FOREWORD: So here’s a little inside scoop. The reason this series has been on a hiatus is because of a little identity crisis. You see, Declan and I both fell in love and embarked on relationships together. Then things went sour for me, and he is still happy and in love. That made me resent him, and I couldn’t get myself to give him any more life.
But things are changing, ladies and gentlemen. And I’m back. The series will still be running every Monday, but today’s episode is simply a show of faith. The 80 years are over. (Deola, I’m looking at you).
Meanwhile, here’s a recap of what is past. It is January 2014 and the antigay law has just been signed into existence. Declan is dating Kizito and they’ve been together for about three months. His friends are still fabulous and living in Lagos city with him: Jonathan married and paranoid; Ekene flamboyant and in a loving longtime relationship with his Moses; Biola still the lawyer by day and bitch by night; Yinka still the air host that flies about from city to city, attending to flight passengers and picking up men from each city, seeing as he’s in an open relationship; Paschal conscientiously setting aside his gay gigolo past in favour of a self-owned business; Adebola still turning up fashionable clothes and thirsting for straight open-minded guys; Eddie still an LGBT warrior using his well-known gay blog to speak his truth; and Martin the one who’s using his ‘asexuality’ to hide a dark truth of his own.
And now, for today’s offering…
I woke up slowly. It wasn’t one of those days you wake instantly, eyes springing up, your body alert. No. I woke slowly. My mind registered the quiet noises that were unique to my bedroom. Without even opening my eyes, I knew it was still dark outside; the frisson of Harmattan cold that fleeted over my skin was the type that was supplied by pre-dawn.
My brain knew it was time to wake up, but my body disagreed. So, I kept my eyes closed and tried to force myself back to sleep. It occurred to me that I might be lulled back to sleep faster if I slept on my side, curved in an almost fetal position. But as I moved my arm, I realized that there was someone beside me.
Someone beside me on my bed in my parents’ house?!
My body became alert and my eyes sprang open. There was indeed someone lying beside me, sleeping. In the gloom of the room, I could make out his naked torso above the bed cover.
Then it came back to me.
The man I had fallen in love with. My boyfriend.
My mouth went dry and my eyes were transfixed with what part of his beauty I could make out, lying that close to him. He’d spent the night at my place for the first time; to my parents, he was a colleague who had to spend the night with me because we had work stuff to get done before the next day’s deadline. My brother, Fabian, had given me a carefully wooden look over the dinner table, his eyes seeming to tell me that he knew exactly who Kizito was, and what kind of work we would be getting on to behind the closed doors of my bedroom. I ignored him and continued to beam with pride as my boyfriend charmed my mother and sister in between mouthfuls of jollof beans and rice and fried plantains.
I must have moved my arm more forcefully than I thought because Kizito stirred and his eyes opened. I reached to the nightstand for my phone and turned on the torchlight. The thin ray of brightness illuminated his face and the bleary expression on it. He groaned as he raised a hand over his face, shielding his unacquainted eyes from the light. I spotted a small line of white which had trailed down the corner of his mouth.
I smiled, and then covered my mouth to stifle the laughter that suddenly threatened to burst out.
Kizito heard my effort and looked at me askance. “What is it?” he grunted, his voice sleep-hoarse.
I responded with a smile, “You have the cutest early-morning-sleep-face ever.”
He smiled back at me as he brought his hand to my head and ran his fingers through my low-cut hair. “You look pretty sexy yourself.”
“Thanks…” I said coyly. “But you have evidence on your face that you ate a lizard in your sleep.”
I chuckled. “I tara ngwere n’abani. That’s what my mom used to tell me when I wake up with a line of saliva on my face.”
Kizito shot up from the bed and shuffled his way out of it. He moved to the light switch and turned it on, flooding the room with the halogen-whites of my electric bulbs. Then he moved to examine himself in the full length mirror beside the wardrobe. “Shit.”
I laughed softly from the bed, thinking about how he could be so fine and so vain.
The two go hand in hand, the Voice said.
I nodded in acquiescence. He strode into the bathroom and sounds of water rushing from the tap emanated. When he returned some minutes later, his face was cleaner and clearer, I was sure, than mine. He flopped into the bed and gave me a disapproving look.
“Bad boy,” he groused. “You’re laughing at my expense, eh?”
“It was just so cute…and funny. I want to keep waking up to that face for a long time.” I said that last part before I could catch myself.
Even though our relationship had progressed significantly in the past few months, I knew it was too early to be letting words like this fly out of my mouth – even though they were true. I didn’t want to scare Kizito away or run our relationship by rushing into it with my heart first and fantastical expectations.
Kizito looked into his face and raised his hand to run a finger gently over my nose. “For some weird reason, I can imagine myself wanting that too.”
I love you! The words were so present on my tongue, so resounding in my ears, that I thought I’d actually said them out loud.
I stared at him, but his expression remained the same, a lazy half smile that had already depressed his cheeks into those effortlessly attractive dimples.
“Should I kiss you?” he drawled.
I backed away from him with a mock frown. “Not when I’ve still got my morning breath on.”
He broke out in soft laughter. “The way you dodge morning kiss eh, one would be tempted to think me kissing you first thing in the morning is the biggest disaster to happen to you.”
At his words, a thought intruded into my mind, shuttering the smile that had begun to form on my face at his snark. Before I could stop myself, I said, “This wouldn’t be. But something else might be the biggest disaster to happen to us.” At his look of incomprehension, I added, “This new antigay law, Kizito…”
This would be the first time we’d be talking about this development face to face since the news broke of the law’s signage three days ago. Kizito had been often out on the job and so, we hadn’t been able to see each other till yesterday at the close of work, after which, per our plan, we had come home together.
Since Tuesday however, I’d thought about little else but the blasted Same-Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Law. And I had thought about the reality of how it could affect my relationship. The law wasn’t going to affect just how other people relate with gay people. No, it would also affect how gay people relate with themselves. Whether they fall and stay in love, how they relate when they are out in public, visibly refraining from touching each other, altering how they talk, painstakingly carrying themselves in a manner that would discourage any suspicion of their true selves. Ekene was effeminate, and had become even more self conscious than he already was; when I talked to him on the phone on Wednesday, he’d said he was grateful he didn’t have a job to get to everyday, that he wasn’t sure how he could handle the malevolent stares he was sure he’d get as he navigated his way through the bustle of traffic to and from work. He had barricaded himself indoors all week, and was planning to stay barricaded, only leaving his house to his boyfriend’s place. His family seemed to understand his fear, and his mother had stopped requesting for him to go on errands for her. Paschal had suggested he start acting more masculine during one of our Whatsapp group chats, and had gotten so thoroughly blistered by Eddie and Biola, that he sulked off the chat after ineffectual attempts to defend himself against their wrath.
There were too many pockets of tensions breaking out amongst a suddenly apprehensive gay community, with people like Jonathan already deleting contacts and breaking off many associations with the gay people he’d come to know over the years.
I knew he was in a bad place when he called me yesterday afternoon to say in a distraught voice, “Declan, how terrible would you think me if I delete Ekene’s contact and start avoiding him?”
“Jonathan!” I gasped, horrified.
“I know, I know –”
“No, you don’t know,” I interrupted, my tone very cross. “This has got to stop! Haba! You’re thinking of cutting off Ekene – Ekene! I mean, I know you two aren’t exactly chummy, but at least he’s your friend and he’s part of the gang!”
“Yea, but he does like woman too much, even Eddie sef –”
“Stop it!” I hissed his protestation to a stop. “Now, listen to me very carefully, these are the guys who have welcomed you into our fold, even when you were battling with your self-loathing issues. They have stood by you, laughed with you, cried with you. This law doesn’t threaten friendships – don’t let your paranoia get you to do things you will surely regret when everything settles.”
There was a pause during which I heard his respiration tremble on the other end of the phone. I pitied him somewhat. Even as a single gay man, he’d been a very paranoid man, issuing severe warnings to all of us never to bandy his contact about to anyone he hadn’t first seen and expressed interest in. then he got married and got saddled with both the guilt of what he had to do to his wife and the fear of being found out. I couldn’t even imagine the internal war he’d be waging with himself now that there was a law seeking to destroy the gays in Nigeria.
A law that could destroy you too, the Voice said.
I was roused from my recollections as I looked at Kizito, knowing with absolute conviction that should he ever leave me, I would be destroyed. There was just no way I could possibly carry on living without this man as my lover. I was too much in love with him to have him in my life any other way.
Kizito had come to mean a lot to me and my happiness. It was scary, the thought of losing the one you love simply because he could choose that it was safer to stay away from you. Scary, but I could already see it happening – Kizito breaking up with me and…moving on with a lovely girl, probably married before I could forget the feel of his dick inside me.
Was that what Kizito was about to do? I thought as I saw him talking, the gravest expression on his face. Was that him gearing up to end us – end me?
Calm down, Declan, don’t set loose the demons before they get to you, the Voice admonished.
I swallowed hard and refocused on my boyfriend.
“…it is bad enough that they criminalized homosexual intercourse. But this? This is personal. They have noticed that gay people are becoming bold, that they are learning more about and accepting ourselves for who they are. This stupid government has probably thought that in some time in the near future, these gay people would probably be talking about marrying each other…”
They… these gay people… I felt a spurt of sadness at his instinctive distancing from the minority. After all, he was bisexual. If the law comes knocking, they’d probably find him in bed with a woman.
I felt something twist inside me.
“Or it’s what it seems – a good distracting strategy for an administration facing such adversity,” he was still fuming. “It’s like those bunch of old men sat around a desk, drunk and thought, ‘Hey, the masses are starting to make a lot of noise. They are shining eye for us. Let us throw these people a bone, a big fat one. Everyone loves talking about gays. You know what? Let’s give them something that will make them so happy they will shut up.’
“The law might significantly affect gay people. I’m not blind. I have been reading Eddie’s blog. I see the fear, the tension. But you know what, babe?”
“What?” I croaked.
“It shouldn’t matter. It doesn’t matter. It might affect us, but it doesn’t change us.”
Us! I began to feel a glow inside my heart.
“It doesn’t change the fact that there are gay Nigerians. It doesn’t make the homosexuals go away. It doesn’t change the fact that my dick gets rock hard when I think about you. Or that my heart does a little dance whenever you smile at me. I care about you a lot, Dee. It’s all new to me, and I’m liking it every step of the way. I’ve only ever felt like this for a girl once upon a time. And with you, it feels great. And nobody, law or religious being can convince me that it is wrong.”
I couldn’t tear my gaze away from his face, from his lips as they moved. All the apprehension I’d nursed a moment ago faltered in the face of his fervor. One thing was clear to me now. It didn’t matter what lay in the future for us; I would follow Kizito to the end of the world as long as there was breath in me.
I love you. The words raged in my head.
“I care about you too,” I said to him. And then forgetting my earlier aversion to the thought of kissing him with my unwashed mouth, I leaned toward him and took his lips in mine.
Written by Pink Panther