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Ruinenlust: Of Places We Long For But Cannot Return To - Or Return From

Osione Abokhai

If only I could, I would absorb your pain and return it to you as love -Louise Marie Kaufmann


He did not even smell that good. The only thing that felt safe about him was the stern voice he used to set me straight. I loved it and you might think I am crazy but life seeps through our cracks, causing us to flicker between what’s real and what isn’t.

In my earliest sexual fantasy, my lover is an insanely attractive stern-faced man with an unmatched sense of self-restraint who ties me up and tortures me with pleasures.  Sadly I have not met anyone who matches this persona perfectly. But now and then I see him in a person or two, like Mr. K.

Mr. K had his voice, his restraint, and he punished me for nothing but his pleasure. One time, he told me that although he cared about me, the things he did were for my own good. Long and short, he did not want me to become too needy or dependent on his you-know-what. We had a funny relationship. Mr. K was way older than me. I bet he didn’t know this at the time and I loved that there was a mystery between us. You see, he offered to help me with schoolwork now and then. I thought it was stupid because we weren’t even in the same faculty. He had no clue what I was doing most of the time; I figured it was just his way of feeling like a protective man who had my attention. He wouldn’t admit it until six years later but I knew I owned him.  The first time he thrust seven inches of pent-up desire into me, it was the consummation of numerous needy nights. Nights of him feeding me, kissing me till my bottom lip got sore and swollen, and leaving me to pat it down as he faced the wall to sleep. He used to tell me that I was precious like a flower, that I was young and fragile; he said I needed to be protected.

I agreed.

I was fragile and delicate like a flower. I needed protection every time I strolled past the garden with that huge statue of St. Peters at the catholic church on my way to his house. I saw myself as the hibiscus bushes dotted with red flowers and Mr. K, the jagged barbed wire around them keeping the goats and curious pickers out.

The penetration was quick. I couldn’t say if it was painful at the time because I was more consumed with the need to feel something. If this was really the key to all bonds and depths, I wanted to feel it and fast. I did feel it and it was fast alright, just that and nothing more. That night, I sat on his bed with a blood-stained wrapper crumpled at my feet. I couldn’t lie down because I was ready to leave. All that longing for something magical ended in a tearing feeling between soiled thighs. He bent down in front of me mouthing some words I still cannot recall and soon after, his eyes lit up at the sight of his wrapper. 'Wow! Congratulations! You are now a woman.’ I was awake.

The deceptive thing about waking up is that you think you have escaped the world by getting through yesterday. You fuck up in unimaginable ways and at night you either cry or motivate yourself to sleep as that still small voice tells you tomorrow will be better.

It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life… somebody lied.

The most accurate word to describe this monotonous repetition called day and night is ‘timeline’. You never really wake up to a new day, you rest from life and wake up (that is if you sleep) to continue through this long day that never ends. Nighttime is for mercy, or nightmares. Whoever is torturing you doesn’t want you dead just yet, so you get a break for a while. I hated Mr. K. He killed something that was awake in me since I was five. Truth is, I stopped blaming people for doing things to me—things I would have enjoyed if they went by the books.  At age five I was an accomplice to my explorations. I never moved, never protested, and it felt oddly satisfying, those stroking sensations, so I didn’t say a word. Not until now of course. So this is no blame game. I simply hated Mr. K for working up my appetite so much to leave me feeling numb. I found it heartbreaking that such a long wandy phallus did not have magic.

As whatever gods there might be would have it, it so happened that in my state of profound desiderium, I loved a boy. This new affair seemed appropriate because he loved me too. I was the centre of his broken, little and turbulent world and I loved it. When we first met, I asked him, 'What's with the dark glasses?'

‘I’m allergic to the sun,’ he replied.

'Ouuu a vampire'.

We laughed.

His teasing smile was enough pixie dust. Soon I was dressed in a long black gown with long bell sleeves and pale skin while he was Addams Gomez morbidly obsessed with me. I did not know it was a big deal to end up with a girl like me. Apparently he was envied all over school for being with me and one wrong move would make him the school’s laughing stock. While I lived what I thought to be a perfect screenplay, the world saw me as a prize. I was a mangled beautifully plucked flower in love with a boy who wanted so badly to prove himself to everyone but me.

As expected, sex for us was tough and of course, I could never talk about Mr K. Sweet B was my new day, and even though I had to wake up early to delete texts from Mr. K begging for my forgiveness after I caught him pants down with another girl, old things had passed away and to be honest, all things felt very out of box.

Sweet B swore he was my first and if anyone ever made the slightest suggestion that he wasn’t, he would have run the fucker straight through an eight-inch concrete wall with a bulldozer. He had me at the Brandy and Alicia Keys playlists with thoughtful breakfasts of egg noodles, tea or concoction jollof rice on dusty cold Saturday mornings. We even had special spots where we sat and talked about life and the future - our future. Speaking of the future, it was like one of the forgotten fantasies I used to have when I was five. The deep longing for an otherworldly place consumed me. A place I had never been, a place that did not exist. So I told him of my dreams like a story and a living one at that, because, as you may know, reality is a wired earpiece. It gets all knotted up and even though I felt everything in those quixotic moments with him, I soon forgot.  

The day I walked away from Sweet B, I stood a few metres away from him and cried like a baby with a heat rash. I had started texting this other guy out of a gnawing taste for something new. Don’t get me wrong, Sweet B was my new day. I would walk the love-mile from my lodge on the hillside to his dingy room with a shared bathroom to snuggle at 4am on cold Saturday mornings. I was even skipping church activities for that boy! You see, when my mother took me to the university that would be my home for the next four years, she handed me over to a fellowship. That was supposed to be my protection against the cultists, and thirsty fools like Mr. K. But all  I really wanted was to explore my new freedom without constraint or prying eyes. Besides, they were gossiping about me already for smiling too widely at the choirmaster. Even I was shocked when I heard all the things I allegedly did with him. The choirmaster could sing, but for them to think that was enough reason for me to fuck him, that was low, but I digress.

I had been slapped and threatened with the shards of a wooden chair by Sweet B on two occasions because of the other boy I was texting. To be fair, this other boy made me laugh really hard. He was stupid funny, not intelligent, and for some weird reason that got me all warm and fuzzy. When we started hanging out, people said I was with him because he was rich and drove an SUV. His father lived in a rustic mansion with twelve couches in the living room. I didn’t give a shit about the house, or the numerous couches. The boy was a broke ass. He had a girlfriend at the time. To be honest, I didn’t like him that much, but he served as a much-needed distraction from my turbulent world. I just wanted to laugh. It helped me forget. But comedy isn’t free. The first time we fucked, the place stank up a storm. His flaws became apparent. He was a filthy boy. Every dragging moment after that left our dysfunctional situation hanging on the now weakened thread of my loyalty. Yet, I loved it there, precariously between two worlds; a familiar existence and the dreaded eventuality. One time, we went out to an event, and I got so drunk he took me to a strange place full of blurry boys. I hated him too late.

"There is no way back for a girl who whores herself," they all whispered the next day and the next until I left that school. Don't ask me how I knew. I could hear it in their eyes. It did not matter that I was cold, desperate for warmth, and the closest thing to fire was the heat of bodies.  A wandering girl wants a pulsating life. It’s like a curse, not because it’s ugly, but because it could kill you. Fire consumes quickly. Its desperate passion ravaging flesh, blood, and bones per intensity. But at least fire is predictable, you can trust it to do one thing well - burn. But people, they carry demons.

When I met Sir E, he was cursed too and I had a thing for the fractured. We talked about blurry pasts and how love is every fool standing on the tip of a cliff seconds from falling. What I didn’t know then which I would later admit, scar-ridden and bare-bodied in front of a mirror in a chilly hotel room of mixed smells, spirits and rumpled sheets, is that consummating brokenness is suicide.

Our arguments were loud and even when we weren’t talking, there was always something piercing my insides, begging me to slap him – in the face – with a chair. Have you ever fucked a person you hate? Someone you can’t stand, it's chaotic passion, ravaging and inexplicably amazing. You know you’ll die a little more the next day, but by god, if this would be the end of another world in you then so be it. Our hollow bodies pressed against each other. We were desperate to feel warmth and fill voids, but all we had was feverish dark flesh and racing pulses. It was tastefully pathetic.

There are religious interventions for people like us. We went for a couple of conferences together and fucked harder than ever after. The arguments got thicker when I found out his best friend was a married woman whose husband had been in America for only god-knows-how-long. I’m not sure of the details of their situationship, but one day, I stumbled on a chat where he slandered me for fucking him after a three-week-long fight. I had found my way out.

Conflict is a booby-trapped doorway. If you negotiate your risk right, you can get out of a 'soul tie' with minimal damage. You know, that toxic person you keep going back to even when you know you should be moving away from them? Well, a lady at one of the religious interventions called them a soul tie. She suggested we pray for them and abstain, but I smile-scuffed because she never recommended a holding facility. I’m talking locked in the basement of a convent in a straitjacket and strapped to the bed type of restriction because I needed some physical restraint, but not when I’m alone and going about my normal life. No, that’s the easy part. The thing is, seekers like me are perfect in isolation. We never go out looking for warmth. It finds us in the imperfect body of a person. This longing. It’s a dormant volcano and for fifteen years you could forget how hollow your chest is and celebrate your deliverance, until you see them. Usually, they come like the weather, one for every important season in your life, and when you should be cruising, you’re fighting battles and nursing your aching chest, crying hard and it’s horrible. But it feels so good to be half gone. It’s been a long day. The deep dark silence feels like bliss—and the slow ebbing away of colour from my face and arms? Salvation.

When you're a living vortex, you nurse in your belly the whimsical idea that someone out there can love you out of your misery. On your happy days, this thought comforts you, because misery is what has always drawn you to people. You’d love them out of it if they let you. But people are so fragile and afraid of depths. They have not learnt to breathe in misery, to drag deep until its fumes fade so they drink it up instead. Liquid misery is heavy and dense bodies drown easily.

If by chance my story has fallen into your hands, understand that the only thing that made it out alive was this—I could never save myself by bending over fires to pull other people out.


Osione Abokhai is a creative nonfiction and climate fiction writer based in Ibadan, Nigeria. She is still finding her way. 


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