Previously on MY NAME IS DIMEJI…
Remember Uzo? The guy I was escaping to Kaduna to stay with?
Well, after my mother read our messages, she sent him a message that was something along the lines of “Dimeji is stupid and he puts people in trouble.”
You won’t hear any disagreement from me.
In the days leading up to my big escape, Uzo had sent me all the money he had. I guess I was going to be the one managing our finances. He’d sent me his money, and after that, I’d paid our rent for six months. He was to come into the apartment that same day, Wednesday, and I was going to meet him in the evening.
But then, I got caught.
One of the first things I said to my parents was, “I need to go to the bank.” This was because my card had been swallowed by an ATM, but more because I was with Uzo’s money. I made it clear, really clear, that I needed to send him his money back.
My parents had been in contact with his parents though, and they said I should hold on. They had my phone, so I couldn’t do a transfer. I couldn’t also contact Uzo to get his account number, and there was no way I would be able to sneak out to the bank. His parents had told mine not to let me send the money.
After a while, I remembered that there was a sim card in my MiFi and I could use it to send text messages. So, I got Uzo’s number from Google contacts (I’m a mild Google-stan, lol) and sent him a text. He’d been in that apartment for a while. He had no money. At some point, he had to sneak back home to get food. He needed to go to the hospital. There was so much. Eventually, he had to go back home.
I was never allowed to return the money. Uzo’s parents said they’d get our rent back from the landlord, so my mother, with a fervor that suggested to me that she was trying to ensure that all the money was spent so I wouldn’t be able to run away again, told me I should spend the money on new clothes. I did. I liked the new clothes. They were nice. And I chose them myself, on my own; there was no one there, like there usually was, to make the choosing process more harrowing than it needed to be.
But I still felt terrible, because I was the one who came up with this escape idea in the first place. And now, because of me, it had failed, and Uzo’s life, bad as it was before me, was definitely going to be worse now. (There’s a lot of story there, but it’s not my story to tell)
I was… okay, I guess. There had been friction, but not enough to kill that hope I’d gotten after that first conversation. We were actually, for a little while, living truthfully. I still had to go to school and to church. I still had to have a lot of these “talks”. There was a time my mom came to my room to cry and beg that I “come back to the family”. But, overall, I felt things would be okay.
It was still kind of the beginning. School was as school is. I’d begun and I was trying. I didn’t want to be in school. I’d made it clear that I wasn’t confident at all but that I would try. And I was trying. The thing about overwhelming stuff that you don’t want to do is that in order to not get overwhelmed, you have to go slowly and give yourself room to breathe. They didn’t want me to be overwhelmed, so I was trying not to be overwhelmed. I was doing the work as best I could while trying to avoid the burnout that would lead to everything not working.
There’s something here about having cakes while eating them.
About a month after my ruined escape, on a Saturday afternoon, my mother came into my room to see how the work was going. It was schoolwork. Practical work. I was writing a report. She wasn’t satisfied because I was slow. I wasn’t not doing the work, but that was what she reported to my father, that I wasn’t doing the work at all. And he came to talk to me about it.
A little context: previously, I’d been looking for my bible. I couldn’t find it and I didn’t know where it went. I usually kept it on the table beside my bed. I searched (to be honest, half-heartedly) for it. Eventually, my father came and said we should look together, and after not very long, I found it sandwiched in between some books on the desk (the desk had this wide space that was like a mini bookshelf and lots of books were stacked there).
OK, back to the story.
When my father came to talk to me after my mother’s report, I told him that I was doing the work albeit a bit slowly, that I was slow because I was trying not to get overwhelmed. He was saying something – I can’t remember what (probably something about me not reading my bible as much as I should have) – and then he said, “That’s how you hid your bible the other day.”
I was shocked by this and made immediately to defend myself that “I did not hide my bible.” If I was going to hide my bible, there were better hiding places. And he took my raised tone as an attack. I didn’t mean to raise my voice but, with the combination of my frustration with the conversation and annoyance at his accusation, I did. Even with that, I’m still baffled that my tone then was taken as an attack. In no time, my father was in my face shouting, “You’re shouting at me? Are you shouting at me? OK. Come and beat me now, like they told you to!”
Here’s some more context: someone and I had a conversation on Twitter, which my parents eventually read since they had my phone. The conversation was about whether my parents ever beat me. I’d said not recently and I recounted the most recent occurrence. The person asked, “Do you think you can beat your dad?” in a ‘can you protect yourself if they try to hurt you’ way. My dad, however, took it to mean that people on Twitter are telling children to beat up their fathers.
My mother joined in the shouting match throughout which I mostly stayed silent. They said a lot. They revealed to me (I’d previously been unaware) that they’d gone to a police station that day I fled from home. That they would have had “everyone” (referring to friends I’d made on Twitter) arrested but they were trying to protect me because I’d have been implicated. My father proceeded to show me all the “Inspector General” contacts on his phone. “Have you heard of Alagbon?” he screamed his thinly-veiled threat.
That was the end of our period of truthfulness. They basically threatened me with the police. They told me to bring my laptop to their room, that I’d be using it there from then on.
I cried and they thought those tears were “repentant”.
But I was just so frustrated.
I was ordered to delete all my social media accounts: Twitter, Instagram, Discord, Medium. While I was deleting those, my mom casually told me that if they wanted, they could stop me from continuing those online internships I was doing.
After this, it was back to lying. Pretending to believe in god again. Pretending that I wasn’t gay again. Pretending to be totally stoked and happy about school and schoolwork.
Obviously, it got overwhelming. Obviously, I slipped again. It’s almost like I was being honest with myself when I said I couldn’t do it. Who’d have thought?
And so, it got worse.
It had been weeks and the hope that my parents would give me my phone back soon and let me talk to people was dead. The agreement we’d arrived at had been shredded and everything had gone to hell.
Then I remembered I had an old Twitter account that got locked right after I created it, after it asked for a phone number I didn’t supply (I was in school at the time). I had a GLO sim I wasn’t using and my sister had asked for it. I used that sim and unlocked that account and started secretly using it. I mostly used the account to vent and send people DMs.
When I unlocked the account, I knew a lot of people would be asking the same question: “Where did you go?” I knew I would get tired quickly replying the same thing to the same words, so I made a Medium draft and I sent the link to everyone who asked.
I had to use my computer in their room now. I had to be sneakier about using Twitter because I wasn’t allowed. Seun wasn’t talking to me anymore because of my parents (they really can be scary). Uzo had started to avoid me too. That sucked.
At some point, I typed up a letter. I printed it out. And I left it on their bedside table. They didn’t see it. So, I went in, picked it up and showed them that I’d written them a letter. They read it.
In it, I spoke my heart again. I told them how I felt. What I felt. What I thought. What I knew. I also mentioned that I had a secret Twitter account.
I was expecting a reaction, something furious and outraged. But that didn’t happen. They read my letter, said some things, and that was that. Nothing came of that. Nothing changed. Everything stayed the same.
By the time a month passed, I was kind of in a daze. I was just floating through everything. I was back to that point, deer in the headlights, where I couldn’t really move or do anything other than pretend that all was well.
Then something happened. Something good.
I’d applied for a job back in June/July and I got an email that they’d like to interview me. This wasn’t an internship. It was an actual job with actual work and an actual pay that I could actually put on my résumé as experience. I was excited. But I was also scared. I didn’t think my parents would let me go.
And they didn’t. They’d said it would probably affect school; I had to go to school every Monday and Tuesday. I told them that I still wanted to go for the interview as a learning experience. But my father said the position, as a Junior Frontend Developer, was beneath me. That I was destined for great things and I should stop thinking small.
This was… so angering! I was angry. I didn’t understand it. Beneath me? Who the fuck was I? Junior roles are where most people start in the industry. I wasn’t not some special snowflake that can bank on coming straight in at an intermediate role. It wasn’t like Google was going to come and hire me straight away as a senior developer just because I graduated from university in an unrelated discipline. And what was the harm anyway even if the role was so beneath me?
I was angry, and I expressed this anger in messages to people. Angry. So angry. Why wouldn’t they let me do this? It was at least just an interview. The bank wasn’t far from home. It wasn’t on a day I had to go to school. Why? Why did they have to be so controlling? You’d say, “Well, just go for the interview anyway” – as if they’d let me out of the house. As if I didn’t know what would be waiting for me when I got back home. There was still so much they could take away from me. So I was a dog with no bite. All I could do was bark. And bark I did. I said things. Mean things. I vented.
And then, my mother decided that I was hiding something (which I was) and started inspecting my computer. I don’t use Windows often. I mostly use Linux. I’m lucky in that regard because my mother had trouble navigating the unfamiliar experience. If not, it wouldn’t have taken her long to find the incognito Chrome window where I was logged into on my secret Twitter account and had just finished my various rants.
She found something else though. An excel file that I’d used for schoolwork. We’d had practical and there was data to record, and I had my laptop – so why not? I’d typed the data, and because I was bored, I typed other things on the side. Random rambling, stuff about how anxious I was, how sad and suicidal I was, how I had a crush on one of my lab partners, how gay I was. Just slack messages with random people.
My mother read these, and she was angry. “So you still feel like dying?” she shouted at me. Then it was as though she’d suddenly remembered that letter I wrote, where I admitted to having a secret Twitter account, because she snapped, “In fact, come and delete that Twitter you opened.”
I was reeling. I was numb. Devastation is wreaking havoc to my insides. I was just going to delete it and go. I was tired. So, I logged in and I was about to hit the “Deactivate account” button when she stopped me and said, “Let me see.”
And so, together with my father, they read all the messages. My furious rants. The mean things I’d vented.
And boy, were they livid. So angry. So very angry. My father shouted, “It’s not a threat! You’re going to sleep in a cell tonight!” while he fumbled with his phone. Then, “write down all the names and addresses of these people you messaged! They’re going to jail!”
Really! I mean, who knows the legal names and addresses of all their Twitter contacts?
“Write down his name!” He was pointing furiously at the laptop screen as he fumed. “Who else is there? Write ‘used toilet paper’!”
I remember that one specifically, because someone’s twitter name was “used toilet paper”, lol. I was slapped when I said I didn’t know anyone’s address.
Then my father ordered me to write “Get thee behind me, Satan” a hundred times. Pen on paper. Get thee behind me, Satan.
After that, I pretended to repent again. And for whatever reason, they believed me.
My dad asked me if I wanted to repent and I said yes and he believed me. Why did he believe me after everything that had just happened? Because, it should be clear that after threatening me with the police, that I’d say anything out of fear or a need for them to leave me alone. But they chose to believe me.
However, it didn’t take long for something to happen again.
Written by Dimeji