Jite Agbro Art


You left. On that Friday night when I entered your room at Odenigwe, it was silent but outside, the crickets chirped. I saw your body lying supine on the bed. When I ambled across your frigid body, I noticed you were not lying curled, in the usual question mark shape you took; you lay spread out like seedlings left under the sun. I wanted to excuse you, but my left eye caught a note and two uncovered bottles of insecticides. The bottles had red letters: sniper scrawled on them. I let my left eye linger on the note before my right eye twinkled, revealing words lying upside down on a page. A pen was lying next to the note, its cap was squeezed, as if you had chewed it all along while mulling over the fluidity of your words; of those words that made no sense to me when I first flipped the note over, focusing my eyes on them:

Forgive me if you are the first to find this body…

It was not by mere chance that I found your body. You knew I was the one who would come because I was the one who had stayed awake with you on those nights sleep evaded you, prodding you for an explanation and, soon after, listening to your weary voice, an amalgam of indignation and hurt, as you related to me tirades about how a woman had maneuvered her way through the long queue at the ATM stand in the bank, and walked up to you saying, “sissy, get off the way.” You told me it wasn’t her sly moves that tore at your skin, it was the ‘sissy,’ an interlude to your hurt, how it gnawed at you like a cankerworm.

I had stayed by your side in those dark times, but now you were gone.


We first met on a sunny afternoon at Block B, Faculty of Arts quadrangle at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. Then, I was coming to have a quiet moment, and you were seated idly, staring at nothing in the air. You wore a blue polo and jeans and I was clad in a white long-sleeved shirt, with thin green stripes, and a pair of black trousers. Immediately I crossed the section leading to where you sat, our eyes met. For the first time, I held your gaze, unblinking.

You cringed.

I came and occupied the space between us.

The sun was scorching. It was November, and the wind blew harmattan dust, picking up biscuit wrappers and other coloured cellophane, tossing them as they spangled in the air. Your notebook was shifted by the wind too, its pages flapping and rolling clumsily toward my direction. I bent to catch it and you scrambled for it too. Our shoulders brushed and you were caught between saying either ‘thank you’ or ‘sorry.’

I offered you my hand, and you gave a wide smile, a smile I thought was beautiful, like rose petals.


“Yeah.” You cocked your head.

Our conversation flowed, relentless. I was studying music. You, a literature student. My days were spent on the football field, dribbling the boys, or listening to hot Nigerian music, but yours were spent in bed, a book in hand, the fluidity of full-length prose works easing into your brain. I loved eating beans and plantain while you preferred biscuits and peanuts. I sucked my teeth when you said you didn’t like music, but if you had to listen to any, it had to be slow and mellow.

We were both different. Knowing you was an adventure, a journey one doesn’t wish to embark upon but has to. But isn’t life always like that? Breaking through hard rocks into terrains that, ordinarily, one may never wish to unfetter.

We exchanged contacts.

You called later that night and said, it was a pleasure meeting you. I replied with a simple thank you and said I loved your smiles.

“And I love the way your muscles were perfectly flexed in that shirt you wore,” You replied.

I was not surprised you loved my chiselled body. Life hardened me to the core. Growing up in an orphanage home wasn’t rosy for me, at least, not until one night when I was eight, a nun brought me to her room and forced her vagina on my flaccid penis. I fled the orphanage, cursing the existence of any form of piousness. I was, unlike you, hard and stiff to the bones. You were quite effeminate. I noticed it from your tiny voice and the way you whisked an imaginary hair across your face when you talked. But I loved you that way.


I consented to visit you on a hot Wednesday afternoon in January, at the staircase in front of the Nnamdi Azikiwe Library. You reminded me that I had often promised to visit you. You wore that pale look I often recognized, the one in which your eye-bags were puffed, and your eyelashes frizzled; the skin underneath your eye, sallow.

On that first day I visited you, I wore a pair of jean trousers and a blue jersey, the one I had customized DROGBA at its back. Pungent smells rose from every corner. A refuse basket was upended beside your black gate. Stained tissues left at bay were swaying by the wind. Noodle wrappers folded around a cracked eggshell walloped to my feet. The yellow-painted walls my eyes met had patches of dust on them. You said the patches on the wall were a result of the constant, backyard football tournaments your landlord’s sons played.

Inside your room, a dog-eared calendar was glued to the wall; the one Andrew Powell gazed straight to the sky with a thrust of his fore-finger. Your mini-laptop lay next to your books on the table opposite where I sat toying with my phone. I asked if you believed the image on the calendar was Jesus; you placed a bottle of water on a stool before me and said, “Yes, Jesus looking up to heaven.”

“The sky, not heaven,” I explained. “That thick cloud above is not heaven,” I explained.

“Wo—whichever one you choose to believe, Sky is heaven, heaven is sky.” Nonchalance shone brightly in your eyes, as though you were slowly sinking away from some faith you meticulously believed in.  You sat up, brought your PC to your lap and played R. Kelly’s I believe I can fly. As the slowness of the beat drowsed me, I wondered if this was your kind of music, slow and dizzying.

“I want to touch the sky,” you said, your eyes on the ceiling.

“You can reach every height you want to.”

You beamed because, at that moment, I sounded like a preacher planted high on a lofty pulpit, telling you that touching the sky meant dying and dying meant going to heaven or hell. You shifted your gaze from me and said, “What does it matter?”

Deciding against asking you which didn’t matter, was it dying or the going to heaven, I watched as you lay on the bed, riffling through a book. When I pulled off my blue Jersey, you paused, gaping at my tight abs, as if you were staring at your idea of an open heaven. I turned to look at you and, immediately, you drifted your eyes away, pressing the book to your face.


We made love on a cold April morning inside my room in Hill-top. Outside, there was a deluge, the wind was pushing my windowsill. It was as if we both knew the rain was going to come. You had called me earlier that morning and said, “Guy, wetin you cook? I’m coming over o.”

“Wetin you dey talk like this? Lectures no dey today?” I asked.

You reminded me that lectures had stopped and it was one of those weeks that students were left to revise in preparation for exams. I said “Tor, since you are coming, buy Okpa there at the hilltop gate.”

You whined and asked me why I didn’t cook.

“Buy Okpa and come jari,” I teased.

It was drizzling outside when you came tapping on my door net. The hot Okpa, wrapped in black nylon, was hooked to your slender fingers. I ushered you in. Your feet shuffled upon my burgundy rug, and you hung your arms around my shoulders, briefly. I gently shoved them away, closed the door net and locked it.

You sat on an armless plastic seat in my room and focused your eyes on The Blues calendar on the wall, a headshot of Didier Drogba gazed back at you. You cast fleeing glances at the brick patterns on the wall in my room. When I opened my laptop and played Nigerian hip-hop music, you said I should lower it. The beat was too noisy. I ignored, sat on the bed nodding my head to the beat as we ate.

After we savoured the sumptuous bites of the Okpa and drank a sachet of water each, you folded your arms and brought them to your bosom. You crawled to my bed, saying something about the hot Okpa doing less in curbing the cold. Your dainty figure curled up in bed, I saw, at first, you had the shape of a question mark. You waited for me to lie next to you before your fingers—those fine, magical pair—perched around me. They stroked my nipples and caressed the furs on my chest. I reciprocated by grabbing your butts, pulling the hefty mass of your body. The slow way you took me in your mouth soon after made me lose count of each passing second. The growling of thunder outside and the patter of rainfall on my roof seeped our moans as I jumped on your back.

“Babe, do you have a condom?”

That was the first time you called me babe, the romantic cadence of the word tickling my chest. When I fucked you, the slowness the word babe came with morphed into a yearning for more. The sound of latex cutting through flesh, alongside the music playing on my laptop filling the room.


It was after two weeks you decided to leave my lodge in Hill-top. Every single day in those weeks, we went out together and came back to feel the warmth of our bodies. Once, we sat facing each other at a table in Marlima restaurant. It was on a bright evening. You ordered a soft drink; a Fanta orange, and I chose the green beer bottle, Life.

My voice rose first to clear the fog in my mind. “Onyii, you still haven’t answered my question,” I said.

“What question?”

“This is the hundred and one time I’ll ask you this question.”

“Tell me, I don’t know.”

I clicked my tongue and asked you why you weren’t happy.

At first, you made a deep sound like a bull, a hesitant sound. “There you go again,” you sounded groggy as if weakened by the effect of my question.

“Give me a definite answer and I will stop.” I wheedled.

“I’m sure you don’t want to open this wound here.” Your brown eyeballs caught mine and I held it. “Effeminacy.” You snorted, brushing an imaginary hair across your face. Beads of sweat formed on your forehead. Tears leaked from your eyes, streaking your cheeks. You dabbed your eyes with a pink handkerchief.

The murmurs of hetero-students over our union rose a little above calm, their voices hovered around us like bees. A boy from your department, Arinze was seated at the table next to ours, a dark slim girl, supposedly his girlfriend, whose name you said was Linda. Arinze was light-skinned and rotund, he tended to Linda with an air of carefulness.

“My father calls me a sissy,” you cried. “He said I wasn’t a man; that I will amount to nothing in life.”

“But you know it’s not true, Onyeka.”

“It’s true, and it’s my reality. You know, sometimes I wonder why people never liked me, why everyone often withdrew their gazes when I looked.” With tears heavy in your eyes, you bolted away from the hall. I followed you, calling out your name while the restaurant buzzed.

I caught you by the wrist under a huge gmelina tree, on the field between Marlima restaurant and Eyo-Ita hostel. You stirred, your brown eyeballs, shrivelled and weak, gazed at me and you popped the question: “What taints a soul to the point it turns dark?”

Dazed, looking at you, oafish, I saw antlers of veins trembling on your forehead, painting your yellow skin a greenish hue. There was a foot-trodden pathway beside the gmelina tree we stood. The grasses were lush and green. It was February and ASUU had just declared a two weeks warning strike. Some students were still hesitant about returning home, others were gone. The school was partly empty, there was only dust at every corner. The wind started ruffling the trees, shaking the leaves, and like a whirlwind, it picked papery objects, a shovelful of sand forming a single trail of dust, moving spirally as it floundered the air.

“What makes you so unhappy, Onyii?”

“I just told you,” You were rash.

“Why does it make you so mad?”

“Because it hurts, hearing someone you work so hard to impress saying you will amount to nothing.” Your words like a sword stabbed through me, stilling the terrific wind.


On the night I found the note lying beside you, I screamed heavily so your neighbours arrived, a good opportunity for me to take a sneak peek at the neighbours you often told me about. There was the dark Olatunji, a reedy Yoruba man in his early forties, who claimed he was too young to get married yet fucked girls every night inside his room. There was the loquacious Mama Chika, who had a high-pitched voice that always squeaked high when someone stayed longer inside the toilet. There was also, Sister Deborah, whose room was closest to yours; who often claimed churchy yet her moans seeped into your ears every night she had a female visitor. They all marched into the room that night, bearing flashlights. The air was tense when they asked me how I was related to you.

“Is he your brother or something?” Brother Olatunji’s voice pierced into the night.

“How you take know am sef?” Mama Chika’s voice followed.

“I don’t understand this kind of friendship. May God have mercy on you,” Sister Deborah heaved her shoulders, casting haughty glances at me as if she was seated next to God in heaven, and I was already burning in the pit of hell.

They suggested I contact your relatives I knew. I typed in my name, I-K-E-C-H-U-K-W-U on your phone’s screen to unlock your phone. I was your password, a key code to your heart. I scrolled through your contact list and found names of people I never knew you had. I found names like Baby, Bestie, Candy Fb, Darling Insta, Fish 2go, my love Lag. Those were probably the names of people you spent good and bad times with, in the past, before we met. You must have kept the names thinking I would leave you someday, thinking that you would still need them when the emptiness and gloominess of losing me crept in.

I called Papa right away, and an awkward silence lingered between us after I greeted him, “Papa, it’s I.K,” I said in Igbo. He was silent. I felt he was racking his skull, trying to fix a face to the name. It took a while before I reminded him of how we often visited him in the village. How, on the last time we visited him, I had bought him snuff and dry gin, how I had joined you in sweeping the Ube leaves that littered the whole compound. I told him I was the one who last bought him an Isiagu regalia; a red shirt designed with a tiger head. The shirt had cufflinks which we showed him how to tighten.

“Oh! Oh! My son, I now remember. Kedu ka I mere?” He asked. I told him I was doing fine. He asked of my parents, the parents I had often told him I never knew. When he asked of you, I was tongue-tied. Standing before your lifeless body there in your tiny room, I was speechless.

A Few weeks before, you were alive, still pushing. Now, you were dead, I felt words sink out of me like a draining pipe. So, I simply told him, “Papa, Owugo. He is dead.” I heard a heavy shout from him, then there was silence from the other end.

I dropped the call.


You were laid to rest amid a whorl of dust rising to the rusted zinc in your compound. The sweaty, bare chests of youths shone as they dug your grave with shovels. In my clogged fist was the note you left, now crumpled. I felt trapped, handicapped, grief snaking its way into my bones. A while later, I sat at the edge of your grave, knowing this was where your bright, yellow skin was going to lie forever. The people had gathered. A tall, light-skinned man donning a white cassock, drove into your compound and parked his vehicle, a Lexus 350, beside the huge Ube tree in your compound. I later learned he was the parish priest; Father Greg. He was to officiate a requiem to your soul.

After the long, tiring mass which was interjected by sobs, the priest sprinkled holy water on the brown casket where you lay straight, unmoving. Folds of rumpled tissues were stuck into your nostrils. I looked at you lying in that state, your eyeballs were rolled back, revealing only stale, white films.

St. Cecilia choir members were clad in red skirts (the males wore trousers) and white shirts. Red berets sat upon the heads of the females who sang in soulful, heart-wrenching sopranos and the males responded in soothing bass.

Your father was clutching his chest tight, he was muttering something about him burying you when, in the real sense, you were the one who ought to bury him. His face bore traces of crow’s feet in it. People were consoling him, he was crying, but if one asked him why he was crying he would yell, “Hell, no. I’m not crying, why would a man cry?” Men do not cry, but his eyes were stark red, his handkerchief hiding the snot dripping from his nose.

Tears in my eyes were cones of rainbow reflecting its rays on the gold-plated car parked beside the Ube tree. The priest bent to scoop red earth to sprinkle on your grave and his flowing cassock was smeared in dust. This act of watching as the priest’s attire got flecked with dust reminded me of the question you’d asked me before: What taints a pure soul to the point it turns dark?

When it was my turn to throw sand into your grave, I huffed as I bent to fetch sand with my right hand, the note clenched tight in my left palm. I felt people’s eyes on me but I didn’t care, this right here, this dog-eared sheet here in my palm was the only possession you left me, so I would do with it as I pleased. I sauntered close to your grave, an urge brewed inside me: to tear this note into tiny little pieces, and spray them freely to the dug ends of the earth. But I didn’t, instead, I shoved the sand to your grave and, clenched in my left palm, was a part of you—the note.

This was how you left, in the retinue of dust and a heap of sand.


It’s been two years since you left and I am standing now on the mound, where you lay still under the hard earth. Every November I visit you feels like it’s just yesterday when your departure seemed surreal, when the St. Cecilia choir members departed in a single file like a colony of ants, and father Greg zoomed off in his car. Today, I bring you a bouquet of blooming flowers with blue petals. I drop it at the upper part of your tomb. 

I now understand what you meant when you asked me what taints a pure soul to the point it turns dark. It is death, it is gloominess and mourning. Maybe this is the best way to mourn you, maybe standing here watching as the sky turns dark.

Your father has been groaning heavily inside his room. I’m not certain he’ll survive this loss any longer. Sometimes he wails like a baby. I have cried and chugged and wiped my tears. I have consoled myself with the images of your beautiful smiles in my head. A full yellow sun is shrinking to the west, and my silhouette is cast upon the Ube tree.

Nwabuisi Kenneth is a voracious reader and a writer. He holds a B.A in English and Literary studies from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, where he lives, reads and writes fiction. His works have appeared and are forthcoming on: Brittle paper, Kalahari review, Salamander ink magazine, Eboquills, one black boy like that review, cmonionline.com, fiery scribe review, Libretto magazine, ANA review, 2021 and elsewhere.