A POSSIBLE THING

A POSSIBLE THING

The house was still, in fact too still for a place usually known for noise. Folawiyo had just walked into the room—where his parents sat discussing the recent Independence anniversary celebrations and the salacious, silly rumors of the president marrying another wife—and told them that he was a homosexual. It was not the Nigerian thing to do. But it was 2019 and perhaps things like that, he thought, should start happening in families.

The newspaper in his father’s hands crackled. He yanked off his glasses. “What in the devil’s name did you say?”

Fola’s lips hung open. He had expected the first reaction from his mother—usually, in situations like this, the mother was the first to erupt—but she sat in the sofa the same way he met her when he walked into the room: legs crossed, body tilting slightly to the left, holding a glass of wine and all her prickly placidity in a delicate clasp, her white nightdress clinging to her curves.

“I am a homosexual,” Fola repeated, a little too gently, a little too slowly, as if suggesting that his father was perhaps partially deaf. “I like boys. I like boys the way Sister Dupe and Sister Tomi like boys.”

That was when the silence fell from the ceiling and landed in the middle of the room—gbah! The ticking of the clock on the wall became louder than necessary, the drumroll in Folawiyo’s chest more insistent than before. He was on a fast hurtling path, unable to stop, unable to rationalize, unable to hesitate. His father’s next reaction was a cliché—everybody had been expecting it.

“Abomination! Not under my roof! I still believe you are joking. You cannot just walk in here with something like that and expect us to take you seriously! Man-to-man? Where would you say you get it from? Who would you say you are copying? When did that start?”

Folawiyo interrupted—”Daddy, it didn’t start—” but his father was sweeping on.

“How come? Oro buruku! You know I have no time for this. Where did you even learn the demonic word from? I know it’s those stupid oyibo films your mother lets you watch. Insanity! Abomination!”

Folawiyo could have rolled his eyes; he was so used to it, rolling his eyes when his classmates talked about the differences between the shapes and sizes of vagina. He had thought that was the most boring topic to sit and discuss ever. But he was wrong. What could be more boring than the conclusion that sexuality was something passed from TV screen to body?

He turned towards his mother. “Mummy?”

“Well, I’ve always known.” She swirled her Chardonnay deliberately.

Folawiyo goggled at her. Was she kidding him? She’d left Nigeria before he slipped into the complexities of teenagehood—which was his moment of sexual epiphany—and had just come back January this year. He had never hinted about it to her, heck, his siblings—to whom he had all come out, after having them swear they wouldn’t breathe a word of it to anyone else—even said he was the straightest gay person they knew, because he didn’t want a pink bedroom wall and he didn’t twirl his fingers around while talking and he didn’t avoid neighbour-to-neighbour violence. He had wanted to laugh, though, when they said that. There were—of course—preference, individual differences, and the ugly, hulking instance of stereotyping. Succinctly put? Homosexuals don’t write it in their prosaic habits.

“You knew?” He finally found speech.

His mother sighed and straightened the hem of her nightdress over her knee. “What mother wouldn’t know? Then she has failed in her primary maternal instincts.”

Folawiyo wanted to sit down and enjoy his mother’s testimony of her distinct, sparkling motherhood. But then, you don’t walk into a room where your parents are seated, passing the weekend languorously, and tell them you are homosexual, and then sit down, ask for a splash of Chardonnay, and listen while they generously react to your revelation. Nah, you don’t. Not even in 2019.

His mother’s eyes were raised to the chandelier reigning above as she shared more of her early maternal secrets. “I knew. The way you introduced your girlfriend to us. It was just too quick. I knew something was up and it wasn’t a dick. I just knew.”

“Please, Olanike, watch what you say in front of our son!” His father had dropped his paper. He looked bewildered, so bewildered that Folawiyo wanted to walk over to him and hug him. But who does that, walk right up to their father and hug them and say, “Dad, it’s fine, we’ll be all right,” right after telling their father they are gay? Not even in 2019.

His mother threw his father an exasperated glance. “Well, I am watching what I say!”

“But, Mummy…”

“Yes, baby?”

“How exactly did you know? You left me even before I knew it is boys I like. And since you came back, I’ve not let out a clue. So…?”

She laughed, the laugh of someone who remembers the intrigue of so many years past, of holding a secret about one’s child and nursing it, year after year until it grows as tall as the child.

“You didn’t give a clue, yeah. You were the dreadfully normal male baby. You hated being held and cuddled by people, you wouldn’t even let me rub talcum on your back and neck and naked butt. You played all the rough plays in the world, you skinned your knees too many times, you were stubborn and hard. You are still stubborn and hard. There was nothing soft or delicate about you. But then I knew, from the way you played video games with your guys when they dropped by after school and on weekends, the way you ribbed one another and laughed, leaning against each other. You were just ten. But I knew. I knew from the way you sauntered past girls, a cocky smile on your face, as if you knew better than to bother with them. The way you read the incessant letters your female crushes back then sent to you, a mixture of boredom and amusement on your face. I saw all these things. I am your mother.” Her smile was slight. Her eyes held her son. “Are they still writing those hopeless letters?”

That was when Folawiyo began to laugh, a laugh that took him by the midriff and weakened his arms and made his knees buckle. A laugh that brought out all his veins. A laugh that was not afraid to come out of its closet.

His mother laughed along. “I was excited when I saw your sexuality. I was like, ‘Whoa, I have one of these rare breeds as a son, my son.’ I was shocked that I wasn’t shocked. That I wasn’t behaving normally. You know how it is, as a mother, you are supposed to freak out and recommend pastors and powerful prayer points and grow thin and breathless and curse and rave and grab your breasts and threaten. But I didn’t. I couldn’t find the energy for that. But I became extra active in bed. Your father, clueless bozo that he was, thought I was just upping my libido. I fucked him happily, strongly. I prayed for another rare breed, a girl this time, a different girl from the ones I’d had, a lesbian. But God said, ‘You greedy woman.’ And I laughed and came.”

“Oh God!” Folawiyo really needed to find a seat, the way his knees were melting. Where his father sat holding a limp paper in a limp hand, he was dumbstruck. Mothers!

She continued, “When you brought your girlfriend home in February, I was a little mystified. Wait. I think ‘disappointed’ is the word. One of those uh-oh moments. I asked myself, ‘Could it be that he was just being a teenager? Was he simply being bicurious? But sexuality is not a fucking phase!’”

“Olanike!!!”

“Pfft. Then I thought, ‘Hey, is some asshole out there bullying my baby out of his sexual orientation? Am I going to have to kill somebody, barely weeks after I’ve flown in from the States?’”

Folawiyo giggled. “Oh mum.”

“I watched the girl you brought. You were all smiles, all over her. You even kissed her right in our presence, and she clung to your hand with that god-awesome familiarity of one who had been clinging to it for a good while. I was touched, but I was not moved.”

“Oh mummy! You cynic!” Folawiyo was finally living his dream, throwing back his head and hollering with laughter after the disclosure of his sexual orientation to his parents. It was a dream that could happen after all, even in a dark country as this—a possible thing.

“Nah, do not blame your mama. I know the son I gave birth to!”

They laughed. The air conditioner was on full blast, but his father was really sweating.

“Your father believed it. I mean, a twenty-one-year-old bringing home his girlfriend. What could be more indicative of seriousness, more soul-lifting, in a world of perky, rudderless youths who still don’t know what the word ‘relationship’ means?” His mother rolled her eyes. “He believed it, but I’m no ignoramus. I didn’t believe shit. I saw the gaudy flirtations you were having with the girl. But then I checked your face for the light –”

“The light?”

“Yes. The light. You see, there’s a light that comes into our eyes when we are with someone we really want to be with. I checked my baby’s eyes and it wasn’t there. All I saw were unshed tears.”

“Oh mummy!” Tears were prickling Folawiyo’s eyes now.

“Poor girl. She probably knew there was no light, too.”

“But Mummy, I almost still can’t believe you knew! And yet you didn’t freak out? Why didn’t you freak out?”

“Why?” She sipped her wine. “Why would I freak out? I didn’t give birth to a freak.”

Folawiyo was speechless. He thought of dashing towards her, throwing his slender arms around her, burying his head in her bosom, burying his gratitude there, burying his love there. But he thought better of it; he might spill that wine on her nightdress. So, he just stood there and smiled and smiled and smiled.

“Besides, I saw more of you than a gay child. I saw the boy who completed my four births. I saw the boy who sang incoherent love songs to me as a four-year-old and the nine-year-old who cried along with me when I had my first miscarriage. I saw the child I chose to have. I saw my baby. If I freaked out, I would have failed as a parent. I am not ashamed of my son, because I know him and I raised him well.”

Folawiyo ran then. Hugged her. Many years of silence, of self-hate, of fecklessness, had collapsed. She rubbed his head.

And in a voice suddenly thickened with emotion, she asked, “But what emboldened you to come and tell me and your father about it?”

Folawiyo was tongue-tied. He didn’t know. He really didn’t know. His sexuality had always been part of him; even though he spent the first decade of his life—and a few more years—denying it, he knew it was the blood pumping from his heart, running through his veins. He had panicked at six, when his broad-chested eleven-year-old cousin came for the New Year holiday and they embraced and an unexplainable frisson ran through his own smaller body and he felt a firm, breathing pressure between his thighs. At ten, he was already crushing on his male classmates, gazing quite unselfconsciously at their pink lips and sharp jawlines and slim waists, and picturing many things in his head. He came home one afternoon and locked himself in his room to pray vigorously. In 2014, when the law was passed, he listened to his father rant and rave about sons of perdition who would burn forever in the fires that remained of Sodom and Gomorrah. He went weeks without food. He lingered after church services to see the pastor, but changed his mind when his father started noticing his delaying after church. Later, as he left secondary school and proceeded to university, his feelings lost their bizarreness. He still loathed the naturalness of his reactions to suggestive male touches, but it had become normal for him. In fact, it had become so normal for him that he sometimes sought to seek abnormal ways: like finding a girlfriend. An actual girlfriend.

“I don’t know, mum,” he replied. “I just…couldn’t breathe. Not after bringing Lola home. I felt so guilty. I felt like I was using her. I broke up with her yesterday. I think that was what emboldened me, the sweet grief of letting her go after giving her so much hope. I wanted to stop it from extending. I wanted to stop it from reoccurring in the future.”

His mother sighed and took his hand. “That was really brave of you, son, and I’m proud of you. Imagine that you had kept it on. Imagine that you had married her. And then she knew eventually.”

“She may never forgive me,” Folawiyo said quietly.

She squeezed his hand. “The fewer and earlier the broken hearts, the better.”

“Yes, mummy.”

“I hope you are no longer confused about you.”

Folawiyo smiled. “I crushed on Gun Jun Pyo for three years before I met Ade in senior secondary school and I kissed him and my Gun Jun Pyo world fell around my feet. That was when I knew this is going nowhere. We die here.”

His mother giggled at the social-media colloquialism. “You better live, son. My brilliant, creative son. This stupid world does not know yet how much it needs you.”

Folawiyo sighed. “I’m glad I have you, mum.”

“I’m gladder I have you, son.”

“Both of you are mad!” his father chose this time to explode.

“Ah-ah! Demola!” his mother admonished.

“Don’t call my name! Your son walks up to us and tells us he has feelings for boys, and both of you are giggling over it like two gossipy, teenage girls. Are you mad? In fact, it’s not even a question. You are mad!”

“Daddy!” Folawiyo said in protest.

“What are you going to do?” his mother interjected. “Disown him? What a father you are! I have been wondering what your reaction would be when you finally know. I should have called you and told you myself, but it had to be my son finding his own courage and saying his own truth!” She shook her head, a gentle, sad sway. “So, Demola, your love for your children is a condition that must be met. You can only love them as long as they remain lovable by your prejudiced standards. Well, sorry to burst your bubble, but my son can’t meet yours. He can’t, not because he will not but because he simply can’t! You will have to love him. And accept him. Heck, what’s wrong with being different? He did not grow a second head. He only falls in love differently than what you grew up imbibing. He didn’t kill anyone!”

“Our tradition—”

“Be damned! Some bunch of silly, dogmatic assholes will not sit over my son’s life and judge it through their myopic lenses! If they lived in denial and abominations, my son refuses to live as such! My baby will get all the happiness he deserves. He will!”

“Woman, don’t let me curse you! This is Nigeria, not your stupid amoral America! Don’t bring strange cultures here, especially not under MY roof!”

“Since when did white people need to tell our children how to fall in love or be attracted to someone?”

“What are you saying? What does the Bible say?”

“The Bible says what prejudiced writers said God said on this matter. God Himself came down to earth and did not say anything. Continue using Panadol for a headache that does not concern you.”

“Well, ditch what the Bible says then. I am the lord of this manor. I am your husband and lord, and I say I won’t harbour a son who walks into my face and tells me he wants to have a boyfriend!” The man clenched his fists. He turned on Folawiyo, his eyes sparkling with his rage, half-rising from his seat. “What temerity! What guts! A boy that has the same thing that you have between your legs! A boy with muscles like you! A boy that has no place where you can—”

“Oh, currirout, Demola! And sit your ignorant ass down!” The woman wagged a finger. “I’m legitimately mad at you right now. Don’t make me bring up your bachelor’s days stories. If you know, you know. You know I know. How we got these kids together is still a miracle for me. And then you keep saving those pictures on your phone, thinking nobody sees you. Don’t make me.”

Folawiyo watched his father shrink, like a patanmo leaf that had been touched. He turned an uncomprehending look to his mother.

“Mummy, what are you talking about?”

“Never mind, son. I am just reminding my husband that he is not even a saint, so he should quit the judgmental level already.”

Folawiyo smiled then. A slow smile. The smile of someone who had inadvertently shared in a juicy matrimonial secret.

“Who puts it into whom?” His father’s voice was barely above a whisper. “Who lies down? Or do you people knock things together?”

Folawiyo gaped at him.

“What does it matter?” his mother asked. “What is the detail for? The important question to ask is, is he happy? Does he feel alive? Are there any more questions in his heart?”

“Oh, I see. Olanike, you amaze me. Nobody in my lineage was ever like this. In fact, they were all chronic womanizers—”

“As you were. You have nothing to hide, Demola. Your children know these things, even if they don’t tell or show. And about your lineage not having gay people, oh you must have dipped into their sexual privacies so deep. Since when anyway did sexual orientation have anything to do with one’s heritage?”

His father looked pale, drained of all energy. “I won’t argue with you, Americanah. You seem to know what you are spewing from your mouth. But I have to ask you… don’t you want grandchildren?”

The mother smiled. “I want grandchildren, the way Dupe wanted her early painful menstrual flows to go away, fifteen years ago. She so badly wanted it, but we could not make it happen. Nature had to take its course. It may have been our duty to take our daughter’s pains away, but it was not in our capability. If my son is incapable of giving me grandkids, shall we throw him out then? Love is the greatest duty. I won’t love him less. Even if I didn’t have other children that could give me grandchildren, my son will still be my son. My own capability.” She paused and wiped her left eye. “Shall I now begin to educate you on several ways that gay couples can have children of their own flesh and blood? Demola, what do you read in these papers? This is 2019 for crying out loud.”

The father heaved a heavy sigh. His eyes fell on the bottle of Chardonnay on the table. The mother picked it up and placed it well beyond his reach.

“Now, I need to talk with my son. I want to know his new crush. It is bad enough that it took him this long to open up to us.” She turned to Folawiyo. “I want to see that you don’t make awful mistakes. It’s not too late, I hope?”

He stared at her, his Americanah mother, with her stylish poise and smooth inflections and “currirouts”, and all he felt was the crushing warmth of love.

*

October 11 was National Coming Out Day, and this is to wish everyone: Happy Coming Out Day (in arrears).

May the Closets be empty.

May Joy find You as You live Your Truth.

Live and Let Live.

Written by Blue Moon

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21 Comments

  1. Fred
    October 14, 06:58 Reply

    More ink to your pen, uncle Blue Moon

  2. BlackPope
    October 14, 08:11 Reply

    Well, I think every Nigerian observant Mom, knows too. But the prejudices and hate in the society won’t let some of these mothers accept that their child is gay.
    Do you even know my mom knows it too? She knows I’m different and many a times, when my elder brothers brings in their girlfriends to the house, she’d whisper to me “when will you join the league naa, or do you like boys???” She even said to me when my first date kept visiting, “come oh, are you sure you’re not homo?” I could vividly recall her facial expressions when she said those words in 2018. But I still live up to the fears of coming out, especially to my immediate elder brother, cause he despises every gay person on earth. In fact he’s a die hard homophobe. I’d probably live this way in my closet, till I leave the shores of this country. Trust me, once I’m out of this shithole and I’ve secured my space of not coming back, I’d so COME OUT, to every freaking single person that knows me.
    For now, I’m still that secret gay activist and I’ll keep helping everyone and anyone identify themselves as a member of the LGBTQ+ community in Nigeria
    God bless this hands. You’re amazing…

    • Blue Moon
      October 18, 00:51 Reply

      We will find the sun on the horizon.

      I believe so.

      We’ve attained the hardest level: accepting ourselves for who we are. Time will take care of the rest.

      Thank you so much for reading.

  3. Mandy
    October 14, 08:22 Reply

    Am I the only one who was here wondering what exactly it is that Folawiyo’s mother has on his father? That perhaps the father is himself a downlow gay man?
    Chai, Blue Moon, Rainbow Jesus will punish you for dropping that tantalizing bit of storyline and not expanding on it. How am I supposed to go about my day not knowing what the homophobic dad did in his past?

    PS: This mother is Da BOMB!!! Do we have any such Naija mothers in existence, overseas-living or not?

    • demi
      October 14, 09:58 Reply

      i m also dying to know what d secret was chai.. d fact d father shares my name is aggravating.. ptueh I hate homophobes

  4. Omeje X
    October 14, 10:25 Reply

    A good conversation can sort out many shit…Homophobia is a mindset…

  5. BRYAN PETERS
    October 14, 10:29 Reply

    I absolutely like the way you write. And many congratulations on your coming out. Your mum is super awesome.
    And yes, I think mothers always know.

      • BRYAN PETERS
        October 14, 14:13 Reply

        Lmaooo. 🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣
        Just checked the category and realised it. I’d have felt waaaay better if it indeed wasn’t fiction.
        #tear
        But I still love the piece all the same

        • Black Dynasty
          October 14, 20:12 Reply

          😄 i too, also hoped it was reality after i was done reading. It would have been super awesome!

    • Malik
      October 14, 13:34 Reply

      “But it was 2019 and perhaps things like that, he thought, should start happening in families.”

      Lewwwwwlllll…

      Let me continue reading.

  6. Bells
    October 14, 16:33 Reply

    Oh dear me. Welldone dear. Nice read

  7. Beau
    October 15, 11:44 Reply

    This story is just too good, literally made me.shed tears. How good it wud ave bin if parents re more acceptive like this 😔

  8. Morgan
    October 15, 19:36 Reply

    Starting this read I had to scroll down to check the category. Cos it was just too good to be true

  9. Zoar
    October 15, 22:14 Reply

    I’m not yet out to my mum but anytime something awful happens to me, she’ll say ‘Maybe God isn’t happy about some things in your life my son, you need to pray so that whatever is happening to you isn’t caused by your own sins…….I’ll keep praying for you should it come from somewhere else”

    Whenever she says those words, I’d be tempted to ask her what she meant by “…..my personal sins” but I just know that she knows exactly what she’s talking about.

    Mother’s always know no matter how they wish it away, they always know these things. It’s never a surprise to an observant Mother. Except a totally ignorant and naive woman.

    • Blue Moon
      October 18, 00:55 Reply

      Lol

      Calm down ooo. Folawiyo’s father? Who knows what that man did back in his days?

      I myself do not know ooo. Lol

      Demi, all names used here are purely coincidental, hon. 😂

  10. Uchennnna
    October 16, 22:39 Reply

    I screamed when she said “It was just too quick. I knew something was up and it wasn’t a dick”

    Lmao

  11. Tobi Andrews
    October 22, 09:12 Reply

    Weirdly my mum knew I was into boys, we had the talk some 6 years ago, as much as she was not exactly in with it, she didn’t go all judgemental with me. I think it’s one of the reasons, I never really had the crisis but you see my Dad, Mr S.A.N, he’s on his own ooh. When I’ll burst his bubbles, it won’t be funny

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