I was completely in love with him. I felt he was Adam and I was Eve; I was made for him and his life was incomplete without me. He is the last man I have loved so abandonedly. No good love story is good without a tragedy; it was unrequited love.
I tried and I tried. The setting is a small, private, liberal arts college in an obscure town, in an obscure State, in the not obscure United States of America. I am a black African; he is a white American. I am a geek; he is an athlete. I am short and physically challenged; the only physical challenge he has is beating his last vaulting record. It didn’t matter; it was the stuff fairy tales are made of. Having gone to an elitist high school where a certain amount of smarts had you covered with the teachers and a certain amount of ballsiness elevated you to all sorts of heights with your peers, I hadn’t had the chance of being disillusioned about love and romance. I hadn’t even had the good fortune of being acquainted with college etiquette- I didn’t know, for example, that one was supposed to lose their virginity at home-coming and if one didn’t, one was supposed to spare their peers the effort it took to channel jokes in their direction by hiding this fact; in Malawi, we didn’t have homecoming. I didn’t know inviting a boy over to study chemistry was grown folk talk for inviting a boy over to study chemistry; imagine the horror of being called a tease.
Equipped with nothing but the unexorcised demon of naivety, I was thrown into an otherwise typical US college. EVERYTHING mattered.
I alternated between passive-aggressive and aggressive-aggressive. One week, I would show him all the attention in the world, go to his room, sit through his doing his homework; the other, I would totally ignore him, speak only when spoken to, and even then only rudely. He didn’t notice. But one day I noticed; noticed I was the one always going to his room; the one always initiating the FaceBook conversations; the only one always calling.
Perhaps I should start at the beginning. I became acquainted with X through a guy my roommate was dating who had a friend who had a bestfriend who had an African roommate, and I am African. It only seemed fit to the Americans that we Africans meet and reminisce about ‘back home’ and become the best of friends. It didn’t matter that we were from two different countries which spoke two different languages and needed the bridge of the Americans’ language in order to communicate. I was always amused by the simplicity of this kind of reasoning and humoured all Africa-ignorants around me.
Along the way, I lost sight of my role and got taken in by the African’s roommate instead. It wasn’t love at first sight; if anything, it was annoyance after several sights. Geeks have a sentiment towards jocks which is a mixture of extreme dislike and jealousy. In its most superior manifestations, it comes off as weariness. I was weary towards Q. All the girls in our little crew were going googa gaga over him: “Q is so awesome”; “Q is so nice”; “Q takes charge”; “Q is so handsome”; “meh meh meh”. Then one day it happened. I was sitting in Albertos with Q and his bestie, Mike,in the mundane evening of a mundane day, passing some mundane time, and I asked him some mundane question just to pass more mundane time, when the most extraordinary thing happened; he started to answer the question but couldn’t look me in the eye. He was directing the answer towards Mike. I realised he was shy around me. His peculiarity intrigued me. (Later, i was to discover that he was this way towards all girls but it was too late by then).The scales of prejudice against jocks fell from my eyes and I began to see how awesome he was; how nice; how he takes charge; how handsome…When I fell, I fell fast and I fell deep. And I tried to keep it to myself. I suspect he knew, or rather, I feared he knew.
We were young and vulnerable back then. What society thought about us meant EVERYTHING. Being rejected cost EVERYTHING. One lost their standing in society. It was like having leprosy. When I reminisce now, I can’t think of a tangible reason why it was that way. Perhaps I should ask my peers whose hearts are still worn secretly in their underwear. I wear mine on my sleeve ‘like it’s the new fashion’ and the world continues to turn…
I am embarrassed at the insecurity that my naïve attentions must have leveled on him; kind of like how offended homophobes get at being asked out by a gay person, or how rankled I used to get when a man, of a lower social class, asked me out. I can visualize him being offended that a non-entity such as myself should even think about thinking about being with him.
He was never mean about it-oh, no. It was not for us at KluberRoss to be mean. I remember once, a friend of mine whose housemates had been complaining about certain provocative smells emanating from her room, took me to her room which had an obvious pungent smell and asked me-rhetorically- if her room smelled. Instinctively, I went on the defensive: this must be some sort of a joke; I must be on camera. How could anybody call on me to say the room did not smell when it o.b.v.i.o.u.s.l.y reeked. But I did what KluberRoss taught us best and said, “No, of course not!” and expressed the proper signs of indignation at this injustice directed towards my blameless friend and her rose-perfumed room.
I read into everything Q did or said. I took ‘remember the good, forget the bad’ to all new heights. Any semi-compliment was engraved in stone and hang in my brain’s frontier lobe for daily review; and any mis-sayings were erased not to be heard of, and from, again. If I, as a religious person, could have applied this kind of attitude to my whole life, I would have a direct, non-stop, one-way ticket to heaven.
Q never encouraged my attentions but neither did he discourage them. Actually, I only say this with 20/20 hindsight vision. Now I know that when Americans say, “Let’s do this or that ‘sometime’” , it’s really just a figure of speech, like how “how are you?” is a manner of greeting and you are not really soliciting the miniscule details of the other’s welfare. There’s really no chronological story to tell here; nothing ever came to a head. You may be interested in a few anecdotes perhaps: “this one time, at band camp- ” no, just kidding. This one time, I lied to him that I was moving to Thailand- I lied to him quite a lot actually, in the beginning, because I felt the truth would never, and could never, impress him; I grew out of it real fast cause lying really isn’t my MO but even my jokes were taken as lies so I never stopped lying in his eyes. When I was graduating he told me that he wanted to spend the summer with me; I don’t know what could have inspired such a statement to transpire from his mouth for I certainly did not then, nor do I think now, that the statement was, and is, true. And I said to him, “What if I move to Thailand?” and he said, “I guess I’ll be spending the summer in Thailand then.” Fast-forward a week and we are talking on the phone (I am happy to report that he had actually written to me on FaceBook asking me to call him so I am not a total lost puppy following him around just wanting to be loved), I keep breaking off to say goodbye to people and he finally asks where I am going. “Thailand.” My attempt at humour completely flopped. In actual fact I was just going back to KluberRoss to finish off a few classes. He tells me I am the woman he would follow around the world. Actually, he told me this on a completely separate occasion but I can’t remember what inspired that sentiment either and, more importantly, I can’t remember the context but I think it’s hella sweet and would like it to be in the story. But he did say some pretty sweet and strong things and I felt like a tool and felt the only way to salvage anything was to not reveal that I was joking. So I kept my mouth shut. Fast-forward another week, I am back in school finishing classes and several people ask me about Thailand. Fast-forward several weeks and Q is asking me why I lied that I was going to Thailand. I was weary of being called a liar. I stuck to my story; no matter how lame, no matter how obvious it was that now I was lying.
Another time, after I had just graduated, after he had caught me lying about Thailand, a mutual friend from overseas visited the US and was staying with him and his roommates. At this point, I really didn’t think he thought much of me. Enough negligences had occurred towards my affections towards him to make it impossible for me to ignore the fact that my love was unrequited. So imagine overhearing him saying this, in the context described above, to a friend over the phone, “The Fionanator is here.” I didn’t really know what it meant, but I knew two things: it was derived from ‘The Terminator’, and it was derogatory towards me. My friends were not above laughing at my expense. To them it’s been one of those jokes that never gets old. I can’t for the life of me figure out why they find it funny when they also claim not to know what he meant by it. I asked him about it last night *facing my demons-call Oprah or Dr Phil*.
I am presumptuously writing a blog about my college experiences in the US and i wanted your input on something: why did u refer to me as ‘the Fionanator’?
“its kinda like the terminator… and the combination of your and my name. Probably added from my personal arrogance”
what motivated it? tbh you dont really have to answer, i just thought it would give the piece some balance if it didnt run solely on my assumptions. afterall, it was 6yrs ago
“haha I will have to think on it
it just fit
strength, power, friendship
i dont know if I remember the first time I said it
do you remember the time”
i just overheard it
you’ve never said it to me.
–so u can imagine my assumptions
“ummmmm could not even tell you! Was it when you pushed a dresser across your room with the strength of ten grown men”
lol, nothing so exotic. it was after [KluberRoss], when Em was visitin and we were coming back from buying some stuff at some supermarket
u were on the phone and referred to me as fionanator
i was too offended to ask u what it meant then
I cant imagine that I meant anything bad by it
I doubt I would have changed your name out of anger
i have never seen Em after college”
The things I could have read between the lines of “its kinda like the terminator… and the combination of your and my name. Probably added from my personal arrogance”. I could have been a full fledged writer from its extrapolates by now. My blog would have had a category labeled X.
I was in love with X until waaay after I graduated college. I know ‘why’ I stopped loving him- I mean, there wasn’t much really fueling the fire-but I don’t know when. And somehow, it seems important that I should be able to pinpoint the exact moment I stopped loving him. It seems a momentous event. It seems my love for him died along with that delicate part of me that was able to love so resignedly.
Two mornings ago, I woke up; for some strange reason thought about him; and for an even stranger reason tried to recall his cell phone number. I couldn’t. A smile spread over my face. I jumped out of bed, onto the computer, and started writing this post!