It was the summer of 99. The general public was enthusiastic about the coming millennium. Despite this enthusiasm, some wondered about the "year 2000 computer bug." Now I am remembering this event not only because of Salvador Dali's "the persistence of memory," but also because of this summer's relation to my present lifestyle. 

  I had just changed to yet another primary school. As usual I was the outsider, no one knew much about me. There was the routine assembly and checking of fingernails and then we marched to our various classes. First period brought a dreaded subject, the nemesis of my primary school days- Maths. The teacher walked in and then the rest of the students automatically rose and greeted him. He was a stern looking being. The idea that my constant switching of schools had had a negative effect on my mathematical abilities wasn't new to me, but more recently I had started to entertain the idea that the various looks of my Maths teachers had also affected me. And on seeing this teacher, I knew that the noble tradition was not going to change in this school. Just after the last action I just wrote about occured, a girl walked into the class. She sat herself opposite me. I had watched her walk all the way to her seat and now I was still watching her. She had soft curls of hair, well normal legs and lovely chocolate skin. Just then her chair partner said something and she giggled. As she giggled I could see some dimples form on both her cheeks.

  "New student!" A hostile voice awoke me from my reverie. "What is your name and where are you from?" "My name is Ifeanyi Freder........" I was abruptly interrupted by the teacher. "The multiplication table from two to ten," he said. I will have you know that before I got to the difficult parts he was called away by the principal and when he got back he never asked me to complete it.

  First period, second period, third period, ring! Break time. I started to talk with this guy Dan, who later turned out to be the girl's brother. From him I learnt that her name was Chineze. After school closed that day and I walked home with my little sister I kept saying "Oh! Chicodili!(I sort of mixed her name up).

  Fast forward about a fort night, I still had not spoken to her. But I had made some progress, afterall now I knew what I would say to her. In the afternoon of that day, we were having a siesta, and Chineze being the class prefect was responsible for writing the names of those who were not sleeping, or rather who were not in a state of physical tranquility( Eyes must be closed!). Our heads were bowed.  We were seated and had desks infront of us. I was chatting with Ahamelo( one of the stars of the soccer team), when Chineze calmly said " the teacher is close, try to sleep so he won't single you out and flog you. Try to talk in a lower tone at least. But I won't write your name anyway." Stupefied I nodded in agreement. 

  After that event, Chineze and I started on the path of friendship. We would come very early to school and talk and talk. And sometimes when her brother, my friend, wasn't there we would embrace each other. What I remember presently with a subtle but yet intense feeling is when we spoke about what we would do and who we would be when we grew up. She'd help we with Mathematics and I'd help her with spelling. Whenever, if ever the teacher spanked her I would silently swell up with rage. She is the first girl I ever kissed, the first girl I ever said those eternal words " I love you," to and my first experience of the opposite sex.

  Despite all this saaviness in the dealings of a relationship, we were still only children. Even if we cared deeply about each other, we were still only children. And so when she missed a couple of classes and I asked Daniel why, and he said that she was sick but would return soon, I easily accepted that. I mean I was hurt that she was sick, but Daniel did say that she was going to return very soon anyway.

  A couple of days turned into a week and then into two weeks and then into three weeks.  In those days, we didn't have Facebook or even mobile phones and so I could not communicate with her. Also, our houses were so far apart since we were children, so I could not visit her. I waited and waited but she never came. She never came back to me, and truthfully I do not know if she ever came back to anyone. I was soon taken ill briefly and when I hastily returned to school expecting to see those beautiful curls of hair, they were not there. Not even Daniel her brother was there, I asked classmates about them and nobody semed to know or even care. It was almost as if I was delusional. I later could be seen staring at her empty side of the seat as if she were there.

  I have long scorned my fate in being born in such a time, a time without social networks and mobile phones. Hell, a time without the possible mechanisms to live for a thousand years.

  My young heart still full of hope and exuberance recovered, I was soon shipped off to another school. But then, there I never searched for another Chineze. I tacitly knew that I wass full. Instead, I tried to enjoy childhood, leaving behind all the burdens of adulthood. But still, I bumped into her in that unconscious stream of consciousness that we call dreams.

  Sometimes I wonder why I have always remembered this, why I am even writing about this. But the truth is that in a lifetime of sorrows, joys, struggles and victories, one has to appreciate the happy times. I feel nostalgic when I see the sand and swings of primary playgrounds.  I always wondered why I felt this wayn until one day it came rushing back to me- Chineze and the summer of 99.

  Tis truly tragic that I probably will never see her again. I know people might think I am exagerrating but I never felt so peaceful, so complete as I did then. When I think of Von Rezzori's "Skushno," or Albert Camus's "The Absurd," I cannot help but think that Chineze covered up that void within me.

  Now here I am, in a foreign country twelve years later, and I still wonder about what might have been. What if  I still knew her, what if she never left, what if I knew her surname, what if sometime recently she had passed me by, and then, what if she is dead.  I  go on on this manner marching towards what is now an everlasting defeat. So in some way I am similar to Kierkegaard's "Sickness unto death" quote or Sisyphus and his eternal punishment.

  In the end, I have to content myself with Chineze being the one that got away. I have to cherish the memories. Maybe I am a hopeless romantic and maybe I am not, I will leave that judgement to Lord Byron. Sometimes though, I wonder if she thinks of me; if she feels this same way or if it is just me.


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Short Story
writing hitchensian
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Childhood clarity, nostalgia, love, contentment, peace, time, reflection.