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Rejection and its (thr)ills

Till this day I don’t know if Cynthia was even her real name. I often try to convince myself that it was probably a middle name that she rarely used but the more I think about it these years down the line with a more profound beard growth, the more I sense foul play. Sadly, the foul play now turns out to be more on my path as compared to hers.

On the day I first worked up the courage to talk to her, I remember asking her name.

“My name is Cynthia”, she had said quite brusquely, “and I don’t want to know yours”. She added before stomping off and leaving me by my lonesome outside the corridor of the last floor of the great Abuja building complex in the varsity.

I remember awkwardly standing there with a smirk on my face, trying to play it cool, although I was crippled with embarrassment, evident from the sweat dripping out of my brow on a harmattan morning.

She had blurted out her words in front of a couple of students whose attention had been immediately drawn to us. They all had that ‘kpele’ –sorry– look in their eyes. It was pity, but not the kind that forces one to lend a helping hand to the destitute; rather, it was the kind of pity that felt like chastisement — like “guy…you dey fall hand o”

Now, naturally, I am a very sensitive person and an embarrassing encounter such as this should have crippled me or even vexed me to saying, “to hell with her!”. But for some reason, I hadn’t. Instead, I had felt a surge of passion rush through my veins so much so that her pushing me away so publicly had felt like a subtle challenge for me to commence a chase. In my head, I saw the future: me and her, giggling and in love as we sat under a tree on a cool evening and reminisce on how she had played hard to get the first time I had asked for her name. In my head, nothing about this spelt “harassment” to me at that time or age. I knew what harassment was because it was defined for me as simply “sexual”. So, for the fact that I was not attempting to rip her clothes off, I felt safe in my ignorance, albeit being oblivious to it.

I believed I had been struck by cupids’ arrow of love and not one to be restrained by cowardice or inaction, I had told myself that a rejection per se, was not the end of the road but an embarrassing but necessary bump I had to scale past to get to nirvana.

I was wrong. But I never knew that.

In fact, from then on, I had gone full-on investigative stalker on her ass — excuse my French. I had been able to find out her real name (not being sure if the name she had given me was real), surname and even gotten her phone number from her class rep, obviously a guy, whom I had explained my love-struck conundrum to.

Basically, I had been so resolute in my decision to get to know her more that I still wonder till this day exactly what my obsession with her was. Don’t get me wrong, she was gorgeous, but it was very un-me to be so bent of pursuing a girl, especially one that had spoken so “rudely” to me on the very first day we spoke. The “very” me person would’ve walked away and thinking back, I believe the fact that she was an exception was the more reason why I had remained determined to woo her.

About two months after the incident on the hallway, and after I had invariably made a couple of pestering calls to her until she no longer took my calls, fortune (or misfortune) had smiled on me and I had run into her on the third floor of the same Abuja building complex. I remember that she was standing on the hallway, alone. It was a Sunday, as I recall and the whole place was stone silent — well, almost, except for a few guffaws from students inside the classrooms, most of them there in preparation for the upcoming semester exams.

I had also been there for the same reasons — preparing for the exams and had decided to stretch my legs after about two hours of staring into the theorem ridden pages of my notebooks. I was in my third year and my classroom was situated atop the last floor of the building. In my strolling adventure, I had gently climbing down to the next floor (third floor) when I had recognized her from her posture.

A sudden shiver had sped through my spine in that moment and my heart raced with discomfort. Seeing her had brought back the awkwardness of my first phone call to her, when I had introduced myself as “that guy from mathematics department, who asked for you name…” and she shad hung up mid-sentence.

I also remember that for a moment, I had considered, just climbing back up the stairs just to any confrontation. But being the brazen Edo boy, I was wont to claim to be, I had proceeded in a bid to give this “wooing” thing another last try.

“Good evening” I had greeted.

Immediately she had turned around to the sound of my voice and saw my face; her eyes had gone from brooding to wickedly stern.

“Jesus” she had said shaking her head, “look, you’re the last person I really want to see right now, please”, she added with a dismissive hiss.

“Oh, um, I’m-I’m so–” I had tried to apologize but was cut-off and distracted by the sound of a loud cachinnation that came from inside one of the classrooms.

By the time I was ready to get my words out, she hit me with the toughest question I have ever been asked.

“Why are you tormenting me?”

I do not think I could ever forget the disgusted look of scorn and anger in her eyes after she had asked that question. Never in my life have I ever felt so belittled and hurt emotionally as I did but not for her irritable response to a simple “good evening” greeting rather I believe in that very moment, something in me realized in a tit-bit what the older me now knows quite clearly — I was a scum.

It was hard to think that face-to-face with the supposed girl of my dreams, my day-dream moment of staring into her eyes and being swept away by the ascending tendrils of bliss and sensuality, as my entire being elevated to cloud nine and beyond was now replaced with a churning knot in my stomach as her cold stare froze me to the spot. I remember her eyes being devoid of anything pleasant — just a seething rage that seemed intent on incinerating me. In that moment, she had no longer being the girl of my dreams, instead she had become a reflection of my own ignorant harassment.

Why are you tormenting me? The question had echoed in my thoughts again. I had been taken aback without moving an inch.

“Look”, she had gone on to say, “I think I have a right to choose who I want to be friends with.”

“But I — ” I had tried to reply in a stutter.

“Please don’t bother my life anymore.” She cut in and walked away.

I sometimes look back at this encounter and smile to myself thinking “what did I ever do to her?”. Thanks to the recurring debates about sexual harassment that has now swarmed the airways of social media, I now realize that as good as my intentions towards her were, my ignorant methods were my own undoing.

Thankfully, it did not take me until now to seek redress. I remember after the last encounter deciding once and for all never to “torment” her anymore. I no longer sort out opportunities to talk to her or bump into her. I deleted her “illegally” obtained phone number; and as though fortune smiled on me as I became so engrossed in my final year project, our paths hardly ever crossed from that day.

But then one day, I remember it did.

To my surprise, she had greeted me first on that fateful day.

“Good morning” as if to actually say, “Hey, I’m glad you now have sense”.

And I remember greeting her back as well with a smirk.

“Good morning”, as if to say in response to her, “I haff sense now and I am wishing the same grace on the rest of my alobams.”

By Mifa for Urban Central [Tweets @Mifaunuagbo]

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