What We See When We Are Not Looking

When you’re attending a wedding in my hometown, in Nigeria, please arrive late. If you do, you will sit behind the most handsome men in the world. Then you can ogle away without having to turn your head and make it obvious. Your prowl must be stealthy, like a Komodo Dragon hunting, taking from the back. I had known this unwritten law since God’s house became my man-poaching site. So, I arrived late. I walked in with my siblings and hung back until they occupied the pew space in front of me. Then I sat behind them to govern my man-scape.

Coming home to Sagamu—my intimate, indulgent hometown—is always a broken epiphany. Fine men litter that part of the world, and they remind me of a stabbing loneliness. There are hotties everywhere I go, but there is an overpowering familiarness to the ones at home. One of them inside this church, his neck looked so sturdy, so strong. I wanted to curl my fingers around it and press gently, the way one presses a hot brown akara ball, soft, squishy, leaving a memory of oil and pepper. If I kissed him, I knew I would pucker my lips afterwards in a smarting ecstasy. I knew my nippled would tingle. Another prey stood metres away, with a frame of beards that hung out, forming a well-tended, jet-black halo in near-profile. I kept gasping, but the old man sitting next to me thought it was the wedding hymn hitting me a-cloven. No, Pa. I have no passion for Adam’s betrothal in Eden. The men in front of us are the ones taking my darn breath away.

One of these men stood up and slid to the front during the post-sermon offering to drop his own. His back, God. The sweeping baobab spread of his shoulders. I danced vigorously during the rest of the service, ostensibly to drop my offering. But I knew before God and man that I just wanted to catch his face. On the fourth trip, I did. His lips looked like things you should eat. His eyes were what the poets wrote about: The Deep Pools. His nose called out to my tongue, lean, tapered, and I imagined him just as long and shapely down there, too. In the cave of my shaking thighs, it would lengthen even further. It was a split second, my scoping, but I am a master. An usher peered at me. I joined the church to scream hallelujah, then sashayed my way back to my seat.

After church, I stepped out with Mum. We took selfies, pouting like two schoolgirls, then waited for my brother and his friend to come round with the car so we could all move on to the reception venue. Excitement trilled in the air, but inside me was a black turmoil. I had committed fornication in church and, this time, I could not blame it on being single and horny for ages. Nor on my immodesty. I piled it instead on the simple and complex crime of men looking so good, smelling so good, and staying so far away from the right people’s reach. If not, what was a man doing wedding a woman? It didn’t matter where my logic carried me; such a union simply felt and still feels so wrong.

At the wedding reception, as we danced with the bride and the groom, one of the groomsmen touched my waist, a curling of a palm, a full touch, and I felt redemption shiver down my spine and quicken the mortal bodies tucked into my underwear. I turned. He did not apologise because he did not know he had done anything. He was busy boogieing down to the juju tunes from the band on stage. I had felt something metal. I glanced down at his flailing hand and there it was: a fancy ring on his pinky. I stared at his thin sideburns, his square jaw, the easy carriage of his beauty. He had full lips and smooth cheeks, and his hair peeked from under his abeti-aja cap. His eyes caught mine and I smiled. He smiled back and moved awkwardly forward, past me, as though now aware of what had just happened between us. I stared after him, at how self-conscious he seemed to have grown, and thought of how small actions could change their meaning within a minute. He had held my waist and did not know. Afterwards, I had smiled at him and now, he knew things bigger than the moment.

I didn’t see him again till we left the party. I did not look for him. There was no need to. Plus it was already painful watching him take his movements in sips, as if he desperately wanted to do something but he needed to decide against it, and therefore must ration his own freedom. So I stopped before it could start. It would turn messy and I would hurt myself and he would not even know that I had hurt myself. 

Beautiful girls tried to push their breasts into my mouth while photos of the bride and the groom were being taken, and that was when I remembered God’s commandments. I cringed from their screaming nipples. They were not the ones I wanted to see. I crossed myself with dollops of Jesus’ blood, turned to my mother, and said in Yoruba, 

“May weddings leave us happy.”

She said “Amen”, thinking she had understood me. But she had not. I have a need, and being home wraps that need around my neck. But, really, there is no voice loud enough to carry the psalms of a caged boy.

Enit’ayanfe Ayosojumi Akinsanya

Enit’ayanfe Ayosojumi Akinsanya is a Nigerian storyteller. He is the author of ‘How to Catch a Story That Doesn’t Exist’, a collection of short stories about queer life in Nigeria. He won the 2022 Itanile Travel-Story First-Position Award, the 2022 Arts Lounge CNF “The Green We Left Behind” Anthology First-Position Prize, and was shortlisted for the GTB Dusty Manuscript Prize in 2018. His works are up on Kalahari Review, Brittle Paper, The Shallow Tales Review, Livina Press and elsewhere. He is 28 years old and loves to watch sitcoms & Netflix, and read poetry.
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