SIX – 16

SIX – 16

Everyone always says they want you to be happy. Then when you become happy, they resent it in some form or another. They nitpick to make you feel uncomfortable and question everything. I was beginning to doubt whatever it was I had going on with Kareem.

I wasn’t stupid. I knew what I was committing myself to by continuing to see Kareem. The guy was really growing on me. I wasn’t sure if I was in love with him yet. Don’t get me wrong; he’d creep into my mind every now and then, but most times, I pushed him out of my mind even though I genuinely liked him. He reminded me of Troye Sivan’s Talk Me Down.

“Morris… no. Stop… stop it…” Kareem murmured in his sleep. He was in my room as usual, under the excuse of going through the materials for broadcast that we were to send back to our radio station in Nigeria.

I wasn’t fully asleep, and his murmurs quickly roused me. I lay there beside him, wanting to be sure I’d heard him correctly. I was certain I’d heard him call the name “Morris”.

“Morris, no,” he said again.

I wasn’t sure what to make of this. Was Kareem seeing someone else? Was I confused about what we had going on between us? Should I ask him when he wakes up? Should I let it go? Knowing myself, I entertained no nonsense or allowed doubts dwell in my mind. So, I knew I would definitely ask him.

***

Two nights later…

“Peka?” Kareem called my name. He probably was hoping I was still awake.

The Super Eagles had lost their third match to the Argentine team and were out of the World Cup Tournament. Six minutes into the second half, hell broke out on the field. The big screens in stadium picked it up almost immediately. Kareem was furious at an Argentine player who was mouthing off. Before the world knew what was happening, both teams came pouring toward them as Kareem threw a punch at the other team’s player. The referees threw themselves into their midst, hoping to calm everyone. Whatever the fracas was about, it was eventually settled with Kareem getting a yellow card.

When he came over to my hotel room later that night, I asked Kareem what had happened.

“Nothing to say,” had been his reply.

“Really? So that was what – a friendly chat?”

“Let it go.” His voice was ice cold.

“You really expect me to just clam up? Just like that?”

“Yes.”

That single word silenced me for a long moment.

“I see,” I finally said in a tight tone. “Alright then. When you’re done with the light, don’t forget to switch it off.”

“I won’t,” he bit back.

I changed into one of the shirts I had confiscated from him, climbed into the bed and turned away from him. I wasn’t furious with him. I just didn’t like that he abruptly shut me out because I was concerned.

Soon, he turned off the light, climbed into the bed and pulled me close to him in a spooning position. Sometime during the night, we had switched positions and I was the one spooning him.

“Hmm…” I murmured into Kareem’s shoulder. I had woken to take a pee and was back in bed, about to drift off, trying to stave off the thoughts that swarmed back into my head with wakefulness about the scandal and what could have caused the fight on the football pitch.

As I got comfortable with my arms around Kareem, I felt him shudder and tense up which made me very much alert immediately. “Kareem… What is it?”

A moment passed, during which I thought he was asleep, and the way he stirred was just a manifestation of his dreams.

Then he murmured, “Just… you and me? It’s just you and me, you’re not seeing anyone else, right?”

I struggled up onto my elbows to look down on him in the dark. “What?”

“Don’t get insulted.” He was sitting up too, turning to look at me.

“I’m too confused to be insulted right now. What are you asking?”

“There’s no one else in the picture except me, abi?”

Okay, I was slightly insulted now. “Wait, wait, wait… You think I’m cheating on you? What the hell, Kareem?” It was too early or too late to be having this conversation. I wondered briefly what the time was.

“C’mon, Peks. I’m not accusing you of anything,” he said.

“It sure sounded like it. Where’s this coming from?”

He sighed.

“No, don’t sigh. Where the hell is this coming from?”

“It’s just… I just need to be sure –”

“Are you seeing other people?” I had to ask.

He must have heard the panic in my voice, because he straightened his sitting position. “No!”

“You want this to be an open relationship?”

“What, no! Peka, what is all these na?”

“Okay, so it’s just us. That’s sorted.”

“Hey—”

“It’s fine, Kareem. And I’m not seeing anyone. It’s just us.” I shouldn’t lie, I was pissed as hell but at the back of my mind, I knew he’d asked for a reason.

“No. it isn’t. I didn’t mean to insult you. It’s just…” He paused.

“What is it?”

He drew his knees up to his chest and looked out the window into the Russian night.

“Well?” I asked again.

“I’ve been a bit paranoid about it since… Well, the last guy I went out with.”

“Your ex cheated on you?”

There was a pause. “Yes.”

“Someone cheated on you?” I asked incredulously.

“Yeah, shit happens.”

“But to you?” I couldn’t box my surprise.

“Please, stop saying that.” I could tell he was slightly embarrassed because he was avoiding eye contact.

“I can’t, Kareem. I mean, have you met you? You wouldn’t cheat on you!”

“I don’t get you sometimes,” he said with a chuckle. “Most times, you are so unfazed by me, and then there are just some times when you say things like that. You make it sound as if I’m this rare gem. I’m a regular guy. Just like anyone else. Which means I get hurt every now and then.”

I slipped my arm around his waist and laughed softly. “You give yourself too much credit. You might be rare, but you’re no gem.”

He burst out laughing. “Haba! Can’t you even let me have this moment?”

“You think I would, after the stunt you pulled on the field and then in this room a while ago?”

“How is it you wear me down so easily?”

“It’s easy. I see right through your defenses.”

“Yeah. That you do.” He paused before continuing. “His name is Morris.”

Morris. The name he had called out in his sleep.

“I met him many months ago in Netherlands. We were on the same flight from Nigeria. He obviously didn’t know who I was because when I told him my name, there was no recognition in his eyes. Somehow, during our conversation, he told me of his sexuality. In the end, we exchanged contacts and then we started hanging out.”

I felt a bit uneasy because it felt like he was talking about us – how we met. It felt weird but I didn’t say anything. I let him continue his story.

“Morris – or Mo, as I liked to call him – was relocating to Netherlands because his life was in danger. He had survived a murder attempt made on his life. His ex-boyfriend’s fiancée had shot him twice in the stomach because the ex-boyfriend, Demola, had called off their marriage because of him.”

“What?! That’s fucked up.”

Kareem laughed. It was a sound laced with sadness. “We started dating and everything was right in the world, until I was confronted by a colleague in my club who demanded that I leave his boyfriend alone. He told me Morris and he were dating. Everything messed me up. Morris didn’t deny it. He said he thought we were in an open relationship. We ended things and shortly after that, I realised I had the performance issue I spoke to you about on the boat. Things just spiraled downward for me from there. The only thing that remained normal in my life was my career. I made the decision to stay away from any guy afterwards… And then…” He looked at me and I saw something in his eyes, something exciting. “And then you happened.”

“Meh.” I felt my face heating up in the darkness. Everything inside me felt gooey and I loved the feeling.

“Ugh. Just take the compliment na.”

“I hate compliments. You know I do,” I said.

“You’re my man and I’ll always compliment you. You’d better get used to it fast.”

“You’re such a dork.”

“And I own it with my chest.”

“I can’t believe I’m in love with a dork. Who did I offend?” As soon as the words left my mouth, a gasp followed. First declarations of love should not be spoken lightly.

There was a click and the soft illumination of the bedside light spilled across the room. And I found myself confronting the incredulity on Kareem’s face.

He laughed, his expression changing to relief. “You don’t know how many times I’ve wanted to say that. To hear you say that.” He jumped to his feet on the bed like a kid that was high on sugar.

“Kareem, I –”

“Don’t. Don’t do that. Don’t deny it.”

Damn!

“Don’t deny it because I’m in love with you too. I love you, Olupeka Bernard.”

I didn’t know what to say to that. I just pulled him to me and held him against my body. No kisses, no words, nothing. Just blissful realization of how fitting we both were for each other.

After a bit, I asked, “Tell me, how long do you think we’ve loved each other?”

“Probably the whole five months we’ve been together. Mine might have been a little longer though.”

I chuckled. “Alright.”

“It must have been why I punched the guy on the field.”

“Wait, you punched him because you love me? Isn’t that rather silly and irrational?”

He let out a harsh breath. “He insulted me.”

“I’m confused o. He insulted you but you punched him because you love me?”

Kareem sighed. “The Argentine player, he called out a barrage of names. I couldn’t take it so I punched him.”

I tilted his head up so he’d look at me. “Is this the first time you’ve been insulted on the pitch?”

“No.” Because he couldn’t look at me, I got the weirdest feeling that the insult was more about me than him.

“He called me names, didn’t he?” I said. “Which in turn meant he was insulting you.”

“Yes. I just couldn’t let it slide.”

I gave a light chuckle. “Thank you. For defending me out there. But going forward, you’ll have to ignore these insults.”

“I can’t allow –”

“Kareem, you’ll have to. Now more than ever. We have the homophobia back in Nigeria to deal with when we return. You simply cannot go around punching people or replying trolls on the internet. Trust me, there’ll be tons of these insults. Who am I kidding, there already are tons of it. But you’ll have to caution and restrain yourself. Okay?”

 He didn’t answer.

“Kareem –”

“I’ll try.”

“I don’t need you to try. I need you to promise yourself and me that you won’t lose it when we get back home.”

“Okay,” he said grudgingly. “I promise.”

“Good.” I gave him a bright smile.

We pulled the duvet around us as we settled back into bed.

“You know, I thought I saw Morris’ ex at the launching of our radio show.”

“Who, Demola?”

“No. Not Demola. I think his name’s Aliu Ajiboye or something.”

“Wait, Aliu Ajibade?”

“Yes. You know him?”

“Oh boy. He’s one of our sponsors. My boss introduced us when we were on the red carpet.”

“Oh okay.”

“But how certain are you that Aliu Ajibade is your ex’s ex?” I asked.

“Well, for one, Mo showed me pictures of both Aliu and Demola. Secondly, Aliu was always calling him but Morris didn’t want anything to do with him. At least, that was what he made me believe. Anyway, when I saw the guy briefly at the business dinner, he looked really familiar. I just remembered right now because we’ve just talked about Morris.”

All I could say was, “Hmmm.”

“Why do I have this feeling this will not be good?” Kareem asked rhetorically.

And boy, was he right!

Written by Vhar

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2 Comments

  1. Karishika
    November 29, 09:24 Reply

    Biko, Vhar how long do we have to wait for the next read?. BTW Aliu should not be unfortunate in this life oo. He shouldn’t mess with my Love birds o.

  2. Queen Blue Fox
    November 29, 13:11 Reply

    I don’t know why every time I read this series I am like give me the full story o and stop torturing me with cliffhangers.

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