There are many ways to describe what it means to live as a closeted gay man. Troy Steadman, in a poem, speaks of it as a daily costume constantly worn. And believe me, when you are a closeted gay guy living with a religious, self-proclaimed heterosexual roommate, and you have a dramatic gay friend who seizes every opportunity to display his gayness, then it becomes even difficult to wear this daily costume.

Especially if you live in the kind of house I lived in back then as a student. It was a low-budget, portable, self-contained apartment, so small you could only leap thrice across the room from any direction before hitting your head on the wall.

My friend, M, was a crazy dude who loved to visit. I mean crazy in that spontaneous, sexual kind of way. It was M who called me one afternoon, sounding urgent. He said, “Come over please, there’s something I need to discuss with you.” And so I made the thirty-minute trip to his place, slightly worried. When I got there, M asked me if I had ever tried golden shower. He led me to his bathroom, knelt down in the tub after taking off his clothes and asked me to pee on him.

M was that queer friend afflicted by a sexual boisterousness. It would be impossible to count how many times he had grabbed my dick in public, just when he felt nobody was watching. Or to count how many times he spanked my ass, or grabbed one of my butt cheeks and held on to it in public, how many times he hurriedly kissed me in the dark-lit bars we visited, assuming nobody was watching. I was mostly embarrassed, but it was difficult to get angry at M. He would return my flushed face with a silly laugh that exposed all his teeth, and then casually reassure me that nobody was watching. And then I, remembering that this was who he actually was—an adventurous gay man who can’t be bothered— would shake my head and say, “You go put me for trouble one day.”

Little did I know, however, that that trouble was actually lurking around the corner, inching insidiously towards us with the passing of each day.

The day it eventually came was an ordinary, unassuming day. My roommate—an undergraduate student—got up early that morning and left for school. He told me he wouldn’t be done until evening. After he left, I lay in my bed pressing my phone, contemplating whether to go out or remain there all day. But soon M called just when I was deciding to go out.

“How far, is your roommate at home?” he asked, and I replied “No.”

“Alright then. Can I come over?”

“Sure,” I answered, because I felt I could use some company and some gist to brighten my day, which had been mostly a bore. M always went around with a sack of gist. He knew who was fucking whom in town. He had hilarious stories of how he cunningly flirted with his male colleagues at work and how they in turn returned the favour in that pretentious, heterosexual way, tainted inevitably with toxic-masculinity. He told stories of macho-looking, standoffish, self-proclaimed tops who visited him for a hookup only to end up going on their knees to stretch their butt cheeks open at the sight of his huge cock.

So M came over. And he took off his shirt and lay with me in bed and began his stories. But our conversation soon digressed into something else. It was probably an argument about Rhyheim Shabazz bottoming that initiated this; I don’t remember now. What I do remember is that we found ourselves scrolling through Twitter to watch gay porn, offering some well-detailed analysis in between. Before long, I got up. My dick had been throbbing under my shorts. I told M I needed to take a shower with a plausible excuse that I hadn’t had a bath that day.

My small self-contained apartment had an entrance inside that led to a corridor housing to the right, the kitchen as the first room and the bathroom as the last. When I returned from taking a shower, M told me he too needed to take a “shower”.

Of course, I and M were occasional fuck buddies. We’d had sex a good number of times and also featured together in a couple of delightful threesomes. We considered fucking each other as a professional courtesy, one necessary in dark times when finding a sexually-liberated person was a hassle, especially in such an under-civilized country as Nigeria. So as you would imagine, when M returned to the room, what he saw was me splayed out on the bed fully naked, gently stroking my dick in growing sexual agitation.

M acted immediately. He crawled into the bed and took all of my dick into his mouth and began to suck intimately, and I started to moan in pleasure.

Here’s one fact about sex: sex exists in a small, clearly-defined spectrum of pleasure. There are days when sex is terrible. In the wake of your orgasm, you suffer ingratitude and irritating regret. You realize you could have better managed your time with something more responsible like doing some laundry or taking out the trash.

Other times, sex meets the bare minimum and you’re grateful. But even then, as you float in that post-nut clarity, you’re haunted by a mild dissatisfaction. Vaguely, you feel like there were stones in certain places that were left unturned, heights that weren’t reached or explored; you’re sure it could have been better.

And then, there are days when sex is perfect; when all the constellations of stars in the sky emerge from their hiding to align flawlessly for you. On such days, you find that your libido is unwavering. It lingers on and on, waxing unshakably like the sun in the holy book that refused to set — the sun Joshua fervently prayed for to remain still so that they could fight on and emerge victors as he and his fellow soldiers battled at Gibeon.

The sex was perfect that day. I and M fucked and fucked inflamed with passion, sending ecstatic moans up in the tight air of the room. We seamlessly went from bed to floor to corridor to bathroom, and then back to bed.

Another thing about sex: the more unique it is, the more you discover things about yourself or your surroundings. And you would always remember it. Because how could I have known that the tacky burglar proof of my window that came so close to my bed was a good source of purchase for missionary? M had hung his left leg on the base and held the other leg with his right hand to allow for unrestrained access to his lovely booty hole. He remained in that position for a long time, and I kept thrusting, tilting left and right, plunging as deep as I could. I would withdraw occasionally, to appreciate the sight of his open hole twitching reflexively from the euphoric trauma of receiving a dick.

We switched to the rug on the floor, and M, who was a doggy expert with a fat ass, went on all fours invitingly. I remember taking my index finger into his wet hole to finger it a little before guiding in my dick, because I’d earlier seen it in a porn clip and it felt good.

I remember sweating profusely as I tried to fuck harder, running out of breath –

And just then, there was the abrupt knock on the door and the resultant shock; M jerking about to face me as we stared wide-eyed at each other for a brief moment, trying to come to terms with what was befalling us.

And then, my roommate’s voice called out my name from outside.

I withdrew my dick and fled to the bathroom, staggering all through the way, and realizing the mess we had perpetrated on the floor. It was almost flooded, and I tried for a moment to understand why the fuck the floor was flooded — how did all this water get here? What do I do now?

I quickly came up with a plan. I would take a shower, and hopefully to my roommate, it would look like me and my friend were about to go out. I hurriedly mopped the floor and got into the bathroom. I heard the door squeaking open and M welcoming my roommate and saying, “This una room hot oh!” I nearly went mad. Why the hell would he say that? I whispered to myself. My plan was losing its footing.

When I came out to the room, M was already dressed. The bed was made but looked hurriedly made. I hailed my roommate and he mumbled a reply, his eyes suspiciously roaming the corners of the room as I tried to maintain a straight face. I dressed up and went out with M.

“Why would you say such a thing?” I asked M on the way, as we walked by the sidewalk of the main road. It was evening already and we could see the sun dipping into the horizon, abandoning us in our sad anticlimax. “Why did you say, ‘this una room hot oh?’ Don’t you know he will find it suspicious?”

M began to laugh. I was almost furious. Of course my room was hot, but why did he have to state the obvious? Who asked him to? Why was that the only thing he could muster in such a delicate moment?

“I’m sorry. I didn’t know what to say. But I felt like I needed to say something because of the way your roommate was staring at me when he entered,” he replied.

I shook my head. My roommate was indeed intimidating. He stood about 6 foot 5, had a big head and wielded large arms. And he had that piercing look that was an unbearable sight to hold. I could imagine him walking in after being kept waiting, only to see the room distorted from the way he’d left it in the morning.

“So what will I do now?” I asked M. We had entered a quiet bar to sit and have a drink to calm our nerves.

“Don’t be scared abeg,” he said, dismissing my fear with a wave of his hand. “Unless he is gay, because there’s no way he can suspect that kind of thing.”

I pondered over it for a moment and it made sense. Why would my roommate, a straight guy, suspect me when he’d never had any cause to suspect me before?  Why would he solely imagine that it was sex that kept us from opening the door as soon as he had knocked?

When I got home that night, I saw that the bed sheets had been changed, and my heart skipped a little. The room was tidy, well arranged, not the makeshift brothel it was a few hours ago. My roommate was quiet all through that night after offering a half-hearted welcome. The next morning, just as I was heading out, he said, “We need to talk. Let’s talk when you return.”

Again, M dismissed it when I updated him. “I don’t think he suspects anything,” he said. I remember bragging to M that I didn’t care anymore, that I’d open up to my roommate if he asks if I am gay, and M laughing over the phone, calling my bluff. In truth, I returned home that night, clinging onto M’s reassurance, hoping that this arranged talk with my roommate would not involve me being gay.

Of course I was wrong.

“What was that?” my roommate inquired when I got home.

“What was what?” I replied, noticing the warm leap in my chest.

“That guy, who is he to you? That guy that came yesterday.”

“What do you mean? He is my friend na.”

“See, I’m serious here. I am not a kid,” my roommate snapped. “What were you guys doing when I came back that everywhere was messed up like that? Even the bed sheets?”

Gay or straight, marital or not, our society vulgarizes sex. We are socialized to speak about sex with the most tact, like it’s a somewhat undignified thing, glossing over the fact that it plays a fundamental role in our existence as a species. And now that I think of it, maybe it was that shame that crumbled the blocks of my resolve. All this while, my roommate and I never had a conversation about sex. And I thought that he never saw me as being sexually active, that I had never, in any way, given him a reason to believe that.

So I laughed out loud, trying to mask my guilt. “What do you think we were doing? Are you serious?”

“Like I said earlier, I’m not a kid,” my roommate retorted. “I stay in Abuja and I know what some men do with men. I have friends who come to tell me that they were toasted by men. Don’t act like you don’t know what I’m saying.”

“Why would you think I am gay,” I asked, certain that this dude had no tangible evidence to indict me.

But to my surprise, his suspicion had been a long time coming. He proceeded to give shocking revelations.

“I have seen some of your friends,” he said. “They behave like girls. Even that one that came that day acts girly. I have also stumbled on your chat with a man once. It was a romantic message.”

In that moment, I was lost for words, not knowing how to begin my defense.

“See ehn,” he continued, “if na that kain thing you dey do, If na gay you be, just tell me. I go pack my things comot. I no fit live with that kain person.” He was now speaking firmly. Furiously. I had never seen him that way before, never seen his eyebrows tightly furrowed in such conviction. I felt reduced. Alienated. Almost unsure of myself.

I remember denying that I was gay and offering some lame defense that although I advocate for equal rights for LGBTQ persons, I am in fact not gay, and my friend and I were just playing some wild play. It was a denial I would come to regret for a long time afterwards. In the early days after that incident, I would be mostly quiet, going about weighted by an internal conflict in my heart, suffering self-judgment. I was angry and bitter, and yet humbled at the same time.

I promised myself that I would come out to my roommate and counsel him on his aversion towards gay people. But days blended into months and I never brought myself to do that. Because I kept thinking: What would this so-called “god-fearing” boy do if I came out to him? Would he launch into an epileptic feat of prayer to cast and bind me? Would he call out to the neighbours to come and witness the wonder unfolding before his eyes? Would he really pack up his things and leave as he had claimed? Would he call my folks or his folks to report me? Bigotry can be volatile and one thing about standing up to it is that you are never sure of the extent to which it would go or what it would cost you.

Eventually, all that bitterness tapered into indifference and we never had that discussion.

That I have to live as a closeted gay man due to personal homophobic circumstances is very exhausting. In the same poem I mentioned earlier, Troy Steadman uses another metaphor that I find particularly sad. He refers to the closeted gay man as a bird that is grounded, and I cannot think of anything more apt for indeed there is no truer way to put it.

It is imprisoning.

Written by Alté Jay

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  1. Francis
    June 11, 14:32 Reply

    Having to share apartments/rooms with folks you’re not out to has got to be the worst…..especially when you just can’t up and leave or eject them from the housing because brokeness 😣. Na to dey hide and endure till further notice

    • Pink Panther
      June 11, 15:30 Reply

      There has got to be a special pain in such a living situation where the roommate is openly homophobic and you don’t have internalised homophobia. To just sit there and be forcing yourself to accommodate prejudiced people like that in your personal space has got to be the greatest trial a person can go through since god and Satan played tumbom-tumbom with Job’s destiny.

  2. Loki
    June 11, 14:52 Reply

    I know the feeling. Actually had such an experience with a roommate before(we were three rooming together). The one who sort of caught me kept questioning but then I simply lied my way out of it and even made him feel guilty for thinking such.

    The thing happened again though 😂. Our other roommate who was the strict homophobe was in the room with another guy while we knocked for long. When they eventually opened it I kept laughing internally, wondering what rhe odds were that two of us would be gay and one would be homophobic 😂.

    I stay on my own now, and it is refreshing but the danger isn’t gone yet. I still have neighbours who untill recently when they told me, I never knew monitored who and who came to visit me.
    Life as a Nigerian queer person is filled with diverse stages of compromises despite our decisions not to. We have to give in sometime or face the grave consequences. We might be imprisoned birds, but at least we’re not alone, now we have each other.

    • Pink Panther
      June 11, 15:32 Reply

      Wait a minute, your homophobic roommate is the one who wasted time opening the door when he was in the room with a guy? 😂😂😂😂😂😂 Wawu. Did you ever confront him with your suspicions? Did he ever slip up again? Kai. If na me, I would have turned into Detective Sherlock Holmes on him, just to have the satisfaction of shutting him up with evidence the next time he opens his mouth to spout homophobic stuff.

      • Loki
        June 11, 15:54 Reply

        Nah, never did confront him. But during a class anonymous, someone mentioned that he and the guy who was in the room with him were fucking on the lowkey. I laughed and while most people thought it was mere slander, I knew better😅.

        The guy he was with actually saw a gay notification on my phone once and all he did was call me bad guy and we laughed over it. I no fit confront anybody abeg, I want to keep my own circle small. Don’t want no homophobes.

      • Loki
        June 11, 15:58 Reply

        Omo, I never did o. Funniest part was that during a class anonymous, it was brought up that my roommate and the guy he was with in the room were fucking on the downlow. Some thought it was mere slander but then some of us also knew the truth😂😂😂.

        If he wants to keep his things under the wraps then no issue. But the homophobia is such an ick!.

  3. Adexxr
    June 11, 15:06 Reply

    “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you”.. what an hilarious story hidden with so much apt genuineness.. Life indeed they say is meant to be lived out loud. Experience is priceless. May God help us

  4. Obi wire
    June 11, 23:41 Reply

    Have experience this….. everything except for the sex part…..I never allowed any gay guys to my hostel cos I know who they are…..some even wanted me to kito a reverend father who was a lectural in the university…….I refused. Some talk about how they hate gay people……well I just laugh and walk out of the room…so one day we all gathered in my room as usual (my room is very big and we have video games so alot of guy from other flats do come to the room)…and then my room mate asked the stupid question……come why no girl don come find you for house as you fine reach…..I laughed and said so that una go put eye for her body abi….I thought it ended there, the guy living close to my room(Ceej) took it personal…..yes oo na true oo. He never carry girl come house,since that day…..things changed sometimes when am chatting and I dose off, when I wake up my phone is with my room mate who will then act or pretend to be sleeping…..So one morning Ceej asked to use my phone to make a call,he opened it and befor I knw vroom he ran off to a place I don’t knw…..he read all my chat on Whatsapp (am into girls too,so I was like if he asked any wired question I do lie to him) so when he came out he gave me the phone and since that day we have been friends….like we started doing things other flatmates would have seen as abomination,like we bath together,we argue to the extent of throwing each other kiss to settle the score…..I started sleeping in his room and he coming to my room to sleep as well….but that’s the boundaries…..I started saying to myself maybe he didn’t read the chats after all…..or could he be pretending…I don’t care I just liked the closure.

  5. Roman Liso
    July 10, 03:03 Reply

    M’s nonchalant attitude, should be the very reason you’re not living with a straight roommate, or the reason M is not your friend.
    If you cannot create a safe space, you should protect whatever space it is you have.
    Secondly, don’t have sex with another man in a shared apartment if the housemate isn’t a part of the LGBT community, allies are not included because they’ll turn on you when the opportunity presents itself.

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