As a child, clinging to my father’s side, my hand tightly grasping his calloused one, we arrived at the boarding school gates. Tears streamed down my face, a testament to my yearning for home’s safety and comfort. Memories of my mother’s sudden departure haunted me, writing desperate letters pleading for her return, but receiving no response. Eventually, I knew I had to leave the nest and venture out on my own. The decision was difficult, yet I longed for adventure and new horizons. Thirty years old, Scotland became my target, a land of ancient castles and misty moors. Change whispered, urging me toward a new chapter. Fear lingered, but I had to answer the call, embarking on a journey of self-discovery.

In the frigid grip of winter, Glasgow’s gray streets stretched like a runway for a bleak fashion show; its hardworking residents, dressed in black and grey, resembled uninspiring models. A sharp contrast to the vibrant autumn hues. It felt as though someone switched the channel from a colourful dream to a monochromatic 1950s play. Amidst this desolation, I became a stranger in my own body, disconnected from the world. The way Glaswegians dressed added to my confusion; it seemed they mourned the winter. It was nothing like home, where even in rain or sun, people exuded elegance like a field of roses.

On a chilly winter evening, my older brother Donald demanded, for the second time, that I leave his house. I prepared to depart from his living room, having worked as a steward at Ibrox Stadium on the south bank of the River Clyde. Holding my winter gloves, his words stung me like an icy gust, “How soon can you get the hell out of my house?”

I contemplated throwing myself to the ground, emulating a Nollywood house girl banished from her madam’s abode in epic fashion. But my pride refused such a display, especially with Donald’s piercing glare, leaving no room for negotiation. Resigned, I leaned forward on the armrest of the chair and whispered, “I’ll move out in two days.” As he banged the door behind him, I sank into the couch, my throbbing and purple toes a result of hours in tight shoes at the freezing stadium gate.

Donald, my elder brother, was once a formidable presence in our youth, a roaring lion silencing the jungle. I was his tranquil lake, offering solace amidst the chaos. He poured out his heart, sharing loves, losses, and fears. My words soothed him, a calming balm for his spirit. But as we grew older, his acts of martyrdom felt conditional. A craving for recognition and praise simmered within him. He shielded me and my younger brother Judah from the wrath of Father’s cruel sister, Aunty Thelma, after our parents’ divorce. Yet his reminders of sacrifice weighed heavily, as if seeking constant adulation for his kindness.

Over time, as my understanding of our parents’ divorce deepened, Donald grew increasingly displeased with my perspective. In my eyes, our mother simply needed to leave at a young age to find herself. She trusted Father to care for us, which he did. Donald held a different belief, seeing our mother as selfish, driven by her own desires. Whenever I shared my thoughts, he rolled his eyes, interjecting with his own opinions.

As children, Donald often commanded Judah and me to leave the room when his friends came to play video games. His elder status prevailed, a dismissive attitude possibly rooted in our femininity.

On the second occasion of Donald’s demand to leave his house, Rha, a Polish man I had recently met since arriving in Scotland, appeared to take me on a date. Sitting in his car, my face radiated with joy, despite the looming prospect of homelessness. Rha stepped out of the driver’s seat, his smile illuminating the surroundings. Opening the door for me, we embarked on a drive to his place. The living room welcomed us, spacious and filled with air, a kitchen at one end, and a television at the other. Souvenirs from Rha’s travels adorned the small office at the corner. In fitted denim jeans and a fake Gucci shirt, he cooked us dinner, his amber eyes and thin Caucasian nose captivating my attention. Stirring the pot, his occasional playful glances pulled me in.

Who was this man, only known to me through weeks of text messages, and now meeting in person? Three weeks of Tinder conversations led to this moment.

We sat down to eat. Rha served us cups of carrot juice infused with a touch of mango. The quality of the food surprised me. Its spices, pasta, and mouth-watering aroma transported me back to Nigeria. Memories of my sister’s rice and chicken stew flooded my mind, the sautéed onions in olive oil with tomato paste, curry, and pepper. Homesickness dissolved.

Rha asked me to spend the night, and out a sense of responsibility, urged me to inform Donald. After all, he had facilitated my journey to the UK, investing time, money, and effort in the application process for school and the visa. He even provided a plane ticket and health insurance, but  a rebellion stirred within me. I resisted the idea of reaching out to Donald. The responsible side of me, reminiscent of a schoolgirl, insisted I should return home after the first date, yet as Rha and I embraced in the ethereal moonlight, I chose to defy my better judgment. I woke up to barrage of missed calls from Donald.

I rode alongside Rha the next morning, raindrops dancing on the car’s windshield, their pitter-patter echoing my thoughts. Hamilton Hill’s barren trees reached out, their desolate branches a reflection of my inner turmoil. Scotland, my new home, posed a question within me, asking if I would have left Nigeria had a lucrative job allowed me to escape the oppressive grip of homophobic laws and the prying eyes of friends and family. Rha’s blushing cheeks and warm smile occasionally stole my attention in the side mirror, but my mind wandered elsewhere.

Arriving at Donald’s flat, I prepared to bid farewell to Rha, but his unexpected words startled me, “Move in with me, Hezekiah.” Surprised, a hesitant smile escaped my lips as I replied, “It’s too soon, Rha.” “Please, Hezekiah,” he pleaded, “turn around and look at me.” I averted my gaze, unwilling to reveal the tears welling up, unable to bear the vulnerability that lay beneath. Rha persisted, sensing the withdrawn demeanor I had carried since our night together. He must have noticed the weight of torment I endured under Donald’s roof, enduring his passive-aggressive instructions on household tasks, from regulating the heater to using the washing machine or even closing the windows. That very night, as Rha slept, I found solace in the memory of locking myself in Donald’s bathroom, my body convulsing with sobs, collapsing onto the bare floor, unable to withstand the bullying inflicted upon me.

Was it mere chance that the universe seemed to conspire against me? Fate appeared to have turned its back, as Rha’s invitation to move in coincided with Donald, my own brother, demanding my departure from his house. Homelessness loomed, the prospect of wandering Glasgow’s streets hanging over me like a spectre. Uncertainty engulfed my being, a dark cloud eclipsing my already fragile state.

A mere month had passed since my arrival in Glasgow, leaving behind my job in Nigeria to pursue an MSc in Scotland. I had reached out to Donald, seeking permission to rent the adjacent room to his own, once the previous tenant, a fellow master’s student, vacated it. Upon my arrival, Donald and I had agreed on this arrangement, with the understanding that I would be exempt from paying a deposit fee since the house was rented under his name, and I lacked the means to do so.

As I removed my shoes by the dinner table, Donald entered the room, his presence laden with tension. Without uttering a word, I followed him to his bedroom, aware of his displeasure. He climbed into bed, enveloped by blankets, fixated on his phone screen. Standing near the door, I crossed my wrists behind my back, striving to maintain a facade of composure.

“What have you done to address my request for you to leave in two days?” His eyes avoided mine as his fingers tapped the phone’s screen, his agitation palpable.

“I’m doing everything I can,” I responded, fighting to keep my voice steady. “I asked for the two days you granted me, and I’ll be gone by tomorrow.”

Donald took a deep breath and rolled his eyes, as though my mere presence had become unbearable. “Your energy in this house has been toxic,” he accused, his words pointed. “You sleep in the living room when there’s a perfectly good bed right here. I need you out today. I’m sending you your rent money right now.”

As I checked my phone, I realized he had transferred the rent money I had previously given him. It was a clear message that I was no longer welcome under his roof. The insults and accusations he had hurled at me in the past days reverberated in my mind, leaving me hurt and bewildered.

Only later did I realize that Donald’s anger stemmed from his discovery of my sexuality. Despite having come out to him six months before arriving in Scotland, witnessing me with the gay men who came to pick me up had evidently infuriated him. In his perception, my sexuality was a contagious virus that needed to be purged. I couldn’t help but ponder if my entire existence would be defined by rejection and exile.

Let me unravel the web of lies Donald spun to justify my expulsion from his home. It all began when I met Yohanna, an older man who dangled the enticing prospect of a job at the home care agency he worked for, accompanied by a promise to alleviate a significant portion of my burdensome student loan debt. The excitement bubbled within me, and I couldn’t wait to share the news with Donald. However, his reaction shattered my enthusiasm, leaving me crestfallen and disheartened. His face twisted into a visage of disgust, casting a shadow over my hopes.

“Isn’t that illegal?” he sneered, cutting me off mid-sentence.

The word echoed in my mind, sending ripples of unease through my core. Illegal? The knot in my stomach tightened, constricting my thoughts.

He dismissively waved me off, his attention diverted back to the television. “Just continue the story,” he commanded, as if the legality of the matter held no significance.

But how could I possibly focus on anything else? The need to understand gnawed at me, compelling me to seek clarity. “I need to know why it’s illegal,” I trembled, my voice betraying my anxiety. “I don’t want to engage in anything that could jeopardize my well-being or my future.”

Donald’s patience snapped, his composure crumbling under the weight of his frustration. “I said continue the story!” he bellowed, his arms flailing in agitation.

Summoning courage, I took a deep breath, attempting to steady myself. “Donald, I came here brimming with excitement, eager to share a new opportunity with you. Yet, your coldness has cast a pall over it all. I can’t simply carry on as if nothing is amiss. If there’s even a hint of illegality, I need to understand the risks involved. I can’t compromise my safety or my future.”

But Donald’s concern for my well-being and prospects was nonexistent. In a venomous retort, he spat out his true feelings. “This is precisely why I never wanted you here,” he seethed, his eyes ablaze with anger. “You’re determined to make me miserable. But remember, you wouldn’t even be here if it weren’t for me. I brought you over, covered your expenses—ticket, health insurance—and this is how you repay me? You need to leave. How soon can you get out of here?”

The words crashed into me like a tidal wave, shattering the fragile illusion of family bonds. “Donald, we share the same blood, we’re bound by brotherhood,” I pleaded, my voice quivering with disbelief, desperately clinging to the remnants of a connection I once believed to be unbreakable.

His retort was a venomous strike, laced with disdain and rejection. “Your hollow brotherly love means nothing to me,” he snapped, his words slicing through the air like shards of ice. “Take it elsewhere, shower it upon my son, for that’s where it truly belongs.”

A sharp pang of hurt pierced my heart, an ache that resonated deep within my core. How could he discard the ties that had shaped our lives, casting them aside with such callous disregard? The weight of his rejection bore down on me, a heavy burden of sorrow and confusion.

In the midst of this tumultuous storm, I sought solace in understanding. “Where does this sudden animosity stem from?” I asked, my voice trembling with a mix of hurt and bewilderment, desperately grasping at straws to unravel the tangled web of emotions that had led us to this precipice.

But alas, Donald had already passed judgment. The gavel had fallen, sealing my fate within the confines of his stubborn resolve. There was no turning back, no room for reconciliation or redemption. I stood there, a solitary figure in the aftermath of shattered bonds, left to navigate the turbulent sea of uncertainty that lay before me.

The memories intertwine, weaving a tapestry of contrasting emotions. The day I sought refuge in Rha’s embrace, seeking solace from the storm that raged within me, was the same day Donald’s bitter words pierced my vulnerable heart, chipping away at the fragments of self-worth that remained. In that moment, amidst the chaos and turmoil, I knew deep down that I needed to break free from the suffocating grip of his toxicity. And so, with trembling hands and a glimmer of hope, I reached out to Rha, hoping he would be my lifeline, my savior.

He arrived, a beacon of light in the darkness, gathering the scattered remnants of my life that lay scattered on the rain-soaked pavement outside Donald’s flat. His kindness and thoughtfulness embraced me like a warm blanket, providing the comfort Ilonged for. Each day, he nourished not only my body but also my soul, crafting meals that were a testament to his care and love. The blending of yogurt and fruit, the artful layering of cheese and pickles, the sharing of spaghetti and laughter as we immersed ourselves in the world of “Two Broke Girls.” In those moments, the possibility of a future with Rha began to unfurl before my eyes.

Visions danced in my mind, dreams of a place where love knew no bounds, where the shackles of societal constraints couldn’t restrain our hearts. A country where same-sex love was celebrated, where we could create a family of our own, whether through adoption or the miracle of surrogacy. Rha, my partner in hope, echoed these desires, promising to grow and evolve for the sake of our shared dreams. The future shimmered with possibility, a beacon of light guiding us forward.

But as days turned into weeks, a subtle shift began to taint the canvas of our connection. The once-intertwined threads of our lives started to unravel, leaving me feeling adrift in an uncertain sea. Rha, consumed by his work, grew distant, a silent chasm widening between us. The yearning to contribute, to be a part of our shared journey, compelled me to suggest transferring money to his account. As he immersed himself in his tasks in the living room, a gnawing unease crept within me, whispering that something was amiss.

Our paths, once harmoniously aligned, now seemed at odds. I felt like an ill-fitting piece in the puzzle, a square peg attempting to force its way into a round hole. And in the depths of introspection, a painful realization surfaced: Rha had moved beyond me. The gulf between our aspirations and desires had grown too vast, leaving me stranded on the shores of uncertainty, grappling with the fragments of a dream that had slipped through my fingers.

The passage of time marked its presence, and as the third month unfurled its wings, I found myself standing at Rha’s doorstep, burdened with the weight of my packed bags, ready to depart from the haven that had both embraced and shattered my fragile hopes. Yet, before I could take that crucial step forward, we embarked on a journey of raw honesty, a heart-to-heart conversation that sought to unravel the mysteries that had clouded our connection. For weeks, his behavior had seemed enigmatic, distant, and I yearned to uncover the truth that lay beneath the surface.

In the sacred space of vulnerability, his words fell upon my ears, shattering my dreams like a delicate icicle succumbing to the relentless grip of a bitter winter’s day. He confessed, his voice trembling with uncertainty, that he didn’t love me. The impact of his revelation struck me with the force of an abrupt gust of cold wind, leaving me staggering, struggling to find my footing amidst the wreckage of shattered expectations.

His admission, though laced with honesty, did little to assuage the ache in my heart. I had begun to feel the tendrils of affection weaving their way through my soul, but I refused to expose my vulnerability, concealing the truth behind a veil of falsehood. “I don’t love you either,” I lied, the words escaping my lips like a feeble attempt to salvage what remained, “but perhaps we can navigate these uncharted waters, exploring the depths of our connection and allowing fate to chart its course.”

A flicker of disgust contorted Rha’s features as he abruptly shifted the conversation to the matter of rent. The weight of his words hung heavy in the air, a reminder of the practicalities that overshadowed our fractured bond. “You promised to pay me every month,” he spat, the bitterness colouring his tone. “It’s been over a month, and you still haven’t paid for the second month.”

Stunned by his accusation, I struggled to comprehend his perspective. Had he not seen the bank alerts? I presented him with the transaction notifications, a desperate plea for understanding, but his reaction confirmed my suspicions.  He sought a reason, a justification to rid himself of my presence, his focus consumed by his own bronchitis rather than the intricacies of our shared obligations.

In a wordless gesture, I turned away from his door, my footsteps carrying me towards the solace that awaited. With a phone call to Yohanna, my lifeline in this moment of uncertainty, he swiftly arrived to whisk me away to his humble abode, a one-bedroom apartment that exuded warmth and compassion. His words, uttered with reassurance, offered respite to my weary soul. “You can stay for as long as you need,” he kindly affirmed, his voice a balm for my wounded spirit.

Guilt seeped into my core, an unwelcome companion that tugged at my conscience. I offered to contribute, to pay rent in this new sanctuary, but Yohanna’s refusal echoed through the space, embracing me in its gentle embrace. “Just pay the light bill,” he suggested, his smile radiating warmth and understanding. “We will navigate the currents of coexistence, weathering the storms that may arise.”

As I settled into the embrace of my newfound home, questions danced within the recesses of my mind, swirling like a tempest of uncertainty. What lay ahead for Rha and me? Would the tapestry of our lives ever find a way to reconcile the fragments, weaving a future that embraced our differences? Or had this fleeting romance reached its final chapter, destined to fade into the recesses of memory, forever.

Where do I even start with Yohanna? The tangled web of our story weaves together moments of splendour and betrayal, leaving me grasping at fragments of memories that blur and intertwine. Should I unveil the lavish gifts he bestowed upon me, symbols of his possessiveness and desire to showcase me as his trophy without my consent? Or perhaps I should delve into the desperation that propelled me into his arms, seeking refuge from the wreckage of my fractured connection with Rha, my heart and the biting cold of Glasgow’s unforgiving winter nudging me towards this ill-fated choice. My mind spun in disarray, a chaotic dance of thoughts, as I stumbled into the shelter of Yohanna’s embrace, unloading the weight of my confessions, hoping for solace in his presence. It was an act driven by instinct, a temporary respite in a haze of confusion.

Yohanna, a magnetic force of nature, exuded a charisma reminiscent of pop royalty. His every step carried a rhythm, hips swaying in synchrony, fingers pirouetting in the air, as smoke curled around him like an ethereal waltz. But beneath the allure lurked a demand for obedience, a trait that triggered haunting echoes of my father’s tyrannical presence. I willingly succumbed to his commands, the weight of his expectations pressing upon me, gradually eroding the foundations of my self-worth. Mistakes were met with sharp words that sliced through my fragile confidence. Inadequacy was thrust upon me like an unwelcome mantle. I became the target of his ire for the slightest misstep.

Time unravelled like a thread slowly unwinding, revealing the suffocating grip Yohanna had upon me. His home transformed into a prison, its walls closing in, squeezing the air from my lungs. Nights were spent seeking refuge in the solitude of King’s Park, willingly surrendering comfort for the fleeting respite it offered. And on one fateful eve, as I lay upon a weathered bench, the moon casting its ethereal glow upon the scene, a fox emerged from the shadows, its eyes ablaze with a mixture of curiosity and warning. A shiver danced along my spine, a primal sense of awe and trepidation mingling within me. In that moment, a realization dawned like a ray of light piercing through the darkness — my time within Yohanna’s domain had reached its bitter end.

Yohanna’s insatiable desire for physical intimacy became an unrelenting demand, an incessant hunger that gnawed at our connection. When I dared to refuse, to assert my autonomy over my own body, he began to wield his friends as pawns in a sickening power game, using me as a sacrificial pawn to satisfy his twisted desires. The boundaries of consent were obliterated, and I found myself ensnared in a web of coercion, the tendrils of manipulation and degradation tightening their grip around my fragile spirit.

The journey through the labyrinth of my stream of consciousness continues, a tumultuous path that forces me to confront the depths of vulnerability and resilience. Shadows of pain and resilience intermingle, revealing the intricate layers of a story that demands to be heard, as I navigate the treacherous terrain towards liberation and self-discovery.

Three days before my departure from Yohanna’s suffocating abode, a crushing sense of defeat weighed heavy upon my weary shoulders. In a desperate bid for assistance, I reached out to Home Service, yearning for the solace of a roof over my head, only to be met with cold rejection. The cruel truth stared back at me — I, a migrant student, stood at the precipice of homelessness, abandoned by the very system that should have offered aid. Raindrops cascaded down the windowpane of the McDonald’s on Argyle Street, mirroring the tears streaming down my face, as despair threatened to consume my fragile spirit. The mere thought of enduring another night upon Yohanna’s unforgiving living room floor was an unbearable torment.

My plight extended even further into the abyss of despair. A week prior, my educational sanctuary had cast a threatening shadow over my dreams, dangling the withdrawal of my enrolment like a sword above my trembling form. I had toiled relentlessly for four arduous years, labouring to amass a meagre fortune, only to find myself adrift in a sea of insurmountable financial tribulations. Public funds eluded my grasp, and the means to pay my mounting tuition fees remained a cruel mirage. Even the paltry savings derived from my humble cleaning job had been surrendered to the school, accompanied by a desperate plea for leniency. How was I to navigate this treacherous landscape? How could I endure this storm?

I dialled the number of my school, and miraculously, a lifeline was thrown my way — an offer of accommodation for a brief respite of four weeks within the confines of the school dormitory. With a glimmer of salvation before me, I bid farewell to the oppressive confines of Yohanna’s domain, leaving behind a message that failed to fully convey the turmoil within my heart. His confusion mirrored my own, his prior hostility casting a shadow of guilt upon his troubled demeanour. His text, proclaiming my failure to disclose my intention of leaving, served as a painful reminder of the fractured bond between us. To bridge the widening chasm, I explained the rationale behind my departure, but his silence spoke volumes. The weight of his own remorse pressed upon him, a burden we both carried, but were incapable of articulating.

Within the sanctuary of my new dormitory room, the confines of which held the promise of respite and reflection, I found myself standing at the crossroads of my existence in Scotland. The trajectory of my journey had veered off its intended path, leading me through a labyrinth of diverse and humbling occupations — a waiter, a cleaner, an industrial worker, a stadium steward. As a lawyer who once revelled in the embrace of a white-collar existence in Nigeria, I could have never fathomed the twists and turns that would redirect my course. Though dignity resided within the realm of these menial jobs, a shadow of shame loomed in the recesses of my consciousness, a vestige of my Nigerian cultural upbringing that held judgment and prejudice against such endeavours.

It feels like forever since I walked away from Donald’s house. Father has been relentless, calling me over and over again, desperate for some kind of reconciliation between Donald and me. But I can’t go back. I’ve made my decision. I won’t waver. I made sure Father knew that when I sternly warned him, “Don’t you dare mention Donald’s name to me ever again.”

Walking down the street, rain pouring down my trusty rain jacket, I sought some solace from the storm. “He’s dead to me,” I muttered under my breath. The thought of Donald makes my blood boil. He’s nothing but a psychopath, and I want nothing to do with him. I can’t even fathom forgiving him, no matter how much Father pleads and begs for it.

“I am not God, Dad,” I snap back at him. “I can’t just forgive and forget like some divine being. I can’t erase how Donald treated me.”

But perhaps… just perhaps, there’s a grain of truth in what Donald said. Maybe Mother abandoned us for her own selfish desires. Maybe our presence was a constant reminder to Father of the deep wound he inflicted on her. And maybe Donald is the embodiment of all the pain and suffering I’ve endured since arriving in Scotland. He represents the scars that run deep within me, a painful reminder of a turbulent past.

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