Fiction: A Boy Named Mathew

February 3, 2016 Fiction , POETRY / FICTION

By

Ani Kayode Somtochukwu

 

 

I grew up being the odd one out in a lot of things. When I was eight, my dad died. It was common knowledge that when a soldier died, his wife had to move out of the 82 div. barracks. Some people said it wasn’t true but mama didn’t mind. She worked in the ministry of Agriculture and didn’t want any trouble so she left. We moved to 103 battalion near garriki where she found civilian quarters that we could rent. I started going to the Command Children School there though I paid Army fees. At first, I thought I would make friends so I played every game during recess. I played football with the boys, 10 10 with the girls, even tag. But after about a week of my being in the school, no one agreed to pick me during football. Perhaps it was because whenever I saw the ball coming towards me, I would get unnecessarily scared of it and when I tried to kick, I either missed or it wouldn’t be in any specific direction. At about the same time, the girls started struggling to have me on their team. I knew how to stall to the point where it was obvious to me which leg the girl would throw so I always won. I stopped playing football completely and spent all recess playing 10 10. I thought it was nothing but games till everyone started calling me names.

“Woman wrapper” they would say each time they were not happy with me. One day, I fought one of them. It was during recess in primary four. We decided to play general football. The boys versus the girls but when I went over to the boy’s side, Ahmed pushed me.

“No. Steven no dey our group. Make him go girl’s group.” Everybody laughed. I could hardly contain my embarrassment. The only thing I wanted to do right then was to find a blunt knife and stab him in the chest multiple times. I shrugged it off and pretended like I didn’t care and went back to stand among the boys but Ahmed pushed me again.

“See! If your hand just touch me, wetin I go do you eh…” I said. He laughed. A cackling, rupturing sound that was filled with mockery and ridicule.”

“Wetin you fit do?” he asked. “Woman wrapper.”

I made to join the group again and when he pushed me that third time, I hit out with my right arm. It caught him in the jaw and the next thing I knew we were on the floor, me beneath him. He kept raining punches on my face. I punched him a few times but before I could deliver one punch, he had given me ten. My nose started to bleed. All the while, our classmates cheered on. A teacher soon came along and separated us. We were taken to the Assistant Headmistress’ office and flogged. I cried but Ahmed did not cry.

After that day, I stopped going for recess. Whenever they rung the bell, I would sit back in the class. On the first day I missed recess, I read all the stories in my Macmillan English, and then I did all the exercises. The next day it was mathematics, then Religion and Social Studies till I read all the books. During the mid-term test, I wrote very well. Our teacher commended me openly in class. That only made people hate me even more. It got to the extent that I stopped talking to anyone in my class. When Exams started, Ahmed and I were put in the same seat. It was the custom of the teacher to put you in the same seat with your least favorite person so that malpractice was reduced, so she put me with Ahmed. I used my left hand to cover my answers. Ahmed wrote nothing. I was not even sure he could read the questions.

“O boy wetin dey do you na. Make I write small” he begged when our teacher shouted ‘five minutes to go’. I did not bother myself to reply. It continued like that all through the exam period. When the results came out, I took first. After the third and second terms, I took first too. Ahmed repeated.

Mama decided that I should take common entrance in primary 5. She bought me Air Force forms but on the day of the exams, I felt sick and could not write. My score on the common entrance exam was high so they put me in CIC. I never really fit in there either. It was a boarding school where they told you when to eat, when to sleep, when to do everything. There, in the morning, all the boys took their buckets into the yard and bathed there. The first time I tried it, I disgraced myself. I couldn’t bring myself to remove my clothes though all the boys were naked, even the older boys who had hair above their genitals. It made me uncomfortable to even be there. I did not know where to look so I kept my eyes trimmed on the floor. After standing there sweating, feeling embarrassed, I took my bucket and left.

A lot of the senior boys liked me for some time. Mama always bought me as many provisions as I could manage to finish so they liked to pretend they were my elder brothers, sometimes exempting me from labor. But I never gave them anything, so eventually, they hated me like the others. My classmates of course despised me. Perhaps because I never let anyone copy my assignments or maybe it was because I covered my answers during tests or maybe because I was too young to be in the same class with them. I eventually got a school father though, the deputy senior prefect. It was one day during night prep. I had snuck in to drink cabin biscuits and milk mashed into a paste so that no one would beg me for them but as soon as I finished preparing it, he entered the dormitory and saw me. He just laughed.

“You na bad guy” he said. I was petrified. Even his laughter did nothing to ease my fear. He got another spoon from my cupboard and sat on my bunk.

“Oya lets eat it together.” He said. I was too shocked to eat and ate only about four spoons before the plate was empty. He however did not punish me. One day, he saw me taking my bath after everybody had left. In my shame I tried to use my sponge to cover my genitals. It was pure theatrics for him. He laughed so hard, his bearded chin raised in the air, that I thought I would turn green from embarrassment. He told me I could always use the bathroom in his cubicle. After that, every weekend when mama would visit me, I would put something in a separate nylon and give it to him. I also started being exempted in a lot of things.

“Na Johnson son be this” they would say. My name was removed from the Hostel clean up roster. I also got to choose between going for night prep and staying in Johnson’s room playing Diamond rush and Asphalt on his phone. The only bad part of being Johnson’s boy was that I washed his plates and clothes. I could always stay in his cubicle when I wanted to miss anything unless a girl came to see him and that only happened on Sundays. One day, during night prep, while I was in Johnson’s cubicle going through his phone, a new chapter opened in my life. While I was going through his pictures and videos, I came across one that sounded strange. When I clicked it, the sound of a white man and a black woman pleasuring each other filled the room. In my frenzied hurry to close down the video, I dropped the phone. Johnson looked up from where he was reading and started to laugh. I stood there nonplussed staring at the phone splayed on the uncarpeted floor with the battery lying askew on the ground. The way he threw his head back and raised his bearded chin into the air, shaking with laughter irked me. When it was obvious that Johnson was not angry, I picked the phone and put it together.

“Guy come” Johnson said. He took the phone from me and maneuvered to a list filled with those strange looking names. ‘Boy and Brunette together in morning’, ‘Swimming pool fun’, etc.

“Use earpiece” he said handing me his ear pods then he connected it and clicked on one. I went back to the bed and sat watching it. I kept thinking someone would burst through his door calling ‘DSP! DSP!’ like they usually did. The videos made me feel dirty within. They felt taboo, like I had run into a chapel naked. It was nothing like I had expected it to be. I had expected it to be nothing. It was nothing for the older boys. When I had watched that one video that Johnson put, I gave the phone back to him.

“Your thing standa?” he asked and touched my crotch as if it were a normal thing. I suddenly started to feel myself growing. A warn sensation started to spread over my member, accompanied by this hasty desire to ease myself.

“I want to go outside and ease myself” I told him. He laughed.

“Steve Steve. My guy.” he jeered.

Outside I discovered that I was not pressed. I started walking around the cubicle feeling like I had killed someone, the way I felt when I heard that Ahmed would repeat primary 4. Feeling that my head was clear again, I went back into the cubicle. Johnson was bent over his desk, his eyes primed on the textbook there. I went back to the table and took the phone to continue playing games or maybe look at pictures of the stern seniors, laughing.

“Come”, Johnson called “take earpiece. I wan jack” I took the earpiece but I didn’t watch those videos again. I just played diamond rush till the prep was over. The next day during recess, I couldn’t read. Images from that clip kept flashing in my brain. I couldn’t stop them from flipping through my brain like a slide show. It made me start visiting the chapel very often. I stopped going to Johnson’s cubicle during prep though whenever he got a new video, he would show me, even the ones he featured in. Those ones were not as bright as the other ones but they were the ones that really aroused me.

“Guy I be badoo” he would say and I would laugh and shake my head as if I understood. The next term, Johnson graduated. He, to an extent was the only friend I had in that school, the only person that didn’t treat me like I was an accursed leper. In Js2, a lot of guys tried to get on talking terms with me. I was awarded the best JS1 student so perhaps they did it hoping I would be friendlier during exams. I replied to their greetings but never gave out my assignments. It continued like that till our JS3 final exams. Some teachers helped students answer questions but I still covered my work. On the day we took our final exams, some boys settled their scores with me.

“E feel Chego?” they asked “You feel say you get mind?” I couldn’t just let them have me without a fight and I couldn’t fight them literally. What happened with Ahmed was still fresh in my memory and there were four of them. I took to my heels but they caught me before I could get to the gate and beat me till I ceased to be aware of what was around me.

I spent most of that holiday in the hospital. They had broken four of my ribs and sprained my wrists.

“You wouldn’t go back to that school” mama cried. She had three of the boys locked up in police custody for some time; the fourth went to Kaduna for his holidays.

“What kind of madness is this?” she asked “Where were all the teachers when this happened?” She said all these when the principal came to visit me. Instead of telling mama that no teacher came to school that day because they were scared, he promised to give me a scholarship during the next session. Mama would not hear of it. It made me angry even, that she was denying me of the chance to be on a scholarship. She bought me Air Force forms again and this time, I sat for the exams and passed.

I was determined to start anew there. To speak to everybody, open my answers and go for recess but again, it did not work out. My classmates, though their dislike was not sudden like that of CIC, soon grew to dislike me. They even had a new name coined for me.

“ITK. I too know. Over sabi sabi.”

They didn’t even call one of the names. They all preferred to reel out their entire three. Occasionally, they would add ‘Tufiakwa’ at the end. I however remained on talking terms with two of them. Chiwendu who I knew from primary school and a boy named Mathew. Chiwendu was extremely brilliant and we had this rival thing going between the both of us that made us talk to each other. I could discuss any subject with her without having to pretend like I knew less, without being scared that she’d call me names. Mathew on the other hand, did not know that much at all.

When I entered SS2 and started noticing changes in my body, everything got worse. When I told mama, she told me not to worry.

“It should have happened to you a long time ago. It’s just that you’re a late bloomer” she said.

When I googled ‘late bloomer’ on Google, the results shocked me. I was going through puberty, at 15. I would have sworn that I had been through puberty especially because I had thought it was something that happened without a person’s knowledge, like growing taller. And I had just assumed that I was not a tall person, neither was I the hairy type. I started feeling goose pimples whenever Mathew came too close to me. One day during general labor, Mathew took off his shirt. I was transfixed, tracing the lines there with my eyes and my body started changing. That night, I downloaded those types of videos that I had watched on Johnson’s phone but it was the same. All I felt towards those videos was guilt. I kept downloading them anyway and watching them. They didn’t have near the effect Mathew had on me but I kept watching them hoping that one day they would. One fateful day, I downloaded one video that instead of the normal man and woman had two men. That video was the video that had the effect I was looking for. But it was the wrong video. After watching it, I ran to the Sa Christi. I felt like I couldn’t be in my skin anymore, like it was too dirty, too filthy.

On my way back from the chapel, I met Mathew. His face was lit up as usual, like he didn’t have any worries. He asked to see my phone and I gave it to him. Then we walked back to the Dormitory. It was after he left that I realized I had not deleted the video, I had just minimized it. I was not sure if he had seen the video or not. My trips to the chapel became even more frequent but they yielded nothing. Whenever I went home for weekends, I went to Pentecostal crusades, prayed and begged God for just one thing. To change me, to make me normal like the others, like Mathew. So that I could be carefree as he was, so that I could remove my shirt during labor and not feel as if it was taboo so that I could take my bath with the others and not wait till everyone had gone for classes. But it amounted to nothing, I wasn’t even sure that he could help me, that he was up there but I kept asking anyway. I didn’t have much of a choice. During our mock exams, I sat with Mathew during chemistry. Before the papers were shared, I told myself, like all the previous times, that I would not cover my answers. But as soon as the papers were shared, I covered them. Mathew nudged me but I ignored him. He was sweating but I did not talk to him. I was busy balancing equations and trying to remember the Avogadro’s Hypothesis. After the exam, Mathew did not talk to me.

“Mathew!” I called but he ignored me. I tapped his shoulder and he turned and swung at me. The punch floored me and left me with a throbbing nose. The whole class looked on as the drama, with me at the receiving end, unfolded.

“Guy no touch me. Homo!”

A gasp sifted through the class.

“Where did he touch you” Chibuokem asked. Mathew didn’t answer, he stormed off. I did not even have the strength to stand up from the floor. That word resounded in my head. Homo!

“Tufiakwa” Sandra said. “Wonders shall never end. I wonder where he touched him.”

It was Chiwendu who helped me up.

“Why didn’t you say anything” she asked me. I did not reply.

“Is it true?” she asked. I said nothing.

 “Steve, are you gay?” she asked. I said nothing and her eyes widened. I could have said No but I didn’t. I was tired. I wasn’t gay per say but I couldn’t really say that I wasn’t, so I said nothing. Everybody stopped talking to me, everybody except Chiwendu.

“It might be a temporal thing” she said. “I read somewhere that it sometimes occurred in teenage age temporally.” I kept visiting the chapel, going to crusades, writing millions of prayer requests with the same wording.

“Change me, God. I want to be normal.”

And every day after school, Chiwendu would read me Mathew chapter 7 verse 25.

“’And the rain descended and the flood came and the winds blew and beat upon the house and it fell not, for it was founded upon a rock’ Steven hold on to that rock and you’ll be fine.” She said. Her father was a theology lecturer at UNN but I was confused as to who the rock was. Sometimes, I was sure it was God and other times, when she held my hands and squeezed, I wasn’t too sure.

I stopped feeling that way towards Mathew or maybe it was that we no longer talked. He no longer put his hand on my shoulder or leaned on me while laughing. Perhaps it was that our final exams were close and no one did labor again. I took second that term, after the second term mock exams. Mama was not happy at all, she did not understand what was happening to me. Even Chiwendu, who understood, was not happy even though she was atop the class. But I was happy; I thought I was cured, that I was normal till the day of our last paper. That was the only exam where no one tried to copy my answers and it was because they had lenient supervisors.

Everybody was tearing their clothes and going mad, even the girls were tearing their clothes. It started to rain and Chiwendu’s driver came to pick her up. Eventually I made up my mind to trek to the hostel in the rain. When I came out of the classroom, I saw him again, the boy named Mathew. He and the other boys were shirtless, shouting, jumping in the rain. I stepped into the rain, transfixed, unable to look elsewhere. I began to feel my member growing, proving that I had been deceiving myself, that I was yet not normal, that I had been leading Chiwendu on wrongly, planning to study together at the University at Ilorin. I began to cry. Why was I so different, so absurd? My phone began to ring. I knew it was Chiwendu but I could not face her. Mathew and the others saw me and started towards me. Through the rain, I could see the rage in their steps, the intolerance that spewed like smoke from their ears as they approached me. Pictures from the fracas with Ahmed flashed before my mind, then the fight that sent me to the hospital, then that moment when Mathew punched me to the ground and called me the name I dreaded the most. Then my mind came back to them bearing down on me.

“Homo! Homo!” I heard them say. The sound of their voice mixed with the thundering of the rain and the howling of the wind so that I heard their voices in slight echoes. They had sticks and stones and were shirtless but I didn’t care. Even though I was sure they were coming for me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ani Kayode Somtochukwu

Ani Kayode Somtochukwu was born on the 29th of July, 1999. He likes to see himself as a short story writer, novelist and poet though he has nothing in print, YET. He lives in Enugu for now and is currently studying Medicine and Surgery at the Enugu State University of Science and Technology.

1 Comment

  1. cynthia April 12, at 08:48

    Very nice story. Saw this on Facebook. You are very talented.

    Reply

Leave a Reply