THE VALENTINE KITO

THE VALENTINE KITO

What will you do on Valentine’s Day?

Sleep.

This was what I kept telling the people – course mates and friends – who wouldn’t stop asking me about my plans for Valentine. This Valentine market that was on every single person’s lips in campus: What will you be doing on Valentine’s Day? Who will you be doing on Valentine’s Day? Where will you be going on Valentine’s Day? Who is going to be your Valentine?

Oh for fuck’s sake! The whole hubbub surrounding the approaching day in February had me feeling exasperated. And the fact that people reacted with incredulity whenever I gave my response to their questions about my Valentine plans had me feeling even more exasperated. What was wrong with me not wanting to go out and do things with someone? What was wrong with sleeping in after lectures, and later, perhaps call up my friend, Rita, for us to gist about her crazy ex-girlfriend and my stupid ex-boyfriend – who, by the way, I just couldn’t stop thinking about, what with this Valentine talk everywhere?

What was wrong with having no plans for Valentine other than the ordinary?

Well, unbeknownst to me, Fate had a one-of-a-kind Valentine treat waiting for me on February 14.

That Friday started out with a scheduled test we were supposed to have in my department. After waiting around, the lecturer eventually communicated to us that she wouldn’t be coming to class and so, the test was postponed. Madam probably had Valentine’s Day plans she couldn’t wait to get to.

Since the test was the only reason we were in out in class that day, it was unofficially the end of school for my department, and so, everybody was chattering excitedly as we poured out of the lecture hall and began dispersing to our various pursuits. A course mate was chattering next to me as we walked the long distance to the school gate, going on and on about how she didn’t have a boyfriend and was hoping someone would take her out for Valentine. At some point, I tuned her out by plugging an ear with my earpiece and semi-disappeared into the music playing from my phone, only nodding intermittently as she chattered on.

I just wanted to go home to my hostel, drop my things and head over to Rita’s room, where I was sure we would gist endlessly about past relationships. I was also pretty sure Rita would want to talk about this new woman in her life, a very hot lesbian who sells girl things in a small boutique on the other side of the road from the school gate. Blessing is her (real) name. I’d been with Rita to her shop once, and I didn’t like her. She is dark-skinned and admittedly pretty, and I could see why my friend was into her, with her big breasts and hefty derriere. But she also had this air of someone who was very familiar with badness; there was just something sly about her. But perhaps I was overthinking things. The most important thing was that my friend seemed happy with her. Whether this was a rebound from her last relationship or something she was really into, Rita was happy, and so I was happy.

Now that I had parted ways with my talkative course mate and was headed to my hostel, I suddenly remembered that my roommate had asked me to help him get a Valentine something for his girlfriend from Blessing’s shop. Actually, he just wanted me to help him get the Valentine something, and I decided to get it from Blessing’s shop. There were several other shops scattered across from the school gate, but I wanted to go to Blessing’s because I like to patronize LGBTQ-owned businesses. Also, there was a really nice necklace I saw in her shop the last time I was there with Rita; I didn’t have money then to purchase it. But I could do that now.

My business in Blessing’s shop was very swift. She had what my roommate wanted for his girlfriend, and so, I paid for it. I also got my necklace, and I was soon out of there. We didn’t spend any time chit-chatting about Rita or anything else.

With my earpiece back in both my ears this time, I stepped back on the road to continue on to the hostel. Then someone ahead of me gestured at me, saying something as well. I unplugged my ears to hear him pointing, saying that someone was calling me behind me.

I turned to see the man who would soon turn out to become my Valentine nightmare.

I didn’t know him. Didn’t even know his name – but let’s just call him Tiga. I recognized him from my last visit with Rita to Blessing’s shop; he owned a shop a few yards away from Blessing’s, where he sold guy things. He’d seemed very friendly with Blessing.

I retraced my steps and when I came within earshot of him, he said that he just wanted to talk to me in private. He was gesturing toward his shop, so I understood that he intended for us to go inside. I nodded and went close to him as he led me to the shop’s interior.

And that was when things took on a warp speed.

The moment we were ensconced inside his shop, he grabbed my shirt and shoved me back. His entire demeanour changed and he was an ugly human being.

“Shey na you be the homo wey your friend talk say wan fuck me, eh?” he snarled in a quiet tone, shoving and slapping my head.

My heart skipped a beat, and then started racing really fast, pumping fear throughout my veins. I didn’t know this guy, but his accusation of my homosexuality left me feeling instantly exposed. I was immediately aware of how much he smelled of cigarettes and how bloodshot his eyes were.

“You no sabi talk again?” he hissed, hitting my head again and again. “Homo like you! Faggot! No be you wey your friend talk say like me! Homo!”

Like you? What was this man talking about? I was so scared, I was petrified. My thoughts were scrambled and my voice was gone. I couldn’t make sense of his hostility.

He was still shoving me around and hitting me and cussing at me.

At a point, I found my voice long enough to demand, “What is all this? What are you talking about?”

He brought out his phone and waved it at me. “Oya call your friend fast! Today, hand don touch two of una!”

“Which friend are you talking about?” I asked, feeling my voice get stronger, even though my heart was still beating fear throughout my veins.

“That your friend wey be lesbian!” he snapped.

Rita! My heart froze and my confusion deepened. What was going on? How could Rita possibly know this man? And what on earth would make her tell this scum of a human being that I liked him?

Then I remembered that he was friendly with Blessing, and my brain scrambled to fit that information into the puzzling piece of drama that was unfolding before me.

“I say make you call your friend!” this man, Tiga, snarled, hitting me again.

Still feeling automated with fear, I took his phone. He already had Rita’s number on the screen, which I found more surprising. He dialed it and put it on speakerphone.

Rita answered. “Hello, who is this?”

I didn’t respond.

Tiga slapped me across the face so hard, I went blank for a few seconds. I saw nothing but dark shadows.

“Talk!” he hissed, clearly not wanting to be heard by the person on the other end of the line. “Tell your friend make she come here.”

I was starting to shake now. “Rita… Rita…” I stuttered into the phone. “Please come.”

She called my name, as though to ascertain that I was the person she’d just heard. When I answered, she said, “What is going on? Where are you?”

I didn’t answer her questions. I simply told her to come meet me at the shops opposite the school gate. Intuiting into the tenseness of my voice, she asked me what was wrong, and I reiterated what I said, asking her to just come and meet me there. I wanted to say more, to tell her to clear whatever conversations she had on her phone that was “incriminating” and had anything to do with Blessing. But I couldn’t.

Tiga had disconnected the call. Then he turned his nasty look to me and said the words that finally caused me to step back into my right senses.

“Na today una go hear,” he said. “In fact, money go enter this issue. You must drop better something before I go leave una.”

I am very particular about how money leaves my hand. Whatever expenditure I make has to be absolutely justified and I am barely reckless with my money. So, to suddenly be confronted by the possibility of parting with money over something I knew absolutely nothing about reset my mind from fear to anger.

I suddenly realised that I didn’t need to be here. I didn’t need to be harassed. I didn’t need to endure this bullshit. I’d allowed the fear over his accusation of my homosexuality to paralyze me from realizing that I’d done NOTHING WRONG! I didn’t know who this man was. And as far as I was concerned, I’d never gotten myself involved in anything connected to him that could expose me as a gay person.

So what was I doing cowering in fear inside here?

Another thing I noticed was that he’d been talking in a relatively low voice since he took me hostage in his shop – which meant that he was looking for a payday. His plan, it seemed to me, was to use the threat of exposure to terrify me – and maybe Rita – into giving him money without actually intending to expose us.

When he reached out to shove me again, I shoved back at him. Fury kindled my eyes as he stared at me, startled by my sudden energy. Without saying anything to him, I made for the door. He tried to grab at me, and with strength I didn’t know I possessed, I pushed him back. He staggered and fell.

I was almost out the door, when he grabbed at my hand, and began to shout, “Homo! Homo! Shebi only by yourself, you wan bust man nyash!”

With my heart pounding, as I now realized that he was about to make this a public spectacle, I yanked his grip from my hand. He grabbed my shirt, and began truly screaming: “GAY! GAY ooo!!! THIS ONE NA HOMO!”

And with the quickness that only homosexuality has the power to command, people began to gather, immediately crowding around us. Hostility began to build as questions started flying around, demanding answers as to what was going on. Tiga quickly launched into a story about how I wanted to fuck him, how I wanted to bust his nyash.

As this was going on, with shaky hands, I got out my phone and began calling for backup. I called my roommate and some friends, impressing on them the urgency of coming out to the school gate area to help me. I also quickly uninstalled all the messaging apps in my phone, from WhatsApp to Instagram and Facebook Messenger. I was close to tears, but they were angry tears. I couldn’t believe what was happening to me.

Meanwhile, more people were gathering, and tensions were running swiftly high. Voices were raised and with a sinking heart, I could see them turning into a mob, getting bloodthirsty. Hands were on me, shoving me and hitting me. Predictably, some people began shouting for me to be tied up and burned.

Yes! Burned!

I stared aghast as someone even rolled a tire over and others were demanding for someone to get fuel. My life was starting to flash before my eyes. I started shouting words in my defense, shouting for Tiga to show them proof of what he was accusing me of, for him to show them proof that I am a homosexual and that I wanted to have sex with him. As I shouted and the crowd began backpedalling, I couldn’t believe my stupidity for not having voiced this earlier.

“Where the proof?” someone from the crowd demanded. Others began to murmur, and I seized the moment to launch into my story about how Tiga forced me into his shop and demanded that I give him money. That it was because I resisted and began to fight my way out of his shop, that he decided to accuse me of homosexuality.

I think it was at this point that the crowd began to take a close look at the two of us, at the fact that I was this slenderly-built young man in his twenties, and that the man who accused me of wanting to bust his nyash was taller and better built than me. The disparity in our physical frames suddenly created doubts as to how I could possibly dominate this man.

Some people started unhanding me and voices began to quieten. Even then, someone said, “But see the way him dey behave like woman. E mean say na homo wey him be!”

Before this observation could lead to further escalation, my roommate accompanied by some guys from our hostel arrived. One of them was my hostel governor, Onome, a final-year student who behaved in a manner of one who had some authority and knew it. He quickly took charge of the situation as my roommate came to stand by my side, shielding me from the hostility of the crowd.

Rita was still a no-show.

After they were filled in on the nature of the situation, Onome and some of the other guys echoed what some people from the crowd said. Where was his proof of my homosexuality?

Tiga became shifty and taciturn, shouting, “Na me dey tell you, him na homo! His friend na lesbian sef!”

Onome became angry and said furiously, “Oga, stop wasting our time! We are not here for any friend of his. You keep saying he’s gay. Where’s your proof?”

“Oya, follow me, make I show you,” he said and waved at them to go with him as he turned and began walking away.

At this point, the angry mob of earlier had begun to lose interest and was dispersing. My roommate told me to sit there by Tiga’s shop, that he was going with the others to see what Tiga had to show them and to resolve the issue. I gratefully sank into a seat, finally feeling waves of relief crash into me as I observed the danger hanging over my life start to recede.

Everybody had departed from the scene, except a handful of people, about ten men – ten very noisy men who were still agitating to beat me, this accused homosexual. Their eyes were still eager and unkind.

I watched the guys who came to back me up as they followed Tiga to Blessing’s shop, and that information I was struggling to insert into this puzzling mess arose again. Suspicion began to build and I started to realise that this woman who my friend had a crush on was perhaps a part of this setup. She could have even masterminded it with Tiga.

At this moment was when Rita finally arrived. She came to where I was seated and sat next to me. From the quietness of her manner, I figured she had been in the vicinity for quite awhile, observing and waiting until things calmed down to approach me. I didn’t know whether to be mad at her or to appreciate her sense of self preservation. I had questions to ask her, things to say to her. But the adrenaline high I was on earlier had begun to dissipate and I was now just very exhausted. So we sat there, quietly, not saying anything to each other.

Actually, I said one thing to her. I asked her if she deleted her chats and sanitized her phone. She said yes.

Then after a short while of sitting and waiting, she asked me to go check what was going on in Blessing’s shop. I got up and walked over there. From the door, I could hear Rita’s voice coming from someone’s phone. I stood there long enough to know that it was a voice note, and that the content of the voice note was Rita talking dirty – obviously to Blessing.

I stood there, shell-shocked. So I’d been right. Blessing was the kito mastermind. She and Tiga had apparently come up with a plan to fleece Rita. I became part of their plan by association with Rita. Rita couldn’t have told Blessing I was gay; they had calculated me in because of my effeminacy.

I went back to Rita and told her what I heard and what I figured was what happened. She nodded, not at all looking surprised, like she had figured it out even before I told her.

Soon, the others emerged from Blessing’s shop. From the way they moved, the case against me had been dismissed. In fact, the other guys from my hostel were already walking away, headed back to the hostel. My roommate walked back to me and told me to follow him out of there.

As I stood to follow him, I looked a question at Rita. She waved at me to go on, that she could take care of herself. In fact, as I walked away with my roommate, she was already on the phone, seemingly calling someone to come and fix the situation for her. She’d always been well connected in school.

My roommate and I walked some distance, before he stopped and turned to me. His voice was calm and kind as he said to me, “Look, I no fully understand this boy-to-boy thing, and I no too see sense for wetin dey inside am. But I know you.” He paused, and then continued, “I know say you be very good person. I like how you take dey. Na you wey talk one time say make we dey really look far with person before we talk rubbish. And I don look you far, see say you be good person. So, whatever you dey do with this thing, just keep yourself safe abeg.”

I nodded, and we had a moment, before he turned and we continued our walk back to the hostel.

I would later meet up with Rita that evening. As expected, she had gotten someone to fix the mess her thirst for Blessing created. She didn’t tell me much about what exactly the resolution was, but I had a feeling she wouldn’t be talking to, flirting with or crushing on Blessing again for a very long time.

Written by Real-Me

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15 Comments

  1. Sim
    February 22, 06:23 Reply

    I had a moment, had tears reading this. U may have PTSD for years to come, or lucky to quickly move on and heal. But May God bless ur roommate. You are a survivor.

  2. Seethe
    February 22, 06:45 Reply

    This was just beyond. You did nothing, yet! This is for those people who think they have safety all figured out. You could be out minding your business and next thing you’ll be lynched on mere suspicion. This country is a toxic stew of hate, babarity and callousness.

    • trystham
      February 22, 10:16 Reply

      Liiiiiike!!!! Person jez siddon for room, trailer leave express come jam am for inside.

      Now, what happened to the kito mastermind?

  3. Sugar
    February 22, 07:30 Reply

    In all that rancor, you have a roommate who is an angel… God bless him.

  4. Sadiq
    February 22, 07:43 Reply

    As i read this story, particularly where the man accused you of a crime you never committed and how the society resolved to set you ablaze, my heart sank deeply. I question the humanity in us with the level of hate and callousness permeating our every being.

  5. Higwe
    February 22, 07:51 Reply

    Nice one .
    You held your own .
    It could have been worse though …thank God for life and the great people He brought into your life .

    **********
    I think Rita did what any smart person would do.
    Does it make her a great friend ?
    Perhaps not
    A conspicuous thinking person with a healthy dose of survival mentality ?
    Definitely yes !

    I’d still keep her as a “friend” …don’t just go sticking out your neck for her.

    Reciprocation is a very important commodity in life .
    Even Jesus who sacrificed himself SELFLESSLY on the cross still expect us to live in a certain way .

  6. Daniel
    February 22, 07:52 Reply

    Oh my!!!!

    I don’t know what to say. The writing is brilliant on its own, and then the story is just out of my heart.
    I am so glad you are ok.
    And thanks for sharing.

    I really wished I was there. I really wished I was, reading it made me feel as though I was there but I couldn’t do anything and it made me wished I was truly there cause it got me angry.

    I hope you heal from this soon. I can’t just imagine.

  7. Zoe
    February 22, 09:17 Reply

    I am truly sorry you had to experience. Accused and almost got killed for a crime you knew nothing about. The willingness to burn you alive on the part of the mob shows how unsafe we queer men are. Nobody wants an explanation as long as the word homo has been uttered.
    I believe the man and his fellow conspirator – blessing will surely get what’s coming their way.
    You are a strong man and thanks for sharing your experience.

  8. Gif
    February 22, 10:48 Reply

    Oh my! To think that some Nigerians wouldn’t blink an eyelid to set someone ablaze for whom they chose to love and fuck is really heart wrenching!
    Little wonder God keeps punishing the country with bad leaders

  9. Shadow
    February 22, 11:31 Reply

    “But see the way him dey behave like woman. E mean say na homo wey him be!”
    A valid reason to lynch someone accused of homosexuality in Nigeria. This is why I’d never translate the genuine concern of some straight people towards gay people as homophobia. Truth is you can get lynch just based on speculations, thank God this poster found his voice and was able to overcome his fears at the right time. Stay safe guys.

  10. Astar
    February 23, 22:19 Reply

    This just brought back a lot of feelings. Thank God you survived this. Don’t live a victim. Don’t allow this experience take anything more from you than it must have already taken. Hold your head up high, act strong even if you don’t feel like it. With time you would have sent enough message to the universe to back you up.

  11. Tristan
    February 24, 16:36 Reply

    Sighs.

    My eyeballs were popping out to this story. I’m literally appalled reading this.

    And at the end of it all, you survived.

    It’s a lesson to all of us:

    1.Be wary of the friends you keep.

    2.You might have to take caution before talking to a stranger.

    3. Be good. It’s not synonymous with seeking validation from other people nor easily reaching a compromise. Being a good person can fetch you genuine friends.

    ——⬇⬇⬇

    That ballyhooed Valentine’s day and it’s overrated relevance is just too sick — when all people wanna do is just shag and get over with it🙄

  12. Oslo
    February 25, 10:33 Reply

    The words of your roommate to you made my eyes teary. Thank God you are safe 💙💙💙

  13. Ebube
    February 27, 12:01 Reply

    So my eyes are filled with tears!
    I don’t even know what to say right now

  14. Bennet
    February 29, 04:04 Reply

    In an anger fit right now because you did absolutely nothing, were jejely on your own, minding your own fucking business, and then this. Considering how much I hate my surroundings interfering with my personal mental space, I’m enraged. So sorry.

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