It had been over five years now since Temi first met Tochukwu ; and in those five years, never had she ever guessed that Tochukwu harbored tender feelings towards her, until that faithful night, two months ago when he held her in his arms and whispered the words ‘I love you’.
Five (5) years was a long time to know someone and decide on ones feelings. However, Temi felt after the first two (2) year of knowing Tochukwu that she could fall in love with him, and she fought it.
Tochukwu was everything she had convinced herself she would not have in a man – he was Igbo (a majority tribe from the eastern part of Nigeria) and she was Yoruba (also a majority tribe but from the western part of same country). Now it was not as if there was bad blood between tribes in the country, it was just that people often favored relationships with tribesmen and women because of a feeling of being comfortable with the known and scared of unknowns. This was one of the major societal problems that the introduction of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme set out to remedy. The method of the scheme was to mandate graduates fresh form higher institutions to serve the country in any stipulated capacity and in any community through posting them to parts of the country different from their state of origin, education and abode. In this way they were made to visit, live and serve in a particular community for the mandatory period of one year, something majority of them would not have dared to attempt hitherto. It was during one of such postings that Temi met Tochukwu and they became fast friends.
Secondly, Tochukwu was not a TDH (Tall, Dark and Handsome) man that she had always hoped to fall in love with. True Tochukwu was not unpleasant looking, but he wasn’t drop dead handsome either. Although she had to admit that he had a pleasant way of looking at her out of the corner of his eyes, when he would smile and tease her about nothing in particular that lent a warm boyish charm to his looks. Also to give him credit for not being shoulder high taller than she was, he was at least a head high taller. But to Temi as at that time, any man who wasn’t six (6) feet tall was short and totally out of the question as a potential for her. Together with Tochukwu ’s complexion bordering on the fair side, he lost out completely in the race to becoming Temi’s ideal man. However, that did not disqualify him from chances of being a good friend. So they became friends and remained so as the years went by.
If they were just good friends, as Temi had for so long led herself into believing, why was it that of all the TDH’s she had known and dated, she was only comfortable sharing the innermost secrets of her hearts with Tochukwu? They could talk for hours on end on the phone, laughing at little jokes and gently teasing each other. They would share their days’ events and would be quick offer comforting words when one of them had an unpleasant day. And when for a period of about eight (8) months Temi was out of a job, Tochukwu proved to be a great source of comfort and encouragement to her.
Recently, Temi realized that she was no longer at ease with Tochukwu . She could not really explain why or how this came about. All she knew was that she was no longer as open towards Tochukwu as she used to be. She realized that there were little emerging secrets in her heart that she could no longer share with him. The thought of some of them would often drive her into fits of blushes to her utmost exasperation. What was this thing happening to her? And why was it happening to her she would ponder endlessly in frustration. What was actually happening was that these days she was often content to lie in bed and dream about what it would feel like to be in Tochukwu arms, feel his strong, muscled arms encircle her body and caress her, while his lips brushed gently against hers and hear him whisper sweet, tender words into her ears. Then she would blush at the vividness of her thoughts, bite her lips hard and get angry at herself for ever imagining such things. Tochukwu wasn’t her type remember? She would reiterate in a hopeless bid to take her mind off him. But it didn’t work.
Thus as the days went by, the frustrations of her little kept secrets would drive her into madness, making her pick small, irrelevant quarrels with him. Tochukwu perplexed, would wonder at her sudden change of attitude but would rather let sleeping dogs lie than quarrel with her. His gentle nature would never permit him to react in anger towards her and this attitude endeared him to her heart more than ever. Sometimes in the depths of her unhappiness, she would wonder if ever Tochukwu felt anything for her. She would probe deeply and deeper into her heart, go over numerous conversations they had had, re-scrutinize every glance, searching for hidden meanings, alas, she found none. In despair she would give up; tears milling in her eyes that what she felt was one sided. Tochukwu was just being his normal, gentle and teasing self, and try as much as she did; she could not reconstruct tender, romantic affection from his actions.
With heavy heart, and secrets kept unshared, their friendship progressed, until that faithful magical night when circumstances caused them to be thrown together, and for the first time ever, Tochukwu had gathered her up in his strong arms, held her close to his heart, brushed his lips gently over hers and whispered three (3) soft words ‘I love you’. Unlike all the other times when she had heard those three (3) same set of words, this time, Temi did not have to think twice before she voiced her response. Coming from the depths of her heart, her head nestled in the curve of his chest, she joyfully whispered back, ‘I love you too’.
All that had happened two months ago. Today looking back, she wondered if that magical night had ever occurred. Her heart screamed to her that it had; maybe because it wanted to believe in what was. However, reality denied its very existence. Tochukwu was his usual gentle, teasing self. They would still call each other and talk at lengths about nothing in particular, but the magic of that night was lost forever. Or was it? Temi, having heard those words once was not ready to lose them again. Why was Tochukwu behaving as if nothing had happened that night? Did he really feel anything for her? Was it the magic and intimacy of the moment that had provoked the words from him? Only time would tell. However, knowing Tochukwu , ‘time’ could span a thousand years. Was she ready to wait that long before she heard another tender, loving word from him? The constraints of her upbringing and culture forbade her from taking the initiative in matters of the hearts involving the male folks. What then could she do?