First love is a delicious feeling. It’s a new sensation to the body. The body doesn’t know how to react. It feels light, giddy. You can’t eat. You have met a boy in school. He is the quiet, dazzling, good-looking type all girls want to go to the prom with. You are in the same class. He sits at the back of the room, and whenever you turn your head he is looking at you. You can’t concentrate on what the teacher is saying. You have no interest at that moment in mathematics or science. You know this boy likes you, and you like him too. You think about him in a way you can’t discuss with your friends. What would a first kiss be like? Will he ask you out? Will you go steady like Judy who already has a boyfriend with a motorbike who takes her home every afternoon after school?
The deliciousness of first love
These were the kind of things that bounced around in my head when I met Colin my first year at high school. Colin was one of the teacher’s sons and came to school in a car. He was cute and looked smart in his grey pants and blazer with his dark hair combed back Elvis Presley style. The sixties was the best time to be in love. The nicest thing about his face was his eyes; they were curious. His right brow was always raised slightly higher than the left brow. When he looked at you it seemed as if he was pondering something about you but wasn’t going to ask. He was well behaved in class. After all, he was the teacher’s son. And he was clever.
I discovered very soon my first weeks in high school that most of the children in Standard Six were cleverer than I. I would not be coming first or second in class like I had in primary school. The pupils in my class had teachers and principals for fathers. I didn’t have a father living in the house. After regular school, I had to go to Moslem school. I didn’t read the newspaper. I read books and magazines. I didn’t know what was going on in the world except for the politics in my own country and what came on the news on the radio.
Did Colin really like me or was I imagining it? One afternoon during English class, a note was passed up all the way from the back of the classroom until it landed on my desk.
“It’s from Colin,” Valda whispered. Valda was my best friend. She knew what a crush I had on Colin.
I looked at the folded note with Zuraida written in beautiful handwriting on the top. I blushed. Even though Miss Haggis was talking about prepositions and not starting a sentence with but, I felt that all the pupils were watching me. I opened the note. I thought I would pass out with delight. I like you the note stated. I folded it, turned to look at him, and put the note in my pocket.
The fickleness of the early days
I was the centre of attention during the lunch recess. Everybody wanted to know what the note said. I told them. We giggled like dizzy school girls, which we were. A few days later my friend Valda turned to me with a guilty expression. “I’ve got something to tell you, Zuraida. The note isn’t real. I was the one who told Colin to write you the note. It was just a joke. I’m so sorry.” I forgave her, of course. And years later when we had both moved from South Africa to Canada, Colin and I would reflect on our school days and remember the note. First love is delicious, but it can also be deliciously painful. It’s an experience you never forget as a young girl and something you would never have traded in for something safe.