FOR THE LOVE OF A MAN

FOR THE LOVE OF A MAN

Four years ago, I was supposed to be married to this man who was out to his family, was very serious about settling down and was Canadian Nigerian. He was someone I loved and he offered me a life of freedom as a married gay man outside Nigeria.

And I said no.

This is my story.

I’d been dating Bruno (Yes, that’s what we are calling him) for about 7 months before what happened, happened. He was 34 and I was 25. We met through a mutual friend. He lived in Canada, but was always visiting Nigeria. Before we met, he was a man who was ready to settle down. He was out to his family, and so, was under no obligation to wed a woman. He wanted a husband, and after we met and began dating, he made it clear that the big picture was marriage and not just sex.

That Saturday was his nephew’s wedding. He invited me. I decided to attend the wedding with two friends of mine, and so, that early afternoon saw me and my friends going to the reception in Lekki. When we got there, there was a table reserved for Bruno’s guests, which turned out to be just me and a Canadian friend of his; with my friends, we were four seated at the table. As we got seated, the MC recognized us with such fanfare that had me feeling very awkward. I wasn’t a part of the family; I didn’t even know who those getting married were – so why was I getting recognised at all by the Master of Ceremonies? For one brief heart-stopping moment, I wondered if Bruno had let on to the man that I was someone special to him.

The festivities were soon underway and there was plenty of food and drinks. These were wealthy families and there was an abundance of refreshment.

And then came the time when the family of the groom were going about, thanking guests for coming (I think it was some sort of family tradition). It was Bruno and his parents and uncle and aunt that were doing this mingling, laughing, shaking hands, patting backs, and just generally spreading their joy. As they approached my table, my heart had started to beat fast. These were the people I would officially call my in-laws upon my marital commitment to Bruno, and as I watched them draw close to me, I felt some kind of terror racing through my system.

It’s just a greeting. Hello, thanks for coming, and they’ll move on, I told myself. It’s not like you’ve committed a crime against them.

But loving their son is a crime.

It’s not. He loves you. You love him. Hold on to that thought.

And I did. I held on to the thought, took in a deep breath and braced myself for the meet with the family.

When Bruno had guided his family to our table, we stood to greet them. He introduced everyone else at the table, and then turned to me and said, “Mum, dad, uncle, auntie, meet the man I want to marry. I invited him to the wedding so that you all can meet him.”

WHAT! I felt my entire world tilt out of order. My breath was snatched out of existence and I began trembling right there, as though I had a fever. Shock was vibrating through me like an electric current.

This guy just introduced me to his family as his husband-to-be! My body went cold and even though I was standing, I couldn’t feel my legs. I was numb. I wanted to disappear.

I clearly wasn’t the only one who was blindsided by the introduction. His mother reared back with shock and stared at him, her mouth opening and closing as though there was something she wanted to say but her brain wasn’t communicating the words properly. His father looked very unhappy, the uncle outraged, but the aunt looked unruffled. (I would later learn that she was one of the many aunties he had who had accepted him after he came out)

Then his mother clutched at her chest, as though she was about to have a heart attack, heaved a sob and broke away from us, walking fast outside. I stood there watching her retreating back and felt the taste of the jollof rice I’d been eating go sour in my mouth.

How could Bruno do this to me, like this – and here of all places! He hadn’t even prepared me for this.

There was a bit of awkwardness and confusion surrounding us at this time. Still looking displeased, his father and uncle had pulled him apart to berate him. And the Canadian friend that was at the table with us was saying, “But they know he’s gay. Why are they reacting like this?” My friends looked like they’d rather be anywhere but there.

Minutes were passing and I still couldn’t believe Bruno had done what he did. Cold sweat was still breaking out all over my body, even though the reception hall was air-conditioned. A pounding was working its way up from the back of my head and my stomach felt wound up in knots. I wanted to run, just up and dash out of the hall. But I couldn’t. I still hadn’t recovered full use of my legs. Everything seemed to be happening so fast, so out of my control.

And then, I simply decided to leave. It was obvious that I was a source of distress for Bruno’s parents, and since they were my hosts, I didn’t feel welcome to the party any longer. I told my friends and we got up and made our way out of the hall.

Outside, I encountered his mother. The woman saw me and called me. With a wildly beating heart, I went to meet her. And she broke down before me, saying, “Please, my son… I am a mother like your mother. He is my first son. Help me beg him not to marry you… We have always hoped that this thing won’t get to this stage… We want him to have children… We want him to marry a wife…!”

As she continued, she got more and more hysterical. She was shouting now. “Don’t do this to me! God will not be happy with you for breaking my home… Help me beg him not to do this… I am a mother like your mother… God will judge you if you do this…!”

Because of her loud distress, people began to gather round. I felt very hot and cold with embarrassment. A great tide of sadness was threatening to overwhelm me as I turned and made my way out of the party.

You see, I was barely a year into fully accepting myself as a gay man. Before I came to my self-acceptance, I was like most young gay men, battling the desires filling my heart, staying stuck in denial and pursuing sexual interactions with girls as though my life depended on it. I had about seven girlfriends back in school; it was as though I felt like the more girls I fucked, the firmer the proof that I wasn’t really gay, that this thing where I had a deep affection for my friend would just be a passing phase. But the denial was taking a toll on me, on my psyche. And eventually, I had to tell myself the truth and began the journey to accepting myself for who I am.

But nothing prepared me for the pain I could see myself causing someone else. The grief in that woman’s eyes as she begged me not to do this to her was too much for me to bear. And she had mentioned my mother. My family is religious, my parents are senior members of the church. My mother is a very religious woman, and I love her very much. Knowing that she would never accept me for who I am had always been a source of inner conflict for me. And Bruno’s mother bringing her up sort of threw that truth in my face, weakening my spirit in the process.

And so, both the knowledge that I was a reason a mother was in pain, and that if my own mother learned of this, she would be in pain too, brought up a hot mix of resentment directed at myself. The familiar feeling of internalised homophobia roiled furiously inside me. I hated myself. When I got home, I cried very hard. I was a mess of emotions. How could I love this man and yet still feel so very guilty about being with him? It was all too much for me to comprehend.

A week later, Bruno came to see me after trying several times to get me to talk to him via WhatsApp. He came with his friend and another aunt, yet another member of his family who supported his decision to live his life as a gay man. We talked. He apologised for how things went down at the party. He wanted to know how I was doing. He was so in love with me.

And then he brought out a ring and proposed to me.

“James, will you marry me?”

I couldn’t take it. My emotions were all over the place. There was love, and there was guilt. The anguished voice of his mother was back raging in my head: Don’t do this to me… Don’t marry him… I am a mother like your mother… Don’t break up my family… God will judge you if you do this…!

You can’t possibly imagine the pain that tore through my heart as I said the words I never thought I would say in this moment.

“Sorry, I can’t marry you. Not now, not tomorrow, not ever.”

A part of me died as I said those words.

Shock rocked through him. Tears came to his eyes. He wouldn’t take no for an answer. His aunt intervened and asked me to reconsider and not be afraid, that the love we have for each other was all that mattered.

“You can’t just throw the love you two have just because my sister threatened you with God’s judgement at the wedding last week,” she urged.

I said to her, “Aunty, you won’t understand. This is bigger than me.”

His mother’s pleas and anger were still raging in my head, the words refusing to let go. I was in pain. I felt wracked with guilt. I was crying as well. In that moment, I remember thinking: Is this what it feels like to be gay?

All that time I spent building myself up, believing myself to be whole felt wasted because I was right back to feeling sinful, to feeling dirty. In front of me was this man who couldn’t wait to show me the world and what love really is, but my fears and guilt would not let me be. I was afraid of what might happen. I was afraid of embarking on this journey with him under the curse of his mother and the cosigned wrath of God. I was afraid of what my mother would think or say should she find out.

He was crying and begging me to reconsider. I was crying and begging him to understand. Eventually, he left. He put the ring in my hand, got up and left, his aunt and friend following after him, looking very unhappy.

And I was left alone to the gloom of my thoughts. There was something else I was afraid of; I was also afraid I would start a life with Bruno, only to realise one day just how much I didn’t deserve him. Because even then, I was starting to believe that I was undeserving of his love. I was starting to believe i was a fraud for saying I was a gay man.

You see, in my room was a legal document drafted by a mutual friend of ours a few months back, when Bruno and I began talking more and more about settling down together and making a family. We both wanted children, and I was very excited by an entire future of happiness as a man married to a man. In that bubble of excitement, I wasn’t thinking about resistance from family or whatever resentment I may feel toward myself if the news got out and people were hurt by our intentions. I wasn’t thinking about the bad; I was focused on the good.

And the good was this life I was planning with the man I loved. We’d gone to Port Harcourt to see this friend of ours, who was lawyer, about our options regarding having a family. This was in 2014, the year the SSMPA was signed into law. There were tensions all around us and the whole idea was scary; I had a few nightmares where policemen crashed our wedding ceremony and dragged me off to prison. I would see my face splashed on newspapers and Linda Ikeji, and my blood would run cold. But Bruno’s determination, love and faith in what we were doing were infectious; I wanted it as much as he willed me to want it.

So we talked with the lawyer friend, and while talking about children, he suggested surrogacy. We welcomed the idea. He set up an appointment for us with a woman from Bayelsa who he assured us was very pro-gay and would love to carry our child for the right price. He told us she was straight, so if we were up for impregnating her the traditional way (you know, having sex with her), she could be up for that too. Basically, she was – to put it crudely – a fag-hag.

We met her three days later (let’s call her Esther), and she was just as amazing as the barrister told us she’d be. She agreed to our terms and made us sign some welfare and support documents, which stipulated that we’d be responsible for her throughout the duration of the pregnancy and that she would have the child in Canada. As all this was going on, it felt very surreal to me; before then, I’d only ever seen stuff like this happen in the movies.

Bruno and I went back to our hotel after that meeting, feeling very happy and excited about the future we were securing. I was totally in love with this man as he was with me, and I found myself actually believing in this – in all of this.

In the days that followed, Esther was frequently dropping in at the hotel for further discussions and whatnot. She was gradually becoming less a potential business partner and more a friend to us. Then one Thursday afternoon, almost a week before that fateful wedding, she came by. I was the only one at the hotel. We were lying on the bed, gisting. She was asking me all these personal questions, like “How do you intend to tell your parents about all of this?” and all that. We were also watching a movie showing on the television and she was really close to me on the bed. At some point, she placed her hand on me and said, “All I want is for you guys to be happy. You two deserve it.”

It was such a tender thing to say. And we were so close to each other. I could feel her breath on my face. And then I was getting a hard-on. And then she seemed turned on as well; as our bodies came together and I reached for her pubic area, it was to discover that she was already wet. And just like that, we were having sex.

We had sex, me and the woman who was supposed to carry a baby for my future husband and I. When we were done, I never knew guilt as I felt it in that moment. I’d betrayed Bruno in a most unimaginable way. And I was confused, very confused. Was I even a gay man? After what just happened, could I honestly call myself a gay man? Yes, I’d been sexually into girls, but ever since I accepted my sexuality, I’d been exclusively into guys.

So what was this that had just happened?

I began to feel like a fraud, like I wasn’t in the right relationship. Like I didn’t deserve this man who had given so much to me and gotten so little from me. He didn’t deserve this kind of betrayal.

And as if that day wasn’t bad enough, Esther came again the next day and we had sex again. This time though, I wasn’t into it. She had come determined to get into my pants, and so, even though I wasn’t as turned on as I was the day before, she worked hard at getting me to have an erection. The sex was bad, nowhere near as good as it was the previous day. All through the experience, I was being confronted with the fact that I was cheating on my boyfriend with the woman who was supposed to be our surrogate. I felt so bad that when we were done, I asked her to leave, and when Bruno returned, I made him drop the arrangement we had with her. I couldn’t stand her. I couldn’t stand the thought of her being a part of our lives. I was still trying to make sense of what I’d done and I didn’t need her to be around, a constant reminder of my betrayal.

Because I couldn’t tell Bruno what I’d done. Underneath my guilt lay the fear that I would lose him.

But I did eventually lose him. The guilt and doubt lingered in me for the rest of the week till that wedding day, only to get compounded by his mother’s wrath. With everything that was going on inside me, I didn’t feel ready. I didn’t feel deserving.

And so I said no to the man I loved, and I lost him.

Bruno is now married to a Ghanaian. They have two sons. He still keeps in touch with me every now and then. After he got over the pain of our breakup, we were able to become friends again.

But saying no to him is something I have not been able to forgive myself for. Realizing that I let this chance at happiness pass me by is a certain kind of pain I am going to have to live with for the rest of my life.

When I think about him and his husband and whatever joys they are sharing that should’ve been mine to share with him, I get jealous and heartbroken all over again. But even then, I know I probably still do not deserve a good man like him.

Written by James Chuks

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35 Comments

  1. Bee
    September 10, 06:33 Reply

    OMG, I’m so sorry. You both made mistakes, if that could help your guilt.

  2. Keredim
    September 10, 08:02 Reply

    Apart from their Jollof rice, you got to love Ghanaians though. No fuss, no drama. They see an opportunity they grab it with calm.

    Ndo, you will be fine.😏

    🚶🏾‍♂️🚶🏾‍♂️

    • trystham
      September 10, 09:29 Reply

      I didn’t know whether to laugh or to just smh. I was just exasperated sha. He had already listed his fears and worries. They could have been respected.

    • James
      September 10, 12:28 Reply

      Not everyone, jumps on such opportunities. Not when I had issues accepting my ordeal . You will understand if you find your self in a tight coner .
      I did all for love and was not desperate to travel out of the country

  3. Trojan
    September 10, 08:20 Reply

    U we’re so naive then… Just dust urself up n try again. Better days ahead!

  4. Lorde
    September 10, 09:08 Reply

    Don’t go all ACRIMONY n shit…..but I’m sorry…while I feel for you….ill still point the finger at you…. if bruno was aware of this arrangement of sex…. all would’ve been well…. but look what’s happened

  5. mikkiyfab
    September 10, 10:08 Reply

    My dear I can’t imagine such pain but all would be well just hope for the better… I won’t apportion any blame to anyone because if I was faced with such decisions too what would I do ?…we all say we might have accepted ourselves in one way or the other but how true is that when we are faced with the fact that someone out there who we look up 2 won’t accept us?… just eat… love… and pray… you hold that to yourself and no one else… all will be fine you are a great person tooo… you will meet a better person there is TIME

  6. F. Baby
    September 10, 10:29 Reply

    I’m judging you harder than a white jury judges a black kid who was caught doing nothing!😑

  7. Gaia
    September 10, 10:50 Reply

    Hmmmm.

    To start with, This happened 4 years ago and now he’s married with 2 sons yet you want us to believe he loved you? Really? And then he got married to someone else almost immediately after your breakup? How long did he get to date this person before they got married? *These are the reasons why I don’t believe this story is legit*

    But if this story is real, I blame Bruno for everything… The introduction at the wedding ruined the relationship not you. There are better ways to go about stuffs like this. Not like you were pre-informed about the drama that took place.

    Sha… it has happen. Move on. I wish him(Bruno) well

    • James
      September 10, 12:25 Reply

      Bruno and his Ghanaian husband had their second child this year and the story I narrated happened 4 years ago. I felt betrayed and also the guilt of cheating and his mothers curses which made me not to swallow down the whole thing.
      He was ready to settle down and doesn’t need to date the Ghanaian for ever before getting married.
      I am wiser now and know better and am in good friendship with him and his husband .
      Thanks .

  8. James
    September 10, 12:36 Reply

    I appreciate your thoughts guys.
    But just know I was going through a lot in my life at the time and I was never desperate to travel out. I genuinely loved “Bruno ” but I guess I let my fear for what family will say and my guilt of cheating with him take a toll on our relationship . Bruno is a good man and deserves to be loved so.

    I believe in love and love must be real and genuine . I habe settled my odds with him and we are good friends . His husband calls me too. Bruno now understands why I couldn’t settle down with him . We are good and I am healed of the pain and self guilt. That’s why I am able to tell my story here .

    Thanks and cheers. Let love lead !!

    • Keredim
      September 10, 13:46 Reply

      Be that as it may, we can only pass comments on the story presented to us, not the unpresented.

      “When I think about him and his husband and whatever joys they are sharing that should’ve been mine to share with him, I get jealous and heartbroken all over again. But even then, I know I probably still do not deserve a good man like him.”

      This doesn’t sound like you are over him!
      #Justsayin
      😏

      • Malik
        September 10, 14:58 Reply

        Let it go. Take the updated story in the comments section.

      • KingBey
        September 10, 21:34 Reply

        Sounds more like Acrimony 😁😁😁
        And he keeps repeating how he’s not desperate to leave the country. Seen that 3 times already. 💅💅💅

        • James
          September 11, 06:33 Reply

          I think I need to watche the movie Acrimony to get a picture of what you commented . Seems am the only one left out who hasn’t seen it yet 🙄🙄. Thanks bro.

          • KingBey
            September 12, 06:05 Reply

            Please do. Then you’ll understand well. LOL

  9. Malik
    September 10, 15:18 Reply

    Let it go. Take the updated story in the comments section.

  10. Black Dynasty
    September 10, 15:45 Reply

    Hmm yea, take this a life lesson and no regrets.

    I can imagine the turmoil you’d have faced at that point whilst still coming to terms with yourself. I giggle at some of the comments, what seems like a no brainer in practice isn’t always as easy in reality.

  11. Patrick
    September 10, 19:03 Reply

    Being gay is a roller coaster of internal turmoil, even for me who hasn’t made any gay acquaintance in his 26 years of living.

    • Stein
      September 10, 21:22 Reply

      You should rectify that. We gays are an amazing bunch.

      • Delle
        September 10, 22:05 Reply

        Not all gay guys. Nehh, not all of us are amazing.

  12. Black Coffee
    September 10, 20:37 Reply

    Get over it, life sure happens. I believe with the experience you’ve learnt and known better.

    But to think of it ain’t we all scared of rejection by family especially when it comes to love and getting married to a man???

    Arrrrrrgh, really don’t want to think of it right now. I only believe I’ll cross that bridge when I get there.

    • Patrick
      September 10, 20:55 Reply

      True. it’s terrifying. But which is more terrifying: getting married to a man or getting married to a woman?

      • Black Coffee
        September 11, 18:44 Reply

        It’s Nigeria, and terrifying to get married to a man. But then again living one’s utmost truth is essential for life. See ehn, it’s as conflicting as it seems. Seriously I don’t want to think about it.

      • kris
        September 12, 08:45 Reply

        They both are… the thought that am gonna say I do to a woman someday and still be sleeping with some man elsewhere still haunts me

  13. Tristan
    September 10, 20:49 Reply

    Hmmm, this story should be upgraded to a script with Esther getting pregnant for James, we would get to see Bruno’s reaction. I can imagine me playing “James” in the film which I strongly believe will make a hit.

  14. Chinechetam
    September 10, 22:56 Reply

    I sincerely understand how you felt. I’ve been in a shoe like that, he wanted to marry me but then I was so scared and I told him I never want to marry him. He is married now in the U.S. Just try to get over him already (it doesn’t look like you have).

  15. Babyfwesh
    September 11, 07:05 Reply

    I just think dt bruno guy is a big mumu.

    1. The introduction at the wedding reception was uncalled for. ❌

    2. How can u go to apologize and propose at the same time, with ur family members at d spot. ❌

    3. I just feel they didn’t communicate enough, cause all bruno wanted was to get married nd start a family. The other person not so much.

  16. Canis VY Majoris
    September 11, 10:40 Reply

    Hmm an Acrimony writing style, starting from the bottom-up…you did all that with him and was surprised about what he did at the wedding?

    Thanks for the tip tho, I’d be sure not to pass up this golden opportunity when it comes my way.

  17. Nuel
    September 11, 18:59 Reply

    So im currently in this position now…. thanks for the story i now knw im making d right decision.

  18. KingBey
    September 12, 06:10 Reply

    3 words: LET IT GO

    Before you become Taraji P. Henson in Acrimony

  19. Sworld
    September 16, 18:33 Reply

    these is fucking interesting.
    I hate the fact you cheated on him with the surrogate woman.
    I won’t blame Bruno, he just wanted a relationship n settle down. Guess you weren’t just ready n you don’t really know what you want!.
    I wish you Good luck in your next life!.

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