….5 months later: Brains encountered brains!
Like every other teenage girl, she was increasingly getting the urge to have someone
she could call her own. A man of her caliber who would understand her and walk the
journey to greatness by her side. And well, she wanted the fondling and squeezes
that made a girl’s heart race wildly. Her friends called such men glow machines
because they made the girls faces glow with euphoria whenever they talked about
them. She wanted to belong to someone, and to own him in equal measure. It’s only
normal that she had a list of ideals longer than her age and that the little girl still
believed in fairy tales. Most of her classmates already had that special person. She
was spoilt for choice with so many suitors around her who were working pretty hard
to win her over.
The lucky boy was Neville. He was a bright and conserved final year student in the
University. An eye candy in his appearance, and evidently wiser than his years. He
had never mentioned that he was interested in her and he first invested in forming a
very strong friendship with her. He was keen not to make any passes and always
chose his words carefully. For the first time, Nas had found someone whom she
believed matched her expectations. But no, he was only playing his cards right, you
know brains encounter brains. They went out for movies and played indoors games.
Dinner dates became more frequent. She started getting butterflies in the stomach
whenever they were together. At times she would make herself believe that it was
only a crush which would end, but then, crushes as she had read lasted for a very
short time. Neville had mastered the art of taking one step at a time. You know in the
University, relationships are formed within hours. People meet, get acquainted and
soon enough they announce that they are in a relationship.
During the time, Neville had secretly been learning her and playing with her psychology. She wanted to be respected and pursued with dignity, and he surely did. (Whatever dignified pursuit means, shrugs shoulders). He never proposed to her. Instead, he moved to the next level without any formal announcement. Naserian was human by all means. When they first kissed, he was very passionate. He however stopped without warning and told her that they had to take control their emotions. He did not want to spoil her future and he felt obliged to ensure that she got the best she could.
This was the beginning of Naserian’s series of wrong decisions. He would introduce
her to new habits and remind her that she had to take control of her life. There is a
first time for everything and it always gives a reason to have a second try. She saw
nothing wrong in alcohol as long as she did not lose control, or skiving classes as long as she made up for it during her free time, or spending the night at Neville’s
room as long as things did not go wrong. But losing control or things going wrong are
relative terms, no? He never prided himself how she was at his service, and she liked
him more for that. Three months down the line and his wish was her command.
Were they dating or just more than friends? Did he consider her his girlfriend? She
was already dreaming big about her wedding, children, home… in fact, she
developed a keen interest in books which talked about relationships and marriages
that defiantly stood the test of time. She had every reason to thank God for her
imaginary boyfriend. She had seen her friends in abusive relationships, or being
taken for granted, or being cheated on. Hers was, let’s call it-*different!
When she lost her virginity to him, she had no regrets at all. After all, she was convinced beyond doubt that sooner or later, she was bound to lose it anyway. So many habits were now normal to her, as long as she was safe. For the first few times, a lot of caution was taken to avoid unwanted pregnancies or anything else going wrong. She knew he was faithful and so when she heard her friends talking about just how stupid it was to force your partner to wrap it up like a bonbon, she thought that she could as well save him the burden. This was the gravest mistake she could ever make.
Neville had had a series of sugar mommies to sustain his luxurious lifestyle. When
he saw Naserian, he immediately knew that he needed younger blood. He was HIV
positive and he knew it. He would make sure that he never proposed to her
expressly, bright girls tend to tune to the unspoken commands and turn down the
explicit ones. Poor Naserian fell for that. When he finally told her that he needed a
break to restructure his life, she was in shock. He told her that for the past few
months, their lives had totally revolved around themselves, and that she too, needed
time to make decisions independently. Soon he would be leaving and she would
have a hard time adjusting to his absence, which would probably affect her grades
too. It was sad, but she hoped it was the best for them.
That was the last she heard of him in a long time. His calls never went through. Once
she got an anonymous call asking her to urgently confirm her HIV status. One of
those calls one gets and it keeps replaying all day long.
Two days later, she went for the test. The counselling session was bloodcurdling,
with counselors who always send shivers down people’s spines and by the time
results came, one would be holding their breath and making a thousand resolutions if
they were to turn out negative. Hers was positive! For a moment, her blood went
cold, and then boiled. She waited for the confirmatory test, sweating profusely and
asking God to make things right. There had to be a mistake. When it was confirmed
that indeed she was positive, she passed out.
When she came to, a nurse was patiently waiting to speak to her. He had seen the
trauma and shock the poor girl had gone through. During the pretesting counselling
session, she had listed Neville as her confidant, but the doctors had totally been
unable to reach him. It appeared to them that it was her, the picture of perfection,
against the world. It took a short while to remember what had happened, how she
got here. A few blinks and one tight lip bite later, she was down to tears again. So uncontrollable and hysterical was she that she had to be injected with some
sedatives to cool her down.
She thought about her mother and the pride that she always wore when she spoke
about her, her little Naserian…then about her father and his quiet smile on the days
when he would nod with so much joy and say- ‘that’s my daughter’. An expert in the
language of the unspoken words would say that in those moments, her parents’
unspoken words were endless carols of gratitude to God- Oh what did we ever do to
deserve such a baby…She thought about all those moments, and all those children
who would say with so much admiration-that when they grew up, they wanted to be
Then her trail of thought changed. How would her parents bear the embarrassment
of knowing that their daughter had died of HIV, that she had willingly and knowingly
walked herself to it? How would she tell them? And how would the society take it?
Would the world now know? Did the world have to know? What did this mean,
death? No? Ridicule? Maybe. Death most likely, one slow humiliating death!
A day later, she went back to school. She had been encouraged to face life and live
positively. But the doctors did not know the trauma and stigma the victims faced.
Deep down, she knew that in as much as people claimed that one could move on
and lead a normal life, it was because it had not happened to them yet. In fact, the
gravity of the matter is only felt by those infected; the ones affected could carry on.
She however convinced the doctors that she was determined to live, feigned a smile
and walked back to school. That was the longest distance she had ever walked in
her lifetime. Weary and totally drained, she went to bed and did not talk to anyone.
Neville came to see her the day after, and she wondered how he had known that this
was the time she needed him most. How was she going to tell him? She moved to
him and fell to his knees. This move was however met by his impassive and cold
stare! She was an utter wreck today, but even through her wretched eyes, she could
read his utter disgust towards her.
Down at his knees she tried to speak. No words formed in her head, no voice came
out of her mouth.
He spoke first.
He already knew her status, judging from her present condition, and she was just but a cheap slut. She tried to stand to save her self-respect, but she fell at the
first larch. The cheap slut bit replayed mockingly in her head. She almost felt like
she had lost her dignity to him. “Virginity is not dignity, it’s not a measure of morality anymore...” He had told her this statement incessantly when he was wooing her. Eventually she had given in to his sweet tongue, and yet now it felt like he meant the
complete opposite back then. Like he meant to say that any girl who was not a virgin
was a loose prostitute. She watched him leave without turning back. It was over.
How could Neville walk out on her like that? All she had done was adore him and be
by his side at every available opportunity. She had massaged his ego when she had to, she had worshiped his ground and banked all her trust in him! She had understood his flaws and exalted his strengths in a way that no other woman could.
It took her days of grief before she decided to move on. She would make campus life
rapturous, enjoying life to the fullest. There was nothing much to lose. When she was
told that Neville had been seen caressing and in a compromising position with an
elderly white woman in a tavern, she did not care much. She accepted every offer
that came her way; she attended class and laughed her heart out to simple jokes.
Her friends did not understand a thing, she had totally changed. They tagged her
along for raves, and she drunk crazy once in a while. She had grown very distant
with her parents, the thought of the things she was doing got her scared at times.
That was how she ended up having a list of her victims. The list was fast growing,
old and young men alike. Her beauty was loyal, it did not fade at the hour of need;
and she would easily lure men to satisfy her new addiction. This was the only way
she forgot her misery.
But then, one’s conscience never dies. She had always admired the Economics
lecturer, so when he too fell for her trap, it was a fantasy come true. Suddenly it hit
her that she was being inhumane. For the last couple of months, she had done
nothing but selfishly satisfy her cravings. She had broken families by accepting
numerous one night stands and acting as the caring and wild lady that the men
claimed to be in dire need of. She was quite the expert in the game, Nev had taught
her well. She wondered how many wives she had caused pain and how many
relationships she had disturbed.
When she went for the Christian union that evening, the preacher seemed to be
reading the book of her life, condemning adultery, unfaithfulness and greed. In the
end, he vehemently warned against immorality and called upon all those in the
congregation to repent. He ended his sermon by saying that people judged others by
what they did, but God judged people by the reason why they did it. She had a
strong Christian upbringing and she was overwhelmed by compunction. For the
umpteenth time, she had failed miserably. Two wrongs had never made anything
right. And that night, sleep deserted her. It was guilt that led her to the point that she was. She confided to one of the radio presenters, who blew it out and it was soon the topic of discussion. That was her story, the path she was trending on, and the path she ought to have continued trending on…
People are often quick to judge those who have stumbled and fallen. We tend to
gauge our level of success or morality by other people’s wrong decisions and
failures, assuming a saintly position simply because our lives are working out right.
When all is said and done, we realize that this is a reflection of our neglection of vital
guidance to the youth. The people we revere have failed to instill in us the life skills that we really need. Theoretically learning the five most vital skills: Assertiveness,
Self-esteem, Creative Thinking, Critical thinking and Decision making is not enough
if the young students are caged all through their lives until they are suddenly
released to the real world in form of institutions of higher learning. Freedom and
responsibility should be nurtured from very tender ages, giving children the
opportunity to make decisions on their own rather than being bound by strict rules
and regulations in schools, being heavily guarded during the very rare social
functions, and having to comply to family norms without question. All through our lives, a good number of us are given the illusion that men are out there waiting like hungry lions to prey on the young girls, and for the boys, they too are warned against the cunning women around them. In the end, they become paranoid as opposed to cautious.
Holding reasonable conversations or striking honest and platonic relationships becomes the first challenge to encounter right after leaving the enclosed environment. Much as we would like to take a religious view on issues and point out the evilness in others, try fit in the shoes of those who are distressed and have had to learn life’s tough lessons the hard way. Take a moment and mentor someone. The problem with Nas, like many other people, was that they taught her what to think, and never how to think. They taught her what was right and wrong by their standards, and she grew up with no question to it. Then teenage curiosity and the peer pressure kicked in. And then she started questioning why she was denied the small pleasures; and asking what if and why not. Before noticing, she had already walked too deep into vices, and they now seemed normal.
At this point, there was really no one to try understand what she was going through, and
she only ended up developing a fetish for what the society would call immoral. Maybe, just maybe, things would have turned out different had she had an extra set of eyes from a mentor to walk her through the transition to campus life. Maybe, a third cent in time would have saved the nine; sorry, the 322.