By Erickka Sy Savané
We were set up by a friend the summer before high school. In those days of living in different neighborhoods and going to different schools, pre-cellphone and internet, it was common to develop a relationship over the phone, without meeting first. It was great because it meant spending hours talking, and getting to know each other. He loved basketball, his friends, and Sade, and once sang her entire album to me one night in an attempt to put me to sleep. Actually, I wasn’t really asleep, and I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I didn’t like Sade. He was just the sweetest guy ever.
Finally, the day came when we were to meet. It was our first official date to the movies, and his mom was to be our chaperone. My stomach was in knots all day because what if I didn’t like him, when I already liked him? We’d invested so much time.
He knocked on my door and when I came to open it his back was turned. My first impression was that dude was a freakin’ giant! He was like 7 feet tall. When he turned around I saw the most beautiful brown eyes, thick black hair, and the best smile. What a cutie!
From then on he’d come see me once a week, pedaling his way across town on his bicycle. We’d spend hours talking on my front porch, joking around, and dodging the stalking eyes of my mom who was making sure he didn’t try to steal a kiss. I liked him, and he liked me.
One day, during one of his visits, my favorite Aunt stopped by. I was excited for her to meet him and happy when we all sat on the porch chatting away. Once he was pedaling his way back home, and was out of earshot, I asked her what she thought of him.
“He’s cute,” she said, “but he sure does have a big schnauzer!”
“His nose; it’s huge!”
I hadn’t noticed. But she was right. Now it’s all I could think about. And like an annoying pimple, it got bigger and bigger with each visit. I became shy about introducing him to my friends for fear of what they might think, and little things started bothering me. One day when he did something I didn’t like, instead of trying to work it out, I screamed, “We’re through!” And just like that I broke up with him. He was crushed, but the way I saw it, it just wasn’t meant to be.
That should be the end of the story, but it’s not.
Remember when I said he liked basketball? He was just joining the basketball team around the time we broke up, and turns out; he was a very good player. He became a staple on TV, breaking all kinds of high school records, and ended up getting a full scholarship to college where his popularity grew even more. From there he finished college early and signed a multi-million dollar contract (I believe it was 80 mil, but who’s counting?) with the NBA. My head was spinning. It was like someone had played a cruel joke on me where the frog really did turn into a prince. At one point, even my Aunt circled back, asking, ‘what happened?!’ Let’s just say, I was glad there were no knives around.
Sometimes I would think about it and feel so dumb. It wasn’t just that he became so rich and successful; it was also that he was a really nice guy who treated me with nothing but respect. And it’s not like the relationship had to last forever, first ones rarely do, but I can only imagine what he could have taught me about discipline. He used to brag about shooting 100 free throws in a row at practice and, at the time, I thought he was crazy. Sadly, things ended so badly that it was hard to even be friends.
So what did I ultimately learn? Sometimes there’s a lot of beauty in that beast; and sometimes, other people’s opinions, even those who love you, can talk you right out of a good thing. Perhaps if there had been a star like Beyonce around, professing love for her man’s ‘Jackson 5 nostrils,’ things might have turned out different. I do know that with two young daughters I will be teaching them that how a man treats you is more important than simply how he looks.