SWEET SIXTEEN 14

“You see, Aliya, dating, boyfriend or whatever you call it, are not bad in themselves. But… okay, let me even start by saying that I appreciate that we are having this conversation. Okay?” He looked sort of nervous himself. He gripped my hands, gently but firmly. His touch felt reassuring and I could feel myself calming down.

He went silent for a brief moment as if he was thinking of what to say.Then he continued. “At your age, relationship between a boy and a girl is mostly ruled by one thing, infatuation. You know what that means, I suppose?” “Of course, I know the meaning of infatuation. Like you have a crush on someone, you think you love the person, but it is not really love.” “You are right. That’s largely what it is.

To add to that, I would say that infatuation is when you have exaggerated feelings towards someone in a way that is almost foolish. But such feelings are also often short-lived. While they last however, you would find that you were willing to do anything to satisfy the object of your feelings. You would want to be with that person all the time, and nothing else would seem to matter to you.” “Wow, but that sounds like some kind of sickness.” “Not exactly.

It is just that matters of the heart can be emotionally challenging for everyone, even adults. But it is even worse at your age; with hormones running riot, and you still trying to discover yourself. I seriously doubt that any teenager could enter into that kind of relationship and not be distracted from their studies. And anything that could distract you from your studies at this stage of your life brings your entire future into jeopardy. Do you know that?” I nodded.

Okay, let me ask you…” he continued. But I was already thinking about what he was saying. Was I infatuated with Bobo? A couple of times after I tried to return the teddy bear and failed, I caught myself thinking about him. But I told myself that I only wanted an opportunity for us to finish the conversation we started that day during prep.
I also wish I knew what he had wanted to say before we were alerted that the duty master was heading towards our class.

That was after I had told him I was not his girlfriend. Was he going to agree with me and just walk away? Or would he have persisted and tried to make me change my mind? After I learnt that he had relocated to Ireland without telling me, I was even angrier with myself that I did not shove his stupid teddy in his face back then and warn him never to talk to me again. However, after a while, I was not so angry anymore. In place of anger, there was this sadness, this loneliness that I felt, which I never knew was possible. For a while, I actually felt like he dumped me.

One day, I waited till everyone had gone for lunch and the hostel was quiet. I brought out the teddy and threw it in the waste bin by the hostel gate.

Almost an hour later, when I was going to class for the afternoon prep, I had to walk past the bin. I could see one of the teddy’s legs sticking out, the rest of its body obscured by some stale bread, torn papers and a box of cornflakes.

I looked away. But at that very moment, the teddy came alive in my heart. I couldn’t just leave it there, discarded and helpless. It was the first gift I got that was not from my parents and that I did not win as a prize from school. And the person that gave me that first gift was Bobo.

Even though I disliked him now, it would not be fair to punish the teddy for what Bobo did. I walked back to the bin and glanced around to see if anyone was looking. I did not see anybody. I hesitated for a while, trying to convince myself that it was just the teddy that I liked and not that I still cared for Bobo. Just then I heard footsteps approaching the gate. No more time to waste. I would save the teddy.

I was sure this had nothing to do with Bobo. I dragged the poor thing from underneath the pile of rubbish and ran back to my room. I chucked the teddy inside my wardrobe, promising myself I would give it a thorough wash on my return from prep. “Aliya, what are you thinking so much about?” Dad’s voice jolted me back to the moment.

He had been talking all along. It must have taken him a while to realize that I was lost in my own thoughts. “No… nothing. Just thinking about what you were saying.” I stammered in response to his query. “I asked you a question earlier though?” “Yes, sir, you did. I am sorry, I must have… trailed off.”

That’s all right. So I said, let’s assume you had a boyfriend. Let us say… what was the name of that boy again? The one that gave you the teddy bear?” Oh my God! I knew what he was trying to say. I wished he wouldn’t do that. Did he know what I was thinking about only a few minutes ago? “I know his name reminded me of that thing; that drink… Bobo, yes, Bobo… yes that’s what you called him. Right?” I refused to confirm.

I was still wondering what on earth he was driving “Let’s assume Bobo was your boyfriend and you liked him a lot.” He paused and gave me that mischievous smile of his. “Daddy, Bobo was not my boyfriend. And I don’t like anybody, not in that way,”I protested vehemently. He laughed. And I wondered why he was laughing like that.

“I know. I know. He is not your boyfriend. But let us just assume he was your boyfriend for the purpose of the question I am asking you. Bobo is your boyfriend and you like him a lot. Then one day, you see him with another girl, walking around the school? How would you feel?” “Well… to be honest, I think I would feel bad.”

“You mean, you would be jealous?” “Yes, jealous, maybe.” It had actually happened before. Shortly before the end of the term, I saw Bobo once with another girl from our class. Morayo. They were walking to the refectory together. I felt so bad. Morayo wasn’t as smart as me. But she was slim and tall, with big eye balls that she had a way of
at.

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