“There goes my baby...”
Even now, I could remember the exact mix of giddy joy and fervent hope that enveloped me when Aliu purred that chorus into my ear as we settled in our seats with our popcorn kernels and soda. The movie, Red, was about to start. I was so tingly that for a short while, I lost the feeling in my feet and it took his muffled chuckle at my reaction to bring me down from the high. I developed a soft spot for Bruce Willis and Helen Mirren after that night.
However, well into the second month of our relationship, as soon as the honeymoon flush had passed, I made up my mind to get to the bottom of his ex-wife's business. All men have ex-girlfriends and ex-boyfriends; it was not every day you met a man who is gay, single and has a son and an ex-wife.
"Go easy," Ivan had counselled anxiously when I told him of my intention. "This is one way to make him run away like a headless chicken."
"But I have to find out!” I’d cried out. “He has a son. I have to know how that came about and why Khalil doesn't go to see her."
"If you must, do it subtly. We both know you're like a dog with a bone on his scent when you’ve got a task on your mind to tackle.”
"Hey! I'm always subtle."
"Right. And Hillary Clinton is my stepmother."
That boy is just a cow.
I waited until after a bout of particularly passionate sex, and when our breathing had finally returned to normal, I called him the nickname he hated me using, "Ally, you're stubborn and you're not going to answer these following questions, but I’m still going to ask them anyway and you’re going to have to answer.”
As he stiffened beside me, I thought, Yea, Moe, you’re the very definition of subtle.
“I need you to tell me about your ex-wife,” I continued, “Suliat, that's her name?"
He released a sigh and whispered, "Oh no."
"I need to know," I said earnestly. "What if you're still hung up on her–”
“I'm not. She's my ex-wife. Ex oh. As in, ship aff sail."
“Yes, but what happened? You got married. You had a son. Why didn't you stay together? And why–”
He broke off my litany of questions with another sigh, this one more explosively released. “Okay,” he said, sitting up on the bed. “There are four reasons it didn't work out with Suliat. One, I'm gay. Two, I married her against my father's wishes. Three, she was shagging someone else. Four, she's not Khalil's mom.”
Wait, what?! Suliat isn't Khalil's mother? The room suddenly became quiet, a sharp contrast to the din raging in my head as my thoughts whirled around with the strength of a storm.
Aliu gave me a pointed look, the one that showed that he thought he’d sufficiently ended the discussion with those volleys he’d just released. He began to turn away.
Oh no, mister! We’re just getting started. I pulled him back until I had him lying back on the bed. Then I rolled over on top of him and stared into his eyes. "Talk, Goob. Tell me everything. Make it easy on yourself."
A challenge. How I love challenges. I maintained eye contact and said, "You're stubborn, but I'm worse than stubborn."
Subtle, Moe. Subtle. Ivan’s advice persisted like a soundtrack in my mind, and I quickly placed it on mute.
Aliu and I stared at each other. We stared and stared and stared. Seconds ticked by. Jaws became rigid, eyes turned hard.
Then he blinked.
"Aha!” I crowed. “You blinked! I win!"
He burst out laughing. "Chai! You're just mean. Dominatrix oshi!"
I kissed him lightly on the lips, smiled and said, "You know me."
"What do you want to know?"
"Where did you two meet?"
Although Suliat and Aliu had been in the same class, it wasn't until they graduated that they fell in ‘love’.
"But why did you get married? What made you not be true to yourself?"
"Well, you didn't meet my dad. Two out of my three siblings were married with kids at the time, and it didn't take long before he started breathing down my neck. It sort of started as a joke," Aliu said as if he couldn't believe it himself after all these years.
I could read between the lines. And I could fill in the gaps. Earlier on in our relationship, during our honeymoon phase, he'd told me his parents wanted him to marry from a particular family back in Nigeria whilst he was still in school. He disagreed vehemently. Now the thing about Aliu which I grasped fast is that you could never tell him what to do. So the more he was pestered about not marrying anyone but the woman his parents wanted for him, the more determined he became to settle down with Suliat.
“‘They say we're young and we don't know, we won't find out until we grow’,” I said.
“‘I got you babe’,” I said. “I was quoting Sonny and Cher.”
"Oh! Right, exactly what it was."
Eventually, Aliu and Suliat had had their way and gotten married.
"So there you were, young, gay, stubborn and married," I prompted.
"Yeah, the sheer insanity. Anyway, we got immersed with work that we barely saw each other. Then she got pregnant. I thought that would change my father's animosity towards my growing family. My mother had given up already. She had come to accept Suliat. My siblings had been indifferent over who I settled down with. But no, not my dad. In the end, we lost the baby."
I waited a beat before saying, "I am so sorry."
"I was working all the time, you know what it's like when you're starting out. You're at your boss's mercy, especially when my boss was my mother's best friend."
"Suliat was very good to me, and all I wanted to do for her was to be the best husband who'd make sure she never lacked anything. I did love her in my own way but I equated it to provision and a good future. I made no time for her. Then she met someone one day – she told me. They kept each other company and..." He swallowed.
"And things moved on from there," I finished for him.
"Yes." His voice was subdued.
I waited and waited for several beats before saying, "What happened next?"
"Ah-ah! Can't you even let me have this moment?" There was a comical expression on his face.
"Nope! You'll simply clam up and we won't talk about it again."
"Tsk, tsk. You're lucky I love you. If not –" He paused and looked at me. Really looked at me like he’d suddenly realised what he'd said.
I reeled back slightly, still atop him and gasped softly.
"Moe...I think I love you." He paused again. Then as if to convince a third person in the room, he said in a surer voice, "No, I love you. I love you, Moe."
I was taken aback because I wasn't expecting him to say what he'd said. We'd agreed not to get mushy in the beginning. And instead of saying how I felt for him out loud, I leaned in, looked into his eyes, down to his lips and then kissed him. Slowly, sweetly. His hands moved slowly to my waist and held me there.
Before long, we were panting and sweating, our moans and groans filling the air, as our bodies strained against each other in the frantic race for climax. Some minutes later, sated, breathing back to normal and legs entangled, I turned to his chest and tweaked his left nipple. "Did you confront her or did she have ‘the talk’ with you?"
"What?! Don't blame me. Occupational hazard. It's my default setting," I said with a sheepish chuckle.
His boisterous laughter filled the room. He turned to me and said, "You're just a suntin." Sighing, he continued, "I met someone too – a guy."
“‘Uh-oh, uh-oh, uh-oh…Uh-no-no…’” I muttered softly.
I felt his stare before he said, "What the hell was that?"
"Um...Crazy In Love? By Beyoncé? From her first album, Dangerously In Love?"
"Right." He chuckled. "Anyway, I met Ayo and we hit it off somehow. The sex was good too. One evening, I was working late, Ayo called to tell me he was heading to his apartment. I told him to stop by to keep me company before I headed back home too. He came and we talked while I worked. Not so long later, we started making out. I knew there was a risk of us getting caught and I didn't know we weren't alone. My boss was on her way out. Ayo was on his knees with my dick in his mouth when she opened the door and caught us."
He sat up and gave a small chuckle before continuing. "I begged her not to tell anyone and she agreed, as long as I'd do something for her. Being a single independent woman, she'd been trying to get pregnant for years but couldn't. She agreed to keep her mouth shut if I'd get her pregnant. Thankfully, it only took a one well-timed lay to do the deed. A year and a half later, she died in the Bellview plane crash. She'd gone for a conference and was on her way back. Khalil had been with her sister."
Oh wow! This was simply too much. I sat up and put my arms around my lover as I said, "Babe, you don't have to go on, okay?" My voice commiserated.
He turned, smiled and his forehead met mine. "Too much to handle?"
I made a soft sound and he chuckled again.
"You asked and I'll tell you everything. Besides, I've never told anyone. Not even my parents."
Wow. This just became a huge deal. "Alright, go on." I encouraged.
"She’d made me her next of kin in her will, left her company and Khalil to me, and made me legally responsible for making decisions on his behalf. Like she knew she was going to die or something." He sighed. "Suliat on her own part thought she'd pushed me into the late woman's arms because of her infidelity and asked for a divorce."
"Why didn't you tell her she's wasn't responsible?"
"Really? I should have told her? That I'm gay-and-my-late-boss-caught-my-boyfriend-with-my-dick-in-his-mouth-blackmailed-me-into-impregnating-her told her, told her? Moe, you're so smart." His tone was deeply marinated with sarcasm.
I gave his head a smack. "Ode! Don't blame me for your carelessness biko. All I said was for you to have taken the blame and not her."
He laughed. "You're right. Some day, I will."
"Well don't let it be too late, alright?"
"Good. Did she remarry?"
"Yes, got married to some amazing guy."
"Alright. Are you bitter about it? Underneath this dour, closed facade, are your bowels entangled with bitterness?"
"Hmm. Words are cheap."
"There's nothing to be bitter about joor. I even went to her wedding."
"You did? How was it?
"Oh Moe…" He groaned into his hands.
"Happy? Sad? What?"
With a heavy sigh, he gave in. "Not happy. I felt like I'd failed. I'd meant my vows to her when I said forever, or whatever the phrase is–”
“‘As long as we both shall live’,” I interrupted.
"Actually, I think it's ‘till death do us part.’”
"I don't think they say that any more."
"So you were there, at my wedding? Ehn?"
"No na, but –”
"Oh shush, will you? Whatever the words were, I meant it at that time. Yes, I was somewhat deceptive, pig-headed and I thought I knew it all. Anyone could have predicted it wasn't going to work."
"Who was your plus-one?"
“At Suliat’s wedding.”
"Oh, I went with Khalil."
"You went with Khalil? Your son from another woman to your ex-wife's wedding? Really, niggi?! Could you have been sillier?"
"I didn't have a boyfriend or girlfriend," he countered. "Shey you expected me to walk up to someone and go like, ‘Oh, hello there. Doing anything on Saturday? Fancy coming along with me to watch my ex-wife get married again?"
"Why go sef?"
"C'mon, I had to na."
"And Suliat would have been upset –"
"Oga gaan. Kanye West."
"Woo, fimisile. I had to go," he maintained.
I understood. "But to show up with Khalil...” I said. “Talk about a spectre at the feast. Did you wear a black suit?"
"Grey." Flat-eyeing me, he continued, "A long dress shirt –”
"With blue leggings –”
"And a bowler hat. Brows shaved. I looked boring and like an observer –”
"From Fringe, that TV show."
Aliu started laughing first. Then I joined in. The image we’d drummed up was hilarious. However, even in my mirth, I thought it was sort of sad. My man having to go witness his ex-wife get married to another man. Hmm. I got up and walked to the window. The evening's sun’s rays were beautiful, a russet splash in the sky. The burnt beauty of the firmament pulled up a smile from me.
"What is it?" Aliu queried from the bed.
Turning to face him, I said, "I was just wondering how hard it must have been for you. Divorced, a single father and having to run a company you were initially just a mere employee in."
He chuckled. "It was hard but my son made everything worth it."
I offered him a smile.
"Come here." I stretched out my hands.
He rose from the bed and ambled toward me, walking into my embrace. He inhaled deeply as his warmth invaded me and mine him. "You feel like home, Moe,” he murmured.
It was the second time he'd gone off all mushy on me and I couldn't keep my own mushiness to myself anymore. "I do too, you know?" I said.
He drew back from the embrace and cocked an eyebrow. "Do what?"
"You know... I love..." I stopped and sighed. "I love you, Aliu," I said with my eyes on the sinews of muscles on his left arm.
Lifting my chin to meet his gaze, he said, "That's a good thing, I presume."
"Yes. Yes, it is," I croaked.
"Good. Because it'd suck if it isn't."
Written by Vhar