• Dami Afam Ade-Odiachi

What do you do when a friend gets me too-d?

The news of it - his misdemeanors, had broken the day before, but I hadn’t been online then. There are days when the chorus of voices is too much, too loud, too distracting. Days when my internal self - my spirit man, needs no other company but myself. We - me and me, the royal we, are sometimes enough, caring for no one else’s stories or experiences, we luxuriate in our own - in my own. On days like this it would take a thunderstorm, a firestorm and an earthquake to get through to me. My online presence grows thin, my physical presence assumes full form in my present. My phone goes unanswered - a selfish day. 

In hindsight, it is good that I was absent from my online life on that day. Who knows? I might have been inspired to call his accusers witches, and the curators of his many misdeeds bastards. Friendship is like this. We stand by the people we love foolishly, stubbornly, irrationally. We proclaim that they are good, even though we know the truth; that because we are of this world, this wicked globe, none of us can be good. All of our white is stained. 

When we met, online, I was in need of a tiny injection of help. I wanted to write for people other than myself and get paid for it, and he had a lot of experience doing that very thing. He was sharp, like I am sharp, sensitive, like I am sensitive. The mix of the two is difficult to find. I’m sure everyone enjoys this sort of relationship with their friends, but I’ve found it quite rare. Not many give me the time of day, and even fewer come with the right mix of easy banter, attention and distance that breeds that faint sense of brotherhood or sisterhood. “A kindred spirit.” I thought. I made space for him. I needed help. He provided it instantly. He needed help, I returned the favour. It was this exchange - random and brief, that secured his place in my thoughts.

“Hey sexy beast. So I wanted to ask if you had started having sex, and also if you’d maybe be interested in masturbating with me.” He sent, in text, to a girl, unprompted. 

She said, “no and no. Lol. Wait, lol. Are you serious?”

Once the bounty was put on his head, screenshots of conversations with exchanges like the above flooded like a hurricane fueled storm surge. 

I remember the first time I was informed that someone found me sexually attractive on twitter. I was 23.  

“I like your blog and your pictures.” He said. 

“Thank you dear famzer.” I used to call my readers famzers back then. 

“You’ve got the loveliest lips. I can picture them…” he went on. 

“Thank you, but no thank you.” I said;  two parts bemused and two parts bewildered.

“If you tell anyone about this, I will tell everyone on Twitter that we had sex in the bushes by your house.” 

“The bushes by my house? Where do you think I live? The bushes by my house? I think you would struggle to find anything near my house that could be referred to as a bush. Shall I send you pictures of the compound? At least that way, you would come up with a reasonable enough story that doesn’t paint me as some sort of wild man, living in concert with the evil forest.” I was more offended that he thought that I lived near any kind of bush than anything else.

He blocked me after that, and I was glad. He’s unblocked me recently. He complimented my writing the other day, but the memory is engraved in my hippocampus. I don’t judge him for it. I remember being grateful that he didn’t defame me. Did it affect me? Certainly. Will I out him? No. I don’t see how that would serve me. 

What if I’d played with the fantasy as some men do? What if I’d encouraged it? The thought of it makes me shudder. Since then there have been others, boys, girls, on twitter, with crude suggestions. In the end, no matter the conversation’s progression, my answer is always the same, “thank you, but no thank you.”

Sexual predator: a person who tries to have sex with other people in a predatory manner. Analogous to how a predator hunts down its prey, so the sexual predator is thought to "hunt" for his or her sex partners. That’s an adaptation of Wikipedia’s definition. It is also, unfortunately, the very descrption of how we’ve been socialized to think about sex and love. It is Ozo, a Nigerian man just evicted from the Reality television show, Big Brother Nigeria, pursuing Nengi with just as much fervor as, as, as, I don’t know… as Christians pursue the kingdom of heaven! It is me, in university, chasing girls in nightclubs in the firm belief that their sexual attention would make me more of a man than I was. 

“I swear, it was just sexual banter… trying to get laid. There was nothing sinister. I wasn’t grooming anybody.” That’s what he said to me. 

“Does he have a sex problem?” I asked myself. If there was just one story, one accuser, one pointed finger, I would have said, “lust has reasons which can’t be explained by reason.” But there wasn’t just one story, there was an anthology, a very public collection of stories about one man’s vulgar attempts to get jiggy. A crying shame! Indefensible!

His name trended on twitter; the gist of the day. Blood in the water, a feeding frenzy ensued.

“He did this!”

“He did that!”

Every wicked thing, every secret, aired in the town square. One even said that he’d fingered her to the point that she bled, that he ignored her when she’d said, “no”. Sexual assault - unforgivable. 

He denies this but his denial is like a whisper in a Lagos thunderstorm, inconsequential. 

My mind was foggy and my heart was heavy. I was desperate to do the thing others had done, cancel him, strike him from the record of my life and call on others to do the same. I blocked him on twitter. I was proud of myself for taking such a strong stance. 

“I believe the women.” I said. 

“ Zero tolerance for sexual impropriety.” I said.

I got in my car, preparing to drive out, when I clipped my tyre on the side of my house. My back tyre bent. I went to the mechanic.

“Bros. This one no be small thing. You climbed something Abi?” I nodded, feeling sorry for myself, feeling sorry for the girls, feeling sorry for my friend. He’d just lost his job. 

“Are you okay?” I text

He didn’t reply. 

I called him. 

He didn’t pick up.

I was worried.

I called again. 

He didn’t pick up, but on whattsapp, he was typing. 

“No.” He text back. 

“At least he’s still alive.” I thought. 

“Are you safe?” I asked. 

“Yes. I’m with family.” He said. 

I was glad. When people, men especially, talk about their mental health after they’ve received a flood of hatred (deserved or not) on social media, they are derided, shamed, and chastised. It is a difficult thing to live through. Anyone would be suicidal. If I suffered the same, I don’t know that I would make it. I didn’t want him to die. Whatever it was he’d done, he could not be allowed to die like that. Not another friend. Never again. I struggle to articulate the pain I feel when I hear that a young person has died that way. How could anyone be allowed to think that they were too evil, too villainous, too embarrassing, for this world? The evidence does not support this.

I unblocked him on twitter. 

“That’s good.” I replied.

“You don’t have to be here. Especially you, I’ve been an idiot to you. You don’t have to be here.” He said.

“Yes. You have been an idiot to me. But there’s space for you here. Regardless of anything, there’s life for you here. I need you to know that there’s a path forward. What that path is, I do not know, but there’s a path. Remember that.” I begged. 

There was a preacher man doodling on the sand when a great mob approached him, yelling, kicking, and screaming, dragging a woman they said was guilty of adultery. Was she actually guilty? I don’t know. The Bible doesn’t say. But it didn’t matter then, just as it doesn’t matter now. The accusation is all the proof the pudding needs. They called her an adulteress, and that’s how we remember her, now, millennia after. 

According to the law then, the punishment for extramarital jiggy jiggy was death by stoning. Where was the man she was jiggy jiggy with? John, the writer of this story didn’t say. They asked the preacher man if he agreed with the law. 

“Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” He said, and then he went back to doodling in the sand. 

The people in the mob left, the oldest first, and soon there was no one left. 

The preacher man looked up from his doodling, and when he saw that there was no one left to stone the woman, he told her to go home and stop stepping outside her marriage. Or could it be that she was a single woman who ended up in a torrid love affair with a married man? No matter. She went home and went on with her life. 

I can’t judge him, that friend of mine that did those terrible things. I don’t condone them, I don’t approve of them. I don’t understand what he was thinking, but at the same time I understand. People have reasons that can’t be explained by reason. The boy is my friend, we’ll get through this. He will find life again. 

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