Remi Oshibanjo


Remi Oshibanjo is self-published author of a collection of poetry called, ‘These Are The Most Terrifying Thoughts” which is sold on Amazon and is an active member of the London based creative collective, SXWKS. In 2016, Remi was one of Spread the Word’s Flight Associates and is one of the co-Founders of AZ Magazine, the only British BME LGBT+ online publication. Her writing focuses largely on the Queer Black British experience, how love leads all of our lives.

She is currently working on her debut novel, “Child is a Dirty Word”. Child is a Dirty Word, is a novel about love in South London, where two teenage young women fall in love, as star crossed lovers as Romeo and Juliet did.


There was formerly a widespread belief that the words of the dying men were inspired or prophetic

Outside the window was a blur of colours, the full spectrum of blues and all the rest as the car went on and on, out of the window working its way, maneuvering through to where she so politely asked her driver to take her to; when she had got out of Greenwich station and found the black cab just sitting there, as if by chance. Peju was wearing something that seemed right for the occasion, a beautiful dress, of a fine silk like fabric, but one that did not announce itself, as she could neither announce herself, or announce his name where she was heading. So today she decided, at her dressing table, to be only quietly beautiful. She regarded herself for a moment, as someone with her freedom, she wiggled her toes and her fingers smiling as if it confirmed it. Happy for her but sad for him.

She stood out in the dark ugly cab, her navy blue dress, illuminated comparatively to her surroundings. Dark black plastic was everywhere, not shined or even cleaned in an age, or more even. The cab driver was talkative, he sometimes broke to allow her to interject, but not often and she was grateful for that. She could push all his many, many words into the back of her mind and see them more as a background noise, a radio of sorts, then anything else. Grateful not to be in any kind of real conversation, she again looked out of the window, looking for beauty, of some kind, of any kind to balance out her surroundings.

She found it.

Blurry but vivid, once more she found a full spectrum of colours outside of the window. Pinks and blues and browns, so many browns in the forms of people. Greenwich afterall. The cab stopped at a light and the blurs complexified, the browns finally forming people just as she had assumed- known really. One man stood out to her, packing his shopping into a blue plastic bag. One pineapple, a bunch of grapes, some lycees, three avocados all disappeared into the bag. His face was all concentration, a wizard performing light magic. He stood in a crowded market, with so many people. Still, he stood out to Peju, in some ways he was alone. There was a marked decisiveness to the way that he packed the bag, something about him felt familiar, true to her. Something, but she didn’t know what it was and she didn’t have much time to figure it out, or decide as the car creeped onwards.

Peju got closer to the glass, her nose almost touching it now. Her man wore blue slacks, close to the blue of her dress. He looked up from the plastic bag and burrowed his eyebrows at her, mouthing hello. Instinctively she looked down into the ugly of the cab, her body felt odd mouthing words to a man that she didn’t know, she wasn’t raised like that, but eventually her eyes met his eyes and smiled- a middle ground. The silence between them was long but not cold. The car moved on eventually and there was no goodbye. Some would say that there was no acquaintance.

The car worked his way down and around corners, turning so much she could have thought the driver to be pulling her leg, playing with her then going to her destination at all. But he wouldn’t because that would be against the very idea of the fixed charge that they had both agreed to when she entered the car. Peju thought of the man in the market, with the same blue on that she had on, and a little of the same smile that she had on too. In many ways, if only visual, they had more in common then the man, the boy, the man that she was on her way to see.

Her own brother was a mystery to her now, a foreign man to her and had been for such a long time. She didn’t know him, they didn’t know each other though they had shared the same cot and the same mother, if only for a while. For the longest time, there was a shared umbilical cord, an invisible one that had connected them together. Going back to him had always felt like the womb, but not today.

Her phone vibrated.

It was Kay, loving as always. ‘Be careful in there, I don’t like to think of you in there with them.’

Them. What the person that she had shared a womb, a womb, a cot and a mother with had been reduced to. She also shared a rattle with him, brutish, she would always want to have all the toys to herself as a baby, and he would always give her what she wanted. This was something that carried on deep into secondary school and then and even after that. The model was simple, she would decide that something was interesting, or something she should concern herself with, and he, as the only male in her life, would bend over backwards and run across mountains to accommodate her. It was anti feminist but comforting. The outcome of this was usually material, in the form of clothes or bags or money. But sometimes it wasn’t, sometimes it was in the form of a talk- the words would stay with her forever. This was the person that had been reduced to the ‘them’ that her loving, if overprotective girlfriend had been talking about. Feelings that could only be associated with tragedy and loss  rippled through her, making her wince.

Nigeria would have welcomed him, with open arms, Peju thought. He in all his splendor, in all of his morality and mostly good favour would have done so well in the country, that Peju was only in for a while but it was fully her own. That was fully both of theirs even though they were only half of it. He could have gone to boarding school, just as their cousins did. He could have put his leadership skills and negotiating ability to good use, it could have all been so well channelled. Then she wouldn’t have been in that cab, driving too slowly to this poor british excuse for a boarding school, for young men that need correction, not enhancement or cultivation.

Peju’s pocket vibrated. The message was short but clear. ‘U GONA BE LATE? ’ It read. She wondered why he had used capital but there was no use asking him, her brother was a lot of things but did not use words carefully.

‘How long will it take to arrive sir?’ she asked the driver making him stop mid- sentence.

‘15 minutes maybe Miss?’

‘Can we drive a little quicker maybe, I’m worried we might be a little late.’

‘What time is your appointment?’ said the driver kindly, knowing very well that there was not really such a thing as an appointment where she was going. More a slot as if the people that lay on the other side of the door were too half formed for appointments. Appointments were for people with the liberty of choice maybe.

‘I have to be there in 15 minutes.’

The driver said nothing else, but his smile, that he had kept constant from the beginning of this journey with Peju had evened out into a straight face. He glanced at her in the windscreen mirror with a mild and even expression. One that Peju couldn’t tell whether it contained a sorry or a promise.

Still, heat rose within her and the inside of her palms felt as if they had lead in them, heavy and cold. The driver must have put his foot down heavy on the accelerator because Peju’s back hit that backrest of her seat in earnest and after that, gravity would not allow her to return to her previous perching, rather than sitting on the seat. A kind of numbness swept over her with vigour, the kind that she had only ever really felt before when she was entering a funeral, or going through a breakup without the support of friends or family or anyone. It was a low level pain that travelled through her in waves, gaining momentum one minutes and then pausing for breath and for respite the next. It unbalanced her, made unstable in her very stable seat. She closed her eyes for a moment and regarded her God for a moment, not caring if the cab driver was looking or not.

‘Inshaallah’ she muttered under her breath, letting the words that she had said so many times in her life steady her and lengthen her in her seat.

‘What was that love?’ said the driver, not bothering to look at her, so much so that his question could have been ironic.

‘Nothing at all’ said Peju, cooly though she still felt hot all over.

She could see the prison now in the distance, ugly and vast, the nature of the building had turned normal bricks and mortar into something that spat at anyone that looked at it, working up and up, high into the sky and then some. Peju stared at it, hating it, but at the same time breathing out in comfort. It was a blessing from God to be close to him even if it had to be like this.

‘No long now miss’ chimed the driver, a cheery interjection to the ugly building.

She didn’t say anything back, just focused on her breathing, in and out, in and out and back again. Focusing what was in front of her, in that ugly building. Constrained like something that is less than a person. Maybe he was less than a person now, maybe that is what that place did to you.

Made you less than a person? Peju made a note in her mind to ask.

The car was slowing down now, traffic piling up ahead.

The traffic felt like a noose around her neck, making her light headed, tingly with the feeling spreading through her body, lower and lower down until it had engulfed her and she slumped on the backrest of the seat that she was sitting on, once more. The colours outside the window had given way into only arrays of greys and blacks now, going on forever, working their way down the road leading her to the destination that was becoming more and more of an enigma as the car rolled on.

Then all of a sudden they were in her fathers house, it was ten years before, her and the then boy that she was on their way to see, shouting and wailing, running through the corridor- basking in his own freedom and liberty. He did not know that his time with his freedom and his liberty was limited and not in line with the length of his life. In Peju’s mind’s eye, he was crazed and drunk on power, but he was small and largely unable to hurt anyone so it was sweet and if pushed to be negative, shocking- rather than dangerous like the present day. She was at the mercy of him and happy about it, playing his games and working through the mass of toys that he had left in the behind him in the hallway, to follow him wherever she was going, like she always did.

‘Erm, Miss I don’t think we are going to make it’ said the tentative voice of the driver dragging her back to the present and to the ugly endless concrete that was now outside.

‘Pardon’ said Peju, hearing him the first time but as some kind of punishment, wanting to hear him the second

‘I’m sorry Miss, was it family that you were seeing in there or something?’

She didn’t answer and in some ways, more ways than one, that was more than answer enough. At an invisible point in the journey, the driver had opened the window of the car so the air inside the cab was quick now flapping against her face and undoing the bun that her hair that was piled on top of her head in completeness. Hair fell in front of her face and curled around her chin. It was a tiny comfort to her, and she held onto it, without touching it at all. The feeling of nothing was all encompassing, drawing her into it, working it way through and back up her body cleansing her in some ways that her therapist would frown upon but at the same time breaking her apart. She closed her eyes, knowing the question that the driver asked her still in the air, interrogating all of the pieces of her.

‘It was my brother’ she said, looking at the back of the driver's head. She saw him let a lot of air out as she said this, sighing for her, pitying her viewing her differently in spite of everything she was working so hard to be.

‘I’m sorry’ he said singularly.

He might have wanted to ask questions, to be nosey and curious, ask her to be transparent about it but instead he decided to be polite and just say sorry. Finally she was the type of English that she preferred.

‘I’m so sorry Miss’ he repeated.

Her phone vibrated and she looked at, half accusation, half advice.


She wished she felt it.