Tunde kept trying to call Dele the next day and the day after that. Every hour. But the phone line kept going dead without it ringing. Dele must have blocked him. Each time Tunde thought about how dumb he had been, he’d get a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach and have the urge to hit his head over and over again on a wall.
A week went by, and when nothing was heard from Dele, he began to visit the mall he had seen him at frequently with the faint hope that he’d run into him somehow. It was during one of such visits that he sat in the car and realised how dumb and desperate he must seem. He was getting attached and making a mistake he had sworn to never make. He was letting someone else’s involvement (or lack of) start to drive him to do things that were stupid. There he was, visiting the mall the third time in a week just so he could hopefully see some guy who didn’t think twice about deleting him.
He couldn’t entirely blame the guy, he after all did call him a fag. His stomach gave an uncomfortable lurch at that recollection. Still, that deletion was so swift, and Dele cutting off all forms of communication with him had happened too fast. How could the gay community move forward if every instance of homophobia had its people bristling, and then shutting out the homophobic person without even first trying to make the person understand what being gay was about.
Still, Tunde felt he shouldn’t have been so brazen. For someone whose best friend had taken his coming out so badly, he should have understood what a delicate situation it was.
He gave a sigh and scanned through the people moving in and out of the mall, some laughing, some walking briskly, all of them in the heat of the afternoon sunshine. No Dele.
It was time to let this one go. Maybe it was for the better. He was after all getting attached and nothing good could come from that. Nothing good had ever come from that. He started his car engine and drove out of the parking lot.
“Earth to Tunde…” he heard a voice say.
Tunde realised he had zoned off. His fingers hovered above the keyboard and he had been staring into space at where Nneoma was supposed to be sitting. He was glad she hadn’t been there to receive one of his dreamy stares.
“What, Kola…” he said as he resumed typing, not bothering to look at his colleague.
“You and your zoning out sef,” Kola said as he dragged a seat and sat beside him. “Are you sure you don’t have attention deficit disorder?”
Tunde had honestly been thinking of checking if he had that problem. However, he merely grunted in response and asked Kola what he wanted.
“It’s my birthday on Saturday,” Kola said.
“Oh?” Tunde stopped typing to look at him.
“Yes. I’ll be twenty seven. I’m holding a small get together and was hoping you’d come.”
“Is anyone else from the office coming?” Tunde asked, wondering if this was just a ruse for Kola to get Tunde to meet this so-called gay brother of his.
“Yes,” Kola replied. “Shalom and Sade… I told them they could bring a friend. You could too. Maybe this person you’ve been talking to on the phone?” Kola winked at him.
Tunde resisted the urge to hit him.
“It’s a weekend. You have no excuse,” Kola added, reading his mind.
“Fine,” Tunde said.
Kola chuckled. “You say it like I asked you to come help me clean up the house. It’s a party! You really need to socialize a bit more freely.” He got up and returned to his cubicle.
Tunde bristled a bit at the last comment. He hated social gatherings that involved people he didn’t know. He just felt uncomfortable and out of place most times, and it got worse when they started to talk about football or women. Sure enough, the house would be full of straight males oozing testosterone and holding their female friends. Tunde was quite sure he’d be the only gay fellow there, except Kola’s brother maybe. This was definitely a ruse to get the two of them together.
Or perhaps, Kola was just trying to be a really good friend, he admonished himself. Besides, it would be nice to have a straight fiend who didn’t think gay people were of the devil.
Tunde realised he was zoning out again. He forced himself back to earth and typed away at his computer.
Saturday came and Tunde really didn’t want to go out. His bed was ever so comfortable and the sun outside was maddening. He’d give anything for a bit of rain. He toyed with the idea of telling Kola he was sick, but the guy was really making a try of being friends, and Tunde didn’t want to be an asshole. So by midday, he got ready to go out. He dressed casually without trying to be too casual, since Kola had called it a small get-together and he still wanted to look good.
For his potentially hot brother, abi? a voice in Tunde’s head said.
Yea, right, he snorted in response.
The drive to Kola’s apartment was short, and it easy to find, what with the concise directions he’d been given. Kola would have had to answer to the gods if he got stuck in a traffic jam. The compound gate was open and a few cars were parked in already. Tunde recognised Shalom’s car. At least, he could tick out a kito situation from his mind.
He parked as best as he could before making his way into the apartment, holding a card and a bottle of wine he had bought for Kola as a birthday present. He strode into the living room. It was filled with people. But they all faded from view, and Tunde almost dropped the bottle of wine as his eyes locked unto the most beautiful eyes he had ever seen.