THE NAME OF MY GIRLFRIEND

THE NAME OF MY GIRLFRIEND

Perhaps I was the one who made the mistake of linking my brother to my friend. Not like there had been a lot of options at the time: the family wants the boy to stay in a hostel for his first and second years in school because, according to a common belief by Nigerian parents, the hostel is a saner place for university freshmen. And my brother, in a futile bid to convince my mum and our uncles to let him stay off-campus, had missed his shot at getting accommodation in the hostel, as the portal closed before he finally realised there was no pleading his way to an off-campus apartment.

Chidiuto, for the purpose of anonymity, is the only friend I have in that campus who stays in the hostel.

And when I asked, he was very okay with my brother, Jed (not real name), moving into his hostel room with him.

Chidiuto is gay. Jed is not homophobic – I mean, he knows I am gay (read Under The Skies). I didn’t think there’d be a problem. It helped that while I was in school, I had accommodated Chidiuto, so it was easy to ask for this favor. One he readily obliged.

But then, it so happened that Jed, being the free-spirited person that he is, began making friends and enjoying the company of some other members of the room. I suppose Chidiuto had assumed that since Jed was in the room out of his generosity, he had the sole claim to Jed’s company. When this didn’t turn out to be so, it caused a serious fight between them, one that was especially fueled by the fact that Chidiuto didn’t have a rapport with those people whom Jed had formed friendships with.

In his usual way – which, to be honest, prior to this, I had no issues with but had come to realise I shouldn’t have indulged in the first place – Chidiuto reported my brother to us, my mother and I, claiming that the boys he’d befriended in the room were not a good influence, and that he had tried to counsel my brother against being friends with them. He also complained that the combined efforts of the other roommates to ensure Jed doesn’t heed his chastisement had become exasperating and a slight on him.

In his words: “I harbour him. He should give me that regard.”

An understandable sentiment, if only human beings are that simple to manipulate.

Anyway, things quickly got out of hand. Chidiuto is not particularly down-low with his homosexuality and as such, a handful of people in the school know about him, including his roommates. While he may not be in any danger of getting lynched or getting bundled off to the nearest police station, these roommates are not particularly welcoming of his identity either.

After Jed was chastised by our mother following Chidiuto’s reports, he was pushed to retaliate. He called my mum the next day, while she was at work, and told her in distinct terms that she should not pay attention to all that Chidiuto had said about him, that his rancour is as a result of the fact that the roommates are not on friendly terms with him because of his homosexuality. And since he, Jed, was friendly with them, Chidiuto was simply being petty and vengeful.

Mum called me several minutes after their conversation, and when I picked, she started, in the tone of someone reeling from shock: “Jed just called me o.” She made a distinctive sound, where she compresses her throat muscles while forcefully pushing air out of her nostrils. “He said that Chidiuto is a homosexual! Can you imagine?”

Shock struck me across the face first, and then short-circuited to anger.

How dare Jed!

I was instantly mentally planning just how I was going to decimate my brother. Caught up in the fury of my thoughts and not knowing what was expected of me in this conversation with my mother, I simply said, “Okay.”

The silence that followed was loud enough to wake the dead, before she said, “Is that all you will say? Okay?”

Anger at my brother was quickly replaced with a stab of irritation at my mother. “Mum, is that why you called me? To tell me that Chidiuto is gay? Are you expecting me to start shouting and cussing at him?” I paused for breath, weighing the silence, weighing her quiet. When she didn’t speak, I took that as permission to carry on. “So now, you have suddenly forgotten that he is the one who took your son in when there was no other option? The roommates that were said to be a bad influence on Dubem do not matter anymore, abi? It’s his homo –”

“I always knew you are one of them,” she cut across my diatribe. Her voice was low, yet heavy with venom. “Yes, you are one of them!”

I’d never been more shocked at a turn of events.

And just before I could swallow the remaining words that were abruptly cut short to form another set, an appropriate response to her accusation, I heard the unmistakable beep that signified that the call had been disconnected.

The minute the call ended, the bruise from the conversation with my mum still fresh and smarting, I called Jed to lash at him for daring to out someone without his permission, even though I already knew why he did what he did. Just as I thought, he protested, saying that it wasn’t his intention to out Chidiuto. He’d simply wanted to throw Chidiuto under the bus to save himself: use the homosexuality as a shield over himself. Because he knew Mum would be more concerned about her son being in the care of a homosexual than his friendship with boys with questionable influence on him (something about them womanizing a lot). He told me his roommates were the ones that hatched the plan and put him up to it.

That was not an excuse I was going to buy. As a matter of fact, there was no excuse I’d have bought. My disappointment was heavy and I let him know that. I warned him sternly to never let himself be steered in such a direction again. I was so angry.

But no matter what I said, the damage was done. The plan had worked.

That evening, my mum got back from work and even though there was no talk about our phone call, the tension in the atmosphere between us was unmistakable. We didn’t make small talks as we used to. She only spoke to me when she absolutely needed to. And even my attempts at starting a conversation with her were met with monosyllabic responses, until I stopped trying.

She retired to bed very early that night.

I pretended not to be bothered, but I was. I was very disturbed by the uncertainty that was rocking my foundation. We had to talk about this, I knew this. And we were going to.

My mother and I are alike. Until we confront an issue, it doesn’t get settled. It hangs over our heads like dark clouds, threatening acid rain.

The next day, when she got back from work, she was seated on her customized sofa, munching idly on her usual dessert delicacy of cucumber, groundnuts and dried tiger nuts. We still weren’t speaking to each other.

As she ate, I was seated on a sofa diagonal to hers, pressing away at my phone with a deliberateness. Waiting. Holding my breath and releasing it mechanically. My heart was racing. I just knew, somehow, instinctively, that the confrontation of yesterday’s event was near. Fear nagged. It was like the moment I had always known would come was finally here and I suddenly didn’t want it. I wanted it all to just disappear. I saw the door to my transparent closet get yanked open and I wanted to bang it shut, nail all sides and cover the closet with tarpaulin. I could have gotten up from the chair and stalked out of the living room – but to what end?

“Delle, what’s the name of your girlfriend?” The question dropped into the thick silence out of nowhere.

The fear that was surging through me iced over and cracked. She had asked the question very calmly, very casually. The way you ask someone for chocolate or what channel on DSTV shows Africa Magic.

Annoyance bubbled up inside me, a welcome relief from the clutching fear. I looked up from my phone and turned a scowl to her. I was feeling brand new feelings. Annoyance. Irritation. Anything but fear.

She hadn’t even paused what she was doing. She didn’t look at me either. But I knew she was waiting for a response.

“I don’t understand,” I said coolly.

“What don’t you understand?” This time, she looked at me briefly. I saw her eyes in that instant: sad and angry at the same time. She quickly chewed off a large chunk of her cucumber as though that was what was helping hold her wits together. “What’s the name of your girlfriend?”

The anger was building inside me, dripping acid on my voice, on my words, as I snapped, “Shouldn’t I have a girlfriend for there to be a name?”

She dropped the cucumber and turned with her whole body to take a good look at me. Her expression was hostile. “So, you don’t have a girlfriend?”

I heaved an exasperates sigh. “Mummy, why don’t you go ahead and ask what you really want to ask?”

“Eh, I just want to know why you don’t have a girlfriend at this age.”

She was still stalling and my impatience was growing. Because I hate it when people are not blunt with me, I decided to go low. As long as this was her tactic, I was going to enjoy it.

“Why didn’t you have a boyfriend when you were my age?” I rejoined.

I saw her hesitate and would have smirked but for the graveness of the moment.

“Things were different then,” she finally said. “And I was a girl.” She was recovering her aplomb. “But you are a man. Most guys your age have girlfriends.”

Seeing an opening, I latched on. “Most, mum. Most. Permit me to be a part of the exception.” Then the anger started to build again when I remembered what all this was about. “So, because I didn’t outrightly castigate Chidiuto when you called yesterday to tell me what Jed said, then I have to be a homosexual? Hence, all these questions?”

She didn’t even hesitate. “Yes!” The word exploded from her mouth. Then, as though the cucumber she was chewing would obstruct her display of homophobia, she spat it out and barreled on. “Yes, Delle. You are one of them!”

I almost laughed at the way she had said it. Like it was more a condemnation than an accusation. Like she was recently appointed Personal Assistant to God and all Matters Spiritual, and her first assignment was to throw me, her son, into the Lake of Fire.

“Don’t be ridiculous, mummy,” I said. I was thinking fast. In spite of all of this, I did not want to outrightly say the words I knew she was expecting. For all of her cattiness and feistiness and display of hate for homosexuality, I know she loves me. And this maternal love would not allow her react well to such a declaration, especially one said in the worst of moments. So, I chose my words carefully. But the anger in me was still fresh, could not be subdued. “You know I am a feminist. How come you don’t call me a woman?”

“People call you a woman. Or have you forgotten?” she retorted.

Her words stung.

She stood up. “Back then, in Asaba, I should have done something when Mama Adaobi brought this to my attention.”

Asaba, 2011.

I was fifteen when I was caught attempting to fondle the penis of one of the uncles in the house while he was sleeping. It was a rare moment of carelessness for me. I had allowed my warring hormones get the better of me and had paid substantially for it.

The events that followed are not so comprehensive in my mind anymore, but I remember getting a spectacular slap from my mother and a ton of objurgation from her friend, Mama Adaobi.

The second my mum mentioned Asaba, it was as though someone poured a bottle of methylated spirit on an open wound on my body. I fought the pain of that remark, looked for anger and found a large strip of it. This time, I didn’t care about choosing words.

“You should have done what? What would you have done exactly? Taken me for deliverance? Thrown me out?”

I was shouting. I knew this, but I couldn’t help it. I rarely shout, I almost never shout at people, because I don’t know how to. But I had not only been pushed to the wall, I was being pushed through it. And my mother was the culprit.

She stepped back from me, momentarily lost for words. Then she reared back, snapping, “Biko mechionu i ji eri ji ebe ahu! I would have done something. I don’t know what, but amam na m ga-eme something.”

“Tell me then, what would you have done? You forget everything – logic, reason, who I am to you and

what I am – simply because Dubem said my friend is gay? How are you sure the same boys you’ve ceased to be bothered by aren’t gay?” Then I decided to play the victim card. “I have never done anything that would earn me the title of bad son. But suddenly, homosexuality comes up and I am the worst person on earth? Mummy please, I’m not doing this with you.”

I picked up my phone and although nothing was of any interest to me, I focused on it. She went back to her sofa and sat on it with the effort of an old woman, as though the spat we’d just had had aged her considerably.

The seconds stretched into minutes, and to me, it seemed like years had passed when I heard her speak again.

“The society frowns at homosexuals.” Her voice was calmer. Tired. “No wonder you always defend Bobrisky. If they bring up any homosexuality issue, you never see issues with that. You support them.”

“Because there is no issue with anyone who is homosexual.” I don’t know why, but I still felt the need to cover my tracks. Instead of seizing on this chance to take that step out of my closet, I made a play for some damage control. “And supporting them” – I winced inwardly at this pronoun – “doesn’t make anyone gay. I will never condemn people because society does. You already know I do not follow the crowd, so just let things be. After all, your Bible is against a lot of things, but I don’t see you condemning those things.”

“Nkogheri!” She shot up from her seat again, her fire back. It would seem she’d been recharging depleted cells and I had, stupidly, taken that for fatigue. “Sodom and Gomorrah nko? Homosexuality will never be accepted by me, Delle! And anyone who is engaged in it should not even expect me to associate with them.”

These words from a woman I love had yet another stinging impact. Even so, as she said those last words, her voice wavered. As though she didn’t believe what she was saying, but had to say them nonetheless because society expects her to.

Exasperation swelled inside me. “Well, good for you. I won’t condemn because you condemn. Don’t expect me to do stuff because you do. I will not!”

“Because you are a gay! I know.”

“Okay.” I was tired. I felt drained.

She paused then and stared at me. I didn’t know why. Maybe she was surprised I had given up the fight so unexpectedly. Or perhaps, a part of her understood in a way that a human being would – but not what a Nigerian mother wants to – what my response implied.

When she saw I wasn’t going to say more, she turned and stalked to the kitchen. Moments later, she walked out again and headed toward her room, all the while muttering something about me shouting at her like we are mates, growing wings and all that.

We didn’t speak to each other for two days after that altercation, save for my cordial greetings. It was just as well. I wasn’t going to apologise for doing nothing other than set things straight. I may not have broken out of my closet. But at least, she knows how unapologetic I am about the LGBT community and all it represents.

However, I can’t help but hope that what happened has given me an edge for when I finally get the courage to officially come out. I also understand that my coming out would just be a formality, that she already knows. I should mention here that she has at one time read a journal of mine about homosexuality and said simply then, “You and gay. Every time, gay.”

So yeah, if I come out to her, it would not be informing her of something she doesn’t already know.

Everything is back to normal now. We gist and laugh and fight over flimsy stuff like we usually do. Just the regular mother-son bants. It’s like a hex was placed on her, as though that event was somehow scooped out of her memory banks. Or perhaps she is just one hell of an actress.

It is this that bothers me. Her denial of my reality; a state I can’t really fault her for taking on, seeing as I am yet to come out in clear terms.

And until I do, I fear she will keep hanging on to the very thin thread of hope that one day, I just might tell her the name of my girlfriend.

Written by Delle

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26 Comments

  1. KingB
    July 09, 08:38 Reply

    Typical African Mum. I knew she would definitely say something about you growing wings because you spoke up for yourself. Mine has refused speaking to me for years and we stay under the same roof. Thank God she only beefed u for two days. Good news is that soonest, I’m moving out and having my sanity.

    • Delle
      July 09, 23:56 Reply

      What!? For over two years!? Your mum!? Sorry, I can’t just reconcile this. Wow. Wow.

      Have you tried sitting her down? What sort of toxicity is that? If she really has cancelled you in her heart, you should hurry with the moving out.

      2 years!😐

  2. Mitch
    July 09, 08:51 Reply

    Welcome to Nigerian motherhood 101.
    The way they have temporary bouts of amnesia over their kids homosexuality must be something encoded in their genes.

    I have no doubt that Mom knows you’re gay. I think she believes her displeasure would make you “stop being gay”. Or at least, “desist from the act”. Whatever that bullshit means.

    However, like I pointed out to you when this shit started, you failed in one very important place. And that was entertaining Diuto’s tattling on Jed.

    We stayed with him. Never, not once, not through his entire craziness in school, did we see a reason to call his folks to ‘report’ his growing misbehaviour. No, we handled it like adults. We called him, we talked to him, we gave advice but ultimately, we let him have his freedom.

    The moment he started calling you and your mom to report Jed, I expected you to shun him the fuck back with his entitlement. There are some things one isn’t entitled to, no matter what they’ve done for another.

    Shaa, the harm’s been done. Just, don’t fail Jed again. I know the boy can be an idiot sometimes, but that’s the point of being his age. Being stupid is a part of growing up. You can’t shield him from mistakes. And you definitely can’t use someone to cloister him all in the name of protecting him.

    That said, keep claiming you have a closet. You hear? Nonsense child!
    Something that is made of made of clear glass is what you’re calling a closet. Shior!
    Ozwai!🙄🙄

    • Yazz
      July 09, 16:04 Reply

      He prolly didn’t expect Jed to go as far as outing him…
      But he shouldn’t have also discounted that possibility also
      And Jed too should have also foreseen the suspicion it would bring that his effeminate brother was friends with an homosexual…
      All in all I hope Delle actually let’s both of them know the shit they both caused..

      • Delle
        July 10, 00:02 Reply

        Effeminate brother?🤔

        As regards telling them what they caused, I doubt that’s necessary. I handled it in my own way. Of course, I didn’t expect that my closet be unrattled forever 😂

    • Delle
      July 10, 00:00 Reply

      Lol and yeah, thanks for talking sense into me concerning Diuto. I shouldn’t have indulged that.

      And can you stop poking your oil-stained finger on my CLOSET?
      Thanks and God bless 😁

  3. Mandy
    July 09, 09:30 Reply

    I feel like this was a missed opportunity. You could have seized this chance to not only actually come out, but to do it in such a way as to gently educate your mother, using yourself (her good son) as an example, on how gay people are not the demons people like her think they are. I mean, if you were too afraid to use this opportunity that came to you, do you think you’d ever really be ready to actually come out to your family? #JustAsking

    • Delle
      July 10, 00:07 Reply

      Family? Oh my siblings know.

      My dad’s late and this as well, is a reason I do not want to come out to my mum just yet because I know all that she’ll start feeling and I’m not ready for the emotional blackmail (she’s a high class bitch, trust me). As for coming out to her, oh I will. I sure will. But then wasn’t the time. I just didn’t think it was right (and fair) to dump it all on her. Also, I needed her to understand that my not castigating Diuto as she’d expected isn’t because I’m gay (which is what it would have seemed like should I have come out then) but because it’s the right thing to do.

      When I do come out to her, trust me to pen a piece for all your reading pleasure ☺

  4. demi
    July 09, 09:35 Reply

    my dear I’m sure as hell ur mom knows ya queer.. as soon as ur brother told her of chidiuto, that was her cue to spoke up about what she’s been thinking of, that u myt be gay..

    your writing was fantastic as usual & the whole drama I can see was shocking, scary and exhausting for u. we’d almost all be face with such confrontations one point or another and it terrifies d shii outta me, only grace I have is I’m in d medical field and as such have only spent 2mnths at home in d past 2yrs due to internship and service and Im hoping I get an apartment and just hide away after youth service. but all in all we are just delaying d inevitable because nothing is hidden forever.

  5. Net
    July 09, 10:12 Reply

    This was really deep and made me think of what coming out to my mum would be like… argh I don’t think I can ever do it

    • Delle
      July 10, 00:14 Reply

      We can’t keep living under such stringent conditions though. It’s suffocating 😩😩

  6. Yazz
    July 09, 10:35 Reply

    My hands were literally shaking through out this
    Wow it is well..
    But your friend and brother should be sat down and given lecture on concieving the consequences of pettiness and schemeing without foresight and ripple effects of myopic revenge.
    One shouldn’t be a moron like Cersei Lannister that doesn’t realise Clowneery comes back to bite ..

    • Delle
      July 10, 00:18 Reply

      Lol but that’s not my job description shaa😂😂

  7. Pete
    July 09, 17:31 Reply

    Delle, you see coming out is not that easy but you always want MGMs and prospective MGMs to come out to their spouses. And before una descend on me on the dynamics of the relationships, I’m only interested in how difficult it can be to come out despite being given the platform.

    • trystham
      July 09, 21:50 Reply

      Why am I not surprised. Equate fear of hatred borne out of ignorance to continued cheating AND fear of hatred borne out of ignorance. I’d choose the lesser evil, thank you

    • Delle
      July 10, 00:21 Reply

      Thanks Trystham for sparing me this headache. I wonder how the both relationships are comparable.

      Pete, if my very loud opposition to deceitful MGMs is the reason you’re always cranky when my pseudonym comes up, then you’ll be for a very long time.

  8. J
    July 09, 20:58 Reply

    That she wants to know the name of your girlfriend 😂😂😂 Tell her your girlfriend’s name is Anabelle and she’s in Antarctica.

    I think most of our parents know everything, but they are not willing to come to terms with it. It’s religion, society and their unwillingness to be open to the possibilities of life.

    • Delle
      July 10, 00:23 Reply

      Your first paragraph though 😂😂😂

      I’ve never liked that name Anabelle anyway😂

      • J
        July 10, 10:12 Reply

        LOL I bet your mom won’t like it too if she has seen Anabelle the horror movie. She would prefer you to bring home James or Simon and not Anabelle 😂

  9. Frank
    July 09, 22:27 Reply

    I wonder why I’ve never experienced this..
    When I came out to my mum, she said she already knew about it for a few years now, and she loves me same.

    • Delle
      July 10, 00:24 Reply

      Yours is a not-very-likely situation. Be glad. Not self-full.

  10. Sworld
    July 10, 15:24 Reply

    Had a ☎ from mama some days asking about my Girl friend, my throat suddenly got dry n there was an heavenly silence at both end.

    Me: what for?, what is it about her?

    mama: so that I could take the name to my prophet and pray on it, if she is yours.

    me: you are much aware of the career switch I found myself. I got a lot on my head right now. besides I had told you many time I am not getting married.

    mama: you will get married Inshallah, my mother gave birth to me, you will give birth to someone.

    me: chuckled, No problem, you will be the first to know when I have a girlfriend. call end.

    the truth is our parent are much aware of who we truly are but they live in denial.
    May God give them better understanding to accept us all.
    Amen.

    Nice one delle ✌,

  11. Willsly
    July 12, 08:56 Reply

    When I was 15, my elder female cousin, who grow up with my family, once wanted to ask me if I was gay but she didn’t know how to put the question. So she was like “Is anyone disturbing you at school”. I was a board in an all boys boarding school and it was clear that she was making reference to boys. I said “No, there wasn’t”. Because it was actually the truth. Since then she don’t ask me about it but I do notice the scrutiny in my every statement and way about when talking to her. She was even the first to notice went my soprano voice turned deeper to Bass(you know what I mean). When she comments I always remember the conversation we had that day.

    -Willsly

  12. Temi
    July 13, 03:55 Reply

    What a nice read… I’ve been having a very good laugh 🤣🤣🤣🤣
    Wow! Now I totally agree mother’s generally have this beef with their male child.

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