After a hard day’s work on a particularly disappointing day, I was walking down the street of my office when the familiar voice called out from behind me.

“Oga, you dey go, you no come greet us goodnight,” Iya Sandra said from where she was sitting in front of her shop.

“Madam, no vex. I was just so tired and lost in thought,” I responded as I grudgingly headed back in the direction of her shop. “How nah, how market?”

“Market kuku dey dia. As NEPA no gree bring light so and this heat plenty, wetin we go come do?”

“Abi o. It’s everywhere. So frustrating,” I responded, feigning interest. “Abeg make I dey go house. We go see tomorrow.”

And with that, I was on my way before she had the chance to utter another word. I so was not in the mood for any chitchat.

It hadn’t been up to two weeks my office opened a branch here, and she was already famzing me. In fact, one would think we are best of friends and have known each other for years, what with the way she relates with me. Imagine, the other day she was telling me one interesting story about her next-door shop neighbour and mid-gist, we high-fived like high school girlfriends gossiping – all this in the presence of her husband o.

As I went home, I began to ponder on my relationships with these women, these relationships that I’d had a lot of in my lifetime. At every stage and location in my life, I have always had one other woman in my life. Odd friendships that made people wonder what exactly we might have in common.

In secondary school, it was Aunty Martha, the school secretary. We just hit it off from the word go, and became close sotay I was giving her marriage counselling o. Hmm, no be small thing. She and her husband were having some issues at the time and because she did not have any female friends her age, we spent a lot of lunch breaks discussing her marital problems. She was a cool friend and ally. Her husband liked me as well, so I visited them on weekends sometimes. I was a young boy, so he couldn’t have suspected any funny business between his wife and me; plus he was just a jolly good fellow.

After secondary school, I relocated for a bit so I could get serious with preparing for my ‘O’ Level exams. At least, that was the plan – until I moved into Mama Friday’s house. Our relationship quickly moved from landlady–tenant to mother–son, and eventually to friends. There was nothing about her and her family I did not know. I got to know whenever she and her husband had sex and what style they did it with. We were that close. I guess she needed a friend she was sure wouldn’t spread her tales about town. As expected, people gossiped about our friendship, casting aspersions, but Papa Friday was home a lot and always knew of his wife’s movements and mine as well. He saw our friendship for the harmless, joyful acquaintanceship that it was.

I got into a diploma program not long before I got acquainted with Mama Feranmi. She owned a small provisions store two houses away from where I was staying. And mehn, did we gist or what. Mama Feranmi was very open-hearted. I ate meals in her house oftentimes, and she sometimes gave me stipends to “keep body and soul together”, as she put it. Not that I ever asked her or needed her to give me the allowance. I supposed she felt some sort of obligation towards me. She saw me as the son she never had. Sadly this son had a crush on her husband, but never acted on it o. Her shop was my personal glossary store. I took whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. She was (and still is) a friend and dear mother. I was in her company every chance I got and she told me any and everything. I was her confidant. I was part of her family.

I started my degree program and decided to enjoy the complementary school accommodation provided for fresh men. The owner of the talk shop in my hostel became the newest woman in my life. I didn’t share much affinity with her as I was so immersed in the experience of being an undergraduate and exploring what gay sex the university had to offer. But I was close to her all the same.

By second year of university, I moved out of the hostel and into a cute cozy apartment in town. And into Iya Alate’s life. She was this elderly woman who lived a street away from me. I was drawn to her personality the moment I met her. You see, she looked far too young for her age and had a bubbly personality about her. She was lovely and amiable and just as blunt. Hmm, my kind of woman. Lol. I’d spend lazy evenings sitting with her outside her house that overlocked a major junction and talk about everybody passing. She always had an update or two to dish and I encouraged her gossip. Iya Alate was always fun to be with. We weren’t mother and son. We were best friends. She got me a girlfriend in my third year and then proceeded to wreck the relationship herself when she heard the girl was doing the nasty with some guy five streets away. Poor girl, I was obviously not giving her enough attention. My times with Iya Alate were the most fun. She encouraged my youthful exuberance with mild caution when I got overboard. Sometimes, I wonder why I never got the courage to tell her I am gay. I always told her she is too adventurous for her age. Imagine, her son got her an android phone one time and she asked me to sign her up on Badoo, since she’d noticed I was always there “looking for girlfriends”. So she figured she could find a man there. I refused of course. She said she needed some grove too. At eighty years of age o! That woman was just something else.

And on and on goes the tale of the women in my life. I still do not know what draws these women to me or me to them. I do not force those friendships, they just happen and I fear they will continue to.

Now this Iya Sandra is starting her own. I’m sure pretty soon her husband will be the topic at our gossip sessions. I want to restrain this and keep to myself, but I do not trust I will be able to. I want no more old-woman relationships joor. I wonder why I do not attract younger women, women my age, to gossip with and be pals with. Angela my church friend (remember her?) and a couple others are the only young women I’m casual friends with.

These elderly women I get acquainted with are usually quite popular in the neighbourhood and know whatever is going on in the environment. So I tell them just what I want them to know about me so that when people are making enquiries about me from them, they will pass on what they know, which is what I’ve told them about me. As expected, these are the versions of me that will make the rounds. And that is how I would have a girlfriend who lives far away, and how I’d be too much of a loving, Christian boyfriend to cheat on her. That way I can bring home all the boys I want; after all, a guy needs to have friends.

I call that Information Control. 😀

Written by Darlene Sirilo Johnson

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