FROM RAINBOW TO NOTHING

FROM RAINBOW TO NOTHING

It had rained earlier and the concrete is cold and slippery as I climb over the bridge and stood on the tiny ledge. A vicious wind blows at me, as if it is against my decision.

But my mind is made up. It is time.

“Fine boy, wetin you wan do?” a woman’s voice rings out in consternation.

I turn to look at her, my smile sad and unseen in the gathering dusk.

Then, from a music vendor somewhere below, the familiar song begins to play. This song had dogged my every step. It was there at the beginning and obviously wants to be present at the end as well. Rema’s youthful voice is belting out the lyrics of Rainbow. As I listen, fresh tears begin leaking from my eyes.

“Fine boy, abeg no do, come down,” the woman is now begging.

But I am not listening. The song is pulling me down memory lane. It is reminding me of love lost, of identity shredded, of dignity ripped apart. Faces are flashing past my mind’s eye. The song is reminding me of the reason I am standing on the ledge of the Mile One fly-over bridge, overlooking the streets of Port Harcourt on this cold Thursday evening.

*

My name is Dubem Okoro, and I am the third child and first son of Chief Nwafor Okoro, a Port Harcourt businessman. My siblings and I had a great life. Growing up, we had everything we ever wanted from parents who doted on us. I was a good boy. To my two younger brothers, I was a great role model. My mother loved me the most, always showing her pride in me as her perfect son.

But I knew I was far from perfect, because I am gay.

It was my secret, something that grew bigger the older I got, and something no one else knew. It was something I was prepared to take to my grave, because of how much I could see everyone around me hated it.

After secondary school, I wanted to attend a university far away from home, a place where I could be who I am without fear. My mother objected. She didn’t want her first son to mature into an adult far from her care and attention. And because I was the perfect son, I accepted her decision and applied to study Mass Communication at the Rivers State University.

Maybe if I had stood my ground, if I had defied my mother’s wishes, I wouldn’t have been here.

Maybe.

***

On that Tuesday morning in my first year, I was in the lecture room with my coursemates, waiting for a lecturer who it was increasingly becoming clear wouldn’t show up, when my friend and coursemate, Gladys, walked over to me.

“Dubem, meet my cousin, Tari,” she said as she gestured to the good-looking guy who was by her side. “Tari, meet Dubem.”

Tari flashed a smile at me. It was the most breathtaking thing I’d ever seen. My heart caught at the sight of his smile.

“So you are the Dubem who Gladys just won’t stop yapping about,” he said to me.

Gladys whacked him with her purse, causing him to grin even harder. We shook hands and I fell for him.

He had the pink lips that begged to be kissed. And he wore glasses which made him look mischievous. He was light-skinned and tall. And he had that beautiful smile.

Tari and I soon became fast friends. We talked, we fought, we argued, we played, we danced, we sang – we were practically inseparable, only not seen in each other’s company when we were in our separate classes. We were so close, we were nicknamed “Ego” and “Moi-moi” by all who knew us.

But Tari was straight and very much into girls. He had a new girl every month while I fell deeper in love with him. I never came out to tell him my feelings; I was afraid of how he would react. However close we’d become, I didn’t trust that he wouldn’t turn on me. So I kept quiet about how I truly felt about him.

We carried on being friends from Year One to Year Two to our current Year Three. I still had my perfect record in school: I was among the top three in my year, I was course rep, and I was known as a loyal friend.

***

I had friends, lots of gay friends. I had those who wanted me, but I couldn’t date any of them because I simply couldn’t get over Tari.

So, on the twenty-first of February (I remember the date because it was the day I made the move that started to change my life), I sent Tari a message, telling him how I felt about him. I would never know where I got the courage from, but I poured out my heart to him in that WhatsApp text.

Then breathlessly, I waited.

He read the message. I saw that he’d read it. But he didn’t respond. I was petrified. I tortured myself with questions as to what that meant.

However, thirty-five minutes later, Tari was at the door of my off-campus room. He knocked and I opened. We looked into each other’s eyes. Mine were filled with fear and his told me nothing.

“May I come in?” he asked with a slight smile.

“Oh yes… Of course…I mean… didn’t mean to just stand there in your way…” I was flustered as I made way for him to step inside.

I shut the door. He walked about the room, seeming to search for what he wanted to say to me. Some silence stayed between us in what appeared to be an eternity of moments.

Then he turned to me and said, “Let’s go swimming.”

I gaped at him.

“S-swimming?” I choked out. Was he going to kito me at the pool? I wondered.

“Yes, swimming. You know, at the pool,” he said with a chuckle.

“You know I can’t swim very well,” I said.

“Don’t worry, you’ll be fine,” he said reassuringly.

His smile was still in place, and I was still unsure what this all meant. But minutes later, we were on our way to the Heart Ford Hotel to swim. I was very pensive on the way, my mind churning over all the ways things were about to go very wrong between Tari and I. I was now positive that I’d made a mistake telling him how I felt.

I didn’t know my hands were shaking until Tari laced the fingers of his right hand with mine.

“Relax, Dubem,” he said. “It’s okay.”

I slowly expelled a long breath, slowly relaxing, simply because of the comfort of his hand holding mine.

We got to the hotel, paid the swimming fee, changed and got into the pool. It was fairly crowded and music was blasting from speakers. Tari swam laps while I watched, confused by his actions. Then he swam up to me, took my hand and led me to the middle of the pool where the actual crowd was. There was that familiar twinkle of mischief in his eyes.

“Take a deep breath,” he said. “We’re going to go under water for a bit.”

I nodded. He dipped his head under and I followed suit. Even under water, he was very amazing. We locked eyes again, and then he leaned over and kissed me.

I was stunned, and before I’d recovered well enough to kiss him back, he broke it, flashed me a smile and swam up to the surface. I did the same and above the water, I found those lovely eyes glinting at me.

“You see?” he said. “It’s alright.”

That was when I heard the song.

“Well yeah right

Hop into my car, come on, let’s ride

Rainbow in your eyes when you just smile

No, no, I never wanna see you cry

I know many, many times I lied…”

The lyrical styling of Rema as he sang his song, Rainbow, throbbed through the air around me.

It felt magical. I was in heaven, and I saw rainbows as Tari smiled at me. He’d said it was alright.

***

Rainbow soon became my favorite song. Those weeks with Tari as my boyfriend were the best weeks of my life. We were used to doing things together, but now, there was a certain electricity in the air each time we met.

I can remember the first time we made love, the way he moaned my name as I drove myself into him, the way he kissed me when he entered me. I remember the touching, the hugging, the kissing, the sucking, the caresses – everything was amazing. We were amazing.

I remember telling him I loved him then. He didn’t say he loved me too; he only smiled and kissed me. I didn’t let that get to me. After all, this was all new to him. I didn’t know if he was gay now or just bi. I didn’t care. He needed time and I was willing to wait.

But I wouldn’t have to wait for long, before Tari finally let me know how he felt.

The three weeks of pure magic between us came to a stop when we were taking a stroll one starry evening. The breeze was light, and its cool rush lent a magical touch to the night. The smile on my face was a reflection of my joy. All was well, until…

“Dubem,” Tari said softly.

“Hmm?”

“You are amazing.”

I felt warmth suffuse my face at this.

“You are simply the best, Dubem.”

I turned to him, suddenly feeling a quickening in my heart. Was he about to tell me he loved me too?

That quickening faltered when I caught the sadness in his eyes as we walked past a streetlight. I began to get a sinking feeling in my stomach.

“Dubem, I can’t do this anymore,” he finally said.

No, no, no, Tari!

He was talking fast now. “Dubem, I’m so sorry. When you told me you were in love with me, I was surprised. I’d guessed all along that you are gay, but it still shocked me when you said you were in love with me. I wasn’t prepared for that –”

“Tari, please don’t do this,” I interrupted in a whisper, as I felt the sting of tears in my eyes. “We love each other –”

“I love you, Dubem, but as a friend.”

“But you kissed me… You made love to me…”

“I know. I was curious. For these past few weeks, I’ve been curious. I wanted to experience the feeling of being with a guy. I was just messing around, Dubem.”

My heart was splintering, breaking, shattering behind the sturdy cage of my ribs. He was just messing around? So, all this has been a fun, little experiment for him all this time?

“Dubem, it was amazing… The sex, everything… But I’m not gay. I-I’m straight.”

“I don’t believe you!” I said accusingly, my voice cracking from the wretchedness I was feeling.

“You don’t have to believe me,” he snapped. He took a step back from me.

No, no, no, Tari!

Just then, from across the street, a group of teenagers suddenly broke out into a dance and sing-along with the strident beat coming from the loudspeaker of someone’s phone in their midst. The song was Rainbow.

My tears were falling freely now.

“Tari…” I choked out and reached for his arm.

But he took another step back.

“Please don’t go when we still very young, when still very young, still very

Yeah please don’t go when we still very young, still very young

“When we still very young…”

I stared at Tari through my tear-filled eyes, silently begging, frantic in my pleading.

“I’m sorry, Dubem,” he said, before he turned and began walking away.

And I stood there in the middle of the street, quietly crying as my heart broke to the sound of Rainbow.

***

Tari broke up with me on Saturday night. I cried all through the night when I got back to my room. The questions tortured me. Why did this have to happen to me? Why did Tari have to doubt his sexuality? Why couldn’t he love me?

It was in the early hours of Sunday morning that I was finally able to fall into a restless sleep.

When I woke up, it was to find my phone ringing. It was my father.

“Dubem,” he said in a severe voice when I picked the call, “I want you to be at the house by 11 o’clock this morning.” And then, he disconnected.

Something was wrong. This was not at all like my father. Something had to be wrong. But I didn’t give it much thought. I was still in turmoil over my breakup from Tari.

I got to my parents’ house a little past 11. It turned out to be a family meeting. My parents, two older sisters and two younger brothers got settled in the living room soon after I arrived. I began to feel some trepidation, especially as no one had anything warm and welcoming to say to me.

“Dubem, a person who calls himself Ade called me last night,” my father began, a stony expression on his face. “And he told me some things about you.”

Ade! Oh my God!

My heart stopped beating and began a free fall into the pit of my stomach.

Ade was someone I met on Grindr two months ago. We’d had a disagreement because he wouldn’t kiss me or give me a blow job, but expected me to service him and then spread my legs for him to fuck me. I resented that and we argued over it. We ended up not having sex and I left his place angrily. The next day, I began receiving messages from him, demanding some amount of money or he would out me. I had the money he’d asked for, but it was clear from the part of his text that read “I know you’re Chief Nwafor Okoro’s son” that he was blackmailing me because of my affluent background. I didn’t even respond to his messages. I simply blocked him. Then Tari and I started dating, and I forgot all about him.

However, it would seem Ade hadn’t forgotten about me.

“Dubem!” my father’s voice jarred me back to the present. “Are you a homosexual?”

I was speechless. My brain seemed to shut down. I sat there, staring at him in horror.

“Answer me!” he bellowed.

But I couldn’t. I didn’t have the words to say. I was frozen. It suddenly began to feel like the walls of the living room were closing in on me, slowly ridding my space of air. I needed to breathe.

I didn’t know when my father got to me, but I felt his slap hard on my cheek, and the force of the blow threw me to the floor. It was followed by more slaps, punches, kicks. At some point, he whipped out his belt and began lashing at me with it, while kicking me as well. His fury appeared to intensify because I wasn’t fighting back or trying to get away from him. I simply lay there, not fighting or struggling, curled up with misery and shame.

Eventually, my sisters were able to get in between him and me. There were loud protests as they pushed him off while trying to get me to my feet.

“Leave my house!” my father thundered at me. “You are a disgrace and no son of mine!”

My sisters struggled to get me up and out of the living room. I was shaking, bruised and bleeding. I looked in my mother’s direction, the woman who often took pride in me being her perfect son. But my sweet mother returned my look with a glare that was so icy, it felt like shards shooting at my heart.

The last persons I looked at before I was led out of the room were my two younger brothers. They gazed back at me in confusion and pity, but didn’t say a word.

And soon, I was gone out of the place I called home.

***

In spite of myself, I made my way to lectures the next day, mainly because of a compulsory test my class had. My head was down as I moved. When I got to my faculty, I noticed the stares and whispers. I noticed most of my friends were avoiding me.

I soon discovered why.

Plastered on a notice board was a poster with my face boldly printed on it, under the headline “Homosexual”.

I was in shock. Ade had not only outed me to my family, he had outed me to the entire world. What sort of monster was he to go this far?

Gladys quickly made her way to me.

“Is it true? Dubem, are you gay?” She was staring at me with eyes that were both miserable and accusing. Gladys had had a longstanding crush on me, since our Year One. She’d introduced me to her cousin, Tari, hoping that our friendship would serve as an avenue to make things easier for me to get to like her the way she liked me. That never happened, but she never gave up hope.

Now, she had. Her hopes were dying as she glared at me. “Tell me, you bastard!” she hissed at me. “Are you gay?”

I stared at her, whatever words I wanted to say stuck in my throat. Everyone was looking at me, waiting for my answer. Bitter tears stung my eyes. I turned from her to leave, but I was stopped by four hefty guys who were all glowering at me like I was scum of the earth.

“So you be faggot?” one of them asked me.

I recognised them. They walked about campus with the braggadocio of bad boys. I didn’t answer and tried to walk past them, but one of them snatched at my shirt, pulled me back. And then, the beating started.

No one came to my rescue. No one interfered with the assault. No one questioned or stopped them. Instead, these fellow students brought out their phones to video my humiliation. Some of these people were gay too, some of them who I know and who knew me. But today, they were strangers.

I was beaten thoroughly and nearly stripped naked along with my dignity. When the boys had spent their homophobic angst, they spat on me and walked away. No one assisted me as I staggered to my feet. No one remembered that I was Dubem Okoro, the best 300 Level student in my class, the course rep of the year, and good friend to many.

They simply watched me with expressions that ranged from disdain to detachment.

When I got back to my lodge, I shut myself inside my room and stayed indoors. The internet was soon alive with the trending video of my assault. I deactivated my social media after I began getting mentions everywhere where the video was getting viewed. Throughout that Monday, no one came to see me. No one called me to ask if I was okay.

On Tuesday, I called Tari. I needed someone to talk to, a shoulder to cry on. I didn’t care if he was no longer my boyfriend; I just needed my friend.

I called, but Tari never answered. At a point, my calls stopped connecting as the robotic female voice on the other end told me that his number was switched off.

I felt alone. I felt dejected. I was bruised and afraid. I needed someone, anyone. But no one came; none of my friends, both straight and gay, and certainly not any from my church where I was a very active brother. I had become an outcast, abominated by who I was.

I finally emerged from my room on Thursday evening. It had rained earlier and the cold in the air was exactly how I felt inside. As I left the lodge, I could feel the stares of people around me. They didn’t lower their voices. Some hissed loudly and their voices carried as they called me a waste. In a bus, a woman recognised me and quickly drew her young son closer to her, while making the sign of the cross.

I was pained. Hurt coiled tightly inside me.

But I was getting past it, because I had finally made my decision.

*

And so here I am, standing on the ledge of the bridge, listening to Rema’s Rainbow again; fresh tears are dribbling from my eyes as I return to the present.

A crowd has gathered around and behind me, and I know their phones are out, that in spite of the poor light of the evening, these people will be more concerned with capturing what I’m about to do than trying to save my life.

I close my eyes as Rema’s song draws to a close.

“Where my chain go tell me where my lady go

Where my baby go, tell me where my lady go eh…”

My rainbow is gone, faded away as rainbows do. All I have left is darkness. Tari’s face is the last image in my head as I take a step and drop into nothing.

I hear loud screams. I hear horns blaring. Then I feel pain slam into me, excruciating pain that lasts for a moment, and then there is merciful darkness.

Written by Loki

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24 Comments

  1. Zoar
    June 22, 06:44 Reply

    I hope this is a fiction?

  2. Jake
    June 22, 07:22 Reply

    What, I hope this isn’t real please. It’s too painful to be real. Whattt? I actually shed a tear, cos this is reality for most of us. Being outed by someone is the worst thing you can ever do to a soul. Mehn, I hope Ade Rots in Hell and burn to Ashes!

  3. GAE
    June 22, 08:13 Reply

    No one deserves this kind of pain! 😭😭😭

  4. Mitch
    June 22, 08:33 Reply

    So, just because y’all didn’t have sex, a bastard decides to ruin your life? And you decide to end it?

    Oga, if death is what would give you peace, no problem.

    But, before killing yourself, go to that motherfucker’s house – you already seem to know the place as y’all hooked up there – with a knife or a gun and kill him slowly.

    Slowly and painfully!
    Lop off one finger every hour and burn the wound closed. When his fingers are done, move to his toes. Then the ears. Then his fucking penis. Then his lips.
    Let his final hours/days of life be full of misery.

    Then, you can go kill yourself.
    This victim mentality of ours needs to stop. If people want to be inhuman, let’s give back to them as bad as they’ve given to us. Not roll over and swallow all their shit and weep na ndi mmadu emegbuola anyi.
    It is nonsense!

  5. Pezaro
    June 22, 08:44 Reply

    “But I knew I was far from perfect, because I am gay” really? The entire IH in that line. It hurts to see queer people share the opinion that they’re a flawed specimen because of their sexuality.

    • Pink Panther
      June 22, 09:24 Reply

      But at some level or another, before some of us came to full pride, some gay people thought like this, that they’re not perfect because they’re gay. Especially when they’re still growing into who they are.

      • Pezaro
        June 22, 13:26 Reply

        Perhaps we could scratch that “knew” and put “thought” instead.

        • Pink Panther
          June 22, 17:05 Reply

          So that the language is that he “thought” he was not perfect?
          How can it be a thought and not a knowing if that’s his reality? I don’t know if you went through a phase of self doubt and self condemnation before you became the self accepting gay man you are, but there’s a reason why internalized homophobia exists. It’s that stage when a person BELIEVES that his sexuality is wrong. And it is a perfectly normal stage in a person’s journey to self acceptance. Do not use your own experience to dismiss someone else’s growth. As long as internalized homophobia is not weaponized against other members of the gay community, the reaction to those who go through it should not be impatience but empathy.

  6. Xed
    June 22, 10:45 Reply

    OMG this really touched me, feel so terribly sad about this write up, I have noticed how some gay guys can be so vengeful cause they didn’t get what they want, one almost outed me to my mother because I wasn’t interested, I didn’t even want to touch this guy and since then I swore to be very careful, it’s sad that some gay folks would want to bring their fellow gay down just to get revenge. When in truth we should be working together. Sad story.

  7. Manie
    June 22, 12:42 Reply

    😭😭😭…this is too much for one person.. wtf

  8. KingB
    June 22, 18:21 Reply

    Good Lord. PortHacourt boys and homophobia . Horrofic lots.

  9. Flexsterous
    June 22, 18:32 Reply

    Thank God this is fiction, I didn’t want my evening ruined, plus living in ph, I was wondering why I’d never heard of this, phewwwwww.

  10. Emerald
    June 23, 00:49 Reply

    Cried all through😭😭😭 Too soppy. I was almost believing this was factual until the end.

  11. Keeva
    June 23, 06:29 Reply

    Such acts as beating up someone in public because of their sexuality still remains a mystery to me.

    And on everything I believe in, suicide can’t be as fulfilling when the human being who led me to the edge still lives and breathes.

  12. Jason
    June 23, 08:16 Reply

    This brings back memories and a painful one. Work of fiction or not, I do hope he is fine. The chaos doesn’t last, life never returns to normal but I can tell you it gets better with every passing day.

  13. Tman
    June 23, 10:33 Reply

    Mannn! This easily passes as the saddest piece I’ve read in a while. The sharp transition from a life of bliss and satisfaction to one of pain and misery is striking. I was totally lost in my mind as I battled to come to grips with the harsh reality of what our existence means to some people.

    Even though I know this is fiction, I’m still touched; deeply. Loki, you did a great job with the plot and all. PP thank you too.

    • Loki
      June 23, 11:11 Reply

      Tnks man, though i worked wit d plot a bit, it was inspired by someone who i hope is happy wherever he is😢😢😢

  14. Saucebutton
    June 23, 12:08 Reply

    This is a sad and insightful read.
    At a point in my life I thought bieng gay was the only thing that left me short of bieng perfect. How wrong I was. This blog helped my journey to self acceptance.

    • Loki
      June 23, 12:22 Reply

      Same here, but for this blog and a friend of mine, i guess dis might hav been my story, nt fiction. Only i wouldn’t av been alive to tell it

  15. Net
    June 23, 14:49 Reply

    Wow this story made me cry. No one deserves this kind of pain. No one!

  16. Jinchuriki
    June 24, 09:01 Reply

    I kept praying so hard in my head it’s fiction. Jesus. I cried.
    This is very well written and I hope people out for vengeance get to learn how disastrous an outing can be. Thank you for writing this, Loki

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