Cringey Crushes

There are some days when you’re effortlessly happy. Every piece of news sends you into higher states of happiness. Today was one of such days.
I had left OBS at the end of the second term and gone to PRS for a term. I was moving back to my old school, OBS for reasons beyond the scope of this write-up.

I was quite happy to be back. For one, I had missed my old school uniform and the way it didn’t make me look or feel like a bag of potatoes. For another, I wasn’t very good at forming new relationships with people my age. Or people not my age for that matter. I had missed my classmates, one of whom I had had a crush on for about four years. He was smart, had a wacky sense of humour and a really cute smile- which was really all I wanted in a pubescent crush. I had left the school without saying goodbye but now I was going to see everyone again.

I had spent a considerable amount of time imagining the shock my classmates would feel when they saw me. Shock and delight, of course, because wasn’t I a joy to see?

I walked into my old school and it was like coming home. These were familiar grounds. This was where I had schooled for most of my life. People greeted me as if I had never left for a whole term. And besides, I was going to buy new books and a new uniform for a new class, one of my favourite activities. With each new session, I had the bright optimism that I would glow up in the new class. I was wrong. Every time. But that never stopped my dreaming.

At the school’s bookshop, the woman in charge told me she knew I would come back. This vaguely annoyed me because if she knew I would come back, she could have saved me the whole trouble of leaving by telling me that in the first place.

Anyway, I bought my new textbooks and notebooks, and I couldn’t wait to get home and carefully cello tape each one as part of my annual school ritual. I had just gotten my new uniform and then I noticed a woman that looked familiar.

I looked closely at the woman. She looked a lot like my former best friend’s mother. Winifred had been my closest friend in school until JS 2 when she’d just up and disappeared to Ibadan. I missed her sometimes when I remembered her.

The woman looked back at me. “Joy, your friend is making her hair. She’s been asking of you.” I couldn’t believe my ears. Winifred was around?!
She said it ever so casually as if she and her daughter had not been absent for four years of my life. I asked for her location and ran to meet my childhood friend.

And there she stood, looking almost the same as she had when we were ten. Except curvier and more beautiful, as one gets. I tried not to be too self-conscious of my own dismal figure.

She was making her hair so I wasn’t sure whether to hug her on her seat. Were we still friends? What was the protocol for greeting a friend you haven’t seen in more than three years?

“Winifred,” I repeated.
Winifred smiled, “I came for vacation school. Everyone told me you’d left.”
“I came back,” I said, pointlessly.

We stood in the awkward silence for a minute before I couldn’t stand it anymore.

“Ok, bye,” I said, running off into the distance. Despite how nervous I had been, I was also excited, things were shaping up again. I saw one of my closest friends that I had thought I would never see again and she was resuming school with me. I was in a bubble of happiness as I walked towards the car with my mother. I was resuming school in two days, and I was going to see all my friends again! Toffy, Mags, Malik!

“Joy,” My elder sister said, as we got into the car. “I think your crush has moved to America oh.”
I laughed. “No, he travels every summer to visit his grandma.”
“I think they’ve moved there for good. I heard Mummy talking to someone about it.”
“No,” I insisted.
“Ask mummy.” My sister felt she was right.
I shrugged it off and tried to ignore the fear gnawing at me.
Ten minutes into the car ride, I couldn’t take it anymore.
“Mum, is it true that Malik is moving abroad?”
“Yes, his mum wants to further her studies abroad.” My mum smiled at the road. “Isn’t that great?”
“Yes, great.” I manage to say before collapsing to the car seat. My bubble of happiness was burst. I was shocked to discover tears around my eyes. Up until that moment, I had assumed I was a hard, unfeeling robot person. The tears in my eyes greatly contrasted with my previous impression of myself.
I cried for an obscenely long amount of time.

We were travelling from Osogbo to Ikirun so I had a lot of time to think about my poor teenage girl heart. So this was my true self. Like some poorly stitched up caricature of the pathetic Wattpad girls, I had read. I hadn’t even got to say goodbye.

When we got down from the car, I wiped my tears so my mother wouldn’t know I was crying about the boy.

We got home late in the evening and I tried to write down what I felt while looking out my bedroom window as it rained outside. It felt like something out of a movie and I tried to capture the moment. I ended up writing his name the way I remembered his handwriting. I sat on my bed and tried to figure out why I was sad.
I had no intention to date in secondary school. A crush had been enough of a distraction for me. I had planned on getting over my crush quietly and admitting later that I used to like him. So what was the reason for my sad face?
Maybe he represented something more to me than I had thought. He had been my first crush, after all. Maybe there was a small part of me that hoped I would have worked up the courage to say, “Hey, man, before you go, I want you to know that I like you.” And maybe if I was lucky, and he had just hit his head on a hard stone or something that equally affected brain functioning, he’d have said, “I like you too.”

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