I grew up having a sheltered childhood. Mine was the type of growing-up where my siblings and I had no sleepovers, not even at the homes of relatives, and we only entertained friends/visitors under the strict and uncomfortable supervision of my parents.
Because of this, even though we grew up in Lagos, this chaotic place where it is assumed that all residents are wild and wise, I transitioned from a teenager to my twenties, full of a lot of naiveté. I didn’t have a lot of friends, and the ones I had were straight. So it was very awkward for me the more aware I became of my attraction for boys. Thankfully, in the journey to self acceptance, I did not go through all that fasting-and-praying self torture session, because with the kind of upbringing I had, any form of sensuality was strictly forbidden. You were not even permitted to desire girls.
However, in the university, halfway through, my father passed away. And my mother, in shouldering the responsibility of the family business, unknowingly eased off on being the disciplinarian. More and more things were overlooked or not looked out for, and this led to my audacity in discovering things for myself. The internet helped, and before long, I was connecting to dating sites and youtube clips. I began making friends, just a few. I was too much of an introvert to make too many friends. By the time I graduated from Unilag, I was reasonably more knowledgeable of the world than I was when I got into school.
While waiting for NYSC, some friends encouraged me to seek more freedom from home by enrolling for a computer course – any excuse to get out of home every day. I liked the idea very much and began working on my mother. I didn’t have to keep at it for long; it was an academic pursuit, so she was fine with it.
Soon, I enrolled in NIIT in Ikeja and classes provided the perfect smokescreen for extended absences from home. I made more acquaintances online, and with the cover of my computer classes, I got to hook up with those I liked.
Then I began chatting with this muscled guy on Badoo. He was just hot – dark-skinned with impressive muscles. I wanted to meet him so bad. However, when he told me that the plan was for us to spend a night together at his place, I hesitated a little. First of all, to do this would be my first time to ever spend the night in a place that wasn’t already accounted for to my parents. Secondly, I didn’t know what plan I would use to get my mother to give me the permission to spend the night outside home.
Note that not for once did I consider the risk of going to stay the night in the house of some stranger.
I explained my conundrum to a friend. When he asked how long and how well I knew this guy, for some reason I could not identify, and also suddenly feeling defensive, I lied. I told him we’d known each other for a few weeks, as opposed to a few days.
“Still, that’s not enough to just go and spend the night at the place of someone you’ve not even met,” my friend lectured.
“But we’ve met,” I lied again. Something about his lecturing tone just reminded me of my father. And the rebel in me did not need that attitude.
“You’ve met?” he said skeptically.
“Yes. Once. Briefly though. So it’s cool.”
“Okay o. I just hope this doesn’t turn out to be a kito.”
This was my first time of hearing the slang. “What is kito?” I asked.
“Never mind.” My friend was already done with the role of the voice of caution, and brushed the issue aside before launching into a plan that could work in getting my mother’s permission.
I was to tell her that we would have class practical that’d end by 7pm, and since it’d be too late to try making my way back to the island, wouldn’t it be better if I simply stayed the night at a fellow coursemate’s house?
When my mother asked who the coursemate was, I supplied my friend’s name. She asked for his number, and after I gave it to her, she called him, and the very sweet, polite voice of my friend assured her that he would be the most responsible host of the most responsible sleepover her son would ever have.
Without further ado, my mother gave her permission.
I was ecstatic! Sleepover with hook-up, here I come! I felt so fly, like James Bond, like I was about to embark on an exciting adventure. My mind conveniently left out that bit about how James Bond’s adventures were usually also dangerous.
I notified Badoo hottie of our rendezvous, and we fixed a date. During my class that day, he sent me directions. When I read the message, I was dismayed to realize I’d have to journey all the way to someplace I’d never been to or heard off. (I forget now what that area is, but I remember it is a stop after Satellite Town). I wasn’t unnerved by the distance. I was just frustrated by the stress I knew getting there would bring to me. When I called him to clarify some more how I’d get there from Ikeja, as he talked about entering this bus and dropping here and entering that bus and dropping there, I almost changed my mind.
But I didn’t. The memory of that hot body kept me driven.
We closed by 5.30pm and I set off. The traffic was horrendous, and I kept regretting my decision along the way. Badoo hottie and I kept in touch on BBM as I travelled. When I got to the final junction from where I’d take a bike, it was twilight. I got on a bike to the place he wanted me to meet him. The bike man even took me past the spot, because he wasn’t sure; that was how rural that entire environ was. There were open spaces and unfinished buildings and erosion-riven Bad roads and naked children playing in the evening. I started to wish I was anywhere but here.
Badoo hottie called me and told me to tell the bike man to return, that he’d passed the stop. We reversed and the bike man deposited me before a stranger and zoomed off.
Yes! The young man I’d been on the phone with, the one who was here before me, was nothing like my Badoo hottie. For starters, he was ugly. Squat ugly! Like his parents committed so many sins that when they got married, God decided to punish them by giving them a baby who He’d had an apprentice in heaven create in a hurry. He had eyes that almost bulged like Segun Arinze’s, a nose that was too wide, and lips that were rubbery and thick.
I was repulsed. To make sure he was the right person, I called his name, the name he gave me on BBM. He answered yes.
“But you’re not the guy in the pictures,” I said, starting to get angry.
“Come on, baby, I can’t reveal my true self na,” he said, attempting a smile that did nothing for his looks.
“But I’m the one who is okay to reveal himself abi?” I said. Before he could answer, I said, “In short, there’s no need. I can’t do this with you. I’m going.”
But Fate was not going to let me make such a grand exit from a bad situation. Oh no, she made it worse.
I saw the guy look away from me and nod at something – or someone – behind me. I turned to follow his gaze, to see two other guys hurrying toward us.
Now, you have to understand something. This experience was pre-antigay bill getting signed into law. Plus I grew up very sheltered. So I basically had absolutely no knowledge of how dangerous life as a gay man in Nigeria was. I didn’t have friends who talked about the evils of being hunted and extorted and victimized simply because you’re gay.
So when I saw those two approaching us, the last thing on my mind was that I was about to be made a victim of a societal evil. When I saw the,, I dismissed them, turned to the Ugly One and said, “Okay now, I’m going.”
He is shorter than I am, and if things had gotten and stayed physical between us, I’m sure he wouldn’t have been able to manage it. That was probably why he needed backup.
As I turned to leave, he grabbed my hand and said, “Homo! Where you dey go!”
My instinctive reaction was anger, not fear. I turned on him and slapped his hand off mine, before hissing, “You are crazy!”
“Who you dey call craze person, eh!” This came from behind me, seconds before a blinding slap was lashed across my face.
I staggered back. I had with me my backpack, and I remember clutching it tighter to me even when I feared I was going to trip and fall.
When the stars cleared from my eyes, I opened them to see the three of them laughing evilly. My eyes filled with tears from the pain of the slap and I stammered, “What did I do?”
Both of the two new arrivals were tall and slim; one was dark and looked loutish, the other was very fair and was actually very handsome. (Later on, I would wonder why they didn’t use him as the bait, instead of the toad I first met. Then I thanked God they hadn’t; if he was the bait, they’d have successfully lured me to some abandoned room or something and done more horrible things to me than I eventually suffered that evening).
The fair, handsome one however quickly showed how beauty was only skin deep. He was ugly at heart. He was the one who’d slapped me, who kept hitting me every time they asked me a question and I was too weepy to answer quickly. They raided my backpack. In it were just a change of clothes. They took my wallet; just a few hundred nairas in it. And then my phone… They sought my mother’s number and taunted me with the threat of calling her to tell her about me being gay. I sobbed as I begged for this not to happen. Then they began scrolling through my BBM chat list, checking out the chats to know who was gay or not, from how suggestive our chats were or not. As they talked about how they’d use this to trap other guys, I began praying silently that none of my contacts would be foolish enough to believe I’d tell them to come meet me in this…this…whatever this godawful place was.
Speaking of that, all of this was happening right outside, right there by the road. There was a field nearby where children were playing and a cluster of shops to our left where some women were gathering to gossip. There was a steady traffic of pedestrians – a man riding past on his bicycle, a few girls with water basins, this man, that woman. I could not believe, in my naïveté, that all these people were simply ignoring such a public assault of someone in their midst.
Then I did something stupid.
The three guys were still talking to themselves, when I aimed my hand at my phone in the fair guy’s hand. I snatched the phone from him and took off in a sprint, shouting for help as I ran.
My flight lasted about seven seconds, before one of them tackled me to the ground. The fair guy let loose with his fists and legs, kicking and blowing me as the other thin, dark one dragged me to my feet. They kept cussing me with ‘homo’ and ‘fag’ in the process. And in all this time, the children did not stop playing, the pedestrians did not stop passing, and the shop-women did not stop gossiping. In fact, one of the women asked in pidgin what I did, and the thin, dark one replied, “Him wan come fuck nyash.”
The woman cackled in response and returned to her business. My plight was about as important to her as one of the flies hovering over her tomatoes, probably less important even.
Eventually, the other two got the fair one to back off of me. They took the clothes in my bag, my phone and my wallet. They returned everything inside the wallet to me that wasn’t money (in fact, everything they returned was at the insistence of the thin, dark one). They kept my sim card, no matter how much I begged to have it back, and oddly gave me back my bag. They took the sandals off my feet and handed me a pair of well-worn slippers that the Ugly Toad had been wearing.
As this was going on, guess who was passing by but who stopped to come over and exchange greetings and handshakes with them. Yep! The Badoo hottie. Every sleek, muscular bit of him. I was stunned, especially when they thanked him for letting them use his pictures. He acknowledged their gratitude and reminded them that he’d be expecting his cut, before walking away, never once looking at me.
Eventually my captors asked me where I was going back to. I told them Ikeja (my friend’s place). They calculated my transport fare to Ikeja and gave me that amount from the money they’d stolen from me. the thin dark one escorted me to a bike, watched me get on it, and soon I was off.
I didn’t think I had any tears left, so I stayed dry-eyed until I got to my friend’s house. In his company, as I recounted my story, I broke down. I felt rudely awakened into a reality I thought I should have been eased into. As my friend began talking about other stories he’d heard, and to explain the terminology that is ‘kito’, I’ll admit, I felt a little betrayed by him. Why couldn’t he have told me all this sooner, before I had to suffer for my ignorance? Surely, it would have made a difference, wouldn’t it?
On the bright side, my mother called my friend’s number to speak to me, the snoop that she is, and I was available to talk to her and tell her all about how my friend and I were attacked on our way to his house, and my phone and money robbed from me.
Written by Timothy