The whole world goes on and on about love. Poets spend their lives writing about it. Everyone thinks it’s the most wonderful thing. But when you mention two guys in love, they forget all that and freak out.
Mark A. Roeder said that, and my co-workers are a classic example of a people who freak out when the contemplation of gay people becomes an issue at work. They don’t go bat-shit crazy. They simply spout lots of vitriol, most of it fed by their ignorance and blind loathing.
Sick, cursed, possessed by demonic spirits…
How can a normal person put his thing inside someone else’s ass…
Useless people, going about bribing famous people to say they’re gay…
Yes. It’s incredible, but my co-workers actually believe that part of the LGBT activism is to pay celebrities an unspecified amount of money, or cut deals with them, so that they can claim to be out and proud in order to influence the public to accept or tolerate homosexuality. One of my female colleagues claims to still be heartbroken over and disbelieving of Wentworth Miller’s coming out. To her, the Prison Break star is just too good-looking not to fancy women. Apparently, the gay movement is either highly manipulative or quite influential enough to convince ‘heterosexual’ celebrities to take on the risk of faking their gayness for our cause.
I laugh with immense scorn when I hear these ridiculous conjectures they put out. At first, I spoke up against their opinions, I tried to be corrective, to educate the ones I could on the issue of LGBT. But I quickly realized that the more I tried, the more they seemed to enjoy speaking against ‘the gays’, seemingly to rile me, to unsettle me, the self-appointed office gay activist.
And so, I let up on my insistence to educate, and retreated to silence. I became cold and uncommunicative during conversations concerning LGBT, and because such talks are very popular in the office whenever there’s spare time for gossip, my silence became protracted. And the more withdrawn I had to be, the gloomier I got. I could not speak out, and so everything I longed to say about the unfairness of their opinions festered inside me. My mood slowly underwent a change. I became edgy, snappish, gradually progressing toward depression. I became so edgy that I at one time gave a snappy retort to my HOD, an act of insubordination that earned me a query, and some face-time with a disciplinary panel.
I was sinking.
I was choking.
I love my job, but the people I shared the same space with were creating an environment that was stifling to me.
Then I sought solace in music. I got an earpiece, and began to wear it around, plugged into my ears and connected to my phone’s media library. Whitney Houston. Don Williams. Celine Dion. John Legend. The smooth vocals and soulful lyrics helped me escape.
But the thing is, the music also disconnected me from my environment. I’d be listening to the songs, wrapped up in them while working, and not respond immediately to calls or requests from the people who needed my attention. My preoccupation was misinterpreted as standoffishness, and my determination not to get drawn into gay talk was written off as a reluctance to be part of the team. Before long, talk began making the rounds that I had a terrible attitude. That all I knew was work. That I lacked interpersonal skills and had no sense of team play. Vicious talk peddled by those in my office I especially resented, and who resented me in turn. Damaging talk that eventually led to a bad appraisal for me, denying me a chance at any immediate promotion.
For a while after the notification of my appraisal, I was sent on a downward spiral of emotional turmoil. I withdrew into a shell. From friends. I began to live a life of quiet desperation.
Then I spoke to a cousin of mine, who in a bid to bolster my spirit, told me of her own workplace embattlements, and how she strived to overcome and remain above the fray. From her, I got to understand that perception is reality, and when I wear my injured heart out in the open, it not only hurts me but hurts what the people around me perceive of me.
So I made the effort to change, to start living as positively as I could, to sift through the vitriol of my colleagues, instead of letting it suffocate me. I learned to hear what they said, but not to listen. I learned to shut my heart, but to keep my mind open. I learned to let the poison drip through me, instead of soaking it in.
I also learned to open my eyes and notice someone noticing me.
Remember Roland from #SuitsAndTiesPartThree? The guy who I was close to in a casual way, before sparks started flying after we hugged, and he started telling me that he saw ‘it’ in my eyes…
Yes, well, I’d been so wrapped up with my private hell that I failed to notice that he was trying to get my attention, to get closer to me.
When I finally noticed, I was too skittish to encourage him. I remembered the weird phone conversation we’d had back then. And then, I thought about the innocuous detail of him being a Festac fellow. And then, I thought about how we work together. And then I thought about how precarious my position could easily become if he meant me no good and I gave him the opening he needed. And then, I thought about the possibility of his sincerity. I thought and I thought… And in the midst of my thinking, I maintained my distance from him.
And then, he lost his mother. In the past, through his BBM dp changes and pm updates, I’d had an idea of how close he was to his mother. So I broke out from my detachment and reached out my warmth to him. And like a seedling embracing the touch of sunlight, he welcomed my contact effusively. We began to talk more, and given his vulnerability, he began to reveal how much he appreciated my concern and goodwill, even though he thought he’d lost me. I apologized, and confessed that my distance was because I felt I had to be careful.
We talked a lot more as the days passed. And the more I perceived how good his intentions were toward me, the more I let him in. I started feeling things for him, wanting things with him.
Then I heard he’d dropped a letter with the HR department. A resignation letter. And of course, whenever there’s a resignation notice given to the HR, the next department to be immediately notified is the Accounts department, where I work, for us to round up the final wages and entitlements of the departing staff member. And so I got to know about his resignation.
I called him promptly. “Roland, are you resigning?” I asked without any preamble.
“How did you know?” he asked.
I told him.
“Yes,” he finally answered.
“I just need to rest,” he said with a sigh.
That might have been a plausible reason, in light of his mother’s demise. But I wasn’t buying it. “Don’t bullshit me please,” I said. “Tell me the real reason you’re resigning.”
He heaved another sigh, before saying, “Have lunch with me.”
“On Saturday. You’re not working. Go out with me. Let’s have lunch.”
“But…but –” I stuttered.
“And then, I will tell you everything.”
I conceded, and the lunch date was fixed.
Saturday afternoon met us at Kilimanjaro. I was pleasantly surprised by the rush of pleasure I felt when I saw him walk into the fast-food, clad in a pair of snug jeans below a T-shirt that hugged his torso perfectly. I couldn’t believe how hungrily my eyes devoured him as he took a seat across the table from me, or how my heart went a-flutter when he murmured a greeting to me with a smile.
How did this happen? Several weeks ago, Roland was just that work-friend I knew from down the hall. How did he become someone who commanded such chemistry between us?
We placed our orders. We chatted. We even managed some laughter. But the thought of what was going on with him nagged at me. And my impatience was palpable.
But all that melted away when he started…well, chyking me. I want you, Jay. I’ve always felt something for you ever since we’ve been casual acquaintances, but the day you came into my arms in that hug, was the day you started creeping into my heart. I want to be with you. There’s something here, and I believe we can make it work.
His words were smooth, throbbing with passion and sincerity. I felt so drawn to him. I wanted to work this out with him too. But I couldn’t understand why he looked so sad as he talked.
I placed my palm surreptitiously on his hand, conscious of the fact that we were in a semi-crowded room. “Roland,” I said in a low and urgent tone, “what’s the problem? I want to be with you too. Surely you can tell that by now. Why do you seem so sad by the prospect of us being together?”
He drew in a deep breath and released it with a shudder, before looking at me. Then he said solemnly, “Because the reason I resigned is so I can move to Port Harcourt, where I’ve gotten another job, and where I’ll be living.”
My heart froze. My world stilled. And I swear, in that moment, I heard Fate’s faint chuckle at the successful twist she’d made happen in this chapter of my life.
Written by JBoy