My phone beeped as a text message came in. My pulse quickened as my heart sank. I shook off the feeling of dread that settled on me and opened the text. It was from Timi. The words I read chilled my blood instantly.

I think you misunderstood my soft nature and gestures. I am not what you think I am. A guy falling for a guy? Seriously, this is crazy. I’m not into your demeaning lifestyle.

In that instant, I felt like I had just been slammed by a fully-loaded truck traveling at full speed. The blood in my veins turned to ice. My brain reeled and raced in a wild jumble of thoughts. What did I miss? How did this happen? Perhaps it wasn’t him sending this horrible text… There was just no way on earth the caring, loving guy I had been spending so much time with and who gave off all those positive vibes could be sending such a horrible message. I was in a state of shock and disbelief for several long minutes.

And then, I snapped out of it and went into a defensive mode. And I did something I never thought I’d ever do. I denied my sexuality. Rashly and without much thought, I composed a text: I’m sorry if my text made you uncomfortable, I’m not gay, I just have a tendency to form strong emotional connections with anyone (boy or girl).

As I pressed the send button, a part of me realized that I was making a mistake and further complicating issues. His reply came soon after, and before long, we were engaged in a series of back-and-forth texts.

Ok, good for you. I hate gay people and they make me sick, he typed.

So if I was gay, you’d throw me under the bus?

I’d throw you out the window, but not before cutting off your dick.

By this time, I could feel the anger burning through my insides like hot lava. I had also quietly slipped from a defense to an attack mode. I knew that in the three weeks I had spent getting to know him intimately, I had gathered enough information about him, information which could be used to destroy him. Prior to this time, I had spent substantial sums of money on Timi; I was quite happy to do it as I totally assumed that we shared something special. Now I felt used, betrayed and discarded.

I wrote: You’re nothing but a user and an opportunist, you’ve been leading me on from the day I met you. Have you forgotten so quickly how you flirted openly with me, caressing my thighs, complimenting my looks and my lips, giving me pecks? By the way, I think you’re gay but simply living in denial.

He fired back: I do all those with my friends, doesn’t make me gay. I advise you to change your sinful and dirty, before it’s too late for you. I actually thought you were normal, but now I can see that you’re nothing but a low-life.

As I read those last words, I felt my rage erupt like a flame fed by petrol. I was like, ‘Oh no, he did not just say that.’ A phrase from Rihanna’s ‘Stay’ played through my head at the same time: “Funny you’re the broken one, but I’m the only one who needed saving.” Seeing as he had gotten ugly first, I let loose with a generous dose of the vitriolic thunder that I could brew in my mouth. I called him a cheap bitch who clung to me like a leech for financial gain. He lashed back, calling me a spoilt brat who was good for nothing but spending my daddy’s money, that I should strive to make mine.

In hindsight, I know this part is mean and goes against every line of my moral and ethical code, but I just had to deliver an equally stinging response. So I shot back: Too bad you can’t spend your own father’s money, as he’s lying cold in the grave with his bones probably all rotten by now.

Following that, we fired off a few more painful shots at each other, and thereafter, I retreated to nurse my broken heart.

I felt pained, betrayed and vulnerable. I could not believe Timi, and how badly things were apparently going to end between us. He had led me on, allowed me soar higher and higher in blissful clouds of lust and infatuation, and then without warning, he had sent me crashing back to the painful hard reality. I replayed the entire time we were friends in my head, starting from our first meeting. I was sure that I didn’t make anything up; I’d honestly believed we shared something special due to the unmistakable signs he sent at me.

Over the next three days (which stretched out till it felt like three months), as the NYSC Camp wound to a close, I was enveloped in a cloud of shame and depression. I felt vulnerable and exposed; in my mind, I felt as though everyone already knew what had transpired between Timi and me. I had come to this strange land, determined not to forge any sort of emotional ties with anyone, especially since I was sure I would be redeployed within the shortest possible time.

However, due to the close bond Timi and I had formed initially, everyone now associated him with me, and everywhere I went, I was faced with people asking about him and his whereabouts. It drove me crazy and did nothing to improve my battered psyche. Elvis was my rock during this difficult time; he was deeply disappointed in Timi.

To add to my worries, my redeployment letter didn’t come through in the three weeks I spent on the camp. I was starting to panic at the thought of spending a whole year in a place which felt alien to me. I was however reassured that my letter would be ready after the camp.

Finally, the last day of camp came and it was time for the passing out activities. I couldn’t wait to be out of that camp and put Timi and all things relating to him out of my mind for good.

During the passing out ceremony, I ran into one of Timi’s roommates, a shy but friendly guy named Dapo. On an impulse, I took his phone number. That singular act saved me later.

After being baked alive under the blazing sun, I was finally issued with my posting letter. I opened it and discovered that I had been posted to an unfamiliar location. I tried to enquire about the place, but no one seemed to have any idea about it. This heightened my feeling of anxiety and apprehension.

As I walked away, wheeling my little box with me, I spotted Timi walking towards me with Dada (the little bitch who was all up in his business) by his side. He called out my name with that fake smile plastered on his face. I replied with a tight little smile. He asked where I was posted, and I showed him my posting letter. He showed me his; he was posted to the state capital. Both he and Dada had been posted to the same school.

Quickly losing interest in both of them, I made my way to the bus park in the camp where buses had been provided to convey everyone to their various places of posting. The buses were adorned with large banners indicating their destination. I quickly found the bus heading to my place of posting and climbed aboard with a bit of relief. Within a few minutes, we were joined by other corpers heading to the same place. I tried to find out if anyone knew anything about our destination, but it was soon clear that all the occupants of the bus were as clueless about the place as I was. With a sigh, I opened up Google Map on my phone, and discovered that it was quite close to the state capital – about a fifteen-minute drive. Dapo suddenly flashed through my mind and I scrolled through my phonebook to his number and called him. When he learned where I had been posted, he exclaimed loudly and revealed that that was his village. (He is from Osun State) He asked me to call him once we arrived at our reception venue within the local government. It was a bit of a relief to know that I would have at least one familiar person to reach out to when I arrived at this unfamiliar place.

Later in the day, I called to inform him of our arrival, and in no time he was there. He saw me as he walked into the venue where we were being welcomed with a speech. We smiled and waved enthusiastically at each other. I couldn’t help but notice that there was not a single attractive face in the entire vicinity; most of the people there looked like the orcs from the Lord of the Rings movie franchise. Those, or the goblins from the Harry Potter movies. Yes, they were that ugly! Just looking at them caused my eyes to ache.

What a bad place to serve, better get ready for an entire year of celibacy, I thought to myself.

I was mentally rolling my eyes and steeling myself for the celibacy I was sure would be define my service year, when I felt a sudden tap on my shoulder. I jumped and turned, coming face-to-face the most beautiful boy I had ever seen in the entire three weeks I had spent in the state. Yes, he was even better looking than Timi.

As my face lit up, he smiled and asked if I was a member of a certain church (I won’t mention it here). The church had organized for its members who were corpers to be accommodated in its church family house while they searched for accommodation; as the secretary of the church, it was his task to locate the new members and direct them to the temporary accommodation. Just setting my eyes on this gorgeous boy sent my gaydar beeping wildly. I was unable to tear my eyes away from him. He was like a drink of ice-cold spring water in the middle of a parched desert. He looked so different from everyone else, like he didn’t belong there.

Unfortunately, I was not a member of his church, but I thought several at once of switching churches there and then. I was so stricken by this boy that I nearly lied about my church, just so I could zoom off to that church house with him.

All through the orientation and welcome reception, Dapo had patiently waited for me so as to assist me with moving my belongings to his family house where I was going to stay. Afterwards, we returned to the bus which had brought us from the Camp. My bags were intact and untouched. Apparently theft was rare in this part of Osun State, it would seem. With Dapo’s assistance, I carried my bag to the gate where we hailed a bike which carried us to his family house.

Immediately we got to his house, I flopped down on the bed, totally exhausted. I had had a long draining day and wanted nothing but copious amounts of rest. But even in my enervated state, I couldn’t shake off thoughts of the beautiful church boy I had just met. I imagined all sorts of things I would love to do to him, his body, his lips.

As Dapo informed me that corpers converged at the Local Government Headquarters every Thursday for Community Development Service (CDS), I inwardly smiled with pleasure and made plans for moving in for the kill (yeah, I like boys and I’m a firm believer in going for what I like). I planned to thoroughly study this guy and to learn everything I possibly could about him. I was determined that this time I would get it right and completely avoid a repeat of the fiasco that had occurred with Timi.

***

It was a cold and hazy typically Osun morning. I’d woken up with heavy and bloodshot eyes, with my head feeling like ten race cars had revved their engine at the same moment in my head. I hadn’t gotten much sleep the previous night because I was scared of being attacked by unknown assailants. I was in an unfamiliar environment and, for some strange reason, Dapo’s door had no lock. Knowing that didn’t help with my sense of security.

Now awake, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Dapo had prepared a warm bucket of water for my bath. He was really nice and showed a lot of care. I found his overly caring manner a bit weird, especially since I wasn’t attracted to him. I shrugged off the weird vibes and prepared for the day ahead. As I dressed in my full NYSC attire, images of the church hottie from the previous day soon began to fill my head and my spirits began to lift. I suddenly realized that I had something pleasant to look forward to.

I walked out of the house and was driven on a bike to the LGA Headquarters. When I got there, it was to see the place packed full with people. I scanned the crowd, idly looking for my newly-found piece of eye candy. The place was crowded and my spirits sank as I realized that it would be a herculean task locating him amidst this throbbing and surging crowd.

Suddenly, a random thought flashed through my mind. If I was gay and familiar with this town, at what spot would I be most likely to sit in order to easily see everyone, especially those just arriving, without drawing too much attention to myself, I thought.

You might call that moment my “eureka” moment, because the moment the thought flashed through my mind, the answer followed a few moments later. I slowly looked around for the spot which suited the answer to my question, and headed there.

And – Tada! There he was in, all his glory – beautiful eyes like large pools of gorgeousness, pouty lips, a well-formed, perfectly-proportioned body clad in a plain white T-shirt and fitted khaki trousers. I composed myself and willed my fluttering heartbeat to return to its normal tempo as I walked towards him.

“Hey, what’s up?” I said casually. And that was the start of our conversation. We made introductions and I learned that his name was Randy. In the course of our conversation, I revealed that I was searching for accommodation, and then we exchanged phone numbers. After a few more minutes of random chitchat, I took my leave fully confident that I had made a positive impact. Later that evening, he called and told me about a vacant room which he thought I might be interested in renting. We agreed to meet the next day so he could show me the place. I was in a frenzy of anticipation and excitement as I eagerly waited for the dawning of the next day.

The next morning, I hurried off to the school where he was assigned as a teacher. We exchanged BBM pins, and then he informed me that he had recently learned that someone else had taken the house, but he had wanted to see me nevertheless, which was why he asked me to come.

To myself, I said, Who gives a damn about the house? All I want is you!

Shortly after, he was done for the day and invited me to his house. It turned out to be a small self-contained (studio) apartment. As I made myself comfortable on his bed which doubled as a couch, he excused himself in order to use the bathroom. I took the opportunity to snoop around his open closet by leaning closer and peering inside. I checked out his clothes, cosmetics and personal grooming items. I spotted a pair of contact lens which further stoked the burning embers of my curiosity.

When he returned to the room, he fetched some cold water for us both. We got talking once again, getting to know more and more about each other and getting more acquainted. As we stared at each other, the tension in the room was very palpable; it lay heavily in the room and was thick enough to cut through with a knife. Whether the tension was sexual or not, I wasn’t certain. But it was there. We were slowly being drawn into the vortex which had been building up in the room. Time seemed to stand still as our senses heightened, and suddenly it seemed as though our bodies were being slowly and inexorably drawn to each other.

A sudden knock by his friend, whom I later began to consider as a cock-blocker, shattered the atmosphere and dragged us both back to reality. The cock-blocker had come to fetch him so that they could go watch a soccer match somewhere in the neighbourhood. The cock-blocker provided the distraction which broke the magical moment we had been sharing. I flatly rejected their invitation to join them. I hate soccer and have never been able to comprehend the fun in frittering away one hour and thirty minutes watching grown men chasing about a spherical object as if their entire lives depended on it. More bewildering was the attitude of the spectators who drank and engaged in trash talk while they screamed like wild banshees and reveled in the game. I had absolutely no interest in that!

We all headed out of Randy’s apartment, said our goodbyes and went our separate ways. Later that night, Randy and I got engaged in a chat on BBM, we touched on several topics; love, life and relationships. It wasn’t long before we both realized that we were forming a strong emotional bond. He was a loner in a place where he was grossly misunderstood; I was a broken person who needed some love to heal my scarred heart. We fit together like two matching pieces of a puzzle.

About a week later, I began to sense a subtle change in Dapo’s attitude, even though he tried to hide it behind false smiles and a cheery attitude. I detected a hint of resentment in him. I became worried, because this was completely unlike him. I worried about an impending kito affair. My anxiety further increased when he asked me about Timi; he asked when last I saw or talked with Timi. The day he did, I tried to give vague, diplomatic answers, but he gave me the ‘I know you’re lying’ look and, soon after, left the house. I was suddenly gripped by unease. Here I was in a strange land, very far from the safety of my home, living with a boy I barely knew and whose intentions I was unsure about. I could feel the onset of a pounding headache, it started behind my forehead and soon enveloped my entire skull, my eyes grew heavy as my emotions went haywire. Illogically, I was gripped by deep fear. Dreadful thoughts began to race through my mind. The next moment could very well be my last. In the next instant, the door could open to reveal violent assailants who would usher me away from this world. I could be murdered in a strange land and my loved ones might never learn why and what actually happened. Determined not to go down without putting up a fierce fight, I opened my bag and pulled out a sharp screwdriver which I hid beneath my thigh. I resolved that if I was set upon by assailants, I would attack fiercely with the screwdriver, attempt to do deadly damage to them, no matter what.

Go for the neck, act crazy, show your strength and in the ensuing confusion, run like crazy.

I even quickly packed all my valuables in one bag in case I was able to make a quick exit. I listened, tense and ready to spring to violence if my fears were realized. The door opened and Dapo walked in dressed in just a pair of boxer shorts and dripping wet. He picked up his towel and started to wipe himself dry.

“What would you like you like to have for lunch?” he asked.

Still feeling tense, I thought to myself, You coward! So you wish to do it by poison? “I’m not hungry,” I replied despite the fact that I was so famished.

Later that evening, Randy called to invite me to hang out with him somewhere in the state capital. I eagerly agreed and left the uncomfortable atmosphere of Dapo’s house. Seeing Randy again was like a breath of fresh air to a man choking on thick toxic fumes. We ordered food and drinks, shared funny stories and laughed wildly like we had no worries in the world. It was fun, just us, just the way I liked it. Alas, time flies when you’re having fun. It was soon time to head back to Dapo and his dreadful house. I arrived to find two other guys in the room. I greeted them politely and made my way onto the bed. I feigned sleep, but occasionally peeped at them through half-open eyes to see what they were up to, and to react quickly if I was threatened. The three of them were focused on their soccer video game.

Sometime later, I drifted off to sleep. When I woke up the next morning, I still couldn’t shake off my feeling of deep unease. When Dapo went into the bathroom to shower, I picked up his phone which he had left lying casually as usual and with my back against the door to slow down his re-entry, I headed to his Whatsapp messages, looking for any messages which could explain the sudden change in his attitude.

Finally, I saw it. It was a message where he was chatting with a friend (Timi perhaps?) whom he had told that I was staying with him. The chat revealed this friend (Timi, for sure) telling Dapo that I was gay and had been toasting him in camp. From Dapo’s responses, he didn’t believe I was gay because I didn’t ‘act gay,’ and I had not made any funny moves towards him. I rolled my eyes when I read this part. Honey please, you’re not my type, I thought caustically. And gay guys don’t go around trying to screw every straight person they meet. His friend further asked him to be careful because being gay was infectious. The chat ended at that point and I replaced the phone with my curiosity having been satisfied and my mind having been made up to move the hell out of that house!

I had by this time spent two (too long) weeks in Dapo’s house, and luckily for me, Elvis had been able to secure accommodation by this time. I had thus far been unsuccessful in my search for suitable accommodation despite the rigors and strain I had subjected myself to during my search. I had trekked, biked, and endured the blazing rays of the scorching sun, all in a bid to find a place to live in, to no avail.

When I informed Dapo a few days later that I would soon be moving out of his house, he expressed sadness and tried to persuade me to stay. He asked if he had offended me in any manner. I reassured him that all was well, and that I preferred to move in with Elvis as his house was closer to my place of primary assignment. This seemed to pacify him – or perhaps he was secretly relieved that the gay demon was finally leaving his place, I shall probably never know. However, he accompanied me to Elvis’s place and helped me settle in, before he left later that night. Elvis’s place was all I had been longing for; it had constant power supply, running water, etc. And best of all, I could freely express myself without fear of being throttled to death while asleep.

However, Randy and I had grown so close that I felt incomplete whenever he was not around me. Just thinking about him gave me a certain pleasurable tingle. Even at my most downcast, the sight of him was enough to lift my spirits. At first he was slow in opening up to me about his true feelings, but I was patient, as I could sense he had suffered a lot more hurt and damage in the past than I had. We began spending more and more time together, whispering to each other in bed at night about our most intimate thoughts, talking about our futures and how we would resist any attempt by the world to drive us crazy and force us into marriage with women. I suddenly realized that I had fallen deeply and head over heels in love with Randy. Suddenly, I had something to lose.

One a Tuesday morning, a call came from the LGA telling me that my letter of redeployment which I had prayed and waited and fretted about for so long was finally out. I was suddenly free to pack my things and leave Osun State for good. I was required to report to Lagos as soon as possible. I stared at the phone in dismay for several seconds before it dropped from my hands. My blood ran ice-cold in my veins as goose bumps popped out all over my skin. I suddenly realized that my cheeks were wet with tears moments before I knew I was weeping. “God, why, why, why…” I sobbed. Was I cursed with the ill fortune of having happiness snatched away from my arms once I managed to find it? Was I destined to travel through life forever searching but never managing to find what I truly wanted? Suddenly the bright corner I had managed to create for myself with Randy being the sole source of radiance had been replaced by dull grey clouds. I was so hurt. It was like splashing generous amounts of methylated spirits on a deep fresh wound. In that moment, I regretted having ever initiated any moves to influence my redeployment. I had absolutely no interest in going to Lagos to pick up my redeployment letter.

I called Randy on the phone and broke the bad news to him. He was silent over the phone for a few moments, and then he said, “I’m coming over right away.”

A few minutes later, I heard his knock at the door. When I let him in, we stared at each other for a few minutes and I was once again overcome by a fresh torrent of tears. I wept unashamedly like a baby. He pulled me close and held me in his arms, telling me everything was going to be okay. Having him around me stirred up a mix of conflicting emotions within me; on one hand, I was happy to have him with me, yet I was confronted with the stark painful reality of what I was going to miss when we were parted from each other. I was desperate for it not to end. In the coming days, I desperately tried to reverse the redeployment, but all my efforts amounted to a monument of futility due to the activities of some bad-belle people at the NYSC Secretariat – but that’s a story for another day.

After four moody and pensive days, I mentally prepared myself for the worst. On the day before my departure, I went around and said my goodbyes to all my friends and acquaintances. I hung out and had fun with lots of people, all the while bracing myself for the emotional impact my departure was going to have on me. Randy and I decided to spend a night together after a blissful month of knowing and loving each other.

To cut a long story short, sleep remained very far away from either of us that night. As we walked into his room, he pulled me close to him from behind. Oh Lord, I loved the warmth of his embrace. My heart filled with joy as I yielded to the feeling of safety and security he provided. In that instant, I knew I was truly and totally loved. All the cares and worries of the world faded into obscurity and all that mattered was that we were together enveloped in a thick haze of love. As if on cue, the power supply failed and the room was plunged into darkness. This heightened the poignancy of the moment. We stood still in each other’s arms for a few minutes until the lights suddenly blinked back on. He led me to his bed and we lay there looking at each other with lust and desire etched on our faces. Eventually, we couldn’t hold back our passion any further. Our lips met and locked in a passionate kiss. I was in ecstasy, and soon we had hastily thrown off our clothes and began touching each other tenderly, savoring every contour of each other’s bodies. He was mine, I was his, and we were one. Thoughts of anyone or anything else faded into the farthest recesses of my mind.

The rest of the night shall forever remain etched deeply in my memory.

We rose early the next morning and had a heavy make-out session. Afterwards, we got dressed and headed to Elvis’s apartment to collect my bags. We then made our way to the bus park, holding hands in the bus all the way (This was before that obnoxious anti-gay bill was passed into law, a time when you could get away with so many things). We arrived at the bus park and I could see sorrow visible on his face despite the brave and cheerful face he tried to put on.

I purchased my ticket and climbed onto the bus and a little while later, it was time to depart.

“Don’t forget me,” he said in a sad small voice, as the driver revved the engine and prepared to head out.

So, this is it, I thought. This is how I lose what I’ve searched for all my life. It was handed to me on a platter of gold, and I’m moving away from it. I struggled to hold back the tears which threatened to overwhelm me as we finally pulled out of the park. I kept my eyes firmly fixed on him as we moved farther away and his figure grew smaller and smaller till it faded from sight. It was one of the most heartbreaking moments of my life, one I shall probably never be able to forget. In the movies, I would probably have leapt off the bus and run back to be with my Prince Charming, damning the consequences and thumbing my nose at National Service. Well, this was real life and not the movies where the dead come back to life, where a super-hero rescues you from violent assailants or where you reunite with the love of your life in romantic, heartwarming circumstances after a painful parting.

For a long time afterwards, I was deeply depressed. I missed Randy terribly. I cried often whenever I thought about him. It was like all the happiness had been sucked from my life. I saw the world in grey depressing hues.

However, I learned one crucial lesson from all this. Happiness comes in bits and pieces in all forms throughout life. Learn to enjoy every moment thoroughly, especially those shared with loved ones, because it might be your last with them. Never take love and happiness for granted.

My name is Max and this is my story.