BEING BRUNO (Episode 11)

BEING BRUNO (Episode 11)

Previously on BEING BRUNO…

***

PAST

You live somewhere for a very, very long time, and you start to feel like you belong there. You are one with the warm blue walls, the cold hard marbled floor; you move around the place with no fear. Even when the sun turns in for the night and the electric power is down, you do not fret, you do not look for torch lights. You know your space, your space knows you. You can make love to your pillows, talk to the windows and stare through the brown ceiling into the world that lies so far away but still so close.

You like comfort and stability.

No, you do not want to live like a royal with access to so much luxury, you wouldn’t know what to do with them. You do not want servants at your beck and call or any of that nonsense – not that you would say ‘no’ if these were offered, though.

You just have a thing for being contented with what you have and a thing against being in a new, unfamiliar place. You would rather stay cooped up in your room for a year than visit the Buckingham Palace for a week as a guest. Okay, maybe this bit is a stretch but I hope you get the idea.

You were twelve and on a summer vacation at your Uncle Sunday’s house in Lagos. You had not wanted to come, but your parents had left you very little choice in the matter.

Uncle Sunday is neither your mother’s nor father’s brother; he’s just one of those relatives that came visiting every other Sunday when you were growing up. You were his Page Boy when he got married and each time you saw a picture of yourself in the black suit with the white lace gloves that exposed your knuckles, you remembered the way he beamed at you when you produced the wedding ring as he stood in front of his bride. Even though you remembered very little about that day, you remembered that he’d beamed throughout the day, especially when he dropped a fat chicken drumstick on your plate whilst you were eating with him and his bride at the hotel restaurant just before the reception after you’d complained about being hungry several times.

You liked Uncle Sunday a lot, but you were not sure about his wife. She was a little too unfamiliar. She always seemed cold and uptight, shouted a lot and did not like you spending too much time with your uncle. You wanted to ask him why that was so, but you imagined that your mother would not approve of such prying questions. You did not like the unfamiliarity of the house too. Your body had to get used to the bathroom before it could let you relieve yourself there, and you tossed and turned more than you slept at night.

Your days were beautiful in their repetitive nature though. Your uncle’s wife woke you up at 7:30, a few minutes after he had left for work. You would dress the beds, sweep the house and refill the several containers with water from the bathroom. She would serve you breakfast, usually two slices of bread, fried eggs and a teacup of chocolate drink. Then you would curl up in front of the television and watch Cartoon Network till your stomach churned and rumbled in protest. You would look over to the kitchen where the aroma of something cooking always wafted in from, but you dared not stand up. She would serve you lunch at 5:30, a few minutes before Uncle Sunday would come back.

On that day, you were sweeping the room when the broom dragged out from under the bed a long brown rubbery tube. There was a milky liquid substance in it – not a lot, but certainly more than a few drops. You held the tube by the base, raising it till it hovered over your head and dangled in the air. Your eyes took in the length of the tube, wondering if the thing it sheathed was as long as it currently was.

You brought it down, closer to your nostrils. You wanted to know what it smelled like, and you almost got your wish before the door was opened and she was standing there, the permanent scowl on her face growing deeper.

“What are you doing, this stupid boy?!” She stalked over to where you stood rooted to the floor and snatched the tube from you. “Gịnị ka iji ihe a eme?

She slapped you across the face when you opened your mouth to answer and proceeded to wring your left ear around as if it was a radio knob. “Idiot, you will not respect yourself and stay away from things that can hurt you? What were your parents thinking when they let him bring you here sef? Don’t any of you know anything?”

Tears escaped your eyes and trailed down your cheeks to your polo shirt. Her gaze was fixated on you, she remained stiff as your eyes fell to the floor. Your nostrils were clogging up with phlegm and you felt a strong urge to sniffle, but you held yourself back. She was unpredictable; you did not know how she could react.

Oya, get out of here now!” she commanded.

You ran out of the room as if the cool rug was on fire, escaping into the guest room which was as much your place as anywhere in the house could be. You slid down the wall and sat on the floor, letting your head fall into the crook of your knees. You do not know how long you sat there, but you remember waking up to the door being flung open and your uncle standing in the doorway.

“Bruno, why are you not watching the TV? Why are you sleeping on the floor?”

You opened your mouth to answer, but you could still hear her voice in your head calling you stupid. Tears welled up in your eyes again, but you blinked them away.

“He was probably so tired from all the playing he did today that he couldn’t make it to the bed before he slept off.” You heard her voice from the kitchen.

“Have you eaten lunch?” Uncle Sunday asked.

You shook your head, not ready to trust your voice.

“Go and collect a plate of food from your aunt,” he said in a firm voice, his frame towering over you.

He watched you struggle off the floor, and followed you as you walked to the kitchen. He stood at the doorway as she handed you a plate of jollof rice with two lumps of meat. Her gaze never met his, but her expression remained the same when she looked at you.

He walked back to the sitting room with you, sat on the same sofa with you and watched you eat. You felt self-conscious at first, but when you cautiously looked at him to find him smiling down at you, you relaxed and returned your attention to Samurai Jack on the television screen.

You ate slowly, hearing your throat gurgle and your stomach echo with the sound of the food travelling down. He shifted his gaze to the television after a while, but he would look over at you from time to time to see you chew on the food before you swallowed.

 “Don’t you feel better now?” he had asked after a while, rubbing his hand over your back – up and down, up and down. “Don’t you feel so much better?”

∞∞∞

PRESENT

You didn’t know what Lagos had in stock for you.

It had been ten years since you were last there, so there was very little to compare with except the titbits of information that reigned in pop culture.

But one hour in Lagos and you knew that the city could never be your home. The traffic stretched for so long that you could imagine yourself becoming suicidal if you had to sit through this daily; a cacophony of noise swirling above and below the city as if Lagos was encased in the constant assault of car horns, people screaming and airplanes landing. And there were so much people, you wondered how anyone went anywhere. All of this created a constant buzz that could only be compared to a white noise – constant, annoying and inescapable.

“You really do not like Lagos,” Demeji said from the driver’s seat, casting you a curious glance as his left hand absently held on to the steering wheel.

Your palms gripped each other, itching to block out the assaults your senses were suffering. “Lagos is a great city.”

“That you do not like…” he continued, imputing the words you had left unsaid. His eyes went over your palms that looked strained from all the pressure you exerted on them.

You separated your hands and laid them face down on your laps. “It is just a little too much.”

Demeji grinned. “Village boy, your first visit to the city and you are crying for dear life. I wonder what you would do if you went to somewhere like New York.”

It came to the tip of your tongue to mention that the kind of traffic jam you have encountered in Lagos is quite seldom in New York, but it occurred to you that you had never been to New York to know that for sure.

“Lagos is the place. Something is always happening. There are lots of options. You want a job? Lagos needs you. You want to have fun? Lagos will take care of you. That is the definition of a city.” Demeji paused to look at you as if he was expecting a response.

You did not know what to say, so you just shrugged and gave him a smile that you hoped convened the appropriate response.

“I have something that will make you feel better.” He pressed a button on the console positioned in the space between the two of you and music swelled from invisible speakers installed in the car. You wondered how loud music could make you feel better as a heavy bass escaped intermittently, accompanied by the sound of a disc being scratched on a turntable before Asa’s voice rose:

Just the other day, the other day

I was talking to the other man about today

Oh, oh, oh,

And all that he could say eeee

Was, ‘No one knows tomorrow’

He looked over at you, a knowing smile on his face. He knew that you loved Asa; that you considered Aśha one of the best albums ever made. You flushed, felt exposed, like he was seeing you naked. Maybe he was. Maybe as he looked at you in that moment, he saw through the plaid blue shirt you were wearing and the white singlet you had on underneath. Maybe he saw your hairy chest, the blackness around your nipples and the way it contrasted with the yellowness of the skin on your torso. Maybe he saw right through it all to your soul, to your heart that in that moment, did more than pump blood. Maybe he saw what was there, loved what he saw so much that he could not help but smile at how beautiful you are.

Tell me, what’s the need to go to war?

All the killings just to settle someone else’s score

Oh, oh, oh…

He sang with the songstress, his voice heavily contrasting with the light treble that drifted around you. There was a glint in his eyes, a genuine excitement that was attractive in its sheer intensity.

“Come on, sing it! You know you want to…” He winked at you.

You shook your head. It was bad enough that he had gotten to know you well enough that he could possibly see your soul; you could not bring yourself to reveal what you really sounded like when you sang. However much you loved Asa and her music, singing was a pleasure you allowed yourself only when you were alone, away from other people who may sufferer hearing loss from hearing you.

“Come on, Bruno! Don’t be shy… You shouldn’t hold out on yourself like that…”

No one knows tomorrow

Ooooooohhhh, ahhhhhh

No one knows tomorrow

Ooooohhhh!

You sang self consciously, trying to keep your voice in tune with the music and not just run along with it.

He grinned at you, moving his fingers on the steering wheel as if he was a disc jockey working the turntable in tune with the scratching sounds that came from the speakers. His head was cocked to the side, catching a glint of the setting sun in its reflection.

Tomorrow is…

Your opportunity to fail

Or be successful

If you please, yes, indeed

Tomorrow is…

A politician’s today

Being the victim of decisions

And the future of our children

So, when I die someday,

Will I be in heavenly places?

Singing hallelujah, with an angel on the piano

Orrrrrr, will I be,

Just another contribution to the earth, the trees, the grasses

As tomorrow slowly passes

No one knows…

No one knows….

No one knows…

You instinctively closed your eyes, feeling the music course through your veins as you sang along with her. You did not have to think about the lyrics – they came naturally, rolling off your tongue as if they were not your words at all, as if you were simply a medium.

Or maybe the words were the medium. Maybe the lyrics were your way of talking to yourself in that moment. Maybe those words were your pent up emotions, the frustration and stress that you felt; and letting them out through the music was therapeutic. You swayed from side to side, loosening your body, feeling blood and life travel in you. You lost yourself in the music, it became all about it and you.

When the song ended, you opened your eyes and realized that his hand was on your lap. You did not know when or how it got there, but there it was – unfamiliar, real. It felt good and wrong at the same time. You looked out of the window, wondering if someone passing by could see it, and if they could see the tightness that was growing in-between your legs.

He squeezed your thigh – something that did not help your growing concern – and said, “Don’t you feel better now?” He rubbed your thigh up and down, up and down…

Something was tugging at your mind, a distant memory that was almost forgotten. You wanted to remember, but you knew that you shouldn’t. The movement of his hand was messing with your brain, or maybe it was your brain that was messing with the movement of his hand.

You shifted in your seat, trying to get the hand further away from your crotch. “I kind of do…”

“And look-y there! The traffic is moving! Let’s do another one.” He removed his palm from your leg, but you felt it graze the tip of your now erect penis before he returned it to the steering wheel and pressed a button until I Want It That Way by Backstreet Boys came on.

You told yourself that he had not noticed the hardness. You made your heart calm down, and your erection even began to grow limp.

Then Demeji looked at you and winked.

“Don’t worry,” he said. “We are almost there. And then I’ll take very good care of little Mikky there…”

Written by Uziel

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2 Comments

  1. Mandy
    August 29, 07:34 Reply

    Waitfest, what’s the story there with Uncle Sunday and his wife? Biko don’t just leave that part dangling. Because I’m in the scent of something “molestry” going on. 🤔🤔 All this Bruno’s fear of Lagos can’t just be simply because Lagos is a hectic city.

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