Jerome: Joshua Chizoma

Hand in yours.

A corner in the backseat of a moving bus. Shoprite behind you, an unknown destination before you. In this present you have no future, you want no future. You are stuck in the immediate past; shoprite, pink flowered shorts, red lips, skin so dark it sucks in the light, a shared bottle of Hollandia, memories forever entwined, eternally impaled to your subconscious. You are stuck in the conversations, the ‘you-werent-what-I-was-expecting-but-you-exceeded-whatever-it-was.’

Music blares from the speakers; Burna Boy’s ‘Ye’. A passenger says reduce the volume of that stupid song, driver. Driver says “you are a stupid woman, can your husband buy a car”. You notice how the woman recoils, how she is surprised at the force of the driver’s venom, how she kisses her teeth and calls the driver a goat. You do not intervene. You are more focused on the hand in yours. It is the centre of the universe, everything else orbits around it.

The wind whips your face, slaps your eyes, then changes its mind, caressing, gently kissing your neck.

The last passenger on the last row steps down. You are left alone with the hands. So your lips start to move, speaking words to distract the other passengers from the sounds your fingers are making. The rhythmic dancing and tugging and clasping. Hands joined. His clasping yours, leaving no space for you to breathe. Hands making love in the full glare of a bus filled with passengers racing away from Shoprite. You are speaking because even though you have been silent the whole time, you are afraid this time that the passengers in the front seats can tell what the hands are doing. Because how can they not? How can they not see that hands alone can precipitate a climax, a rising and falling of mountains, can set you on fire, how can they not?

A sated smile is painted on to your face when you step off the bus later. It doesn’t clean off when you scrub your face before going to bed that night. It doesn’t clean off the next day, or the day after the next day. That was the beginning of the boy you called Jerome.


Hand in yours.

Refectory. Red tables and white chairs. Smell of food and spices and something old. You chose this place carefully; it is the least patronized place in school.

You see him for the first time in good light. Clear skin, sincere luminous eyes that light up when they see you, luscious lips. You are in trouble.

Hands, hidden under the table. Away from prying eyes, partly because it is nobody’s business and partly because secrecy makes you giddy, makes it more fun what you are doing. A girl is telling you about the love of God. It is an ill opportune moment, she had zeroed in on you because why would two seemingly idle people not want to hear the word of God? But you would wonder later if you had a tell, if the happiness you were feeling in that moment had somehow alerted her, made you more conspicuous.

Your head is nodding, refusing to acknowledge what the hand is doing. How it has left yours and is drawing circles on the rips in your jeans. How the fingers have moved to your bare skin, setting it on fire. The hand is roaming, getting close to your center. You give your life to Jesus again that day. Because then the girl gets up and leaves.


Hand in yours.

On top of yours, rather. Plastering yours to the wall. Hands pressing your face into the paint. Hands sweaty. A pounding. A heaving. Release. Heaven.


Hand in yours.

Location unknown, destination your bed in your room in the hostel where you are sure to find tears, and sad songs and melancholia; your staple food for times like this.

The air doesn’t cackle with electricity. There isn’t the barely disguised longing from the other times. There is something else present. You refuse to recognize it, refuse to acknowledge what it means for you.

A lump lodges in your throat. You swallow and swallow but it refuses to sail down to your stomach. You are dying in places you never thought you had life. You are doing the math; how many days of sunshine were there? Why does memory hurt so bad? There should be an answer, you think. Some meta-human somewhere is supposed to show up in times like this bearing answers on a tray.

You are fucking sad. And tired. And a little impatient. You are totally without conceit as you think: ‘how does he not see how good you are for him? how could anyone throw away something this good? Is he ignorant, or stupid, or both, and what does that make you?’

You are ready when the hand goes limp and the mouth attached to the hand begins saying goodbye, saying this now is not ours, saying perhaps we went at it too fast, can we end and begin again sometime later?

It is many weeks later that you would visit your memory to find out what he left behind. It is then that you would wonder why you now think that the school gate is both a beginning and an end, that Hozier is a really good singer but you would never love ‘Work Song’, that it was 3 weeks, two days and 6 hours.


No hand in yours


Chizoma Emeka Joshua loves the Lord, his sisters and fried plantains; exactly in that order. On some days, he grudgingly accepts that he could make a great up and coming writer. His works have been published or is forthcoming on, Expound magazine,, and elsewhere. His story, “A House Called Joy” won the 2018 Kreative Diadem Prize in the Flash fiction category. He is a feature columnist for Bellanaija. He currently reads Law at a university in Nigeria.

Related country: Nigeria

All rights to this story remain with the author. Please do not repost or reproduce this material without permission.