This is not how she had envisioned her first sexual experience. From all the Harlequin and Mills and Boons novels she had read while in her teens, sexual intimacy was about beauty and romance and all the satisfying physical pleasures one had to enjoy before dying. She longed to be held closely, caressed in all the right places and to feel fulfilled afterward. She longed to be surrounded by lovely, sweet-scented flowers; the smell of lavender engulfing her thoughts and adding to the sweetness of the moment.
But as she lay on her back on the dry, rough, brownish-green grass with prickly weeds poking out of it, beneath the leaves of a big baobab tree shielding them from the scorching sun that Ghana has been blessed with (or in this case, cursed with) while inhaling the faintly pungent smell of urine from a distant public toilet, she just knew that she was about to make the biggest mistake of her life.
The lean, muscular crush who had successfully clouded her thoughts for the last few weeks since their first meeting at a Book Club discussion, seemed unperturbed by the discomfort. With his eyes shut softly, he was kissing her gently on her lips and her neck, totally oblivious to her flimsy attempts at repositioning herself on the grass. She took a long look at him and thought back to their first and a rather unusual encounter.
‘Fine’ guys did not come for Book Club meetings at her school. Yet somehow, Chimamanda Adichie’s novel, Americanah, had brought to their Club who she thought was the finest guy on campus. He wasn’t every girl’s dream guy with handsome, chiseled features, eyes to die for and a height that made young ladies feel like they could get closer to the Heavens just by being with him. Instead, he was tall enough, had slightly droopy eyes, and a regular oval-shaped face. Yet somehow, after their first Book Club discussion, all the ladies, including her, were swooned by him and began to idolize everything about him.
He was incredibly intelligent and knowledgeable about several books, most of which she had either read or wanted to read. While the other ladies tried to get his attention by reading too much into Americanah so they would sound overly intelligent, both she and her crush connected deeply over the simplest thoughts of the novel; the structure, the twists and turns, and the climaxes and nadirs. Even after the meeting was over, they remained seated in the grass on the woven mats that the Club leader bought from Tamale and continued their conversation about Ifemelu, Obinze and Aunty Uju, the main characters of the novel.
They became the best of friends, reading books and having their own book discussions much to the dissatisfaction of the other members of the Club. Their shared love for reading evolved into an attraction toward each other leading to the beginning of what seemed to be a relationship. It was new for them and they had no idea how to go about it.
And now, here they were in the next town away from their school trying to take a peek into the world of adulthood.
He was groping her now, breathing heavily. She could feel her back inching closer to a tiny, sharp stone that had left an indentation on her side. Her legs and thighs were starting to itch from being in the grass for too long. She was sweating profusely, and so was he. She had attended her women’s church group discussion on Sunday and her Pastor preached about knowing your worth as a woman and abstaining from anything that will lead to regrets, mostly supported by hints at the sins of fornication. Oh, this was just wrong on so many levels.
“Ouch!” Her lower back had landed on the sharpest point of the tiny stone. His eyes fluttered open.
“Please stop. I’m not ready for this. We’re not ready for this.” She said, peeling him off her.
“Why, did I do something wrong?” He looked concerned and slowly moved to sit on the grass as she pulled her dress over her legs, embarrassed.
“We’re living a forced fantasy, not like all those books we read. This is supposed to be magical, yet here I am being poked by stones and uneven, brown grass!” She stared at him, flustered as she spoke. Her legs began to itch and she scratched them vigorously. Suddenly, all she could see were the features that she hadn’t noticed before. He had a small, dark mole beneath his left nostril. His brown skin was pigmented and patchy. His eyebrows were unevenly shaped. His teeth were slightly stained, perhaps, by drinking too much coffee.
He was saying something she couldn’t hear. She didn’t allow herself to listen to it because she was wondering if she felt anything else for him beyond their shared love for books. She was enthralled by the beauty of his brain in absorbing details of the world of fiction. She was mesmerized by his ability to recount the stories and to make meaning of them. But she had never thought of how else they connected beyond the books.
He was asking her a question and was snapping his fingers in front of her face.
“Are you okay?”
“Yes. I mean, no. I barely know anything about you. It’s been about books since we met and I love that. But I don’t know you enough to continue with this.” She said, standing up and scratching her legs. Her dress was full of grass weed seeds that clung to the fabric as if they were holding on for their dear lives.
He stood as well, realizing what she meant. He pulled his white shirt on, brushed the dirt off his jeans and placed his hands in his pockets. “I understand. Sorry for putting you through this. I’ll take you back to school.”
She felt sad for ruining what could have been a good day. But then she thought again that nothing good would have come out of it anyway. Her skin was red from the irritation caused by the grass and her dress was soaked with sweat. She caught a large mango ant crawling up her neck and smashed it in annoyance.
He was leading the way to the main road. She headed toward his direction then stopped to gather her thoughts. She looked up at the baobab tree and stared down at the grass for a while. Then she saw it. A thin, green snake was inches away from where they had lay minutes ago.
She was screaming now and he was pulling her away. She would surely give a testimony at church the following Sunday.