The Unexpected Meeting...
It was already getting dark, on that Sunday evening, when Boni reached the only cinema center of his little provincial town. He cannot now recollect all the details. He cannot even remember anything about the check-in nor can he recall when and how he ordered soft-drinks along with popcorn. Boni only remembers that as he brought his troubled mind unto the entrance corridor, he could not believe it when he saw Rouk standing, beautifully standing at the entry door as if she has been standing there for eternity, waiting for him and him alone. He could neither believe his eyes nor think it possible. Boni never believes in random; he is, after all, the epitome of Plato’s mathematical man. But now he was confronted with a randomized reality, right before his eyes.
It was even harder for Boni to believe since a few hours earlier he daydreamt about something however similar to what was then happening. That he meets a girl, whose beauty has troubled his mind and his whole being so much for so long, in a cinema center about to see the same movie; that he has the chance to face at once and confront her for good; that Rouk was alone—with no ‘company’ (no boyfriend, for instance?)—he could not believe that it was all true. Like a thunder’s light, all these thoughts flash through his mind with no clarity, no time to be processed; yet, they were as vividly animating, agitating, exciting as Kafkaesque dream-walkers.
As he moved closer and closer to the entry door (that is, to Rouk, who now turned to him while awaiting), Boni sensed that his whole body would ultimately fail him: his heart beat at a pace that could propel his soul to his native land, his feet were trembling down his body, which was itself more dead than alive. Yet, he was able to walk over to her with a hard-made smile on the face. In addition to her natural-West-African beauty and her heart-catching charmingness, Rouk was dressing picturesquely and more invitingly than Boni ever saw her before. Of course, Rouk is a fashion girl; and Boni knew it. He has seen her with different modes in different places and occasions. But nowhere has he ever found her so irresistibly attractive than that Sunday evening…
‘Hey’, his voice was finally able to sound out as he came over.
Instead of returning a ‘hey’ back, he replied with a mind-blowing smile. What a dreadfully charming smile! He came to see the movie hoping to regain his spirit. In lieu of that, he could not even control his own voice. ‘Damn it all!’ he thought to himself. Dimly. And helplessly.
‘I’m going to see the latest episode of Designated Survivor’, Boni started again after an unnecessarily awkward silence.
‘So am I’, said Rouk.
The answer was short, sharp, assertive yet not rude. The voice, her voice was musical, poetical to his hears…
‘What’s your seat?’ ‘Mine is 10’, said Boni with an almost failing tone.
‘09’, she replied; again shortly and musically.
So they entered and took their seats. As they sat, Boni seemed to have been determined not to waste this opportunity, so long awaited. ‘I must seize it’, he thought to himself.
Boni and Rouk have been classmates from the very beginning of their high school years. More than classmates, however, they were “rivals” (if I’m allowed to use that vocab in this innocent context). They were second to none; the two best students in the school; the two leading students of the very best in the whole provincial town. They only had to compete for the two places: first or second; and nothing else.
Yet, his was a hardship childhood; his upbringing was a so strenuous that whenever he thinks about it (as he always does) it gives him a goose bump. Boni was born in a family where poverty, more than the world Tolstoy created for Simon in his short story “What Men Live By”, was the defining characteristic of their lives: hopelessness the reality of their raison de vivre, and helplessness their unavoidable destiny. The family had no land, no shelter, and no farm of its own. It has always lived on a daily basis with whatever they could earn only serving for bread to sustain their failing souls. It, therefore, comes as no surprise at all that his parents could neither read nor write. They were neither schooled nor could they envisage to get one. Their chief aim, their raison d'être was to ensure that they earn bread for the day to provide to their four little children.
Boni has one big brother, who, like his parents before him, never went to school and could not spell his own name. Yet, he always kept dreaming of a better life full of worthy goals, not just daily bread earning. To break the glass-ceiling, he knew that he must work three times harder to improve his lot and that of his miserable family.
Boni also has two sisters: one elder, the other younger. Having been to school for only a few years, Maria and Tina could barely read or write in their official language, their colonial heritage: French. But they could speak more or less fluently with a fairly perfect understanding. Boni, who is the only one to have remained at school, was determined to give them all a helping hand with reading and writing as soon as he was done with the national exam in his final year of high-school.
Before that, however, he has a more urgent situation, a more pressing problem to attend to. The problem? He was dangerously losing his focus; he was no longer able to study without intermittent intervals of distraction. He was unable to concentrate as he used to be. More shockingly, it was inexplicably unpredictable. He used to enjoy studying with as much focus as there can be and as long as he wished it to last. What was now going on worried him dearly. What was happening to him was worrisome, and unspeakably perilous and equally pitiful.
Boni knew too well that he had to regain his spirit and have control over his mind. He had to overcome that present situation if he were to successfully complete high school with outstanding scores, as he has hitherto been able to do. It is so imperative, lest he gets no scholarship to pursue his university studies. In which case, his education would come to an end, pitifully. How dreadful he felt when the idea of failing to pursue a higher education flashed over his struggling mind!
The problem that has been troubling him was Rouk; and he knew it too well…
Some time has passed since Rouk approached him to offer her ‘real friendship’ (her own words), whereby they would be more close to one another, freely share their problems and secrets, and when (0r if needed) study together. He was reluctant to accept the offer. Though he has been secretly admiring her for her hard work, her attractiveness and naturally irresistible beauty, and her tempered and humorous character. Boni too was very young (if not too young), handsome, spirited, and good-humored. Although he had a lot of friends, only a very few amongst them were very close to him. Only to those few was he opened enough to share his personal troubles with. Particularly, with Rouk, whose family was far better off, he has always kept his distance. He never succeeded to reconcile her attractiveness with their competitive rivalry. He was even haunted by an idea that Rouk, with her invitation, may be setting him a trap so that she may outperform him. Also, he has been doing well with his ‘closed world’, wherein his personal troubles and his family’s hardships were personal, private wounds deeply hidden down in his feeble heart.
Yet, like an unveiled mask, their conversation that day made him realize how much he wished that moment to last… forever, for eternity. He has been successful, or successfully resisted various temptations as girls always flirted around him. His history with misery and his family’s debilitating situation were personal challenges too great to be forgotten. And only by being successful in his studies by dint of hard work could he hope to handle them and reverse their present situation.
Troubled with these daunting thoughts, Boni resolved, vainly, to keep his distance as he always did. With Rouk, it was different, impossible, and improbable. He could not help himself thinking of her. Nor could he keep all his senses at ease whenever she happened to miss a class or even merely be late. What was he to do? Should he talk straight to her? And how was he do that?
It was in that undecided state of mind that Boni went to see the movie, that fatal Sunday evening, with the hope of regaining his spirit and thinking it through calmly and thoroughly. Yet, there she was… standing… beautifully…