Richard didn’t believe that love could be quiet.

In the past, when he had loved, it had involved sweaty palms and armpits with the beating of his heart like a tom-tom. It involved a passionate chase for the female of his interest, and if the affection was reciprocated, a fiery love that consumed him and made him crazy. Emotions were felt so deeply he thought they would consume him and leave him to burn. And when the relationships ended, he didn’t burn, but spent days to weeks feeling like he was trapped under water with faulty gills that were just enough to allow him survive, just enough to make his survival seem like torture.

But then, he’d bounce back. He always did. Even after Precious, when he thought for sure that he was going to die and it would be by his own hands, he still bounced back. Suddenly the invisible hand around his throat would release him and the world would seem a bit brighter.

People told him he needed to slow down. Girls didn’t like the kind of passion he exuded. That was why they kept leaving him. He loved them so much it left them feeling flustered, bored, feeling like they couldn’t measure up. That was what he was told anyway. It confused him how a person could love like it was a past time hobby.

No. He didn’t believe love could be quiet. But it did come quietly, and he found it where he wasn’t looking. He found it in the last place he thought he would.

They were seated, watching a movie together, him and his best friend, Tope. A scene made him jump and he clutched his best friend’s hand. It wasn’t the first time he’d held Tope’s hand, but this time, it felt different. This time he realised how coarse those hands felt. This time, he didn’t let go.

They didn’t talk about it, Tope and him. Nothing seemed to have changed between them. Still it felt like the universe was holding its breath.

They were on Richard’s tiny hostel bed. Tope was resting on Richard’s leg since the only other pillow was behind Richard to support his back on the rough Wall. Tope had just made a joke and Richard was laughing harder than normal. Maybe he laughed so hard because he suddenly knew what he was feeling when he was with Tope, and it felt like a practical joke. He looked down at the face looking up at him. Then bent to kiss him on the mouth

Tope froze when their lips touched and remained frozen after Richard’s mouth left his. Then a couple of minutes later, Tope stood up and left the room. Tope went on to ignore his calls and texts for a week before he finally answered.

“Tope…”

“Richard, what was that for?” he queried as though he was confronting him over something that had only just happened.

“I don’t –”

“I am not into that homo shit!” Tope said with an edge to his voice.

Richard clutched his phone tighter. “Me neither,” he said, feeling like he was trying to stop the world from crumbling.

“Then why did you…” Tope’s voice trailed off.

“I don’t know…” Richard said.

There was silence.

“Please, don’t let it happen again.” The edge in Tope’s voice had gone.

Richard agreed. It wouldn’t happen again. He wasn’t exactly sure why or when he’d begun truly loving his best friend, but he knew he did and he’d prefer to have him in his life any which way than not at all.

So his love for him had to be quiet. There was no passionate chase or sweaty palms. But it didn’t stop it from hurting. They never spoke of the kiss again. But whatever it meant was still there. A silent yearning.

Written by IBK

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