By Babi Oloko
The First Time We are climbing up through the dense grassy underbrush. I am in shorts, and long blades keep scratching at my ankles like tiny reminders. I bat away bugs from my face and try to keep up with your infinitely long strides. You are in sneakers and you are unruffled. We climb up, and up, and up. I walk behind you, because I have never been where you are taking us. I am panting slightly, but I do not allow the air to make noise when it escapes my body. American Boys do not pant, so I must not either. We arrive at a ladder, but it is blocked off. A cold vertical sheet of metal hides the bottom half of its many rungs. The message here is clear—do not proceed, do not keep climbing, do not grip the cold metal deterrent and use it to effortlessly hoist yourself up the ladder’s sides, do not lift your endlessly tall body above and beyond its rungs.
By Babi Oloko
Graphic by Juliet Nwagu Ume-Ezeoke If you had asked me earlier this year what I would bring with me on a deserted island, I most likely would’ve chosen a water filtration device, a machete, a flare gun, a tent—staples of survival to advance my chances of lasting through the chilly nights. But now, my answer is different. Now I know what it is like to be moored on a deserted island, alone under the violent sun. My island is not made of hard earth or sediment; it is soft and made of gray woven cotton. When I cast my gaze around me, no blue waves roll and thrash; my island and I are buoyed by layers of dirt and grass. On this island, I do not fear wild creatures in the night; in their place, I am pestered by persistent mosquitoes. All around me, I see people running, kicking balls into goals, sitting in the sunshine, walking dogs.