A Short Story

By Olufemi Agunbiade

Back then…
It was always It.

No one ever mentioned its real three lettered word name in our bungalow by the mounted soldier statue on Russel Road. I had loads of older brothers and sisters and many cousins that I grew up with in that old house. I was six or seven years then, if I can recollect, and rightly considered too little and too green around the ears to understand the ways of the world. The older ones were always whispering quietly in angled corners. Mouth to ears, “I had It with …” “I did It with…” Names like Sandra or Jane or Phumla or whoever would float to me in the air. The whisperer would be proud, cocky, chest thrust forward, eyes shining and a swaggering gait would follow. A conqueror of It.

I always buzz with unbridled curiosity.

What is It?

They will not tell me, of course. I dare not ask, either. Else, I’ll be guilty of the sin of eavesdropping. Our home, I should add, was a Christian one. Strict, protestant, hardworking, and brought up to believe liars and laggards and thieves and blasphemers and eavesdroppers and sundry sinners would go straight to damnable Hellfire on Judgment day. Father’s switch was always on hand to enforce crude compliance on any ward who tried to sin on earth. Not to talk of any minor who engaged in It before their time.

Hence, the intriguing whispering!

I noticed the older sisters and cousins never mention it, only the boys. They, on their own, talked of dresses openly. They discussed cooking, gossiped about friends, laughed at silly jokes, but never mouthed It. They played ‘Suwe’ and ‘Ten-ten’ games in the yard – dusty feet flying, hands clapping in noisy rhythm – and washed dishes and plates and did the sweeping while singing. I soon got bored hanging around their skirts. Over time, I stopped being around them and drifted back to the big boys with their muted boasts of conquests.

Of course, I got to know what It is in Grade 4.

You see, I attended an all boy’s school – City Boys Comprehensive – at the edge of town. It was patiently summarized for me by the street savvy boys, the three lettered word finally unveiled. It is SEX. The boys pantomimed with hands and body how to do the do. An old, dog-eared copy of Penthouse surfaced somehow and served as a manual of my education. Fantasying began in earnest in my young brain!

To spice up things for us, there was an all girl’s school just a kilometer down the road. Daily, after the school bells had rung, down the road we would rush happily to watch the ever conscious girls sashaying past. Like dogs on heat, we would pant and dream dreams with open eyes. Catcalls and whistling will let off pent up passions.

I envisioned of the day I would have It with my own Sandra or Jane or Caroline…


It is still the same!
Two decades later and father to a pigeon pair – I married a Helen by the way – the sacred word had still not been liberalized as I had expected it would be.

It’s still muted, caged, hallowed.

You are beyond the pale if you start discussing It at the workplace. Or, Saints above, in the church! You just carry the word in your head and wonder if the other fella is thinking what you are thinking, too. You may see the words in the eyes of many, if you look hard enough. But the taboo is always there, entrenched well over time and space. A silent sentinel over our amorous thoughts!
Once, during lunch hours at work – I trained as a Boilermaker at Ria College – I tried to strike up a discourse with my colleague, Alex, about the Liberalization of Sex in the Modern World. He looked at me strangely, as if I had on horns and sternly said, ‘This is not a topic to be discussed here, buddy.’
‘Oh, why not? Why can’t adults discuss sex?’
‘No, please. It is not a topic you discuss here…’
‘Oh…where, then?’
‘Discuss It at home with Helen.’

It, It, It.
Even, at home with Helen, it is still It.

After work and commuting back home from the city and dinner done with, we would seat around the TV and alternate between sport channels and Zee World unending romantic soaps, while we make small chatters. Never about the word, for the kids hover around (just like I did years ago!) So, we restricted our talks to the weather and the rising costs of goods in the market and a family trip we’ve been planning for a couple of years now.
Later, when the kids are safely tucked away for the night in their rooms and our own bedroom lights are low and my fingers would start tracing patterns under her nightgown.
She’ll say, ‘That feels good…mmnnnnn!’
I would mmnnnnn’d back.
‘You want to do It?’ She always asked that. Always.
‘What?’ I always feigned ignorance. ‘What are you talking about?’
She would giggled: ‘I’m talking of It.’
I would continue to trace my aimless patterns
She would kissed me hard and long and murmured into my hairy ear, ‘So, let’s do It, dear.’
And I’ll murmur a thick, ‘Yes.’ and we would do It breathlessly. A trip interspersed with groans and moans. After, sweaty, exhausted and fulfilled, she would say: ‘Did you enjoy It?’
A whisper of It, just like my brothers of old used to do.
Of course, yes, I’ll murmur again while still floating and gasping for oxygen.
She would hug me closer and my nostril would be clogged with the tangy smell of sex. ‘It was great!’
And the day would die and another get born.