The age was seven and the class was primary Four.
3 Significant things, difficult to forget happened that year. It was the first and only time I topped the class, it was the first and only time I won a prize and it was the first and only time I had an almost perfect friend and lost her.
Her name was Obasa.
She was my classmate, new in the school, Ebony-like in complexion and I thought she had behavioural problems because she was really slow with everything she did, both academically, in movement and in speech. Everyone in class saw her as a ‘dollard’ who could not comprehend a thing and struggled to be a step ahead of the least. I didn’t see her that way.
Maybe I was biased. Why shouldn’t I be? She was beautiful and always had that look in her eyes like the looks I saw in the eyes of the hollywood actresses. She reminded me of the movie ‘ANNIE’ whenever I looked at her.
My likeness for Obasa grew and I was always happy going to school every morning. My mum thought I had suddenly fallen in love with school. It wasn’t school mum, it was Obasa.
I shared my biscuits with her on one of her lonely breaks and from that day, we became friends. Only then did I discover she wasn’t the ‘isi aki’ everyone thought she was. We grew from class mates to friends and from friends to close friends. She neglected the girls when they called her ‘spoilt’ for preffering the company of the opposite sex during break and I neglected the boys when they called me ‘woman wrapper’ for choosing her instead of playing ‘police and thief’ with them.
Soon, my Obasa began to bloom academically, proving my instincts right and proving the other pupils wrong. She must have needed time to settle in properly which I guess was the reason for her initial poor scores. I liked her even more after her breakthrough.
We used to walk home together, holding her younger ones and sharing tales we wouldn’t tell the others at school.
She became my best friend as we fondly called it back then. We shared biscuits, talked about things appropriate for our ages, and sometimes, I resisted the urge to do those things I saw people do in movies to her. Yea, I resisted the urge to kiss her.
During the Christmas holidays, I volunteered to follow my aunty whenever she was going to the market because I knew we would always pass her house along the route. I used to peep in and wave if I saw her but if not, I’ll just go to the market feeling the pains of an unfulfilled mission.
This I did until she travelled to her village to spend the new year. I waited patiently. Built up my courage and rehearsed a scene on how I’ll kiss her when she returns. I didn’t know much about love, I was too young to know but the feelings I had for her was next to love if it wasn’t love.
The day of resumption… Three days…. One week…. Two weeks…. Absence.
Then an OBITYARY… (-̩̩̩-̩̩̩_-̩̩̩-̩̩̩)*sigh*
Her ebony-lit face, smiling in black and white with her mother and siblings. The siblings I used to hold. It was her, involved in a ghastly motor accident, burnt beyond recognition. Number plates, tooth and other little clues were used to identify them.
Her family was wiped and I couldn’t hold back as hot tears filled my eyes. I knew what death was at seven and it meant I’ll never see her or her little ones again. I’ll never get to kiss her.
And I went to school everyday, looking at her vacant seat, wishing she could come back so that we can walk home together like we always did but it never happened. I walked home alone, lonely and sad. Memories of our three months old friendship flooded my head each time I walked home and tears were forced to fall sometimes.
Back to present…
That is how I remember it. Thanks to childhood innocence, I wasn’t depressed for so long even though my academic performance that term was a little below my usual performance and I lost that zeal for school that mummy loved. I still remember her every now and then. Even till this day, the memories flood back sometimes and each time I remember her, I feel happy for the opportunity to have had that kind of friend. Soft spoken and strong, intelligent and wonderful and lest I forget, beautiful.
“She was my first love”