Our Girl, Bimpe

Olakunle Ologunro

1.

In 2017, Bimpe Adedeji created another Facebook account. The reasons for this are numerous, but to sum it up in one point, she had become mature. The first time she created a Facebook account was in 2013, the year Facebook became the rave in her secondary school and all her classmates attacked it with the gusto that people attack all things used by foreigners. They altered their names so that Gloria became Glowreeyah and Yinka became Yeancah and everyone’s profile picture was a model from Russia or London or New York – blue-eyed, pink-lipped, rosy-cheeked and pale-skinned, hair the pale blond of parboiled spaghetti or the bright red of tomato ketchup or the shiny black of freshly-polished shoes. That white kind of beauty, when the owner of the account was a Nigerian teenager – face ridden with pimples, hair as dense as the fillings of a pillow, skin brown like wet soil, eyes an unchanging black, or a liquid brown pool, like chocolates dissolved in water.

On that account, she was Bheempay Hardeydeyjee. She, too, had a model on her profile picture, a stranger downloaded from Google: Kate Moss, Tyra Banks, Heidi Klum, she had no idea. Like everyone else, she typed how are you as ow r yew, and when asked how she was, she responded m vewi qud, fnxz. It was the cool kid language, a sign of being hip and trendy, and she was quick to hop on the trend, she who was newly fourteen, and full of the know it all that all teenagers her age had an abundance of.

Bheempay Hardeydeyjee was the account her parents – whom she pestered and prodded and forced to join Facebook – added her on, a thing she was quick to regret, seeing how they liked all her posts and commented GOD BLESS YOU MY DAUGHTER on every status update, even if all she said was m vewi ongry. It was the same account her friends added her on: her classmates – Mhiz Posh Berry, Etz Bharbie Deez, Larry Jay, and others; her church friends – WF Jones, Harnike Hardey, Jesus-Gal Sarah, Sam D’Evangelist; the people from her street – Cheesom Upata, Sintheea Hopeyemee, Barbz Nicki Horlaryemi, and every other person she spoke to. These were the people who commented on her posts, who told her she wrote well and why not write a book? Because of them, Bimpe added #PenDiva to the end of every status update. Because of them too, she believed that the Bheempay Hardeydejee account would last forever.

2017 changed things though. Our girl Bimpe turned seventeen, and then she read her way into enlightenment.

Of all her classmates, eighteen boys and twenty-one girls, she was the only one who did not see the school library as a place of terror, the only one who dared to read the dusty hardbacks sitting on the shelves. She found them difficult at first, their language too out of touch with the contemporary world, their pages too dense with unfamiliar descriptions. They seemed inaccessible, different from the easy stories in the ₦50 Ghanaian storybooks she bought at Rehoboth Bookshop and the Harlequin paperbacks she read for the sex scenes.

But she read on anyway, first for proof that she dared to read the books everyone considered boring, and then for the intrigue of the story. She finished Jane Eyre and rather than feel fulfilled, she felt the opposite. It was as though she’d unlocked the front door of a grand house – she was no longer content to stand at the door; she wanted to explore. And so she read Emma, The Mayor of Casterbridge, Pride and Prejudice, Wuthering Heights. And then a book on women’s rights. Another about the life and travels of a black man who was shipped to the west to work on plantations as a slave. It was on one of these reading days that she figured out – after encountering it in a book and looking it up in a dictionary – that when Facebook requested a caption for your photo, what it meant was an accompanying comment, a quote, a sentence, anything to express the mood of the picture, and not the image filename IMG005.jpeg which she and her classmates had always put.

It was on one of these reading days, too, that she began to pay attention to her classmates – their words, their actions, the things they found funny or not. And as they approached the end of the school year, she saw them. Really saw them. The girls, she realised, were a disappointment. This was a conclusion she came to after Sarah Omotosho said: “If your boyfriend does not beat you, then he does not love you. Beating is a sign of love, sincerely. Don’t you know that we girls, we don’t have sense and we need a man to beat us sometimes? The beating should not be too much, sha. That’s what I hate.” She had expected them to disagree, point out the folly of Sarah’s opinion. But they were all quick to agree, some of them even saying they often did things to intentionally provoke their boyfriends. It shocked her then, how shallow they were, and she wondered how she had been friends with them for so long.

The boys on the other hand were disappointments raised to the power of ninety-two. Never mind that they were sixteen, seventeen, eighteen and even twenty, as in the case of Bobola Olorunnibe, the oldest in the class. These boys gathered during break time to discuss which girl had breasts the shape of a pure water sachet and which one had breasts smaller than agbalumo. They placed a mirror on the floor so they could peep at the panties of girls. They listened to Bobola’s tips on how to properly fuck a girl, how to insult her by saying that her vagina smelled like raw fish or asking her if she washed with the water in which ponmo was soaked.

Because she’d read somewhere that anyone could effect change, Bimpe tried to change the whole class. She told them to stop using abbreviations, pointed out the merits of using their own photo as a profile picture, and said it was childish, not fashionable to spell their names with extra letters. They ignored her, of course. And Bobola Olorunnibe asked why she was doing notice-me. “If you like me, just confess,” he said.

She hissed. “God forbid bad thing. Who will like a nincompoop like you?”  

By the time they wrote their final exams as secondary school students, they had all taken to ignoring our girl and calling her the class ITK (I Too Know) who, because she read library books, suddenly thought she was Wole Soyinka’s granddaughter and wanted to tell them what to do with their own Facebook account.

And so, Bimpe created another Facebook account to get away from them all. At first, she signed up as Bimpe Adedeji, her name spelled aright, her own photo as profile picture. But she knew her classmates, how they could devote an entire lifetime to spiting someone they disliked. In SS 1, after Efe Linus told them that armed robbers stole her family’s swimming pool, they posted “Thieves will steal u 2” on her Facebook wall, and in class, they called her Lie-nus Efe until she broke down and wept during break time. Bimpe played an active part in this shaming – in all shaming, actually: she was the one who thought of altering Efe’s surname to Lie-nus, the one who told everyone that Funlola Shuaib was a witch because she snapped her fingers at two students and they fell sick the next day, the one who began the rumour that the Home Economics teacher had a crush on the Phonetics teacher, a rumour which outgrew their class, found its way into the ears of the said teachers and got the whole class a public caning and a week of kneeling in the sun for 30 minutes every day.

Bimpe knew that if she used her real name for the new Facebook account, her classmates would find her and make her life miserable, without even considering that she had become a different person, a girl who now knew better than them all because she read library books. She wanted to be anonymous but also seen, be herself, say her mind, without anyone identifying her. And so she changed her username to Flora Ayoola, an impulsive action whose rightness soothed her immediately. She changed her profile picture too: before, it was a picture where her whole face was on display; she took it down and replaced it with a monochrome photo where her entire face was turned away from the camera. Becoming Flora Ayoola felt like owning a new dress – it needed new accessories to match. So Bimpe added three years to her age and became twenty years old, and because she hoped to apply to Unilag in the next year, she added Studies in University of Lagos. And with the mere click of pre-programmed instructions, she was born anew, no longer her but still very much her.

This time, she curated her own friend list: people who typed correctly, knew literature, the news and other things that could educate her. Soon, she had her own corner of Facebook where people had an opinion on everything from government policies to gender equality to food. They debated: Wasn’t it time for a female president? Had Nigerians forgotten about the Chibok girls so soon? Was Nollywood cursed with stereotypes? They shared articles that educated her on feminism, global warming, mental health, and sometimes they argued about these things, rabid arguments that ended with them breaking into factions and creating long comment threads and bitter subliminal posts that showed the dirty underbelly of their brilliance. She took it all in, feeling as though she was feeding from a sparkling source of adult wisdom and insight that made her ten years older than her age. Buoyed by this and by the anonymity of her Facebook, she too began giving her opinion about gender, the importance of female empowerment, colourism. Her posts began to receive likes and shares, counter-arguments. She began to tell people to shove their opinions into their ass and get the fuck out of her comment box with their misogyny. She erased the #PenDiva signature completely, seeing how immature and unnecessary it was to the Flora Ayoola account. She updated her bio to read Baby Girl; changed it: Feminist; changed it: Slayer of the unslayed, reader, lover, light. When she turned eighteen offline, Flora Ayoola turned twenty-one on Facebook. She spent half the day responding to posts, messages and well-wishes from strangers who knew her as Flora Ayoola and considered her as a friend. For the first time, our girl Bimpe felt truly alive.

2.

Bimpe had been using her new Facebook account for four months when Promise Olaoluwa was swept into her timeline. He was a writer, and this was how she discovered him. One of her friends – Francis Ikang? Eden Anjulo? – shared a link to his story The Taste of Grief published in a literary journal, and she clicked it because she found the title a bit curious. The story’s opening line held her attention – How does one grieve a living soul? – and by the time she was done reading, she hungered to read more of what he’d written. She Googled him and read all his stories that came up in the search results: Another Life in Lithuania Journal; Little Darling, Little Love in The Omnibus; Grace in Mermaid Mag. His stories had a haunting clarity: precise sentences charged with meaning, music, beauty; characters so real she could almost swear she’d met them before. Each story touched her in its own tiny way, and the final full stop made her feel as though she was jolted awake from a dream that ought to last forever. Driven by this feeling, this urgency, she searched for him on Facebook and sent a friend request. When he accepted, she sent him a message: You are a word bender. Please don’t stop. I beg of you, don’t. The world needs to read you.

He replied: Ah, this level of faith stuns me o. Thank you for the compliment.

She sent a smile emoji. He did the same.

3.

They were just friends, of course. Facebook friends. She liked his posts, sent him a comment on a newly published story and he in turn liked her posts, commented on them, and engaged her in discussions. Like friends, they chatted about things: she noticed he liked her post about gender pay gap; what did he think of it? Hahaha, what a thing to say about President Buhari. It went on this way, an online friendship, platonic in all definitions. Until one midnight when she came online and found him online too, a green dot appearing next to his profile to indicate that he was active, available to chat. She sent him a message: Go to bed, you wizard.

He replied: Leader of the coven, but you asked me to stay awake.

She laughed and he laughed, and that was it.

They still continued their routine: like for like, comments on posts, exchange of opinions. But this time, there was a new closeness, a fresh familiarity. He called her leader of the coven and she called him wizard, or big head, after which they would both send a flurry of laughing emojis. Sometimes, he sent her memes and she tagged him in posts that said: Tag a friend and run away. He would like it, and comment: Iffah catch you ehn, but he would tag her in other posts too.

And then one day, Promise posted on his Facebook Story, a photo of himself in black briefs, the mango-like curve of his bulge outlined by the tightness of the briefs. Thirst Trap, she sent, and accompanied it with a wink emoji. He replied, Well this fountain is big enough to quench your thirst. She responded, shocked by her own audacity, her ability to ignore the rapid beating of her heart: Hmm. How big o? In reply, Promise sent her a picture of his erect penis cushioned by a nest of pubic hair. Her heart picked up speed.

Like what you see?

She sent shocked emojis. Promise you’re mad o.

He sent laughing emojis.

What? Shebi it’s you that asked for the size na.

She sent laughing emojis.

Stop laughing. You too bless my inbox. He sent a wink emoji.

The options lay before her: block him, tell him off, say she didn’t like that kind of behaviour. But she surprised herself: she pulled down her panties, took a picture of her vagina and sent it to him – the first nude of her entire life.

Promise responded with love-eyed emojis. Look at this tight-lipped beauty.

She sent even more laughing emojis. She tried to slow her breathing, wondering where she’d come across such boldness.

She didn’t have to wonder for so long. She simply took it as one of those things that were meant to happen to a person in their lifetime: the acquisition of courage to do things you never thought you’d be able to, the ability to allow yourself to act spontaneously, without thinking. And again, she thought. She had already turned eighteen. When, if not now?

4.

So, our girl Bimpe eased into the current, the new order of things with Promise. And in this new order of events, there was little room for discussions about government policies or child abuse or gender. They were accoutrements of their old platonic friendship, and now that things had shifted out of that circumference, these discussions seemed a bit out of place, contrived. Once, there was a heated debate about trans rights on Facebook and when she tried to discuss it with Promise, his response was simple: Are you trans?

She laughed. Silly boy.

Instead, they exchanged nudes, an activity which evolved to sexting (Him: tell me what you’d like me to do to you; Her: I want you to fuck me so hard I can’t feel my legs anymore. Lol I can’t believe I’m doing this), which cooled to normal chats (Him: How’d your day go? She: Cool. Yours?), which heated up to longing (Him: I can’t wait to see you; Her: Me too), and often ended at what they would do to each other whenever they met (kiss and cuddle and have mind-numbing sex).

In all of this, there were areas of their lives tucked in shadows, truths hidden away from light. He never asked for her phone number. Never asked if she was in school or how school was. But at midnight, he’d be in her inbox with a photo of his penis, and she would respond with a photo of her vagina, her breasts. She wished he’d ask about her life, wished that they would spend a whole day talking, really talking: about themselves, what they had together and where it was headed. Where they were headed. She longed to tell him about her parents, her father who sold electrical equipment in Obadore, her mother who owned a provision shop in Igando. She wanted to tell him that she was eighteen and seeking university admission, that before him, the wildest thing she’d ever done was steal a library book. She wanted him to know she sang, that in her church, everyone praised her Alto and compared her to Tope Alabi. She wanted to sing him a song.

She wished he’d ask how she felt about the nudes and the sex chats so she could tell him that each time she cupped her breasts and took a picture for him or slipped a finger into herself because he asked her to, she felt a weight in her chest, a strong mix of guilt and pleasure, like sugar and salt stirred together. And that after she went offline, she read Psalms 51 and asked God to forgive her sins, blot out her transgressions. A half-hearted prayer, because each time he came into her inbox she was quick to leap back into sin, quick to do everything Promise wanted her to.

She knew he was twenty-five, a graduate of UniAbuja who lived in Abuja, a Christian who spoke Yoruba and English. And yet she did not know him at all. She did not know what his favourite food was, what church he attended, what colour he liked, where he worked when he was not writing. She was sure he had no girlfriend – his profile declared him as single. But sometimes she wondered: if he had no girlfriend, was she the only one in his life? If she was, then surely he’d want to know her, wouldn’t he? He would want to meet her too, right? He would propose a relationship, ask her to be his girlfriend and she would stop to weigh the age difference between them before saying yes.

But none of this happened.

Their usual routine continued, her inbox full of Promise’s penis in all stages of erection. She knew she should draw clear boundaries, ask him if he liked her and the possibility of a relationship, but she did not want to seem desperate, so she said nothing and steeped herself in the spontaneity his presence evoked, the anonymity of her identity. Besides, she told herself, he lived far away in Abuja and she in Lagos. She might never meet him anyway.

5.

But then Tunji Ilesanmi was planning a birthday party and Promise was in her inbox, asking her to come, that he’d love to see her; the party was in Lagos, she’d be able to make it, right? He’d send her transport fare if money was the issue. Tunji is my best friend from university, did I tell you?

No, he did not. And until he mentioned it, she didn’t make a connection. She knew he commented frequently on Tunji’s posts, comments that toed the line between friendly banter and harmless jest, but that was it. Even when Tunji made the post, she’d simply liked it and scrolled past. Until Promise came to her inbox and she had to scroll back for details: a small gathering, would hold at Tunji’s flat in Dolphin Estate, Obalende, would start by 12pm.

The first obstacle was money, but Promise sent her five thousand naira and that was settled. The second was what to tell her parents. It took a whole day of intense thinking before she came up with a story: She’d been selected to attend an educational fair for people seeking university admission; if things went well, she could get a fully-funded scholarship abroad. Her parents were delighted.

“May God favour you,” her mother prayed. “Oko mi, may the oyinbo favour you. That abroad, you’ll go there.”

“Amen,” she said. “Amen in Jesus name.” That too, was done.

The week before the party, our girl prepared. She shaved, rubbed banana peels and honey in her face to smoothen it. She Googled, out of curiosity, how to lose your virginity painlessly. She was redirected to porn sites that showed videos with titles like Little Lily gets a huge cock shoved into her, Tiny college bitch ripped apart by black cock. The videos disgusted her: unnatural moans; the malnourished girls with their pale flesh and their pink labia; the overeager men with their aggressively erect penis, sometimes dark, sometimes red and raw, like an injured body part. Yet, she was aroused, an arousal that seemed to increase each time she imagined Promise doing the same thing to her.

6.

Saturday, and she was in the bus to Obalende. She lived in Moshalashi Road; to get to Obalende, she’d take a bike to Igando, a bus to Iyana Ipaja, another bus to Oshodi, another to Obalende, and a keke to Tunji’s apartment. With the traffic, it would take nearly two hours, if not more. Still, she was excited, eager.

It was in the bus heading to Oshodi that she stopped to think of what she was doing: going to meet a man, a complete stranger in another stranger’s house, sure to lose her virginity.

No, I’m only going to a party, she said to herself.

She looked at her reflection in the mirror: her lips glistening with gloss, her eyebrows pencilled into solid arcs, the ridge of her non-existent cheekbones highlighted. She turned away.

You know you’re lying, she said to herself again.

She tried to quieten the voice, her voice, but it was like trying to submerge an inflated rubber ball in water. Each time she did, it bobbed up again, strong, persistent, full of more things to say. She began to hum. She stopped. She looked out the window. Lagos whizzed past, a city in a hurry, houses and shops and people speeding past her vision. When the driver slowed, a hawker peered into the window, bearing an open carton of Gala. Another hovered behind, a tower of plantain chips balanced on his shoulder. In the distance, more hawkers peered into bus windows or manoeuvred between vehicles. They held up packets of green apples, NASCO cornflakes, iced bottles of water, an assortment of sausage rolls, sunglasses, daily devotionals and books containing 500 romantic text messages. A woman balanced a basin of carbonated soft drinks on her head. Another ran after a car with a bottle of Pepsi in her hand. A man held up a bundle of brand-new mops. Another crossed the road with a cage containing puppies.

She turned her attention to the other passengers, men and women and a child, all of them quiet, immersed in their thoughts, their phones, except the child who fiddled with a bald Barbie doll missing one leg. Were these people looking at her? Could they tell that she – this dark girl in the blue dress with a lace collar – was going to meet a guy and probably have sex with him? Did she have a distinct odour, a sign to set her apart, perhaps? Maybe. She sniffed herself surreptitiously. She smelled like someone with perfume sprayed on, just the way she expected to smell. Was the woman next to her trying to avoid body contact or was she imagining it? When she stepped onto the bus at Iyana Ipaja and a few of the passengers looked at her, was it judgement they had in their eyes? She looked at the rusty metal of the bus, the firm circle of the steering wheel, the thick stump of the driver’s neck. If they had an accident now, would God allow her into heaven?

The bus stopped. They were at Oshodi. She wanted to go back home, undress and pray for forgiveness. But she’d taken Promise’s money and come all the way to Oshodi. She couldn’t go back now, could she? She should see him. She would. But she would keep a firm boundary on things.

7.

Promise met her at the entrance. He hugged her a little too tightly and kissed her cheek. “Wow,” he said. “You’re even more beautiful in real life. I could have passed you in public without knowing you. You better go and change that your yeye profile picture.”

She laughed.

“But you’re small sha. I expected someone bigger.”

She laughed again.

He wore jeans, tennis shoes, and a grey Lacoste T-shirt. He looked different: his profile photo touted him as handsome, a man with all his features aligned. But now that she had seen him in real life, now that he was close enough for her to smell him, she saw that handsome was not an adjective she would use to describe him. Handsome connoted a harmony of features, a pleasing symmetry, and Promise lacked this. His face was a collection of mismatched features: lips full and pink, eyebrows an unarched bush, nose a flat triangle, eyes too small, hairline receding like a sea wave recedes to reveal a patch of wet, white sand. In Promise’s case, what was revealed was a patch of high shiny forehead, something she found a wee bit funny. As he led her into the party, she graded him in her mind: 60% overall. Okay, five points for tallness, so 65%. That’s decent enough.

8.

It was a parlour party: home stereo played music she did not recognize, the TV was on but muted, casually-dressed guests stood in clusters or perched on the sofa, a red cup or a plate of small chops in their hands. A cake sat on the glass centre table, square and white, its edges designed with delicate whorls of deep blue icing. Happy Birthday TJ, it read.

Promise introduced her to the celebrant, and to some of the guests she had never met before.

“This is Kunbi Elumoye. That lady over there – no, not the one in the black dress. Her friend. Yes. That one. That is Lanre Bankole. She is a scriptwriter. Do you watch Tinsel? She is one of their writers. You know Adaeze, don’t you? Adaeze Cole. That funny babe that does Instagram skits. Look at her. You’re quiet. Are you okay?”

“Yes, I’m fine.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, I’m sure.”

“Okay-o. Better don’t be shy. You that you’re fire in the inbox.” He stroked her cheek. “Smallie.”

Her stomach knotted.

“Do you drink?”

“No.”

“Big girl like you. Let me find you Fanta.”

He returned with a bottle of Fanta and a small plate filled with stewed ponmo, a toothpick stuck in it. The ponmo was a little peppery, but she ate it anyway. Promise stared at her.

Someone passed and hailed him. “Promiskoko!”

He laughed. “This Solomon na mad guy, I swear.”

She adjusted the strap of her purse and held the Fanta tighter. Promise’s hand was sure on her waist. She wanted to pee. Before she could tell him, the music selection changed. Olamide’s Wo filled the room and the languid party roared to life. Two guys removed the centre table and the floor crowded with dancers. Promise pulled her into the crowd. The music was too loud, the beats boom-booming through her head, her body, her chest. She allowed herself to loosen up. Promise must have felt it too, because when Kiss Daniel’s Laye came next, he moved closer to her, ground his crotch into her backside. She wanted to stop him, shift away, but she didn’t want him to say she was being stiff, so she let him. Besides, other couples on the floor were pressed into each other’s crotch to backside. So. Rihanna’s Work came up. Someone let out a joyful yell. Promise grabbed her waist and tried to rotate it. She grabbed his wrists and held it.

They were dancing, Rihanna becoming Kiss Daniel becoming Tekno becoming Burna Boy when someone said something funny and the whole floor laughed. She laughed too, and Promise held her close. She didn’t push back. The laughter had finally erased what remained of her fears. She sipped a little more Fanta. They danced on.

In the middle of all that noise, the dancing, the laughter, Promise pulled her out from the crowd and led her into one of the rooms.

9.

She would have noticed the room. The colour of the walls, the things in it, the smell, but she did not. Could not, because as soon as they were in, Promise locked the door and began to kiss our girl. His movements were quick, fervid and feverish, tongue darting in and out of her mouth as though she was an ice cream prone to melting if he didn’t lick it up quickly.

“Promise, stop.”

He did. “What?”

She had no words. How to tell him that she didn’t want sex without explaining why? How to say no after their chats? He sent her money. Would he ask her to return it? Stop it Bimpe, you’re being childish, she told herself.

“What?”

She smiled. “Nothing. Just take it easy.”

“Okay.”

He continued.

Relax, Bimpe. You have this under control.

And she did, because when Promise tried to unzip her dress, she held him firmly. When he tried to part her legs by slipping a hand between them, she held him too. When they got to the bed and he tried to lie atop her, she turned him over, straddled him, and said, calmly, “I don’t want to have sex.”

“Oh,” he said. Disappointment raced across his face. “So what do you want to do?”

We could get to know each other. Do you even know my real name? Do you know my age?

“Do you love me?” she asked, instead.

His brows furrowed, as though he encountered a strange question in an examination he was over-prepared for. But the confusion was as brief as a blink, gone before she could register it.

Ahan. I love you na. Would I ask you to come if I don’t?”

“Okay.” Yes, Bimpe. Yes!

“So what do you want us to do?”

“I don’t know… Maybe kiss?”

“Kiss? Okay-o.”

A kiss, but his hands still wandered towards her crotch, his erection visible through his jeans. In his back pocket, she felt something circular: a condom? Finally, he groaned.

Arggh, Flora. Shit.”

“I’m sorry.”

“I’m hard. Can you touch me? Just help me cum.”

Risky business, Bimpe. Risky business.

“Um…okay.”

He unbuckled his belt, pulled down his trouser and underwear. His penis sprang free. When she knelt before him, it aimed directly at her face. She stared.

“Don’t just look at it. Hold it.”

She did. It was awkward, awesome, scary, holding a penis for the first time. She felt like a child holding a real gun after seeing pictures of it.

“Move your hands now.”

She did.

“Like this—”

He moved her palms across his penis.

“Yes, like that. Your hands are dry, but I’ll manage.” He laughed.

She was there, on her knees, trying to move her hands when suddenly her mouth was forced open and Promise’s penis was thrust into it. He held the back of her head, and the curly mass of his pubic hair was in her face. She tried to push him away, but he held firm and did not let go until his semen spilled on her tongue, warm, thick and salty, like unsweetened pap. He let out a loud moan and let go of her head.

She spat out everything. Still, her tongue felt salty, tainted. She ran into the bathroom and spat into the toilet bowl. She rinsed her mouth repeatedly, gargled until her blouse dampened. When she returned to the bedroom, Promise had erased the past minutes. He had dressed up, made the bed and cleaned the floor. She made for the door. He stopped her.

“What is the meaning of this rubbish, Promise?”

“I’m sorry, Flora. I’m so sorry, I swear to God.”

“I said I didn’t want to have sex. I said it.”

Ehn we didn’t have sex now. Look, I’m sorry I lost control and made you suck me.”

“Not made. Forced.”

“Okay, forced, whatever you say. I’m sorry. Believe me, I was caught up. And it’s because you’re so beautiful.”

He stroked her arm. She pulled away.

“Don’t touch me.”

“I said sorry na.” He smiled in a maudlin way; eyes narrowed into tiny slits, lips a thin line. “I swear I’m sorry. Shey you want to start vexing for me? I’ll cry-o.”

She looked at him and she felt her rage crack. She willed it to remain, to hold, but Promise tickled her and she burst into loud laughter.

“Leave me jor.”

“I cannot leave you. I love you forever.” He hugged her. “You love me, don’t you? I will not leave you until you answer me-o.”

Oooh. Okay, I love you.”

Ehen! Now I’m happy. My Smallie loves me.” He held her hand and together, they went back to the party where she danced, took pictures with him, ate cake before she decided to go home. Promise accompanied her to the bus-stop, and just before he hailed a cab for her, he asked for her phone number, something she felt he should have done a long time ago.

10.

It was in the bus back home that she allowed herself to think of what Promise did to her. In the silence of the bus, the darkness of the night, the verb came to her easily: violate. Promise violated her. He forced himself into her mouth, ejaculated, and said, It’s because you’re beautiful. And what did she do? She laughed and said, I love you and went back to eat cake.

At home, she brushed her teeth, scrubbed her tongue until she tasted blood. Still, her tongue felt contaminated, diseased. She skipped dinner, and when her parents pressed her for stories about the educational fair she claimed she went for, she snapped at them. She tried to pray, but she could not, because how to call on God’s holy name with a mouth in which a penis had been forced into? She was suddenly aware that she could not use her mother’s cup.

Her phone beeped. A text from Promise: Home yet? Thanks for today.

Thanks for what exactly? She deleted the message. On Facebook, he posted a picture of them together and tagged her. She looked at the joy on her face and all her rage rushed through. She wished she could go back to him, offer him a blowjob and then bite his penis hard when it was deep in her mouth. She clicked on the homepage. The status box beckoned her: Flora, what’s on your mind?

Our girl answered:

When a girl says no, she means no. A true gentleman will respect that. Don’t force her to suck you and then say it’s because you’re beautiful. Is a girl supposed to feel guilty for her beauty? Dear men, you need to do better.

She hit the Share button, and went to bed.

11.

The next morning, Bimpe stayed offline. This pleased her, because logging into Facebook would mean seeing Promise. She blacklisted his number, hoping to take it out of the blacklist when her anger cooled. But by 11:40am, Desola Jemiriye called her.

“Babe, there’s tea. Come online.”

She did. Sixty-three notifications: people had liked her post, commented on it, shared it. She read some of the comments:

Yemisi Ogunjimi: True, men need to do better.

Juliet Azeh: There’s more to this post. Flora spill this tea.

Promise Olaoluwa: What is this supposed to mean?

Onuoha Benita: Promise, wetin dey sup?

Semiat Olaade: I’m so glad someone is starting this conversation.

Precious Umesi: Oyindamola, Jane, Emem, come and see something.

Kike Oyekanmi: “Is a girl supposed to feel guilty for her beauty?” Word.

Matilda Samuels: Why is Promise carrying the matter on top his head though?

She stopped reading. In her inbox, Promise had left a string of messages:

WTF is that rubbish you just posted

Your number isnt going through

Call me. My texts are bouncing

Hold up did you blacklist me?

I thought we already settled this na

Flora

At this point I have to make a post. My reputation is on the line

See my post

He didn’t need to tell her to see his post; Desola Jemiriye had already mentioned her in the comments.

Promise Olaoluwa:

Let’s make a few things clear. I did not force anybody. What happened between us was consensual. Flora & I are good friends. Since we’re being shameless, I should tell you that we exchange nudes and sext. We could have dated, but I don’t see that happening again. I sent Flora transport to this party. At the party, we vibed together & when I was sure that she was into me (we danced together, held hands, kissed – Tunji Ilesanmi, Solomon Egbuna and every other person at the party can bear me witness), we went into a room. I was prepared for sex but when she said no, I respected her decision. I only asked her to touch me which led to a blowjob. She said she didn’t like it & I apologized & she agreed. She hugged me and we went back to the party together. I am now surprised that Flora is accusing me of raping her, forcing her to give me head.

She read the comments:

Laide Fijabi: Church agbasa.

Yemisi Iyiola: Flora did not accuse you. She only made a post. Perhaps you should check your conscience.

Gift Anyaene: I think exposing yourself is a very childish thing to do, Promise. You had a falling out, yeah. Why tell the whole world what happened between you both in private?

Ranti Ekundayo: Gift shut up if u have nothing meaningful to say. Why didn’t you confront Flora who exposed what they did together? You women always jump to defend yourselves without logically considering things. And it’s annoying. Let’s treat all parties equally.

Desola Jemiriye: Flora, come and answer your matter.

Elijah Agim: This matter is simple. It’s just blowjob, a simple apology would have settled it.

Tunji Ilesanmi: Baba read the post well. He tell you say he no apologize? I don’t know why this babe has chosen to take the low path. But we’ll meet her wherever and match anything she’s bringing.

Queeneth Nwaebiem: But men are scum sha.

Jennifer Idemili: Oga your story has holes. How did touching you lead to a blowjob?

Lucky Ifenkwe: The same Flora that is always posting gender equality on her wall is collecting money from man and sucking dick? Nawa. Activist on the timeline, pornstar in the inbox. I salute.

Imonitie Isaiah: I stopped vibing with this Flora babe since that day she argued that abortion should be legalized in Nigeria. When you see someone who will be trouble, best to just avoid them abeg.

Solomon Egbuna: Na which kind yawa be this? That’s why I avoid all these Facebook babes and their feminist wahala.Flora, come out here and say this thing with your chest.

She stopped reading at that. She tried to make a counter post, but her hands shook and her head throbbed. She took long breaths to calm herself.

Flora, what’s on your mind?, Facebook asked.

Our girl answered:

Promise violated me. He forced his penis into my mouth in the room and when I said I didn’t like it he apologized and said it’s because you’re beautiful.

Comments soon blossomed.

Busayo Adegbite: But he already apologized na. Why bring this to Facebook. Don’t you think of the future?

Chi Oma: It’s not even a real rape.

Gwen Adalumo: Lol Chi I tire o. Ordinary blowjob & you people are doing like this. What will now happen if it’s real sex?

Michael Ossai: Look, I’m not judging you or something, but your story does not add up. A guy raped you (as you claimed) at a party. It’s not like he carried you to another place. It WAS AT the party. Why didn’t you scream? Okay, maybe nobody would have heard u. But you came out of the room (or wherever the party happened) and you did not say anything. You let a day pass and you’re just saying it on Facebook. Make it make sense, please.

PS: I believe you. I just want to understand.

Blessing Owoh: Tbh, you put yourself in this position when you entered a room alone with a man. What else were you expecting, intense prayer session?

Mildred Adebo: Did you take photos? It might look odd, but if you ever need to take it up, they’ll need proof.

Oluyemi Oyindamola: What are you saying Mildred? Photos of what should she take? Her mouth or what? Look, forget that thing about taking it up. When my sister was raped by her boyfriend and my parents reported it, we ended up paying the police to leave us alone. The boy said my sister gave consent, my sister said they were kissing already and she no longer wanted it. Know what the police said? How can you lead a man on and then say you’re not doing again? Even if it’s me, I will rape you. A man must finish what he started na. Look girl, just keep quiet. It won’t happen another time.

Wuraola Itenuga: GistHub, here’s a gist you’re sleeping on.

Nene Nene: Michael is right though. You should have said something immediately it happened. Now breeze don blown on top am. It will be hard to prove anything.

Dunsin Lawal: I’m not sure what to think of this story, Flora. The thing is this: He has witnesses to back up his story and prove that he did not rape you. Who are your own witnesses that will back you up and prove you right?

Witnesses? She wanted to scream. Promise violated her. How could they not see it? These people were her friends, weren’t they? They had always liked her posts, shared them, posted comments that showed solidarity and agreements with everything she said. Now she was saying something that was the most important to her and suddenly their support couldn’t hold up? Her heart beat faster. She wanted to fling her phone against the wall. But she remained in her seat, and balled her hands into fists to stop their trembling.

12.

By noon, GistHub had posted the story on their Facebook page.

GistHub:

#AsEDeyHot: A 21-year old Unilag student Flora Ayoola accused upcoming writer Promise Olaoluwa of raping her at a birthday party. Photo evidence below. The ‘photo evidence’ was a number of screenshots taken from her and Promise’s page, a photo of her, and a photo of Promise taken at the birthday. The further she read, the more her hands trembled. She wanted to close the page, go offline, take long breaths to calm herself, but she kept on reading, refreshing the comments until she found one that said:

Dis gal is not Flora Ayoola. This is Bimpe Adedeji. And she is not 21 abeg. Bimpe that we went 2 d same secondary school 2geda? She hasn’t gained admission sef. Who is telling u ppl dis lies?

She looked at the name – Cheenwendu Hokaykay, and she wondered who it could be. Cheenwendu Hokaykay. Cheenwendu Hokaykay who claimed they went to the same secondary school. Cheenwendu Hokaykay. A little more thinking, and the name came to her like a groundnut shell cracking open to reveal the nutsChinwendu Okeke. She remembered her immediately: Chinwendu Okeke from her class whom everyone called Chinwe. Chinwendu with her constellation of ripe pimples, her school uniform with its yellowed armpits. Chinwendu who said, “Nawa Bimpe. This your ITK. Na only you sabi English? Madam Oversabi.” Chinwendu Okeke from her class had found her, and it was in this kind of situation: tangled in a rape story, her entire identity altered, disbelief swirling around her. She felt like a child caught playing with her own poop.

13.

Her Facebook wouldn’t stop buzzing, messages and requests and notifications increasing by the second. People commented afresh on her last post. Spill the tea. Tell us. Who are you. Is this a joke. Are you lying. Is it true you are not Flora. Babe.

Our girl felt cornered, a criminal caught by an angry mob. It seemed as though she’d been forced into exposure, her clothes ripped apart before being pushed naked into the glare of a million bright lights, a million bright eyes. Nothing she did would ever cover her.

She considered her options. She could delete the account. Ignore them all. She could reach out to Chinwendu Okeke and ask her to take down her comment. Or she could post the truth. Our girl chose the latter.

It is true. I am not Flora Ayoola. My name is Bimpe Adedeji. I am 18 not 21. This account was created to express myself in ways that I could not on the other account. If this has offended you in any way, I apologize. That is all I can say for now.

Promise Olaoluwa: So, part of expressing yourself is lying that I raped you?

Yunus Adaramola: Game of Clout, Season 7 episode 4

Tolu Juwonlo: Women are the real scum of the earth.

Nene Nene: I’m disappointed, honestly.

Ranti Ekundayo: Gift, what do you have to say to this?

Nita Egejuru: Feminists, see your sister.

Solomon Egbuna: See how God vindicated my guy. Tunji where you dey?

Semiat Olaade: That she’s not Flora does not mean that Promise did not rape her. Don’t let us bury the original story, please.

Imonitie Isaiah: Semiat, what exactly is your interest in this matter?

Michael Ossai: *deep sigh* Omo, no redemption for you people sha.

Gloria Nduka: This is why it’s hard to believe and defend people, tbh. If you can lie about vital things like your identity, how sure are we that you’re not even lying about this rape thing?

Matilda Samuels: Gloria, sis eh. You just look at some things and you blame yourself for being so involved in the first place.

Our girl looked at the comments as they came in. Comment following comment until her phone’s backlight went off. She tapped it and it came back on. Someone was typing a comment. Our girl wondered what the comment would say. And then she thought, Do I really want to know?

She closed the page, clicked on Account Settings and deleted her Facebook account. And then she sat in the ensuing silence and tried to still the rapid beating of her heart, the tremor of her hands.

Olakunle Ologunro is a Nigerian writer. His work has been published in Brittle Paper, Agbowo, the Queer Africa anthology, and the Gerald Kraak anthology for work that provokes thought on the topics of gender, social justice and sexuality. He is an alumnus of the Farafina Trust Creative Writing Workshop, and a finalist for the 2020 Adina Talve-Goodman Fellowship from One Story Magazine. He won the inaugral Kreative Diadem Prize for short fiction.

 

*Image by Kon Karampelas on Unsplash.