You grew up with the remote university town of Nsukka, the last son of a charismatic reverend and in a home where sin can be smelt hanging in your clothes like perfume. You were something almost close to perfection; you kept a good grade at school; led the church choir every Sunday service, your mum basking with pride as your high pitched voice held the entire congregation spell bounded (Amazing grace was your favorite hymn). You were captain of the school basketball club; you were tall, as you were handsome. The ladies’ man, and the guys’ man. But you had a skeleton in your closet. A well-closeted skeleton that had often drove you to near suicides
The first time you heard your mum speak about homosexuality was during a bible reading. She had opened to the book of Leviticus chapter 20 verse 13 and had read out aloud:
“If a man practices homosexuality, having sex with another man as with a woman, both men have committed a detestable act. They must both be put to death, for they are guilty of a capital offense.”
Those words rang in your ears, and even with those your perfections, your kind-spirited heart of generosity, your soft-spoken, and your love of God and the church, you knew you were doomed for hell.
So when you met Kamalu at school, the fair skin effeminate boy, who had just transferred to sit for senior secondary exams, you were sure he was one them. He wasn’t too tall, just average height, a set of gleaming white teeth housed in pink lips, and generous strands of jet black hair. He was the kind of guy you would like. But you hated him at the first instance. He was a painful reminder of what you were fighting within you.
And you made sure he knew this.
“Hey sissy” you yelled at him from the school canteen one afternoon during sports break. He was sitting at the love garden, scribbling something on his notepad. Your friends choke with laughter.
“You know you could ask me my name politely” he looked up from the diary and then away.
“Why should I care about your name, fag,” You said.
He was bewildered as you were. You had never used the word “fag” on anybody before.
He dropped the notepad on the bench “take it back” he said
“And if I don’t,” you walked closer to him.
“Take your words back,” he cried.
“Take your words back” you mimicked him, and your friends laughed
“Go, sissy! Go sissy,” they yelled on top of their voices.
He picked up his diary on the bench and walked out on you.
You loathed him for his bravery. He was what you were, but he didn’t make an effort to conceal it. Or perhaps you thought mocking him would make you worthy in Gods eye, would remind the Almighty that you hated what you were so much, that you fought your kind. Isn’t that enough clemency?
That became your new calling, you told yourself. Fight homosexuality, out gay people. Resist this unnatural sin. You signed up on 2go, visited “Mens lounge” and “Menonly” to rain abuses on people looking up for hookups. You were now God’s anti-gay policeman. So that afternoon when Kamalu walked up to you, to ask you if you could lend him your biology textbook, you snubbed him and pushed him off your way, so hard that he lost his track and fell on the stairs.
“That’s very rude of you,” he shouted at you when you turned to leave.
“What?” You whirled to face him
“That’s very rude of you,” he said louder than before “what damaged you so badly.”
“Seeing people like you,” you yelled back at him, you two now creating a scene.
“People like me,” he shrugged.
“Yes–homo” you shuttered unable to say the word at first.
The moment that followed was tranquil. You couldn’t still remember how it happened. If Kamalu had first made for you, or if you, in your hate and spite, had grabbed him and pushed him further down the stairs. You could only remember been held by your friends, and the boy crying at the foot of the step.
At the hospital, you remembered the saying “he who the gods want to make fun of, they first make proud.” The principal, your dad, Kamalu’s mother, and you were sitting in the waiting room. Kamalu had been booked for Accident and Emergency hours ago.
The doctor walked over to you all from the theater room. Kamalu’s mother rushed over to him.
“How’s he?” she held him by his coat
“He will be fine,” the doctor said to your hearing
“it’s just a fractured hipbone and a slight concussion. He will have to placed on a wheelchair for months for the healing process.”
Your father turned over to you, speechless.
“I just spoke with the principal over the phone,” he told you later at home, after supper. “You’re lucky he’s a good friend of mine. He recommended an expulsion-“
“An expulsion,” your mum said, “you can’t allow that.”
“Only on the condition you first apologize to the boy publicly for your hurtful words” your father continued, still looking at you” and as well be his wheelchair companion till he’s fully recovered.”
“Wheelchair companion,” you asked, “what’s that supposed to mean?”
“Of course you know what that means,” your father said “the boy is at the same class as you are and he’s preparing for his exams. He will have to be mobile for one. It wouldn’t be fair if he would have to sit the year out just because of your even temper.”
You made to protest but saw the anger on his face. You knew this wasn’t a decision you had a say over.
“Is there a reason we should be concerned about your most recent attitude?” your mother asked, but you mumbled something and walked off the living room.
Kamalu and his mum were waiting for you by the school gate on the first day of his resumption after his foot surgery. She had parked her red saloon car farther on the track road.
“Here is his medication,” she gave you a parcel after you bade her good morning. “Make sure he takes it after lunch,” She said
“And if he refuses to?” You asked
“You have won him in a fight before, so just force it down his throat,” she said and then stopped for a moment. “You know I’m joking, right?” she continued.
“Of course I do,” you said, and the three of you laughed.
Kamalu’s mum bent over to his kiss him on his forehead “I trust you’re in safe hands” she said and left
“Yes I’m,” Kamalu said sarcastically to her hearing
You placed his school bag on your shoulders and wheeled him down the school walkway. You could feel a thousand eyes all fixed at you at the same time. Could there be a shame worst that this? You stopped halfway to the main entrance.
“You know you don’t have to do this,” Kamalu told you, avoiding your gaze, “my mum could arrange for help.”
“You should have told her to before now” you barked at him and continued wheeling the chair, this time more violently. “I can’t wait to be so over with this,” you told him as you dropped his things in his classroom. He was in SSS3G, and you in R, the five classes of each grade spelled by the word GRACE.
“Meet you by 12” he said
“12” you said and walked towards your class.
You didn’t meet him by twelve for the break time, neither did you wait for him after school. He sat all alone in the classroom and watched the once busy school empty itself. When the principal called your father that evening to remind him you weren’t taking your social service very seriously. You apologized and said something about it been the first time, and that you had merely forgotten. You hadn’t merely forgotten but had only wanted to register a protest. You can’t be associated with anything abominable to God.
“This our new routine” Kamalu gave you a sheet of paper when you came to pick him up after school the next day.
You glanced at it. It was blank. And you told him so.
“I know what your problem is,” he said, avoiding your eye, “you’re ashamed of been seen around me.”
“I’m—not” you didn’t know what to say.
“You don’t have to deny it to feel good,” he said “the truth is, i don’t really need much help here in school. I can take care of myself.”
You heaved a sigh of relief, “say no more.”
“But only on one condition,” he said
“What condition?” You asked and hoped this pervert wouldn’t ask you to kiss him. He would be sorry if he did.
“You would have to take me to Odim Hills every evening after school,” he said.
You were surprised. “But that’s like miles away,” you said, “What do you even want there?”
He gave you his notepad, “I paint and sketch- still life drawings.”
You glanced through the pages; each artwork dated the day it was made- biro sketches, pencil sketches, acrylic paintings. This guy was too damn perfect. You wanted to tell him this. But you remembered who he was and thought otherwise.
“Do we have a deal?” He asked you.
“Done deal.” you said and smiled at him, and then hated yourself for doing so.
After school, you waited for your friends to leave before you came to pick him. You met him in his classroom, again slaving over this notepad, this time writing. He didn’t protest on how fast you pushed the wheelchair as you two journey to Odim Hills, or when his feet dashed on a stone, by your frantic locomotion. You sat on the grass and watched him sketch on his notepad till dusk.
At that moment, little did you know that your heart has been stolen. That a once dogmatic and homophobic you had been caged by the hands of the least expected force. If only you knew what tomorrow brings, what is to come, you would have flown away from the uncertain fate that lies ahead. But you had no clue and that was your undoing.
(TO BE CONTINUED…)
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