At Omoyeni Close

Itanife lived at Omoyeni Close, Omole Estate: Phase 2, Lagos, with his father and mother. He finished secondary school last year, but he did not gain admission into any worthy university.

When he did not get admission the previous year, he thought “Okay, no problem. I’m still young.” And decided to try again the next.

He had written JAMB this year again but he did not get a score high enough to apply to any federal university.

It was a federal university that he really wanted to attend. The few standard private ones were unfavourable in his opinion; nearly all of them did not allow students to use phones. They treated their students like secondary school students. He felt they were too stifling, so he waited.

He had been dejected about the fact that he had lost one year but he was not alone in his plight. In the estate he lived, there were many boys around his age, and most of them hadn’t gotten admission into any school too. The boys were aged sixteen, seventeen and eighteen. They wore joggers, sweatshirts, and baseball caps, and necklaces made of brown, wooden beads, and cowries. They also wore Vans, Yeezy’s, and Timbalands footwears. The boys were all adhering to a certain aesthetic—edgy and showy, yet sleepy.

Most of them were clothing line owners—they bought plain shirts and caps, created uninventive logos, and embossed the clothes with them, and then sold the shirts for two or three thousand naira, and two thousand naira per cap. They made their friends buy them, or the friends would be considered and marked broke. Being (considered) broke was a thing to be ashamed of among those boys. Others were music artistes who went to studios and made music; some rapped, and some sang Afrobeats. Only few were actually talented and made enjoyable music, but all of them had to buy the clothing, and they all had to pretend to like the music while the artistes hoped to “blow“.

They planned and organised parties. The parties were held mostly at dark clubs, but there were some that were held at open grounds. In these parties, they drank alcohol and smoked weed and shisha. They invited girls; girls who had liberty from their parents, girls who did not mind consuming alcohol and sometimes even weed, and dancing with boys and “grinding” on them—a type of dance in which a girl rolls and twists her hips on the crotch of a boy; girls who did not mind playing explicit truth or dare games, in which they could be dared to kiss and be groped and touched by boys.

And Itanife was like these boys. He belonged to this group of people.

In that estate, there were only a few girls. The only one Itanife and his friends knew and talked to – because the others were too “immature”—which meant those girls weren’t allowed to go out as they wished and didn’t want to get intimate with boys and still dressed like children – was Efunranti.

The boys knew Efunranti because she was the most wayward girl. She was seventeen, the same age as Itanife, and was already in school.

Efunranti might have been the most “mature” girl—not only had she kissed and grinded and been touched, she had also had sex. And it was the boy she had sex with, Pamilerin, that was her biggest shamer, despite that he had begged her persistently and tirelessly before she agreed to have sex with him.

Pamilerin denied that he begged her that many times, but Itanife believed that he did.

***

Nobody knew that Itanife did not like sex, not even his group of friends. He supposed it was expected that they would not know—he dressed and drank and talked and moved like them, who did. Who were constantly trying to get girls to lay for them.

But he just did not like or want it. How this made him feel was two ways—there were times that he worried and even panicked, because what kind of teenage boy did not like sex? Did not crave it? Did not watch porn and touch himself to it?

Itanife had only ever watched porn once and it did nothing for him. He found the film fascinating; the way the girl was moaning and the way the man was grunting, but he did not become hard. He got bored soon enough and left the website.

He felt that there was something wrong with him. It worried him very much. It worried him that he did not look at girls and undress them with his eyes, did not imagine touching them in their private places.

Itanife had made out with girls—when Funmike had touched his penis, he did not feel aroused or like it much. When Eniitan pressed her chest to his, he supposed she expected him to touch her breasts, and he did. But he knew she knew that he was not as needy and excited as most boys would be.

But there were times that Itanife did not care much. It was not as if he was impotent—that, he was not. He felt that his penis was capable of being erect when it wanted to be.

Why should he be worried? He was still a kid, after all. He was also a Christian, and so maybe it was even good that he did not like sex at this time. It was good for his religious life. And he left it at that.

***

At the other end of the estate, Efunranti was in her bathroom, peering at her face in the mirror. So many zits had appeared on her face. It was because she was on her period, she knew, and she also knew that she was feeling this way—having these empty, defeated feelings—because of it, and yet she could not shrug it off.

Most of the time, she felt like a baby. Everybody touched, carried, kissed, and played with them. Their autonomy was nonexistent; their bodily agency was negligible.

Babies belonged to everybody.

And yet she felt she could not play the victim, because most of the time, she put herself in the situations that made her feel the way she was feeling now.

She supposed she first got her whore reputation from her clothes. Efunranti had always worn shorts—she loved them. She often paired them with tops that revealed her cleavage. She loved pool parties, and she was not afraid to wear swimsuits at them. She liked boys, and she liked to be involved with them. She had been kissing since she was in secondary school. She liked touching, and she liked to be touched, also.

But God knew she did not want or mean to be a whore.

She was realising that the reputation had long stuck on her, and she thought that was why Pamilerin dared proffer sex.

Pamilerin was one of the boys she saw often at parties and hangouts. They did not talk much, just “heys” occasionally when they happened to gravitate towards each other. One day she got a WhatsApp message from an unknown number, and it turned out to be Pamilerin. They started talking then. He always texted her, asking her how she was, what she was doing, sometimes what she was wearing, and so she thought he genuinely cared about her. He was a funny boy.

They exchanged pictures and asked each other questions. They became frequent texters. Then one day he asked her if she had had sex and she told him she had not. He then asked her jokingly if she would like to have sex with him, and she also added laughing emojis when she said “You’re not serious”.

But he persisted. He was very persistent, and Efunranti had started to worry that the friendship they had would end if she did not please him—already he had stopped being nice—and their friendship was one of the only two genuine ones she had.

But after it happened, after she went to his house and laid for him on his bed, he revealed his true self. He told everybody who cared to listen, about how she had stained his bed with her blood and how she was groaning like a cat caught in a trap.

The day they had sex, Efunranti remembered that her gut told her not to go to his house, and yet she did because she did not want to lose him as a friend. He had become even colder—he read her messages without responding, sometimes for days, and sometimes he did not respond at all and she had to message him again. And even when he did respond, he gave her monotonous replies.

When she walked up to his house, she went over her plan again in her mind. She would give him a blowjob, but that was if he still really wanted her. If he didn’t see that she didn’t want to do it, that she just wanted them to be okay again, if their friendship was not enough for him, she would give in.

So she gave in. She figured—hoped—it couldn’t hurt—he was attractive, she was attractive. He was sensible and nice, and, mature, so he wouldn’t babble.

Only for him to morph into a thing she did not know him to be. He shamed her so much that it broke her. She did not know what to do with herself. She felt used, second-class. Everybody called her—both to her face and behind her back—a whore. An ashewo. A slut.

The reputation stuck.

***

Lamidi, the gate-keeper of the estate, truly believed that the world was unfair to him. He thought, as many men did, that he was the only one that life had dealt huge blows.

His women were going astray. African—or Afrikan as he preferred to call it—women were no longer the queens they were created to be; Queens to their Kings. Afrikan women no longer wanted to be the necks to Afrikan men’s heads.

Afrikan women were beginning to see themselves as equal to Afrikan men, when in actual fact, it was not a competition and Afrikan women simply had separate, yet dignified roles and duties in life.

As a queen would, in a kingdom.

Feminism—the ridiculousness of that word—was the agent of the devil, and the devil was the white woman. It was a known fact that white women hated black men. It was white women who cried their crocodile tears, because everybody considered them innocent, when they falsely and maliciously accused black men of rape and assault.

The whole world was against black men.

Feminism was white women’s tool for emasculating black men, and black women too were, stupidly, copying it. It was most surprising that even Afrikan women were partaking in this abomination. He supposed they were all the same—all women were, truthfully, blatantly stupid and inferior. The black ones just had bigger bones. They were only good for their bodies and house work. And everybody knew that in Afrika, when a man married a woman and paid her bride price, she became his.

His story was most pathetic and infuriating.

Twelve years ago, he was a happy and married man. He worked as the driver of a top company in Abuja while his wife and child worked in Ondo state. Their house was there. Life was good and he had peace of mind.

It was one day that he went back home and met nothing. His neighbours in Ilaje told him that his wife had remarried another man, who looked younger than she was, and just 10 months before then, they both relocated abroad. With his money. With his child.

His child would be thirteen now.

She must have been cheating on him, all the while that they were together. Women were certainly very devious and wicked, despite their foolishness. Because of what his wife did to him, Lamidi hated women greatly. Of course, he could not display his hate to rich women, or powerful women; women who could have him jailed or punished in some other way, but the hate was always brimming in his heart, and his rib cage was like a half-open cooler. The hate always foamed and threatened to spill over.

***

Itanife could not overlook his feelings forever. It was time to confront them and make something of them. For months now, thoughts and sights of Efunranti had been making his stomach swell with nerves. He was shy around her, but he hid it well. He loved to sneak looks at her, whenever he saw her at the many social gatherings that they both attended, and when he saw pictures of her, he marvelled. He thought she was very beautiful. Everything about her amazed him, delighted him, made him happy. But he often felt weak, with a resignedness at her unattainability. There simply could not be anything between them. Not romantically—what would people say? Him and her? The one everybody considered the town’s slut? The only relationship he could have with someone like her, was a sexual relationship. And that was out of it, since he did not like sex.

But he cared about her. He did, stealthily. He realised that he had been demonstrating his care in several subtle ways: when Pamilerin shamed her for having sex with him, he felt hurt but he knew that it was Pamilerin who begged her. He believed her, not him. When Jennifer called her a whore and said boys had “used her life”, he had cautioned Jennifer and told her it was not right for her, as a girl, to be attacking another girl. Once, Efunranti and Eniitan had an online fight—they were throwing subliminal messages at each other on Instagram and Twitter—and Itanife was, secretly, on Efunranti’s side and felt guilty and disappointed in himself that he and Eniitan had once been together.

He liked her; he liked Efunranti. He might even love her.

***

Lamidi was drunk, and his ego was bruised. His masculinity had been insulted. He had gone to the other wooden shack in the estate, the one he never went, where men drank agbo jedi. The shack he usually drank at was outside the estate, but he did not want the workers in the estate to return and not meet him at the gate. What he did at the shack was not out of the ordinary, and it certainly did not call for the insult he received afterwards. He had groped a waiter’s behind, something she should have been flattered at, but instead the smelly bitch turned and slapped his face. He had stood up but, as he raised his arm to slap her, she screamed “Try it!” and grabbed his shirt, daring him to slap her. Maybe he would have slapped her, but he was waiting for the other men in the shack to come to aid; they all saw what had happened. But surprisingly, they did not.

The men were on her side. They were shouting at him too, saying he was wrong to have done what he did. Would he have liked it if it was his daughter someone touched like that? Did his wife lock him out of his house and refuse him sex?

That had been the straw that broke the camel’s back.

His wife… his former wife was always a touchy subject for him. He stormed out, knocking a glass bottle off the table and hearing it shatter into pieces. Now he was sitting outside the gates of the estate he was supposed to be keeping, brooding and fuming to himself. He slapped a mosquito from his leg and hissed. He had been so affronted. That girl had disgraced him. He was boiling; he was not a man to take indignation and not retaliate.

He noticed a movement about fifteen feet from him, noticed the colours. Then he heard the cheery voice and the laughter. He hissed again. When he finally saw the fair, bare thighs and heard the laugh clearer now, he frowned. He knew it was that girl, Efunranti. She was walking closer to him and he saw her outfit properly now. To put it slightly, what she was wearing was no more than the plastic bag the bread he bought from the estate’s bakery was sold in. She was not more than eighteen years old, he was sure about that. And she always dressed this way. He wondered whether she did not have parents that cared about her, or cared to bring her up properly.

Well, if her parents do not want to train their daughter properly, that is their business, he thought. Whatever happened to her—he was sure that she was already being used and passed around and fucked to nothingness by small boys her age and even older men anyway—would be their fault.

“Ehen? Ehen?” Lamidi said, before she even asked him to open the gates.

She looked blank for a moment.

“What?” He asked.

“Please open the gate.”

He took a minute to look at her. The little whore, her blouse—if it was qualified to be called that—did not cover her stomach; it barely covered her whole breasts. Her thighs were in the open. She was wearing red lipstick. If she stood by the road like the prostitutes at Allen Avenue, waiting for men with cars to pull over and negotiate a “short time” or “till dawn” price with them, she would not look out of place.

“Ah! O ma se o. What a pity.” He thought his voice was lowered—or maybe he subconsciously intended for her to hear, because she did.

“What?” Her voice carried irritation.

He frowned. She could not be defiant towards him. Two mere women would not disrespect him in one night.

“Ranti it is late. You cannot go out.”

“Who told you you could give me nicknames?”

“And what you are wearing is not decent.”

She cocked her eyebrow.

“You look like a whore.”

“Excuse me?”

She was furious now.

For a minute Efunranti was shaking. If it were lighter, he would have seen. She did not know what to do, what to say. How dare him? A common gate-keeper to her She felt her head start to go in circles. She was shaking even worse now. She tried taking deep breaths to steady herself, but that wasn’t working much.

Meanwhile Itanife had bought his suya, which he went out for, and was going back to his house when he heard the commotion. At the gate, there were two people raising their voices at each other. It seemed to be a heated argument. He decided to move closer, and he was very surprised to find that Lamidi was one of them. He had known Lamidi for many years and all those years, he had never known him to be a troublemaker. His surprise was heightened when he went even closer and saw that Efunranti was the other person in the argument. He wondered what might have caused it. He was shocked when he heard Lamidi say “Ashawo! Little Ashawo! Apprentice Ashawo!”

“Lamidi are you normal?” He asked. He felt second hand embarrassment, but he turned to look at Efunranti and saw that she was crying and her body was shaking.

The sight broke him then enraged him.

Efunranti reached forward and slapped Lamidi’s face.

He immediately lurched forward and tried to retaliate, to hurt Efunranti, but Itanife flew towards him and tackled him to the ground, dealing him ceaseless blows until Itanife heard him groan in pain. Itanife did not know what got into him, but he could not stop. It was Efunranti who managed to pull him from Lamidi.

“It’s okay, it’s okay,” Efunranti said. “Thank you.” she added in a small voice.

Itanife wanted to preserve the moment forever. She was looking at him, and with tenderness too; with gratefulness. Efunranti was finally noticing him. His breathing refused to slow down to its normal pace, and he knew it wasn’t because of the fight he was just in.

He stood up, and she took his hand. As they left, to no place either of them had discussed, they heard Lamidi lamenting in the background, sitting on the ground and grumbling that he would tell everybody that a small boy beat him up for no reason.

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