Love, they say, conquers all things.
I’m now sure that that’s not entirely true.
For I wonder why love hasn’t conquered all the pain that have weighed down on my life ever since I was found out. The “vampire” that I’ve known myself to be for seventeen years has been discovered, and the aftermath is that they, the “humans” are doing everything they can to eliminate me.
I stand, trembling under the rain falling in torrents to earth, blinded by my tears which that streamed down as one with heaven’s tears. My green shirt felt plastered to my body because of the wetness that I’m drenched with. I blink through my tears, through the rain, trying to see even though I am not looking. Over on my right is a billboard advertising something earthen. The words on it are bold, coloured and read: Nature is Beautiful.
“What exactly is beautiful about nature?” I wonder through my pain.
Nature who made men different and yet allowed some men to persecute others because of this difference. What is the beauty in Nature when its creations are met with such ugliness amongst mankind?
My teeth clatter because of the cold that is seeping through my skin and bones, but I know I won’t die from the cold as Death is always far from those who call on its name. I turn and continue running, and as I run, my mind also runs. Back to the origin of my pain, back to when it started…
I am Obinna, and for a long time, I lived the life of a vampire. Ever since I became aware of who I truly am, I was sentenced to live a life which when found out, would expose me to hate, ridicule and possible death.
I’d always been one of the best students in the class since I started my education. I was bright and nerdy. Learning came easily to me, and this made my parents really proud of me. I had just written my JAMB examination and I scored well over 280, the cutoff mark I needed for the course I intended to study in the university. I was waiting to write the Post UTME and then go on to study English and Literary Studies. My parents weren’t exactly thrilled by this choice of study, but my passion for the literary world was something that burned fiercely in my soul. I wanted to become the next century Wole Soyinka or even the male version of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I’d read all her books and I loved the flow of her thoughts and her line of reasoning. Like I said, my father wasn’t impressed with my decision to become a writer. He’d expected me to study engineering. He’d always been disappointed that I was artistic instead of athletic. He believed the faculty of arts was a place for girls, while real men go for engineering.
I was close to my mother, who I had started accompanying to her place of business while I waited for my exams. I was her favorite child, more so than my older sisters. She often took me into her confidence, telling me her secrets and her struggles. It seemed she forgot I was her male child, because she was so comfortable talking to me about things women could only talk about amongst themselves, like menopause and sex with her husband – my father. She talked like two best friends, instead of mother and son, and even though I felt compelled to just tell her about me, the real me, the me that I’d been hiding from everyone, I didn’t. I was afraid. I also noticed that she seemed to think I was hiding something from her, and it irritated her that I couldn’t be as open with her as she was with me.
I had a friend, Michael, who always came around to see me. He was eighteen, not as lucky with his education, and worldlier than I was, because he was out there, hustling and working like a young adult. Whenever he came around, he would bestow upon me a smile that held the secret we shared about who really were to each other.
Michael was the first boy I kissed.
Whenever he was around, his hand would find their way to mine, touching me, lingering on me like they never wanted to let go. I was so affected by his presence, that I often wondered if Mother noticed. Surely mothers could tell these things about their children.
Michael was my first love. I loved him so much, it sometimes hurt. He was very aware of how much I loved him, and he often told me he felt the same for me. We always talked on the phone, and whenever he didn’t call, I’d feel sad and restless, my despair so obvious that Mother would notice and ask me what the matter was. And when I said nothing, I would see the hurt eclipse her features. And I knew what she was thinking: how could she tell me about her life and I wouldn’t tell her about mine?
But how could I tell her that I was sad because the boy I loved hadn’t called me? I was seventeen, and even at that age, I knew that was the kind of thing a parent only expects to hear from their female child.
Mother loved Michael and often treated him warmly, like he was her own son, while Father was indifferent about him. Mother would always go out of her way to make sure Michael was comfortable whenever he came around.
Michael had come to our house that fateful evening after work on Thursday. My sisters were away in school, so I was the only child at home with my parents. Father wasn’t back from work that evening, and Mother was preparing dinner in the kitchen, dinner which she’d already asked Michael to stay behind for.
I was in the living room with Michael. We talked, all the while touching hands with each other. I wanted to kiss him so badly. And the hungry look he was giving me was evidence that he wanted to kiss me too. But we couldn’t. The movements coming from the kitchen was a constant alarm that Mother was too close for comfort. Going to my bedroom was out of the question, as it would not only make Mother suspicious to see the door shut, but would certainly cause her to walk in – and who knows what she might catch us doing?
I was looking deep into Michael’s eyes, eyes that were smiling at me. I could see the love in those dark depths. I was madly in love with this person, and in that moment, my heart twisted with the pain of why I couldn’t simply declare this love out in the open and have people understand it and welcome it. Something overwhelming came down over us, causing us to forget. We forgot for just a moment, as he leaned close to me and touched his lips to mine. He lightly kissed me, and it was like the lighting of a match, a kindling of fire that set the desert of my heart ablaze. A rush of raw desire flooded through me as I shoved my tongue into his mouth while my left hand gently wrapped itself around his head, as I urged him to kiss me harder. We kissed and we kissed and we kissed, oblivious to time and space.
Thou shalt not say the name of the Lord thy God in vain – except when you witness the “sin” of two boys kissing.
Father had just walked into the living room, and the words that exploded out of his mouth knocked shock into Michael and I, causing us to spring apart. My heart was already starting a free fall down to the pit of my stomach, as I moved away from Michael’s arms – arms that had brought me warmth and comfort just a moment ago. I looked at father, and his face was apoplectic with rage as he said the words again: “JESUS CHRIST!”
Mother came running in from the kitchen, in time to see Michael’s back, as he was already leaving. The first words Father had said after his exclamation was to shout an order at him to leave his house. As he neared the doorway, having to walk past Father, Father made to hit him, but Michael was quick, darting past him before Father’s hand could connect with his body.
Frustrated by the miss, Father turned to me, his eyes mad with rage. He covered the space between us with a few stomping steps and lashed out, his slap connecting with my face with a force that threw me to the ground and caused Mother to cry out. Before Mother could come to my rescue, he had already gotten a few kicks at me, his leg hitting my midriff with such savagery. My eyes rolled backward and I gasped for air with each kick.
Mother eventually pulled him back from me as she screamed at him to tell her what was wrong. He turned to her and told her to ask her “faggot son”. Mother gasped and staggered back, turning a stricken look to me like my father had just told her I was leprous.
As Father made to leave the room, he lifted his hand to pound my face with his fist. But then he stopped, his hand upraised but not connecting. However, the look I saw on his face was one that struck me harder than any blow he would have hit me with.
When he stomped out of the parlour, I started crying. My body was shaking and my sobs got harder as I felt Mother come close to me and gather me in her arms. She held me and I cried and cried, as waves of misery and uncertainty washed over me.
I had no idea how the night ended. I somehow ended up in my bed and didn’t sleep well. When I woke up, the little clock on the bedside table told me the time was 3 AM. The events of the previous evening flooded my mind, and with it came the feeling of unending pain and sorrow. What would happen to me now? How was I going to cope with my parents in these days before my exam and I was able to escape with admission into the university? Would I ever see Michael again? I figured I would try to be invisible to my parents and minimize my contact with them by isolating myself in my room.
But that was easier said than executed. I stayed in my room till midday, when I figured my parents had both gone out. However, when I emerged into the sitting room, it was to meet Mother. The wary relief I felt when I saw her was swiftly crushed when she looked at me and said, “Obinna, I’m ashamed of you.”
The words, so foreign coming from the woman who’d always been close to me, knocked the breath out of me.
She was stranger as she continued, “That thing is against God and nature. You can’t be a homosexual, God forbid! You’ll be delivered from whatever has possessed you, and by the time the pastor has finished with you…”
I blocked out the rest of her words as I reeled from the hurt. Mother’s words were more painful than Father’s beating. They pierced my heart and skewered everything within. Did she just tell me I was against God and nature? Wasn’t I supposed to have been made in the nature of God? I grew up to discover I didn’t like girls the way other boys liked girls, and despite everything I did to be into Sandra who lived next door the way she was into me, my heart couldn’t go along. With Michael, it had felt so much easier and so right. How could that be against God and nature?
I turned and fled back to my room. I searched for my phone and when I didn’t see it, I realized Father must have seized it to stop my communication with Michael. I was suffering in the hands of my parents and I needed to talk to someone. I must have cried myself to sleep, as the next thing I realized was my door flying open and Father standing over me. His eyes were leveling an evil look on me as his right hand lifted his leather belt.
“I will flog that homo spirit out of you,” he snarled. Before I could blink myself into proper wakefulness, he was lashing out with the belt. I screamed and he kept hitting me. He went on and on flogging me, and at some point, I fainted. I couldn’t be sure when he stopped flogging me because I was unconscious.
Eventually, when I regained consciousness, I was on the floor. I was bruised and bloodied, but the physical pain was nothing compared to the emotional wretchedness of my heart.
The next day was even worse. My parents wouldn’t respond to my greetings, and Father would occasionally mutter “fag” under his breath whenever I passed him. Because it was Saturday, my parents were home. I felt very betrayed by Mother, because she did nothing to help me with my hurt. I couldn’t leave the house as Father had made it clear that I was grounded.
In the afternoon, two men dressed in the army uniform walked into our house. I would later learn that Father had arranged for me to be taken away to be cured the “military way.” It was the worst few days of my life, the time I spent with those men in their camp. I was abused in every way imaginable, and I often sobbed as I contemplated death. When I was eventually brought back home, my parents didn’t act like they were affected by the fact that their son had been so battered. In fact, Father said that if I didn’t show any sign of change, he would send me back to them.
The pain was unbearable for me. I didn’t care to live anymore as there was nothing worth living for anymore. How could the people who were supposed to love me without condition be so cruel toward me because I was different? I remembered the teachings of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in Dear Ijeawele, where she talked about people learning that difference is nothing. That I was this different didn’t mean I was less than the human being I’ve always been.
The blaring horn from the oncoming car brings me back to the present. I had stolen the key to the main door while Mother was in the kitchen. I guess the consequence of disobeying my grounding punishment and leaving the house won’t matter, since I won’t be living to deal with it. By the time my parents will realize I’m not at home, I will be long dead.
Being dead is better than the life I am currently living. What does a bird live for if it has to spend the rest of its life in a cage instead of touring the sky? Maybe suicide is a gift. Maybe it is not bad, the way people make it seem. Suicide will be an escape from the pain I am suffering through. Maybe those who are to be blamed for suicide should be those who gave the victim no other option but to end their life. Maybe if they were a bit more loving, more caring, more understanding, one wouldn’t think of suicide as the way to go.
I touch the pocket of my wet trousers to confirm that the little bottle of pills is still there. I am going to the chapel where I’ll let Christ on the cross witness me filling my insides with these pills. Before His eyes, I will escape from my pain.
Written by Raising Ryan