Ezigbo Nwata Nwanyi: Ekene

I always thought his name was beautiful.
I still do; and it was not just because he was partially my namesake.

“Ekenedilichukwu” (no relation to the transport line) was not very quiet, but not loud either.
He kept to himself but when he warmed up to anyone, he latched on hard.

We were fast friends. It was too easy. We were similar in more ways than we were different, and our friendship grew as a result of that. We were both born in the same month and loved the same types of movies and novels.

We also had crazy parents and we bonded off of sharing tales of their nuances.
He had a loud-mouthed father that was as crude as he was jolly, and I had a drill sergeant mother that was equal parts lovable and scary.

We also had the same attitude towards life and friendships.
Like me, when he made friends, it was for life. We loved wholly and completely and betrayals hurt worse than the sting of striking a healing wound.

Our friendship was beautiful and complete. He was my friend, homie, confidant, and rock.

That all changed the day he asked me to be his girlfriend.

I gaped at him. Confused, shocked, sure I had not heard right.
He stood there, anxious, nervous, waiting for me to say something.

Looking back now, I think our friendship could have been salvaged if, in my utter shock, I had not blurted out “but you are like a brother to me.”

I will never forget the look of absolute anguish on his face when he fired back “but I am NOT your brother!” and stormed off.

There was nothing I could say. I tried to call out to him but my voice was carried away by the wind.
Even without giving it consideration, I knew there was no way anything romantic could develop between us. He had been the twin brother I never had for so long that the transition was impossible.

It was also in that moment that I realised for the first time what it truly meant to be friend-zoned. I always knew what it was because I was always the one put in the friend zone, but I had always known where I stood from the get-go.
He didn’t.

What I saw as an unbreakable friendship, he saw as growing attraction.
As we grew closer, I saw a friendship that would stand the test of time and he saw hope for something more and just when he mustered up the courage to take that bold step, I gave him the worst possible response.

I saw his eyes get wet before he stormed off and it haunted me for years.

Our friendship was never the same after that day, and we eventually fell out of touch when I went off to University but heaven knows, I wish my reaction had been different.

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