At work, I typically draw lines. I tend not to socialize with anyone I work with. However there was this guy Tunde who joined us about three years ago. I basically hired him because someone dropped from my team and I was asked to find a replacement. I asked him to send his CV to HR, and he soon got hired. Over the years, we became very close, began to hang out off duty, and developed a very strong friendship. I tested him on LGBT rights several times to see if he was homophobic, and even though he wasn’t exactly a rainbow-flag-waving straight ally, I found him to be one of those “whatever floats your boat” kind of guys. So this January, on the first working day on the year, I came out to him while we drove to go meet a client, and it surprised me when he said he had virtually no idea. Now, as much as I am not out, I do not actively hide my sexuality, especially to people who follow me on social media. So it kind of surprised me that he did not pick up on it.
We went through all the typical questions straight people ask when you come out to them, and it all ended with “…you are my guy anytime, any day, and nothing has changed.” In fact, when we went on a work trip to Bonny, we shared a hotel (as we typically do when we want to save money), and he didn’t treat me differently. He was still very comfortable to undress and change before me, just like he used to do in times past. He has remained a loyal friend and brother to me, and I am so glad I was able to let him see the real me.
Now just this last week, we were eating lunch and he suddenly told me that some of our colleagues were talking and implying that there is a sexual relationship between us – him and I. He said this casually, like it wasn’t anything, while I’d begun to stew with anger. I knew where the gist would be coming from; there was someone from my department in the university who works in my company, and my guess is that he’d carried university aproko to the office. I brought out my phone and began to type an email to HR to report the matter (my company is actually very strict on stuff like that and has a very strong code of conduct requirement. This kind of gossip, if substantiated, can cost the gossip bearer his job). When Tunde realized what I was doing, he laughed and took the phone from my hand, saying that I worry too much about silly things, that it is just a rumor and I should just ignore them. He even went further to poke fun at me, saying I should even be happy they are linking him with me, and got cheeky with a remark about whether I’d ever dated a guy as cute as him. We ended up laughing the issue off and I let it slide but made a mental note never to speak to those guys ever again.
Tunde later became very touchy-feely with me. We would be walking to the staff bus and he would have his hands across my shoulder. We would go to lunch and he would save a seat for me, telling everybody who wanted to sit there that the seat was taken. One day, we were to go on a tour of a new factory and we all took the staff bus to go there. Tunde and I sat at the back and he started with the touching and affectionate gestures; at a point, he was whispering something into my ear, and I turned to face him and asked him what he was actually doing, and he laughed and said, “Well, they are talking about us already. We might as well give them something to talk about.” (lol)
True to his words, the others in the bus kept shooting us furtive glances, as we carried on messing with them and laughing out loud. I told Tunde that he was very crazy and he said, “Well, when people want a picture, you should give them a live stream so they can rest.”
Just last week, we went for some work training in Lagos. We finished on Saturday and were supposed to travel on Sunday. (Monday was going to be work free because we’d worked during the weekend). However my boss requested a short meeting on Monday after which we could go home, but we didn’t leave on Sunday as planned. Instead we stayed back in Lagos till Monday morning before we drove back to Port Harcourt. (Tunde came with his car to Lagos).
I called my boss on Sunday evening and told him that Tunde fell ill and we had to take him to a clinic in Lagos where he was treated for a few hours before his discharge in the evening, and so we would be coming in on Monday instead, and we could have the meeting on Tuesday. He said okay and asked me to send his wishes to Tunde, who was laughing in the background at the thought that we had secured one free day to move around Lagos and have some fun. Eventually we left Lagos on Monday morning and got to Port Harcourt around 2pm.
My boss later sent me an email in the night, reminding me of our meeting and asking me to tell Tunde to take the rest of the week off and focus on his recovery. I became green with envy; an entire four days off? For a nonexistent illness? Chai!
I later messaged Tunde and we had the following conversation;
Me: Good morning, what’s up?
Tunde: I dey o, what time is the meeting with Mr. Okorie?
Me: He said you can take the rest of the week off and recover fully. (I’m rolling my eyes at this point)
Tunde: Choi! Arabanko loading! Yay, see groove!
Me: Anyway I am going to email him now and tell him your sickness was a hoax, you are coming for that meeting, idiat!
Tunde: Chai! Dennis, why will you do that na? Me that is your boo. *love struck emoji*
Me: Taa! Fake boo. Abeg shift make I see road, I will email him.
Tunde: Chai, bae please na, you know I love you eh. *kiss emoji*
Me: Oya will you marry me?
Tunde: Yes na! Sharpally!
Me: Will you leave Fola and marry me? (Fola is his fiancé).
Tunde: Erm…how about I marry both of you on the same day, at the same time…together.
Me: What da bloody hell, you are crazy!
Tunde: Check am na, it’s the best. There won’t be any first, no spouse will be senior, everyone will respect the other one and there will be peace lol.
Me: You are crazy, who wan marry you sef? Abeg comot make I see road!
Tunde: See this one? You don see man wey be like me before? All those your boyfriends, e get anyone wey him preeq big pass my own?
Me: Tunde, you are gross! Tufiakwa, abeg see you on Monday. Enjoy your week off.
Tunde: Chai! DM for president! You see why I love you? Twale for you! lol. See ya next week.
This guy will definitely kill me with laughter one day. However, I am so grateful I found a friend in him, one with whom I can be my total self, without any judgment or denigration. Tunde is a strong ally and Nigeria needs more men like him if we are to make any progress.