Opinions And Cages | Non-Fiction

(This piece was first published on my Facebook wall in December 2015. It is a true story, and rather long, but I hope you find it readable at least.)

October, 2015.

For a few moments I could not recognize my surroundings, and twice the bus conductor had to inform me that I had reached the last stop. I alighted, feeling a little embarrassed, with my movements unsteady and my eyes trying to make out where I actually was. I should have known better than gulping down several glasses of Vodka on an evening that was neither Friday nor Saturday, particularly when there was still another day of work at that office where my only smiles came at 6pm, before ushering in the weekend in its saving glory. Sure enough, the mini-university reunion had been lots of fun, reliving old jokes and all, but there was only so much alcohol the body could freely accommodate, and with what was left of my sobriety, I could deduce that the next day at work would be a long one. Still, I boarded a tricycle to the estate housing my apartment, not quite sure if I had not paid thrice the fare. I definitely wouldn’t have known, I was intoxicated like that.

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The Periwinkle List

​9.58am.

Victoria Garden City, Lagos.

It was an unusual time on a Monday morning to still maintain the affinity between my back and the multi-coloured bedsheet that I had been too lazy to wash over the weekend; I should be in my slave plantation of a workplace, dazed by the grueling traffic from a few hours before, responding to threatening office mails in servile fashion and flashing plastic smiles to customers with an unnecessarily huge sense of entitlement…..but today was different. The ones who worshipped on Fridays rather than Sundays had their version of December 25th going on, so the federal government pleased all 9-5ers as it rarely did, by announcing a two-day public holiday. Left to me, I would have loved that a search be conducted for another missing moon thereby causing an extension of my days away from the plantation, but no horses were going to have beggars riding them. I scrolled down my phonebook (in vain) for the phone numbers of friends who would have me partake in a binge on those juicy ram parts, and finding none, I opted for another outlet to search for company: my social media timeline. Continue reading

THEY SHOULD HAVE KILLED CHIVALRY

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(The next lines you will read are inspired by true events that transpired in the final few hours of January 31st, 2016.)

“Bros, abeg help me check time. ”

“It’s eight-thirty right now. ”

He nods in acknowledgment of your response and places his foot a little more firmly on the throttle. It’s Sunday night in Lagos, few hours separating you from that month in the year where everyone becomes a poet and the prices of flowers and chocolates skyrocket. Lekki is the destination, and the roads look free enough to conduct a Grand Prix…..except for the Ajah axis, that is; you could end up in a traffic jam at eleven forty-five p.m in that part of town. In any case, you both are sure of getting to her place in less than forty minutes, where same would have taken one hour and a half on either of the five days of certain gridlock.

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The Nine-To-Five Yearning

 

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12th November, 2015.

 

The Heart (or wherever this meets you),

A Beautiful Soul,

Somewhere in Obalende,

Lagos.

 

Dear Lola,

NOTICE OF SUBSISTING VOID

Please refer to our Whatsapp conversation of 9th November 2015 and previous correspondences on the above subject matter.

It’s another Thursday morning. I know I should be glad; the day even atheists thank God for is few hours away…..but this is not about counting down to the end of a working week, nor is it about getting a two-day reprieve from hell. No, this is more like total disillusion: Mind has joined heart in turning feet away from the office, my laptop is revolting, even the case files feel like they don’t want me to touch them. The boss orders me to retrieve a document from the computer on the table to my right, and as I lay my hand on the keyboard, I suddenly don’t feel like powering up the system, because I know what, or rather, who it reminds me of. Continue reading

Hymns From Badore

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Six months had passed since I last set foot into a church building (my last appearance being Easter Sunday), but I did not feel for a moment that I had missed anything. The reading of the bible passages reeked of dour formality, the officiating priest churned out recycled sermons, the chants were the same, the hymns had not changed much, and I pretty much knew which activity followed the other.
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Strange Boots

23rd September, 2015.

The spot hurts, and not without good reason. Twice in the space of ten minutes, that corner of my head has made forcible contact with a sharp-edged portion of the bus. Not that the bus is comfortable by any standards, but there is something about this part of the bus that makes it seem like a reservoir for pain. My head was already previously aching from a long day at the slave site I call an office, so the double bump is just perfect. No, I didn’t cause the hurt myself by nodding carelessly to loud music. On the two different occasions, passengers had thought it wise to make unsolicited body contact while boarding the bus, and apparently, an apology is too much to ask for in this big city. Life is too short for that, and besides, you should understand that the one thing on every passenger’s mind is getting home, so courtesy and good manners face suspension like a country’s constitution under a military junta. I am learning. There is still a lot to catch up on around here, but I’ll be fine….  Continue reading

Power Nap

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(Author’s Note: The set of paragraphs you are about to read is a narration of true events that took place in the early hours of June 30th, 2015.)

9.00pm.

Lagos, Nigeria.

“Hey, good evening, what’s the name?”

I’d seen her, light-complexioned and long umbrella in hand, come out of a house at the other side of the street. There was something
about her cheeks, something that made you want to stroke them for 25 hours. It was cold, she was
covered in a dark blue sweater, and for a moment
I wished she was all wrapped up beneath my
blanket. I decided to find out who she was, but
she uttered no response, and as a matter of fact she switched lanes. As it turned out, we were
going the same direction, so i caught up with her
and repeated the question.

“What’s the name?”

“Excellence”, she replied.

A younger me would have resorted to chuckling as my first reaction, but I smiled, and then we got
talking about how I had not seen her before, and how PHCN had improved its services since the
new administration took over. There is something about the weather that has it always come up as
a subject of conversation, and in a matter of
minutes we were talking about the rainy season.

“This rain sha. Everywhere gets flooded, and
moving around becomes ‘difficant’.”

Difficant?! I wondered if that was a new word in the dictionary. Well there was always a chance
that I had heard wrongly, so i lured her into
repeating the statement.

“I didnt get you”, I said.

“I said that movement becomes difficant”, she repeated.

A red flag flew at full mast in my mind’s eye. I
told myself that I would definitely not have sustained interactions with the lady after that
evening, but our feet were still pointing in the same direction, so we kept walking.

It was pretty windy when I stepped out, but at least it was dry. Excellence’s decision to step out
with an umbrella proved to be one borne out of
foresight, as it soon began to drizzle. She could have continued walking, afterall, she was sufficiently
protected, but she chose to run with me beneath
the zinc roof of a kiosk which had closed for the
day, in a bid to find shelter. Then without
warning, she drew herself closer and leaned
forward to take up my lips into hers. For some
reason I couldnt explain, i shifted backwards,
declining a taste of her lip gloss.

The winds intensified, and for the first time I looked in the direction of her legs. I noticed she
had been wearing a short gown beneath that
sweater all along. The breeze did a good job of raising the gown to reveal her smooth thighs, and
I began to feel that I had pulled away too soon.
My hormones had been triggered, and I literally reached for the lower end of her gown. This time
it was her turn to shift backwards, but she added
a little something extra: she let out a cackling
laugh.

It wasnt just any kind of laughter. It was the kind
you hear in those marine kingdom scenes from
Nollywood movies. The goosebumps on my skin
took perfect shape. Her hair was responding appropriately to the wind, and she wouldnt stop
laughing as she stared at me…..

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“A girl I’d never seen
Lay next to me with golden skin
I sprung up to my feet
She asked me what was wrong
I began to scream
‘I dont think this is me,
Is this just a dream
Or really happening?’ ”

***********
4.15am.

I was back in my apartment, jolted back to
reality, but Excellence’s laughter had seeped in
from my dreams and into my world. I then tried
to open my eyes and get up, but found myself
unable to. I knew what was happening. It was
another of those nights.

Yes, someone (or something) had come to ‘press’
me in my sleep yet again, and as was often the
case, I couldnt see who or what it was. I knew
the drill: get pinned, lose my ability to move any
part of my body for a number of minutes, then
struggle in my sub-conscious. This time the
malevolent force had chosen to fix my head and
neck in a chokehold. It was an annoying situation,
but I had a new day to begin, and ‘he’ wouldnt
negotiate, so the fight began.

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I forcefully tried to open my eyes, but they felt like
they were stuck with glue. My spirit then kicked
and dug an elbow into my assailant’s sides. He
wouldnt budge, so my spirit kicked again, all the
while barely able to churn out cries of “Jesus,
Jesus”. We rolled along the wall, and even found
ourselves mid-air, before my spirit sunk its teeth
into my attacker’s form. I struggled to break free,
kicking again, before the force finally let go.

“I want to wake up kicking and screaming
I want to wake up kicking and screaming
I want to know that my heart’s still beating
Still beating, I’m pleading”

The fight had lasted for two ‘Dreamland’ hours,
which would transIate to about twenty ‘Earth
minutes’. I was able to open my eyes at last,
finding that I had fallen off the bed. I knew that
this was by no means the last visit from whatever
had attacked me, but I also knew that the
weapons of warfare were not carnal in nature.
The issues of superstition and excessive belief in
the metaphysical were topics for a future
discussion, but I loved to think that a lot of
battles go on in the spiritual realm, and that my
spirit had lived to fight another night.

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The Career Bachelor

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11.47am was not exactly the usual time for work to lighten up on a weekday, but it was the kind of day that Frank’s diary had treated him to, and moreover it was a Friday. Not like Fridays were usually light in terms of work at this busy law firm, but this particular one had been kind to him and the rest of the full time staff at E. A. Udofia & Associates, one of the thriving law firms located somewhere in the heart of the nation’s most commercial state. It was a good way to see out the week, as another civil suit had been determined in his (and his firm’s) favour, and for this sleepy-eyed six footer in his late twenties, the day’s triumph did well in enhancing his status as a fast-rising legal practitioner. One month shy of being five and a half years at the Bar, he had enjoyed a steady climb in earning his stars, and he could really say “Son Of God, yea I know you’ve got my back, I bu Alobam”, if he could borrow the lyrics of that song from Phyno, which happened to be the last track he had listened to before turning off the engine of his 2013 Model BMW. Continue reading

David And Jonathan

Friday nights were always lively at this club located somewhere in one of the more secluded parts of Lagos, but there was an extra dimension to the frenzy that night. It was as if the rain that fell earlier in the day did much to fuel the mood. Everyone was dressed in bright-coloured clothes as if previously planned, the diverse genres of music that seeped from the club’s loudspeakers influenced the dance moves on show, and no one chose to shy away from the drinks that flowed from table to table. Somewhere at one end of the room, two lovers were making out with that passion which suggested they may not have seen each other in months. No one could blame them though, this was one of the very few places where they could really express how they felt about each other.

Yes, this was one of the few hangouts in Lagos, or South-western Nigeria as a matter of fact, where two people of the same sex could give expression to the sexual desires they felt for each other. Club Rainbow, the most exquisite of the very few gay clubs in these parts, was strategically built in a part of town most difficult to locate or maintain surveillance, and thrived on patronage by some of those in the upper class who could effectively combine guts and discretion. For Alex and Bob, the two males whose lips were so passionately tangled, this was the best place they could celebrate the fourth year anniversary of their romantic relationship without the fear of being arrested, or worse still, lynched.

Seated at the club’s bar, apparently scouting for some boy-loving company, was Frank, a branch manager of one of the nation’s leading banks. Frank became aware of his sexual preference at the end of his secondary school days, and had managed to keep it under wraps since then, getting into relationships with ladies from time to time, of which the longest lasted for ten weeks. Standing six feet two inches tall and rather handsome, he was used to having lots of female bank staff and customers make passes at him, and they sometimes even teased him about his sexual orientation, not knowing that they were actually right. It was his habit to sneak in here every other weekend and cart a young man away to Hotel Pink Heaven, which was 50 minutes’ drive away and equally ‘hidden’. He wished that people knew what it felt like to be a woman trapped in a man’s body, or what it felt like to have ‘’ruptured chromosomes.’’ He liked to think that the bond in homosexual relationships was deeper than the emotional farce that prevailed everywhere between heterosexuals, where guys just wanted a convenient spot for their thrusts and paper dolls who called themselves ladies went for the highest bidder. He attributed society’s perception of gay people to a lack of appreciation of people’s individual psycho-physiological dispositions, and could only hope that there would surface more shrinks who could understand and explain things.

Laura and Diane, undergraduates whose romance had sparked off six months earlier, were chatting away at a table not too far off, their eyes radiating with amor as they looked at each other. Laura had been disowned by her Methodist parents as soon as she told them who she was upon entering the university, and had begun to fend for herself. She was now in her penultimate year in the state university’s Faculty of Law, and it wasn’t so hard convincing Sociology fresher Diane, who needed a break from her abusive father. They wished in both their minds that the world was as free for them as Club Rainbow was. They wished the nation’s legislators could face real pressing issues such as security, unemployment, power and education with the same zeal as they pursued the passing of the anti-gay bill, just to seem as if they were actually working. Unemployed graduates prowled the streets, inhabitants of Northern Nigeria slept with both eyes open, roads had remained death-traps, tertiary institutions had been shut down for months, yet all those pot-bellied moneybags knew how to do was to clamp down on interactions between consenting adults, just to score some cheap moral points. It was not like a number of them had not been at this very club before.

George, impatient to set eyes on his date, had already set upon two bottles of Night Train, but in his fading sobriety, he managed to reflect on the all the cheerfulness around, and how things were so different out there. He wondered when society could accept him the same way the American society accepted Ricky Martin, Ellen Degeneres, or Raven Symone. For crying out loud, this was 2013, not 1994 when England-based footballer Justin Fashanu committed suicide due to the stigma that followed his decision to come out. He wondered why people could not be seen beyond their bedroom choices. How did his choice of sexual partners affect his next-door neighbour? Heaven knows how many intelligent and industrious Nigerians have had to leave the country because of their sexual orientation, he mused. That was how ideas and manpower are lost, yet people wail about brain drain. He could relate to this, as his architect ex-lover Iyke had left him for Australia two years before. So what if Jane prefers Helen to Charles? Should her brilliant ideas not earn her a job? Why should people be judged with only one aspect of their character? Yes, being gay was seen as a mental disorder some three decades ago, but so was it a crime to be black back then. Damn, even science as well as some pockets of Christianity tried to prove the supposed inferiority of blacks! Did Wentworth Miller’s sexual preference get in the way when he starred as Michael Scofield in Prison Break? Did it stop Ian Mckellen from perfecting his role as Magneto in X-men? Does being gay take anything from Elton John’s or Frank Ocean’s musical talent or prowess? Does it make Anderson Cooper a less efficient CNN anchor? These were questions George wanted the larger society to answer. He found a hero in U.S. gay politician Harvey Milk, who had been assassinated in the late 1970s for daring to advocate for gay rights.

In all the intense moments with Alex that night, Bob found time to think. He was no longer finding it easy to hide his true identity from the congregation of St. Anthony’s parish, where he served as a chief instrumentalist. He had been introduced to homosexual acts in his days at the junior seminary where he had his secondary school education, and after series of unsuccessful personal retreats, monastery visits and counselling, had chosen to accept who he had now seen himself as. He wished he was as lucky as Gabby, his secondary school classmate who moved with his family to England and eventually left the closet soon after, without the backlash and stigmatisation that would have followed if it had happened in Nigeria. He wished people could understand that being gay was more than matching outfits and butt lubrication, that it involved something much more selfless and sincere, like the friendship that existed in the Bible between David and Jonathan. He wished people could understand that two men could actually have much love for each other, or what did they think when the Bible referred to John as ‘’the one Jesus loved’’? Yes, it was a sin, but so was stealing and lying, so why did people have to set double standards? Why did people have to classify wrongs just to make themselves look better than others? Was he more guilty than the promiscuous lady who went for an abortion, or the office clerk who falsified cheques? Why did churches choose to preach hatred and resentment for gays from the pulpits, as opposed to Jesus’ teaching to show love? Why did people choose to play God over a pre-disposition? Well at least Pope Francis had decided to show a little bit tolerance, if his statement ‘’who am I to judge them?’’ was anything to go by. He loved to think that God loved him just the way he was, and hoped that one day people would understand St. Paul’s words ‘’love covers a multitude of sins’’.

There was however one person who did not share the sentiments of the rest of the people in Club Rainbow that night. Jerry barely managed to avoid throwing up as he turned away while snatching a beer bottle from Chris the bartender, who had chosen to apply eye shadow and lip gloss that day. Jerry was only here because he had come to get the money due to him from a Northern state legislator after he had linked up the latter to his gay cousin Ifeanyi. Jerry had discovered Ifeanyi’s tendencies shortly after they had begun to live together following the death of Ifeanyi’s parents, and while Jerry found it disgusting, he decided to see it as a financial opportunity. That was how he managed to pay rent at their little apartment in the state’s capital, and that was how Ifeanyi funded the pursuit of his Engineering degree at the state’s federal university. The deal was simple: get a rich butt-thirsty fellow, link them up to his cousin, get paid in advance, and get the balance after their rendezvous whose details he didn’t want to imagine. He couldn’t understand why a man would want to choose Brad Pitt in bed over Sofia Vergara, or Jon Dumelo over Nadia Buari. Except for the goose and a few other annoying species, animals didn’t even get down with those of their own gender.

Jerry’s urge to walk out could only intensify as he saw two men hold each other by the waist, heading to the rest room. If only I didn’t have to come get money from that filthy Alhaji, he said to himself. He wished that there would be an opportunity to gather all these ‘’sexually confused beings’’ (as he liked to call them) from all over the world into one building and set them ablaze, like God cleaned out Sodom, or like Hitler tried to rid the planet of Jews. He wanted them to ask themselves how they would be here tonight if their parents had chosen to follow the path they now did. Maybe the world’s population would have been a couple of millions rather than seven billion as we now had it. Or why didn’t God churn out Bruce and Steve the same away he made Adam and Eve? And for those who felt they could just adopt children, didn’t they think that the kids would have problems knowing whom to call Dad or Mum? He admired the stand which Nigeria had taken so far; world powers could go to blazes with their foreign aid. He secretly hated Ifeanyi for being gay, moreso as he loved to be the one doing the ‘receiving’, but what could he do? They needed money! After a long nauseating wait, Jerry finally got his money and stormed out without so much as a word of appreciation, hoping that he would never have to be back in that club anytime soon.

Jerry would eventually get his wish three weekends later, as irate residents chose to reduce the club to a pile of debris. They had been showing their discontent from the very first day the club building was erected three years earlier, but the efforts of police and some big shots in the state had kept them in check. That fateful Saturday night however, they decided they had enough. They had to make it clear that this was still Nigeria, and that people like Frank and Laura who dreamt of freedom for the ‘’sexual minority’’ would have to go find it elsewhere. They burnt the club to the ground, and with it the romance between Alex and Bob, who had been unfortunate to be within club premises when the residents struck, and were too drunk to escape.

(Follow on Twitter @Le_Bouquineur)