A long time ago, when I was in secondary boarding school, many girls had boyfriends. When the girls were about to go to sleep at night, we usually talked about boyfriends and how the boys treated them that day. We had these discussions while everyone was on her bed because we shared one big room. If a matron or a patron happened to catch one while kissing in a dark corner with a boyfriend, it was hilarious! The girls who had been proposed to by boys also shared with the group. When I told them about a boy named Limbani, who was not learning at our school, they told me to accept the relationship with him because he sounded like a good guy. I tried to deny it, but they told me that it would be the only way I could enjoy romance, which means putting many things to the test, such as experiencing the boyfriend’s love, sharing gifts and ideas, and kissing. So I accepted Limbani, and I had many expectations that I had heard from my peers. We started dating because we loved each other, shared memories, and promised to marry after we finished school. I felt loved by Limbani.
On the other hand, I felt worried because my dad was very tough about relationships. Most of the time, he told me that if I got involved in this kind of relationship and got pregnant, he would whip me badly because there are many consequences behind the pleasure. This is due to our neighbor’s daughter, Linda Phiri. Linda was a very beautiful and intelligent girl who is now late because she aborted, and the abortion led to her death. What happened was that Linda started having sex with boys while she was in sixth grade. One day I asked Linda if she used protection when having sex with her boyfriend. She told me that she was barren because she started doing that a long time ago but never got pregnant. She told me not to be concerned about her because I was not a close relative. The parents were not aware of what their daughter was doing. She reached grade 8, and after writing grade 8 exams, she got selected for a secondary boarding school. At the same time, she found out that she was pregnant at the age of 13. She did not disclose this issue to her parents or anybody else; instead, she agreed with her boyfriend to abort the pregnancy. Instead of going to the hospital for a safe abortion, she used herbs from a witch doctor.
She scheduled the appointment three days before the first day of school. It was a fateful Friday afternoon; she secretly visited the witch doctor with her boyfriend. The witch doctor gave her medicine to drink when she reached home. After she drank the medicine, she started bleeding as if she were giving birth, and she screamed over and over again because of stomach pains. By that time, her mother was attending a church service at a nearby church, about half a kilometer away. Neighbors, including my mom and dad, were at home. They heard the screaming and rushed to the scene to rescue the girl. When all this was happening, I was with my friends at the nearest shop buying biscuits, and we heard someone screaming. I also rushed to the scene, only to find her seriously sick. We thought she was just struggling with stomach pains because she was screaming continuously, “My stomach, my stomach!” My parents and other people took her to the nearest hospital, where she was pronounced dead upon arrival. After diagnosing the dead body, they discovered that she had an unsafe abortion and had drunk the poison, which caused damage to many parts of the stomach and caused her to lose a lot of blood. It was a sad day for every person in our village because people never thought that this would happen in our community. I was also shocked, as I was not expecting this from her, and I did not believe it until I saw her in the coffin. I cried a lot with my friends. At her burial ceremony, even the village chief wept, and she talked much about abortion, as it was a big lesson for all the youths.
Since that day, my father became very strict. He wanted to see me around home to avoid having the same experience that happened to Linda. Every parent felt bad because Linda was a nice girl with brains who had always passed position 1 since starting primary school and maintained this position up to grade 8, and she was selected for a very nice government school. But alas! People in the village lost trust in the youth. Her mother, upon hearing the bad news, collapsed, but after some minutes, she woke up as if nothing had happened, because she couldn’t believe that this had happened to her daughter.
This is why, five years later, my relationship with Limbani became very strong, though it was also one of fear. He used to visit me at school during the weekend, and I enjoyed it. He would come every weekend. He liked to joke with me, and I liked him because we were always laughing. Our school had a protected forest where students used to read because it was a quiet place. So, we used to go there, too. When the place was quiet, he used to touch me, and I would take his hands away or run away from him. I used to refuse when he wanted us to be in a quiet place like the private forest because I knew that this could contribute to intimacy. We made the agreement that, in our relationship, we would not have sex to avoid an unplanned pregnancy.
And then there was the day when our school had a football match against a nearby secondary school. Before the game started, the cloudy skies threatened to keep the promise of rainfall at any minute. I smelled moisture in the soil and thought it would be a bad game because a portion of the playing field was bare land with no grass. But it never rained, and the game was so nice that our school won the game with 3 goals to nil. It was fun as I watched the game with Limbani. We cheered for our team together. After the game, I escorted him, and we reached the middle of the forest, a quiet place where we were alone. He grabbed me and touched me softly. He started kissing me. Because this was my first experience, my entire body was shocked. He wanted to go further, but I pushed him away. I never thought he would do such a thing, as we already agreed that something like that would never happen. Limbani was furious! He asked what kind of relationship exists without intimacy. When I reminded him of our agreement, he came to his senses and apologized, promising not to do it again. We hugged each other once more and kissed for the second time. I felt good.
I remember this moment to this day because what my friends told me was true. Of course, I shared this experience with my friends. They mocked me, saying I was too old for this behavior because, at my age, others were already married. According to our country, all teenagers below the age of 18 are regarded as children. A child becomes an adult when he or she is 18 years old. During that time, I was 20 years old.
The first kiss is an experience that many people do not forget because it is the first experience of a new physical sensation. Girls in our school always talked about their first kiss because it was something they would never forget, along with the person they did it with. As Fr. Jeromy Cumming, the spiritual leader in my community while I was growing up, put it: “Love is shown in your deeds, not in your words.”
22 December, 2022