I recently took a trek down memory lane, remembering those days of my past as a gay Nigerian, fresh out of my teenage years. Wait, I was eighteen or nineteen. So, scratch that ‘fresh out’ bit. And these memories awakened different reactions from me as I pondered them. A reminiscent smile. A ‘what was I thinking’ cringe. A ‘did that really happen’ incredulity.
I decided to share one particular memory because it stayed with me the longest, especially since I’d just recently read Queer Mike’s A LOT LIKE LOVE, which smacked of ‘Johnny Just Come Lagos.’
I live in Lagos, and I’d like to think that I’ve been hewn appropriately by the city’s unpredictability, unreliability and topsy-turvy way of life. But I wasn’t always Lagos-savvy. I was brought up in the East, and my earliest visits to the city were under the care and supervision of my parents. My mother would accompany me to Lagos during my holiday, drop me off at my uncle’s place and then return home to the East. And then, I’d spend the vacation either being a homebody or being shepherded through sightseeing outings by older cousins. And when my holiday was over, a cousin would put me in a bus and my parent would be at the park back home, waiting to receive me.
As is typical of this kind of sheltered upbringing, I silently rebelled. I wanted to visit Lagos, see Lagos on my own terms, and not under the stranglehold of family. But such a venture required financial means and a place to stay in the city, all of them options which I didn’t have.
Then came when I got into the university, can’t remember what year I was in at the time. I was staying off-campus, with a roommate who had – has – a like mind. We were young and hot and filled with teenage exuberance and hunger for the things of the flesh. We had an objective from the moment we started rooming together in our second year, and that was to storm Lagos some day before we graduate and simply have fun. Weave-ons scattered. Bras unhooked. Skirts let down.
That period came soon enough. I didn’t know about my roommate (who I’ll refer to as Chibuzo), but I’d been saving up for the trip. To be clear, I knew absolutely no one in Lagos besides relatives, and I wouldn’t have considered going on the trip had Chibuzo not assured me he had ample options for accommodation. Yes, we had a number of contacts in our phones – older guys who’d promised us a good time – but I was wise enough to know I didn’t need too much dependability on anyone for my welfare in what was essentially a strange city. That was why I made sure I had my fare back home, and some, stashed away in my bank account. I did not want to be strapped for cash. Any nonsense, and my plan was to get on the next available bus back to school. No long stories to be entertained.
So the day was upon us and we set out for Lagos. It was one of those East-to-West journeys that saw us trundling into Lagos at twilight. Chibuzo made the call to his friend, who gave him the directions on how to get to his address in Iyana Ipaja. By the time we got there, it was dark, but the badly lit environment did little to disguise the squalor around. Now, my family isn’t rich, but I was brought up pampered, and the sight of the mud of the bad roads sucking at the soles of my shoes, and the heap of filth dotting the uneven landscape and the state of disrepair that hung over most of the houses we walked past – they all made my skin crawl. This wasn’t the Lagos I was used to.
Eventually, we met Chibuzo’s friend. He was glad to see us, but he had a teensy weensy problem. His mother suddenly didn’t feel very comfortable with the accommodation of strangers, friend sof his or not. But hey, there was no need to panic, he hurried to assure us. He had friends around where we could put up for the duration of our trip.
So, that’s good now, right? Wrong.
For the next four hours, we traipsed the length and breadth of his neighbourhood, knocking on doors. Each occupant, himself just a lad barely past his teenage years, would receive us. Chibuzo’s friend would chat with him for awhile, and then broach the topic of ‘these my two friends who are looking for a temporary place to stay.’ The host would frown, heave a world-weary sigh, shake his head, and then very sorrowfully start his excuse with ‘You see ehn…’
With each passing minute, my mood soured. I was hungry. Tired. Grimy from the journey. I just wanted to stop walking about and rest my legs, and my shoulders that had hefting my tightly-packed school bag. I felt like crying. I was exhausted. I was silently mad at my roommate. Kai! What is this? Ah-ah! Even when no be only me waka come…
Finally, we ended up back where we started out from – Chibuzo’s friend’s place. He had to speak t his mother to let us stay for that night. Just for the night, he cajoled. Because Chibuzo had already called another friend of his who was in Shomolu, and who was okay with us shacking up with him. The mother conceded. It was a few minutes past midnight. I slept without dinner, in my clothes, squeezed inside a plastic chair. Chibuzo slept…well, I don’t know, but I sha heard him snoring from somewhere in the unlit living room.
Welcome to Lagos, a voice mocked cruelly in my head before I drifted off to sleep.
TO BE CONTINUED.
Written by Pink Panther
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