HERE IS WHERE MY STORY BEGINS (Episode 2)

HERE IS WHERE MY STORY BEGINS (Episode 2)

Previously on Here Is Where My Story Begins

*

He booked an uber to take us to the 5-star hotel he was staying at in Ikeja, to get ready for the party. When we got to his room, he asked me to join him in the shower. I mean, it’d been clear all this time that he wanted us to have sex, from how he’d casually hold my hand and press his fingers into my palms to the seductive glances he gave me while we were at the mall. I knew a shower together would lead to some heavy fucking, and I told him it’d mean we would probably miss the party. So maybe we should keep the intimacy for another time. He agreed and went ahead to shave and have his bath, while I sat on the bed, updating my friend on the latest.

Minutes went by and he was finally ready. He beckoned on me for us to be on our way, and for the first time since he went in to shower, I had a good look at him. I almost didn’t recognize the man I met in the morning. He was dressed in agbada with embroidery, and his clean-shaven face took years off his age. He looked very dashing, and I couldn’t help but stare, to the point he noticed and started laughing. He told me he’d deliberately dressed as shabbily as he did for our date to see how I would react.

As we stepped out of the room and headed for the elevator, I made a joke about something and he laughed. In doing so, he reached out his arms and pulled me to his side, with one of the hands resting on my waist. I was so startled by the blatant show of affection that I instinctively recoiled, attempting to pull myself away from him. But he tightened his grip on my body. I darted a panicked look around. Holding hands at the mall was one thing; but holding my body this close to his was a whole other thing. I told him we were in public and he chuckled, brushing my protest aside by saying I shouldn’t worry. That here, everyone minds their business, and besides, he had witnessed more displays of affection like this here countless times.

I couldn’t believe it. There was a place in Nigeria where people mind their business when they see homosexual couples canoodling?!

He was right though. When the lift deposited us in the lobby, he still had his arm around me, and out of the traffic of hotel staff and lodgers milling around, no one did a double take or batted an eyelid. It felt so surreal.

At the reception desk, as he checked his key in with the receptionist, we carried on with a conversation where he kept using words of endearment on me, and the receptionist didn’t react in any way that showed she thought this was outrageous. With how unflappable she stayed throughout our interaction at the desk, it was evident she was used to this behavior from the hotel’s guests.

We proceeded to the parking lot where a car he got from the rental service was waiting for us. We got in and he turned the ignition. Soon, we were pulling out of the hotel’s premises and on our way to his event. We made small talk as he drove, and because there was minimal traffic, we got to our destination in time. We left the main road and veered into a private neighborhood that looked both stately and not fully occupied. Most of the houses were colonial styled and stood in large compounds with flowers and tree-lined driveways that we could see through the short fences. A few more had the more modern outlook but with gothic structures. While some of the compounds had well-tended lawns, others looked overgrown with weeds, signs that the houses hadn’t had occupants in a while. As I stared in slight awe of my new surroundings, he told me that these houses belonged to Lagosians who are from Old Money, and the premises that looked deserted belonged to those who lived abroad and only visited Nigeria during the odd holiday or festive season.

The compound we pulled into was, like the others, large with a Victorian mansion, before which were parked a number of exotic vehicles. It was at this point that I began to feel uneasy, even though I strived not to let it show. We parked and then he turned to me and told me that no phones are allowed inside the house.

“Why?” I asked.

“A lot of important people will be in there, and their privacy is very important to them,” he said.

The feeling of uneasiness began to increase, and this time, he sensed it and told me to relax. I told him I couldn’t. I wasn’t trying to sound superstitious – but omo, na Naija we dey. What if this event turns out to be a rituals sort of situation? I had recently watched the remake of Living in Bondage and all the underworld visuals of the film were crashing down on me, making me acutely aware of how uncomfortable this situation was.

I’d gotten really edgy at this point, and he let out a long laughter, saying he didn’t think I was the superstitious type.

“My brand of superstition is selective,” I retorted.

“Calm down,” he said with a genial smile. “Nothing sinister is going on, I promise you.”

I took some deep calming breaths, and then told him to give me a few minutes. He said okay and proceeded to get down from the car. While his attention was away from me, I got out my phone and swiftly sent my geo location to my friend. I also forwarded to him the pictures of my date, details of where he works and his faculty, his phone numbers and some of our chats. I finished by telling him that if he doesn’t hear from me in about two hours, he should reach out to my folks. I trusted him to know what to say, since we had practiced scenarios like this several times in the past.

Then I turned off my phone, left it in the car and got down. I joined him in the short walk to the building, all the while surveying my environment, trying to commit every nook and cranny to memory.

Then we entered the house, and I was greeted with the first shock of that evening.

For all its stateliness, the outward appearance of the house did not prepare me for the richness of its interior. The gold decors, the lavish furniture, the breathtaking paintings and other vintage objects – all of this making a statement of the affluence of whoever owned this house.

While I was admiring the house, I heard a voice call out my man’s name, welcoming him to the party. I turned to look at the person and froze.

I recognized him from TV and online news reports.

What was a lawmaker doing here, at this party?

My shock grew as I noticed that the ensuing interaction between him and my date was steeped in queer culture. The slangs, the feminine pronouns, the gestures… I was so astonished that I didn’t even know when the man turned to me and greeted me. My man had to nudge me to bring me back to earth for me to greet him back.

What was going on here?!

And then I looked around, taking in my environment properly, and that was when I started noticing more familiar faces. People I’d only ever seen on TV, social media and on newspapers. These were men and women in Nigerian politics, places of worship, Nollywood and businesses. Some of them were in attendance with much younger dates. This room smelled so heavily of power and influence, it was almost dizzying for me. The conversations were so informal, it was evident these people didn’t just know themselves from formal circles. I remembered the Netflix film I once saw, Dance of the 47, and I realized the scenes were the high-powered society men gathered in homosexual debauchery was what this place reminded me of.

I went to take a seat, to take some time and process what I was witnessing. The shock was overwhelming. I told myself that if Nigeria wants to overturn the SSMPA today, with the level of power in this room, it would happen.

So, why hadn’t that happened? If all these politicians, clergy people, media people, academics and celebrities in this room were this gay, if all this power and influence belonged to our community, why was the SSMPA still a law?

These were people with enormous influence who apparently look away as their fellow members of the queer community in Nigeria are constantly stripped of their human rights and humiliated just for existing.

I once read a post Delle wrote on Facebook about gay people working hard and finding themselves in places of position to open the doors for others to come, and in light of what I was witnessing, I doubted our problem was access to power. As it had become clear to me that we have it; we just also have queer people who walk in through that door and shut it in the faces of those without the privilege. The disconnect between the well-to-do gays and the poor-to-average gays is so obviously wide. A friend and I had a conversation about this gap, and he said that a financially-privileged queer person once told him that he used to believe that the only problem faced by gay people in Nigeria was the decision regarding living in the closet. And then, he went for a program and had his eyes opened to the reality that queer Nigerians are also plagued with the same problems the average Nigerian suffers.

There is a lot to do regarding queer liberation in Nigeria. I don’t know if we have made progress but one thing I can say is that help will not come from the privileged class. Those of us in the trenches are all we’ve got. Freedom will only come for us when those of us most affected by Nigeria’s institutionalized homophobia fight for it. And I just know that should that day ever come, should we eventually get these laws and attitudes overturned, it is the same privileged folks who stayed silent in the face of our struggles that will be the most visible in enjoying the benefits, centering themselves in queer struggles and taking the glory.

Written by Dreq

Previous AN ACE UP YOUR SLEEVE
Next DIARY OF A GAY NIGERIAN IN THE UK (Entry 3)

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8 Comments

  1. Mikkiyfab
    November 30, 13:59 Reply

    The turn 🙄. At least if you wanted to take a U-turn, you could still have finished the story of you and Mr PDA na.
    Now I am back to ground zero after shouting God when! Like 9 times 😩😩😩😩

    • Dreq
      November 30, 14:57 Reply

      Lmao..that will be a story on its own

      • Mikkiyfab
        November 30, 15:22 Reply

        Thank you. I am expecting it 😌

        I need to know the know 😉

  2. Bebe
    November 30, 19:47 Reply

    Nigeria is a country of many opposites.
    I tell people that there are different Nigeria for different people.

    Someday, hopefully in the not so distant future, we will be free.

    • Mikkey
      December 04, 00:01 Reply

      I second this..Rich people live in Nigeria while The poor live in Ni-an-ji-riya

  3. Defay
    December 22, 13:35 Reply

    Tearing up and speechless

  4. Davy
    December 26, 21:42 Reply

    I read two of your articles, very interesting

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