Everyone knows that you never forget your first time.
Akindayo knew this well. The memory of it never left him. At times, it was quiet like the bushes of Ibadan at midnight, and sometimes it was loud like a drunkard walking through the streets of Lagos on a Friday night, but it never left. The most it did was sleep.
On his 18th birthday, as Pastor Tobi prayed over him in the same tongues Akin has been hearing ever since he was born, he looked over to see her staring at him with a strange look. It was not a new one. He saw it at odd moments for the past few years and it was a reminder that he did not carry this burden alone. She too had been blessed with this curse.
He had known Toyosi ever since he was 7. She was 9, had just come back from Nigeria, and had what he used to call a “very weird way of speaking”. She spoke a lot, and Akin quickly realised when speaking with her that she was satisfied if he just nodded from time to time. She looked just like her father Pastor Tobi, but had the complexion and beauty of her mother, Aunty Joke. However her personality was all hers. She would tell stories of how lizards and wall geckos were lords over the walls and you could go nowhere without seeing them. She would mimic the way the lizards nod in a way that had them falling down laughing and holding their bellies each time, and he soon subconsciously started nodding like a lizard whenever she would tell a story.
By the time he was 11 and she was 13, everyone in church knew them as best friends. He was over at their house so much, that Aunty Joke started calling him her second husband whilst Pastor Tobi started calling him his son. Toyosi was a bit of a tomboy, and so he didn’t see it as anything significant. She was practically just one of the guys, and was one of the best midfielders he had ever seen. Every Sunday after Church, they would go to the local astroturf and fall into their automatic roles as captains. Being on the same team wouldn’t be much fun, and so they made it their goal to be rivals each time. It wasn’t much of a rivalry as her team beat his constantly, but it kept things interesting. She played semi-pro football for a while after, and Akin used to regularly think to himself that maybe she could have gone pro if things didn’t turn out the way they did.
He remembered she was a girl when he was 14. It all changed overnight. One day she was wearing her T-shirt and jeans, and the next she was wearing maxi dresses and skirts. He began to notice the curves that were never originally there, and how when she laughed it would pierce any black cloud following him. It was the first time he truly understand what holy meant. And she could feel it too. He tended to be oblivious to how many girls desired him (as boys of that age tend to be), but she started noticing how many stared at him when they went out, and out of curiosity she started staring too. And she realized soon enough that he was worth staring at. He was worth listening to. Her mum had always said that he was a very handsome boy, but she never saw it. Until she did.
One day, he decided to go to her house and wait for her. She had traveled with her football team to Liverpool and they were coming back that night, so he decided to go to her house and wait to surprise her. Pastor Tobi had traveled to Ghana on a ministry trip, but Aunty Joke was around, and so he decided to hang out and watch some TV until Toyosi arrived. At 5:57pm, a time he has never forgotten, Aunty Joke shouted for him,
“ Okọ keji, jẹ ki o ran mi lọwọ lati gbe apoti yii. My second husband, come and help me carry this suitcase.”
He put down the bowl of chin chin he had been eating and ran to where Aunty Joke was. She was standing by the side of her bed looking at a suitcase on top of the wardrobe, and he licked his fingers and proceeded to position himself to carry it. Aunty Joke stepped aside, and he began to stretch, when he felt her seem to edge closer towards him. He thought nothing of it and concentrated on the task at hand, till her hand was over his groin. He froze and couldn’t move. Things are a blur after that. What he does remember is Toyosi’s face when she walked in to find her mum and her best friend half naked in bed. It was a weird mixture of anger, shock and hurt. Aunty Joke jumped up to chase after her daughter, whilst he somehow managed to get his things and go home.
They stopped speaking after that. What is there to say after that? Everything about that day hurt her. The image she saw. Her mother. Her best friend. The fact that she had scored a hat-trick and won the tournament, and never had a chance to celebrate it with him. She won it for him. The image of her mother kneeling down before her half naked and crying that the devil made her do it, and that she shouldn’t say anything. The guilt that ate her up because she listened and kept a secret that should have never been hers to keep. It choked her for a long time after.
It all came to a head when Aunty Joke died a year later.
She was involved in a car accident on the M4, when her car hit a truck at full speed. Everyone from Church would never forget where they were when they heard the news. Toyosi never forgot the look on her father’s face as she came out of her college building at the end of the school day. He was with two of the Church deacons and he walked briskly towards her to utter words that would change her life.
The funeral stayed fresh in Toyosi’s mind. The feelings of hopelessness. Of loss. Of anger. Of guilt, because maybe all the curses she had shouted to the heavens for months after that night had been heard. Grandma always used to tell her to be careful of what she said, as the wrong angel might be listening. Maybe an angel of death had been sympathetic to her case and had thought that this would be blessing. How wrong he was, she thought, as her father’s denominational overseer gave a eulogy that she knew in her heart to be false.
Akin too felt robbed. He never had a chance to explain himself. He never had a chance to tell Toyosi that he didn’t want it. That he didn’t know how to say no. That the shock of it all paralysed him and his body decided to ignore his heart. He never got to tell Aunty Joke how betrayed he felt. How deep the wounds went, and how they haunted his mind at every second. There was no one he could share his guilt and shame with. He knew he was underage, yet he felt it hard to classify himself as a victim. He wrestled with what label to give himself for a long time. The day after Pastor Tobi prayed for him, he finally settled with “pathetic”. By the time his first year of university came, he welcomed the opportunity to start a new life.
He never went back to that Church. He embraced Sodom instead.
To be continued…