Thomas is my name. Many of my friends say it suits my appearance. Not that I have many friends, but many of the people who talk to me say it suits my appearance, with the glasses and all. I don't know what that mean, and I have never bothered to find out. But I know for sure that the Thomas in the Bible never wore glasses. There are so many things I have never bothered to find out about myself -like why I find it hard to talk to girls.
Now for the appearance; I am tall, dark skinned and slim, and of course wear glasses, can barely see without them. I am not ugly, but I wouldn't say I am handsome either. I just have a face that people seem not to pay attention to, especially the girls.
I am shy, extremely shy, that I have very few friends. Even while in secondary school, I could only boast of three boys who were my friends. I am very intelligent and was among the best in my class during secondary school days. But that still did not attract the girls to me. Why would it? When even the hot and handsome boys were competing with me academically. I was very well behaved and took the award at my graduation ceremony. When other boys were buying chains and fixing on their school trousers, slim fitting their school trousers and keeping it below their waist, wearing gold wrist watches and keeping full hair, I stuck to my low cut and baggy trousers. And these made the girls never spare a glance at me. All these never bothered me for I was more interested in making straight A in my grades and I was able to achieve that. But all that changed when I saw Nenye in the University of Calabar.
Nenye was my cousremate and in the same level with me, so I saw her everyday. She was of average height, fair and slim with a figure that kept boys always behind her. She had the nicest of smile that showed dimples and nice set of teeth. I don't know whether I should say I fell instantly in love, for I don't know what love is, apart from that I felt for my family. But I admired her- secretly though. Many of the boys loved Nenye, even the girls. She had almost everyone as her friend. But she never seemed to notice me, nobody did. I was just one who attended lectures and left quietly.
One day I decided to attend one of our numerous class meetings. When I got to the venue students were already gathered and I joined them. I noticed the stares as many wondered who I was. I became very nervous and adjusted my glasses with my clammy hands. I noticed Nenye look at me and then turn away immediately as if my face was repulsive. That made me feel like I had lost something -something I never had in the first place. Finally, many lost interest in my face, but I still noticed some casting glances my way. Immediately the meeting was over, I turned and left immediately, not once looking back.
Towards the close of semester, I had made only two friends who were males, I exchanged greetings with only a handful and I was yet to gather courage to speak to Nenye, not that I thought I would ever. But fate had already decided what will be, I did not need to look for courage to speak with Nenye, for she spoke to me first.
Nenye and I sat down close to each other for most of our examinations and she did not hesitate to ask me what she did not know. She stayed back after each paper and thanked me, and that was the end. But it still made my heart glow and made me want look better every day for our examinations. But I couldn't possibly go to the market for new clothes, and I also couldn't stop wearing glasses, for I will not see Nenye well and will have to repeat all my papers. For the first time in life, I began wishing I knew how to be hot like the others boys, I began wishing I knew how to talk and crack jokes and make Nenye face light up in laughter like she did when she was around others, for that would make her give me more attention and say more to me.
The holiday came quickly and ended as quickly as it came. I resumed school still the same old me, no muscles, little beards and still no courage for Nenye. Not that I had made any attempts to change anything. It had even occurred to me start gyming for the muscles. But what I did instead was remain indoors watching discoveries and reading my books like I had exams the next day, and I had also spent a great deal of my time day dreaming about Nenye.
1st of July came with a heavy downpour that kept me from attending lectures till noon. It also brought with it a surprise that left me tingling to my toe till this very day. After the close of lectures by two, I started my way home alone as usual when a touch on my bicep made me turn. And behold, I was staring into the beautiful smiling face of Nenye.
''Hey!'' She said breathlessly.
I heard welI what she said and tried to respond, I swear I really tried, but instead my mouth remained slightly opened with no sound coming out, it just seemed like I was in a trance.
''Hey!'' She prodded me this time still holding to my arm.
''H--hi'' I managed to breathe out.
''You always disappear after every lecture.'' She released my arm and started walking. It sounded like an accusation and I felt like apologising. But before anything could come out, she continued.
''I wanted to ask you if we could read together. Do you come for night class?''
Was I hearing well? Nenye wanted to spend time with me? No read with me-well, it was still the same thing--she had asked--
''Thomas'' I heard her call my name and oh, how it suited me. I turned to look at her.
''I asked if you attend night classes.''
''Oh yes I do-I mean I don't attend night class but we could read together, I can come for night class.'' Can I? I don't really like reading through the night, but I will do anything for Nenye.
''Why don't you come for night class?''
''I just don't like it. I prefer reading in my house, then sleeping through the night''
''You stay off camp?''
''Yes I do."
"Goldie by Uwanse."
"I could come in the evening instead of you coming for night class if you don't mind."
"Okay, that's okay," I said without thinking. But why would she want to read with me? I wondered. Before I could gather courage to ask, she said.
"I will chat you up later so we talk better."
"Thanks." She turned and left. I didn't dare look back in case people were staring, wondering what I was doing with Nenye. Even I myself was wondering what kind of good luck I had.
I waited all day for Nenye's chat that it even distracted me from my reading. Finally it came around 11:00pm. I quickly closed my books, doused my reading lamp and fell on the bed. I made sure I was feeling cozy before I replied the message. We agreed she would come everyday by 5:00pm except Thursday because of fellowship, and we read till 8:00pm. Weekends would be by 4:00pm. I closed my eyes after she said goodnight, not even remembering I had other messages to reply. It took me time to sleep that night for I kept seeing Nenye's smiling face.
The next day, I tried to slow my steps after lectures to see if Nenye would meet up with me, but instead I saw her walking ahead with her group of friends laughing and holding hands. I wondered who her boyfriend was amongst all the boys that surrounded her. I turned and continued home with my heart feeling like it had been shredded into pieces. I waited for Nenye when I got home and she came few minutes past five. I had never had a female visitor before and my heart began thudding out of rhythm as she smiled at me and said "hi"
"Good evening," I replied. I tried to return the smile but it came out lopsided. When she entered the house, she looked around and turned to me. I was still standing at the doorway looking like a dummy.
"It's cool. Why didn't you get a roommate? "
"I prefer staying alone." I entered inside. "Have a seat," I pointed to the only plastic chair I had with my reading table.
"Where will you sit? " She mused.
"I..." I looked around, as if doing so would make a chair appear.
"We wilI have to sit on the floor and use the bed as the table." She sat on the floor and placed her books on the bed.
What is wrong with me? I began wriggling my hands.This is my house and I am behaving like I am the visitor. Nenye looked straight at me questionably and I stopped the wriggling of my hands and adjusted my glasses.
"I--I cooked Spaghetti, will you like to eat?"
"No, thanks. I ate before coming." She smiled as she began flipping through her physics textbook.
You can eat it as supper before going, but the words refused to come out. I sat down beside her and caught a whiff of her perfume. I had to stop myself from taking a deep breath.
You smell nice. Why wouldn't the words come out?
Nenye turned to look at me and I lowered my eyes. She had this thing of looking straight at you while speaking and that made me nervous. I placed my hands on the textbook and it brushed that of Nenye, but she didn't seem to mind.
"How do we start? I'm not really bad in calculations but I want to become better."
She was not even bad at all, I had noticed during the exams. I should tell her...
"Thomas" Nenye called, looking straight at me again.
"Le--ets start with the very first topic we did last week. I think it's best we start with solving problems to see if we can remember."
"I'm sure you do" Nenye laughed. "You are a guru."
She laughed so easily too. I was supposed to say something to what she just said. What should I say?
"I'm not a guru" I laughed nervously.
"Yes you are. Okay let's start with problem solving"
We worked silently for thirty minutes. When we were done, we exchanged books and marked. I got the six questions while Nenye got two.
"I said it, you didn't even fail one" She said.
"Of course we both tried, but I failed."
"Thomas, two out of six is not pass for me, that's why I am here."
"Okay let me explain." I explained my method of solving and the methods the lecturer had used. We solved again and Nenye got three out of the five questions we solved.
She smiled when she saw her book. "Maybe I will not leave here until I score everything."
I tried to ignore the change in rhythm in the beating of my heart that statement caused. "You only made few mistakes in your workings." Nenye brought her head closer and I explained again.
"Yea, yea, more questions." She was so eager to learn and I was happy about that. We solved again and she still got three out of five.
"Oh no! What am I not doing?"
"Calm down, you are really doing well" I was really getting better in speaking.
"Let's solve one more time."
"Nenye it's passed eight."
"It does not matter." She began solving again not waiting for me. This time around she got four out of five.
"Maybe we should solve one more time, I may get everything."
I didn't say anything as she looked at me. "Okay" She closed the textbook, "I forgot I am disturbing your schedule"
"No!" I wanted to say, but she started putting her books in her bag.
"We will treat chemistry tomorrow right? "
"Okay, I will study the first topic we did in class before coming."
"Okay that's good."
"Thank you so much," She said as she stood up.
"You welcome." I wanted to offer her the food again but it was getting late. I reasoned. But that was not really the reason, the words just remained stuck in my throat. When Nenye started for the door, I followed behind.
"Let me walk you."
"No you don't have to, I have really taken your time."
"No Nenye it's late, let me..."
"Thank you Thomas, I'm used to this time."
I wanted to argue but instead watched as she wore her sandals. She turned to me looking straight as usual.
She left, and when I could no longer see her, I entered inside. I sat on my bed, and a smile started forming on my face.