THE CURSE OF THE MEN

THE CURSE OF THE MEN

I lean forward to observe closely the unique sight before me, down the street. Maybe my awe is in the fact that they are not one man but two. Maybe I am enthralled by the interaction they seem to be having, lost in the nonchalant glory of their own world. One is in front of the other, hastily walking while looking back every now and then to say something to the one moving slowly, almost majestically, behind him.

The one in front suddenly crosses the road with an almost careless run. He is clumsy, I could tell. No one should cross a busy expressway without first looking at all the sides to ensure vehicles aren’t coming. He doesn’t do that, and doesn’t seem to care.

He has on a smile and his right hand is outstretched behind him, in a way that shows he is expecting the one lagging behind to take it. He has now gotten to the other side of the road, safe within the space of the pedestrian walkway. His smile is as broad as the view spread out in front of him. He has his both arms outstretched from him now; his fingers are persistently curling towards themselves in that manner when you are calling someone to yourself.

He broadens his elongated arms like he plans to entrap the environment within the confines of his embrace as he keeps looking to the other side of the road. To the second guy.

This one is different yet similar. He has a calm outlook about him, an almost trance-like expression on his face like he is calculating the distance between himself and his partner on the other side at every passing second. He looks to his left, then his right. He repeats the process twice again although unnecessary as the road is as clear as a newly weeded bush. Then with the gait of a model, he steps into the road and takes time to count his steps as he crosses to the barricade in the middle of the road.

Unlike the first, this one doesn’t seem to be in a hurry. He is neither smiling nor has his arms outstretched. But the gaze he has on his partner on the other side, the partner who is still expectant with that smile, is as genuine as the natural locks on his golden-brown hair.

I dart quickly to another side of my encampment, in frantic search for a better witness angle.

The walk to his partner takes longer than it takes to find the perfect viewing point.

I wonder, from where I am, latched on to the bamboo stick supporting the stall I’m hiding behind, what his past is like.

He does things carefully, like he has OCD. Although, he doesn’t seem to be in tune with his surroundings, he is very aware of himself and that which he is taking his time to get to.

Remarkably, the first guy, in those minutes it took the second guy to cross the road, never brings his arms down. Almost as though he was dared to keep them outstretched so long. His smile doesn’t wane either.

The second guy has gotten to where the first one is now and they embrace.

For the first time since I happened upon them, their smiles are gone and their eyes shut. They look locked in their hearts. Like the final connect to a circuit.

Minutes into their embrace, I hear a loud bark, not that from an uncultured dog – but from a man. He is a big man. Scruffy, with navy-blue overalls reminiscent of the ones mechanics wear to work.

Looking closely, I recognize him. He actually is a mechanic, newly employed in Pa Oguejiofor’s motor repairs shop. I had, on two occasions, met him when I went to check on my dad’s car that is still under repairs and, in those times, he never was anything like the man I’m seeing now in front of me: a man with clenched fists and flexing pecs.

The mechanic approaches the guys, his countenance sour and contemplative. I can hear the thudding sound of his steps as he gets closer. I can feel the heat of his anger from where I am behind a stall.

The two men have broken their embrace now and have their arms outstretched almost immediately like a shield to protect themselves from the advancing man. In their eyes isn’t the emotion I had seen a few minutes ago. It isn’t laced with the affection I had just witnessed and relished. In its place is fear.

I shift uncomfortably.

The first guy, looking like he has just been energized by the mean look on the face of the brawny man, plants himself in front of the second, his arms outstretched as a shield.

The bulky mechanic stops in his tracks, as though the brave gesture of the first guy had stopped him.

He turns around in one swift movement and calls to a random passer-by. There is no hesitation on the part of the one who was just called, no second thoughts on the side of the invited as he walks towards the scruffy mechanic like his movement that day was without destination.

“I furu ihe ndi ara n’abuo a na-eme?” the scruffy man says to the invited stranger. His eyes are fixed on the two men who are still standing close to each other, eyes filled with trepidation. Their legs are shaking so much, one would think they are supporting the much heavier bodies.

“These mad men were touching each other just now. Right on the road! N’ihu onye obula na gafe! Two homo mad men!” The scruffy man advances towards the shivering men and grabs one, the one shielding his partner.

The force from the mechanic’s dragging causes the shirt to tear, exposing flesh and body hair.

The second moves from where he has been cowering, screaming unintelligible Igbo at the man. His Igbo is confusing. It isn’t diluted enough to be called Central nor is it concentrated enough to be a dialect. His nostrils are flaring in anger as he lunges at the bulky man with screams and shouts that are laden with sobs, pounding his fists on the neck of the bulky man.

His emotional outburst is however short-lived as the stranger that was just called has him in a tight grip. The second man screams harder.

On hearing the cries from his partner, the first makes a swift turn from where he is being held by the scruffy man, a primal violence flashes in his eyes at that moment upon the sight of his second being pulled by the hair.

“Hapu ya aka!” he shouts with a voice so deep and aggressive, his partner stops shouting and looks up at him.

They share a silent message between each other, a realization that this is a battle they can’t win, and just like that there is no more resistance from the both of them.

The ruckus is beginning to attract people – women, children, men of all ages with nothing better to do. Everyone seems eager to see the two men with raggedy clothes being pulled to a secluded spot.

I shift uncomfortably, unable to move, unable to talk. I want to tell the angry man that the men they are harassing are in love. They pose no threat to anyone. All they have done is cross the road and embrace each other.

But I know my pleas will be futile. So I say nothing.

I am only but a viewer.

The men are still being dragged, their already torn clothes now in shreds. Their skin is exposed, tangled hair and patches of injuries on different parts of their bodies are now in full view.

They are thrown to the ground. Now on the ground, they scurry close together, the fragile second man leaning against his partner while looking furtively around like he is just seeing people for the first time.

The first stretches out his hands again, his lips are set in a pout, and his eyes are red from crying. He wants to say something but doesn’t. His eyes however convey a message so clear, so distinct.

I am not the only one that understands.

“Don’t beg!” the invited stranger shouts. “You are a homosexual mad man. You both will die!”

There is a unanimous sigh of contempt and ridicule from the crowd at his declaration but one sound is unique. A sound of quiet sobbing coming from the second guy who is still leaning on the shoulders of the first one whose arms are still outstretched in a plea, whose lips have not retracted from the pout, and whose eyes are still teary.

A young boy suddenly breaks out from the crowd, a ruler in one hand, and bread in the other. He rushes to where the half-naked men are seated on the ground, and throws the bread at them with such viciousness and mockery. Then he gets closer, and with his ruler, slaps the guys across the cheeks repeatedly until a woman, his mother perhaps, rushes to drag him away. I am sure she didn’t pull him away because she was angry at his crass behavior but because she is scared the disease they are being persecuted for may find its way into her child.

Here I am, from my vantage position, baffled at the homophobia of this little boy. I want to pick him up and lay him across my thighs and slap his bare butt with the exact viciousness I saw him unleash on the victims. I want to scold him and instill the fear they are feeling into his little being. I want to but I don’t.

You are only a viewer.

The young men in the crowd are flexing their chests. They are holding weapons of all sizes and shapes. Sticks, bricks, stones as they approach the two men seated closely together on the floor who have refused to break apart.

I feel a part of my body break alongside the head of the first when the first brick is thrown.

The guys scream, a synchronized scream of agony, unbearable pain as they tighten their grip around each other.

A young man with an iron rod in his hand rears back in laughter at their gesture of affection and strikes the second guy on the spine with the weapon, his eyes flashing with deliciousness at his blood-thirst.

The screams of agony, the tears of pain, the cries of anguish fill the environment but no one goes out to help. Not even me. It’s as though I am in a fix. Like the aura of homophobia oozing from the many people around is determinedly holding me down on a spot.

Or maybe it is the nagging voice in your head.

The young men keep on with their attacks, hitting and throwing. The women all standing behind, some holding kids in hand, others with babies strapped to their backs, were cussing and barking. With protruding bellies and roughly-covered breasts, they are throwing in more incentives to spur the youths into doing more damage.

And these two men, with bloodied bodies and weakening gazes, arms still outstretched and eyes begging with dripping blood fall upon each other. In that moment, and for the first time, I am sighted from my hide-out.

I see them: two pairs of bloodied eyes looking directly at me.

Then they close shut. In the midst of the beatings and aggressions, they are folded into each other, as they let the darkness overcome them.

And from my hiding place, I feel the curse of their darkness. The power of being a viewer is taken. And I become the true victim.

Written by Delle

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20 Comments

  1. trystham
    September 16, 07:00 Reply

    This one dat someone had to rush to check the category, I was so scared it was non-fiction. While the sanity and rationality of some idiots can kuku be questionable, I think the outburst of the flighty guy was a dead-giveaway

    • Pink Panther
      September 16, 07:04 Reply

      A friend of mine who just read this also reacted the way you did. He rushed to check the category. The expectation and fear of gay lynching in Nigeria is real.

      • Brian Collins
        September 16, 15:26 Reply

        Everybody has to rush to ‘categories’ after almost every story these days before someone wee now have heart attack.

  2. BJ
    September 16, 07:05 Reply

    Sad!! just really really sad. But beautiful writing.

  3. Evans
    September 16, 08:41 Reply

    Sometimes I wonder what atrocious act we committed in our former lives to deserve this…. This is sad and unfair aswear.
    Iono why live and let live isnt applicable to us!…. It is well sha

  4. Troy
    September 16, 08:42 Reply

    Ha! This is Fiction oo. I was impatient when I got to the part where they were being stoned. I mean it was just 2 homophobic men. They could have saved themselves before shit escalated.

  5. Malik
    September 16, 10:31 Reply

    Was very relieved that it was fiction. I’m not quite a fan of fictional stories but I must say that this was nice and I particularly cherish the ending.

    Best bit: “The power of being a viewer is taken. And I become the true victim.”

    The curse of the men is on the viewers; those comfortable with the sunshades of third party observation. Because in the end, we’re all victims.

  6. Sorry not Sorry
    September 16, 11:44 Reply

    This is why I remain so afraid of going home. The fear of lynching is real

  7. Canis VY Majoris
    September 16, 15:29 Reply

    Summary PDF will get you lynched 🙄

    Let’s keep the affections indoors people.

  8. WhoIsUgo
    September 16, 17:29 Reply

    This is so sad. How can people criminalise consensual love between two adults but we support old men marrying teenage girls with their chest.

    • Mandy
      September 16, 18:31 Reply

      Nigeria’s sense of right and wrong is so skewed, it doesn’t shock me anymore the levels of depravity we’re capable of.

  9. cedar
    September 17, 08:40 Reply

    Whether fiction or non-fiction, d way Nigerians react to d gay community as if we are d cause of their hydra-headed problems is simply nauseating.
    When d time is right, I go just pack my kaya comot from dis place. Am getting sick of educating ignoramuses about d same thing every time.

  10. quinn
    September 17, 12:19 Reply

    For a person to beat up another helpless human being like that! I would say it’s animalistic, but that would be a big insult to vicious animals,

  11. Tahlee Ibrahim
    September 18, 02:36 Reply

    I actually shed a tear reading this story, was relieved when I got to the end and saw that it was fictional.
    The fact that shit like this still happens in real life is heartbreaking… So much for PDA

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