In spite of the urgency I read in Ekene’s call, I took my time closing from work. I put my things together, while mentally calculating the expense of going to his place in Ojuelegba before going on home in Surulere. He was lucky we lived in the same direction, otherwise, not even the sake of our friendship would make me drag my tired self to his place at the end of a work day, braving the mad traffic that was bound to bog down the Lagos metropolis.

As I stepped out of the office, my phone rang again. This time, the name I saw flashing on and off against the brightness of the phone’s screen set my heart into a light skip. The smile I instantly wore was evident in my voice when I answered, “Hey you.”

“Hey yourself,” Basil’s deep voice thrummed against my ear. “How was your day, Dick?”

There was something very suggestive about that moniker every time he referred it to me. “Stop calling me that,” I said with a chuckle, instantly feeling a tug against my crotch. “That’s not my name.”

“Nicknames rarely are,” he replied.

“Well, Dick is not my nickname.”

“What’s your name – is it not Declan?”

“Ehen?”

“Well, I’d love to call you Deck, but that’s not even remotely as sexy as Dick.”

We shared a laugh at that, and I murmured, “Well, no matter how many times you call me that, you’re not getting the real thing from me –”

“Oh come on –”

“Or the other real thing behind it.”

“Seriously?” he said with mock-distress. “Isn’t it about time you let me do you many naughty, dirty things in bed? You know you want me to.”

“I may want you to, but how does your boyfriend feel about that?”

Immediately the words left my mouth, I wished I hadn’t said them, because in the wake of the remark, a momentary silence doused the lightheartedness of our conversation. Basil didn’t say a word in response, and my footfalls echoed against the hallway of the office as I walked to the elevator.

“Basil…?” I said uncertainly as the elevator doors dinged shut after I’d gotten in.

“I don’t know what to say,” he said in a low tone.

He never always knew what to say. “Very well,” I snapped, feeling suddenly irritated. “I have to go now.”

“Look, wait, Declan –”

I disconnected the call, swallowed a sob and rode the elevator down.

Let me tell you about Basil: he’s this absolutely hot staffer of NNPC, in his thirties, who lives in Abuja. I met him last year when I took a couple of days off from work to sneak off to Abuja for a job interview at a bank. The interview was over, and I walked out of the bank building, feeling a little bit down-spirited because I felt I hadn’t done my best. I strolled down the Central Area Avenue, taking in the sights of the sophisticated bustle of the capital city, and feeling reluctant to head on home to my aunt’s house. I stopped on the side of the road to stare up at the massive monolithic structure of the NNPC Towers, and wondered what it would be like to work there.

“It’s an impressive sight, no?” a low-pitched voice said close to me. I turned to stare into a very masculine face, with almond shaped dark eyes that stared back at me above a stubby nose and lips that were curved into a smile, as though he was entertaining a very dirty thought.

About me . . . Lawd, let that dirty thought be about me, I remember thinking as I drank in his attractiveness. “Yes, it is . . . very impressive,” I murmured, not sure if I was talking about NNPC or the not-so-tall drink of water before me.

He set his quizzical stare on me, and my gaydar began tingling. “You seem like you’re new to Abuja?” he said.

“Is it that obvious?”

“Well, I caught you gazing at those” – he nodded towards the Towers – “as though it was the next gigantic thing since the Tower of Babel.”

A short laugh gusted from my lips. “I doubt that. I stay in Lagos, and we have our fair share of skyscrapers and big buildings over there.”

“Big buildings, eh? Do any of them come in fantastic packages such as this?”

“The building or the man?” I said brazenly. I get like that sometimes – find myself chitchatting with a gorgeous man with an unknown sexual status, and throw out veiled lines of proposition. You know, cast your nets out and hope it comes back with fish. If the fish is a scowl and a ‘What’s that supposed to mean?’, then it’s bye-bye mister. No harm, no foul. But if the fish is a coy smile . . .

Like the one this man gave me when he stretched out his hand and said, “My name is Basil.”

“I’m Declan.”

“How long are you in Abuja for?”

“Two days.”

“Well, it seems we don’t have much time.”

“Much time for what?”

“For me to show you the colours of my city.”

Those colours were very vivid and bright and explosive, and I left Abuja determined to find a way to relocate from Lagos, so we could be close to each other. I came crashing down from my ninth heaven pretty quickly when he called the day after my return to Lagos to tell me he was actually in a relationship with someone. That admission came like a blow to my solar plexus. More of them came. Like when I asked how serious they were, and he said very serious.

Did he love the guy?

How long had they known each other?

A pretty long time.

How long had they been together?

Two years.

Was he planning on leaving him for me?

And that was when he started with the ‘I don’t know what to say.’ He never knew what to say whenever the issue of his boyfriend cropped up into our conversations. And yet he wanted to see me again, to have sex with me again, to be with me whenever he was in Lagos or could get me to visit him in Abuja.

“What are you, his dirty little secret?” Yinka said caustically one time as I lamented over my drama with Basil. “Babe, if he’s not ready to make you his boo, then let that one time you gave him your shobosho be the first and last.”

And I guess that’s what drives Basil crazy – the fact that I heeded Yinka’s advice and resisted all overtures from him for us to hook up again. I never saw him during his business trips to Lagos, I refused his offers for weekend getaways, and the memory of that one time we had dangled like a carrot, tantalizing and fuelling desires I was determined not to give in to.

“Finally, you’re here!” Ekene said in a theatric shout when he opened his door to me.

I pulled myself out of the wool gathered by thoughts of Basil enough to give him a small smile.

“What’s wrong?” he intuited.

“It’s just that –”

“You’re supposed to say ‘Nothing is wrong’,” he interrupted. “This your visit isn’t about you, it’s about me. Oya, let’s go inside.”

I chuckled. This my friend could be a selfish bitch sometimes.

He hustled me past his two younger brothers who were playing Ludo in the living room, and I managed a greeting to his mum who was in the kitchen, before I was whisked into his bedroom. Once the door was shut and bolted, he turned to me with a serious expression.

“Well, you don’t look much like someone dying of AIDS.”

“That’s probably because it hasn’t attacked my fine face yet. The – erm, something is down there.” He pointed at his crotch.

“Come, wait, we are sisters o. I didn’t come here to do lesbianism with you,” I joked.

His grave expression stayed in place.

I sighed and said, gesturing to his groin. “Okay, let me see.”

He shucked his boxers, a tad self consciously, and I found myself looking at his limp penis. I squinted at it, but could see nothing out of the ordinary.

“Look closely,” he said.

I leaned forward, and that was when I saw it. “Oh wow –”

“Oh wow what? What is it? Ehn? Tell me. I have AIDS, don’t I? Heu! Moses has finished me. I’m dead. What will I tell my people –”

“Relax, Ekene. Calm down –”

“Which one is calm down? You just said ‘Oh wow.’ That must mean it is serious. Jeeezuz! I am finished! I swear, Moses, it will not be better for you! How could you do this to me…”

You see what I meant by this guy being too melodramatic? I reached out my hands to grasp his shoulders. “Guy, relax. Haba!” My sharp words cut through the haze of his mounting panic, and he stopped talking, gulping hard in a bid to swallow his hysteria. I continued, “My ‘Oh wow’ wasn’t a death sentence. To the best of my knowledge, you don’t have AIDS. Haba, if you have AIDS, the whole world will know nau. But HIV is a different matter. Them no dey write am for face, and this one you are saying Moses gave you AIDS, it must mean you two do it without condoms.” A reproving note coloured my voice, he heard it and he looked away from me.

“He’s my boyfriend nah –” he began defensively.

“Who you have being dating for just five months, and who you are not even sure you trust to be faithful. You know what, I’m not going to lecture you on everything that is wrong with barebacking with Moses–”

“Good, because I don’t need a lecture,” he said sulkily. “Just tell me what is wrong with my dick.”

I turned my gaze back to his penis. Parts of the skin looked leathery, the way desiccated meat would look. And other parts had started to peel from the organ, small, scaly tufts that stuck outwards. The unsightly malady seemed to have spread all over his penis, and to his scrotum as well.

“I’m not certain – you know, you really should ask Jonathan. He’s the doctor amongst us –”

“Please, and have him go all preachy and judgmental on me? No, thanks. You studied med lab in the university. I trust your judgment. Just tell me what you think.”

“Well, it hasn’t been long since you last had sex with Moses, has it?”

“No, it was about two days ago. I spent the night at his place.”

“And how many times did you come?”

“Three times. It was a very vigorous night. The guy was just too insatiable that night, kept waking me up for more. I was exhausted by morning.”

“And he wanked you to come all of those three times?”

“Yes. It was even unusual for me. I don’t usually come several times at a stretch. At the most, twice, and that’s it. I may get horny, but that doesn’t mean I will come if there’s more rounds of sex.”

“And yet, Moses made that happen three times in one night.” I couldn’t prevent the envy that soured my tone. I envied those of my friends who got to have regular sex – no, amazing regular sex – by virtue of the fact that they had relationships. And if Ekene was to be believed the many times he liked to blab, then Moses was a sex god.

When he nodded his affirmation to my question, I asked, “What did he use – cream?”

“Yes.”

“What kind?”

He told me the name. “But it isn’t the first time we have used it, and it doesn’t burn.”

“It’s however the first time he has used it on you three times, isn’t it?”

He nodded slowly.

“Well, then, there you have it. The frequency of the cream’s friction against the sensitive skin of your dick is the reason the skin is peeling. Not because you have AIDS.” I chuckled at the thought of his earlier melodrama. “It will take a while to finish peeling, but in time, you will have a dick that’s good as new.”

“Are there drugs I can take to facilitate the process?”

“Yes, but I’ll have to ask Jonathan for the prescription.”

“Okay, thanks, Dee, you’re a life saver.”

“Yes, yes, yes. Just be careful from now on. And for chrissakes, you two should use condoms. And get yourself tested, you and him.”

“Will do.”

“Can I go home now? I’m really tired.”

“Of course.” He started securing his boxers around his waist. “Let me just walk you out.” I was reaching for the door knob when he added, “Oh, speaking of Jonathan, did you hear he has printed his wedding invitation?”

“Yea, he came by my office today to give me a copy.” The two of us were walking down the small hallway back into the living room.

“Oh, so he told you, can you imagine,” Ekene pouted. “I had to hear it from Adebola.”

I chuckled. That didn’t surprise me. Jonathan and Ekene didn’t get along well as they got along with the rest of us in the gang.

“Anyway,” Ekene continued with a knowing look thrown my way, “Adebola also said he’ll be bringing someone to the get-together.”

“Who?” I had a sneaking suspicion who it was.

“Bryson,” Ekene said.

And suddenly, I wasn’t sure what I felt – to look forward to tomorrow evening or not to.

Written by Pink Panther

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