It was Christmas Eve. My paternal extended family had a ritual of spending the day before Christmas Day together. Last year, it had been at Uncle Sebastian’s house at Elekahia Housing Estate. It did not matter much that his wife was Kalabari and did not like the family very much, but she had outdone herself making casseroles of dishes with the help of Mother, who was the only woman in the family with whom she maintained a good relationship with. This afforded me the opportunity of seeing Uncle Sebastian’s twin children, my cousins Kael and Kimberly. They’d been home from Iowa, where they were studying. The year before last, Christmas Eve was spent at Uncle Obiora’s. He’d been divorced about five months before Christmas, and the family gathered to support him. The women cooked in his kitchen and the men drank with him in the parlour. He and his wife had had no children.

This year, the gathering was at my father’s house. At my home. I’d spent the entire morning helping Mother and my sister prepare to host everyone. Some of my aunts and uncles’ wives had also dropped by early to help out. And now that everyone was around and lunchtime was fast approaching, the men were in the living room, downing drinks and bantering loudly. Father and his brothers and his sisters’ husbands never seemed to run out of things to talk about. Some of the women sat about in the backyard where the cooking was going on, gabbing with those who were cooking and just generally not doing anything.

My cousins, all the males and some of the females, were in my brother Matthew’s bedroom. The rest of the girls were in my sister, Ada’s room, where they were gossiping and exchanging details on each other’s lives in the past year. Several times I walked past Matthew’s door and I would hear the clicking of joysticks, the sounds from his television, and the fierce chatter of teenage boys playing a video game of soccer. My siblings had always been the ones from my family that my cousins liked; they were fun to be with, I supposed. I always shied away from them. They seemed like social bullies, wanting to know everything and being cruel in their opinions of the things they didn’t find acceptable.

There was the time when Abbey, Uncle Herbert’s son, asked me, “Why do you have a picture of you and that guy hanging on your wall, man?”

“It’s not just the picture sef,” Nedu chimed in from the corner of the room where he was slouched. He was Aunt Mabel’s son. “Honestly, Matthew,” he turned to my brother to say, “the kind of things your brother is into, me, I just don’t understand.”

The others laughed. Matthew did not laugh – maybe he felt it would be a betrayal if he did, but he had a smile on his face to show that he’d found what Nedu said amusing.

I stood there, silently seething, and wondering what was the focus of my annoyance – the fact that they’d mocked who I am, or that Nedu had referred to me as Matthew’s brother. Your brother. As though, because of my “weirdness”, I didn’t belong to the family. I was just something that they had to endure because I was Matthew’s.

They always managed to make me feel like an outcast. I never seemed to fit in with the boys, because I feared confrontation, especially when I knew my brother was both homophobic and too invested in his social currency to defend me from their bullying. Nor with the girls, because that’d just be embarrassing for my sister.

And so, on that day, I busied myself with helping Mother in the kitchen and running errands around the house. At least, among the adults, I got the warm smiles and the lavish praises directed at Mother about how I was “such a good boy.” None of the mothers in the cooking area seemed to have any son as helpful and dutiful as I was. That wasn’t surprising to me at all, considering how spoilt and self-involved I knew my cousins to be.

Finally, lunch was over and the sun had set on what managed to be a good day. Most of the family members, especially those with children, had left in their SUVs and sedans. Only Uncle Obiora and Aunt Genevieve and her husband of seven months were still around, idly chatting with my parents in the living room. Everyone was well-fed and pleasantly exhausted.

I was not tired though. And so, while Ada and Matthew were in their rooms, vegging out, I was gathering dishes into the dishwasher, the fanciest thing Mother had in the kitchen. A gift from Aunt Carol in Gabon.

Then, I thought of Jam-jam, our dog. She must have been too hungry to even bark, although she was generally the quiet kind of American Eskimo. I reached for her doggie dish, filled one with dog food, made warm milk for her and then walked out to her pen to serve her dinner. As I stepped out, the night was suddenly shattered with a series of sharp cracks. I smiled wryly as I thought about how little sleep we’d get this season, what with all the firecrackers that people felt permitted by Christmas to disturb the nights with. Jam-jam saw me coming and wagged her bushy tail first before rising to meet me, her tail wagging more furiously with gratitude. She was whining as I unlocked the door of her pen and placed the dish inside. Then I ruffled the hair on her back. She liked it when I did that to her. I noticed her water can was empty and took it out.

I had reached the tap to fill it up when it happened. More sharp cracks rent the night. And then, the pain struck me at the back, burrowing into my flesh, momentarily paralyzing me. The second one followed almost immediately; I was almost on my knees when it wheezed past my ears with a burning sensation. It smelt like hot lead. I fell to my face, instantly weakened, too impaired to do more than groan as the pain in my back thudded through me like hot knife slicing through butter. It hurt like hell and I was trembling. I couldn’t scream for help. It felt as though the weight of my entire life was resting on my vocal tract.

Whimpering from the pain and breathing hard with the exertion, I forced my body around so that I was lying on my back, looking up at the sky. The night sky was an inky velvet, dotted with scant, twinkling stars. It seemed calm, welcoming. I was not sure which happened first, Jam-jam peering into my face and then running off to the kitchen door, barking furiously as she went. Or the backyard security halogen lights coming on, blinding me. Whichever it was did not matter very much to me because I was starting to feel light and weightless, less aware of the burning in my back. It was like a transition into a benign darkness, so thick I could not see anything around me, except for infinite blackness. I was floating in the darkness, like the astronauts in space that I watched on TV. The velvet sky was now playing hide-and-seek with me. It was there now, and then it was no longer there, and then it was there again with familiar faces. I could not tell exactly whose faces they were, but I was sure I knew them. Then I drifted into the darkness, far away from the familiar faces, elevating, above the parapet roofing of my home. I had never been on it before, but I saw it, the very tip; I could almost reach out and touch it, and yet I couldn’t.

Am I dying? Is this what it feels like to be dead? I quizzed myself in my head, but it sounded like an echo into the void. I struggled to shake myself. I was back again to the familiar faces, with fleeting white lights like rumble strips along coal tar. There were voices too, panicked voices, shuffling of feet. My vision rolled this way and that, and when it could not take any more of the state of unrest, I drifted back into the void, this time toward a twinkling light, like a shining star. Closer, closer, I drifted towards it and then I went through the blinding light.

And then, I was in a field, vast and seemingly endless, with a brilliance of thigh-high flowers and alfalfa swaying about in a gentle breeze. I wasn’t lying in a prone position any longer; I was standing.

Is this even real? I quizzed myself again. I could feel the cool air brushing against my skin. It had to be real. I walked down the field, slowly, looking about at the environment, not knowing where I was going.

“Victor! Victor!!”

Calls of my name resonated. I was startled around, slightly panicked, wondering who knew me in this strange but beautiful place.

Then I saw him standing there like an apparition. The familiar figure clad in an unfamiliar garment so sparkling white, it seemed to halo his body.

“Kingsley…” I gasped.

Instantly, my mind was suffused with images of him getting lowered into the ground in a hastily-made box, crafted to look like a casket. Except it was more fabric than fine polished brown wood with gold finishing.

Before he was lowered into the ground, he’d been alive, very alive. And I knew him. We had loved each other. We had kissed. We had made love, severally, at his place, at mine, in the toilet, under the cover of the night, away from prying eyes. I loved him greatly. It was because of that love that we took several pictures together, one of which I’d had enlarged and framed and kept hanging on the wall of my bedroom, with a rose he had given me on a Valentine’s Day stuck to one side the frame. It was the picture Matthew ridiculed. The one my cousins had been inquisitive about. The one that puzzled Mother even though she had never said anything about it.

I gave a short cry and ran to Kingsley. I hugged him. He hugged me back. I couldn’t believe it. I could feel flesh and muscle as I embraced him.

“Oh God, Kingsley…” I said in a choked cry.

He chuckled. “You really should not say God’s name in vain here,” he said as he placed a kiss on my cheek.

“Kiss me please,” I said with longing.

He did. The touch of his lips on mine sent an explosion of indescribable sensations through me. It lasted a few moments, and he was breaking apart from me.

“We must stop now,” he said with a smile, before looking around, almost guiltily, like he was expecting someone to leap out and arrest us for our little smooch.

“Where is this place?” I asked.

He had taken my hand and we were now walking, past the field of flowers and alfalfa, toward a gilded building that even from the distance, loomed with imposing magnificence. It appeared taller than the Burj Khalifa of the United Arab Emirates and vaster than China’s New Century Global Centre. Its glory made my knees quiver.

“This is Heaven,” Kingsley answered.

“Oh my God!” I choked out.

He gave me a mock-stern look. “I told you –”

“I know, I shouldn’t say His name in vain. But…” My eyes were goggling as I stared around. “Is this really… I mean, am I dead? Is that why I am here? I am really in Heaven?”

At this, Kingsley’s brow furrowed. “You can’t be dead. We were not expecting you for at least a few more days.”

“How do you know that?”

“I always checked you.”

“Well, let’s say I am a few days early.”

“No. You don’t get it. A day here is like a lot of years in the world of men.”

I stopped and stared at him. He was still the same person I knew: tall, scruffy-haired, sunken cheeks, small eyes and thin lips. Exactly as I remembered him.

“But I want to be here with you,” I said, meaning every word of it.

“You can’t. It is not in your destiny to be here this early. Now come along, we have to find God to fix this glitch before you become invalidated.”

He pulled me along, leading me down the gold-paved street toward the magnificent building. We were almost running but I was not panting. Neither was he. We moved past several people on our way. Genial looking people of different races and colouring, gathered in pockets of conversation, all of them clad in the same shimmering clothes as Kingsley.

The large gold doors glided open as we approached, without any prompting from the gatekeepers standing in front of them, and slid shut when we were inside a vast hallway. Kingsley led me down the hallway till we got to the end. There was a bright light again, an almost-blinding halo of light that appeared to have no source. There was music too, coming from the farther right. There were several crusades of angels, breathtaking in their glory, gathered around the brilliant ball of light.

Kingsley bowed his head, so I bowed mine too.

“What brings you, children?” a resonant voice asked, throbbing from the light. It was like an experience – my whole being absorbed the voice.

“He is early, Father,” Kingsley said. “You promised he won’t be.”

“He is only passing,” the Voice said to Kingsley. “Look, his time still ticks. It ticks for no one else but him.”

Kingsley looked in the direction the Voice had gestured. I looked too, noticing that a clock had suddenly appeared a few yards away from us, hanging in the air, my features etched on the base beneath its ticking contraptions.

“But I am a sinner,” I blurted out without thinking. “I am gay. How is it possible for me to be here? How is it possible for you to be here?” I asked, turning to Kingsley.

“I show mercy to whom I may,” the Voice boomed, drawing my attention to the Light. Even with its incandescence, I found that I could look directly at it. “God is love. You are wonderfully made, and I make no mistakes. Them that judge you amongst mankind have no love to give, and they I do not recognise.” A beat passed before He said, “Your mother’s faith is wearing thin, child. I have seen what you both have, and it is beautiful in My own eyes.”

“Does it mean that God – that You do not find it wrong that Kingsley and I have had sex?” I asked, still feeling befuddled.

I could sense Kingsley’s gaze on me at this point.

“There is wisdom in accepting that humans do not know it all,” He replied, “only them who seek answers I am willing to give find them. But you have to get on now, child. Remember, do only that which is right. And surround yourself with positive energy.”

That was the last I heard before the ground opened up and consumed me into a dungeon of cascading mirrors. In there, images bounced off the mirrors. I saw the day of Kingsley’s death. I watched him drag his badly-bruised body out of the wrecked bus. People had begun to gather, taking pictures, recording videos on their phones. No one cared to help as he trembled on the roadside, fighting for his life, desperate to be alive, to have a chance at getting back to his family, and to me. Tears stung my eyes as I stood there in the darkness, an unuttered sob scratching at my throat. I wanted to scream at them to save him, but these pedestrians stood there, watching him die, more interested in getting the news out on the social media of the horrific accident that happened along Enugu road to Port Harcourt.

Then those images flashed past, and others followed. Revelations of private moments no one but the perpetrators knew about.

There were my cousins, Kael and Kimberly, locked in an intimate embrace; siblings engaged in an incestuous romance.

There was Abbey, pants down, pinning down what looked like a little girl down on his bed. His large hand was over her mouth as he ravaged her. My eyes widened with shock when I recognised her to be the ten-year-old daughter of his neighbour, whose acquaintance I made when we were at Uncle Herbert’s for Christmas Eve three years ago. She was ten when we met; I had no idea how old she was when this happened, but from her struggles, it was obvious to me that my cousin was a rapist.

Then there was Nedu, leaping out from the shadows of the evening to grab at a young boy hurrying home. He held a knife, slapped the terrified boy around, while rifling through his pockets for his money and his phone. He snarled at the boy to go home and not look back, the muscles on his face twitching as he watched the boy run off with sobs. His mother, Aunt Mabel, was a high-ranking government official, but here he was, so ravaged by his drug addiction, he had sunk to such depravity in order to afford his next fix.

The images were speeding by faster, revealing more. More depraved moments concealed from the public eye, perpetuated by people I didn’t know. The girl gasping with pleasure on top of her married lover. The young man unpegging the undergarment of the girl who’d turned him down from the clothesline, his eyes feverish with desire as he sniffed the underwear in the dark. The priest defiling the altar boy. The pastor counseling the desperate housewife to open her legs to him as the only way she would receive the gift of the womb. The family enjoying a fast-food repast, while the house help sat a table away from them, hungry and ignored. A lot of people turning the blind eye to one wickedness or another.

They were horrid visions, and I had started to shake tremendously with the effort of digesting them, as I willed myself to see no more.

Mankind is full of inhumanity, that majestic Voice boomed. But Love is not one of them. Simply do only that which is right. And surround yourself with positive energy.

His words kept resonating in my consciousness, even as they faded, one decibel at a time.

“He’s awake,” I heard another voice intrude from a distance. It wasn’t so resonant, and sounded less paranormal, more human. I tried to open my eyes, but the lights were blinding and there was a heavy pounding in my head.

“Are you sure?” another voice, vaguely familiar, said earnestly.

It was too much of an effort for me, so I lapsed back into the darkness. This time, I only saw Kingsley. Clad in his shimmering vestments, he was smiling at me from a large gate. I waved, but he did not wave back. Instead he opened his mouth and his lips moved. He was distant, but I could hear him loud and clear.

“Be happy, Victor, and I will be with you again when it is the right time.”

The tears rushed to my eyes again, and this time, they slid through, down my face.

“He is awake!” that familiar voice gasped. “Oh, my baby…” The voice choked off in a sob.

My eyes fluttered open, and I was looking at Mother. Her face wore the lines of someone who had been struck down by misery for several days. Behind her, a young woman wearing white stood.

“I’ll go get the doctor,” the nurse said and hurried out of the room.

I tried to move, and rivulets of pain shot through my body. I whimpered.

“Nna m, don’t move,” Mother said, coming closer to me, her hands moving gently over my body. “Just lie still. Oh God, I’m so happy you’re awake. I thought… I feared…” Her voice broke off again and her eyes turned glassy with tears.

My chest and head, the areas where the pain was concentrated, were wrapped in bandages. And attached to my right hand was a drip.

“Wh-what happened…” I croaked, my voice husky.

“What do you last remember?” Mother asked.

“Jam-jam… Her food… Christmas Eve…” I said haltingly.

“Yes!” Mother cried, laughing and crying at the same time, her countenance sagging with relief. “There was a robbery going on in the neighbourhood next to ours, but the police got there in time and there was a shootout between them and the robbers. We are not very sure what happened, but it seems a couple of the bullets shot upward came down and hit you.” A flash of panic streaked through her face as the horror of how she had very nearly lost a son dawned on her again.

“You have been off and on for a week,” she sobbed. “Obi m tiwara etiwa. I couldn’t bear the thought of losing you, my baby boy.”

“M-m-mum… I… I…”

She hushed me. “Don’t talk. Just rest. The doctor will soon be here.”

But I had to tell her. I clasped her hand, urgency lending me strength. “Mum… I am gay…”

She stood still for a moment, her eyes still sparkling with tears. And then she said with a trembling laugh, “I know, Victor. A mother always knows. And I will always love you.”

And with the realisation that now this part was done, everything else I was obligated to do must also be taken care of, I sighed and drifted back into a more natural slumber.

Written by Peaches

Next Sara Ramirez and Indya Moore have an illuminating Twitter exchange on Bisexuality

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  1. Bee
    January 19, 07:15 Reply

    What exactly feels better than basking in your flavor of bliss when wars are raging around you? So relaxing.

  2. Wonda Buoy
    January 19, 07:50 Reply

    I don’t know why I had misty eyes reading this. And it flowed as I got to the end.

  3. Carlos
    January 19, 08:08 Reply

    Wow. So this happened just for God to confirm how beautiful the love they shared was.

    I really feel like pinching myself into reality. Is this real??

    Beauty amidst pain.
    Let love lead always.

  4. Omiete
    January 19, 08:29 Reply

    This was such a beautiful read.

  5. Black Dynasty
    January 19, 09:10 Reply

    I rarely read fiction but this was just beautiful, simply beautiful.

  6. Jinchuriki
    January 19, 10:37 Reply

    Anyone who knows me knows how I am about my sexuality and religion. Even sexuality and religion of any kind. They can never mix for me.

    Peaches, this was a well thought out, well structured piece. You are an amazing writer. I am not impressed, I am amazed. ❤

  7. Tristan
    January 19, 11:48 Reply

    For a moment, I thought I was reading TWILIGHT again. You sounded more like Bella. We live in a hypocritical world really. Just “Simply do only that which is right. And surround yourself with positive energy.”?

  8. Peace
    January 19, 12:57 Reply

    Tears flowed down my eyes as I read this. This is so beautiful, so pure and it’s filled with the purest form of love. I’ll be sure not to forget, do only that which is right and surround yourself with positive energy. *Wipes tear away*

  9. Fizoblinzs
    January 19, 13:17 Reply

    What a beautiful piece from an amazing writer.
    Reading this write up left in me the desire to love myself more and appreciate my peculiarities as a gay man even in the midst of so much pressure to conform to heteronormative and homophobia choking around my neck.
    Thanks Peaches, your write up has just adjusted my focus.

  10. J
    January 19, 21:03 Reply

    Ahuzubillahi this could be a special case of blasphemy, what sacrilege? ?

    Stories like this can shut up religious psychopaths! I am looking forward to the day where we will have gay prophets and prophetesses that can receive revelation and fight for our community.

    Dear God, I need your calling. Make me an instrument, give me the power to bring about change to this hopeless generation and the upcoming ones. I challenge you to show your mercy to the LGBT community, I challenge you to make the world a better place. Every gay, lesbians, transgender, gender fluid, asexual and etc going through a difficult time because of society’s hate and expectations, because of any disease be it HIV, hepatitis, herpes, syphilis, gonorrhea, depression, gender dysphoria , bipolar and hopelessness, may the good Lord, the power over the earth, the spirit of goodness and mercy heal you and console your soul. You’re not alone, we’re together in this and we are all going to make it. In Jesus name I ask and pray.

      • Oludayo
        January 20, 08:20 Reply

        Don’t sharrap J. Keep speaking what you see as your truth.

        • J
          January 20, 17:42 Reply

          Thank you Oludayo! For the first time on KD I feel understood ?? Oludayo can I get your email from Pinky please? I would like to be your friend.

  11. Lorde
    January 20, 10:06 Reply

    So many aunties and uncles in this piece…

  12. Peaches
    January 20, 12:40 Reply

    Thank you so much everyone. We all are beautiful and special in the eyes of God.

  13. Kelvin
    January 23, 14:31 Reply

    *Do that which is right and surround yourself with positive energy* I’m crying now??

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