Author’s Note: This story is a mixture of both fiction and reality but based on recent events surrounding a person who meant something to me at one point. Any resemblance in characters or misrepresentation of places or events is highly regrettable.
January 5th 2015
My phone rang. The Caller ID read ‘Gandalf.’
“I was just thinking about you now sef. I planned on calling later tonight,” I said. “I thought you’d be busy with all your fellow wizards or something.”
“Good, save your airtime, as I’ve got one better. When can you come home?” Gandalf asked.
“Hian! Just like that? Where would I even get a ticket at this time of the year to begin with mbok ette?” I asked.
“Just answer the question and stop asking me stupid questions. Did you think I hadn’t considered that?”
“Don’t be such a grumpy old man,” I said. “The original Gandalf was never grumpy, plus it’s bad for your skin and can cause wrinkles. I’m your only gay son, so I know.”
“Ukam anye wrinkles, idoho ami,” Gandalf replied and hissed.
Translation: Your grandma has wrinkles, not me.
“Nko uka ke ado?” I retorted.
Translation: Is she not your mother?
“Da Mbok, tell me so I can get you a ticket,” Gandalf grumbled. “I haven’t got all day and I need to find your brothers and get them tickets too. I need everyone back home for a few days to regroup and launch out again. This family hasn’t spent a holiday together in years. Only heaven knows where those two are.”
“Hmm, any day is fine by me, as long as I’m back in Abuja by the eighteenth,” I replied. “Only heaven knows where you’re going to conjure up a ticket at this time for everybody.”
“Check your email in thirty minutes,” Gandalf said. “Watch me work my magic. Isn’t that what Gandalf is known for? Conjuring stuff?”
“Ok o, I’m waiting,” I said, laughing.
And so, that was how I ended up heading home to Akwa-Ibom on the ninth of January, courtesy of none other than my ever resourceful father, known to everyone in the family as Gandalf; he and I are big Lord of the Rings trilogy fans. And yes, he knows I’m gay. He doesn’t approve, but he’s not feeding me to the wolves either, and for that I am eternally grateful.
The trip home was uneventful. The trip back to Abuja however is where my story REALLY story begins.
January 16th 2015
It was a good thing Gandalf had summoned all of us back home. I think everyone was off doing their own thing; we rarely talked about what was going on in our lives and to (physically) support each other and share ideas for the New Year. It was agreed no amount of calls and emails could be a sufficient substitute for genuine physical contact, and so we should all make an effort to spend time together as a family as often as possible. One can never be too busy for family.
My brothers genuinely shocked me on this trip, as I had “officially” come out to them as gay, thanks to Gandalf accidentally mentioning the fact that I had rubbed it in his face that I was his only gay son. My brothers laughed and called him a LASTMA; that they had guessed it long before now and they were sort of okay with it, although they conceded that at some point, they’d have to organize an intervention in terms of what the future holds for me and the family as a whole.
Translation: We need to get your big ass out of Nigeria again – for good this time – to contain the amebo fall out when people start raising the ‘marriage and kids’ issue.
So I arrived at the airport about ninety minutes before departure. My two older brothers, with Gandalf, dropped me off. I could have easily taken cab down, but those men were in a good mood and not too hung over, so they decided to give me the chauffeur special (their words not mine). I think they did that as part of the resolution to be more tight-knit as a family, especially with my coming out and all.
And so, here I was, thinking I’d return to Abuja without anything noteworthy happening.
How wrong I was.
“Do you even know what you’re talking about…! Who’s your supervisor…! I want to speak to your boss…!”
The explosion of words was what I could hear as I walked into the airport, after saying my goodbyes to Gandalf and my brothers. It was a man screaming at an airport staff. It was obvious this man had eaten well enough during the holidays to have the strength to scream and fight this early in the year.
Someone needed to take a chill pill mbok, I can’t deal
As I walked closer, I suddenly realized I knew who was screaming.
Sam. In the flesh.
Also known as ‘Big Sam’, he is tall – like, really tall – about 6ft 4’, meaty – or perhaps, beefy but not muscular – almost like extremely tall version of Timbaland. There are no six packs, but Sam isn’t flabby around the waistline though. Shaved head, dark skinned. He looked about fifty to fifty-four years old now. Married with two kids.
Above all, he was my first boyfriend – if you could call him that. I had quite a lot of firsts with Sam, to be honest.
Sam has a really imposing figure, and he knows it, and utilized that fact to his advantage whenever the opportunity presented itself. He is really big EVERYWHERE – big hands, big feet, big upper body, big sausage. It is little wonder the name ‘Big Sam’ stuck; he loves the moniker as well.
We dated for about eight months, before he called it quits. I was nineteen years old at the time, and on my own, building up my experiences in the gay-o-sphere and making memories. Sam came in and rocked my world to its core.
While most people were searching for the proverbial “Abuja sugar daddy”, mine just landed in my lap with me doing nothing, not even so much as lifting a finger. I was just naturally attracted to older men, who knew how to work it in between the sheets. I still am till this day. I guess that’s probably the main reason why Sam and I got as far as we did.
Looking back, I was really naïve about the whole sugar daddy thing. When I moved to Abuja, I was simply leaving the nest back home in the South and starting life on my own. So I was really oblivious to the fact that most MGMs were viewed as cash cows, and the ones in Abuja were the most sought-after due to their proximity to the nation’s seat of power.
He was rich. He knew it. And I knew it. But it never occurred to me to milk him dry. He gave me the mandatory boyfriend pocket money, and we did the usual shopping trips during which times we got groceries which I took home to my cousin, whom I was staying with at the time. All of these happened naturally without me asking. I never denied not needing it, as that would be a big lie. At nineteen, you’re always in need of spending money one way or another. With Sam, it was never an issue, and I rarely made requests unless it was really necessary. For us, what mattered was the sex and the pillow talk that came afterwards, which flowed really well, and we both enjoyed it for the few hours we were together. Don’t get me started on the cuddling; for someone who loves lots of bodily contact, once those big beefy hands got wrapped around me and pulled me into his massive chest, nothing else in the world mattered anymore.
It wasn’t all rosy with Sam though. The relationship was long distance, even though he visited Abuja regularly and had a house in the city as well, to cut out the cost of hotel bills and such. He was married. And we both had temper problems. One minute, we’d be all lovey-dovey and cuddling, and the next minute, I’d be getting dressed and slamming the door really hard. Looking back, I think most of our fights could have been easily avoided, but you can’t be nineteen and not have a little bit of drama. And boy, did I have lots of it. Lord knows if I’d studied Theatre Arts in the university, I would have bagged a first class, as I was the living breathing definition of Drama.
Sam could be really demanding and dominant, and me being the stubborn child that I was, that shit didn’t fly with me lots of times. Here was a guy who was my supposed benefactor, but I would scream at him on the phone anytime I felt like I was being summoned by His Majesty. I was always insistent on him saying ‘Please’ and ‘Thank you’ and ‘Sorry’.
After eight months of theatrics, Sam called it quits with me just days before my birthday. Strangely, I didn’t fall into depression and all whatnot after that final phone call. I simply went online, and found a Ghanaian guy based in the Netherlands who would be in Nigeria for a few days for work. We arranged to meet and he screwed the Sam out of me. Easy as that.
Back to the present day, at the airport, about a decade since that final call, here was Sam, trying to oppress the guy at the check-in desk with his size. But Jeff wasn’t having it with this mountain of a man. Jeff and I attended high school together, and he was a notorious bully, because back then, he was one of the taller and cooler kids. Me on the other hand was average height and neutral, not too cool and not too nerdy.
So Sam had definitely met his match in Jeff.
“You always knew how to look for trouble,” I said to Sam as I approached the front of the check-in desk.
Sam turned and glared at me. “Meaning?” he seethed, obviously thinking who the hell this midget was interrupting his flow. He didn’t recognize me immediately.
I ignored him and turned to Jeff to ask, “Da nsido afo ye ufan am?”
Translation: What’s the problem with you and this guy?
“Aboro unam ikot ami,” Jeff replied.
Translation: You dey answer this idiot.
“He has an excess of 10kg,” Jeff continued in English, “and I told him he has to pay, and gave him the required amount. And he’s trying to bid it down and chancing me on top of it, like say na him papa give me work.”
“I swear to God, if you say rubbish, I will slap you and you will fall flat and die right here!” Sam swore furiously at him.
“Try am na, I go show you say I be typical Akwa-Ibom boy, ndisime mkpo nte afo!” Jeff fired back.
“Jeff, cool down mbok ette,” I said trying to diffuse the situation as quickly as possible. Knowing these two, it would take the grace of God to pull them apart once the blows started flying. “Which flight is he on?” I queried.
“He’s heading to Abuja,” Jeff replied flippantly.
“Good, so he’s on the same plane as me then,” I said, thanking God silently than this was slowly coming to an end. “Here, check in my bag. It should be less than 10kg. So if you add his own excess 10kg, we’re still within limit for free baggage allowance.”
Just then, Sam interrupted, “Er, excuse me, just who the hell are you to butt into this matter and have my bag tagged as yours simply because we’re both on the same flight to Abuja and you know this idiot here!” The entire tirade came out in one breath, as he pointed an indignant finger at Jeff.
Jeff was about to say something, but I was faster.
“Sam, I am not surprised at you. Ten years, and you still think everyone should kiss the fucking floor you walk on. And you still don’t know how to say ‘please, thank you and sorry’,” I shot at him in a near-shout.
He was taken aback, and stared at me with open-mouthed shock. “André?” he said in a low tone.
“I have always told you its Andrew or Drew,” I replied, exasperated. “But no, you have to keep calling me Andre. You never listened. You never listen to anyone but yourself.”
He looked downcast momentarily, before turning up a smile and trying to come in for a hug. “I didn’t recognise you, I’m sorry… You look so… I don’t know… Grown up, and not as slim as I remember.”
I batted off his hug and took a step back. “His majesty says he’s sorry… Hmmm, hell has frozen over today.”
Jeff butted in just then, “Da, should I tag both bags or what? I have other passengers to attend to mbok and I’m tired as it is.”
Sam and I both nod, and Jeff began to print our bag tags and boarding pass.
Just then a woman from the queue behind us started to protest. “How come he can just walk up there” – she pointed at me – “and get his boarding pass. Me, I have been here for the last twenty minutes and I’m still on queue.”
I turn slowly to face the woman, and begin to advance toward her, ready to flip my invisible Brazilian weave at her. She faltered a few steps back when she saw me approaching with my best ‘I’ma bitch-slap you’ face.
“Madam,” I begin coldly, “you’ve been here for the last twenty minutes, you say. And you kept quiet all through the drama that was going on between this man and the check-in agent. I walked in and diffused the situation, and you have the audacity to open your mouth and talk rubbish. If I hadn’t done what I did, you would be here for the next forty-five minutes, while these two fight it out. So on that note, please bear in mind that at this point, any objections you raise are rendered null. So kindly do yourself a favour and shut up.”
I turned back to Jeff, collected my boarding pass and walked away, flipping my weave gloriously behind me.
Sam came and sat next to me at the departure lounge.
I had to admit, even after almost ten years, the man still had that suave, debonair thing going for him. He apologised again for how he acted earlier with the whole excess luggage thing, and I waved it off and told him not to worry since he didn’t immediately recognise who I was.
“But come o,” I asked as an afterthought, “why didn’t you just pay the guy the money and go your own way? Instead, you went on tirade when you know you’re supposed to pay.”
“The money I had wasn’t enough. The ATM wasn’t paying and I wasn’t ready to beg your friend,” he replied, looking uncomfortable.
“Some reasoning you have there,” I replied in a half-surprised tone. “So you think by shouting him down, that you’d get away with it, abi?”
“But you came in and saved the day,” he replied, grinning like a Cheshire cat. “My knight in shining armour…”
“You’re just full of it, I swear,” I said, chuckling.
I was slowly falling in love with this man all over again, I realized with a startle. In spite of the fact that he had just exhibited those traits I hated him for. But woe betide me that I let him know this.
Our flight was soon called, and we boarded. Although we were assigned seat numbers during check-in, the flight crew however cheerily informed us that it was free-seating after the curtain, which meant we didn’t necessarily have to sit according to our assigned seats, for those of us in economy class. Naturally, that meant Sam and I would sit together. Instinctively, I went to the back of the plane and took a window seat. Big Sam followed after me and struggled to get comfortable on the middle seat beside me because of his height. I paid him no mind as he grunted and shifted this way and that. If he knew what was good for him, he’d go sit by the wing where there was extra leg room. That wasn’t the case, as the man took it in good stride and settled firmly next to me.
We kept up the small talk, what happened since the last time we spoke, getting up to speed on both our professional and personal lives, trading apologies about the past and how we should have handled things a lot better. It was then he revealed that he had lost his wife and one of his children in the Dana crash in 2012. I felt sorry for the man. I guessed that explained why he seemed less bullish when I met him earlier, even though he was still going to go up in arms against Jeff. Still, in that very moment, I had sensed a toned-down personality. He even said sorry with so much ease.
The in-flight snack was served, and he tucked away his pack in his carry-on bag, saying he didn’t feel like eating. But then he pinched my sweets without so much as asking. I smacked him upside his shaved head, and he laughed. Typical Sam for you, he’s always taking stuff without permission, but I have witnessed an instance where someone took something of his without permission, and he rained down fire and brimstone on the poor man. It took my usual theatrics to get him to shut up and cut the man some slack.
After my trash was cleared away, I lowered my window cover so as to stop the sun rays from shining directly on my eyes. Sam took my left hand, and I turned and faced him.
“André, I am truly sorry for how I left things,” he began. “Funny thing is, after I called it quits, I wasn’t able to keep a guy for more than a month. It was as though you had cursed me or something.”
I laughed. “Curse you ke? Who had that time abeg? After we spoke for the last time, I was hoping to cry myself to sleep at the heartbreak or do something typical when you get dumped. But no, I simply just erased you out of my mind and continued living. No emotional breakdown whatsoever. Till this day, I ask myself if I did truly love you as I claimed, as my reaction to the whole breakup just wasn’t normal. But every time I ask myself that, I keep coming up with the same answer – I did love you. I just didn’t mourn your loss the way what most people including myself expected.”
Sam shook his head, and then said, “Despite our age difference, you did challenge me a whole lot. I miss that I could be silly and quirky with you and you were the only one who could get me to say ‘please, sorry and thank you.’ After my wife died, I had to re-evaluate my life and what I wanted for myself. I want to be a better person, a nicer person, more loving and to be loved again.” He cupped my chin. “I know you hate it when I call you André –”
“Of course I do,” I interrupted and rolled my eyes.
“But I don’t want to call you what others call you,” he continued. “I want that name to be strictly for me and me alone for you.”
“Wait o…” I removed his hand from my face, but I held on to it. “Are you asking me out again?”
“Yes, I want to try undoing some of my mistakes from years ago,” he said. “I want to become a better me with your help.”
“Oga, you’re a few years too late. You’re either fifty or almost fifty-four, and you want to correct your mistakes now? You’re too old to try and impress anyone.”
“I’m not trying to impress anyone. I am doing this for me,” he objected softly. “Please, André, I am asking for your help, please.” He looked really sincere then, like he was going to cry. The bull of a man to break down and cry… Can’t happen… Not in a million years.
But it did, a single tear escaped from his left eye.
He definitely meant what he was saying, I realized. But I was not ready for this.
“Sam I’m not sure I’m ready to go back to dating you again,” I said. “Sure, we can be friends or fuck buddies, but relationship… Not going to happen.”
“I can wait until you’re ready, if that’s what you want,” he said. “If it is FB you want, then I’m ok with it. But you have to stay with me, please André…”
Just then, the first officer’s voice came over the PA: “Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, we are beginning our final descent to Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport. On behalf of the Capitan Jamieson and the entire crew, we’ll like to thank you for flying with us and we look forward to welcoming you on-board again soon. Crew, prepare the cabin for landing.”
The seatbelt sign was sign was switched on, and a flight attendant asked me to open my window, which I did, before he went to his jump-seat to strap himself in.
And in that moment, Sam took my face his hand again and drew in closer as we kissed. He was still a good kisser as always. During the kiss, I had this feeling we were being watched, and when I opened my eyes, it was to behold a group of passengers in the opposite seat – two men and a lady, all three of them white.
The guys were cheering at us, pumping their fists in the air and mouthing the words, “Fuck yea!” The lady was giving me two thumbs up and grinning from ear to ear.
I broke away from the kiss and smiled sheepishly. Sam gave me a questioning look, one that asked what I was smiling about. And I nodded my head to the guys behind him. He looked back and smiled at them, then turned to me and said, “I think it’s a sign.”
“Don’t get ahead of yourself abeg,” I said, frowning a bit. “Just because a few people are okay with us kissing, and that you said you’ve turned a new leaf or want to do so, doesn’t mean you can just waltz back into my life just like that and take the throne.”
I think that hurt him, because he withdrew his hand and sighed heavily.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to be like that,” I said and took his hand. “I need time to process all of this, and with this being a new year, I have made plans, without you in the mix. If we do take it the whole nine yards, I need to be hundred percent certain it’s the right thing to do. I just hope you can understand what I’m saying.”
“Yes, I do perfectly,” he said, sounding dejected.
“C’mon, don’t be like that,” I wheedled a bit.
“I understand what you’re saying perfectly,” he said levelly at me. “And my reaction is only natural, because I know it will take a long time for me to prove myself to you how much I want to try again. I will do anything…”
His flow was interrupted as our plane touched down on the runway, and then began to run the entire length of the assigned runway. He looked away from me, but we still held onto each other. No words were said after that.
We got off the plane and walked side by side towards the arrival terminal. Sam had his hand draped across my shoulder, drawing me in close to him as much as he could. We hadn’t said anything more to each other on the subject of getting back together, but we were okay.
We were standing at the carousel, waiting for our bags to come out. And then, the three Caucasians walked over to us. One of them gave a slight cough to make us aware of their presence. I turned, saw them and chuckled. Sam, the three of them, everyone was soon smiling at this initial acquaintanceship.
The lady walked over and stretched out her hand and introduced herself as Emily. She introduced the men, one as her husband Liam and the other, her brother Andrew.
“Oh wow, I’m Andrew as well,” I gushed as I shook hands with the brother first, then with Liam.
Then I saw Emily’s gaze go behind me, and I turned and gave an apologetic laugh. “Oh, I’m sorry. This is Sam.”
Sam walked over and shook hands with all of them.
The bags started coming out as Emily asked, “So are you guys like a ‘thing’ now?” She chuckled.
“Well…” Sam began.
And I cut in with, “It’s complicated.” I shut Sam up in the process.
I regretted doing so instantly. The man was only asking for another chance, and I suspected that my feelings for him were steadily growing. So, why was I making things hard for him? I knew it’d been far too long, but if Big Sam could shed a tear in front of me, then something major had changed in him.
“Oh, don’t worry,” Emily said with a wink at me. “I understand perfectly. Liam and I were complicated like that once, but look at us now…couldn’t be happier.”
“Oh really?” I asked.
“Yea… It took us a while to get past it, but we worked it out anyway,” she said. “Andrew, here” – she pointed at her brother and said in a stage-whisper – “is having boyfriend troubles as well.” And she chuckled again.
“EMILY! I heard that!” Andrew said, clearly torn between amusement and aggravation at his sister’s tattling.
And then, Sam, Liam and Andrew were occupied with the business of getting our bags.
With them sufficiently out of earshot, Emily said to me, “It’s why we dragged him on this Africa trip with us, Andrew, I mean. He needs a change of scenery to clear his head.” She dug into her bag, ripped out a piece of paper and wrote out an email address, before pulling me into a hug, while sliding the piece of paper into my shirt pocket and whispering into my ear, “If things don’t get uncomplicated with you and big guy, shoot me an email and I’ll send Andrew flying straight into your arms.”
She pulled back and winked at me again. I couldn’t help but chuckle at her boldness and the hilarity of the whole idea. Maybe Andrew had expressed some interest in me to her, which was the only logical explanation I could think of for her brazenness.
Soon, all five of us made our way out of the carousel area into the arrival hall. Outside the arrival hall, as we walked towards the car park to get a cab into town, Sam and I said our goodbyes to Emily, Liam and Andrew.
As we keep on walking, Sam stopped me and said, “Since we’re complicated and you’re unsure of where we stand, we could go our separate ways now. Or you could come back with me to my house and at least talk.”
“Ok then. See you around,” he said abruptly and began walking away from me.
“Samuel! Stop!” I hollered.
He stopped and turned. “What!” he said in an exhausted tone, and not making eye contact.
“I am not saying yes. I am not saying no either,” I said. “This is a maybe.”
“That’s all I want,” he said, looking relieved, the beginnings of a smile lighting up his face.
“Let’s grab a cab then,” I said.
“Sure,” he responded, and we resumed walking together.
Written by Jarch