On the Saturday night, my team-mates all went out to get drunk, and I went out to salsa, and she happened to be playing saxaphone in the band that night. During their interval, I asked her to dance, and we did (not actually indicative of anything in salsa- everyone dances with everyone), but we got talking, and got on quite well. We swapped numbers and made plans to meet the next day, but they never materialised, as she had to travel in the afternoon for a show, and I was playing in the morning. I even offered not to go to watch the international rugby, which she thought was very sweet, but still didn’t make it any more possible.
I went back to Invercargill the following day, but told her that I often went up to Christchurch to dance salsa (there wasn’t any in Invercargill at the time), and see my friends Carl and Amanda. It happens that her siblings live in Christchurch, and I got a message from her the following week saying that she would be in Christchurch the next weekend, and wanted to know if I would be there, and as luck would have it, I had already planned to be there that weekend.
We had dinner at Sams Jazz Bar and then went out to salsa at the Warner Hotel in Cathedral Square. We kissed for the first time. On the dance floor. An onlooker (who wasn’t a salsa dancer) shouted out “So, what move’s THAT, then???”.
The next time we met was at Jambalaya in Rotorua: a world music and dance festival, but quite heavily centred on salsa. She was playing in two of the bands, and I just went to dance.
We spent a lot of time together over those 4 days, and got on awesomely. Over that year, I was flying upto either Wellington or Christchurch to see her on alternate weekends, but it didn’t feel like an effort at all. About 5 months into it, I was having a hard time at work, doing an orthopaedic rotation, which I hated. I got back from a weekend with her, and we messaged each other:
Me: being with you eases the pain. Thank you for being who you are.
Her: I think I’m falling in love with you.
Me: I think I love you, too.
It was frightening, but natural at the same time. I’d never been in love before (or since).
We went from strength to strength for the rest of the year, and my colleagues noticed that there was something different about me. I went back to London mid-year, and worked and extra set of nights so I could buy her a ticket, too. she was staying with some of her Kiwi friends, as my parents wouldn’t allow her into their house, and didn’t want to meet her at all, as they didn’t want me to be in a relationship with anyone other than a nigerian girl. This made it really hard for me, having to split my time between her and family. She came to my friend Richards, wedding, though, and all my friends loved her. They said that they’d never seen me smile so much. And I smile ALOT.
When I went home for Christmas, my parents forbade me to go back to New Zealand to see her, and despite never having met or spoken to her, said some things about her that really were not very nice at all.
I packed my bags and left without telling them, and stayed in my friends empty apartment in North London. I called Rachel and explained the situation to her, and she burst into tears feeling like she was somehow to blame. I told her not to be ridiculous and that I’d come back to her soon.
While I was in hiding, Mum and Dad turned on each other, blaming each other for me disappearing. Personally, I think they were both as backward and african as each other, and it still fills me with anger to think of how smallminded they were being, and how mean they could be to somebody who had done nothing to them, and that they had never even spoken to.
Rachel and I were together for 2 more years after that. Although we’re not together anymore, we’re still friends, and she’ll always be special to me.