Fiction / Enit’ayanfe Ayosojumi Akinsanya
:: A Boy Free on Christmas Morning ::
It was a day in October, 2005. And like all days in October in a proper academic year, the term had just begun, new schemes of work written in chalk on the boards, old friends reconnecting, and new bonds getting fastened. Old classmates embraced and shook hands and clapped backs and shared stories from the holiday. They paused in their high laughter and plosives only to dust out their lockers, clear the walls of cobwebs and the floors of litter, and copy down the new timetable. It was a glittering, unbroken air.
The call had pierced through the staccato din—behind which he had gratefully slipped—through the thickness of his thoughts, and reached him like an arrow. He whirled around, his heart badabooming like drums. It was Christopher Ayomikun. Of course, it was Christopher Ayomikun. Only Christopher Ayomikun barked out his name like that. Only Christopher Ayomikun cared enough to see him. He waited in his seat. Christopher Ayomikun swaggered up, one corner of his mouth lifted as usual in a sneer. Tomiwa waited, his arm resting on the slight swell of his well-worn duffel bag, which slouched almost weightlessly into his locker. Running to the bus stop every morning and every afternoon with it on his back posed no problems for him. He had so few books.
“Hey, Tomiwa.” Christopher Ayomikun finally stopped by his desk, standing too close for comfort, stretching out his hand. “How are you?”
Tomiwa’s eyes slid down to the proffered hand. He gaped. It was surprising enough that Ayomikun had called him “Fagstard” as usual—Christopher Ayomikun had an animated imagination—but what was even more astonishing was Christopher Ayomikun offering him—him—a handshake.
“Well, well, well, are you going to shake my hand, or are you going to disgrace me in front of the whole class?” Ayomikun asked. The noises in the classroom had diminished into a steady, single thrumming; people were already beginning to watch. The boy cradling his old bag dared not look around to see, but he felt the hungry eyes, as strongly as he did each time Christopher Ayomikun engaged him inside or outside the classroom. Christopher Ayomikun spoke again, “Come on, pal, this is a new term. Old things are gone. I’ve realized how childish I have been. Let’s start afresh.”
His voice had taken on a softness; his eyes, too. His sneer was also stretching into a smile that looked sincere. And, as if “Tomiwa” had not been enough, he had called him “pal”. Tomiwa’s mud walls were crumbling. His heart lifted. He took Ayomikun’s hand, carefully at first, and then more confidently, his fingers curled around Ayomikun’s firm palm. “Good morning,” he mumbled, feeling stupid; he wasn’t sure that was what he was supposed to say. He felt as in a dream. Something ice-cool and sweet, like glucose, was spreading inside his chest. He wondered if he should look around the class and smile triumphantly at the incredulity that must be pasted on those faces. He stopped wondering and looked around. They were all gawping at the scene: his hand in Ayomikun’s, Ayomikun’s covering his in a full firm clasp. A miracle kinship. He felt like screaming. He parted his lips, not sure what it was he would utter, but just then Christopher Ayomikun screeched and, with a violent jerk, flung Tomiwa’s hand off. It smacked against the desk. He spread out his arms like an actor and addressed the class.
“See? I told you. Fagstard is not a monster. You can actually shake his hand and he will not rape you senseless!”
Then he burst into gales of laughter; some boys joined in. Tomiwa recognized them as the ones who had waylaid him on his way home from school, once, twice, three times, and beaten him up for walking like a girl. They were like Christopher Ayomikun—tall, big, muscular, things he was not. Because of them, he now ran instead of walking. Because of them, he had stopped going out to the canteen during break, just so they couldn’t see him walking and have cause to beat him again. Not that he had the luxury of frequenting the canteen anyway; his pocket money was N20, every day. Including those days they had Junior WASSCE lessons and closed at 6 pm.
Christopher Ayomikun’s laughter slowed and lowed to sporadic hiccups, but the rest of the class—even the twin girls that were voted “Most Quiet” last term—had taken up the mirth and were all doubled over. Tomiwa’s heart sank. His palm stung. Sweat broke down his back and temples, despite the sunlessness of the morning. Goose pimples rose on his skin, as if someone had splashed water on him and pushed him into a basin filled with raw rice. His eyes welled up.
This was indeed a new term. He might not survive it. Somebody shook the bell for assembly time. The class made for the door, girls and boys pressing against him, pushing past him, some screaming when they came in contact with him, the girls looking as if they wanted to spit, some of the boys holding their hands over their behinds, their eyes distended in mock terror. He tried to slip past them but in his haste, his already squiggly zipper ripped open and his rat-eaten books spilled out to the floor. His classmates watching from the corridor erupted in loud laughter. He sank to the floor, willing it to yawn open and take him.
“Clumsy homo,” they chanted and darted their eyes around in case a teacher or a prefect was coming.
Where he sat on the floor, the boy hugged his split bag to his chest and wept.
* * *
Tomiwa was the first of two sons. Born to a gardener in the rustic town of Ijebu-Ode, he learned early enough to occupy spaces like a thin shadow. His father raked lawns, planted allamanda bushes, trimmed sun-bleached flowers for a stingy rich family, and collected N4,000 pay at the end of the month. Sometimes, the salary would come. Sometimes, it would come late. And then there were times it would not come at all. During these times, it was hell for Tomiwa, his little sickle-celled brother, Enitan, and their mother. She had a makeshift kiosk in front of a weather-beaten bungalow, where she sold soap and sweets and matches and cigarettes. There, they had rented a one-room apartment, and they owed the cantankerous landlord N15,500.
Tomiwa’s father, on those days of no pay, would arrive home in the dead of night and in a soggy whiff of alcohol stench, his shirt front stained with beer vomit, his face grotesque, his lips loose and his eyes bulging. When Tomiwa’s mother confronted him about where he had been and what he had been up to, he beat her up. His staggering and swaying did not dull his punches; they could have smacked holes in any living body. His words slurry, his articulations blurry, he would rain curses on his wife, his children, his rich employees and the poor country as a whole. Then he would resume beating his wife, hold her by the neck, yank and tousle her hair, and force her down to her knees. Where is my food? No food! Why didn’t you cook? No money! Must you wait for me before you cook? You have too many debts? No sales? Unfortunate woman! Oloriburuku obinrin! Your legs are bad! My life scattered the day I married you! These played out in front of Tomiwa and his little brother, who always burst into loud crying and so stopped Tomiwa from crying loudly as well, for he would have to hold his brother close and console him.
Then, a Saturday came. His brother had a crisis—the fourth that month—and his mother had to rush him to a small, unregistered clinic. Tomiwa watched her clamber onto the pillion of an okada, his heart palpitating where he sat washing his over-patched school uniform beside the house. He had just wrung the soap out of his shorts when his father called him in and told him he would have to drop out of school. Tomiwa stood and stared, the foam drying on his hands.
“Baba, what did you say, sir?”
His father coughed. Tomiwa noticed the new drawn shade in his eyes, the newer unsightly crisscross of veins on his forehead. He had always looked sick, from excessive drinking and working in the sun, but not this much. Tomiwa wished things were different for his father, for them all.
“E pele, sa,” he said in concern.
“Do you have owu elepo in your ears?” his father shot at him. “I said you will have to stop going to school. I don’t have the strength to send you again.”
The world spun rapidly inside Tomiwa’s head; all of his life gathered up in his throat. He propped his wrist against his lips, surprised by the suddenness of his own crying. Perhaps it was the way his father had shouted it. Without thinking, without choosing to be dramatic, he sank to his knees and started wringing his hands in plea. He thought little of his actions, of what his father would see. All he knew was that he was pleading to be allowed to continue in school.
His father sneered at him, a cold sneer that froze Tomiwa in his movements. His father’s bloodshot eyes ran up and down him, until he thought he was about to spit on him.
“How did I end up with a son like you sef?” his father said, and started hacking again. His coughing shook his body.
“E pele, sa.”
“Kneeling and moving your hands like a girl.” He spat the phlegm in Tomiwa’s direction. Another fit seized his willowy frame.
Tomiwa scrambled up to get him some water.
“Stop there, my friend!” his father barked. “Where you think say you dey go?”
“Nowhere, sir.” Tomiwa shivered, stuck, confused, afraid to use his hands lest he did something to further enrage his father.
“My ears are full. I hear how you laugh like an idiot when those homeless boys on our street touch your body. I am warning you. No child of mine will bring abomination into this house. E better make I kill that son with my bare hands than let him see that day.” He launched into another raspy paroxysm.
Tears bloomed into Tomiwa’s eyes again, but he fought it. He had to kill vulnerability. Boys didn’t cry, his father once said. “E pele, sa,” he said again. This time, he felt the sympathy for his father more keenly. He moved uncertainly towards him, his hand stretched.
“Get out of my sight!” his father blared, eyes flashing.
Tomiwa ran out, his eyes stinging, and for a while he couldn’t see his white vest as he washed it.
His father left work and took fully to drinking and owing a pile of money at the local bar in town. Often, in the middle of the day, furious service girls would drag him home and demand payment from Tomiwa’s mother. There were afternoons Tomiwa and his mother found him crumpled in the gutter, babbling old hymns. How his mother stood alone and Enitan did not die of his crises, and how Tomiwa did not drop out of school, Tomiwa could not say. But he wished he had dropped out anyway.
* * *
Dropping out dangled in his mind—a fresh offer at escape—that day in October. The day he prayed the floor of his classroom should open and gulp him in. The same day Abdul came into his life. Abdul was a youth service corps member newly posted to the community school. Tall, firm-jawed Abdul, with a wide forehead and wider shoulders and a little stutter that made the students find his every word even more precious. When he stepped into their class that morning, after the first three teachers had taught and left, he told them he came to teach Mathematics and Mathematics only.
“I can solve all problems. Careful—all arithmetical problems. Don’t bring your life’s problems to me. Don’t bring your boyfriend-and-girlfriend issues to me.”
A ripple went through the class.
“Those ones are problems I can’t solve. I have those problems, too, you hear? So make everyone go solve their problems on their own, abeg. Government no dey pay me allowee for that one.”
The class burst into laughter. Except Tomiwa, who was still moping over his ruined school bag. Abdul smiled and turned to the board.
After school, a school prefect accosted Tomiwa and told him Abdul wanted to see him in the staff room. Stiffly, his mind blank, he made for the detached building. Abdul sat, a Pacesetters novel held open with his thumb, and asked Tomiwa his name. “And also tell me why you were looking moody during his class in the morning.”
Tomiwa parted his lips to speak, but it was tears, not words, that broke free. It annoyed him, that he was crying before this stranger-teacher in tight white vest and green khaki pants. It was like a scene from all those TV melodramas his classmates always chirped about during Free Period. He pressed his hands to his face. He felt like screaming at him: Leave me alone!
“Nothing, sir,” he mumbled. “My head was aching. My name is Tomiwa Arogundade.”
The corper gawped.
Later, as Tomiwa walked home through the bushes flanking a lonely path, Christopher Ayomikun and his boys leaped out at him, their checkered shirts undone and tied around their waists to reveal off-white singlets, long lithe canes swishing to and fro in their hands. Tomiwa staggered backward. They had never brought canes before. He wished he knew any other route home, but this was the only lane. The boys surrounded him, leering and sneering and whistling. He thought of his mother praying into the night on her knees, reeling out psalms after psalms for divine protection from evil and its doers. Tomiwa had managed to memorize only Psalm 23 completely. He reached for it now like a talisman. He muttered it earnestly.
Christopher Ayomikun detached himself from the circle and neared Tomiwa with his cocksure swagger. Tomiwa stared. He should run. These were people with heightened predatory skills. These were people who grew up watching too many American and Chinese films. The silence, punctuated by the twittering of bush birds, stretched on for too long. They lolled the canes in their hands and peered at him thinly, like lizards. Tomiwa’s heart started throbbing again, and when Christopher finally spoke, it was like someone splashed a bucket of ice cubes down his shoulders.
“Hey, Fagstard, how about we get your disgusting rosy ass pro-per-ly whipped?”
Tomiwa held onto his loose bag. “Please. E jo. I don’t want any more trouble. Let me just go home.”
“Hey, hey!” Christopher Ayomikun threw his hands about in that theatrical way common with pulpit clowns. “The sissy pleads!” He made a face and aped Tomiwa’s words.
“Come on, Chief CA!” one of the other boys screeched. “Why we dey waste time?” Somebody fit come and interrupt na. Make we naked this girlie and see wetin him been dey cover!”
Tomiwa went numb.
“Well, well, well,” Christopher Ayomikun starred his role again, hands on hips, “you are about to regret ever being born into this world, you abomination.” He revolved on his heels. “He’s all yours!”
They yelled in unison, their canes raised high, and raced toward Tomiwa, who stood transfixed in the middle of the path. It was over. It was beyond him what atrocity it was they were going to do to him this time. He closed his eyes, like when the lights of the world go out, slumped to the ground, and waited for the onslaught.
He could not see anything, but he heard a sudden silence. Someone had bounded into the road. They all stiffened in their tracks. The figure approached steadily, unflinchingly. A tall broad figure. White vest. Green pants. A green cap.
“It’s Corper Abdul!” someone screamed.
Tomiwa’s earlobes thudded with feet. They all melted into the bush, leaving behind their weapons and a few sandals. Tomiwa opened his eyes and looked hard through the winking green of his vision. It was Corper Abdul. The man pulled him up. Tomiwa glanced up through the trees to send his thanks to whatever god was there. He watched his savior vanish in a blur of white and green, and he didn’t know what next to feel, to do.
* * *
Abdul gave chase, briefly. He caught none of the boys. They had moved through the forest like lightning through slippery clouds.
* * *
“Are you hurt?”
Tomiwa shook his head no.
“Are you not that boy in JSS3 A?”
Tomiwa nodded, feeling self-pityingly young and helpless.
“Where do you live?”
“Just before the busy road.” He pointed vaguely. The numbness was beginning to clear.
“Hmm. The Corpers’ Lodge is not too far from there. Let’s walk together.”
He nodded, his tongue gluing itself back to the roof of his mouth.
They started walking; their footfalls crunched the crisp October-dried leaves underfoot and echoed in the trees. The silence grew too loud.
“Hey, brother, I don’t know you much.”
The man sounded a little forceful, as if he had rummaged and rummaged around in his brain to find the least embarrassing way to continue the conversation, and so wouldn’t condone another listless response. Perhaps it was his baritone. Perhaps it was his broad shoulders. Perhaps it was his clear open face, which gave the sensation of staring into a cloudless sky. Or perhaps it was simply that the man had called him “brother”, but Tomiwa suddenly found his tongue unclinging from the roof of his mouth, like a weight in flight.
“I really don’t know much about you either, sir,” he said.
Abdul smiled, apparently encouraged.
“I finished from Obafemi Awolowo University. Department of Mathematics. I am Yoruba, from Lagos, and serving in a Yoruba town. I am one of the luckiest, I guess.”
Tomiwa giggled, a little amused, a little stunned by himself.
A bird cried.
“So…when did all this rubbish start?”
Tomiwa watched a lone lizard slither through a clump of bitter leaves. “Since I came into the school, sir. Three years ago.”
Tomiwa smiled, wryly amused, thinking of what his mother was most likely to say if he ever told her about this part of the conversation: she would snap her fingers and quote “do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers”. His mother, he had often guiltily thought, was an incurious, unintelligent, faithless worshipper.
“But why didn’t you report them to the school authorities?”
“I did, sir. I did. The vice-principal himself has punished them over this issue. But they waylaid me again and beat the daylights out of me and swore to kill me if I reported them again.”
Abdul stopped. “And you believed them?”
Tomiwa nodded, his eyes heavy and shadowed.
“This is unacceptable!” Abdul bawled. Then he caught himself, as if he would have said more. He inhaled deeply. “Your parents—what about them?”
Tomiwa thought about his father’s beer-dark face, his mother’s blank exhausted stare and his brother’s pained breathless look.
“I…um…couldn’t approach them. I didn’t want them involved.”
“To your own detriment?”
For a while, Tomiwa thought Abdul was going to slap him. He had raised his voice and a new energy had entered him. But he only walked on, his face turned away.
“I overheard one of those imps calling you something,” Abdul said. “I couldn’t hear it clearly. What was it?”
A new, heavy silence fell.
“They…call…me…Fagstard.” Tomiwa’s voice trembled.
“Fag-what?” Abdul’s face crumpled into lines of utter confusion.
Abdul scratched his head. “Well, my brother, help your big brother out o. ‘Fang’ I know. ‘Custard’ I know. But which one is ‘Fagstard’? They did not teach us this in school o.”
Tomiwa smiled sadly, touched by Abdul’s discretion, his deliberate avoidance of words that hurt like knives, but he also wished Abdul had hurled those words anyway.
“Sir, I use the dictionary a lot. I am sure Ayomikun formed the word out of a joining of the words ‘fag’ and ‘bastard’.”
A shadow fell between Abdul’s thick eyebrows. “No, Tomiwa. You can’t be so sure about that.”
Tomiwa took a deep calming breath before he spoke. “It’s okay, sir. I know what I saw in the dictionary, and I also know what I saw in Christopher Ayomikun’s eyes each time he called me by the name.”
“Well, that’s not your name. It is foul. Christopher has to know that. You don’t deserve it. No one deserves to be called such nonsense.” Abdul kicked at a stone; his feet moved more quickly. He seemed to be gulping air. After a while, he spoke again. “At least you know what they call you. Some of us, we don’t know the name of what we are. Even Ayomikun does not know yet what he is. The day he finds out, he will see that he is something much worse than he could ever imagine.”
Tomiwa tugged at a tall stalk overhanging the path. He wondered what Abdul meant by that. He wanted to ask for elaboration but Abdul was still speaking.
“Back then on campus, we had this roommate. A funny, generous chap like that. He walked swaying his hips. He had a high-pitched voice and if you were not careful while listening to him from a distance, you would conclude it was a girl speaking. He hardly ever spoke without twirling his fingers and making dramatic faces. We called him ‘Mr. Pepper’. He would cook and all of us would eat even more portions than he, the owner of the food, would eat. He always left his cupboard open. You could pick any food item you wanted from it. He always smiled and made us laugh by exaggerating his walk. He said the only reason he did that to create laughter was because we didn’t see him as mere entertainment. There was a time like that when people tried to talk him down because of his girliness. See eh. We all rose to defend him o. Very brilliant boy. Graduated with a first-class. And he was a musician, too. Would play this lovely black guitar on rainy nights.”
“Wow,” Tomiwa said, genuinely wowed. Hearing about somebody that was almost exactly like him felt like redemption itself.
But Tomiwa wondered, “Corper Abdul.”
“Would you have defended him like that if he had been stingy, dumb and unfriendly?”
Abdul cocked his head sideways and scratched it again. Then he confessed, “I’m not sure others would have defended him. They were like, ‘Who will now cook for us?’ But I would. I know would. I just liked him. No reason.”
Tomiwa plunged into questions. “So how did he end up? Was he your set? Where was he posted to?”
Abdul smiled, and Tomiwa thought he saw a hint of sadness in the smile.
“What, sir?” he asked.
“Ismail is dead.”
Tomiwa stopped walking. Abdul also stopped walking. The trees sighed.
“How… How did he die?” Getting those words out was like self-torturing.
“There are some things that can’t be explained to you now.” Abdul spoke briskly. He looked rueful, as if he thought he had said way too much.
Tomiwa gazed at the footpath. “Did he die because he was like me?”
Abdul slipped into silence, a long, long silence. Finally, he said, “You are not ripe to know some things, my dear. But one day, I promise, you will know.”
He looked like he wanted to add something, but they had got to the busy road, market and vehicular noises spoiling the air. And Tomiwa thought about all the times he had tried to drink up his mother’s kerosene or chew up her bar soaps, and how on each attempt his little brother’s face had flashed into his mind, thin and sallow, and he wondered just how much was left to know. Abdul waited and watched him cross to the other side and disappear into a corner.
* * *
After that afternoon, Christopher Ayomikun and his boys were locked into interminable counseling sessions with Abdul in the staff room, after school, repeatedly, and they no longer ambushed Tomiwa on the path homeward, nor harassed him as fiercely as before in school. After that afternoon, Abdul started sending him a flask of food every lunch break and, after closing, they walked the lonely path together and talked freely about all of Abdul’s past girlfriends and the current one who was in her final year at the Ogun State University and who visited Ijebu-Ode twice in a fortnight. But it was this first afternoon, this first walk, this first conversation, this day in October, that Tomiwa would always remember. The moment Abdul, a young man with no illicit intentions, held him by the hand and picked him up from the dust. He wondered what Abdul had seen. Abdul had certainly not seen just a boy who liked boys. He had not seen just a boy being bullied and who needed his help. He had not seen just a helpless boy. Abdul had seen a brother. A full human.
And from that episode, Tomiwa was strengthened. Elevated. Humanized and fortified. One day, it slipped out of his mouth, that famously awaited question of: “Where do you live in Lagos, sir?” And Abdul had hurriedly told him where, his lips stopping sooner than the words had come out, as if it had slipped out of him, too.
Months later, as the year wound down into December and the harmattan descended in all its cold and dryness, Tomiwa would still remember that day in October. He would see girls rubbing an extra sheen of gloss on their lips and think of the first time he had rubbed on lipstick. It was his mother’s. A purple shade. And it was, like this, Christmastime. His mother had seen it on him, and he had wondered what she was going to do to him. But she had merely laughed and asked him not to use that shade of lipstick anymore because it didn’t suit his skin color. He had been surprised, but his surprise had been faint and fibreless; his mother had always regarded his difference with the calmness of a wise silence. She had never judged him, never reacted to his authentic being with the horror of other people. He would take this memory, this lack of horror, and with it go and visit Abdul in his home in Lagos to spend Christmas. Abdul, shocked to see him, would ask him—How!—and Tomiwa would laugh a belly laugh and slump against him in the weakness of that laughter and tell him that he had lied to his parents and brother that he wanted to spend Christmas with his maternal aunt in Lagos, a staunch Deeper Lifer who detested phones and communicated only by letters. And Abdul would laugh deeply, shoulders shaking, and smack the boy’s head and call him, “Omo kata”—mischievous child—and welcome him “into my humble abode”. Tomiwa would look around the sizable room, the walls bare of photographs, the air full of a distinctly single scent, and would wonder about asking whether Abdul lived alone and his girlfriend now visited him often, whether she lived in Lagos as well. Then he would look at Abdul in his singlet, his broad chest tapering down to a small, dimpled waist, his muscles stepping out more obviously than they did in his NYSC shirt, and decide not to ask anything at all.
Abdul would cook spaghetti and fried eggs, which Tomiwa would find delightfully delicious, and they would sit on the mattress and eat it together. Over the meal, while the street children fired their bangers past the open window, they would remember Christopher Ayomikun and the rest of the class, and cackle away into the night. After many hours of talking and laughing and yawning, while in bed with him, Tomiwa would think of sleeping and facing him. He would imagine Abdul breathing into his face. He would shut his eyes and savor the sensation. After a while, he would open them and lie in the opposite direction of the bed, so that his face nestled close to Abdul’s warm feet. Abdul’s feet were always warm. Abdul would stir awake, look at him and give a faint smile of reassurance. In that smile was You are safe with me.Tomiwa would marvel, once again, at this unshifting openness. He would wrap an arm gratefully around Abdul’s right foot and hold it close to his cheek.
And sleep happily into Christmas morning.
From the writer
:: Account ::
HISTORY: There is homophobia in Nigeria and there are severe cases of queer people—especially the young—getting bullied, dispossessed and, in extreme situations, killed. It is criminal to be homosexual or bisexual in Nigeria. Most queer people cannot come out to their loved ones as who they really are. And it is harder for children whose sexual orientation is already assumed because of how they present, for instance, effeminacy. Such kids are often lonely and misunderstood, and it takes only a miracle to find a friend out there.
SKETCH: I drew out this story around a situation I had in early secondary school (or what is called “high school”). I was bullied by schoolmates who thought my effeminacy was an excuse for them to ridicule and malign me. To further satirize homophobic slurs and attacks, I thickened the main character with other nuances going on in his life that contribute to his disillusionment in human kindness. I deliberately sketched it around a rare friendship curve, an avuncular guidance that is highly controversial especially in a world still uncomfortable with, and ignorant about, homosexuality. But the older man in this story is straight and not abusive; I only wanted to show the grittiness of an asexual puppy crush.
MARKER: I set the story in Nigeria, where homophobia and the bullying of effeminate men still rage on. But it is such a universally relevant conflict that I have had most of my foreign beta readers say they could relate to every emotion. I set it in the years preceding the passing of the anti-gay law by the Nigerian goverment (meaning the years before 2014). I did this to minimize the excessive horror value of the story. I wrote the story using a third-person point of view, ostensibly to make the reader watch with a safe detachment but actually to magnify the sheer horror of bullying and loneliness. The only grave triggers in the story are homophobic slurs used by the antagonists. The rest is a beautiful story of friendship and redemption. I did my best to use plain English throughout.
REPOSITORY OF INFLUENCES: I did not use extensive materials for research for this story. All I had to do was take a look into my own early teenage, the struggles as an effeminate Nigerian child, my experiences. The story is also heavily influenced by my deep, eager hunger to see some justice happen to the lonely, bruised queer child out there. I hope the story gives some kind of light to someone out there.
Enit’ayanfe Ayosojumi Akinsanya was born and raised in Nigeria. He is the first-place winner of the 2022 Arts Lounge Intercontinental Literary Award for Non-fiction, first-place winner of the 2022 international Itanile Story Award, a major finalist for the 2018 National GTB Dusty Manuscript New Novelist Award, and a top finalist for the 2023 AfritondoShort Story Prize. He is twenty-eight years old and the author of “How to Catch a Story That Doesn’t Exist”, a collection of queer stories published in 2022. He lives in Nigeria. He tweets at @OsumareAyomi.