“I’m happy that Goodluck Jonathan did this! I never used to like that man, but with this bill he signed, my respect for him has increased.”
My heart was beating a rapid tattoo, the pace it had kept up for the past thirty minutes, as I looked slowly up from my work computer in the direction of the young woman speaking.
Her name is Onyinye Dike, married for a year, and with an annoying habit of injecting details of her life into conversations, snippets that served to buttress how good her life is. That is how we got to know that her husband proposed to her twice – both times with different rings – before she finally said yes; that they had intended to honeymoon in Greece, but changed their itinerary to South Africa because the weather in Greece wasn’t good that time of the year; that she shouldn’t even be working because her husband could take care of all her needs; that now she was two months pregnant, her husband was setting the stage for her to travel to the United States to deliver their child there.
Onyinye Dike was talkative, loud, annoying and one of my least favorite co-workers. And today, she was commanding the attention of a small group of the department, expressing an opinion that had since shredded whatever was left of my friendly disposition toward her.
She was a homophobic bitch, and for the past several minutes since she started holding court, I’d been trying to keep my temper intact, but I didn’t know how much longer my precarious hold would last.
“Just look at America and Obama, ndi iberibe,” she hissed, while some of the other females clapped their hands in incredulity. “See them trying to interfere with our government, telling us what to accept and what not to accept.”
“They don’t know that we are Africa and homo is not in our culture,” Tunde blurted.
“Are you listening to them?” Onyinye snapped. “Disgusting people! That’s how they will be doing any-anyhow in their country, and they want to bring their disease to our country. Mba nu!”
“Tufia!” Angela exclaimed and snapped her fingers simultaneously.
I gritted my teeth and focused on the screen of my computer, even though I couldn’t see a thing on it.
“Next thing, their homos will start marrying themselves there,” Angela said.
“Did you say ‘next thing’?” Onyinye widened her eyes at Angela as if to say ‘Who is this Lastma?’ “They have started small-small o, some of them living together as partners. That is what Obama wanted Jonathan to agree to nau, that’s why he signed the law.”
Halima chuckled. “Ah-ah! Onyii, how do you know? Were you at Aso Villa when it happened?”
“My dear, leave talk! I know what I’m saying. Next thing, you’ll hear that they have legalized gay marriage there. It will be so sad on every level. Sometimes, I stay and I just think how sad I feel for America sometimes.”
“Right. Two men or two women getting married is just a sad, sad thing. Sadder than all the other things in the world that are actually sad.”
The words started out of my mouth before I could stop them, but with each utterance, I welcomed the rush of release they prompted, embracing the fire that slicked through my system, seeking escape.
There was an instant stir around the room as everyone turned to my direction. In the past, I’d been known for my outspokenness on LGBT issues whenever they were brought up in the office. But following the signage of the law last week Tuesday, I’d deliberately kept out of all the conversations sprouting up on the subject, determinedly refusing to get drawn into any contentions. I maintained this control by walking out of the office whenever my colleagues got fired up. Today however, I’d just come back from my lunch break and couldn’t just up and leave again when Onyinye and the others collected together.
The woman’s eyes were narrowed on me as she turned and slowly started walking toward me. “What are you saying, Declan? That is a good thing?”
A few chuckles erupted from the others as Tunde said, “How can you be asking that, Onyinye? Are you new to this department?”
“No, no, I get that he’s all for gay rights, but this is ridiculous. Gay marriage is wrong. It’s not the way God made this world to be.”
“Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve,” someone quipped, and there was some laughter.
“Really, Onyinye, you’re going to talk God now?” I arched a brow at her.
She had come to a stop a few yards from my desk and crossed her arms, her features locked into a stern expression. “Yes, Declan. I’m talking God. What on earth do you think happened in Sodom and Gomorrah?”
“Don’t tell me your entire prejudice is based on that tired old part of the bible that wasn’t even specific,” I said with theatrically weary sigh.
“Tired old – what are you even talking about sef?” she bristled.
“Does it mean rape should be legalized too?” Angela interjected. “Or robbery or terrorism?”
“Haba, Angie!” Halima protested with a laugh.
“Yes nau!” Onyinye took up the reins again. “Those are condemned. So should this. Or are you saying” – she swiveled to face me again – “that we should legalize gay marriage because it’s a lesser evil?”
“Are you honestly comparing two people loving themselves and wanting to spend their lives together to hurtful crimes such as rape?” I said sharply. “Are you serious?”
“It’s in the bible, Declan” – she waved her hand at me – “read it with understanding, not like a novel.”
“I am unbelievably tired of this conversation with people whose only defense is ‘Read the bible’.”
“The bible is standard and I have a right to the opinions I draw from it, which condemns gay marriage – or even anything gay. Not the sinner by the way, but the sin. Fornication can never be anything but sin, and so is this gay marriage.”
“And just like that, you’ve reduced being gay to just sex. This is very boring please.” I made a show of turning my attention back to my computer screen.
“Read your bible, Declan Odum!” Onyinye exclaimed, advancing a step toward me. “To be specific, read Roman –”
“Onyinye, please drop this,” I cut across her words with a voice that sounded like a whiplash. I rose from my seat as I continued, “I can be quite caustic in arguments like this. And it’s because of some respect for you that I’m trying very hard to be civil. Try reading those verses of yours with real understanding, and not the blind zeal of a religious person. Use Google too. There’s a wealth of information surrounding those verses you’re throwing about. And please, kindly choose your stand – whether gay marriage is a sin or a crime. Last I checked, both mean vastly different things.”
“You want to compare Google with the bible? I don’t believe you. I get all the knowledge I need from the bible, and not the wealth of information” her mouth curled derisively over the three words – “that you say Google gives. And based on this, like I said, I feel sad for America.”
“That’s the same America that you want to go to deliver your child, abi? That sad America is where you are always quick to tell us you and husband will travel to when you go on family vacation – that America?”
There was another flurry of laughter at this.
“Yes, but –”
“Aren’t you afraid that all that sadness will affect your family? That all that America’s homosexuality will somehow seep into your womb and affect your child and turn him gay?”
She recoiled. “God forbid!”
“Oh so God will make a special case for you? How do you see where there’s gay wahala and you’re running in that direction? Isn’t it wise to stay away from America so God won’t have to work too much to protect you? Stay in Nigeria na. Nigeria is a great country filled with people like you who are feeling sad for America.” I hissed as I turned back to my desk. “Hypocrites! That’s what my country people are.”
“Hey –” someone protested.
“Yes, we are a great country,” Onyinye returned. “And yes, we have issues worrying us, but thankfully this is not one of them.”
“A hypocrite and a Blind Bartimaeus – very fitting really.”
“You don’t have to insult me –”
“I’m afraid it’s too late for that. You say the issue of the LGBT is not something Nigeria has to worry about? Well, you are blind – blind to the people that exist around you, blind to the pains of these people, blinded by your ‘faith’. And that’s the real sad thing. When a person doesn’t know that what he disdains about another community is right in his doorstep.”
“That it’s at my doorstep doesn’t mean I will say it is right, Declan. Whether it’s here or there, bad is bad! If you’re trying to confess that you’re gay, the fact that I know you doesn’t stop me from telling you that what you’re doing is wrong. My bible and my faith makes me know that although I may have a gay friend or Muslim friend, it doesn’t mean I should support any gay nonsense to be legalized or Sharia.”
“Haba, Onyinye, which one carry Muslim enter this case now?” Halima shot at her.
“My sister, I’m just telling you like it is…”
At this point, I’d tuned away from the altercation the moment my eyes drifted past Onyinye to the entrance of the office and I spotted Kizito standing in the doorway with a deadpan expression on his face. Our gazes caught and held, and for a moment, we remained suspended above the din in the office.
Then he jerked his head rightward and stepped back out into the hallway. I started forward.
“Hey, Declan, come, we have not finished –” Onyinye began reaching for my arm to stay my movement past her.
“Yes, we are. Don’t touch me please.” I swatted her hand away from mine, while still headed for the door.
The murmur of their contention dropped away as I walked out into the hallway and saw Kizito strolling toward the door of the stairwell. I hurried after him, catching up with him just as he stepped into the landing. I shut the door behind me, effectively plunging us into the resonant silence of the stairwell.
“Hey babe,” I husked, stepping close to him, inhaling all his scents that made me mad with desire for him.
“Hey,” he murmured.
“Did you call me out here for a quick smooch?” I grinned, while my heart began pounding with the prospect of kissing him, even if it was for a few quick moments in an empty stairwell. I hadn’t gotten intimate with him since he spent Thursday’s night at my place, and now, his mere nearness was turning me on.
He chuckled. Then his face sobered as he said, “I really just came by to tell you that I’m supposed to leave early from work today to go look at a house with our agent. He called me this morning.”
“Okay, where’s the place at?”
“Alright. Can I at least get a kiss before you leave?” My smile became hopeful.
His was lukewarm. “Dee…”
“Uh-oh, what is it now?”
“You can’t… What happened – this…” He gestured toward the closed door, toward the hallway we’d just exited from. “You can’t be getting so defensive like that. Look at the way that girl is even deducing that you may be gay –”
“Hey, hey, Kizito, what are you saying?” My brows had crocheted into a frown. “That I should keep quiet and tolerate all the gay bashing that goes on in this place?”
“Yes. I mean, no. I mean…” He sighed and brushed a hand over his face. Then he looked at me. “It’s okay that you feel passionately about this stuff –”
“This stuff,” I gritted out, “is me. Do you understand that?”
His eyes flashed with temper. “I do. You don’t have to make it sound like I don’t care.”
“Do you? Because it seems to me like you’re more concerned about perception, and the fact that if they think I’m gay, then they’ll think anyone I’m close to is gay.”
Kizito heaved a sigh. Then he reached out his hand, grasped the back of my neck and pulled me to him. I was propelled forward into a kiss. It was brief, a grazing of lips, the faint touch of tongues. And then he pulled back.
His eyes were bottomless as he said, “I’m in this too, Dee. I’m in this and I’m struggling and I don’t have all the answers. Sometimes, I wish you’ll be more about us instead of you.” He released me and stepped back. “I have to go. I’ll call you later.”
As he began bounding down the stairs, I stared mutely after him.
I’m struggling and I don’t have all the answers.
Sometimes, I wish you’ll be more about us instead of you.
I stood there, feeling his words send a chilly spear through my midsection with such recurrent force that I found myself fighting to subdue the shivers they evoked.
Written by Pink Panther