My dorm roommate was a friendly boy from Nigeria and he was polite when I first entered the room and he, me, my mom, and my tía exchanged greetings.
"Oh, you two have your own bathroom," my tía observed. "I thought universities had communal bathrooms."
I shuddered at the thought. "God no." I’d made sure the universities I applied to didn't have those.
"It's good you have your own bathroom," my mom said then whispered, "There are muchachos desnudos walking around communal bathrooms, right?" She gave me a weird look.
"Oh my god!" She'd crossed the line talking about naked boys and I said through my teeth, "Mom, ew, stop." I glanced back to see if Oladapo had heard, but his back was turned. My family helped to bring in my things, and at some point, he disappeared from the room.
He was gone for a long time, even after my mom and tía left, but I didn't think anything of it. Then the Resident Assistant came knocking on the door.
"Hey, Alex." Robbie smiled. "Have you unpacked yet?" He peeked inside the room.
"Almost. I mean, I'm almost done."
He glanced at Oladapo's side of the room where the bed was made and desk already arranged. A frown flashed across his face before he stepped in and closed the door behind him. "Uh, so, we're going to set you up with a new roommate. But," he motioned, sticking up his thumbs and sweeping them from his chest to over his shoulder, "we've got to move your stuff. I personally think that Oladapo should move his stuff, but Chris, the RD, wants to do whatever's most efficient, so..."
"A new roommate? What happened?"
Darting his eyes, Robbie shrugged.
"Is... Oladapo okay?" I asked, still confused.
Robbie rolled his eyes. "He'll be fine."
My new roommate, Tobiath, was a shy, nervous kid who looked like Neville Longbottom with coke-bottle glasses. When I asked him, he said he didn't know what was behind the roommate change. My question had seemed to heighten his nerves, so I smiled at him kindly and went to unpack, lowering the volume of the music in my headphones.
The people in my hall were kind, except for Oladapo who was suddenly giving me the cold shoulder. I realized I had somehow offended him. But how was that possible when, after greeting each other, we hadn't said anything else before he disappeared never to return?
During our hall's game of introductions, I discovered who Oladapo's new roommate was and, afterwards, approached him while everyone else was heading over to the dining hall. "Hey, I'm Alex." I held out my hand to shake.
The olive-skinned kid with curly golden hair and black-rimmed glasses turned to me looking a little surprised, but he shook my hand. "Tim."
"Do you know why you and I switched rooms?"
"Uh..." Tim's blue eyes darted. "Well..." He glanced around at the few people remaining in the room, then took a step closer to me. "He's from Nigeria, right? And... he said in his country, they're not really... you know... He thinks you're gay, so..." Tim glanced me up and down carefully.
"Oh." I paused for a moment. Well, at least Oladapo hadn't been rude about it to my face. Rolling my eyes, I remarked, "Well, good riddance to him, then. Hope he's more tolerable for you."
Tim nodded then shrugged. "Yeah, he seems nice. I mean... getting past the homophobia stuff..." He awkwardly shifted his eyes again and I flashed a polite smile. "I mean, I'm not homopho---I mean, gay. Well, I'm not homophobic either. So, don't worry."
I nodded, thinking this guy was really awkward. True to my thoughts, he bobbed his head and held up his hand in what I supposed was a wave goodbye, then left the room.
My first goal was to find more gay guys. To make friends with, of course. I wasn't looking for a boyfriend. Not that I would send away the right guy if he appeared.
"Hey, Tobiath," I called over from my bed after dinner. "Are you gay?"
Tobiath looked up from his Minecraft game with fearful eyes. "No?" Those weren't I'm So Closeted fearful eyes and they weren't exactly Oh No Are You Hitting On Me fearful eyes. They were more like Oh No Questions are Scary fearful eyes.
"Do you know anyone who's gay?" I asked, this time adding a kind smile.
He shook his head. "Uh, but... I think there's a gay club." He lifted his welcome pack folder and pulled out a brochure. "Uh, here it says that there's a club fair on Wednesday..."
I hopped off my bed, walked over to his desk, and looked at the brochure. He pointed to the club listings.
LGBT+ Club: Club dedicated to providing a safe social, learning, and discovery space for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, pansexual, and other non-normative-identitied students.
"Thanks, Tobiath!" I went to my own desk and pulled out my welcome packet. After opening the brochure, I starred with a marker where the LGBT+ Club table was going to be at the fair, then sat down on my bed again. "Do you have a girlfriend, Tobiath?"
"No!" he blurted. "Girls are gross!"
I raised an eyebrow. "Are you sure you're not gay?"
"B-boys are gross too," he said, ducking his head as if admitting a secret.
I smirked. "Maybe you should come with me on Wednesday?"
A/N: I’m going to give you a spoiler right now: Oladapo does change. I wanted to portray a character whose homophobia was tied to his home culture to show that people aren’t inherently prejudiced. The majority of homophobia in Africa stems from the idea that homosexuality was an import of colonialism―and it's obvious how Africans feel about colonialism considering all the shit it did to them and their economies and cultures. As an unfortunate result, African pride has become intertwined with homophobia for many. But with Oladapo, I wanted to show that once you get out of an environment that largely promotes prejudice, you have the chance to broaden your horizons, meet new people, and unlearn what you were taught. That he change was the suggestion of some Nigerian Wattpadders as I was researching and I'm really thankful for them. With the redemptive piece you'll see later, I hope you see that people can change and learn to love, so don't lose hope. ❤
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