IN THE CLOSET

IN THE CLOSET

You were 5 when you had your first closet. Dark hardwood with a light brown varnish, it became your sanctuary. It was easy for Ifeoma and Olisa, your older siblings, to catch you during hide-and-seek, because everyone knew your favourite hiding place was in your closet.

 

You were 6 when you first read a story that featured imaginary monsters hidden in a closet. That night, as Mother tucked you in, you whispered to her in what you thought was an ominous voice, “Mummy, there’s someone in my closet.”

Mother laughed at you, in that way adults laugh when children say or do something silly. “There’s no one in your closet,” she said, as she tweaked your nose. “You just have an overactive imagination.”

You didn’t argue with her, you never did. You just closed your eyes and went to sleep.

You were 9 when you felt the first twinge, the first pull that suggested that you were different. You felt it in the heat that flooded your belly, the tremors in your breath, the sudden uneven staccato of your heart’s thumping. It was the pressure you felt down below, filling your loins and causing you to blush every time Chinedu smiled at you.

Upon a Saturday noon, while you all were watching a movie, you blurted it out.

“I like Chinedu,” you said.

Mother smiled at you, patted your cheek, and said, “We know. Chinedu wouldn’t be your best friend if you didn’t like him.”

And again, you didn’t say anything further. Not because you couldn’t, but because you thought her answer was the right one.

 

You were 11 when you first read about the closet. Boredom had led you, earlier that day, to start reading the dictionary. A chronological read soon turned to you looking up words that held a particular attraction for you.

And so, you stumbled on closet. And you saw it, for the first time, in black and white:

[IDM: come out of the closet: to admit something that you kept secret before, especially because of shame and embarrassment…]

And you recalled the memories you’d suppressed: memories of you wearing Mother’s shoes, cocooned in an oversize blouse of hers, strutting in front of the full-length mirror on your closet door. You recall Father swatting your bum the day he caught you, and his heated words afterwards: “Men must not wear women’s clothes. It is an abomination in the sight of God!”

 

You were 12 when you were first caught. Ifeoma had barged into your room to see your lips locked with Chinedu’s. It was all your idea: you’d asked him to kiss you as payment for the Maths assignment you had just finished for him. He first gave you a peck on your cheek, but you insisted on him kissing you on the lips.

Ifeoma didn’t wait for Father to take off his shoes when he returned from work that evening, before she blurted it all out, malice shining in her eyes. And when Father rose in anger and slapped you, you saw victory in her eyes. “Finally,” her eyes seemed to say, “finally, the golden child has a fault.”

He didn’t stop beating you, Father didn’t. He had to be pulled away from your prone body by Mother and Olisa. His belt, his hands, his fists, his legs: everything had turned into an object to strike you with.

And, while he beat you, Father kept screaming prayers, binding and casting demons from your inner man, while pummeling your outer man into submission unto God.

You fell sick that night. And throughout the time of your sickness, Mother stayed by your bedside, constantly leading you to accept Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. And even after you got better, Mother’s preachments didn’t stop.

 

You were 13 when you received your first slap from Mother. You were in the kitchen, washing the dishes after dinner, and you were softly singing ‘If I Were A Boy’ by Beyoncé.

“…understand how it feels to love a girl. I swear I’d be a better man–” you were singing, when the slap landed on your cheek from behind.

“What is that nonsense you’re singing?” Mother asked, anger turning her face red and infusing her voice with heat. “Are you not a boy? Ehn, Ifemelunamma? Answer me!” she shrieked, her palm striking your cheek again. “Ọ wụ na ị bụrọ nwoke, ehn?”

The mother you knew, the mother who only used a cane to correct, and those only on the rarest occasions, was gone. In her place was a stranger glaring at you with anger and hate and judgement.

“Ka m ghara ịnukwa ebe ị na-agụ ụdịrị nonsense egwu a ọzọ. Never again! Ị na-anụ?”

And, once again, you nodded your acquiescence.

 

You were still 13 when you had your first scalding. You knew Mother wasn’t back from work yet. And Ifeoma, your self-appointed monitor had gone to see her friend in the next compound. Olisa was at his JAMB lesson. And you were home alone.

So, you turned on your radio, and played one of your cassettes, filled with songs you’d dubbed from the radio. Brick and Lace’s Love is Wicked came on, and you were moving your waist, twisting your torso and shaking your hips to the song.

You did not hear your door open, did not see the horror on Mother’s face, the resolve that hardened in her eyes before she quietly closed your door. Twice, you rewound the song to dance afresh to it.

And, while you were dancing, you heard your door open. You turned around in time for the hot water she threw at you to wash over your chest, your stomach and your back. You screamed as the heat stung your skin, as the water cooked you where you stood.

And, beneath your screams, you heard Mother furiously declaring, “I bind you, snake spirit! Every evil spirit manifesting in my son, I bind you!” Her statements were punctuated by splashes of hot water on your skin.

“Say amen!” she screamed, as she scooped more water from the bucket she held. “Say amen while I pray for you, ọsịsọ!”

And you did. You said amen over and over again; amens punctuated by your tearful screams.

 

You were 14 when you were taken for your first deliverance session. The doors of your bedroom and bathroom had been vandalized by Father, who took out the bolts, the locks and keys, and even the handles. He’d almost taken the doors off the hinges, but he was stopped by Olisa who insisted that you should be allowed a measure of privacy.

“At least, to dress and undress without an audience,” he’d said.

So, it was easy for Mother to walk into your room and catch you with your hands down your pants, stroking yourself. The sound she made, like she’d held herself from retching, was what alerted you to her presence. And the look she gave you, like you were the worst kind of scum, told you that something bad was going to happen.

Only, you could never have guessed how bad it would be. You were bathed, beaten, prayed over, beaten, starved, beaten, doused with candle wax, beaten, stretched, tossed and flung around in deliverance sessions, and beaten some more, all in the name of Jesus the Deliverer.

It was six long, hard weeks for you. And you could not wait to go home, to return to the safety of home, to the safety of familiar horrors, unlike the church where you lived on edge, not knowing what new horror they would devise for you.

When Father and Mother came for you, Ifeoma’s gloating face stared at you through the glass windows of the car as you made your way towards them. She was enjoying this, you realised. She enjoyed seeing you broken.

 

You were 15 when your nose was first broken. You had just returned from school and you met Olisa in the house. You greeted him, asked him about his studies in the university, and walked up to your room.

When you came downstairs, he had a friend with him in the sitting room. Ford, he said his name was. You found the name pretentious, an unnecessary encumbrance on a rather simple yet classy person.

You found him friendly, charming even. And, even though you had no clue of how to go about it, you began tentatively flirting with him. You didn’t think he noticed, but you knew Olisa had cottoned on to what you were doing when he told you to go to your room so he could talk with his friend.

You obeyed and returned to your room, where you immediately started praying that Olisa did not tell Mother or Father what you did. You waited, pensive, for him to return so you could apologise to him.

When the door to your room opened, you looked up and, by luck or chance, the punch that was aimed for your cheek smashed into your nose. You held your bleeding nose, trying to steady yourself, as you listened to Olisa rant about how disgusting you were.

And then he warned, “If I ever catch you cutting eye for any of my friends again, I will deal with you.”

You nodded your head, not trusting your mouth to speak without your eyes betraying you with tears.

 

You were 16 when you first decided on your escape. You were in Ford’s car – ironically, a Ford Escalade – or the car in his family’s fleet that he most preferred driving, and you were listening to some elusive orchestral piece whose name he’d refused to tell you. It was playing on the vehicle’s sound system, while your mind roved behind closed eyes.

It had been three weeks since you both stumbled into each other on your way back from school, and he had taken to coming to pick you up from school and dropping you off at your estate gate, after you’d both enjoyed a leisurely drive around while talking about everything and nothing.

You didn’t tell him about the home situation. You couldn’t. You knew he would pity you. And you did not want his pity.

“What are you thinking about?” he asked.

You chuckled, and, with your eyes still closed, you replied, “Nothing. Just keep driving, I’m dreaming.”

His gasp made you face him. “That’s the title of the song,” he said with a smile.

Keep driving, I’m dreaming.

It was perfect, you thought. And when you asked him to stop in front of Bertson’s Pharmacy, you didn’t stop him from following you into the building.

When you got home, you knew it was time. There was no one in the house. And you knew no one would be back till 6pm.

You took off all your clothes, opened the bottle of sleeping medications and emptied it all down your throat. Then you drew out a clean sheet of paper from one of your notebooks, and, in your long cursive handwriting, you wrote:

Keep driving, I’m dreaming.

Keep dreaming, I’m gone.

You wanted me in the closet.

Check the closet for the me you wanted.

You could feel the drowsiness coming, alongside a slight twinge in your stomach. You struggled to get to the closet. And when you opened it, you forced yourself, as much as you could, into it. You stood, a hand on the door, a leg outside, and the rest of your body in the closet.

And then you were asleep. But, this time, you knew you would not wake up.

Written by Mitch

Previous WELCOME TO THE WORLD
Next KITO ALERT: Beware The Shady Online Hookup

About author

You might also like

Fiction 11 Comments

Finding Him Again

When Chinedu Okafor discovered, as a thirteen-year-old, that he enjoyed looking at the bodies of boys, it bothered him a lot as he knew this was not a normal thing

Fiction 3 Comments

THE THRESHOLD

I was born on a cold dreary September morning. My mother would sometimes tell me in that way people tell stories they have forgotten they’ve told a hundred times about

Fiction 12 Comments

I LIKE BOYS

His throat felt like he hadn’t had water to drink in days. “Let’s share the Grace,” his mother said from where she’d been kneeling throughout the family devotion. Everyone else

12 Comments

  1. Tariq
    May 22, 11:01 Reply

    Dammmmn!

    This read here!!!

    Thumbs up Mitch.

    Loved every bit of it.

    PS: suicide is never the way out..

    At 11-15/16 the character shoulda known better to hide a lot of things about his real self n sexuality…just for sanity in the home front…and wait in hope for freedom….the University n life after …to freely be and express himself…at least to a better extent since this is still Nigeria.

    I believe I was wise enough at 11/12… I hid the most of me, my identity n my time behind the covers of great books thanks to our mini library collections at d house then.

    Well I was a mighty late bloomer at d end of d day…no regrets.

    At least, I got no beatings, made no troubles nor got into any, during those days of hormonal highs
    Made me a bookworm untill date

    • Sayyed
      May 23, 02:20 Reply

      Hi Tariq are you staying in the north?

      • Tariq
        May 25, 17:17 Reply

        Yes/No Monseur Sayyed.

        Any probs?

  2. ELISHAMA
    May 22, 11:46 Reply

    Disturbingly sad and beautiful at the same time; the making and destruction of a complete human soul BECAUSE…

  3. trystham
    May 22, 11:47 Reply

    I was shocked at the idea that anyone would pour hot water on another. 😱

  4. Polaris
    May 22, 13:53 Reply

    This was a great read. It got me really emotional, I’m almost crying. You are an awesome writer, Mitch. I should take lessons from you!

  5. Sayyed
    May 23, 02:19 Reply

    Tho it sound like fiction but it’s still emotional 😥😥

  6. Saucebutton
    May 23, 05:48 Reply

    Poked lots of sad emotions. Sadly, this is what we’ve to go through in a fucked up religiously country.

  7. Sweetcandy
    May 23, 14:13 Reply

    This was so emotional to read, like how would a mother be that wicked like how on earth. My mum knew I was gay before she passed yet she loved me. All she said was I don’t care who u are so long as u give me grand children. My mum was the best even my kid sis know my sexuality.

  8. Dumo
    May 24, 09:41 Reply

    I cried reading this😥
    A very sad story

  9. Mandy
    May 31, 10:45 Reply

    This truly broke my heart. I wanted life for this guy so much. If not for anything, to shame his wicked sister, to get back at her, to avenge on her the hurts and malice she’d destroyed his life with.

    This is what I want for everyone of us who hurts from family betrayals that leads to vicious outing: for us to survive so we can live and so we can make those who hurt us PAY!

Leave a Reply