FOREWORD: Here’s a little amebo from me 🙂 Benjamin Robson, the married man we once talked about right here on Kito Diaries, the young father who came out in a touching video (Read HERE), apparently stumbled on the post and has spoken out in a comment. Check on it, shall we?
And now, for today’s episode of Love And Sex In The City. . .
I was about to draw the bolt on the toilet stall in the men’s room in order to pull the door open and step out, when I heard the convenience’s main door whine open, and then I heard footfalls. A second later, Kizito’s voice rumbled, “Tunde, have you seen Declan?”
I froze, softly sliding the bolt back in, and waited.
Tunde answered over the rush of water in the sink as he undoubtedly washed his hands. “No, I haven’t. Check our office nau.” Tunde must have been the occupant of the only stall whose door was shut when I came into the convenience several moments ago to ease myself. Otherwise he’d have known I was in here as well. He is also my officemate, works in the Human Resources with me.
“I’ve checked. He’s not there. Estelle said he stepped out not too long ago.”
“Then check Dotun’s office. He’ll be there. That is, if he has not already left. You know it’s almost five.”
I looked at my watch. Seven minutes to 5pm. I’d planned to go on home from here anyway. With any luck, I would make it out of the building without running into Kizito.
I heard him grunt a response to Tunde’s suggestion, and seconds later, the men’s room door whined open again. And closed. I waited, listening to Tunde whistling a Wizkid tune, then came the burr of the hand dryer, before the door whined open again, signaling his exit from the room.
I walked out of the stall then, clasping my bag to my body and moving swiftly to the door. I opened it a crack and peered out into the hallway beyond, in time to spot Tunde disappearing around a corner. He was probably heading back to the office. Dotun’s office is next door to ours. Dotun Akintoye is the manager, Recruitment and Outsourcing, a unit in the HR, and a good friend of mine. He hadn’t been in to work today, but with any luck, I’d be out of here before Kizito will be informed of that.
I slipped out of the convenience and started down the hallway for the elevator. Ever since he kissed me on Friday last week, I’d not known how to react to Kizito. Eddie was right; everything had changed. I no longer even had my habitual antagonism to hold on to against him, and the attraction I felt for him was starting to scorch through my entire being. But I couldn’t tell him that; I wasn’t even sure what he wanted from me. And I most certainly wasn’t ready for any talk with him that would address this issue between us. A talk he seemed determined to have when he came to look for me this morning (I hadn’t gotten to work then, Estelle informed me), around midday (he met us having a small departmental briefing), and then just now.
I knew I couldn’t dodge him forever, but right now, I could try.
I punched the button and waited for the elevator, impatiently. The moment it arrived and the doors dinged open, I heard someone call my name from down the corridor.
It was him.
I darted into the elevator and frantically jabbed the button to shut the door and start my journey downstairs. Go, go, go…!
“Declan, wait – I want to talk to you!” His footsteps thudded down on the ground in a run toward me.
The doors closed then, and the lift began to move. I let out a pent-up breath and shut my eyes. This is so Hollywood. And in a Hollywood movie, the chaser would take the stairs, in order to intercept his quarry at the bottom floor. My eyes snapped open. Oh God, what to do, what to do…
When the doors slid open again, I walked out into the lobby. My gaze flew to the stairwell. There was no one tearing down the steps. That didn’t mean he wasn’t on his way. I hurried across the lobby, got outside and started a fast trek for the gate.
My heart stopped.
“Which devils are pursuing you?”
I turned to see Jonathan in his car. He’d just driven into the compound and was circling to find a parking spot.
“Are you here to see me?” I hollered, waiting until he’d reversed and driven to a stop beside me. I opened the passenger door and slid in.
“Yes. And it seems you’ve forgotten why. I told you on Saturday that I would like you to accompany me for some wedding shopping together with Chidi.” Chidi was short for Chidimma, his wife-to-be.
I slapped a palm on my forehead. “Oh, that’s right. Yea, you’re right. I forgot. Too many things happening at once. My bad.”
“It’s alright.” He was steering his way back into the traffic on the main road. “Glad I caught you in time though.”
“Why do you even need me sef?”
“Because Chidi wants me involved in the purchases of some of the wedding stuff, and I don’t know these things. And you do. So…” He shrugged and smiled at me. There was something a bit bashful and endearing about the smile.
I smiled back and said, “Ok, let’s do this then. Where are we going? And where’s madam?”
“Ikeja Shopping Mall. And Chidi will meet us there. Her office is in Alausa.”
Soon, we were embroiled in the evening traffic of the Lagos mainland. As Jonathan drove, we chattered, with me updating him on how the rest of us spent the Sunday at Yinka’s place. I’m not the ‘gisty’ type; I lack Ekene’s theatrical accompaniments and Biola’s witty deliveries. But I managed to get some laughs out of Jonathan as he listened to my narration.
About a thirty-minute drive later, he pulled into a parking spot in the vast grounds of the shopping mall. He had already called his fiancée to notify her of our presence at the mall.
We started strolling toward the sprawling building when someone called, “Nathy, how far!”
We turned to see one of Jonathan’s friends approaching us with a broad grin. He is dark, tall and skinny, with a full head of afro. His name is Uzoma. I recognized him as one of those Jonathan’s ‘straight-acting’ friends who could screw a guy in one second and castigate homosexuality in the next. Somewhat like Jonathan himself. He has a bunch of this sort of guys as his friends, and Biola sneeringly calls them the ‘Straight Gay Club.’
As Uzoma drew closer, my Blackberry vibrated in my hand. I checked the notification. It was a new email, one that alerted me to a new update on Eddie’s blog which I’d subscribed to. Eddie blogs about all sorts of issues, from entertainment gossip and fashion updates to witty columnar pieces and LGBTI matter. Yes, that’s right. Eddie’s internet alter ego is out of the closet, and he fearlessly takes on all manner of gay issues, which has made him very controversial in the blogosphere. Interestingly, he has a massive following, both gay and straight, and the comment threads of most of his updates are usually rife with contention between both divides.
Feeling intrigued, in light of yesterday’s argument at Yinka’s place, and wondering if today’s blogpost was going to be about it, I navigated my way to the blog. The neatly-stenciled title of the topmost post made me gasp in incredulity.
THAT THING ABOUT GAYS AND LABELS…
Oh no, he didn’t! I thought, chuckling. This guy is crazy. I thought about how frank and uninhibited our debate had been yesterday, and I wondered about how he would word it all into a blogpost, mentally shuddering at the thought of the acrimony this was certain to incur from his heterosexual readership.
“Declan, I dey greet o!” Uzoma’s jocular voice jolted me out of my musing.
I looked up to see him and Jonathan staring at me with faint curiosity.
“What’s funny? Who’s toasting you now?” Jonathan teased.
I chuckled again. “It’s Eddie, you won’t believe he actually turned that our argument I told you we had yesterday into a post on his blog.”
Jonathan’s eyes widened. “Are you kidding me?”
I shook my head, grinning.
“What’s going on?” Uzoma queried. “What blog is that?”
“It’s this blog that belongs to my friend,” I answered. “Rainbowman.blogspot.com, have you heard of it?”
He made a face, the kind of grimace that told me before he spoke that he was familiar with the website and didn’t approve of its content. “Yes, I know it. Is it not that gay blog?”
“It’s not a gay blog,” I bristled. “It’s a blog that talks about everything including issues about the gay community.”
“Have you visited it before?” Jonathan asked.
Uzoma shrugged his shoulders in that universal gesture that signified revulsion at something. “No o. Well, I clicked it open once. And that once was enough.”
“Why is that?” I asked, feeling my ire simmer.
“Why is what?”
“Why is once enough for you?”
“What will I be looking for there nah?” He chuckled and looked at Jonathan with that ‘is this guy for real’ expression.
“Because the blog has gay in it, or what? Or don’t you visit blogs at all?”
“I do. I visit Linda Ikeji’s blog and that Ladun blog –”
“And the reason you can’t check this one out more often is because?” I was in Spanish Inquisitor mode.
He stared at me. I stared back. There was a ruffled mien about him now, like he couldn’t believe he was being put on the spot. “Well, it’s a gay blog, no matter what you say. That one time I clicked on it, it was my girlfriend who sent me the link. The trending post on it then was something about homosexuality being African. My girl couldn’t believe anyone would be blogging about such rubbish. And I thought so too. So I don’t go to that blog anymore. In fact, before now, I’d always thought that Rainbow-man blogger is a white guy or something.”
“Well, he’s not. He’s Nigerian. And Nigerians visit the blog. And identify with the truths he talks about.”
“Good for them,” Uzoma snapped. “Me, I don’t think I can. Because those are not the kinds of things I want to be reading. I need things that inspire.”
I let out a bark of humourless laughter. “Things that inspire?” My lips curled. “And you get such inspiration from Linda Ikeji and Ladun-what’s-her-face, I suppose?”
That stung him, and his brows crocheted into a frown. “Guy, what’s your problem?” He turned to Jonathan and growled, “Nathy, abeg tell this your friend to free me. Haba! Na by force?”
“It’s not by force, Uzo,” Jonathan said, “but however, I’m surprised by how quick you are to dismiss gay issues as crap, and as something that doesn’t merit attention.”
The expression of incredulity that was stamped on Uzoma’s face as he gaped at Jonathan must have been duplicated on mine, as I swiveled my head to face him too. Jonathan rejected an opportunity to sneer at homosexuality?! Stop the press!
“Well…it’s not – it’s just…” Uzoma floundered.
“In your own words,” Jonathan cut in, his tone lacking censure, “your girl thinks homosexuality being African is rubbish. And so do you. Which begs the question, aren’t you African?”
“That’s not what I meant,” Uzoma said defensively.
“What did you mean?”
“The post was arguing that being gay is as much a part of Africa as it is of the West. Haba nau! That’s nonsense. It’s not in our culture –”
“Are you seriously going to do that tired dance about African culture, or were you going to add an entirely new point of view?” Jonathan’s voice was finally coloured. With sarcasm.
I wanted to laugh. His friend didn’t look happy. He stared at Jonathan like he didn’t think the person he knew was the one standing before him. I shared that thought too, and for a second, I wished I could record this for the purpose of playing it back to the gang.
“Nna mehn, forget that thing,” Uzoma finally said, aiming for jocularity, and slapping Jonathan lightly on the shoulder in a flailing attempt to reawaken their camaraderie. “No go let say, because you dey fuck nyash, you go come forget say na man wey you be.”
“I beg your pardon,” Jonathan snapped.
“Excuse you!” I bridled at the same time.
“Hey, hey, hey!” He laughed, lifting his hands as though to ward off attack. “Una too dey vex. Can’t someone play with you guys anymore? Sheesh!”
His protest was loud, and his voice carried. And the words were what someone walking toward us heard before she hollered, “Who is vexing over a little play?”
We turned and faced Chidimma as she strode past a parked Mercedes. She is this full-figured young woman with pretty, pert features and braided hair pulled back in a bun. She was beaming as she came to stand before us.
“Hi, Uzo” – she hugged the man – “long time. How’s Gladys? Hope these ones aren’t giving you too much of a hard time.”
“Oh no, nothing I couldn’t handle. We were just talking about homosexuality in Nigeria. Africa, really.”
The look Jonathan shot him over his fiancée’s head as she snuggled into an embrace from him was one of pure acid. He returned it with a cheeky grin before saying something about his errands, and bade us goodbye.
As he walked away, Chidimma stared after him, a thoughtful expression on her face. “That’s curious,” she remarked.
“What is?” Jonathan queried as he turned and started for the mall, steering her with him. I walked beside them.
“Uzo…I don’t know,” she replied. “I’ve always had my suspicions about him being into boys.”
I could see the effort Jonathan was putting into not reacting too much to his fiancée’s comment. “What nonsense are you talking?” he said with forced levity.
“I’m serious. The guy just gives off a certain vibe, I don’t know. Perhaps it’s just me. And with what he just said about homosexuality in Nigeria, boldly to me, just like that, I wonder if he’s warming up to the idea of coming out of the closet.”
Serves you right, Uzoma. The laugh escaped my mouth with a start, like the burst of a car’s ignition. I couldn’t help it. Jonathan glared at me, Chidimma stared at me too, but I refused to hide my amusement. The girl was so ridiculously off-point, I just couldn’t.
“You’re laughing, Declan,” she scolded. “It’s not funny. Do you know how much I used to pity Uzo’s girlfriend, Gladys all this time? I was thinking, if her guy is gay, then the babe don miss road. And it’s too bad. I really pity women in this country, who get sucked into relationships with men who have no real interest in them except as a cover for their more insidious sexual affairs.”
“Chidi –” Jonathan tried to interrupt.
“Wait, babe, lemme finish,” she chided, the very picture of affront. “Honestly, God should be involved in these matters of the heart and body. And shame on any man who puts his woman through this kind of lie.”
Jonathan cringed. It was the subtlest of involuntary motions. I saw it.
I was also miffed at this bitch with her soapbox and her self-righteousness. Look at this one o. If only you knew you were one such woman, you wouldn’t be mouthing off so, I thought wrathfully.
“In a society like Nigeria’s,” I snapped at her, “can you really blame these men? Society says you’ll be damned if you don’t get married, so what are they supposed to do? And what makes you think women are just the victims here? What, you don’t think there are lesbians out there saying yes to marriage proposals and stepping out on their husbands with other women?”
My friend looked pleadingly at me, and I backpedalled.
Luckily, his fiancée was not spoiling for an argument. She said blithely, “Whatever joor. Me, I’ve said my own. Lucky is the woman whom god has blessed with a man who genuinely loves her. Right, babe?” She turned to look adoringly up at Jonathan.
“Right.” And he planted a quick kiss on her upturned lips.
I shook my head as we walked on, into the mall. Such irony. Every woman – scratch that, every person – is quick to decry a societal inconvenience, and admit some empathy – or condescension – for whomever is perceived to be a victim of the circumstance, while eschewing the possibility that he or she might be suffering the same problem.
I shook my head again before quickly brightening my face as Chidimma began oohing and aahing over what seemed as though it would be our first purchase.
I remain yours faithfully, Pink Panther.
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