I am a part of a health research program, one that requires my presence twice every year. It’s pretty routine process. I go to the hospital. They draw some blood and collect a few other samples. The Head Nurse asks me some questions on personal health, sex and emotional well-being – the same questions every visit. Then I go see a doctor who takes me through some locomotion tests. Thereafter, I’m given breakfast, paid and it’s bye-bye till my next appointment.
I’ve been part of the research for three years, and in that time, I have developed a friendship with the Head Nurse. She’s this maternal woman with a sunny disposition and a ready word of advice and encouragement for every situation. Our friendship sparked off after two visits when she asked me, as part of the questionnaire, my marital status and I answered single. Coming again the following year – and third appointment – to answer ‘single’ to that question must’ve worried her, because she took it upon herself to steer me toward a marital state of mind, especially since I’d been presenting myself via my answers as a heterosexual. And trust me, the questionnaire leaves room for any way you want to swing.
Here’s an instance…
Her: How many sexual partners have you had in the last six months?
Her: Male of female?
Her: What kind of sex was it – vaginal, anal or oral?
Me: (puking a little in my mouth before responding) Vaginal.
See? I was the consummate single straight man, just ripe for marriage, in the eyes of my nurse friend.
We began chatting in between questions-and-answers, with her extolling the virtues of marriage, from how a wife would fatten me up with the good food she’d be preparing for me to the joy of having steady companionship. She’d talk and talk, and I’d laugh a lot, because I was sticking my charade to just the lies I had to tell for the questionnaire; I wasn’t about to give the charade a firmer foundation by giving a possible relationship with a woman any further validity. So our conversations about marriage comprised mainly of a lot of talking from her and a lot of smiling and nodding from me. This woman was basically piling on the marital pressure that my family had wisely stayed away from heaping on me.
By the fifth visit and third year, she nearly became apoplectic with shock when she asked my marital status and I said “single” again. Then she asked me if I had a girlfriend and I said no.
That was it! My nurse friend wasn’t going to have it. What was I playing at? How could I just be having meaningless sex without settling down? How could I, fine fresh young man like me, not be making plans to settle down already? It couldn’t be the fault of Lagos women – after all, she was positive they aren’t blind. Or did I not want to marry a Lagosian? Ah – that was it! I didn’t want to marry a Lagosian, abi? Okay! No problem! She would start looking into eligible women from the East from good families who’d suit my taste.
And just like that, in my very before, my nurse friend had gradually morphed into the most horrible creation ever known to man – a matchmaker! By the next appointment, she’d have a list of possible good women I can pick from, she assured me.
All this I still found very amusing. She is a very delightful woman, a characteristic of hers that made her pushiness tolerable. I recalled an aunt of mine who called me one day to talk about marriage and the nasty retort from me that silenced her FOREVER, and I shook my head bemusedly at how much of this shit I was taking from this woman I only saw twice a year.
My next visit – and most recent – appointment happened by. And I went to the hospital. The routine was, as usual, quick and breezy – from the laboratory to the breakfast room (the nurse was occupied, so I was told to go and eat while I wait for her to finish up). Eventually, I was seated in the office with her. I remembered what she told me the last visit and because I wasn’t ready to deal with whatever list of brides she had, when she asked me the marital status question, I said “single, but no longer searching.” She paused and looked up at me, beaming. You could almost see her envisioning herself at my wedding party, gyrating to the glory of the Lord who made this day happen.
By the way, during our session, I was chatting on WhatsApp with a close friend of mine. Nothing serious, we were just disseminating some piece of gossip that couldn’t wait. So I was distracted, doing the multitasking job of chatting and answering her questions at the same time. She didn’t seem to mind, so I didn’t feel self conscious enough to focus solely on her.
And because of my distraction, I wasn’t as conscious of my thought processes as I usually am during these sessions. My responses to her were automatic; like, I didn’t have to think about them.
Her: Have you ever been diagnosed with tuberculosis before?
Her: Have you ever been paid to engage in any sexual activities in the past six months?
Her: Have you engaged in any sexual activities since you were last here?
Her: How many sexual partners have you had in the past six months?
Her: Male or female?
There was a microsecond of shock that instantly jolted the two of us out of what had basically become a humdrum back-and-forth. The moment I heard that answer leave my mouth, I froze. She froze. I looked up from the WhatsApp chatroom on my phone as she looked up from the spreadsheet on her desk. Our eyes locked and held, the weight of my answer hanging heavy between us.
Male or female?
She gave a small nervous laughter and turned back to her spreadsheet to repeat the question, as though she wanted to give me another chance to rewrite this very short history. As she repeated the question, I considered the next few seconds of my life, and what it meant that I’d just blurted out my actual sexuality to this woman.
Her: What sexual partner have you had in the past six months – male or female?
She looked up at me. I stared at her, my gaze now very deliberate as I opened my mouth and repeated, “Male.”
Something dimmed in her eyes and she gave a small cough. I continued looking at her, my countenance very calm, as I waited, just waited. She recovered fast and swiftly moved on to the next question. This time, I dropped my phone, settled back on my seat and gave her my full attention.
Her: What kind of sex was it – vagi – oh, um…anal or oral?
Her: Were you the receiver or the giver?
Me: The receiver.
Clearly, we had veered off into unfamiliar territory of the questionnaire – the questions for the homosexual.
There was another question she asked, which was so startlingly specific (I forget the question now). I hadn’t seen it coming, and so, I found myself fumbling for an answer. Not because I didn’t know what to say, but because I didn’t expect to have to say it to her. As I muttered my answer, she got this knowing look in her eyes, and a small smug smile turned up her lips as she said in a low tone, “Oh okay. I understand now. I’m sure this will pass.”
And it quickly dawned on me what she must be thinking: that the reason I was flustered by her question was because I probably didn’t know what I was doing, having sex with a man, and that this was just a phase and will pass. And then I can get back to marrying a good woman. I almost laughed out loud at this realization, but I didn’t bother correcting her conviction.
By the time we got to the end of the session, she was back to being bubbly and full of words, her professional fortitude intact. As we said our goodbyes and I stepped out of her office, I almost began looking forward to my next appointment in six months, when I will return to that office and she’d ask, “What sexual partner have you had in the past six months – male or female?” And the look on her face when I answer, “Male.”
Written by Pink Panther