TAKEN BY SURPRISE

TAKEN BY SURPRISE

This, I believe, is Absalom’s first fictional piece on this blog. Check on it below and enjoy.

*

He surprised me. So we fought and I packed a suitcase and moved out. I didn’t take all my things, just clothes and other essentials: the heavier stuff, like the bookshelf, could come later.

He didn’t look at me as I went through the sitting room on my way out. He just sat there on the arm of a sofa, drinking water. An hour ago, he had been a storm, accusing me of destroying “what we have.” I shook my head, got in my car parked beside his Camry, and drove towards New Benin. I would stay in Edirin’s place until I cleaned up my flat in the outskirts of town.

“Hey,” Edirin said when he came to the door with his dog Rambo to greet me. Rambo sniffed at the suitcase beside my legs. “Going somewhere?”

“No. I left Onuora’s place.”

Edirin’s eyes widened. “Broke up with the boyfriend?”

“Funny how a man can have a boyfriend and not know it,” I murmured and brushed past him into the house. Someone was singing in the CD player in the corner of the small parlour.

Ella Mi Fu Rapita,” Edirin sighed about the music, his huge gaze liquid with rapture. “Florez’s powerful tenor in action, ah!”

“Hmm,” I shrugged. The said tenor sounded like the bleating of a goat.

“There’s soup in the fridge if you’re hungry,” he called as I made for his kitchen to look for the whiskey.

He soon joined me there. I swallowed my drink.

“What really happened? Hope it was nothing serious.”

“We had a misunderstanding.” I thrust the whisky bottle at him. “Join me, baby.”

He ignored the bottle. I stood it back on the kitchen table.

“Onuora thinks we are – were – in a relationship.”

“Weren’t you?”

I laughed. “You are telling me.”

“Precious, you lived with that guy for four months.”

“Exactly the logic he used.” I took the bottle and glass, and left the kitchen.

Edirin marched after me.

“Look, it just seemed like a nice idea moving in with him,” I said. He lived a five-minute drive away from my office after all. We had fun, did everything any two horny guys would do. I didn’t think he was going to take it so seriously. All those things he did – gisting me about guys who wanted him but who he shunned; calling me boyfriend; asking me to stay days longer at his place while my own flat remained locked for weeks – he did without my asking him to. He had no right to guilt-trip me about it or go through my phone.

* * *

My flat smelled faintly of damp dust when I walked in. I switched on the light. A cockroach darted across the parlour and disappeared into a side door. I locked the entrance. It was 8p.m. – too late to do any serious cleaning – I would manage the house like this till tomorrow. I entered my bedroom. Same faint damp-dust smell.

Edirin was still insisting I wronged Onuora.

I did not agree. “Onuora wants someone who would be at his service, someone to be owned and taken care of, then instructed. That person is not me, Edirin.”

“So how do you explain what you guys were doing all these months?”

“Fucking.”

“Fucking?”

“Do you even realize how bizarre it is that a guy considers me his boyfriend without my consent?”

Edirin shook his head. “Referring to Onuora as though he’s some random creep who stalked you is not fair to him. That guy is nice, very gentle. It’s obvious you liked him or you wouldn’t have moved in with him. You led him on–”

“I led him on?”

“–and now you treat him like dirt!”

“You’re an idiot.”

“If you like, be angry, I don’t care. You’re always angry anyway. Any little thing, you flare up–”

“Fuck you.”

“Precious, let me tell you, I’m not afraid of you. You can’t beat me, you hear? I’m not Onuora that you can talk to anyhow–”

Fuck you!”

“No one can advise you! You’re a god, you’re too big, you know too much!”

I left Edirin’s place minutes after we had this argument.

I gathered the pillows on my bed into a high pile, fell on them, and closed my eyes. Something about this constant upping and leaving – twice in one day – imitated my leaving the orphanage twenty years ago. I had had enough then: of Brother Caiaphas, the director of the orphanage, who seemed too eager to admit children into the home so he could attract more money from Social Development; of my classmate Paul who had started the rumour that I was possessed – and because he was one of those kids other kids listened to, I soon found myself being avoided in class and in the refectory. In chapel, at the end of morning service, Reverend Frankincense used to ask anybody who felt they needed deliverance from the powers of darkness – in unspoken words, anybody who feared they had been possessed through any form of interaction with me – to come forward. My coming forward was never optional. I was always instructed by Brother Caiaphas to go along with others.

* * *

Onuora texted me days ago: He was travelling to Umuahia to see his mother. She was sick, had been for quite some time – this I knew. If I had anything urgent to pick from the house, I’d best do it before he left.

I had nothing to urgent to pick up, I replied.

Three weeks had passed since I moved out of his apartment.

I called him yesterday to find out if he was back in town yet. I was ready to come collect the rest of my stuff today.

He wasn’t back. He didn’t know when he’d be back, his mum was worse. “Her liver is gone, the doctors are not very hopeful.” He paused. “I’ll let you know when I’m back…for your stuff.”

“OK.”

There was a sepia photograph in Onuora’s house, taken when he was four. In that photo which gave him away as a mama’s boy – for its neat place on the television – he held a half-eaten biscuit; his mother wore a short dress and small earrings shaped curly, like popcorns. She smiled down at him and he smiled up at her.

The woman I saw in FMC Umuahia two days later looked nothing like the one in that photo. Her face was sharp-featured in the boniness of death, her fair skin had darkened several shades and her breath gargled out of her unconscious form.

“You didn’t tell me you were coming,” Onuora said, his tone fit for dismissal.

I took off my coat, draped it over my elbow. He was free to not need me around here, I was free to choose to come. I had flown to Enugu first then come by bus here.

“How is she doing?”

“How did you find us?”

I had talked to a neighbour of his who used some smart lies I handed him to get details of where Onuora’s mother was hospitalized. I didn’t confess this though. It was not necessary. Edirin knew I was coming here and had, of course, given his thrilled blessing – the sentimental bastard.

“How is she doing?” I said again.

He did not answer. It was the first time I was seeing him since three weeks ago. The sides of his face were covered in bristly fuzz, his eyes red. He hadn’t slept in days.

* * *

I was eleven years old again. Running from the orphanage, from Brother Caiaphas and Paul and the other children. My cloth-bag, containing two books and one shirt, was pressed to my chest. It was night. It was drizzling. I didn’t know where I was going. But I needed to be far from the orphanage, this place where all I did was yell at Jerry for accidentally knocking down my bowl of cornflakes; then he slumped and died later in the sickbay. And the witchcraft whispers started.

I stopped walking by morning and squatted on a pad of grass, close to the leg of a “Census ’91” billboard. I was tired.

A woman was shouting behind me. I turned. She was scolding a little girl for losing her reader at school. They were standing feet apart in front of a bungalow.

“I will not buy another one,” the mother poked her finger at the girl’s forehead, “I will not buy another one, stupid girl!” She picked up a cane tray full of crayfish on the ground.

The little girl sobbed.

I approached the woman and offered to give her girl my own reader if she would give me food. I didn’t know what class the girl was in or if I had my JS3 reader in my bag.

The woman eyed me then called out a man who seemed to be her husband. He eyed me too.

“He will be good for that apprentice boy you said you are looking for,” she stated, popping a crayfish into her mouth.

“Boy, where are you from?” the man said.

“Kebbi,” I said. I didn’t know where Kebbi was.

“What of your parents?”

“They died.”

The man and his wife looked at each other.

I pretended to faint so they wouldn’t send me away. The woman splashed water in my face. When I opened my eyes, she placed a plate of boiled yams in my lap. Later, I begged them to let me stay; I would apprentice under her husband, whatever it was he did.

The man – Mr Peter – was a carpenter. Sawdust from his workshop gave me a cough every other week, but there was food, and an old mattress to sleep on in his children’s room, and there was no Brother Caiaphas to remind me every day how I’d been found on a rubbish heap on the roadside with flies perched on my umbilical cord.

* * *

“This is hardly the time to talk,” Onuora said quietly as we left the hospital building, “but you can rest assured I’ve forgotten everything that happened between us.” He was going to his mother’s house to prepare something for when she woke up. If she woke up.

“That’s not why I came…”

He unlocked the car. “Why did you come then?”

I swallowed. “Your mum is…very sick. It would have been odd if I didn’t come.”

He scoffed. “You think so.”

“We are not enemies now, are we? Until three weeks ago we lived in the same house.”

“Still doesn’t satisfy my question, but I’ll let it go.”

* * *

Thirteen years ago, after Mr Peter got too sickly to work long hours, he wanted me to manage the workshop for some time until his son was a little older or showed more interest in the business – whichever came first. But I had other plans. I was twenty-one. Bolu – my friend on the other street – had got into a polytechnic the previous year. He’d been into 419 for some time too and told me about it. It could pay for school if one was lucky.

When I told Mr Peter I would be leaving to stay with Bolu on campus, he was quiet for a long time. Then he struggled up from his chair and approached me. I stepped back as though to run, wondering what he was about to do. He threw his arms around me, filling my nostrils with his familiar scent of wood and finishing. My own arms stayed frozen at my sides.

“What’s wrong?”

Onuora was frowning. We were in his mother’s house now. He had reluctantly agreed to let me come and help him.

“Nothing.”

“Sure you’re all right?”

“Yeah.”

Silence settled with us as he unpacked the vegetables and onions he had bought on our way here.

“Precious…” he said finally, “I’m not bitter anymore, if that’s what you were thinking about… I was the one at fault. I shouldn’t have assumed–”

I shook my head. “It’s okay, I’m sorry too.” I shook my head again. He would never get it anyway; he would never understand how being hugged by Mr Peter could be a sad experience because it was unexpected – because nobody in my life had hugged me before that day. In his world, the things one craved were, when they arrived, received with joy, without questions, with entitlement.

Someday, though, I will tell him about Mr Peter and Brother Caiaphas.

I made to pick up the onions. “Where do I put these?”

He took my hand – “I’m glad you are here” – and squeezed it as much as his trembling hands would allow. “It makes me feel whatever happens to mum, I…I can take it.”

I stared at my hand in his, too self-conscious to look up into his face. Some awkward seconds passed; then I pulled him close and, breathing through my mouth, warned myself not to cry. ■

 Written by Absalom

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45 Comments

  1. maxonex
    September 24, 04:51 Reply

    I like the switch b/w past and present… Nice…

  2. JustJames
    September 24, 05:13 Reply

    We have writers on this blog sha. This belongs in a book of short stories. Pinky, Absalom, Rap’um! Teach me your ways!!!

    • Paul
      September 24, 06:01 Reply

      U r also ds good!
      I admire ur humility.
      U’d go so high.

    • iamcoy
      September 25, 07:29 Reply

      James I need your email addy

  3. gad
    September 24, 05:41 Reply

    A beautiful write up.the story reminds me of the different types of guys I have met, their dreams,their confusions,foolish pride,humilty,criminality innocence,low self-esteem, anger etc .May God continue to think on the abandoned children in our world today and those facing abuse in their homes.

  4. daniel
    September 24, 06:00 Reply

    Nice story, didn’t quite get the beginning, but I kept reading and then I was able to decipher… Well, somehow, I was like, WTF is wrong with Precious?

    • pinkpanthertb
      September 24, 06:02 Reply

      Heehee… I believe that to a degree, his past damages his present.

      • daniel
        September 24, 09:40 Reply

        I guess so, but what’s with people bringing their past into their new relationship? There’s a reason y Past is the opposite of present. Not a fan of that ish..

      • Lothario
        September 26, 06:35 Reply

        That’s life….people ask you to leave your past in the past but still say ‘experience is the best teacher’, which means you should be wary and learn from your mistakes…..these sayings are a tad too contradictory.
        I try not to judge anyone too harshly, you don’t know what they’ve been through.

  5. simba
    September 24, 06:19 Reply

    I can relate very well to precious.. got a friend who shares a past with him. U need hell lots of patience to understand or decipher what they want cus they hardly talk.. and approaches everything with extreme caution and scepticism. Pinky dear, ur blog has opened an avenue to show talents.. Absolom,ur a writer.. hugs

    • Dimkpa
      September 24, 08:37 Reply

      I totally identify with Precious. I hate to admit I am like that. Being deprived of love and approval in childhood does that. I struggle to understand love, can’t express it verbally, are suspicious of others motives and generally a nightmare for anyone who decides to come close. Onuora is obviously the opposite judging from the portrayal of his relationship with his mom.
      Great and insightful write up.

  6. Rapu'm
    September 24, 06:22 Reply

    Even without the name, I still would have known it was our one and only Absalom. Prose sharp and pointed and with the needed colour to carry the drama. And the ending was just wonderful. Nice one, man.

  7. Rapu'm
    September 24, 06:28 Reply

    And hey, Pinky, I didn’t know Onuora and Precious were white. Lol. Just saying though. That pic, is it from a movie?

  8. Metrosexual
    September 24, 06:28 Reply

    Great read, Absalom… Good morning, everyone….

  9. chestnut
    September 24, 06:38 Reply

    Wow,Absalom, just…WOW! I’m not ashamed to admit that for some reason, parts of this story brought tears to my eyes.
    That Precious sha; when I started d story, I was like: “which kain ogbanje boy be dis sef? How do u live with someone for 4 months when u hav no intentions of dating them?”. But as I read on,I understood that he was just scared of putting his heart in someone else’s hands,prolly because of his loveless past/childhood.
    I’m glad he didn’t let his insecurities barr him from a good thing at d end(I’m hoping they made up and made it official,yea? That’s what I got,anyway).
    Nice one Absalom. (The writers on dis blog sha…just wen u think u’ve seen d best ones, another one will just creep out of d shadows like an articulate scorpion…GOD dey sha)

    • pinkpanthertb
      September 24, 07:24 Reply

      And the world of Nigeria think that becos we’re gay, we’re useless. Tsk tsk

      • chestnut
        September 24, 08:56 Reply

        Sadly, when d world knows u’re gay,that becomes ur major identity; u cease to be a lawyer or a plumber or a muslim or an ibo guy or a brother or a son or a church-usher…u just become “the gay guy”; that is d only identity u have, in the eyes of (most) heterosexuals. They find it hard to realise that being gay is only a fraction of ur entire,multi-faceted being, just d way being straight is just a fraction of their entirety. If u’re gay,u’re automatically useless…I wonder whether they believe if u’re straight,u’re automatically “useful”.

  10. Dennis Macauley
    September 24, 07:38 Reply

    The switch between past and present! Dear God, I was on the edge of my seat!

    You are a natural Absalom!

    *Big Kiss*

  11. Blaq Jaqs
    September 24, 08:17 Reply

    Mehn hommie that was crazy stuff! You told the story very beautifully. Your narrative was detailed and easy on the eyes; content was poignant and had so much layers of depth which I understood more as you switched between past to present. I didn’t want it to end but it did and appropriately too!
    Well done Absalom!! Hope to read more from you…
    Ms. Moderator thank you as always for creating this platform for all these amazing talents to thrive!

  12. Ruby
    September 24, 08:19 Reply

    This almost brought ♍e̶̲̥̅̊ to tears…
    Beautifully done

  13. Micky
    September 24, 08:38 Reply

    The struggle to keep the tears away didn’t work. Bravo!!!! This would make a very nice movie.

      • chestnut
        September 24, 09:00 Reply

        Hahaha…to be acted in the lost city of Atlantis…or El-dorado.at least nobody will disturb us for shooting a nigerian gay love story in a place that doesn’t exist.

      • gad
        September 24, 18:31 Reply

        I have free place.lol

      • king
        September 26, 00:48 Reply

        In Naija ofcoz….isn’t it high time we should begin to see ourselves as the rational change agents…..!!!

    • R.A
      September 25, 06:11 Reply

      Okay we got our very own Dan Brown! Yasss I’m in love with this piece and the writer, brought me to tears. Greater works than this with a fatter reward is what I wish you.

      But why are some people so quick to conclude dey’re dating someone? I stayed together with a friend for two weeks and did….well….erh what two young hot guys would do when dey catch feelings. And the next thing I knew was the media buzzing with headlines that I’m the new boo. This nigga has started telling the whole world we were dating. I was shocked maself! I never hexperedit! But 4 months tho, did you apply to be a roommate or a nanny initially?

      I need more of stories written like this pls! Thanks 🙂

      • gad
        September 25, 06:22 Reply

        At want point do people start dating? Is it when they say it?if two people see themselves often,have sex,hang out,and finally move in together without mentioning that they are dating does that make it something else?im really confused.biko let someone clarify me on this

  14. luke
    September 24, 09:55 Reply

    For a long time I just read with out making any comment, but someone has changed that today, a gay story without the usually elements of sex and what everyone has come to expect as normal, not saying the others were not good, but for once I could make my striaght friends read this and not hear them tell me it’s too much for them. Well written, refreshing, and what sound much more realistic. And all most brought tears to my eyes, we all have demons we fighting inside of us, take a moment and hug a brother. Well done sir

  15. JArch
    September 24, 10:07 Reply

    Bia Absalom, what kind of onions did you put in this story eh? I refuse to let the water works flow *sniff*

    Insecurities- We all have them. Big ones, small ones. Carry-on or cargo size.

    Fortunately (and sometimes unfortunately) they define who we are. Some of us are good at masking ours, but for how long?

    That’s why we all need someone to love. Someone who helps you overcome the fear of yourself. Someone who looks beyond those excess baggage and still thinks you’re the best thing since sliced bread.

    I love the transition, and the fact that this was written as fiction, but possesses an element of honesty/truth behind it.

    10/10

  16. Khaleesi
    September 24, 11:15 Reply

    Wow!! Wow!!! am lost for words! This is a masterpiece!! Thre ebb and flow and delivery are perfect!! Pinky, Absalom,, Rapu’m, if you dont all enter into full time writing, am coming for you with my pink glittering cane to whip some sense into your heads.
    @Pinky, yes Nigeria believes we are useless and wants us dead and obliterated. To them i say: “its your major loss”!! Reinforces my belief that tbs are a creative bunch, i guess knowing that you are different from a young age forces you to turn inwards and become more in-tune with your inner muse … i dunno sha …
    Thumbs up Absalom, pleassseeee … keep more of these flowing and Sista Pinky, thanks so much for this platform for channeling creative energies … its like a breath of fresh mountain air …

  17. Mr Bassey
    September 24, 11:25 Reply

    Gosh….I warned myself not to cry too as I read this. Good piece Absalom.

  18. Colossus
    September 24, 12:36 Reply

    Impressive piece, if Absalom wrote a book, I’ll buy it and stalk him for an autograph. Really good piece of work

  19. frank
    September 24, 13:58 Reply

    Woooooooooooooow! At least now I know that I can still cry

  20. iamcoy
    September 24, 14:58 Reply

    Picturesque! Bravo Absalom

  21. s_sensei
    September 24, 15:24 Reply

    Absalom, this was BRILLIANT! Well done!

  22. Brian Collins
    September 25, 08:34 Reply

    Where are parts 2 & 3. This is going to be a series right?

  23. king
    September 26, 00:41 Reply

    Wow!!! It’s all I can say….just wow!

  24. September 27, 08:25 Reply

    Precious…so me! Inbetween not wanting to let anyone in and also actually being blind to not see the housemate has feelings for me…

    Anyway, was totally a nice read and refreshening diff frm anything I v read of late and yea, the switch between present and past..reminded me of my fav series ‘Lost’…menh 5 stars for this story.

    But eh…drive to New Benin? Why’s d location Benin city?

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