“It is an abomination in the sight of the lord! A disgusting and despicable act which should not be found among normal human beings. It is an affront to our way of life as Africans. Only through genuine repentance and the special grace of the Lord can these people be delivered from the clutches of the enemy and the lake of fire that burneth with brimstone.”
The words swam through his head as he lay on his bed staring at the over-head ceiling. It had a peculiar design, the ceiling. It was divided into little squares. In each square was a triangle, and in each triangle was another square. He thought it ugly. But why would he remember this sermon,he thought to himself. There was definitely nothing distinctive about it. It was just one of hundreds he had heard his whole life. Could it be guilt? No, he had stopped feeling guilty a long time ago. After years of praying, fasting and self-hate, he had come to the conclusion that it was either God couldn’t help or didn’t want to. So he had stopped praying, going to church or getting involved in any form of religious discourse. No, he didn’t consider himself an atheist. The belief in the existence of some omniscient being was still well rooted in his subconscious.All those years of Sunday school and bible study haddefinitely left their mark.Besides, the Darwin theory of Evolution probably had to be one of the most absurd. Monkeys indeed!
No it definitely wasn’t guilt, what he felt right now was excitement. It had been a while. Instinctively he looked at the wall clock, it was three-thirty. He had just about thirty minutes to get ready. He decided that a quick shower would be in order. Ten minutes later he was in front of the mirror running a comb through his afro-textured hair. It was high time he visited a barber’s shop he thought to himself as he winced with each stroke of the comb. He went straight to the cupboard and pulled out what he liked to refer to as his “special shirt”. The specialty of this particular shirt did not lie in its monetary value. He bought it at one of the numerous shops at Tejuosho market for just 650 Naira. So it definitely was no Dolce& Gabbana. The beauty of this shirt lay in its ability to cling to every inch of his upper body and the refusal of the first two buttons to come in contact with the holes they were made for, thereby forcing him to expose his broad chest and the few strands of coarse hair on them. Of course he only wore his “special shirt” on certain occasions. And this was definitely one of them. At that instant his mobile phone rang, he immediately assumed it was his guest calling to cancel their meeting, which wasn’t uncommon. But the name on the phone screen proved him wrong. It was his sister Uju. He placed the phone back on the table. He didn’t feel like talking to her right now. She was probably looking for a free baby-sitter and as usual thought of her darling brother. He really didn’t mind baby-sitting those little gremlins of hers, but not today and definitely not now. He would probably call her later and think up some excuse.
He remembered their last meeting some weeks back. He had gone to spend the weekend with her. She was always complaining about being bored and in need of company. But they both knew that what she was really looking for was someone to watch over the kids while she spent some precious time gossiping with her friends. On this day he was watching one of those numerous, and mostly boring reality TV shows which usually bore a canny resemblance to some other American reality TV show, all involving a couple of strangersbrought together and given, mostly humiliating, tasks to perform. Each one looking for the fastest way to fame and fortune. One of the contestants was about to get into a fist fight with the other, when Uju walked into the room and said, “So Emeka, when are you getting married?” The question came so unexpectedly that all he could say was,
“I mean it’s not like you’re still a kid anymore” she continued,“and considering your position in the family”.She said the word ‘position’ as if it bore some elements of royalty and grandeur.
“I’m waiting for the right one” he replied “You know how difficult it is getting a good wife in Lagos” he quickly added, pleased with his adept reply. It was no secret that his sister found most girls of his generation profoundly materialistic and short-sighted. And wasted no time in telling anyone who cared to listen that her generation was the best. It had the advantage of a western education which most of their mothers and grand-mothers didn’t have, but still ‘traditional’ enough to realize that the greatest achievement any woman could ever have was a husband,irrespective of how heavy or light, as the case may be, his wallet was. With this knowledge Emekatook the conversation for over.
“What about the village?” came the unforeseen reply “Wait, I know what you’re thinking, but most of these girls are now just as refined as our city girls, and not as wild and unscrupulous”. This conversation was beginning to take an extremely uncomfortable turn for Emeka.
“And why all this talk about marriage?” he said, feigning irritation. “Do you want me to go out there and pick any girl on the street?” He was hoping the frown on his face would put an end to the conversation.
“I didn’t mean to upset you, it’s just that…” She hesitated “Well you never really brought any girl home. And, well mama was wondering if you needed some assistance or something”.Emeka was a bit surprised at the mention of their mother.
“And what has mama got to do with my love life?”
“What sort of a stupid question is that?” Uju spat out. “What mother wouldn’t want to see her only son get married and someday give her grand-children?” This information didn’t really come as a surprise to him. But he had hoped that his mother’s craving for grand-children would have been invariably sated by the birth of Uju’s three children.
“But she already has three grand-children from you,” he said, pointing out the obvious.
Uju sighed. “You know sometimes I wonder if mama and papa wasted their money sending you to the university. Your education obviously has no effect on your IQ.” “You see”, she continued, now speaking extremely slow as if to a demented child “my children bear my husband’s name and not our father’s. Your children on the other hand, especially the sons, would bear our father’s name” She glared at him hoping this vital information would somehow makeits way into that part of his brain responsible for understanding. “Besides you’re not getting any younger,” she added.
“I’m just 30,” came the lame attempt at defence.
“And you’re also an only son,” she said getting up. Emeka was staring at the television without really seeing any of the images. He was deep in thought. He had hoped the pressure wouldn’t come until he was at least in his mid-thirties. He felt cornered.
The buzz of his phone brought him back from his reverie. It was an SMS. Its content was short and simple:I’ll be there in 10 min. That should give him enough time to put some finishing touches to his preparations.
Fifteen minutes later there was a knock at the door. Emeka went to open it. In front of him stood a guy of about 5ft 10, withradiating dark skin the shade of milk chocolate. Not bad Emeka thought to himself. His profile on the website had no picture of him, like most profiles, including Emeka’s. The ones which actually did have pictures, where usually of some Hollywood A-List actor, on whom most of the profile owners had a crush on. So one had to make do with over-exaggerated self-descriptions which made every guy sound like a super model. Suffice it to say that this wasn’t always the case.
“Hi, I’m Emeka,” He said, stretching out his hand.
“Please to meet you Emeka, I’m Kunle” He took Emeka’s hands, giving it a firm grip.
“Please come in,” Emeka opened the door wider.
“You have a nice apartment,” Kunle said.
“Thank you. I try my best,” Emeka replied with a smile. “So what can I get you?” he asked walking towards the refrigerator.
“A glass of water would do,” came the reply.
“Are you serious? Don’t tell me you’re one of those guys who feed on water and vegetable, just ‘cause you’re scared of putting on some extra pounds,” Emeka said with a smile
“Émikẹ?!” came the prompt reply in Yoruba. “I eat anything and everything”
“Good,” said Emeka handing him a glass of chilled water. “Cause I think you look perfect just the way you are” he added with a seductive smile,not making an effort to hide this first attempt at flirtation.
“Thank you,” Kunle replied. “I think you look good too”
For a few seconds they both stared at each other with knowing smiles on their lips.
“So do you have a girlfriend?” Kunle asked.
“A girlfriend?” Emeka repeated, somewhat surprised at this question. “No I don’t”
“Why not?” Kunle asked.
“Maybe ‘cause I don’t really need one,” Emeka replied. He was beginning to think this guy had somehow lost his way and was speaking to the wrong person.
“So what?” was Kunle’s reply. “I’m not really into girls either, but I have a girlfriend. It helps keep the suspicion away”
“Oh I see,” Emeka replied
Of course this wasn’t news to him. It was actually the norm for guys like them to have “girlfriends”. Some of these girls were actually just close friends, who were usually introduced to friends and family members as lovers, while some were actually lovers. But they all served the same purpose. “Suspicion averters” Emeka liked to refer to them. Well Emeka could never bring himself to get a “suspicion averter”. Even though he knew it would most probably rid him of the pressure from his family to get a wife.
“So do you think it will ever get better? Kunle asked
“Yeah I do. In a hundred years, if we’re lucky” Emeka answered instinctively. This wasn’t actually the kind of meeting hewas hoping for. He had anticipatedfewer clothes, less talking and more touching.
“But don’t you think we can speed things up? Maybe be a little bolder and demand change, just like they did over there,” Kunle said, cocking his head towards some imaginary place for emphasis.
Emeka stared at him as if he were from another planet.
“How can you possibly compare Africa to Europe or the US in this matter?”
“And why not?” was Kunle’s quick reply
“Well, for one they think differently. They are more…” Emeka paused, searching for the right word “well, open to a lot of things” he finally added.
“But this wasn’t always the case,” Kunle countered. “There was a time when they were equally just as conservative as we”.
“Well let’s say you’re right. And the only way we can enjoy the same level of freedom and equality as our western friends is to be bolder and demand our rights. Who among us is willing to lead this suicidal revolution?” Emeka asked.
Kunle opened his mouth in an attempt at a reply, but no words came out. He knitted his brow in deep thought, trying to come up with an answer to Emeka’s question, thereby ignoring the rhetorical character it bore. Suddenly his face lit up.
“What about that Reverend Jide Macaulay?” Kunle finally asked with a look of triumph.
“Oh you mean the Reverend who fled the country some weeks ago?” Emeka replied
“He did?” was Kunle’s reply. He seemed defeated.
The good reverend had tried, no he hadn’t just tried he had actually succeeded in establishing a Metropolitan Community Church in Lagos. A feat which didn’t just border on sheer madness, but also shared a fence with courage, Emeka thought to himself. The error injudgment was made clear to the beloved reverend when a number of newspapers published the names, pictures and addresses of some of his members, who were subsequently threatened and physically assaulted by both the police and other ”well-wishers”. But our reverend wasn’t just a man of courage; he was an equally wise man, who knew when gallantry needed the indispensable support of common sense to thrive,for he fled Nigeria to some European country when the situation became more than just challenging.
Emeka moved towards Kunle, setting himself beside him on the couch. He put his hands over his shoulder as if comforting a child who had just realized that mathematics was an inevitable evil in the course of his education, and said “Well maybe you’re right. Maybe things will change for the better. But I fear it won’t be in our time”
Kunle smiled at him and for the first time Emeka noticed how remarkably white his teeth were. Emeka reached out and touched his cheeks. They kissed. It was light and gentle. The second kiss was more passionate than the first and was accompanied with the purposeful movement of hands over certain areas of the body.His mobile phone rang. Emeka ignored it. He tried to block out all external sounds, including the ramblings of a certain preacher from long ago.