|Image from here|
Many of us had that childhood friend of the opposite sex that all the adults would declare our husband or wife. When it first starts, we’ll protest loud enough for the world to hear, shed a tear or two even. But after some time we’ll kind of accept it and it’ll stick. I had mine. Let’s call him Tade. Tade and I were always in the same class throughout primary school, and we always shared the same seat. We were different in many ways – he was Yoruba, I was Igbo; he was dark, I was yellow; he was talkative and quick witted (at least as much as a seven-year-old could be), I was quiet; he was Muslim, I was Christian.
Our chemistry was about fights, competition and the rare ‘awwww’ moment; it was our own special blend. We didn’t share any late night dinners, but we did examine each other’s lunches during break at school. He’d sometimes bring this beans-maize-garri combo and I’d just stare in awe. Instead of romantic evening walks, we had the walk home from school every afternoon. For sweet nothings, he would call me yellow pawpaw, and I’d say he was black like amala.
We weren’t hung up on sex and kissing and all that other messy stuff. Having birthday parties, fancy stationery and high scores, those got our blood pumping. And it was understood that whoever finished writing out Uncle Daniel's assigned fifty Ugo C. Ugo questions first had bragging rights for a whole week. I took my victories quietly; he always bragged. But it was okay since he hardly ever won.
We didn’t know all the terms, but we understood the basic rules of our relationship; like we were allowed to have other friends. Some days he’d seem to want Male Bonding, so he’d stick with the guys and I’d make attempts to blend in with the girls. I wasn’t the jealous type. He was allowed to talk to other girls, even share his weird food with them if he liked. But, permissive as I was, even I had to draw the line at some point. That point came one day when he needed to sharpen his pencil and didn’t have a sharpener. I stretched forth mine just at the same moment that Prisca, (the yellowest, most girly girl in class) who had the seat in front of us, offered hers. For an interminable moment, he looked from my plain purple sharpener (Made in Taiwan) to her Voltron (Defender of the Freakin’ Universe!) sharpener and back again, before smiling and taking hers. I was shattered.
“It’s Voltron!” he whispered to me when Prisca faced her notebook again.
I smiled my understanding. Yes, dear.
He finished using the sharpener and placed it on the desk between us. Moments later, I asked Uncle Daniel for permission to use the bathroom. I did, and I returned to class feeling physically lighter. After a while, Prisca turned to Tade and stretched forth her palm for her sharpener. Tade glanced at the spot where he’d dropped it and, what do you know, it was gone! Me, I was really supportive as he rifled around, shook out his notebook, shook out mine, turned over our desk. When he asked the class: “Who took Prisca’s Voltron sharpener?!” I helped echo it louder. The class stared back; nobody responded. But the silly girl wouldn’t let it go, and soon the whole class was on a Voltron hunt. She even insisted on a body and bags search for everyone. If they had asked, I might have told them they’d never see Voltron again.
Tade and I walked back home together after school that day, me quiet because I almost always am; him quiet because the wheels in his head were turning.
“I know what you did,” he decided finally. I kept my mouth shut.
We got to the kiosk on his street and he stopped and bought me five wraps of *baba dudu, which I accepted graciously. We continued walking.
“Yellow pawpaw,” he muttered.
I smiled and sucked on my sweet. His apology was complete.
*baba dudu: dark, oblong shaped, locally made sweets that were popular when I was a child.