Saturday evening was turning out to be more boring than Suwa had imagined it would be for her first weekend home for the Christmas holidays. The half empty plastic bottle of Maltina was next to her on the couch, the somewhat bitter aftertaste still lingering on her tongue as her fingers prance around the screen of her iPad. She swept a quick look around to ensure that none of her nosey siblings were around, before returning to her scroll through her Tumblr dashboard. Her usual favorite blogs, which she was presently going through, had content she would never want to share with any member of her family.
She sighed as her interest on the internet waned, and she glanced out through the open French doors at the evening. Thanks to the Harmattan, Lagos had upgraded its view of the sunset, and Suwa could take in the hues of faded orange and yellow through from her perch in the upstairs parlour.
She sighed again. If the days kept dragging like this, she would be of the mind to return to Paris before the New Year.
“Suwa! Your boyfriend is calling you!” Ivie hollered as she sped into the parlour with Suwa’s phone in her hand.
Suwa had plugged the phone to charge in her room.
“Oh,” was all she said as she took the phone from her younger sister. She could see from the screen that Ivie had already pressed the Answer Button and the seconds were already counting. The Caller ID showed that it was Jamal waiting to speak with her.
“Extend my regards to him o,” Ivie said with childlike excitement as she stood, wide-eyed before Suwa.
“Okay Ivie,” Suwa said with a smile as she took the phone to her ear. Her sister had always had a crush on Jamal, who everyone in her family thought was Suwa’s man. And so, Ivie had switched her affection from infatuation to sibling adoration. After all, any boyfriend of her sister was potentially family.
“Boyfriend?” Jamal’s amused voice came to her through the phone.
“Yes, love,” Suwa purred in her voice whose accent was slightly coloured by the years she’d spent living abroad. “So you better get serious about putting a ring on it.”
Jamal’s mirth rumbled as he laughed heartily. When he sobered up, he asked, “Are you dead yet?”
He knew her so well. “Not yet,” Suwa said with an eye-roll and an exaggerated sigh, “but it’ll happen anytime now.”
“We can’t have that. Get dressed, girlfriend. There’s a party.”
“There is?” She sat up at once, causing her iPad to slip from her lap. Ivie was still in the room and she snatched the iPad up and righted it on her lap again. The wallpaper of the device, which was showing at the moment, was the latest photo of Uche Odoh. The actress was wearing a casual tux from a recent photoshoot, a look that was unintentionally setting the heart of closeted Lagos girls on fire. “Hold on, Jay,” she said, and then taking the phone from her ear, she fixed a pointed look on Ivie, arching her brow in a silent ‘Yes?’
Ivie replied, “You haven’t said hi to Jamal for me na…”
Suwa nodded and returned to the phone. “Jay, Ivie says hi.”
Jamal’s response was a chuckle.
Suwa turned back to her sister. “He says hi back.”
Ivie beamed, like Suwa had just told her that Jake Gyllenhaal, her Hollywood crush, had just agreed to meet her. Then she turned, blushing, and trotted out of the room.
“So you were saying?” Suwa went back to her phone conversation.
“My cousin is having a gathering,” Jamal said. “I was thinking you might want to show face.”
“I’m awful when it comes to socializing with average straight Nigerians, remember?” And that was why she loved living in Paris; Suwa had a deep appreciation for the liberated gay scene of the French capital. She didn’t have to put up any appearances abroad.
“I mention my cousin and you instantly assume I’m talking about someone who is straight?” Jamal said in a mock stern tone. “Far from that. Bae will be meeting us there sef. The party is going to be lit with those swinging in our side of the field, honey.”
“Bae?” Suwa said.
“Bello nau,” Jamal said.
“So you guys are serious then – because you never call anyone who’s just a casual something ‘bae’.”
Jamal chuckled. “Nobody compares to my Bello. Free me abeg.”
“I hol’ you before?” Suwa retorted, then said, “Come, I hope I am not going to be a freaking third wheel there. I am okay being bored at home o.”
“Nah babe, it’s cool. And I’m sure you will meet awesome people there who can make this vacation happen for you. Otherwise, you can break my head with a pot.”
“Haba, it’s not that serious,” Suwa said with a laugh.
“So, am I picking you up?”
“Yeah sure, what time?”
“In like an hour. Daddy wants to give princess a massage and I am needy.”
A short laugh erupted from Suwa as she shook her head. “I don’t even want to know.”
“Of course you don’t. Cucumber isn’t exactly your choice of an evening snack.”
“You got that right, sister,” Suwa riposted, laughing some more.
The call was disconnected.
“You guys are really cute though.”
She started, looking up to see Ivie lurking by the door.
“How long have you been there?” she said sharply, while instantly mentally scouring through her memory banks for anything incriminating she might have said during the just concluded conversation with Jamal.
Ivie frowned. “I just came now. You don’t have to sound like I was skulking.”
“Well, weren’t you?” Suwa said, breathing easier when she realized that Ivie had said ‘You guys are really cute together’, which meant her belief of Suwa’s heterosexuality was still intact. If her sister had overheard anything that puzzled her, she’d have led with that.
“Go joor,” Ivie said. “You can like to be annoying, but because Jamal’s presence is still in the room, I won’t take the bait.”
Suwa stifled the urge to roll her eyes. if only you knew, she thought.
“So you’re going out with him, abi?” Ivie asked.
“Yes,” Suwa said. “I’m going out with my boyfriend.”
Ivie gave a wistful sigh. “I wish I could find a boyfriend like Jamal.”
“I’m sure you will.”
Just then, Ivie’s eyes snapped to her older sister’s face. “Wait you’re going out with Jamal –”
“That’s what I said –”
“With your hair looking like that?” Ivie sounded incredulous as she gestured to her head.
Suwa chuckled. “I’ll just pack it back into a bun. Jamal won’t mind.”
Ivie shook her head. “You’re just lucky Jamal is different from most men, for you to not even take your time to look nice for him.”
“Yes,” Suwa said with a slow smile as she stood to leave the room. “He sure is different from most men.”
In exactly an hour, Jamal was tooting his horn outside the Idahosas’ palatial home. Suwa sauntered out to appreciatively take in his appearance: lean body encased in a plain black T-shirt, which complemented his fair skin, and a pair of Ankara print trousers. Suwa had argued and almost fought with her sister over what she should wear. She’d wanted to be ultra casual, but Ivie would have none of it. Eventually, they had settled on tight black jeans, ripped at the knees, and one of their mother’s oversized button-down floral dress shirts. Her makeup was minimal.
“And what do your parents know about this outing?” Jamal asked as he steered the car away from her house.
“That we’re on a date,” Suwa answered as she glanced idly at the passing scenery.
Jamal laughed. “Pity you don’t stay in Nigeria. You could use me to get away with all kinds of stuff.”
“You’re such a bad influence,” Suwa said with a chuckle.
“Hey, when life gives you lemons, you hustle for other ingredients to make a Cosmopolitan.”
Suwa smiled and shook her head.
An Olamide song was thrumming from the car’s speakers, and she soon began to nod her head to the rhythm. There was a bit of traffic on the road, but Suwa didn’t mind. She took in a lungful of the evening air, as she observed the thicket of vehicles and pedestrians, some of them clad in gorgeous wears that revealed how busy Saturdays in Lagos can get with social events.
Olamide segued into a bluesy Asa, and Suwa began to feel a tug of melancholy.
She turned to Jamal. “Will you ever come out?”
She knew what her friend would say and wasn’t surprised when he said it.
“Am I mad?”
“Really?” she persisted.
“Never,” Jamal maintained. “I am happy in my closet, and nothing is pulling me out.”
“Don’t you feel any pressure to come out, if not for anything but for the sake of being real to yourself?”
“What is with your lesbians and coming out sef?” Jamal chuckled to take the sting off his words. “Awhile ago, it was my friend Ummi who wanted to come out, now you. Look, honey, this is Nigeria o, not France. I personally never feel the pressure to come out. I’m fine just tackling life from inside the closet.”
“For now,” Suwa said.
“What?” Jamal said.
“I’m just wondering, what happens when your family actively expects you to get married? What then?”
“I’m young and I’ve got a ton of siblings ahead of me who are still unmarried. So I don’t think about that yet. I am in the moment and enjoying it.” He shrugged, totally unbothered.
“Will your family ever accept you if you one day come out?” Suwa’s voice was slowed, hesitant, as though Jamal’s response was going to be a reflection of her situation.
Jamal gave out a short laugh. “Okay, so I am from a strictly religious Hausa-Fulani home, and you think they would rush to hug me if I tell them how gay I am?” He shook his head with a rueful expression.
“I like to think some families are more understanding than others.”
“That may be so, but they’d first have to cut through the inherent homophobia to get to that understanding.”
Suwa let out a trembly sigh.
Jamal shot her a quick look, as though just then intuiting into her melancholy. He reached out a hand to place it on hers, which were clasped together, tensely, on her lap.
“Whether we come out or not,” he said in a gentle tone, “it doesn’t change who we are. Okay?”
“Okay?” Jamal reiterated.
Suwa smiled this time as she nodded. “Okay.”
“Good. Now enough with the heavy talk, we’re almost there.”
The black Mercedes veered into the Bourdillon expressway, joining a gentle line of traffic, and Suwa realised she had no idea where they were headed for the party.
“Where exactly are we going to?”
“One of the flats just ahead, it’s a small party really.”
“Will there be any pretty girls?” There was a grin on her face.
“Oh, someone is now looking to get her groove on?” Jamal turned raised brows to her.
“Well, you did say enough with the heavy. I’m guessing that only leaves room for the light, and what’s light if not fun.”
Jamal laughed heartily at that. “I like this Suwa. And the pretty girls in there will too, I’m sure.”
The apartment was possibly the most beautiful one Suwa had ever seen in a long while, especially here in Lagos. But then, it wasn’t as though she ever went anywhere whenever she was in Nigeria. It was wide spaced and clean, even with the handful of people present, and it was lavishly and yet elegantly furnished. Her parents’ home was quite opulent, but knowing that a single person lived here had her feeling so impressed, Jamal had to almost drag her about the first few seconds of arrival. The living room had a balcony that afforded a breathtaking view of the Lekki-Ikoyi Bridge. A soft breeze blowing in from the balcony stirred Suwa’s essence. She eyed two girls who were making out against the wall close to the balcony opening, while at the same time shimmying to the music floating out from hidden speakers. Jamal had introduced them to her as Ummi and Kainene. They looked so much in love. She wondered how far back they’d accepted themselves as lesbians; most of the turmoil raging inside her came as a result of her late self acceptance. And as she stared at the two lovers, she envied how comfortable they seemed to be in their skin, with themselves. They were making out in full view of everyone for heavenssakes!
It wasn’t long before Jamal deserted her when he spotted his boyfriend, and with a cheery wave at him, was gone from her side. Suwa inhaled deeply and let it out, and decided to get seated somewhere. Not a lot of people were sitting, so she had ample space to get settled. She felt a tiny spurt of irritation at Jamal; dumping her like this and making off, without even as much as introducing her to the host.
She was contemplating what she’d do about getting herself a drink when she heard someone speak to someone else. The voice of the speaker was very distinct, velvety, smooth, with the power to evoke all manner of eroticism in a hearer’s mind.
Suwa felt a flutter in her chest as she looked around, hoping to catch a glimpse of the voice’s owner. The person was still speaking, but her voice was fading away in the small crowd. Uncharacteristically, Suwa got to her feet and followed after it, her ears tuned to the distinctive sound that seemed to cause all other sounds – music and chatter – to fade away to the background.
Then the woman stopped talking. Suwa got a bit frantic, before she realized that the woman had probably exited the living room and gone into any of the rooms adjoining it. She turned into the first door she saw and found herself in a kitchen. There was someone in there, trying to tear open a carton of canned Fanta and cussing to herself. Cussing to herself in the velvety voice.
Suwa let out a small satisfied sigh and leaned against the door jamb, pausing to admire the chocolate-brown skin that seemed translucent under the warm kitchen light and the thick, black natural hair, tinted purple, which was pulled in an upward do. The young woman was tall, about the same height and age with Suwa, holding a broader figure with softer edges, that was unlike Suwa’s leaner frame.
The carton’s flaps finally gave way with a sharp rip, and the woman straightened with a satisfied sigh and began reaching inside to lift out a can when she noticed the presence at the entrance of the kitchen. Her almond shaped eyes, smoothly lined with the darkest of black eye liners, quickly flicked over Suwa, and an appreciative glint came into her eyes. She smiled, her lipsticked mouth curving around the brightness that lifted her nostrils with the tiny nose ring that was pinned to one of them.
The smile was so infectious that Suwa found herself tentatively smiling back. She had been determined to find the girl with the velvety voice. Now she had, she was unsure of what to say or how to act around this beautiful person.
“Are you comfortable?” the girl spoke.
Suwa stifled the need to sigh when she heard her speak. She truly had a beautiful voice.
“I am now.” The words left her mouth before she knew she was saying them. She realized how flirtatious they sounded and wanted to slap herself. Oh my God, Suwa, what’s gotten into you?
“Oh.” The girl cocked an eyebrow, smiling.
“I didn’t mean to sound like that,” Suwa rushed to say.
“I’m not complaining,” the girl replied. Her eyes were merry with devilry.
“My name is Adama by the way. I’m your hostess.” She moved toward her, her hand outstretched.
Ah, so this was Jamal’s cousin. She’s way finer than him, Suwa thought, making a mental note to use this bit of information to taunt her friend later on.
Taking the girl’s hand in a cool-textured handshake, she replied, “I’m Adesuwa, but you can just call me Suwa.”
“Ah, Jamal’s friend,” Adama said, her smile never leaving her face.
“Yes.” Suwa was starting to feel very self conscious.
“So listen, why don’t we bust the boring indoors and go chill in the balcony,” Adama said as she returned to the table to fetch some drinks from the carton.
“Yea, I noticed what a beautiful view you have from there.”
“Sadly, it doesn’t look like anyone’s appreciating it.”
Suwa laughed shortly. “They’re all busy having a good time indoors. You throw a good party.”
“And you’ve got a lovely apartment.”
Adama was leading the way through the crowded living room to the balcony. Suwa spotted Jamal kissing Bello, in the midst of what appeared to be an ongoing game of Truth or Dare.
Sea breeze surged around them as they stepped out into the balcony. It swirled around Suwa like a cocoon, fresh and clean, and she let out a small sigh, as she let her eyes travel over the city lights that winked at them from the distance.
“It really is beautiful out here,” she observed.
“Come, sit,” Adama said as she got comfortable in a lounging chair.
Suwa went to join her. They sat side by side, but continued staring off at the bridge. As the clouds faded into dark hues, the warm lights from the massive structure illuminated its surrounding. Suwa felt a weird sensation horripilate over her skin. There was something so relaxing and yet so tense about sitting here, taking in the sights, beside the most beautiful woman she’d ever seen.
It was Adama who broke the quiet. “You have an accent,” she pointed out.
“I’ve been living in Paris for almost four years now,” Suwa said.
“Oh nice, I’m often in Paris. How come we’ve never crossed paths?” She chuckled as she said that, implying that the question was teasing.
“I am always indoors,” Suwa deadpanned.
They shared a laugh at that.
“Well, I’m from Kaduna. My mother stays there, father stays here in Lagos. Home is basically wherever I want it to be.”
“Well, you do know how to put down roots,” Suwa said with a gesture at her surroundings.
“A girl has to spend her father’s money, you know,” Adama said with a wiggle of her eyebrows. “What do you do?”
“I’m an artist. I paint and I work in a gallery.”
“Fancy.” Adama sounded impressed. “That’s such an un-Nigerian thing to be.”
Suwa chuckled. “Yes, I’ve been told many times that there’s a Nigerian who was born to the American parents I was supposed to have.”
Adama laughed heartily at that. Suwa joined in.
“Well,” Adama said moments later, “currently I’m a contractor with my father’s company. But I’m really just finding out what I really want to do.”
For several moments after that, the two women talked about themselves, their pasts, the present and what they hoped for the future. Adama had a comedic streak, and always let out anecdotes that soon had Suwa deserting her natural reserve and freely laughing. As the conversation wore on, the space between them on the seat diminished, and soon, their shoulders were brushing against each other.
“When did you know?” Suwa asked when the conversation eventually junctioned on the issue both women could relate to.
“I’m not sure,” Adama said. “I just kind of…knew. There was no big reveal for me. What about you?”
“Well, an all-girls boarding school for three years began ruining my life.” She said this with a smile, so Adama wouldn’t think she was being self deprecating.
“Oh, I know the feeling,” Adama said with a chuckle. “I got up to all manner of destruction in my boarding school.”
“You and Jamal, and everyone else here seem so comfortable with yourselves though,” Suwa noted, a bit solemn. She remembered Ummi and Kainene, the two girls who’d been making out earlier on, and she felt a slight tug at her heart. There was a closeness, an ease about them that opened up a yearning in Suwa that she never knew she had. And yet, it felt weird, so weird wishing to be that close with a woman. Even with her appreciation of the French gay scene, she wasn’t an active member of it. It wasn’t long ago that she finally conquered the guilt she always felt after the occasional night of sensual skin against skin, feminine softness and spurting orgasms.
“My comfort in my own skin didn’t come so easy,” Adama said. “It took me some time to accept that I will never be the ideal daughter material my parents want. It was quite a journey, scaling through all that guilt and feelings of failure. And now I’m past all that negativity, I’m living my life as a reward for it.”
“Do they know?” Suwa wanted to know.
“My mum knows. I tell her everything, and right now, she is unlearning so many things. It’s taking time, but she’s getting there.”
“Oh nice, nice…” Suwa bit her lip. “My family thinks I am dating Jamal.”
Adama laughed a bit at that. “I’m guessing you have no intention of correcting that impression?”
“No, I don’t have the courage.”
“Will you ever?”
“I don’t know.”
Adama nodded. “Some friends of mine are out to their families, and they get very snippy with those of us who drag their feet over the issue of coming out themselves. I tell them, life’s not an even pace for everyone. We all want to get there, but we must remember there’s the tortoise and there’s the cheetah.”
“So what am I?” Suwa said, her lips crooking into the beginnings of a smile.
“A tortoise,” Adama answered, her eyes suddenly growing heavy-lidded as her gaze dropped to Suwa’s mouth. “A very sexy and beautiful tortoise.”
The expression in her hooded gaze made Suwa’s breath catch. And again, the words that escaped from her mouth proved to be too fast for her brain. “Can I just kiss you?”
Unlike before however, she wasn’t mortified by her words. She was breathless with desire. She wanted Adama.
“Well, that took you long enough,” Adama said with a chuckle, before leaning forward.
Suwa met her halfway and felt her eyelids flutter close as their lips grazed against each other. Of their own volition, her hands came up to rest on Adama’s thigh. The kiss was gentle and sweet, not catching fire and yet evidencing great passion. Their chests pressed against each other and hands reached upward to grope at their bodies and faces.
And in that heated moment, a newfound manifestation shot through Adesuwa Idahosa’s body. She did not know about tomorrow. She did not know about paces and destinations. But right now, she was sure about two things: this – being with Adama, kissing her, touching her; and the fact that nobody needed to know until she was very ready.
Written by ThatGayCousin