It all started when Timi’s sister searched his room and discovered gay porn VCD. She quickly alerted the entire family. They sat down and watched it like they were in a cinema, while waiting for Timi to get home. When he did, they pounced on him, devouring him with their outrage.
Consequently, Timi ran away from home, eventually calling me on the phone and narrating the drama to me. He stayed away from home from that day, preferring instead to live with a friend of his for a very long time in order to stay away from his family’s resentment. Eventually, he caved to his mother’s pleas to return home, even though the woman would never stop talking about the possibility of him changing. Upon his return, life did not return to normal. In fact, it became hellish. His older brother constantly abused him and declared that he was to have no more male visitors. And so, I had to stop visiting. At some point during this time, this brother ran into me and accused me of being Timi’s lover, warning me to stay away from their house.
In spite of this turmoil, Timi and I remained friends. That was what we were – best friends, not lovers.
A few months later, we discovered that there was a music competition being organized by Prince Tonye Princewill in Port Harcourt as part of his ‘Give Back To the Society’ initiative. We registered online and appeared at the venue for the audition. I sang In My Place by Coldplay, and Timi sang Heal The World by Michael Jackson. We both got in.
Later on, we were texted to appear for the second phase of the audition. And again, we passed.
Soon, we were informed that we would be asked to sing a variety of Nigerian songs, as well as present our original compositions toward the end of the competition. Well, that arrangement didn’t go down well with me, because I was no disposed to singing any songs recorded by Tuface, Wizkid and the like. Plus we’d be required to dance, and dancing had never really been my strong suit. So I opted out from the competition.
But I went on to be Timi’s music coach. His musical background was steeped in gospel and inspirational music; he grew up in a choir. I had to pick out appropriate worldly songs for him and coach him in singing them. Plus, he had no original composition of mainstream music. And so, I had to compose that for him. I simply wanted him to be a success in this. He needed some happiness in the pain that his life had recently become.
On the evening of the competition finale, he was spectacular with the song I wrote for him, and was declared the winner. As the winner, he was awarded five million naira plus an international one-year record deal. (For that report, Read HERE) I was in awe with this turn of events. I couldn’t believe it. I was deliriously happy for him.
Everything changed after his win. He swiftly moved out of his family house into a one-bedroom apartment in Agip, Port Harcourt, one which didn’t take time before he had it furnished. He wanted me to move in with him, but I declined. I had this impression in my mind that if I did, I’d lose his respect for me.
When the time for his record deal commenced, we showed up at the studio with a guitarist, my pen and my paper. (Timi wanted me to write all his songs for the debut album) But the producers, after going through my compositions, resisted. They said my songs did not have the Nigerian flavour; apparently, they were looking to discover the next Tuface in Timi. Their resistance led to a battle of creative differences, until Timi made it clear that if I wasn’t going to be allowed to write his songs, he would quit the record deal. The producers relented, and a compromise was reached, where the album would be a collaboration of my compositions and those of other songwriters.
Because we worked together, we spent more time together, and I found myself passing more and more time at Timi’s place. And at times like this, his mother and brother would come to visit, meet me there and hate me silently with stony stares and surly attitudes. They couldn’t afford to alienate Timi by lashing out at me, who they saw as a reminder of what they knew their son to be.
Timi and I recorded so many songs, and loved the experience. We would play songs he recorded which were written by the other writers and laugh at the recordings, and at him singing about girls that didn’t matter to him.
Life was beautiful. Life went on. Life was on the rise.
And then, he began complaining, infrequently so, about strange sounds he heard coming from inside his ceiling. Timi was superstitious. I knew this. So I dismissed his complaints, telling him that it was just nothing.
But then, he began calling me severally at night, insisting that the noises were real and they were depriving him of sleep. During these calls, he’d beg me to come and sleep at his place. I thought this was his ploy to get me to spend so many nights at his place that he’d eventually get what he wanted, which was me moving in with him.
After much cajoling, I finally caved and came to spend a night with him. We talked for long into the night, laughing and chatting until I dozed off.
I woke up early the following morning to find him red-eyed and looking like he hadn’t caught a wink all night. He hadn’t. When I enquired, he told me he could not sleep because of the noise from the ceiling. I’d slept soundly and hadn’t heard anything. He said he would have to go and see the landlord about investigating what was going on up there.
He never got around to doing that, because soon after, he fell sick, terribly sick. I encouraged him to treat malaria and typhoid with over-the-counter drugs, but he declined. He called his mother and told her that he wanted to come home so he’d be taken care of. But even home care did not seem to make him get any better. They took him to a church where he underwent some prayers, and yet his condition didn’t change.
And then, I was preparing for my matriculation as I’d just gotten admission into Rivers State University of Science & Technology to study Business Administration. I needed a Nigerian Degree. It was at this time that I got a call from Timi. He didn’t sound at all like him. His voice was weak and hoarse and bore no resemblance to the powerful vocal chords that conjured magic out of lyrics. When I asked him what the problem was, he told me he’d tested positive for HIV.
I couldn’t believe it. How? Why? When? Was it possible that his illness was a result of this…this HIV? I didn’t know much about HIV at the time, but I found it hard to believe that he could be incredibly healthy one moment, and then be struck down so rapidly the next from a HIV ailment. I mean, did the virus strike that fast? I had so many questions crowding my mind, questions that threatened to blow out into panic mode when he began talking about how he didn’t think he’d make it. He wanted me to come and see him because of his premonition.
The day I came to see him, because we knew that his mother still resented me, he had to come outside to meet me. The young man who came out of the house was a ghostly version of my best friend. He had thinned so much and looked pale. His complexion looked washed-out, and his gait was a slow slouch. He was coughing so much. As I watched him, I felt tears sting my eyes. I managed to maintain my composure as we chatted. But he seemed to wilt with every moment that passed. He looked so tired, so I asked him to go back inside.
It was only when his back was turned to me that I finally let go of my control over my emotions. The tears came, pouring out of my eyes as I stared at the retreating back of the friend I barely recognized. There was no way I could’ve known that that teary sight of his back was going to be the last I would ever see of him.
I called his number several times after that day, but never got through to him. I was worried. I texted him several times, but I got no response from him.
And then, two days later, I got a call from a guy who lives in his neighbourhood; he informed me that Timi had passed away the night before. I instantly rejected the news, refusing to believe it. I called Timi’s number, but the phone was switched off. Before long, I began getting calls from mutual friends, all of them wanting to know if what they’d heard was true.
And then, the cold wash of realization began to descend on me. But before I could let myself be drenched by that horrible thought, I fled for his house. I had to know for sure.
When I got to Timi’s house, it was to meet a crowd of people there. They were mourners, I quickly realized. Cries were rending the atmosphere.
Timi was gone.
I fought against that thought. It couldn’t be true. I looked desperately around, praying that he’d suddenly materialize from the crowd to tell me it was all a joke. But no, no Timi came out. Instead, I got his mother – a distraught-looking woman who took one look at me when she spotted me in her compound, and shared grief instantly bound us and washed away all the ugly past. She tottered toward me, her face a mask of pain and dropped into my arms, crying for her son, telling me how he had wanted to see me in his final hours, and how my name was on his dying lips.
She wept. She sobbed so hard, until some other people came and took her away.
I wanted to cry. My heart was over-burdened with sorrow, and my entire being ached with the force of my bereavement. I wanted to cry so much. But the tears wouldn’t come this time. I felt overcome with shock.
Timi was gone.
This time, I knew for sure. The cold, stark reality stared at me in the face.
Life was no longer beautiful. How could it be, when my best friend was gone? Life had fallen.
I loved him. And I lost him. And I’ll forever miss him.
Written by Mike Daemon
Timi recorded a demo titled Right Here, before his demise. The song was written by Mike Daemon. To have a listen, download HERE.