KITO DIARIES PRIZE FOR WRITING: MORE THAN THE NOTHING WE ARE

KITO DIARIES PRIZE FOR WRITING: MORE THAN THE NOTHING WE ARE

When he went into the toilet, I noticed the strong musky scent in the room. It felt as though someone else had been here before me, but I ignored it and focused on getting the perfect pose instead. I wanted to bend over so my asshole would be the first thing he sees when he opens the door. But I imagined it would be a little too extra for a stranger I had just met on Facebook, and before I could decide on what was more appropriate, he was already out. Tall, fine and grey with an acute pot belly.

Chidi didn’t talk so much; he would only ask how I was doing, and then we’d proceed to have sex. He was my first; I didn’t tell him but he figured it out after I had made a mess and began to bleed. He helped me into the bathroom and cleaned me up, then he ran a bucket of warm water and had me sit in it for a while.

“It’s going to help you with the pain,” he said as he washed the stained pillow case in the tap. “I hope it’s not too hot?”

I shook my head.

“Don’t be embarrassed. It happens. You haven’t done this before, have you?”

“I have,” I lied.

After we were done, we cuddled up for a little nap, and by afternoon, he gave me cash in a brown envelope and then put me in a taxi.

“Call me when you get home,” he said.

***

The following year, when he came to Port Harcourt again, I had turned 19 and he was 57. He didn’t change so much from the last time we saw, but I had grown a little taller and he noticed it right away.

“Where are you talling to, you this boy?” He said as he shook my hand and waved me to a seat opposite him in the restaurant.

It was how we did it. We’d meet in the restaurant or the bar of whatever hotel he was lodging at. We’d have drinks and engage in shallow conversations about myself, before he would go up to his room and text me to come join him.

“I don’t want these people suspecting anything,” he explained. “Hope you are okay with it?”

“Yes,” I said.

I got used to his lack of interaction and mostly just looked forward to the sex. He was firm and gentle and knew his way around my body. Before penetration, he would kiss me lightly and then suck heavily on my nipples like a hungry baby. He would spread my legs apart and eat me up before eventually digging me out. It was just unfortunate we only met once a year, except on other good days where we’d talk on the phone or have a little chat on Facebook.

***

When I went into a relationship with Lawrence, it didn’t stop me from seeing Chidi.

Lawrence, unlike Chidi, was my age mate. He was short, goofy and objectively handsome. We both got admitted into Uniport the same time and both shared an apartment. We were an open book to each other and talked about everything, including all the other people we had hooked up with especially when we were apart. But Chidi’s name never came out of my mouth. One time, I tried to tell Lawrence; I told him of an older man I once met at a hotel, and before I could even finish the story, he cut me off.

“You had sex with an old man?” He was irritated.

“I did not,” I denied. “He just gave me money and we didn’t do anything.”

“What if he was a ritualist? You better be careful with these old men out there. You don’t know what they are capable of.”

That was how we ended the conversation.

***

The older I got, the more difficult it was to wait for another year before I could see Chidi. Most times, he barely replied my messages until it was a day before he’d come to Port Harcourt. His Facebook didn’t say so much of him; just one old profile picture with barely 20 friends in it, which only raised my suspicion over what his deal was. Why did we only see once a year? Why didn’t he like to talk about himself? Why did his hotel room smell of a woman every time I was there? What if he was a ritualist like Lawrence said?

The next time he was around, I didn’t hold back. After we fucked, I gathered up the courage as I sat upright.

“Where are you from?” I asked.

He gave me a look. “Why are you asking?”

“I just want to know. I don’t know anything about you.”

“You don’t?”

“Just tell me about you, Chidi,” I begged. “It’s been nine years and I still don’t know a single thing about you.”

“What do you want to know about me, Victor?”

“Everything,” I said. “Your real name, what you do, where you come from and why your hotel rooms smell like you bring women in it before having me over. Are you bisexual?”

He chuckled and then went into the bathroom. After a while, he came out and said to me, “Aren’t you ready to go yet? It’s getting late.”

I was stunned. But I got dressed and he saw me off to the road where he stopped a cab and handed me an envelope.

“Call me when you get home,” he said.

In that moment, the picture became very clear. For the first time in nine years, I finally saw my reflection in the envelope of money he held out for me.  I was an escort. I mean, I was his whore.

I sighed in disbelief and turned away from him, his cab and his brown envelope. I crossed to the other side of the road, got into another taxi and left him. I was heartbroken, confused and baffled at the realisation of how naïve I had been all these years. I kept hoping he would text or call and we would get to talk about everything; maybe then, I could tell him that I felt something more for him, maybe then he would believe me and see me as so much more than a twink he met on the internet.

And maybe then, we would get to spend more time together and be something more than the nothing we were to each other.

But he never called, neither did he take my calls, and I knew it was all over the moment another year passed and I still didn’t hear from him.

***

“So, are you in love with him or what?” Lawrence asked.

I could hear the hurt in his tone and I couldn’t even bring myself to look him in the face as he stood there, next to me. We were graduating in a week and I felt the need to finally open up to him about Chidi.

“I’m not in love with him,” I denied.

“If you weren’t doing it for the money, why then were you doing it?”

I struggled with words to say.

“We tell each other everything, Victor. But for you to wait till he was done with you to tell me about him only means that he meant something to you.”

I tried to apologise but he chose not to listen. It was almost as if he suddenly hated me and I understood that.

***

After graduation, I went into makeup artistry and began working at a studio. Lawrence moved back to Lagos for law school and eventually got a job at his father’s firm. We kept in touch and tried to work on what was left of our relationship. Sometimes he came to visit, other times I went to see him. We weren’t exclusive but we cared for each other. We never really brought up Chidi except for one time when we were with friends and he brought up the gist about guys in the community who die mysteriously after sleeping with rich older men. I knew where he was driving at with that conversation but I chose to ignore it. It had been four years since Chidi and I last saw, and it appeared he was gone for good. No calls, no text, no chat. At a point, I stopped seeing his Facebook profile and his phone line remained switched off.

***

On my 30th birthday, I got a call in the early hours of the morning. It was from Lawrence. He wished me a happy birthday and went on to joke about how I was getting old. I laughed along as I wasn’t bothered about it. We talked a while longer about other things when suddenly his tone dropped and sadness swooped in.

“Victor…” he said. “I am getting married on Saturday.”

I was startled by the information but more concerned about how he was feeling.

“If I told you I haven’t thought of ending my life, I would be lying, Victor. This was not part of the plan… But the pressure is just too much.”

“You will be fine, Lawrence.” I said. “Just see it as your debt to society or a gift to your parents. It doesn’t change who you are. See, you will always be a homosexual no matter what. This marriage won’t take away from you, trust me.”

He exploded into laughter, I joined in and we just laughed till the end of the conversation.

***

I travelled three hours to a town I had never been to before for his funeral. There, it was clear that he was loved by so many people. I was ushered in by his wife. I knew her from the pictures he had shown me.

“Were you one of his former students?” she asked.

I said yes.

 She ushered me to a seat and thanked me for coming.

When the procession began, she took to the pulpit and spoke into the microphone.

“My husband, Chidi, was great man,” she began. “Honest, kind and loving. Yes, he was womanizer as we all know, but I thank God he never brought another woman home.” Everyone tittered and nodded in agreement. “In his final days,” she continued, “he was hopeful and surrounded by those he loved, myself and his children, all six of them. This is not a sad day for us. This is a celebration of the life of a loving father, husband, grandfather and friend who will be missed dearly by everyone who knew him.”

On my way back to Port Harcourt, I kept thinking of all the things she said. How they laughed in agreement when she called him a womanizer and how differently I knew the man they celebrated whole heartedly. But I remembered this one time in a restaurant when he gazed at a lady’s buttocks and even flirted with her. After she left, he went on to ask me if I liked girls.

“I don’t hate them,” I said. “I’m just attracted to men.”

“So, you are just gay?”

“Yes. Aren’t you?”

“You should try to like them,” he said. “At least pretend like you do. Flirt with them. Check them out, especially when you are with your straight friends. It will make them not suspect you at all.”

I could see it now. I understood. And whereas it didn’t matter anymore, I wished everyone knew the Chidi I got to know. I wished everyone knew him for who he was. It was such shame that he lived a life no one would ever know.

***

It happened on the day of Lawrence’s wedding. I had woken up early to leave for Lagos when a strange number called. It was Chidi; I recognised his voice and called his name before he even said anything past hello.

“You remember my voice,” he said. “I’m in town.”

I didn’t think twice before rushing over to meet him. He had changed drastically from the last time we saw. He’d lost so much weight yet he looked energetic and unusually excited. I knew something wasn’t right, but it was not until he told me he had been diagnosed with colon cancer that I saw that he was sick. After we drank, he asked that we go up to his room. I told him I was right behind him and he said to me, “Aren’t we a little too old to be sneaking around?”

When we got to the room, he showed me a whole album of pictures of himself and his family. He told me about all of them, including his granddaughter. He also told me he was a lecturer at Nnamdi Azikiwe University and that he only came to Port Harcourt to blow off steam and be himself.

“Why are you telling me all this now?” I asked.

“I was scared,” he said. “I was scared the last time you asked me. But not anymore. If you cared to know me, why should I hold back?”

“Why should you?” I echoed.

He smiled.

“One more thing,” he said, and then went into the bathroom. After a while, he came out and stood by the door.

I was stunned beyond belief.

“What?” I said while placing a hand to my mouth to stop me from bursting out into laughter.

“You said you wanted to know me,” he said with a light tone. “Here I am. This is the only woman I bring to my hotel rooms.”

He was in a red dress and a wig on his head and red lipstick on his lips. The perfume he wore was so familiar, musky and exclusively feminine.

“Call me Louisa,” she said gracefully while fanning herself with a folded hand fan.

I couldn’t hold my chortle. I let it out and it didn’t even bother her at all. She cat-walked to the mirror on the closet door and gazed strongly at her reflection.

“I used to be so beautiful,” she said and then turned to me. “This is me, Victor. I come here once a year to be Louisa. Isn’t she pretty?”

I struggled with words to say as she stood patiently waiting for me to say something.

“Sit,” I ordered as I reached for my powder and make-up brush. I adjusted her wig and applied a little more powder to her nose.

“You are still beautiful,” I said.

“It used to be me and my friends back in the day,” she said. “They are all dead now. We’d travel to different states and lodge in big hotels. We’d hold drag contests and parties, just for ourselves. It used to be fun. I was the youngest and the prettiest.” She paused, took a sip of water and then took my hands. “I hope you are not disappointed in me.”

“I’m not. I will never be,” I said emphatically. “I’m just so happy. I wished you could be Louisa every time we meet.”

She laughed. I laughed too. We played songs from our phones and we danced together until we got tired and slept on each other.

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  1. Bloom
    January 25, 11:35 Reply

    I cried so much while reading this and I finally saw why I have been so sorrowful these past couple of years. I miss my friends. The only people in the world that understood me. It’s hard making new ones because you’re gay and you can’t trust anyone easily. It’s so frustrating to be here faking smiles with homophobes that would immediately turn their back on you the minute they find out your sexuality. So tired of pretending in this world.

    I love this piece so much.

  2. Demi
    January 25, 12:11 Reply

    Omg!!! This is such an emotional read for me.. Parts of it are relatable for me.. The best so far for me (yet to read the remaining).. PP, why can’t we know those who wrote this, at least their pseudonym..
    This piece is too good…

  3. Tristan
    January 25, 18:05 Reply

    “Alter ego” would as well be suitable for the title. Magnificent piece.

  4. Mandy
    January 25, 21:44 Reply

    This is hands-down the best entry to me!

    MY GOD!

    Whoever the writer is has a depth to him that must be protected.

    The story is aching and sad and strangely hopeful all at the same time. It reminds me that aging is a special kind of enemy to queer people, especially if you’re living an inauthentic life. And yet, it gives me hope that there is a glimpse of truth to everyone of us, a time before we die when we get to be all of ourselves in our truth and total acceptance, and in that moment, we would share it with someone who will love us just the way we are.

    Thank you for this story.

  5. Haiku
    January 26, 05:36 Reply

    Dear writer, you’re a genius 🥰🥰🥰
    You’re my modern day Virginia Woolf.
    This entry is sumptuous…

  6. Rudy
    January 26, 06:55 Reply

    The part when Chidi spoke of the demise of his friends really hit me.
    Good friends is the backbone for a healthy & sane queer life and we all must strive to be good people so we do not miss the beauty true friendship provides.
    This was Sensational!

  7. Shawn
    January 26, 12:38 Reply

    this was an emosh read 😭😭

  8. D
    January 26, 12:48 Reply

    Dear D,
    I could always tell your writing from your unique choice of words, creative writing technique and your ability to find humor in tragedy.

    This is another work of perfection. The story was engaging and kept me wanting more. I am proud of the work you do. You are a brilliant writer.

    To the lives we escape to lead every now and then.

    XOXO D.

  9. Taulmannie
    January 27, 12:24 Reply

    Omg!

    Fabulous is an understatement to qualify this piece. You held me spellbound and thirstier for more at the same time. Reading this entry was really lovely and allowed me gain insight into the sad lives that many gay men have to live to fit into society.

    Kudos, Writer!

  10. Bright
    January 28, 10:21 Reply

    I found contentment in this 😍

  11. bamidele
    January 28, 20:12 Reply

    What an amazing story! Wow!
    So real!

  12. Nooah
    February 17, 06:06 Reply

    Am I the only one that doesn’t understand the funeral part?

    I so much love this!!!

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