Writer’s Note: This story is a mixture of reality, fiction and a bit of an active imagination. Translation: Some things did happen, some I wish had happened, and the rest is as a result of too much coffee and Red Bull.
We Lived. We Loved. We Conquered. In the end, We Parted…
His day began like any other normal day. He arrived in Nigeria via Lagos on Friday evening, and he had a connecting flight to Abuja the next evening. So he had Sunday to relax.
He would have preferred to take another airline to get into Abuja directly, saving him the trouble of using a connecting flight. But being the Vice President for an airline in Canada had its perks, and the fleet flies Toronto to Lagos three times weekly. Plus the airport in Abuja was closed for four days prior to that day, for runway maintenance to reopen on Saturday. So either way he would have landed in Lagos.
He had back-to-back meet and greets within the city center with various government officials, as well as other men and women in the aviation business as himself. They were looking to increase service to six times weekly across Nigeria; two flights to Abuja which would be introduced in the first quarter of 2011, while Lagos would be increased to four flights.
He was Edgar S. Roberts, 47 years old, 6ft 3” tall, with a full shock of dark hair and a body that was now almost tanned, because he’d spent almost the entire Sunday lounging under the sun by the pool, at the Hilton. He was the Vice President Alliances and Regulatory Affairs for Largo Airlines. He was basically responsible for Largo Air’s relationship and partnership with foreign carriers including the airlines presence with Star Alliance Frequent flier program, as well as regulatory and aero-political matters.
Right after he finished a meeting with the chairman of one of the potential partner airlines, in a conference room at the Hilton and was on his out, two men walked in. They were airline staff, judging from their IDs; but the younger one of the two looked quite familiar. Edgar couldn’t place where he’d met him, but deep down, he was positive they had met before. Watching him, he recognized the expression on the other man’s face, one that said that he thought him familiar too.
As they walked past each other, something in Edgar clicked. They had indeed met before, on the plane on Saturday.
He turned back to the younger man and said, “Hi, pardon me, but you do look somewhat familiar…”
The other man replied, “Well I doubt we’ve met before.”
Well, that’s not good, Edgar thought. Not wanting to prolong the issue, he said, “Very well, I’m sorry for taking up your time. It’s just that, you look like someone I met last weekend on a flight from Lagos to Abuja, and he helped me with my bags when I was struggling to get it out from the overhead bin and deplane.”
Edgar thought he might have heard a small gasp from the young man. But he was not sure.
Then the young man said, “I’m sorry, I doubt it was me. I was in Lagos but left on Friday.”
“That’s fine. I apologize again for taking up your time.”
Both men shook hands and moved away from each other. Edgar left the room, still thinking how certain he was that he had met the young man before.
That afternoon, Edgar received a call from his sister, Ellie, just as he was about to leave the Hilton with his colleagues right after having lunch. Ellie talked about Mother having another one of her seizures. As Ellie was speaking, giving him updates, the line went dead. Without thinking, Edgar broke away from the group and sprinted towards the MTN kiosk nearby to get airtime. There was a small queue at the kiosk, one he brushed past, and nearly out breath, he began speaking, telling the customer care representative that it was an emergency.
The young woman stared at him for a brief moment, and then looked behind him, as though communicating with the person behind Edgar with her eyes. Feeling a flare of frustration, Edgar turned to see who or what she was looking at.
And he rested his eyes on the young man from earlier in the conference room.
“Oh, hi again,” he said.
“Hi,” the young man replied.
“Listen, I’m really sorry I barged in and took your spot, but I have to call home. It’s an emergency, please…”
He said, “It’s okay”, and nodded his acquiescence to the customer service rep. Edgar thanked him, and turned back to the woman to make his purchase.
After buying the airtime, he turned back to the young man and said, “Thank you very much for this. I’m really grateful for this.” Unable to stop himself, he continued talking, “I was just informed that my mother was rushed to the hospital, she’s had a seizure, so I’m trying to call home to get updates.”
“It’s okay. Judging by the way you ran down here, I figured it must have been extremely urgent. And I’m really sorry about your mum. I hope she gets better.”
“Thanks.” And then, unbidden, he said, “I’m Edgar, by the way. Edgar Roberts.”
“I’m Harry,” the young man responded. “Harry Imoh.”
“It’s nice to meet you, Harry.”
“Same here, Edgar.”
And that was how Edgar Roberts met Harry, the young Nigerian who turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to him.
It turned out that Harry truly was the one Edgar met on the plane.
The incident had been that Edgar’s bag got tangled with another passenger’s bag in the luggage compartment, and Harry was there to assist him in untangling it. Harry then offered to help him carry the bag just until they stepped out of the plane onto the gangway. Edgar said thanks, they bid each other goodbye, and went their separate ways.
All this they got to relive during dinner, which Edgar had asked Harry out to later in the evening. Over drinks, Harry admitted that he wasn’t supposed to be on the flight that Edgar had been on, and since his boss was within earshot, he couldn’t admit it.
They ended up ordering room service in Edgar’s room after drinks. This came about after a tacit understanding, when Edgar paid Harry a compliment concerning his looks. Harry laughed modestly and said rather coyly, “And all this on the first date?”
The remark set off a crackle of something between them, and they decided to head to Edgar’s room, where they’d feel a lot more comfortable, without having to speak in hushed tones and having to endure the formality of sitting in a prim and proper way while having dinner in the buffet room.
Harry went home after dinner and returned with a change of clothes. That way, he could leave from the hotel for work the next morning. They spent the rest of the evening just talking and cuddling and tongue-dueling. Bedtime came, and they drifted off in each other’s arms.
And so that night marked the beginning of a gradual something between the two men.
Fast forward months later, both men were still together, still going steady in a loving relationship. Edgar now resided in Nigeria, thanks to the purchase Largo Air made of the airline Harry works for. Edgar was there as part of the transition team. The initial plan was to establish a code-share agreement with the airline, but somewhere along the line, prices were named and a deal sealed. Largo Nigeria was birthed.
Due to this development, Edgar had to move into an apartment for the duration of the transition period, and Harry was on hand to do the house-hunting and furnishing of the apartment. Edgar trusted his judgment, and they kept in touch via Skype whenever Edgar was out of town in other states within Nigeria or back at HQ in Toronto. By September of 2010, they’d moved in together, even though Harry still kept his apartment, for appearance purposes.
Both lovers were due for their annual vacation. Harry should have gone on his vacation in November last year, but they agreed that he should shift it to February, when Edgar would be embarking on his. They decided to visit Washington DC, where Edgar’s family was.
Harry applied for his visa as the time drew near. Edgar offered to help by suggesting he call in favour from a friend who was a diplomat to ensure that his visa was issued. Harry refused and said that would be a backup plan in the event that he got rejected. He was nervous over his visa interview, but he wanted to do this on his own terms. Edgar thought him heady and overly independent, but those were two of the characteristics that kept him attracted to Harry.
The interview came eventually, and Harry scaled through. His visa was issued.
February soon came around, and the day of the trip – the 4th – saw them parked and ready, at the airport, armed with their business class tickets which Edgar purchased for a great price with Lufthansa. One of the perks he enjoyed as a star alliance member and a VP with a partner airline. In a few hours, they were up in the air, with Harry seated by the window. They held hands during taxi and take off. That in itself was a special moment for them.
Once they gained altitude and the cabin lights were dimmed, Harry moved closer to his lover and kissed him. It was one of those kisses that came with a statement. This one said: Thank you.
Edgar smiled at him.
The trip was uneventful, with a smooth connection at Frankfurt on the 5th. They showered and changed into fresh clothes, and waited for a few hours to board their connection from FRA to IAD. At Frankfurt, Harry was free to take Edgar’s hand in public and cuddled up against his body without any fear or anxiety.
They landed in Washington in good time on the 5th (the 6th in Nigeria). They disembarked feeling dead tired. Ellie was at the airport with a car to pick them up to the hotel. She and Harry had this love-hate relationship going on. Edgar, of course, loved his sister, but he had made up his mind not to tolerate any nonsense from her, should she give Harry any grief during this trip.
The next few days were filled with leisure living – sightseeing, visiting interesting places in the city, shopping, and visiting with Edgar’s family. On the night of the 12th, Edgar suggested they visit a gay bar. Harry was excited. They teased each other with a dare on who would get hit on the most, although they agreed they would not hook up with anyone, just let them down gently. Underneath his exterior of good humour, Edgar had his reasons for wanting to visit the bar; he wanted to test his feelings for Harry.
So they went to Cobalt on 17th street; it was a swanky place that was tame downstairs and wild upstairs. You could have cocktails and a nice conversation downstairs. But if you were in the mood to sow your wild oats, then you headed on upstairs. Edgar went in first; Harry was to come in a few minutes later. That way, no one would suspect that we were together and the challenge would begin.
The minute Harry stepped through the door, a myriad of eyes fell on him. He exuded a presence that drew attention to him. Edgar stared himself, drinking in the sight of his dark-skinned, slenderly-built lover. He was mesmerized. Harry stood at the doorway, until he felt sure he was sufficiently seen, before he sauntered in to the table where Edgar sat. He ordered a vodka and Red Bull, and Edgar asked for a rum and coke. The music was loud. And a tide of men eddied around them. They were hit on several times, Harry more so than Edgar.
Watching him laugh gaily and turn down requests for a dance or a private moment outside the room, Edgar began to feel what he’d hoped he would feel. Jealousy. Pangs of jealousy. Every time a guy walked over to Harry to offer him a drink, he felt just a touch of red eclipse his vision. He felt like dragging him away from there, but he controlled himself and left the decision of when they would leave the bar up to him.
Then something happened.
A brawny, black guy walked up to Harry and whispered something in his ear, which made Harry glance at Edgar and giggle. Then he shook his head at the guy, as if to say no to him. The guy began to act insistent, refusing to leave Harry’s side, his expression set.
Edgar couldn’t hear what was being said, but the scene didn’t seem right to him. He got to his feet and stepped over to them, to tell the huge tree trunk to stop bothering Harry. What happened next was a blur to him; a fist rocketed through the air and smashed across his face, and he was falling back, and Harry was at his side, asking if he was okay and helping him to his feet. Edgar affirmed that he was fine, and asked that they should leave.
But Harry would have none of it.
The black guy was in a corner of the bar, hurling insults at Harry. What does he have that I don’t have? Why should you be disrespecting niggas all over by giving it up to an old white guy? I’ve got a better dick, bitch! And I’m younger and more active than that white slob!
Edgar was stung by the insults. Harry was infuriated by them. There was a brief spat as he made some retorts, before shoving at the guy. A fist flew. And a fight erupted. Harry had the guy in a choke-hold when a couple of bouncers shouldered their way through the crowd to break up the altercation and escort both men out.
Edgar followed after them. That wasn’t how he’d planned for the night to end.
In the taxi, as they were taken back to their hotel, Harry seethed and ranted about the altercation, fuming about how he should have been allowed to beat the shit out of the other guy. Edgar sat beside him, quiet and contemplative, and a little scared by this dangerous, new side to his lover, the one whose eyes were all fired up from the violence of moments ago.
Back in the hotel, Harry dashed off to the lobby bathroom, with Edgar in tow. Edgar opened the door gently to see him bent over the sink, washing his face, before staring at his reflection in the mirror. He looked distraught, breathing heavily as though he was hyperventilating, or having some sort of mild asthmatic attack. Edgar approached him and placed a hand on his back.
“Are you okay?” he queried.
Harry put his head down and started sobbing. “Oh God, I’m sorry, Ed…” he said softly. “I’m really sorry I acted that way back at the bar, and did what I did to scare you. That wasn’t me…”
Edgar took his arm and pulled him toward him for a hug. Harry placed his head on his shoulder and continued to sob quietly.
“I just lost it when that guy hit you…” he said in between sniffs. “I thought he’d broken your nose or done something terrible to you. And I couldn’t bear that thought of all the terrible things he said, so I lost it and attacked him… I’m really sorry, Ed…”
Edgar began to feel an overwhelming emotion tighten inside him as Harry spoke. He broke the embrace, looked his lover in the face and murmured, “I’m also sorry I took you there in the first place. I shouldn’t have doubted what we have.”
Harry looked bewildered by his words, so he went on, “The reason I suggested we go to the bar in the first instance was because I wasn’t sure how I felt about you. I wanted to see if I could feel something when other men tried to hit on you… And I did.”
Harry looked back at him, his expression betraying his mild struggle to make sense of what he’d just said. And then, his face cleared and he chuckled, smiling for the first time since the incident. “You did…?” he said.
“Yes, I did. I was very pissed whenever a guy walked up to you, but I couldn’t stop you from having fun, so I held back.”
“Well you should have said something, you big oaf,” Harry said, wiping his eyes. “We would have left the place immediately, and returned here to make beautiful babies instead, rather than entertaining douche bags.”
Edgar gave out a laugh. “You want babies?”
“Yes, maybe two or three…”
They both laughed then, and walked out of the bathroom with their arms around each other. All was well with the world again.
On February 14th, the couple had a nice dinner together to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Harry had a surprise, and told Edgar not to make any dinner reservations. He’d made plans for dinner already.
At 7:30pm, a town car came to the hotel to pick them up. And they were whisked off to a restaurant on Vermont Avenue that was quite exquisite. Edgar stared disbelieving as they walked into the restaurant, wondering how his lover had pulled off this plan without his help.
At the entrance of the restaurant, they were met by a burly Italian. As they approached the Italian, Harry quickly whispered to Edgar that he was going to French-kiss the man. He had a broad grin on his face as he said so. Edgar was at once bewildered and outraged by the notion. And when the two men squealed with delight at the sight of each other, before embracing and kissing, he tried not to stare, or to feel too vexed. He succeeded in neither. He hoped this was all a joke.
“Mi amoré!” the Italian gushed at Harry. “I miss you, since I leave Nigeria, I miss you plenty!”
“I’ve missed you too, Emilio.”
Feeling more than a little discomfort, Edgar let out a polite cough to remind the two that he was still with them.
Emilio quickly moved to his side, followed by Harry who was saying, “Emilio, this is my boyfriend, the one I told you about.”
“Ah, si! Your boyfriend…” Emilio said, before enveloping Edgar in a big hug and kissing both his cheeks. “You very lucky man,” he said. “I try to make Harry my boyfriend, but non, he say he no date chef, but he want to be my very good friend.”
Edgar gave a small smile of satisfaction. “Grazie,” he said.
“You speak Italiano, si?” Emilio asked.
“Un po, very little,” Edgar replied.
“Ah, si, you’re welcome to mi ristorante. You and Harry are my guest tonight. I prepare you special Italian cuisine. Come, sit.” He bustled the couple of a seat.
Edgar looked around, observing then that they were the only ones in the vast space.
“Mi scusi,” Emilio said. “I go get ready.”
“Thank you, Emilio,” Harry said quite cheerily.
Once they were left alone, Edgar planted a beady stare on Harry and said, “Start talking.”
Harry chuckled, before he did. “Emilio and I met when I came back to Nigeria after I’d finished school, probably one of the few friends I’d made on my return. He was smitten by me and I the same. But I did not see a future between him and me, so I suggested we stay friends.”
“Hmmm, go on.”
“When we landed in DC, Emilio saw my status on Facebook and contacted me. So I had him clear the restaurant for us this evening because I wanted this to be our night. When I asked how much I owed him, he said nothing but a frenchie, which is what you saw. A good price I’d say for giving us his restaurant for the night.”
“And the town car?”
“I paid for that myself, I didn’t French-kiss anybody o,” Harry said with a laugh.
“You’re impossible,” Edgar said, smiling.
“I know, right, but I only felt it the least I could do for you. If you take out the jetlag, this is by far one of the best trips I’ve ever been on. So this is my own little way of saying thank you for everything and to say how much I love and appreciate you.”
Edgar sighed and said, “I love you too, Harry.”
He looked at his young lover and thought fondly about how determined he was to be an equal to him in their relationship, and not just a body to cuddle and make love to. He thought about how he strived for them to split the bills back home in Nigeria, how he didn’t think anything of using his own money to pay for the electricity or the cable subscription. Edgar admired him for all these, but he felt he should be saving up, not trying to proving a point. He had more than enough to sustain them both, even though it was nice to see that he wasn’t an opportunist like most people made Nigerians out to be.
However, tonight wasn’t the night to chastise him for all that. They’d simply enjoy their dinner and do whatever it was lovers do on Valentine’s Day.
And they did.
Emilio was an exquisite host. The food was delicious. And the service was excellent. Edgar was immensely impressed. The entire evening was lovely. And by the time they returned to their hotel, Edgar didn’t think there was anyone he could love more than he did Harry.
February 20th saw the couple back at Washington Dulles Airport, for their return trip to Nigeria. The last two weeks had been beyond incredible for both of them. The last few days saw them doing some last minute shopping for Harry’s family, friends and colleagues.
After making his acquaintance during the vacation, Edgar’s family loved Harry, and that made him very happy. Even Ellie had thrown aside her initial animosity toward Harry, and the two were almost very good friends by the time the vacation was over. As Edgar watched his sister and lover chattering on their way to the airport on that day, he thought about how, when transition period was over in Nigeria, he hoped to ask Harry to move back to HQ with him. He hoped he would agree.
It was two years and counting, and Edgar saw no end to the best relationship he’d ever had. He was presently in Toronto for a few days. He missed his boyfriend; the two of them were still going steady and everyday between them seemed like it was the first.
That day of September was a weekend; he and a few of his friends had plans to take their motorbikes and go out into the country for the weekend. It had been long since he hung out with these guys, so it would be nice to catch up.
After work, he headed home, packed his gear and rode his bike to meet his friends. And soon, they were off. As he felt the wind in his face, he wished Harry was with him. He always wished Harry was with him wherever he was.
I stand next to Ellie. We are both comforting each other. Edgar’s coffin is being lowered into the ground as the preacher says the final rites.
This is it, I think. Two years of happiness is being covered up. Gone, lost forever.
Ellie called me at about 1 am. She was crying over the phone. I was groggy because she’d awakened me up from sleep. I was in the apartment that Edgar and I lived in. When she told me the news, I was devastated. I screamed in anguish. And then I broke down and cried from that early morning to the time the morning came. I was distraught. I was in no frame of mind to function. And so, when I went to work that morning, it was to give notice that I wouldn’t be coming to work for a while.
Word finally came in from HQ. Edgar was gone. Dead from an auto accident. At this time, I was already on a plane heading to Lagos, armed with my passports and documentation for a Canadian visa. Luckily my dad was in Lagos at the time on business, and when I called him on the phone and told him what happened to Edgar, he cancelled his itinerary for the rest of the day to be with me.
Dad has always been there for me. He still hasn’t fully accepted the fact that I am gay, but he saw I was happy with Edgar and gave his blessing.
After I spoke with him, a call from Chris came through. Chris was a diplomatic attaché at the Canadian embassy and a friend of Edgar. He didn’t bother with pleasantries.
“Where are you?” he asked simply.
“I’m on my way to you.”
“Good, call me as soon as you land in Lagos.”
And then, he hedged, finally giving in to the need to say something commiserative. “Hang in tight, buddy. And please accept my condolences.”
The tears threatened, and I felt swamped by misery again. “Thank you,” I choked out. “I’ll see you soon.” And I disconnected the call.
It wasn’t long before my visa was issued, and I was on a flight out to Toronto.
Presently, I break away from Ellie and the rest of Edgar’s family. I move far away from Edgar’s tomb, toying with the ring he gifted me with when we were in DC last year. One part of me wants to keep it; the other part wants me to throw it far away from me.
I kneel to the ground and put my head down and begin to cry. I have been crying a lot since Edgar’s passing. And I can’t seem to stop the tears. I just want to feel something, but I am just too numb.
Ellie comes up to me and sits beside me. I am still toying with the ring, no word is said. Then I pull off the ring and, taking Ellie’s hand, I put it in hers. She tries to resist but I force her to take it. Then, I get to my feet and start to walk away. She runs after me, gets in my way and then hits me right across the face.
“You’re family now, goddamnit! I know he would want you to move on and find someone else to love you just as he did, but you will always be family and we’ll always love you because you made him the happiest man in the world till death. Please! I beg of you, don’t shut us out…” Her voice breaks as she puts the ring in my jacket and walks away.
I stay still and close my eyes. The numbness is lightened after Ellie leaves. Almost immediately, I feel Edgar’s spirit around me. He touches my face and holds me from behind, just like he did the first day we were together in his hotel room, and always did whenever we were together.
Tears stream down from my eyes. I start to feel something…everything.
And I whisper, “I love you, Edgar Roberts.”
Written by Jarch