The Pocket Traveler.
He said Peter Pan that’s what they call me, I promise that you’ll never be lonely. And ever since that day….I am a lost boy from Neverland, usually hanging out with Peter Pan, and when we’re bored we play in the woods, always on the run from Captain Hook…Run run lost boy, they say to me, away from all of reality…’Lost Boy’ – Ruth B
Written By: Olaleye Oladipupo
Follow on Facebook: Olaleye Azeem Oladipupo
Instagram/ twitter: @da_diarist
It wasn’t like every other Wednesday. There were no lectures. The curfew had been announced on Monday. They said it was for the rituals that needed to be performed after the demise of the king. And on Tuesday, circulars had already torn through every corner on campus that all students should stay in their hostels. The curfew was slated from 9am to 4pm, then 11pm till dawn. Desmond and I agreed to spend the whole day together in Quarters. The Staff-Quarters was on campus, and rituals do not enter campus. So it was safe. Besides that was where his family stayed. So Before 8 o’clock that morning, I was already on campus. We sauntered the scenic garden that surrounded the Quarters for hours, amidst the spray of trees that laid behind the buildings, out in the sun and let the scorching breeze steer us. Hand in hand. Smiles locked. We watched the shadows of the trees through our matching sunglasses, how they stood frozen and yet often crossed our paths. Their bent trunks and the grace of their leaves. How tired birds perched on their escaping branches and the edges of our shadows. How their wings fluttered. The melody in their calls. One thing led to another. I wanted to get laid by him, right there, in the hot fast breeze.
‘That’s nasty, he said.’
‘I know. I don’t care.’
‘That’s just somehow, its daylight.’
‘It doesn’t matter. Nobody comes out here in the woods anyways.’
Neither of us said a word further. Until we found ourselves the perfect spot to lie and got tangled. The touch of his silky smooth fingers was heavenly. My heart was thumping in my chest as he unbuckled my belt and pushed my trousers down my legs to the earth. I felt as though it was the first time ever I was being touched. I reached out and touched his face, and he kissed me softly on the wrist as my hand caressed his face from his hairline, down his nose, and across his angular cheekbones. And then I slipped my fingers down, over to his trousers and undid his zipper. He gently turned me over and made me lie down prone, there on the grass, with my naked butt floating a little bit into the spiritless breeze. The feeling was nothing short of electric when he gently penetrated into me. I moaned weightily and I thought I heard him moan too as he slowly hit it off, over and over again until finally, we had ourselves riding on unicorns into a never-never-land.
There were no better times to do it. The hot hours of roaming butterflies and chirping grasshoppers. How they fluttered and swooped over our semi-nude frames flipped inside-out, into each other.
‘Let’s run away. Far from here.’ He rolled away from on top of me to one side, adjusted his trousers and zipped it up. I didn’t quite catch the expression on his face when he said that.
‘This community doesn’t love us and you know it.’
‘I know. But what of our degrees? What of my parents?’
He didn’t say a word and his face was blank as well.
‘And you know how supportive they are. After all, they paid for all the surgical procedures in the states before I had to come down here.’
‘Of course I know how supportive they are. And how can they not be? Are you not their only child?’ He chuckled.
‘It’s not just that. They wouldn’t support any of these if I had not threatened them that I’ll kill myself if they don’t stop being against it.’
‘Yeah, that’s true. Anyway, I was just kidding.’ His face lit with a shrunken smile
‘A little bit.’
‘It’s not funny. Besides, there’s still a final surgery to go and you know it can’t be done here in Nigeria. We can consider running away after I go for it and I’m back here.’ I pulled up my boxers.
He grinned. ‘Ok. Ok. After the surgery then.’
I chuckled. I was already struggling with my trousers. The thing was a little too tight.
‘But I still don’t get why this last operation is even necessary. You are already flawless.’ He said, this time, like a tease. He slotted a warm pat on my shoulder and slimed his fingers down to my belt line.
‘True. But this last stage is the most important. That’s what the doctor told me.’ I paused a moment and bent my neck to buckle my belt.
‘Alright love. Thank goodness it’s just a few months away and everything will be perfect.’
He smacked me in a smooth way. It was a sexual gesture.
We were already walking towards the house when I heard a sound. A click. A shutter sound.
‘Did you hear that?’
‘Like the sound cameras give, like somebody just took a picture.’
‘A picture? Nobody is out here, it’s just us.’
‘How can you be sure of that? I think I just saw someone. And it seems the person just took a picture of us from behind those trees.’
‘Now, you are taking it far. Why would someone come to take a picture of us, especially in this bush?’
‘I know what I saw. It may be one of those boys that call themselves reporters and paste rumors on boards round campus.’
‘They wouldn’t come this far, I’m telling you baby.’
I looked around, everywhere but at him. Then I got a glimpse of something behind the trees, like a man.
‘Look! Look! There! Is that not the figure of a person right there’ I pointed a finger out to the trees.
‘That’s not a person. It’s probably just a tree branch waving in the breeze. Stop being worried. Let’s just get out of here.’ He carved a smile. His teeth thrust spears of reflected light into my eyes.
‘So, I’ll see you tonight?’
‘Of course, you are staying over at my place this night remember?’
‘Ofcourse. I was just teasing.’
It was already 4pm, so I just headed back to my hostel and waited for him in my room. I was still worried. I did saw someone behind those trees. But who could that have been? And why would someone take our pictures? The thoughts remained on my mind till that night. There was just something not right about the night, about everything. And Desmond had not even showed up yet.
Something was wrong. I convinced myself. By 10pm, he still had not showed up. I became restless. I went outside to the road. I stood behind the popular Iya Kazeem’s Indomie kiosk just opposite Maintenance gate, the all women hostel known for its late night bubbles. Except that it was not bubbling that night because of the curfew. Cars whizzed past, at intervals, honking their ways through, into the darker path lying ahead, with headlights tearing through the dark, snatching away the sight of dangling heads positioned on legs whipping through the mild air. I waited for him, motionless, except for my eyes, darting into dark, then lights, then into my phone’s screen, then into swollen thoughts. He has never kept me that long, especially when he was coming to my place, since it was outside the campus. Gazing round, with my eyes almost pointing into every face that dangled past, I muttered to myself as the clock on my phone announced the arrival of 11pm with a short beep. My heart beat faster. I could not hold my fingers from tapping my thighs, or my phone or anything they could lay on. Around that time, the legs on the road were more rapid and already losing their numbers. Then, after another minute, he emerged from the dark, afar off. I recognized him at the first glance, even though one could’t see his face just yet. Then he started to run. His legs swung in the air, strewn, like he was slightly drunk. It wasn’t until he had gotten close enough and appeared whole in the light that I saw his hands were in the air too, pointing towards the other end of the road. At first, it was like he was waving at someone behind me, but seeing his face ashen, I realized he was warning me. But before I could make a move, I was already surrounded. By men, old men, burly, covered in red. The silver rays from the street lamps bouncing off their cutlasses were the last thing I remembered.
Until some strange voices knocked me out of my unconsciousness. My legs were logs. I could hardly part my eyelids. I was weak. I forced them open. It was like moving a stuck gate. Tiny tear droplets gushed to clot between my eyelids as they open. My vision was hazy. Light shimmered and bent to one side. Dark tussled down from the other side, down the walls. Little smoky light sprinkled through cracks in the walls, it was darting over stones, hanging calabashes, woven cowries and graven images, so much of them.
At that point, I totally lost it. I could not decipher where I was. Or why I was there, in such dark room. Where was Desmond? My love, the oxygen I breathe in, the carbon-dioxide I breathe out, like we would jokingly say to each other under the bass moon. Were we in for rituals? Could they be? Was I going to be buried with the dead king? Of course they were going to use us for rituals. I concluded. Countless of directionless thoughts kept firing through my mind, breathless. My hands throbbed, my legs throbbed, and so did my heart. The voices I was hearing did not stop. So I dragged myself towards the source. Then the voices started to become louder and clearer.
‘But how can a girl look so much like a boy?’
‘You should have confirmed they are both boys, Kuyebi. That’s your job!’
‘They were! I swear!’
‘So why does this one has a vagina?’
‘I’m confused, really confused. Ogunro, you too talk na, we took their pictures together na, in quarters.’
‘I’m confused too, Baba Awo, we thought they were both male, we didn’t move close enough to see their private parts when they were having sex among the trees.’
‘We totally assumed they were gays.’
‘In fact, we have been following them for a while now, before we got the perfect moment to be totally sure they are sleeping with each other this afternoon.’
‘It’s just one of them that stay in quarters, the other one stays in town.’
‘This one is something else. She doesn’t even have any breasts, totally like a boy.’
‘Even her voice.’
‘And her stature, the way she walks.’
‘Strange things every day.’
‘Leave all that aside. What do we do with her now?’
‘Nothing, we return her and dump the body of the other one somewhere. We can’t possibly use them anymore.’
‘Then we have to act fast. We still need the blood of two boys that have slept with each other.’
‘Ogunro, Kuyebi! Ikoko! Oya go! Go!’
‘And make sure they are both boys this time.’
Then there was silence and footsteps departing. I shuddered, coughed, a faint and sharp cough. Oh! That was it. They were killing homosexuals, I flinched. My fingers quivered like a jolted guitar string. Desmond was dead? My mind flashed into a mindless race and while I was returning from the a-breath-length journey of directionless thoughts I flung into, a grizzly man entered. Our eyes locked. His face was masked with a firm grimace and he never blinked. Then he busted into a sprawling grin; one big fake ha, one after the other. It was effortlessly coordinated. He chanted into the air. His voice swung between high and low, on and off, like an old black and white television set that would need a slap or two on its head from time to time for clear picture and sound. He leaned back, for a second, and wiggled his haggard fingers towards my eyes in a circular motion. Then I became dizzy again.
Their faint voices kept playing in my head and in what seemed like it was real, I saw Desmond reached out his hand and took me down Quarters road for another walk. And then I was woken up by the stench of sick people and the beeping of machines. Mum was sitting right there by me on the bed and dad was talking to someone by the door. I didn’t see who the person was.
‘My God, Tola, you are awake. Daddy Tola, she has opened her eyes. She is awake!’
‘That’s great. Thank God. I’ll call the doctor now.’
‘Sorry my dear, you have been in coma for two weeks now. How do you feel? Do you remember anything? Do you feel hurt at any part of your body?’
I couldn’t talk. My lips were too heavy. I shook my head to communicate a No to her. But that didn’t still stop her from pressing every part of my body.
‘Here nko? What about here? And here? Sorry my dear.’ She kept pressing.
‘Some vigilantes found you lifeless on the street. Don’t worry my dear. Those behind all of these will soon face the wrath of the law. The police are already investigating.’ She was sure. The assurance was brimming all over her face.
Dad walked back inside the room.
‘The doctor said you are perfectly alright. Look my dear, you are defintiely flying back to the states as soon as all of these is over. This idea of getting your first degree here in Nigeria is a bad one after all. And that way you will kuku just go for the last surgery you are supposed to have undergone all these while, hysterectomy or whatever that doctor called it anyway.’ He said with his face lavished with a bright smile. He must have mentioned that to put a smile on my face.
Mum and Dad kept talking, saying all sort, how happy they were to have me back, how the culprits would face justice, how much they would do everything to make sure I was alright and happy and so much more. None was important. Nobody mentioned Desmond.
How can I live without him? How can I ever find love again? Desmond loved me like I am, when nobody else did. Even when everybody called me abnormal and would always push me out, Desmond gave me wings and made me feel like an angel. Even though our relationship was not even a year old yet. What bound us together was never of this world. Whenever we hung out in the night, I usually found the stars not between the tallest of trees and the glimmering sky lines but inside his eyeballs. I wondered what will happen to my nights from then. They will be without stars. He taught me of a rare love. That kind of love is the greatest of all. He used to say that the heart is like a pocket and that love is like one’s favorite picture that one cannot do without but carry around all the time in that pocket. And that love should always be kept safe inside the heart. And no matter where we find ourselves or travel to, love should always travel along, like the picture stuffed in the pocket and looked upon from time to time for the reminiscence of good old memories. And I have learnt that other kinds of love are wool, stuffed in stoves. They become a whiff of smoke and eventually vanish with time. But the love Desmond showed me was like no other. It was a dagger, it pierced through into my soul. It burned hotter than the sun and slipped down between the tiny streams of blood flowing round my nerves, like a coin in a machine. This love brought out the real me, the boy. It made me come out. Just this last surgery and yes, we would have continued our special kind of love with a fresh start and become bum-bandits like I have always wanted.
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