BEING BRUNO (Episode 10)

BEING BRUNO (Episode 10)

Previously on BEING BRUNO

*

PAST

You are rarely surprised by people.

There was that time you caught Uncle Ken, a teacher at the children’s department, in the bush beside the church, puffing lovingly on a cigarette; then there was that time when your father nearly stopped you from going to Lagos; and of course, when you had found those wraps of condom in your Uncle Onyeka’s wallet.

One of the few people who have had the honor of doing something you hadn’t expected was Demeji.

To understand why what Demeji did was so unexpected, you would have to recall that you are a romantic, the kind of romantic that had idealistic notions about love and relationship and sex.

It was two years ago, when you were hungry, gasping to find other young men like you. And it had started, just like most love stories at that time, on a social network platform. You came online to find a friend request from him. It sat there, atop the pile, his full name and a passport size of his profile picture staring back at you. You clicked open his profile, hesitantly, because you shared only eight mutual friends with him, and in your experience, that usually meant that you should probably not be friends with this person. Then, as you skimmed his timeline, noting the frankness and clarity with which he spoke, your interest grew. He posted about a variety of subjects, from food to the different cities he had apparently visited. By the time you browsed through his pictures, you were very hooked.

Demeji had a fair skin that reflected light, a bald head, and a chin that sported a well groomed beard that shone black and radiant. He seemed to like khaki shorts a lot, wearing them more often than trousers, and exhibiting fair legs that were coated by soft-looking black hair. In some of the pictures, he stood with other people like a Caucasian male with matching bald head, but he always stood out.

He had passed the test. So you accepted the friend request and thought no more of it.

The next time you logged on, there was a message from him. You held your breath, hoping to the stars that he wouldn’t disappoint you by sending one of those corny “Thanks for acceptance my request” messages that was meant to convey gratitude but always made you sad. You opened the message and released the breath you were holding when you saw his message.

Hi, Bruno, I read your comment on a friend’s post. When I checked out your profile, I liked what I saw, so much I had to send you a friend request. I hope that we will come to become very good friends. Hope you are having a good day.

You smiled. He sounded quite formal. An articulated message without short words or abbreviations, a message that caught your attention without making you roll your eyes whilst you read it. Good start. Nothing could go wrong at this point.

So you responded.

Hello, Demeji. It’s nice to meet you. Thanks for the compliment. It took some work to unearth it, but yeah, I will take what I can get. – chuckle –.

In the days that followed, you spent unquantifiable hours chatting with Demeji on Facebook, talking about everything. You told him about your classes, your family, Deep Forest. He told you about his aged parents, his job as a nurse and his insane love for cooking. You talked about anything and everything, between religion, friendships and plans for the future.

And then, it started creeping in – the sexual undertone to your conversations. Like darkness, it crept in and grew. It was subtle flirtation that were carried in double entendrés, compliments that were given lavishly, and then the way his voice would go several scales lower when he mentioned things that he wanted to do with you.

You were not very certain about how it was for other people, but in your mind, there was a set-out pattern for how things were supposed to progress. A couple of days chatting or talking to set the groundwork, then you ask the person out on a date. Over dessert, preferably ice cream, you hold eyes with them and convey your interest in more than words. After the third date, you have to formally ask this person to be your boyfriend. They will say yes. You two will consummate your relationship. Then live out the rest of your lives together, forever…

Demeji didn’t play by those rules.

He called you every day, and by God, you do not recall the things the two of you spent hours talking about. Unexpectedly, he dropped hints of what he wanted to do to your body. They exhilarated you, and bothered you all at once.

Then one day, he asked you to come and visit him in Lagos. “I want to meet you, Bruno. I need to.”

It had been six months since you started chatting, and in your book, that wasn’t long enough for you to go and visit anyone outside Enugu. It would be a few years before you would change your mind about that, too, but in that time, you automatically said no to such requests. However, you seriously considered doing it for Demeji. You liked him, a lot. You couldn’t even lie to yourself about that. And whilst you two haven’t spoken about a relationship, you’d mentally imagined the two of you together.  Your age difference was a bonus instead of some deterrent. You were both compatible in uncountable ways.

And so, it wasn’t a case of whether you were interested in going to see a total stranger in a city so far away but a case of whether you were ready to take the first step in what might become a long-lasting relationship.

At least, that was what you thought, until two weeks before you started your first semester exams. You were on the phone with him, having what had become a customary conversation with him, when suddenly, someone’s voice came on the phone.

“Hey, Lofty, where is the steak knife?” A male voice, sweet and clear. The speaker had an unfamiliar British accent. There was silence for a while, a long second during which the only thing you heard was Demeji breathing. “Lofty?” the voice continued.

“Um, it is in the cabinet, second one from the bottom. You know, the one with the precious silverware,” Demeji called back.

“How did it get in there?” the voice asked.

“Um, my bad. I used it to cut meat for dinner on Tuesday and put it there.”

“Stop putting things where they don’t belong, babe. I’ve been telling you that for years.”

“Sure thing, B. Let’s continue this conversation when I’m done with this phone call, okay?”

You heard a drawer open and close before Demeji came back on the phone and spoke to you. “So, Bruno, where were we?”

“You were about to tell me who it was you just spoke to,” you said coolly.

“Oh, that? That is Brian. But that isn’t what we were talking about…” Demeji said, making a sound that should be a chuckle but your brain refused to decipher it as that.

“I see. Who is Brian? Your boyfriend?” You knew you sounded like a jealous, suspicious boyfriend in that moment, but your curiosity had gotten the best of you and you knew that you wouldn’t rest until it was satisfied. The last sentence was said in a voice that you hoped translated that you meant it as a joke.

There was that silence again, the kind where the only thing you heard was him breathing and at some point, the sound of kitchenware knocking against each other in the background.

“No, he’s my partner.”

You were silent for some seconds, breathing heavily as your heart rate sped up. “Like your business partner?”

He cleared his throat and said, “No, like my civil partner.”

It was your turn to be silent. You held the phone to your ear, gripping it as if it was your lifeline, trying to calm your racing heart. The words ‘civil partner’ kept going through your mind like a loop. ‘Civil partner…’ ‘Civil partner…’ ‘Civil partner…’

“Bruno? Are you there?” Demeji was asking from the other end of the call.

You breathed deeply, counted to three and said, “Sure. I’m fine.”

You were not.

***

PRESENT

Dike surprised you in very subtle ways.

This probably had something to do with how his looks were very misleading. He was the kind of guy you’d look at and think: Big Head. Yes, it was prominent. Okay, maybe prominent is a misleading word, given the impression that he had the Sistine Chapel dome for a head, so you’ll have to amend that to saying that his head is slightly larger than the lithe frame it sits upon. But Dike was not unattractive. He was in fact good looking, very doable. He had a face that conjured smiles, full lips and all. His skin was so dark, it absorbed light and kept it there. His sturdy legs betrayed the stamina he probably had.

But what his looks did not tell you was that he was an avid country music lover. Dike listened to and loved Taylor Swift, Keith Urban, Blake Shelton and a couple of other musicians that are so white, you couldn’t pronounce their names. You were sure he was going to walk down the aisle to a Chris Stapleton song.

His looks did not tell you the sheer quantity of information that that head held – important data about everyone that mattered. He knew everyone worth knowing in the community on Facebook (like that young underwear model cum photographer cum writer cum movie critic cum travel enthusiast from a particular city in the south-south, who had been described as ‘the hoe that desperately wants to prove that his talent is not restricted to literally blowing a guy’s head with a blow job’). He knew who knew who and who was about to know who. If you know, you know.

And that was where he knew you from. He wasn’t your friend on Facebook, but he had been to your profile at least once before and he recalled enough to recognize your face when he saw you at the clinic.

But the body doesn’t tell you of the sweetness it holds. Dike was like a coconut fruit. His bark was hard and rough and brown. But pry that thick exterior open, crack open that wall, and you would find flesh – white and soft to touch; you would find colorless liquid that was so sweet you could not get enough.

He had layers of protection to shroud the soft, gentle being nestled inside. You could only imagine the things he had been through, experiences that had shaped him into this person that wore his heart on his sleeve, underneath a chain mail.

“So what do you think?”

Your head darted upward to face him, your mind pulled back from the reverie it had been on. “Huh?” you said.

“I was asking you what you thought of the cake,” he said offhandedly, as if it didn’t really matter what you thought.

“Oh.” You smiled. Junk food lover was another thing your new friend didn’t look like, but certainly was. He lived on junk food. Puff puffs, ice cream, fried chicken, meat pies. Think it, he loves it – as long as it was some fast junk food. He had introduced you to the exquisite scones from Shoprite, the slabs of unhealthy cake from Celebrities, and chicken pies from Kilimanjaro. “It’s actually very good,” you said. “I can see why you like it.”

Whilst that technically wasn’t a lie, it wasn’t particularly true either. Sure, the cake was delicious, soft on the palette and melting when it met the tongue, but it didn’t taste any different from the other cakes you’d eaten in the past. However, you could see how it would appeal to him. It was cake, after all.

He smiled softly, his teeth hidden behind the thinness of his lips.

For some reason, those lips reminded you of Demeji’s pink lips. Your mind travelled again, sprinting down memory lane to the times you saw him smile or laugh at something you said. Your brain reminded you of how his cheeks would rise high and pointed, and how he would say something in Yoruba before switching back to flawless English. His broad chest and the mat of hair that covered it jumped at you and you had to close your eyes to minimize the onslaught.

“Bruno?”

You opened your eyes to find Dike sitting there, peering at you with concern.

“Are you alright?”

You blinked twice, and took longer than required to open your mouth. “Sure. I’m fine.” Those words rolled off your lips effortlessly.

“Apparently, you aren’t. What is it? Who’s the dude that has your insides turned inside out?”

“My insides are just fine, thank you very much.”

“You are woolgathering with the best ready-made cake in Enugu in your mouth. You are turned inside out, buddy. So, let’s hear it.”

“It’s nothing serious…” you started, and then he gave you this look that said, ‘Seriously?’, so you said, “Would you travel to Lagos to see a man?”

He raised his hands from the table, and then put them back. He bent his head to the left and then said, “Don’t know. It depends. I have never done it, and I don’t imagine that I could. But that shouldn’t be the question here. Do you want to go and see this man?”

You thought about that for a while. “Maybe…”

“Why ‘maybe’?”

“I really liked this dude. We were connecting and all. But then I found out that he is practically married.”

“Oh… He wants to cheat with you? That’s messy.”

“Well, I am not sure if it is cheating. I mean, it isn’t cheating if the partner knows about it, and is okay with it. Is it?”

He was quiet for a moment, his eyebrows raised. “So, he has a partner. The partner knows that his man wants to get down with you. And the partner has given the two of you his blessing.”

You nodded. “That’s basically it. They have been together for almost two decades. They have an open partnership. He is allowed to have flings, sow his wild oats and stuff like that. But they have an emotional connection that transcends and is more important than sexual gratification. Blah, blah, blah. I am not the first; I’m not going to be the last, apparently.”

“Okay…” Dike said, slowly nodding. “I am going to get something to drink.”

You watched him walk away, toward the counter. Your eyes trailed him as he talked to one of the attendants there, followed his hand as it grabbed a bottle of coca cola and start walking back.

“So…” he said after he had sat back down, exhaled and taken a long sip from the bottle. “Where were we?”

You opened your mouth, about to remind him of Demeji’s open invitation to his open relationship when he continued, “Yes, right, the Yoruba demon that has a husband.”

“Partner,” you interjected.

“Same difference. So, do you remember when you were young, probably five or so? You would go to school, come back, eat the sweet, sweet meal your mom had prepared for you, play around and spend time with the whole family? Nothing was wrong with your family, nothing could be wrong with your parents. Remember?”

You nodded, not sure where he was going with this. Your face must have betrayed your confusion because he said, “I know you are probably confused, but stay with me.”

He takes a bite off the cake on the plate in front of him, takes a swig of the drink right from the bottle and chews.

“Anyway, you grow older, and when you are fourteen, it seems like the scales have fallen off and you are seeing things as you have not seen them before. Your mom is not an angel, and your father is an asshole–”

“How do…” you cut in.

He waves off your incomplete question. “Anyway, at this point, your whole childhood feels like it is a fraud. You wonder if anything about it was real, wonder how you couldn’t have seen things for what they were earlier. Shitty, right?”

You nod, starting to see what this has to do with Demeji after all. “I think I get your point, but you do realize that the two scenarios are totally different?”

He bends his head to the side as he bites off more cake. “Are they?”

You start to say, ‘Of course, yes!’ but then you think about it. You had an idea of how things were in both cases. You loved how things were at that time. Suddenly, both ideas were pulled out from under you like a rug and you came tumbling down.

“Here is the thing,” Dike said. “You had this envisioned reality – the way you thought things were, should be. This reality of yours turned out to be wrong. Sucks, true, but then, almost nothing is as it seems. If you decide to toss the towel, throw away the baby with the bathwater, because your reality has been altered, what makes you think that you are not wrong about this new reality?”

“So you are saying that I should go to Lagos?”

“Buddy, I think you have had your life changed in more ways than one. You have had a couple of losses these past few years. I think you should give yourself a win when you have the chance. An opportunity to go and get a good lay with someone you are very attracted to, travel out of Enugu for the first time in a long time and have new experiences – those all sound like a win. A win you shouldn’t deprive yourself of because of the non-cheating that is going to happen.”

You looked at him with a wide smile. “How did you become so wise?”

He gave you a self conscious smile, shrugged and said, “I have a drunk for a father.”

Written by Uziel

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5 Comments

  1. Mandy
    June 23, 07:08 Reply

    There’s something I don’t quite get. Why is there always the expectation that gay partnerships or relationships can’t be monogamous and/or exclusive? Why is there this general belief that for two men to survive being together, there has to e an aspect of openness to their relationship?

    • Dimkpa
      June 25, 05:54 Reply

      Short version: It’s called reality… and testosterone.

  2. Malik
    June 24, 12:05 Reply

    Beautiful storytelling, Uziel. Marry me!

  3. Q
    June 26, 10:50 Reply

    Great story the answer to the question about being wise sold it for me totally

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