissed me. I told her many lies so she would leave me alone and not pressure me. On the other hand, I was pressuring Sir Ernest to be a man and touch me like real men do. I don’t know where I got that unashamed courage from.
I was in my third year when I grabbed him at his place, trying to take the kiss he wouldn’t give me. He intentionally hugged me and held me in his embrace for a long time and later pushed me off his chest. “Finished school and I will be ready for you. I’m here. I’m not going anywhere.”
He created a future in what we had so in my mind, I would complete school, become a woman and still be with him. I was betting on it. He was going to be the man I ended up with in the future.
After my final exams, I was on top of the world. The burden of studies was off me. I knew the time had come for me to experience all the things he pushed to until I finished school. The night before I left campus, I went to his house with the hope to sleep over and break my virginity. He wasn’t there. I waited until I got tired and left. When Erica saw me she asked how it went. I told her, “I’m in pain. It wasn’t easy. Let me sleep off the pain, I beg you.”
Early morning the next day, I got a call that someone was looking for me. I went out and it was Sir Ernest. I was angry. I had questions on my mind. I was going to hit him for lying to me but once he smiled at me, the anger dissipated. We went to sit in our class. It was empty. I accused him of not loving me enough. “If you did love me, you would do everything I asked of you. You just wasted my time. You didn’t love me and you lied about it.”
He was looking at me and was smiling. He said, “You’re getting it all wrong. I would have done everything you asked of me if I didn’t love you and believe you me, if I pushed you away when you gave me that letter, you would have fallen for another person and the story would have been different. You’re too young to experiment with love. Love in a child’s hand is like a drug in the hands of the abuser. It’s not safe.”
We sat there looking at each other, I had yearning in my eyes. He had care, the one my mother had when she told me boys would destroy me. I told him, “I would be going home today.” He answered, “I know. I’m still your boyfriend. Don’t go home and cheat on me. I would look for you.”
I had a boyfriend at the university. When he wanted sex, I wanted to take my time. When he asked me to prove my love using sex, I knew too much to know love isn’t about sex. I found another guy who I told right from the start that sex was off the menu. He understood me but sex became everything he wanted along the line. He too didn’t last. If I count the number of guys I’ve dated, you might think I was a prostitute. I dated four guys in a year. I wasn’t scared to start a relationship. I remember I proposed to two of the guys I dated. I wasn’t ready for sex so they all left.
One day, I got Sir Ernest’s number through our old student platform. It was over six years since I left school. I called him. His voice was as old as time. He said, “Hello.” I answered, “Are you still my boyfriend? Or you’ve found someone new?”
I thought he wouldn’t know. He said, “Jennifer?” I answered, “You still love me I know. You didn’t forget my voice.”
He was married. He married two years after I’d left. The girl was always there when he was stringing me along. Fear men.
The lessons he taught me were what led me to the man I’m currently with. Love is patience. And love in the hands of the wrong person is like a drug. They’ll abuse it and blame the results on love. “Love is wicked.” “Love is pain” “Love is this and that.”
How Silent Beads Started: A Chat With The Founder
Love is…everything right when you’re patient enough to meet the right person. My husband was patient with me. At a certain point, he didn’t believe I was a virgin because he felt I knew too much to be one. He said, “If I open the thing and realize the seal is already broken, I swear I will return it to the seller.” I laughed and answered, “You’re getting the original product. Nsuo koraa nka da!”
The fact that we are still together says it all but thanks to Sir Ernest. The man who singlehandedly made me who I am in love.
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