You had two boys out in the courtyard, barefooted, playing football with a plastic ball, let’s say on a Monday. The following day, the two boys found themselves climbing the mango tree a few metres from the house. Wednesday arrives, and it is who can roll the tyre from point A to B the fastest. What upsets me about these memories is the fact that in my nine years at ‘home’ those are the only positive ones I have, moments shared with a child whose name and face eludes me. If only I were able to grow with that child, experience and share my developmental years with him…maybe he could have eased the pain caused by those women. I do not remember their names or faces, but we lived under the same roof for some time before my arrival in London. During that period, I recall, vividly, repeated offences that stripped me of my childhood – traumatic experiences that would later deprive me of meaningful relationships with women – I often wonder how I reacted during those moments, how I made things make sense, how I coped. Till this day, it remains the dominant memory of Nigeria.
As I witnessed my mother struggle to cope with a distant husband, moving from one home to another, being forced to raise my brother on her own, the vulnerability was not a choice. I watched a parent struggle to live with PTSD and Anxiety – often externalising through anger – the thought of shame and guilt embedding in her psyche haunted me…or maybe I was just tired of leaving things in God’s hands. My Father? The crippling fear of this man haunted me for many years. The only person left for me to turn to, my sister, well she was far too busy with her now husband. So, the hunt for immediate external affection began, just right on time with puberty. As my subconscious turned the hourglass on its head, objectives for this point had changed, the topic of discussion at school always seemed to be about girls, It was an all boys school after all, so to fit in, I started dating. Each relationship had zero chance at standing the test of time, my fear of and anxiety around women controlled me, these young girls were failing to fill the gaping hole created by women in my life. I had locked away the frightened child for so long that any attempt at freeing him, allowing him to open up his wounds resulted in the termination of that relationship. I had to protect him from being abandoned again. Guard up, I lived through my teens a victim of paranoia, often running away from every vulnerable moment, until that skype call with my ex. A moment that brought about eternal shame. Shame and guilt perched over me as I watched a young girl breakdown due to my infidelity, forcing me to be aware of myself becoming the very humans I despised. I promised myself to never get into another relationship after things ended. I grew numb, and for two years, I would only want to be around women offering sex. Eighteen years of constant chaos, loneliness and no sense of identity, maybe this is just who I am. If that is the case, I refuse to continue feeling those draining emotions; an unexpected cry for help would inevitably force people to listen. A recurring thought for many years as I dove further down into the abyss – unable to access my unhealthy coping mechanisms – an image of my distraught little brother became my only reason to live.
Unable to find meaning while in London, I chose to study in Crewe (absolute fucking shithole) where I met Ronique, breaking my promise only two weeks into University. As time passed, we shared new experiences with one another, often struggling to resolve minor conflicts, but the thought of leaving someone who had convinced me not to drop out, who encouraged me to make peace with the women from my past and supported me as I overcame my substance abuse, felt absurd. So I made the conscious effort to improve my way of living by dealing with the past which I allowed for many years, to control the now. While I worked on improving my mental health, as it is my responsibility, I began to experience moments of peace. Ronique and I had graduated, living in two different cities but things worked for us, until a few months before she travelled to China, where I found myself unconsciously reverting to my old ways. My mind worked hard to reinforce the status of the messy bitch, as the absence of chaos was unpleasant. I found myself making the mistake of trying to figure out, by myself, why the topic of China rubbed me the wrong way after a while, as it had to be something fairly serious. I would create elaborate stories to challenge the fact that I would miss the only being I felt genuinely cared for me, and this, of course, played on my mind as I could not come up with anything satisfactory. It began to show in my behaviour, and things slowly became awkward. But we continued to ride the wave, as we both understood the quality of what we had. Then came her birthday, the elephant in the room had pushed us to the point where we just had to sit, look at one another and admit we were moving mad. We shared a laugh and promised one another to be vulnerable, as life is hard enough, relationships with people you claim to care about should be pain-free.
I often chuckle to myself at how life has turned out for me, having had several bad relationships with women; never indeed fitting in with most men, my first real friend happened to be a woman. The vulnerability allowed us to create a bond which brought a sense of freedom, we shared passions and fears, never afraid to ask for what we wanted, never shying away from discomfort, we cared for one another. This influenced a year filled with glorious moments with some fantastic people; I look forward to growing with them, building a relationship with my family, and barebacking till I die.