The Thing Worth Reciprocating
Kosisochukwu had come to abhor men who liked her. No, not men, but people who liked her. It was only worse with men. It was in their over-eagerness to befriend her, the men. The way they drooled all over her; until she felt almost drenched in their saliva. This was the reason she’d said no to Femi in secondary school when he’d bought her a sweet Valentine’s day card and chocolates and asked her to be his. She had said “I’m not interested in a relationship now, Femi”. He’d begged, raising her disgust level higher than she’d thought was even possible. And so it had been Kosi against all those who liked her, of which the only exceptions were her family members and her friend, Elohor. Elo was an exception because she was Elo; Elo who’d been there since the beginning of time. Elo was Elo. Kosi’s dreams became reality when she met Elo’s cousin.
Ehime was everything but bedazzled by Kosi and she liked him for it, for not seeing what all the other men saw, for not being enthralled. She liked him, because he was her challenge. And so, her work began. She spent hours deciding what to wear to Elo’s birthday party because she knew he would be there, she told all her funny jokes and felt her heart swell when he as much as cracked a smile and she could swear a fire started in her chest when he laughed because it felt so warm, so fuzzy inside. She pursued him; called him, sent texts which seemed friendly on the surface but had feelings everywhere underneath like dirt swept under a carpet while she hoped his feet were sensitive enough to feel the sand under. He fascinated her. The thought that a man existed who did not bow at her feet or lose control over her was like a drug her soul could not get enough of and she glowed from it; a woman in love with the object of her fascination.
One day at the beach, Elohor asked Kosi “So, what’s up with you and Ehime? Has he told you anything?” Kosi’s mouth began to run, in that way women run their mouths about the man they love, and then “…I just love how cool he is about everything, it’s nice to not have to literally chase a man away from you, to do the chasing sometimes”. Kosi did not understand why Elohor looked so appalled by that statement.
“Kosi, why should you spend one second worrying about, much less chasing anyone who does not care for you? And what is so wrong about loving those who love you? Why do you frown upon the most beautiful form of reciprocation?”
It wasn’t that she hadn’t noticed before, it wasn’t that she had never seen her friend turn down great people who reached out to be friends, to have a relationship. Elohor had just never wanted to believe that Kosi didn’t understand the concept of self appreciation and self preservation and self worth. That she did not understand that she needed to appreciate love, even if she did not quite feel the same way towards another.
You see, this is why Elo was Elo. Elohor had been in an accident when she was four. She had been physically disfigured by two unruly rottweilers and her mother always said, she wouldn’t have recognized her if she hadn’t been wearing the green dress she’d just received from her aunt. It was rare that people wanted to be friends with her and from an early age, she’d accepted she’d be alone forever. But then, she’d met Kosi, so beautiful, so smart; everything and Kosi had become her friend because she wanted to. Elo had made more friends who’d seen through the scars and into her heart over the years, but Kosi was her number one. Kosi was always there. So what was this idea of being unable to return love?
“I just feel like people like me for what they see. For what’s on the outside and not what’s inside”
“But, that’s all you let them see. You haven’t let anyone inside for years. How are they supposed to know what’s inside? Maybe you’ve now just become a prize and it’s a contest to see who gets through first and darling, that is not how the right people find you, ever.”
Kosi always looks back to that moment by the water as the moment her life changed and remembers everything, the “whoosh” of the waves, the sun in her eyes, the aftertaste of white wine, Elo’s scar; the one over the left side of her face, the sound of her heart unlocking and the taste of the tears that came afterwards. She still remembers Elo’s scent and the warmth of her embrace. You cannot be sure of every step or where every journey will lead you but sometimes, even the worst mistakes have a silver lining and all you can do is try. Kosi knows this because she chose Elo for the same reason she chose Ehime and while Elo is her biggest blessing, Ehime had only come home to invite them to his wedding.