Adedeji explores his sexuality in “What Made You This Way” by Enyinna Nnabuihe, the newest entry to our New Voices catalog. Spurred by memories of his friend Sochima, Adedeji must navigate around his family’s traditional values to reach a full understanding of his true identity. Read on below.
You were eight when the first incident occurred. You will call it an incident, an occurrence, because that is what people call a happening that erupts from nowhere and nothing, and changes a person completely, leaving trails of a lasting memory. Like a fire outbreak, a burglary, this was an incident, and you had not expected it. You were eight but you looked five. Sochima, a friend of the family who was just a year older than you, was the first to crack this joke to your hearing. You took notice of some of his distinct characteristics; he’d always have this oily skin that glowed in all its blackness. His parents permitted him to keep his hair, so there was this sphere atop his head that bore a resemblance to a disco ball; you had said that, and you added, tracing the fingers of your right hand, like friendly snakes or worms in the bushy hair, “How does it get so curly?”
When your home is built near a highway, you see everything—thefts, gangs, deaths, even prostitutes, at night. You have even seen two boys prancing the roads with their hands in each other’s rear pockets. You didn’t know what that meant, what they were; you thought they were mere friends when you saw them that evening, for you were barely seven. But now, as you remember all of these things that made you this way, blood rushing through your veins at the side of your neck to your groin, you are seemingly attracted to the memory of the thinner, taller boy, and you wish you were the muscular one ten years ago that felt the flesh of his buttocks through the rear pocket of his skinny jeans. You see, it is almost impossible to keep count of all the things you had seen that your mother and father, your sister Idara, and all those poke-nosing aunties called evil. If they knew you had grown to become what you saw, would they call you evil? Was it your fault? Why was your home even built near a highway to start with? Why was your window the one that graced the bloodstained roads that often paved the way for sex workers and the tear-rubber jeeps they preferably hopped into—their counterparts? Why did you glare at your windowsill more than you did at your family’s television?
When your eyes have witnessed dangers, the art of tale telling suddenly becomes a bore, for you have told many in your days, and hence have the right to strike down a friend or a prattling fiend with the words, “You are lying. That never happened.” And you are sure you’re right, for you can smell the discoordination in a story; its composition, expression. You can tell when the prattling fiend breathes a lie—that inaccuracy that disjoints the entire plot and sabotages the presence of the main characters doing what the tale teller says they were doing and to whom they did it. You have seen so many things, the listeners know, so they do not argue; instead they praise you, condemn whom you condemn, and listen to what you have to say. For your house was built near a highway, and that is what made you this way.