Iyibo My First 22 Years is a Long Time to Live in a State of Paralysis

A young man revisits a night he has spent 22 years trying to forget.

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Editor’s note: this piece contains descriptions of sexual assault.

Lagos, Nigeria

The only image that captures the intensity with which I purged my life clean of my time in secondary school is ‘scorched earth’. I had gone to a unity school in Kaduna and, after graduating, I kept no friends, joined none of their alumni networks, changed my phone numbers, and abandoned my Facebook account, the only bridge that connected me to that phase of my life. After years of processing the trauma of my boarding school, in university, I reinvented myself. I freed myself from the curse of being trapped in the orbit of cruel but charismatic people.

Then, last year, the Coronavirus pandemic happened and my insular universe—built around solitary adventures to galleries, plays, and concerts—shrank into the four corners of my bedroom.  One night, I reluctantly returned to Facebook, nostalgic for a social media network that wouldn’t bombard me with infection counters and death rates. The first ‘xxxx sent a friend request’ was a pleasant surprise. A secondary school bunkmate had discovered my page thanks to Facebook’s relentless matchmaking. But then that one request became three, and then 24, as more people from my old life demanded access to my new one. I accepted these requests, my memories of that time called into question by occasional remarks about how much I’d changed, along with others about how I’d—at least, ideologically—stayed the same...

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