Slow Burn: Part 1

“Can we take this slowly?” Abena pleaded, pushing at Senna’s chest. 

Senna pulled back, a mixture of hurt and bafflement on his face. “Slowly? Abena, we’ve been dating for a month now, and I have been patient. I’m not trying to get you naked. This was just a kiss, and I asked you first if I could kiss you.”

Abena felt her anxiety rising. It had been a good date, and Senna was a good guy. Not only that, he was tall, handsome, and every girl’s dream. She enjoyed spending time with him, but she didn’t want to be intimate with him yet. She had enjoyed the kiss, but feeling his erection had made her nervous and put her on edge.

“Should we end this?” he asked when she didn’t respond. “Are you not interested in being more than friends?” She kept pushing him away when they kissed, and he couldn’t understand why. 

“I am,” she cried miserably. “I enjoy spending time with you. I like going on dates with you and everything.”

“Then what’s the problem?” he demanded, frustrated with her. “Am I a terrible kisser? Is that it? Does my kiss repulse you?” 

He had always been complimented on his kissing technique, but he had to ask since she pulled away each time.

“I’m sorry. I swear, that’s not it,” Abena assured him. “I like kissing you, but I just…”

“You just, what?” he asked when she didn’t continue. 

Senna was perplexed. Usually, he would have tried to kiss a woman he was attracted to on the second date, but there was something about Abena that seemed skittish – something he had noticed from the first day.

They had met at his cousin’s house party at Nungua four months ago. While pretending to be interested in the heated argument that was going on around him on whether Bolt had better prices than Uber in Accra, he had watched her undetected from one corner of the room while she smiled but rejected every request to dance. 

For Senna, Abena was everything he wanted in a woman. She was pretty with a kind of simple elegance about her, had a nice smile, and genuinely enjoyed helping people. She had seemed like a quiet person at first, but he soon realised that she could be very passionate, energetic, and talkative around people she was comfortable with. His first clue was how different she became after her friends Nora and Kiki had arrived at the party. He had seen a different version of her then, one that had him even more intrigued by her than he had been before. She had laughed, danced, and made jokes that made the other two laugh so loudly that at a point, everyone’s attention had drifted to them. 

Senna had continued to watch her, unable to tear his eyes away for more than ten minutes at a time; the amount of time he required to get refills for his drink or contribute to the discussion his table was having, which had moved on from Bolt and Uber to AFCON and the Black Stars. 

So because he was watching, Senna noticed that Abena was very touchy with Nora and Kiki, and even his cousin Kwasi, the birthday boy and her colleague at work. She danced with them, held hands at a point, and even hugged the birthday boy twice. But there was nothing romantic about the touches – thank goodness – and apart from those three, she carefully avoided anyone else touching her.

Armed with this knowledge, when he finally got an introduction, he respected her personal space and didn’t get too close.

He had cornered his cousin to ask him about the object of his fascination. 

“Abena is a very sweet girl, but she doesn’t date much,” Kwasi had told Senna when he had expressed his interest in Abena.

“What kind of guys does she go for though? Do you think I’m her type?” Senna had asked.

Kwasi had frowned and answered rather unhelpfully, “I don’t know, to be honest. I’ve never seen her with any guy, and she doesn’t talk about relationships.”

“Thanks for nothing,” Senna had grumbled. “I really like her, man. There’s just something about her that I like, and I would like to get to know her better.”

Kwasi had laughed. “If you’re looking for sex, you’re going to be disappointed. The girls and I think she’s waiting for ‘the one’, although she doesn’t admit it.”

Senna had smiled. “Who knows? I might be ‘the one’.”

Kwasi had laughed. “You wish. Leave her alone, Playboy.”

Senna had shaken his head. “On a more serious note though, it’s not like that. I really want to get to know her.”

Kwasi studied his cousin, following his gaze to where Abena and Kiki were laughing over something Nora was showing them on her phone.

“Then I would advise you to go the friendship route.”


“Try to be her friend first. She loves making new friends, and if you want her to relax with you while getting to know her, be her friend. Then you can go from there.”

“Do people still do that? You know I’m more straightforward than that. I prefer to put all my cards on the table from the get-go.”

Kwasi slapped his cousin’s back affectionately. “In this particular case, that will not work in your favour. Trust me, I’ve known Abena for years. And I’ve witnessed many men getting bounced. The way to her heart is through friendship.”

Senna had taken the advice very seriously, and as hard as it had been to go slow and just be her friend, he had done that. And it worked. He quickly realised that Kwasi had been right. She was open to friendship, and for two months they built a good friendship where they even went out together at least twice a week. In the third month, he carefully broached the subject of exploring more than friendship, and he was elated when she accepted.

Now, looking down at the woman he had become attached to, he shook his head. “You’re confusing me, Abena. Because I’m getting mixed signals here. Maybe you’re not sure what you want, and that won’t work for me. You need to decide before I get in too deep. It’s not just about me kissing you. You tense up when I try to discuss the future with you. If you would rather be just friends, I need to know now before I get in too deep. Tell me when you make up your mind about what you want. For now, I’m out.”

He lifted a hand to cup her cheek, and without another word, dropped his hand and left, shutting the door quietly behind him. 

Feeling miserable and hating her life, Abena brushed impatiently at the tears that had leaked. She really liked Senna, and the idea that she might lose him as a result of the uncertainty of her feelings filled her with panic. She may not feel the urge to be sexually intimate with Senna, but she enjoyed his company and wanted him around all the time. He made her feel beautiful, cared for, and appreciated. He was everything she wanted in a man, and if she could choose any man to be sexually intimate with, it would be him. 

She contemplated playing along and pretending to be into the whole sex thing, but she immediately threw that thought away. Senna would be horrified if he ever found out, and he didn’t deserve that kind of pretense from her. 

She sat there morosely until one of her flatmates, Kiki, came in from work, stopping short when she saw her friend sitting on their sofa.

“Babe, what’s wrong? Did something happen?” she asked worriedly, rushing to sit next to her. 

“I think Senna and I just broke up.”

Kiki’s eyes widened. “What? Why? I thought things were moving along well. You were happy. Both of you were. So what happened?”

Trying not to cry, Abena told Kiki the whole sad story.

“You need to loosen up and enjoy yourself,” Kiki told her after she explained the situation. “Senna is a good guy and he cares about you. You could take it slowly, but once you loosen up, you’ll see that sex isn’t so scary.”

“Haven’t you been listening to me? I can’t!” Abena cried in frustration. “I like him a lot but don’t want to be intimate with him. I’m okay with hugging and kissing, but the idea of getting sexual with him doesn’t appeal to me.”

Kiki looked at her doubtfully. “Are you sure you like this guy romantically? Maybe you just like him as a friend.”

Abena felt like pulling her hair. “I like him romantically now. I just need more time to get to the sexual part. I need a deeper emotional connection before I can be sexually interested.”

“Hmmm…” Kiki sighed. “I don’t get you, Abena. Senna is so sexy! I can’t believe you don’t feel any sexual attraction. He’s practically sex on legs.”

Abena felt her eyes pricking. If her best friend couldn’t understand her, how could she hold hope that Senna would? 

“The sexiest man on earth could stand here naked and I wouldn’t have sexual thoughts about him. Not unless I’ve bonded emotionally with him. I’m not choosing not to be attracted to Senna that way. I can’t! It’s not a choice I can make. If I could, don’t you think I would? I like the guy! As I’ve tried to explain to you a hundred times fruitlessly, I am a demisexual, Kiki! Maybe you should Google what it means to be me before you try invalidating my existence again.”

Feeling even worse than she had felt earlier, and seriously regretting talking to hypersexual Kiki about her situation, Abena left to her room and shut the door behind her. 

A few hours later, after tossing and turning and failing to sleep due to replaying what had happened between her and Senna, Abena was startled when she heard a tentative knock on her bedroom door. Before she could respond, the door pushed open and Kiki came in with Nora, their other flatmate. 

Abena groaned. She wasn’t in the mood for this.

“Abena, please can we talk?” Kiki pleaded.

Abena turned around to face the wall. “Frankly, I’m not in the mood to be invalidated again.”

She felt the bed dip as the girls ignored her and sat. “You don’t have to turn around or say anything, but I came to apologise. I’m sorry for what happened earlier. For invalidating your feelings about your sexuality.”

Abena felt herself thawing, but she didn’t turn around. 

We came to apologise,” Nora corrected. “I’m sorry too.” 

Abena turned around at that. “Why are you sorry? You weren’t even there.”

Nora looked guilty. “I’m not talking about what happened earlier. Kiki isn’t apologising for just that either.”

Abena frowned. “Then what–”

“We’re sorry for all the other times that we didn’t take you seriously when you spoke about your sexuality. All along we thought you were being prudish when you didn’t want to be intimate with any guy.”

“Or that you were holding out for Mr. Right. Like remaining a virgin until marriage or something like that,” Kiki added.

Abena huffed. “I told you that I couldn’t do casual sex because I wasn’t sexually attracted to any of them–”

“Yes, we understand that now, but earlier on, we didn’t get that you weren’t controlling your sexual urges – you didn’t have them to begin with,” Nora reassured her. 

“Exactly. And I can’t feel sexual urges for any man unless I have a strong emotional connection with him first.”

“Yes, we understand that now, but we thought earlier that you wanted to have the emotional connection first. Not that you needed it to even feel the attraction.” Kiki added. 

Elated that her friends now understood her, Abena sat up on the bed. “Exactly. That is what being a demisexual means. Now you get it!” Then she paused, narrowing her eyes. “Wait, how come you suddenly get it?”

Kiki flushed guiltily. “After you went to your room, I felt bad. So when Nora came in, I told her about what happened and we researched demisexuality together. As we should have done the first time you told us about it. Or asked you more questions. Nora falls into sexual attraction at the drop of a hat, and I am a strong advocate of love at first sight, so we couldn’t relate or understand you. But we shouldn’t have dismissed it just because we couldn’t relate. And for that, we’re sorry.”

“We’re sorry, Abena. We should have been better friends,” Nora added. 

“Apology accepted.” Sniffing, Abena held out her arms, chuckling when they jumped on her in a group hug that almost bowled her over.

After they released her, Nora looked at Abena curiously. “I have a question though. We didn’t get to that part in our research.”

“What is it?”

“Does that mean that you don’t get aroused at all? I know you read all those erotic stories from Do they sexually excite you?”

“Oh yes! And what about porn? Doesn’t it excite you at all?” Kiki chimed in.

Abena shrugged. “Attraction to someone is different from arousal. So most demisexuals can get aroused from reading or watching erotica. Or even porn. But for me, porn doesn’t always excite me. Sometimes it does, but it’s more about the sounds they make and the expressions on their faces. It’s hard to explain, and it confused me at first, but I found a demi thread online where others like me felt the same way about erotica and porn. We can get aroused by porn, but we don’t imagine ourselves as any of the actors or want to be in their position. It is the action and their pleasure that arouses and not the people themselves.”

“Wow. Interesting,” Kiki breathed.

“So, what are you going to do about Senna?” Nora asked.

“I don’t know!” Abena wailed.

Kiki took her hand. “Sometimes, the simplest solution is the best way out. Talk to him. Explain your orientation to him so that he understands that you’re not rejecting him or deliberately sending him mixed signals.”

Abena snorted. “What am I going to tell him? That he should give what we have a chance because maybe I will fall deeply in love with him and then become sexually attracted to him?”

“Kiki is right, Abena. To be honest, all relationships are risky. Trust me, the streets are full of “shegge” and premium tears. You can never be sure if a relationship will work out, even with sparks flying at first glance. So it’s not so bad if you need him to be patient with you. I have a feeling he would be willing to take the chance.”

“You think?” Abena asked hopefully. 

“I do, but you’ll never know unless you communicate clearly with him so that he knows what to expect. If he can’t be patient, then maybe it’s not meant to be. But I have more hope for you two than that.” 

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