Suite 419 was where everything happened; the meeting, the loving, and the breakup. The first time Kene met Chiboy and Peter, he fell immediately for Peter. That night, the moon did not shine because a great cloud covered the sky. A cool breeze blew that night, plastered Kene’s face with water. By the time he got to Timber Avenue, the breeze had turned into a gale, tossing everything in its path. Kene ran into a compound and called his cousin, Val. “Where are you?” Kene asked. “I have the books.”
“Just stay put,” Val said. “I’ll send someone with an umbrella.”
That person was Chiboy: tall, slim, with a delicate fair-skinned, red-lipped handsomeness, like he would break if you touched him too hard. He shook hands with Kene and said “hey” with the deepest voice Kene had ever heard. They walked quickly, closely, sharing the umbrella. Kene did not say much; Chiboy did all the talking.
When they got into the house, the living room was dark. Power had been cut, and Kene could hear someone trying to put on the generator in the balcony. Two people were talking in the balcony. Kene could make out Val’s voice, rough and grainy. Chiboy helped Kene into a seat. Soon, the light came on, the living room awash in a white brilliance. Val came in, laughing at something the guy behind him had said. He smiled at Kene. “This guy na idiot,” he said. “And him get good name oh, Peter. Imagine!”
Peter took Kene’s breath away, a clichéd expression for a clichéd feeling. But it was true. Kene practically skipped a breath, a heartbeat, muttered some nonsensical stuff as he shook hands with Peter.
Peter had the kind of off-handed handsomeness that made Kene turn to cloth. His blackness glowed, his white polo-shirt hugged his body, hugged his chest; he had a fine face that was not too fine, lips a little pouty, eyes bright, like he was full of perpetual laughter. And so Kene fell.
Viewing Timber Avenue from Suite 419 was like viewing a column of ants. Everything below was specked, the noises filtered into some kind of continuous music. Whenever Kene visited Val, he stood by the window and stared at the street, at the cars and motorcycles and the people. Chiboy would come and stand beside him, and together they would talk about the people they saw and the cars they would like to buy when they graduated.
On one of such days, they were alone in the house. Both Val and Peter had gone out with their girlfriends. Chiboy and Kene stood watching the street below when, out of a reckless impulse, Kene said, “You must be gay. I’ve not seen you with any girl.”
Chiboy laughed. He did not look at Kene. “I’m gay for you,” he said.
“Lie,” Kene said, and laughed.
The first time they kissed, Kene tasted beer on Chiboy’s tongue. Earlier on, they had all gone out to the Bar downstairs. Both Val and Peter had their girlfriends sleeping over, and Kene and Chiboy slept in the living room, since there were only two bedrooms in Suite 419. Tinsel was showing on DSTV, and they both sat huddled in a couch in the dimness of the living room, watching it.
Outside, it was going to rain. A fierce wind pushed the sliding windows, so Chiboy rushed to shut them. He went outside, returned with a heap of all their clothes, and dumped them on a chair. When he returned to the couch, he relaxed properly with his back against the backrest and his hand around Kene’s shoulder. Then he moved closer. And closer. By the time the movie was over, Kene’s head was resting on Chiboy’s shoulder.
“This is weird,” Kene said, moving away.
Chiboy chuckled. They both looked up, looked away, looked up again. And then Chiboy took Kene’s hand and pulled him closer. He planted his lips on Kene’s, and soon they were both gasping as their tongues stretched and their hands groped.
And, just as Kene was beginning to settle into a quiet relationship, Peter became all friendly and chatty with him. Whenever he visited, Peter would sit long hours with him and talk and talk, and Kene began to notice how Peter was always shirtless whenever he was around, how Peter always seemed to hold his gaze as they talked. And he noticed Peter’s stare too, lingering, openly leering and flirting, not masking its interest.
It confused Kene.
“Is Peter gay?” he asked Chiboy one evening, the evening Chiboy took him to a fine restaurant on campus and asked that they make it official. They were through with dinner and were walking back to Timber Avenue when Kene asked the question.
“No,” Chiboy said. “Why do you ask?”
Kene hesitated. “He’s acting all flirtatious lately.”
Chiboy choked on his laughter, beat his hand on his chest. “Sorry about that,” he said. “It’s the look on your face that made me laugh. You’re looking like he almost raped you.”
“Shut up,” Kene said, smiling.
He slipped his hand into Chiboy’s when they got to a dark street. Chiboy squeezed it. “But seriously,” Chiboy said. “Don’t worry. He’s 100% pussy man.” He chuckled. “But he knows I like guys more than I like girls, and he’s cool with it. So maybe he suspects we’re an item, so he’s just kidding with you.”
“Okay,” Kene said. “Does Val know about you?”
“Noooo,” Chiboy said. “No way am I telling him. He will freak out.”
Then came the day when Kene visited Suite 419 and found a note on the table: Sorry, Kene. Had an emergency. Couldn’t get across to you over phone. My project supervisor wants to see me. I don’t know why this late. I’ll crash on campus. Chiboy.
“I saw the note on the table,” Val said, lacing his sneakers.
“Oh yes. My phone is down. No light on campus.”
Val nodded. “This one Chiboy is now leaving you notes,” he said. “Hmmm.”
“Hmmm-what?” Kene asked.
Val stood up, ruffled Kene’s hair. “Don’t worry, little bro,” he said. “Just don’t let him put that thing in your ass. Have you seen the size?” He bunched his fists to indicate how large Chiboy was down there. Kene threw a slipper at him, and he dodged and ran out of the house, laughing.
That night, as Kene sat watching Tinsel, a sleepy-eyed Peter walked into the living room. He squinted at Kene for a few seconds, and then extended his hand for a handshake. In the next minutes, Kene watched him go about the suite brushing his teeth, taking his bath, dressing up. And then he came and sat in the living room with Kene. For a while, they sat quietly watching the movie. Kene stood up to go to the bathroom, and when he squeezed pass Peter to go to his seat, Peter slapped his behind. “So Chiboy is the one fucking this ass eh?” he said.
The way he said those words, so off-handedly, like he was saying, “I like your shirt,” made Kene freeze. Peter pulled him onto his laps. “So, tell me,” he said. “What do you really like about Chiboy?”
Kene squirmed. “Guy, free me,” he said. “I don’t like this.”
“You have the nicest ass I’ve ever seen on a guy,” Peter said.
Kene tried to wriggle out of his hands. “You’re supposed to be straight,” he said.
“I can make an exception for you,” Peter said. “Tell me you don’t want me, and I’ll leave you now.”
“I am your friend’s guy,” Kene said; his words sounded strangled.
Peter chuckled. “Stop talking like a girl,” he said. “Will he marry you?” His hands moved into Kene’s trouser, pressed Kene’s buns, his lips nibbling Kene’s neck. He pushed Kene onto the sofa, and shoved down Kene’s trousers, rolled Kene’s shirt up, nibbled at Kene’s neck, Kene’s back, Kene’s shoulder.
Kene whimpered as he felt Peter’s mildly hairy torso against his back. Then it was Peter’s finger, wet with Vaseline, that probed his anus, circling, teasing, burrowing. Kene started thrusting back against the finger.
“Jesus!” Peter said, chuckled. “So you want it afterall.”
They were both older than Kene – Chiboy and Peter. In their mid twenties, they would be graduating in a couple of months. Kene, in his late teens, was awash with the promise of love: he often dreamed of taking long walks on a beach, holding hands with a man, the sunset yellow.
With Chiboy, his sunset and beach fantasy came alive in the dim rooms of Suite 419. Val traveled to the village to interview some old people for his project, and Kene moved in temporarily, taking up his space, staring at Timber Avenue with Chiboy all evening and talking about the cars they would buy and the places they would visit. Then they had sex; good, neat sex—the condom carefully slipped on, Chiboy always gentle, always worrying: “You like it?” “Does it hurt” “Sorry.” “Yeah?”
With Peter, sex was spontaneous and dirty and exciting. No condom. No venue—in the bedroom, on the couch, in the bathroom, in the kitchen. No apology—“Come here, dude! Spread that leg! Yeah!” And they did it even when Chiboy was around, most times asleep in the other room, and Kene would creep into Peter’s room, and as he slammed his hips against Kene’s behind, Peter would lean forward and grab Kene’s neck, muttering obscenities into Kene’s ear—”you like this dick huh?” “Chiboy’s dick not enough for you huh?”—and he would lick Kene’s ears with an avid hunger, force Kene’s mouth open with his tongue and, in Kene’s sex-crazed thought, rape it.
And afterwards, he would collect Kene into his arms and ruffle his hair. “Dude,” he would say, in a way that sounded like a question, like he was saying “and you still call yourself a dude?” And Kene would shrink inside and swear never to return. But he always did.
It rained heavily the day Chiboy broke up with Kene. Chiboy was on campus when it started raining. Kene walked to the living room and found Peter watching a movie. He sat in a chair as far away from Peter as possible. They were both quiet at first. Then Peter said, “So, you still dey form lover boy, eh?”
Kene shifted on his seat, but did not say a word. He did not want to be here, in this living room with Peter. But something held him back. Something. He had told Peter a few weeks ago that he wasn’t doing stuff with him anymore, and Peter had laughed and said, “Okay na,” in that way one said to a child, “Yes, I’ll beat your teacher for you.”
Peter came and sat beside Kene. He wrapped his arm around Kene’s shoulder. “I have missed you oh,” he said.
Kene shifted on his seat. Still, he did not leave.
And so, when Peter put his hands into Kene’s boxers and he moaned, Peter said, “No be gay you be again?” and chuckled.
And that was when Kene pushed him away. “Fuck you!” he said.
That night, Chiboy returned home, drenched. He went straight to the kitchen, boiled water for his bath and, after he had bathed, went into the room. Kene was asleep. He lay beside Kene, cuddled with him. “I missed you, dude,” he whispered.
“Welcome,” Kene sniffed.
“I thought you were asleep,” Chiboy said.
“No,” Kene sniffed, wiped his eyes. “No, I’m not.”
Chiboy sat up. “What’s wrong?” he asked, pulling Kene up with him. Kene resisted, and when he tried again and again, Kene shrugged him off and screamed, “I had sex with Peter. You’ve heard it now abi, so let me rest!”
He was crying.
Chiboy stared at him.
The rain drummed against the windows. “What?! He forced you or what?”
“No,” Kene said. “I did what everybody does. I fucked around a bit.” Even he didn’t know where all the sarcasm was coming from.
“Shut up!” Chiboy said, jumped out of the bed, as if Kene had suddenly turned leprous. “Just listen to yourself. I thought you were different!” He sank onto the floor and covered his face with his hands. The room seemed to be reeling.
Kene watched him. “I’m sorry,” he said. “Please.”
At first, Chiboy remained silent. But when Kene persisted with the “sorry” he said, “Please give me some space.” His eyes were red; the tears stood on his eyes, squeezed tight, like he didn’t have enough tears.
Kene left the room. He felt this weird sensation in his chest, like his heart was ticklish, ticklish with both laughter and sorrow. Peter was standing by the door. “Why did you tell him?” he asked. “Did you have to tell him to make you feel like you’re a good person?”
Kene gaped at him, then picked the remote control and smashed it on his head. He grabbed Kene’s arm, twisted it, pulled Kene to himself, raised his hand up to hit him, but changed his mind and muttered, “Bitch,” then pushed Kene away. He rushed into the room, and Kene heard him say, “Hey Chiboy, chill please.” Then there was the sound of scuffling, of things smashing.
When Kene dashed into the room, Peter was on the floor and Chiboy was on top of him, his fists raised high in the air. Kene rushed and held his hand and they struggled and struggled, until both he and Peter were holding Chiboy down and saying, “I’m so sorry” and “Chill dude,” respectively.
The next morning, the sun that rose over Timber Avenue was bright and scalding. But it was still beautiful, a brilliant after-rain sun. Kene threw his clothes into his bag and left.
Val settled everything. He returned, called Kene and said, “I’m not gay, but if I were Chiboy, I’d have killed both you and Peter. Especially you, because we all already know Peter is an asshole.”
Kene was quiet. “Who told you?”
“Peter,” he said.
Kene wrapped his arms around himself. Shame was like icy breeze on a naked body, and the thought of Peter and what they did together made him ashamed.
“Peter is not that bad,” Val said. “He simply takes things for granted. He wouldn’t do that to my girlfriend, I’m sure. ”
Kene wanted to ask, “What if I was a girl, would you have waved the whole blame off Peter like that?” but he didn’t. “Okay,” he said, instead; the phone call was getting too long. “What about Chiboy?”
“He’s sleeping,” Val said, chuckled. “The dude thought I’d punch him, he kept apologizing about going out with my cousin.”
“So you’re not freaked out?”
“Like I didn’t know you both were fucking all along.” He chuckled. “I was pissed sha, but not anymore. The most important thing is that you are happy. Chiboy wants to see you.”
“Thank you,” Kene said.
Written by Rapu’m Kambili