“How are you doing today?” Doctor Felix asked me in a voice that was trying hard to be free of any inflections.
He is an alumnus of my fellowship in school and oh-so-eager to please, a psychiatrist who is supposed to 'fix me'. This was my first meeting with him.
“What happened?” he asked.
It was a Tuesday of no consequence, I remember. Hot, as these days are wont to be. I had gone to buy bread.
My mother always said my love for bread would be my downfall. I never understood just how literally she meant it until then. I went to my usual bread shop, the only place they sell decent bread in this god-forsaken hell-hole of a town, a shop located on a lonely stretch of road near the teaching hospital. Just beside my campus. I parked my car and put on my data to reply some of my social media messages before I stepped down. No point typing away at my phone while people tried to talk to me or worse still, while driving.
“Hello, I’m in town now,” came the whatsapp message. “Can we meet? I’m driving into town right now.”
I had been chatting with this dude, Francis, on whatsapp. He was someone I often saw around school. He had issues with the school at one time, one which I helped him fix. It was a surprise when we met on manjam; although, before then, I’d always had my suspicions of his preference.
He is puppy-faced and handsome in a high street magazine kind of way, bearded too. But then he was too young for me for anything serious. When we reconnected from manjam, he’d told me he was a model. I was not surprised, he is quite a looker.
"I’m busy,” I replied.
I didn’t want to meet him. I had not met anybody for some months now. I fancy myself a relationship kind of guy. I function better with stability and the flighty shopping that seemed to be rife in the gay community doesn’t really appeal to me. There is too much at stake. And anyways, most of the guys in this damn town are either jobless, very foolish or both. Celibacy was serving me just right.
I’d kept receiving email notifications of messages on manjam. 12 messages, 24 messages etc. I knew it was time for me to do something. I logged in, replied the messages and changed my picture to an unattractive one. I changed my description to include requirements that a prospective partner should have a job and be ready for a relationship. That reduced the torrent of messages drastically.
But this one guy kept sending messages repeatedly, till I gave him my whatsapp number.
Back to the present, I typed back at Francis again: "Where exactly are you?"
He replied. It turned out he was just around the corner, and so I agreed to meet with him.
I got out of my car and crossed the road to the shop, to select the loaves I wanted, the brownest ones. Buns, just how I liked them. I greeted the grandma that sells the bread and promised to send a shout-out to her daughter when next I’m on the radio (I work at my school’s radio station).
My phone rang then. It was him, the model. "Hello," I answered.
“I’m in a grey Mercedes without number plate,” Francis said.
There was something about the words that set off alarms in my head. I ignored it. I asked the grandma to keep the bread for me, that I would be back for them.
I soon located the Mercedes and walked over to the parked car. There was someone in the passenger seat next to him.
“Come in,” Francis said, gesturing for me to get in the car.
When I was in, he introduced the guy in front as his friend who helped him bring the car down from the border. He said he was headed home.
"I’d rather just have a drink down the road,” I demurred. “Let’s go there please."
"Ok," he agreed and drove off.
For some odd reason, I began to feel uneasy. I couldn’t tell why. It must have been apparent on my face, because Francis noticed through the rear view mirror and turned around to smile reassuringly at me and said, “Relax.”
I tried to relax. I put my uneasiness down to first date butterflies.
We drove past the hospital’s back gate and into the fuel station. Immediately after we bought fuel, two guys materialized beside the vehicle and got in within the blink of an eye. They crowded me inside the car, one on either side of me. My uneasiness surged back up.
Before I could get a word of protest out, the car was back on the road, and the driver was going at a speed that rivaled how fast my heart was beating. I was as tense as a highly-strung guitar string. It was starting to dawn on me that I was in deep shit, especially when the first they did was demand for my phone. And Francis proceeded to delete the photos he’d sent to me from the media library.
Then, the guy in front turned to the back and said to me, “Oga, well done.” He stretched out a hand to shake mine, before continuing, “We are heading to the police station. My brother is a DSP and he has asked that we get him all the students that are fags in this school. We have gotten a lot of students but he wants more.”
Nonplussed, I stared at Francis. For a moment, I stayed silent, trying to organize my thoughts. When I finally spoke, it was with a calm I didn’t feel. “Why would you do something like this?” I asked, directing my question to the guy in the front, the one who appeared to be the leader.
The idiot Francis wouldn’t even meet my gaze.
The guy in the front replied, “Gay guys are thieves! They came to my house, my brand new iphone6 and my laptop, they carried them."
He did not elaborate, and the story as he’d told it made no sense whatsoever. I felt myself begin to shake, especially when I took in how ugly this guy in the front was. He was black as soot with unkempt hair and nicotine-stained teeth. He looked literally like what the street cat would drag in. I realized his story was bollocks, and was built on the simplistic premise that if you are gay, then you are capable of just about any crime.
I began to beg them not to take me to the police. I pleaded.
“You will give us the number of all the fags in this school then,” the leader snarled.
A part of me that still found what was happening incredulous wondered whether these guys believed that gay people belonged to a secret underground network where everyone knew the other.
We kept driving around, seemingly not destined for any police station. They kept harassing me with questions, harassing me for information about the gaybourhood. In their frustration at my lack of corporation and as added act of intimidation, they retrieved a gun and pointed it at me; the leader even pointed the gun outward and fired off two shots in the air to let me know it wasn’t empty and that they weren’t kidding around. At some point, I felt so traumatized, that I wished they’d just shoot me and end the ordeal.
I passed out for awhile, and eventually came to back where it all started, at a spot near the shop where my bread was waiting. They shoved me out of the car.
“Come make I give you my sister,” one of them sneered. And they drove off.
They’d taken my Blackberry, wristwatch, my cufflinks, and shoes. Shaking from the ordeal, I walked over to my car and got in. And I cried. As all the pent-up emotions rushed through me – anger, pain, humiliation, shame – I understood how it feels to be raped. I had never felt more powerless than I felt at that point.
"I don’t remember a lot, sir," I told the psychiatrist.
I needed him, for the trauma. I was still feeling the effects of that horrible afternoon. I was struggling with my concentration. And I was getting easily startled by everything. I was having a problem with getting into unknown vehicles and walking on my own along the road.
"You know you can tell me anything, right?" Doctor Felix said.
"I was robbed," I said simply.
That was the edited version. How do I begin to explain the actual truth to him? And I think the worst part is that I may never get to tell anybody close to me the unedited story.
Written by Andre Zamani