Sinistrals Anonymous (by Winnie Izuogu)

“Your parents let you use your left hand? They did not flog you? No child of mine will try it. I go beat am comot for em body. ”

“Wait O! Na that hand you go take cook for your husband?” “If I marry u eeeh, I will break that hand and tie it to your back!”

“Are any of your parents left -handed? No? Then who come take am resemble?”

“Them still they talk say you be Lawyer, u come they use left hand on top. This girl u sure say u wan marry?”

It is 2016 and when some people find out I am left handed, they look at me as if I am a creature from outer space or a hydra headed monster they have not come across before. There are those who like it and want me to teach them how to use theirs, there are those who admire it, there are those who want to marry me because of it. These people as few as they are, are not the problem.

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Veinticinco (Or “Showing Up”)

31st July, 1990.
Warri, Bendel State.

“Isn’t the food here yet? ”

“Nna’m,  calm down, it’s almost ready. ”

Nna’m. That was how she addressed her husband. No sugary nouns, no shallow sweet-nothings, no expressions whose paper-thin weight you could even feel from the voice pitch. She loved him (dutifully at the very least), he protected her, she knew what she had to do around the house, he knew when to reach for his wallet, and that was it: the vintage West African couple, none of that Hollywood reality show faux gloss.

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Jazzy Ogagaoghene: Tales From The Runway

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There are women….there are beautiful women….and then there are models. We have seen them on TV, bought magazines with their figures gracing the pages, fantasized about them, meditated on them in bathrooms….but there is always this painful thing about “see but can’t touch”. Again, there is this idea about models not being useful for anything other than their looks and curves, but with age comes the desire to find out more beyond the surface, so I decided to find a model to interact with, to learn more about their act. No, I didnt want any of those Instagram models with 2000 purchased likes, I was aiming for one who did her thing on an actual runway, so when I bumped into Jazzy Ogagaoghene, I knew it was a blessing. (I know say nor be Gisele Bundchen or Allesandra Ambrosio, but make i hold this one first).

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Strange Boots

23rd September, 2015.

The spot hurts, and not without good reason. Twice in the space of ten minutes, that corner of my head has made forcible contact with a sharp-edged portion of the bus. Not that the bus is comfortable by any standards, but there is something about this part of the bus that makes it seem like a reservoir for pain. My head was already previously aching from a long day at the slave site I call an office, so the double bump is just perfect. No, I didn’t cause the hurt myself by nodding carelessly to loud music. On the two different occasions, passengers had thought it wise to make unsolicited body contact while boarding the bus, and apparently, an apology is too much to ask for in this big city. Life is too short for that, and besides, you should understand that the one thing on every passenger’s mind is getting home, so courtesy and good manners face suspension like a country’s constitution under a military junta. I am learning. There is still a lot to catch up on around here, but I’ll be fine….  Continue reading

Tar Blues

The bus windows are covered with curtains, but you violently pull them back. Nothing and nobody should stand in the way of a view of nature, and no one deserves to be obstructed from seeing the world outside, no, not even for the luxury of air conditioners. Then again, you need the view to clear your head; there had been a mix-up at the park over ticket prices and cash deposits, and the lady over the pay counter had thought it wise to resort to rudeness in the circumstances, forcing you to utter expletives in uncharacteristic fashion. It’s your first time at this transport company, and you know in your heart that they won’t get another chance at making a first impression. The fact that you have to settle for the back seat with your long limbs does not exactly assuage your feelings either.
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The Travel Journal

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It’s 9.35am. From the look of things, I got here just in time. I grab one of the few tickets left for this particular bus. Thankfully, I’ve missed that conscience-pricking sermon, I saw that grim-faced motor park preacher stepping aside as I came towards the bus. It also appears that there will be no physically challenged persons hounding us here today, I just saw them leave, and it’s not like I have a low naira denomination to give out anyway. I slot into the third row, as my long limbs make it detrimental for me to sit at the back, no matter the distance. I have the Chief Organizing Tout to thank for creating the space. He has directed someone with a much smaller frame to give up the seat I am now going to occupy for the rest of the journey. When it comes to this transport company, I know better than to sit in the row directly behind the driver’s seat; all kinds of luggage get fixed there, making it difficult for anyone seated there to have room for those necessary body adjustments. Continue reading

Facing Fact

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The sun is being really mean as I return from yet another day in court. Not quite one month since my debut appearance, not quite three months since I officially earned the right to be referred to as “lawyer”. The pots are expectedly empty (I have no plans of cooking this year), and I can’t really say whether my mattress is big enough for two, tomorrow being Valentine’s Day will be a better day to worry about that. I desire to have that siesta I like to think I deserve, but before I drift away, one unusual thought comes into my head ( as usual.) What if none of this is real? What if all that my life has been thus far is just part of a long dream, a dream I am having at age ten? (Some are of the view that six hours spent asleep could add up to a decade in the world of dreams.) Continue reading

Chilly Thoughts

rainy night

Like an incontinent old man finally emptying his bladder after a long stretch of holding it in, the rains held nothing back that night. Only a short burst of speed in shutting the windows prevented his mattress from getting completely soaked: dry season was well and truly over in this part of the country. The accompanying winds gave him no room to pause from shivering in spite of his wrapper, and he went deep into his box, frantically searching for his D & G sweater given to him by his father five years earlier. The battle with the elements would have been made easier, had he not discovered after his futile eight-minute search, that his sweater wasn’t in that box, and in fact no longer in his possession.

Yes, he had actually parted with the prized sweater a little over six months before that rainy night. Over the years he had exercised his high-grade chivalry with it, keeping the ladies warm on cold evenings and ultimately winning the hearts of some, but by the previous August he had unzipped it off his body for good. It now lay in the wardrobe of the one called Tracy, who hadn’t needed to say so much to take it from him as a parting gift. His shivers intensified in direct proportion with the downpour, and in those chilly moments, he dwelt his thoughts on her.

He was used to bringing ladies into his thoughts and kicking them out as frequently as Chelsea’s managerial changes, but with Tracy there was something different. She was a wild one, but there was something discreetly warm about her craziness which had him sweep a permanent room for her in his mental space. He never admitted it, but he was scared that she would forget him, hence the giving away of the sweater, whose absence he hoped his father would never notice.

Their first meeting wasn’t in the most conventional of places. It had been in a public TV room, somewhere in Eastern Nigeria where he was in the heat of a one-year professional academic sojourn. His favourite club was playing a football match that fateful night, and she, a fan of the same club, had been there. Tracy had noticed that he had been tweeting for the entire duration of the match, which moved her to comment on his multi-tasking ability. There was something about her dreadlocks and skimpy black dress that night, and he told himself that couldn’t be their last encounter, leading to an exchange of contact details.

For him, Tracy’s reputation preceded her. Before his first stare into her bright eyes, he had heard all sorts of things about her, and most of them unflattering too. From excessive sex cravings to drug use, he was armed with information that should have made him bear a pre-conceived notion about Tracy, but he knew better than to judge by hearsay. He was the curious type, always loving to find out the truth for himself, and he was drawn by what should have kept him away, not bothered about whether people thought he also sought a gulp of the juice.

Sure enough, Tracy was never far off from crazy. Her weird combination of hair colours, her evening gowns known for their trademark length (or lack thereof), and her generosity with swear words lent weight to what he had previously heard. But he loved the fact that she lived her life not bothered about people’s opinion of her. Beyond her eyes, gap tooth and legs, he admired her very good sense of hearing (ear infections sometimes have a bright side), and he lived for her short laughs whenever they talked.

He couldn’t help but feel sorry for people who assessed others from what they heard or merely observed from the surface. There were mood swings, yea there were times when Tracy could really go nuts, but at least she was honest and unpretentious about who she really was, a quality hard to come by these days. Beneath the devil-may-care attitude was a really intelligent lady who knew a lot more than hair and shopping. Besides their love for Manchester United, they also shared a love for movies and alternative music, and she could also relate to his artistic side, regularly going through his works and ultimately becoming a fan of his. For him, she was one person around him he could totally be himself, say anything without trying to be prudish about it, and one with whom he totally felt at home with. Whenever he found time to pray, he thanked his Maker for getting a chance to know her better.

He wished people could take her more seriously and see her beyond whatever persona may be displayed on the outside. They had revealed much to each other, and he knew that Love hadn’t always ranked high on her scale of preference. He wished she could take out time to love. He wanted her to have less mood swings. It wasn’t so much about being her man as it was about wanting her happiness, wanting the best for her. Not that he would have minded whispering to her ears and stroking her hair on such a night when Nature was being so cruel, but she was no less than ten hours apart, and as he froze, he imagined her curled up in bed, his D & G tightly zipped around her torso.

He dialled her number and predictably, there was no answer. There was something still too ungodly about 2.20am in terms of being awake. Not like he had much to say anyway. He just wanted to hear her voice, to find out about the weather where she was, to know that she was warm. Well it was a good thing that she was too deep in slumber to pick his call, he told himself. At least she was sleeping peacefully, not being kept awake by worries or sad thoughts. As his nose began to feel the effects of the cold, he could feel it within him that Tracy was alright, and he managed to smile amidst the sneezing, as Tracy’s health was all that mattered to him at the moment.

David And Jonathan

Friday nights were always lively at this club located somewhere in one of the more secluded parts of Lagos, but there was an extra dimension to the frenzy that night. It was as if the rain that fell earlier in the day did much to fuel the mood. Everyone was dressed in bright-coloured clothes as if previously planned, the diverse genres of music that seeped from the club’s loudspeakers influenced the dance moves on show, and no one chose to shy away from the drinks that flowed from table to table. Somewhere at one end of the room, two lovers were making out with that passion which suggested they may not have seen each other in months. No one could blame them though, this was one of the very few places where they could really express how they felt about each other.

Yes, this was one of the few hangouts in Lagos, or South-western Nigeria as a matter of fact, where two people of the same sex could give expression to the sexual desires they felt for each other. Club Rainbow, the most exquisite of the very few gay clubs in these parts, was strategically built in a part of town most difficult to locate or maintain surveillance, and thrived on patronage by some of those in the upper class who could effectively combine guts and discretion. For Alex and Bob, the two males whose lips were so passionately tangled, this was the best place they could celebrate the fourth year anniversary of their romantic relationship without the fear of being arrested, or worse still, lynched.

Seated at the club’s bar, apparently scouting for some boy-loving company, was Frank, a branch manager of one of the nation’s leading banks. Frank became aware of his sexual preference at the end of his secondary school days, and had managed to keep it under wraps since then, getting into relationships with ladies from time to time, of which the longest lasted for ten weeks. Standing six feet two inches tall and rather handsome, he was used to having lots of female bank staff and customers make passes at him, and they sometimes even teased him about his sexual orientation, not knowing that they were actually right. It was his habit to sneak in here every other weekend and cart a young man away to Hotel Pink Heaven, which was 50 minutes’ drive away and equally ‘hidden’. He wished that people knew what it felt like to be a woman trapped in a man’s body, or what it felt like to have ‘’ruptured chromosomes.’’ He liked to think that the bond in homosexual relationships was deeper than the emotional farce that prevailed everywhere between heterosexuals, where guys just wanted a convenient spot for their thrusts and paper dolls who called themselves ladies went for the highest bidder. He attributed society’s perception of gay people to a lack of appreciation of people’s individual psycho-physiological dispositions, and could only hope that there would surface more shrinks who could understand and explain things.

Laura and Diane, undergraduates whose romance had sparked off six months earlier, were chatting away at a table not too far off, their eyes radiating with amor as they looked at each other. Laura had been disowned by her Methodist parents as soon as she told them who she was upon entering the university, and had begun to fend for herself. She was now in her penultimate year in the state university’s Faculty of Law, and it wasn’t so hard convincing Sociology fresher Diane, who needed a break from her abusive father. They wished in both their minds that the world was as free for them as Club Rainbow was. They wished the nation’s legislators could face real pressing issues such as security, unemployment, power and education with the same zeal as they pursued the passing of the anti-gay bill, just to seem as if they were actually working. Unemployed graduates prowled the streets, inhabitants of Northern Nigeria slept with both eyes open, roads had remained death-traps, tertiary institutions had been shut down for months, yet all those pot-bellied moneybags knew how to do was to clamp down on interactions between consenting adults, just to score some cheap moral points. It was not like a number of them had not been at this very club before.

George, impatient to set eyes on his date, had already set upon two bottles of Night Train, but in his fading sobriety, he managed to reflect on the all the cheerfulness around, and how things were so different out there. He wondered when society could accept him the same way the American society accepted Ricky Martin, Ellen Degeneres, or Raven Symone. For crying out loud, this was 2013, not 1994 when England-based footballer Justin Fashanu committed suicide due to the stigma that followed his decision to come out. He wondered why people could not be seen beyond their bedroom choices. How did his choice of sexual partners affect his next-door neighbour? Heaven knows how many intelligent and industrious Nigerians have had to leave the country because of their sexual orientation, he mused. That was how ideas and manpower are lost, yet people wail about brain drain. He could relate to this, as his architect ex-lover Iyke had left him for Australia two years before. So what if Jane prefers Helen to Charles? Should her brilliant ideas not earn her a job? Why should people be judged with only one aspect of their character? Yes, being gay was seen as a mental disorder some three decades ago, but so was it a crime to be black back then. Damn, even science as well as some pockets of Christianity tried to prove the supposed inferiority of blacks! Did Wentworth Miller’s sexual preference get in the way when he starred as Michael Scofield in Prison Break? Did it stop Ian Mckellen from perfecting his role as Magneto in X-men? Does being gay take anything from Elton John’s or Frank Ocean’s musical talent or prowess? Does it make Anderson Cooper a less efficient CNN anchor? These were questions George wanted the larger society to answer. He found a hero in U.S. gay politician Harvey Milk, who had been assassinated in the late 1970s for daring to advocate for gay rights.

In all the intense moments with Alex that night, Bob found time to think. He was no longer finding it easy to hide his true identity from the congregation of St. Anthony’s parish, where he served as a chief instrumentalist. He had been introduced to homosexual acts in his days at the junior seminary where he had his secondary school education, and after series of unsuccessful personal retreats, monastery visits and counselling, had chosen to accept who he had now seen himself as. He wished he was as lucky as Gabby, his secondary school classmate who moved with his family to England and eventually left the closet soon after, without the backlash and stigmatisation that would have followed if it had happened in Nigeria. He wished people could understand that being gay was more than matching outfits and butt lubrication, that it involved something much more selfless and sincere, like the friendship that existed in the Bible between David and Jonathan. He wished people could understand that two men could actually have much love for each other, or what did they think when the Bible referred to John as ‘’the one Jesus loved’’? Yes, it was a sin, but so was stealing and lying, so why did people have to set double standards? Why did people have to classify wrongs just to make themselves look better than others? Was he more guilty than the promiscuous lady who went for an abortion, or the office clerk who falsified cheques? Why did churches choose to preach hatred and resentment for gays from the pulpits, as opposed to Jesus’ teaching to show love? Why did people choose to play God over a pre-disposition? Well at least Pope Francis had decided to show a little bit tolerance, if his statement ‘’who am I to judge them?’’ was anything to go by. He loved to think that God loved him just the way he was, and hoped that one day people would understand St. Paul’s words ‘’love covers a multitude of sins’’.

There was however one person who did not share the sentiments of the rest of the people in Club Rainbow that night. Jerry barely managed to avoid throwing up as he turned away while snatching a beer bottle from Chris the bartender, who had chosen to apply eye shadow and lip gloss that day. Jerry was only here because he had come to get the money due to him from a Northern state legislator after he had linked up the latter to his gay cousin Ifeanyi. Jerry had discovered Ifeanyi’s tendencies shortly after they had begun to live together following the death of Ifeanyi’s parents, and while Jerry found it disgusting, he decided to see it as a financial opportunity. That was how he managed to pay rent at their little apartment in the state’s capital, and that was how Ifeanyi funded the pursuit of his Engineering degree at the state’s federal university. The deal was simple: get a rich butt-thirsty fellow, link them up to his cousin, get paid in advance, and get the balance after their rendezvous whose details he didn’t want to imagine. He couldn’t understand why a man would want to choose Brad Pitt in bed over Sofia Vergara, or Jon Dumelo over Nadia Buari. Except for the goose and a few other annoying species, animals didn’t even get down with those of their own gender.

Jerry’s urge to walk out could only intensify as he saw two men hold each other by the waist, heading to the rest room. If only I didn’t have to come get money from that filthy Alhaji, he said to himself. He wished that there would be an opportunity to gather all these ‘’sexually confused beings’’ (as he liked to call them) from all over the world into one building and set them ablaze, like God cleaned out Sodom, or like Hitler tried to rid the planet of Jews. He wanted them to ask themselves how they would be here tonight if their parents had chosen to follow the path they now did. Maybe the world’s population would have been a couple of millions rather than seven billion as we now had it. Or why didn’t God churn out Bruce and Steve the same away he made Adam and Eve? And for those who felt they could just adopt children, didn’t they think that the kids would have problems knowing whom to call Dad or Mum? He admired the stand which Nigeria had taken so far; world powers could go to blazes with their foreign aid. He secretly hated Ifeanyi for being gay, moreso as he loved to be the one doing the ‘receiving’, but what could he do? They needed money! After a long nauseating wait, Jerry finally got his money and stormed out without so much as a word of appreciation, hoping that he would never have to be back in that club anytime soon.

Jerry would eventually get his wish three weekends later, as irate residents chose to reduce the club to a pile of debris. They had been showing their discontent from the very first day the club building was erected three years earlier, but the efforts of police and some big shots in the state had kept them in check. That fateful Saturday night however, they decided they had enough. They had to make it clear that this was still Nigeria, and that people like Frank and Laura who dreamt of freedom for the ‘’sexual minority’’ would have to go find it elsewhere. They burnt the club to the ground, and with it the romance between Alex and Bob, who had been unfortunate to be within club premises when the residents struck, and were too drunk to escape.

(Follow on Twitter @Le_Bouquineur)