Chasing Butterflies

‘Always go for nothing but the best,’ my father said amidst tears while tapping me lightly on the shoulder. Since I was his only surviving family, he never let me out of his sight unless I wanted to use the bathroom.

Mum and Julie, my baby sister, were killed by a carefree driver who felt adventurous after dosing on marijuana. He had swerved to their lane and jammed the bonnet of their car, which was parked by the roadside so they could buy bananas from a roadside seller.

The car went up in flames after somersaulting for about six times and the driver, who was said to be the son of a Commissioner, was let off the hook without an ounce of justice served.

Father always kept me within an arm’s length and often reminded me of how his life was tied to mine. This meant that I couldn’t swim, play basketball with my friends or engage in extracurricular activities after school hours.

All I had to do was come home and watch television until my head ached or we strolled to the riverside to watch fishermen throw in their nets to catch fishes and buy the roasted ones from the river bank.

Beginning of the current school year, my school principal invited Father for a closed door discussion to deliberate on the need for me to move into the school dormitory so as to prepare effectively for my senior secondary school certificate examinations.

My departure from home would change a lot of things between us and although I desperately wanted to leave home, I was not yet emotionally prepared for it, neither was Father who started behaving weirdly.

With my hands on the straps of my school bag and my head bowed, I started walking towards the school gate and said goodbye to him. He adjusted his face cap and waited until I had passed through the gate to turn back.

The principal showed me around the different sections of the school, which I hadn’t seen before, and took me to the dormitory where my house master, who stood at the door post, received me with a warm smile on his face.

I could tell right away that he was a good man. He made a lame joke about how small my head was and introduced me to the boarders. In my school, the boarders and day students never mixed up and so, I was shocked to see many boys and girls in my class.

Several days later, other day students joined the boarders and academic activities began in earnest the following Monday.

You can disagree with me if you want to but I am going to state here that mixed schools might not be the best for a teenager like me. I didn’t know what it meant to share a seat with a girl until the form teacher announced our seating arrangement.

I was to sit beside Sashi, an extremely beautiful girl whose hair was cut low and her cheeks firm. Her beauty was so ravishing that I often drowned in thoughts of her and wished she took notice of the extra things I did for her like buying her snacks during breaks, copying her notes and offering to help with her science practicals.

Whenever we were alone in the classroom and I brought it up, she would thoughtfully evade the subject and swiftly change the discourse into something of lesser or no interest to me. Her fair pristine legs made me drool like a sick infant and it was worsened by her nonchalance towards my advances.

Once the Economics teacher reprimanded me for being absent-minded in his class and I felt extremely bad because I thought it would dent her perception of me. I waited until the class was over to tender an apology but she dismissed it as nothing and added that I was too intelligent to be distracted and that the teacher was probably having a bad day and decided to pick on me.

I went back to the dormitory feeling elated and in my excitement, I missed lunch. The satisfaction of being hyped by my first crush was the peak of my otherwise ordinary day. I even wrote in my diary: ‘Sashi thinks I am intelligent. Asking her out will be pretty easy.’ 

My bunkmate noticed my excitement and repeatedly begged to be told what it was that had gotten me in my feelings. As a guy man, I told him to wait until weekend to know why. He chuckled and climbed up to his bed to observe his one hour siesta.

Father always said to me after narrating an animal-centered folktale, ‘you don’t boast about catching a game until you have it in your hands’ and I felt that there was no better moment to put it to good use. I sat on my bed throughout the siesta period, crafting a romantic text for Sashi but sadly came up with nothing worthwhile.

The regulator rang the bell for the evening prep classes and I took my time to apply perfume on my starched checkered shirt and brown slim-fitting trousers before leaving the dormitory. Sashi was already seated when I came in and drawing a long breath with her cute, little eyes closed, she nodded and exclaimed, ‘nice fragrance’. Phew! 

My heart jumped into my tummy and triggered the butterflies in there to flap their wings and I felt lucky. The odds were surely in my favour. How could two rarities occur within a space of five hours? I mumbled a ‘thank you’ and sat down to read. It would not be masculine to let her see through my facial expression.

The voice of my father echoed from the  bedroom telling me to get him his sweater from the laundry room, startled me from my day dream. I opened my eyes and saw myself sitting on the couch with the Steve Harvey Show playing on the television and wanted to cry. How could I have been dreaming? No! 😭 I want my Sashi back!