Love without touch

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Love without touch

Bankolay Turay remembers waiting six months, eighteen days and eight hours to hug his new girlfriend.

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Ebola was still strongest when I started university. I was excited about university I hoped to make friends and have a lot of fun.

But then Ebola came. The University of Makeni now had strict rules: no hugging, no touching, no shaking of hands, regular temperature checks and hand washing. Students were afraid of other students. There were reports of new cases every day at the university – other students and lecturers.

It was a sad, lonely time.

I was at university one morning when I saw her. At first, I thought she was not real, a dream! She was walking to class in a red blouse and black shoes with her natural hair in plaits. I couldn’t stop looking at her – the three-hour lecture passed in what felt like 30 minutes.

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In 2014, Ebola spread through West Africa. It was the longest, and biggest disease in history

When class finished, I went to speak to her. She told me her name, we exchanged phone numbers and she disappeared.

It was hard to start anything at university. Everybody was watching, ready to say: ‘This is Ebola! Be careful.’ We were afraid. So we started to talk on the phone. We used WhatsApp, text messages, and called.

It started slowly. It was difficult to get to know each other without touching. I didn’t know her address. But as time went on, we got closer.

For six months, eighteen days, and eight hours, our relationship was only on the phone. We sent many WhatsApp messages till late at night. An hour without a message made me worry!

But it was also fun. She said, ‘Have you had breakfast?’ I said no. ‘OK I will WhatsApp you a cup of tea.’ It was like living together.

One day there was a flood – it rains a lot in Makeni – and I was at home without food. I called her and asked if she had any food at home. She said, ‘I’ll send a boat with some food, give me 45 minutes.’ Exactly 45 minutes later she called and said, ‘We have a problem. Immigration officers have taken the boat because it’s not licensed.’

Sometimes it was crazy. I felt like I was in prison for the first time. I thought about her all the time. I asked myself, ‘How long can I do this?’

When we waited 42 days for Sierra Leone to be free from Ebola, it gave us new hope. I counted every day with many others, and when the final day came, we arranged to meet at 7pm.

I prepared really carefully. I checked my jacket again and again. When I finally got dressed, I was wearing black shoes and a tuxedo with a black bow-tie. I’d asked her to wear the same clothes as the day I saw her – and she’d told me to dress for a job interview.

As I sat down, somebody touched me on my shoulder. She said, ‘You can have the job!’ She smiled full of happiness. I smiled and we hugged for more than five minutes.

We looked into each other’s eyes for a long time, we breathed in and out together. It was a strong moment. Then finally we kissed. She spoke first: ‘I missed you.’ We talked for a long time.

We spent half of the night out in Makeni, with the loud taxi horns, the shouts of ‘Ebola Don Don!’ (Ebola is finished!). Then we held hands and we walked three kilometres to my house where we sat and drank a toast to the end of Ebola, exams, and to our new relationship.

We still talk about the hug. We still remember it. We say it will be more important than our wedding day. It will be in our hearts forever. Bankolay Turay

NOW READ THE ORIGINAL: https://newint.org/features/2016/06/01/student-romance-on-ice/

(This article has been simplified so the words, text structure and quotes may have changed).