I was looking to speak with people who transitioned from the bestie to lover tag when I found Segun*.

He talks about dating his childhood friend and how his insecurities around success sabotaged the relationship.

Image by freepik

As Told To Adeyinka

I was in primary 6 the first time I realised my feelings for my friend Shade weren’t just platonic.

We were 8 years old and lived on the same estate. After school, we’d join other kids to play until our parents returned from work. We acted out a drama during one of these playdates. I can’t recall the details, but I remember we planned a pretend wedding party. Shade and I were cast as the groom and bride, and I was excited as the other kids cheered us on.

Shade wore my white jalabiya as we couldn’t find a real wedding gown, and I wore a black shirt and trousers. Her hair was adorned with yellow and red flowers we plucked from a tree, and we used the same flowers for her bouquet.

As we walked around the estate holding hands, the other kids sang “Here comes the bride.” It felt like a scene straight out of a movie.

Although the older folks in the estate laughed it off as childish play, it felt real to me. Later that night, as I prayed, I asked God to make the wedding a reality in the future.

When I was 11 years old, Shade’s family moved from the estate to their house in Ikorodu. Unfortunately, I couldn’t say goodbye.  I was on holiday at my cousin’s when they moved. When my mum shared the news, I sulked the entire day. She comforted me, assuring me that we would visit them soon, but I didn’t believe her. Weeks turned into months, and months into years, and soon, I forgot all about Shade.

Fast forward to 2009, social media had become a thing. While filling out my JAMB registration form one day, I logged into my Facebook account and found a friend request from Shade. Although I didn’t recognise the profile picture, the lady looked pretty, so I accepted the request. Almost immediately, she flooded my inbox with messages, and the memories of our childhood rushed back. It was my Shade.

She texted me as though we’d seen each other just days ago, and it was hard to keep up because I couldn’t remember some of the things she referenced. But Shade was back in my life.

Shade had a small phone, but I didn’t, so Facebook was our only means of communication. I’d save up my pocket money to buy hours at the cybercafe, and we’d end our chat by scheduling our next online meeting. We lived in different areas— Surulere and Ikorodu—so we couldn’t plan a physical meetup due to the distance.

As time went on, I learned that she was also trying for uni. Her parents wanted her to stay in Lagos, so it was UNILAG for her. Meanwhile, I was headed to UNILORIN. In all of these, we didn’t discuss relationships much. We’d make random comments about boys and girls, but that was it. We were just really good friends.

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Our other mutual friends also knew because we were constantly tagging each other on our Facebook walls. I’m not sure if “bestie” was a slang back then, but I guess you could say we were best friends.

A year after our reunion, she gained admission into UNILAG and I didn’t, which was tough for me. I’d heard stories about how wild UNILAG was and how it changed people. Suddenly, I feared I might lose her, and I didn’t want that to happen. So, I started telling her more about the fake wedding we had as kids and how I prayed about it, hinting that we should be partners. She’d laugh it off, saying she didn’t want to be distracted by a relationship until she was done with uni.

My fear of losing her to UNILAG didn’t let me back down, though. I was on her case, trying to make her see reason with me. I told her I could wait until we were married if it was about sex, and I assured her there wouldn’t be any distractions since we barely saw each other. Deep down, I just wanted the friend tag to change to boyfriend. I thought it gave a sense of permanency and commitment. Slowly but reluctantly, she agreed.

It was both of our first relationships, so things went smoothly in the first few months. The boyfriend and girlfriend tag gave me assurance that I wasn’t losing her to UNILAG. Yes, she made new friends, but I was the one receiving “I love you” messages, listening to her rants, and being her confidant.

Our bond grew stronger, and it felt like the childhood wedding might actually happen. Since UNILAG was closer to me than Ikorodu, I visited her at least twice a month.

I also managed to convince my parents to let me choose UNILAG for my next JAMB attempt. It wasn’t easy, but they agreed. Shade and I were thrilled about the prospect of studying in the same school, graduating almost at the same time, and potentially serving in the same state for NYSC.

Out of the blue, things took a sour turn. It started when I didn’t get admission into UNILAG. My dad didn’t take it well because he wasn’t on board with the UNILAG plan, and my mum was disappointed because it meant another year of explaining to friends, relatives, and neighbours why I wasn’t in uni yet. Shade, on the other hand, was full of enthusiasm and shared stories of people who tried for up to three years before they got into the school. If her words and care were meant to comfort me, they didn’t. I wanted to know why I didn’t have her luck, why I had to try more than once, and why things weren’t working out for me.

Soon, I stopped visiting her in school. It was embarrassing to constantly tell her friends that I was still seeking admission or hanging around when she was having classes. Our communication also lost the spark that had carried us through the years. I wasn’t as excited to text back when I got her messages, and when we spoke on the phone, I gave tepid, one-word responses. I was angry at her, but I couldn’t pinpoint the reason why. If she sensed a change in me, she didn’t act on it. She’d still send “I love you” messages, ask me to come visit, and send random pictures of herself in school.

One day, I logged into Facebook and saw a photo of her with another guy inside a car. He had the trending “Ama Kip Kip” shirt on, and I could tell he was from a wealthy family. I was livid and left a long and nasty comment on the picture, unfriended her, blocked her number. 

In my head, that was the end of the relationship. I didn’t bother to reach out for the next few weeks. I ignored messages she sent from different numbers as I fell into a depressive state. Everything happening all at once: no admission, my dad nagging about choosing UNILAG, endless errands for my mum, my friends from secondary school sharing pictures from their respective universities, and my girlfriend leaving me for a richer UNILAG dude.

On one of the days I felt alive, I called Shade, but she didn’t pick up. For some reason, the anger erupted in me again. When she called and texted back, I ignored her, and I didn’t reach out to her for months. I knew the relationship was over. In my head, she had better options in UNILAG.

In 2013, I finally got into a university in Osun state. It still ranks as one of the happiest moments in my life. I was over the moon and shared the news with everyone. But even then, it felt like my joy was incomplete because I hadn’t told the one person I really wanted to share the news with. I sent a request on Facebook, sent text messages, and tried to reach her through some of our mutual friends, but it all proved abortive.

A few weeks after I started my degree programme, I got the rudest shock of my life: Shade had dropped out of UNILAG and relocated abroad. It was the first time I truly felt heartbroken. Again, I tried to connect with her, but it seemed like she had vanished from the internet. There was no trace of her anywhere. And just like that, we lost contact.

I still randomly search for her name on social media, but I’ve not gotten any real leads. Once, a private Instagram account popped up during a search, but the user didn’t accept my request.

I’ve heard so many stories of people who got into romantic relationships with their friends, and it worked out. Some even got married. I think I could have been one of those if I hadn’t let a low moment in life steal my joy.

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