IN THE BLINK OF AN EYE

IN THE BLINK OF AN EYE

We met on Grindr.

It was one of those once-in-a-lifetime connections you make with a stranger, where everything just clicks. It was obvious right from the start that we had great chemistry, and we quickly moved on from Grindr to WhatsApp. He said his name was Basil and I told him I’m Mandy.

We’d gotten connected on Grindr on a Saturday evening around 6 PM. By the time we settled into WhatsApp, I found myself literally doing nothing else for the rest of the evening but chat with Basil. He had a charm that had me desperately wanting to get out, get in a taxi, and go straight to his place, just so I could be in his presence. He wrote intelligently and had a great sense of humour. He was passionate about most of the things I was passionate about. He talked about his identity as a homosexual with the kind of whole-hearted acceptance that I find very sexy in gay men. He expressed hope for the future of the Nigerian LGBT, and talked about wanting to settle down with a guy for better or for worse. He decried the overwhelming rates at which gay Nigerians were being victimized and expressed his appreciation for the work Kito Diaries and some NGOs are doing. He said he was looking forward to seeing Pamela Adie’s Ife: The Movie, and wished Nollywood would produce films that didn’t further the harmful stereotypes that plague our community. He poked fun at homophobic Nigerian comedians, and expressed contempt for a trans-inclusive society that had weaponized misogyny against cis women.

We chatted for so long, occasionally exchanging voice notes, his which I listened to while I tried to multitask with the odd chore. But for the most part, I simply laid in bed and typed back and forth with him, only getting up to take a quick dinner or to plug my phone into power to charge.

Time seemed to speed by, and it was a legitimate surprise to me when I saw that it was 10 PM. He had heard a yawn in one of the voice notes I sent him and asked what time it was. He joked that I shouldn’t doze off on him and I laughingly assured him that I wouldn’t. I was having so much fun getting to know this guy. It was such a surprise to me that I’d met this person on Grindr and we were yet to follow up on the “what’s your role” question we asked each other on Grindr. I was very attracted to him, his personality and his mind, and I couldn’t wait to meet him, as I was so sure we would be more than just casual lovers.

However, I underestimated how tired I’d gotten, because despite my assuredness that we would go on chatting till the very late hours of the night, nature overpowered my resolve and I dozed off. I had typed something to him that required a response. This was around midnight. He took some time to answer.

And I slept off while waiting for his response.

I woke up by 3 AM, and picked up my phone from where it was buried in my sheets. I went straight to WhatsApp and his response had come in by 12: 15.

Then by 12: 20, he texted: ‘Hey, are you there? You haven’t dozed off on me, have you?’

By 12: 27, he texted: ‘I guess you have. I don’t blame you jare. When Mother Nature calls, who are we to say no? I really loved getting to know you, Mandy. You don’t happen to still be awake, do you?’

By 12: 30, he texted: ‘OK then, so you must really be asleep. I’d hoped you were off on the phone or something. Anyway, buzz me when you’re up and we can talk about meeting.’

I felt so bad that I’d missed his messages and I chastised myself for sleeping off. I quickly typed back a response to him, and for some minutes, I stared at my phone screen, hoping to see the message get blue-ticked, an indication that he was up and had read it. I felt a very crushing disappointment when that didn’t happen.

So, I texted him: ‘Looks like you’ve slept off on me this time. When you wake up, we should think about bringing a class action suit against Mother Nature for calling us at inconvenient times.’

I was watching some Youtube videos when I slept off again. When I reawakened, it was 6 AM. And like the kid in the Hollywood holiday movies who rushes to the decorated tree on Christmas morning, hoping to see presents left there by Santa Claus, I went straight to WhatsApp.

Disappointment dotted my soul when I saw that my 3 AM texts were still the last messages on our chat. And they still weren’t blue-ticked. Even thinking that he must still be asleep did not improve my mood.

Feeling disgruntled, I rose from the bed and began starting my day, with my phone never far from me. While brushing my teeth, I checked my phone. While taking out the trash, I checked my phone. Every time my phone pinged with a WhatsApp notification and I checked only to see that it was a message from someone else, I got irritated and didn’t even bother to reply.

Finally, I sent a message: ‘Hey, good morning. Wake up, sleepyhead.’

It was Sunday, and I had the entire day free. In fact, I’d hoped to convince Basil to come over to my place or for me to go see him. So, while I prepared breakfast, I thought about what to wear, should the plan be for me to go see him.

It was some minutes after 7 when I settled down to eat breakfast, and I checked WhatsApp to see that he still hadn’t responded. I even checked Grindr to make sure he hadn’t messaged me there instead. My morning was starting to feel incomplete without a word from this guy. I needed to communicate with him for me to feel good about my day. And if he was too asleep or too busy to interact via chat, then a call would do.

So I called his number.

It rang and rang and rang out. Nobody answered.

I called again.

It rang and rang.

“Come on, Basil,” I found myself muttering. “Just pick up…Even if it’s just to say, ‘Hey, I’ll call you back.’ So, I will be fine.”

The call rang out. Nobody answered.

I was not ready to give up. I called a third time.

It rang and rang.

And somebody answered.

As the static of the connection flooded my ear, I felt an instant uplifting of my spirits, as I immediately began anticipating hearing that velvet timbre of his voice that I’d listened to several times in his voice notes.

“Hello, who’s this?” someone snapped, bringing me up short.

That wasn’t Basil’s voice. That was the irritated tones of a woman’s voice.

“Hi… Er, good morning, ma…” I began stuttering.

“Yes, good morning. Who are you and why are you calling this number?” Whoever this woman was, she very clearly didn’t wake up on the right side of the bed.

“Um, my name is Mandy, and I am Basil’s friend. Can I speak –”

“Basil is not available. Please don’t call this number again.” And she hung up.

For a startled moment, I stared at my phone, struggling to understand what had just happened. Anger began to flare up inside me. Who was this woman and what business did she have answering Basil’s calls?

Don’t call this number again.

Just imagine that! Who did she think she was to give such orders? Why wouldn’t Nigerian family members just learn to not invade people’s privacy like this? How could she take over Basil’s personal space with such audacity, unless…unless…

My annoyance began to shift as dread stepped in.

Unless Basil had somehow been outed!

Ohmaigod, that would explain everything! Him not responding since, a very irate someone answering his call, and this someone telling the male caller not to call again.

Oh god, Basil, what have they done to you? What are they doing to you?

Feeling a desperate need to get across to him no matter what, I proceeded to do exactly what I’d just been told not to do.

I called his number again.

It was answered again, by the same woman.

She had started speaking in that same irritated tone, when I cut in with my best polite voice, “Please, ma, I’m really sorry if I am interrupting anything by calling. It’s just that I am Basil’s good friend. We go way back…”

Yes, as way back as yesterday.

“…and I am really worried about him, because we reconnected yesterday, and he said he’d call me back to discuss something important. And he never did. I’m just calling to know if he’s okay.”

Please, don’t shut me out. Please believe me and don’t shut me out, I prayed frantically.

The woman heaved a sigh. It was heavy and oddly sad. And when she spoke, her animosity was gone. In its place was an indescribable sadness.

“What did you say your name was again?” she asked.

“Mandy,” I replied.

“And you said you know Basil?”

“Yes, ma.”

“Okay, Mandy. I am Basil’s cousin, and I am sorry to be the one to tell you this. Basil died sometime last night.”

I felt shock slam a punch in my gut, leaving me painfully breathless. I felt suddenly light headed and my knees weakened, causing me to shakingly find a chair to sit on.

Basil died sometime last night.

Those words were banging about in my head, almost drowning out the rest of what the woman was saying.

“…was found unresponsive this morning around 5, and was rushed to the hospital. It’s not long the news came back to us at home that he is indeed dead.”

“Dead from what?” I managed to choke out.

“We don’t know yet,” she said. “There’s so much happening here right now…”

“Of course, of course,” I said. “I don’t mean to be a bother. I’m so sorry for your loss, ma.”

I heard a sob escape the other end of the call. Then I heard a shuddering breath. This woman was starting to break down.

“I’m really sorry I called,” I began hastily, suddenly wanting to hang up. I wasn’t sure I could handle this stranger’s grief, not when I could feel my own grief roiling away inside me. “Please, accept my condolences. And may I please call back sometime, just to know how things are going and the date for his funeral?”

“Yes… yes you may,” she said tremulously.

I hung up and I sat there. I sat there for what appeared to be a long time. And then, the tears started rolling down my cheeks. I was trembling as quiet sobs wracked my body. I cried. I cried for the loss that was Basil – a man who I hadn’t met, but who I was so certain was a beautiful human being who should be alive. I cried because I’d started remembering other friends, other beautiful human beings who death had snatched away prematurely.

The one soft-spoken friend who’d died so tragically from leukemia.

The big-hearted one whose life had been cut short by a sickle cell crisis.

The vivacious friend whose light was gradually snuffed out due to an incurable liver disease.

The life of the party who forever stopped coming to the party after a car knocked him down.

The deeply emotional one who decided he couldn’t go on living with his pain.

So many beautiful young men taken from a world that was increasingly ugly. I cried for them all. I cried because I didn’t know if death would ever stop with this injustice.

***

I did try to call Basil’s number a few days later, but it’d been disconnected. And it stayed disconnected for a very long time after.

And for the longest time, all I had were our WhatsApp chats and those voice notes through which I could listen to the velvet timbre of his voice over and over again.

Written by Mandy

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  1. T.T
    October 03, 10:11 Reply

    This is very sad.

  2. Foryou
    October 03, 11:35 Reply

    This didn’t happen right? Cos I cried reading it. From the moment the guy didn’t reply his text, my mind was already telling me something bad had happened to the guy. And at that moment, my emotion is already up.

    • Bubu
      October 03, 22:15 Reply

      Fry us,we are your plantain…..break our heart we are your lovers…..nice 🤙🏽…..t

  3. Bliss
    October 03, 13:29 Reply

    OMg, neva expected this
    So sad

  4. Fred
    October 03, 13:47 Reply

    I put my lighter up a moment for Basil.
    So sorry for losing someone you didn’t get a chance to meet in person. But I promise you that it’ll get better. Treasure your memory of him.

  5. Leeman
    October 03, 14:15 Reply

    This is all shades of sad.
    To all the “Basils” in our life, you’ll always be reme6

  6. Mitch
    October 03, 14:16 Reply

    “The big-hearted one whose life had been cut short by a sickle cell crisis.”

    I remember him every now and then and I can’t help but mourn him all over again. He was too good to have been taken away from us the way he was.

    I remember we’d talked that morning.
    And he was supposed to call me in the evening.
    Then, around 7pm, Delle called me to say he was gone.

    Stories like this just make me want to curl up and stop breathing. Maybe it’d make everything atop hurting.

  7. Blue
    October 03, 16:22 Reply

    This hit me hard honestly.
    My emotions have taken the best of me.
    May the soul of the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in perfect peace Amen.

  8. slender
    October 03, 18:11 Reply

    i didnt see that coming, so sad, may his soul rest in peace.

  9. Pezaro
    October 03, 18:51 Reply

    This is very sad😔
    I’m very sorry you had to go through that.

  10. bamidele
    October 03, 22:03 Reply

    How can a story be so sweet and sad!

  11. Rudy
    October 04, 02:13 Reply

    To all the friends and lovers we’ve lost on the way….

    May your memories be the very fuel that keeps us going, to be our truer selves and live half as courageous as you all were.

    Sorry Mandy.
    Rest in Power Basil 🌿

  12. A.
    October 06, 23:08 Reply

    Wow! The story… The plot twist.

  13. Ricky
    October 09, 03:33 Reply

    Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!! I’m shook oh!

  14. Manuel
    October 12, 17:11 Reply

    No! Noooooo!! He can’t just die like that.. He has to get up, He has to😭😭

    This is so so sad..This shouldn’t happen to anybody! God! I can’t take this!!
    😭😭😭😭😭😭

    I’m so sorry Mandy.

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