The last time we meet, he gives me his shirt to mend for him as an alibi, asks me to not to make too much noise (as usual) when we go to wash up in the bathroom, and keeps a straight face when he walks me out the gate.
This isn’t news, it happens to everyone, at least from the lens of the people I have been with. We cook up drama, make up a false, ostentatious story to keep the prying senses of neighbors effectively distracted. Everyone knows, (still from my glasses that has cupped thus far, as much as can be cupped) how important impressions are for the average Nigerian homophobes.
This average Nigerian (supposedly) too busy to inquire deeply, not just on outward matters, but into the stodgy folds of hostility that jumps out of their lips, make their fingers restless, and walk in the immunity of a salvation tailored to force dominance down unsuspecting throats, under the delusionary fear of a retaliation by the subdued party, in like fashion.
It is not really news, everyone knows.
The shirt; soft, pale blue, and dark green with defined lemon stripes, felt gently a few times, and espied from the grey polythene bag he wrapped it in, sits on my steel drawer, gathering, along with my old books, feathery dust, and a neglect that I almost do not acknowledge.
It is as if I have been conditioned to forget, for something with as much significance, not just of the recent occurrence, but a signifier to all the other ways that living one’s true life can feel like a terrible thing, it had tackiness in its construct.
I remember this; we are seated in the zinc and wood bar we first met, it is the fifth or seventh time of trying to salvage the imprints of things the sea has washed away. He answers a call from her, the one who will give him stability, who he has all over his virtual space to the approval of friends and family, the one lending him a hand towards normalcy, call it societal, call it conceited, I am the other card; the quencher of a peculiar thirst, nothing more, a way we didn’t begin with.
Holding on is an exclusive forte of the unsure, the ones in the delicate balance between clingy, and obsessed, not with the subject, but rather the idea behind the subject, that grows grainy with each indication of disruption.
And so we are there, when she calls, he attempts as always to have me speak to her, to thrust to her a fake sense of platonic friendship, to confirm his lie to her of us being on mutual ground. Around him, with her, there is a need to outdo himself, to make everything seem mundane between us both, to pretend as if in the sense of intimacy, I didn’t come first.
I never take take the phone to speak to her. I let him paint, and paint, to fashion his life into an acceptance despite himself. I don’t fight it. We never discussed it, it was for me to understand that I was expected in a way to feel gratitude that he still was with me.
And when we get closer, we try to look away from the pragmatic stymie, barring us from clawing at each other, mechanizing our movements, making our bodies stultifyingly dutiful to and for the other.
It would take a while before we’d (unconsciously) look past our union as a thoroughly fractured, yet necessary illicitness.
But that could be explained for people who feel deep things. There are others you don’t feel as much for, but who mean a whole lot notwithstanding. Those who find their body, or another fascinating facet of it through you. They let you teach them how to dance this other dance, how to speak this cloudy language, the ways by which they can navigate the storms and revel in the ecstasy lining this newly discovered existence.
What they either do not learn, or never let you teach them, is how to stop seeing it as an anomaly, a formless thing they try to string to shape with false logic, hacking, and chipping, and carving out something totally unrelated, and relatively grotesque.
Do we blame the teacher or the student? Watery experience perhaps, or a recalcitrance towards novelty? Maybe we can blame the classroom where they learn, perhaps the cracks on the walls, the broken ceiling fan, the missing teeth of the windows, the bad chairs, all contribute to an uninspiring learning environment, a place that tell students off the sweetness of grasping their every possibilities, and exploring them without shame.
Either ways, you end up feeling terrible, and excited at once. It contributes maybe to the badly producing education, you can only impact what you believe strongly in, which is what, shame or pride?
When we kiss, I begin to feel the lips. Not in the way of a teasing practicality in the heat of passion, but with intense, pious calculations. I begin to disengage, wall off the fire roving inside of me, try to leave the action behind, and stand at an aerial position, to view it in the eyes of what I believed should and shouldn’t be.
You are strong against it sometimes, the veil you put up is almost metallic, strong enough not to let the doubt, the weight of an unexplained righteousness seep in. Sometimes you do not question the essence of a love nobody accepts, one you cannot share, one that interprets itself beneath the stairway, in the bathroom when everyone is out of the house-everyone always has to be out not for privacy, but for safety, and in any other unpleasant places that demean your body and interrogates pleasure.
Sometimes, the discomfort seems adventurous, it gives the body things to hope for, it takes you to better places, better times, when you can stay up all night and enjoy the morning in the eyes of your other.
Sometimes, thinking about it on the road doesn’t almost double you over with a humiliation you cannot explain, the memories doesn’t always attempt to make you a sight in the busy, yet attentive market arenas, some(very few)times it doesn’t make you want to float out of this body, to find another, not yet ravished with too many wrongs.
Sometimes, you return from these sexcapades without remorse, I have lived today, I don’t know how long before it would happen this way again, but I have today to keep me company, you say. People’s eyes do not hold accusations when they ask you where you have been, you refuse to see it crouched in their whites, if it is really there, you smile without abandon, not caring if anyone knows.
Yet, even at that, something sizzling burns behind your throat, you just can make out an opaque imbalance in the fulcrum of your mental space, and suddenly when guilt arrives, it becomes/is a correctional tool.
Guilt is a personal thing, to be seen from the eyes of the one who truly has something to feel bad for.
To not question the basis of holding ourselves charge, is a destructive thing. It blinds us. Drags our bodies across rocky grounds, and leave us scars we may never be able to derive strength from.
Living a life one feels most comfortable with is all that the world is sewn from, yet dyed by society in misconstrued colours, leaving no space to question, and appropriate what is normal and what isn’t.
One’s normal is never, should never be in the effective grip of another, that we can love in the healthiest ways, is the most important thing.
That we can kiss a man or tightly embrace a lady and enjoy the workings of nature in our being. Never stopping it, never trying to.
These days, I look back at Us and it feels good in the appropriate ways. My eyes sometimes catch the polythene lying there on my drawer with it’s perversive symbol gone, when I accost it now, it amuses me, I slot it in along with all the crazy things we do for love (and ecstasy) previously displaced, but now, true to who I am.
Who I wish, I’d always been.