Ten years ago.
After my dad walked in on our mother’s fucking, each of the lives of both family members changed forever. Otire heeded his dad’s warnings to stay away from me and stopped being my friend. I did not know this at the time until very recently. Several months after, my parents got a divorce, went their separate ways, and I was alone for several years, wondering what could have happened.
Few days after my 21st birthday, my dad called me to the living room, and he told me he had a few things he would like to discuss with me.
“Before your sixteenth birthday, I walked in on your mom and Otire’s mom in our bedroom.”
“Okay?” I was confused. I don’t think he knew how to tell me the whole story. Our moms had always been close. Especially when they found out that their sons were good friends and classmates. Our moms would always attend owambe parties together. Sometimes, they were in my parents’ bedroom sharing gossip. I think if Otire’s mom had not passed away, they would have continued being good friends.
“Your mom was a lesbian.”
Out loud, I said, “Huh?!”
“I had come home early from the office that day,” He continued like he had not heard me exclaim, “I walked into our flat and our bedroom to find both of them naked and doing-” He paused, then looked at me in the eye briefly. Probably assessing my reaction, before he continued, “I walked in on them doing sexual things with each other.”
“Sexual things?” I was still confused. Whatever he was saying made absolutely no sense to me.
“Yes, sexual things. It was why we got divorced.”
Then he broke down and started crying.
A year ago
“Are you there?”
“Yes, I am,” I checked my rearview mirror before putting the car in reverse. My phone was connected to my cars’ bluetooth, so I increased its volume to hear her.
My mom and I had just reconnected. She had reached out to me, to ask for forgiveness for abandoning me. My mom wanted to patch things up, and I agreed. But I had told her I would only entertain phone calls first before a face-to-face conversation would happen.
“Okay.” She paused, then continued, “Kemuwa, I am not your birth mother.”
The car stopped moving. It jerked once and stopped moving. It was probably in as much shock as I was.
“Are you there?” The woman I thought had given birth to me asked tentatively.
My mom came to my house that evening. I did not know what to feel and how to feel. I did not know what to think or how to think. After I had hung up on her, I parked my car back at its earlier spot inside Maryland Mall. I was not sure if I could continue the drive, so I called for a cab.
When I got home, I put the fruits in the fridge. There were no tangerines and avocado pears, so I had settled for agbalumo, mangoes, and Toblerone. I had also picked up tampons, two boxes of candy, and a bottle of wine for my friend, Toni. I was going to visit her later that evening.
I had a quick shower and tried to take a nap, but I turned this way and that. I sat up and cranked up the AC, and threw the duvet off the bed.
Then I got up from the bed and opened the windows wide.
The fan was running, the windows were wide open, and the AC was at maximum capacity, but I was still hot.
I was burning up from the inside. I walked into my kitchen, took out bottled water from the fridge, and gulped it. It seemed to quell the heat burning in me for an instant. Then it continued again.
My phone rang upstairs, and I ran to get it.
It was my mom calling.
The heat stopped instantly, and I became calm. Then there was a knock on my door.
“When I was 17, my older sister told my parents what I had told her in confidence. I was not sure why she did that, but it hurt me so much.
My mom paused for some seconds, then smoothened her tight jeans. I found that a little hilarious, but considering the divulging of the old gist we were having, I figured she was getting anxious.
“I had confided in my older sister about the uncertainty of my sexuality.” She continued. “She was not sure what it was I was feeling. She thought she was doing me a favor by going to our mom and explaining my uncertainties to her. My dad found out that night.”
Then she looked at me. It was the first time she looked at me since she started her story. There were no tears on her face, but I could not mistake the pain I saw in her eyes.
My parents took me to a Prophet at Bar Beach. I spent many days in a hut with little food and water because they thought they were punishing the demon that lived inside me. The prophet touched me inappropriately, every night, in the guise of praying my sexuality away.
I was flogged with koboko when I fought back one morning. When my dad came to get me a week later, I told him what the prophet had done to me. My father shushed me and told me not to speak wrongly about the man of God.” Her tone was laced with derision.
I did not know what to say, so I kept quiet.
“Kemuwa, there is no telling you everything without divulging certain information your father ought to be the one to tell you.”
I only stared at her. I let her ponder on what she had just said. Then she continued without looking at me?
“During my third year in school, I was forced to marry your father. He did not know my family was forcing me to marry him. I don’t think he ever knew. I thought school would get me away from my family and their toxicity, but Benjamin only wanted-. “She caught herself and stopped talking, her hands were shaky. After some seconds, she gained composure and continued rather quickly, “Your father needed a mother for his new baby. Your birth mom had died while birthing you. It was either I married-
“Wait wait wait. What was it you just said?”
She started crying.
“Please, stop. There will be time for you to cry later. What was it you just said about my mom- mother?”
She did not say anything, and I was beginning to get upset.
“She died during childbirth.”
“While she was giving birth to me?”
It was on!
I looked at him, Otire stared back. We kept staring at each other. He laughed!
We had been summoned to the second floor: Everyone present at the beach house had gotten a notification on their mobile phones. Our host had made it clear that it was a week of debauchery and pleasure-filth, and whenever we get summoned via a developed app, we all were to gather and participate in whatever event had been lined up or we would be bounced from the beach house.
Otire and I left for the second floor in the building without saying a word to each other. Otire’s acknowledgment by the pool-side still had me gobsmacked, and the apology he had given in the hallway before we were summoned, I had not seen it coming.
At some point in my life, it was all I had wanted him to do. Like, I would draw up scenarios when everyone had gone to sleep and imagine Otire sending a text or maybe call my phone or send a Facebook request. The only reason why I even opened an IG account with my full government name was so he could find me easily on there. I deactivated the account three months later.
“I am sorry I threw your snacks and party pack in the bin…”
The first and only time we kissed was the first and only night we had been together. We were in my bedroom, and he had just lost his mom and sister. He had come to me needing comfort or whatever he thought I could give him. I was fifteen. What the hell did I know about grief?!
But I did what I could do. I persuaded his father and my parents to let him spend the night with me, amidst the tension I noticed between the three adults in the living room. Something had happened between the four of them — including Otty’s mo- Otire’s mom. Something had gone wrong somewhere. My parents were not talking to each other. My dad had also passed a couple of nights in the backseat of his car.
But Otty- Otire. Otire Otire Otire Otire Otire Otire Otireee!! Ugh!
Anyway, Otire was my only concern that night. So I told them Otire should spend the night in my company.
The three of them had looked at me, all of them stunned. Kemuwa’s father wanted to object, but my dad spoke up before he could. Kemuwa’s dad eventually allowed himself to be convinced, and his son passed the night in my bedroom and in my arms, naked.
When we got to the second floor, Otire and I were matched together, to be partners in whatever games or events that would come up during our one-week stay. I thought it was a cruel joke from the universe. Otire introduced himself to the twenty-something people in the large living room, and I knew he was off-limits, well, until he kissed me minutes later. He had mentioned his bisexuality, and that he had a girlfriend. But the latter was a lie.
“I don’t have a girlfriend. Or a boyfriend.” He whispered into my ear, “I don’t want anyone here thinking I am available. Anyone except you.”
I think this one is mad.
“Are you ready?” He asked with a smirk plastered on his face.
“For?” I asked.
“Our first competition as partners.” He emphasized the last word. I only stared at him.
Our host had numbered folded papers passed around in a basket. We had picked the same number, and that was how I ended up with him as my opponent for the karaoke and future games. I knew he was no enemy, but he was to be treated as one — plus there were prizes to be won!
So when TLC’s No Scrubs instrumentals started playing, I knew what to do.
He took the first verse and the chorus of the song. To be honest, it shouldn’t have come off as a personal attack, but you see that guy, I think he pushed my buttons with ease. Every lyric to the first verse and chorus felt like a jab. His singing voice was not to be toyed with.
“A scrub is a guy that thinks he’s fly
He’s also known as a busta
Always talkin’ about what he wants
And just sits on his broke ass”
And he kept smirking all through his moment. I knew I would own him with the second verse and Left Eye’s rap.
“Well a scrub checkin’ me, but his game is kinda weak
And I know that he cannot approach me
’Cause I’m looking like class and he’s looking like trash
Can’t get wit’ a deadbeat ass”
Oh, I gave that verse every bit of attitude and sassiness that I could dredge up from within me. There was a shoulder nudge, an imaginary hair flip, subtle finger poking the air, and a pleasant smile plastered on my face — all directed at Otire. I could not be any gayer then.
We were giving off a certain vibe to everyone watching us. This was news to me as I thought my dislike for my opponent was oozing. I thought it was an obvious thing to our audience. But no, they thought we were being coy and playing hard to get with each other.
I was almost done with my chorus when he stepped up to me slowly. The smirk had been replaced with a small smile, and he completely disarmed me with it. Then it was his turn to sing the bridge, and my head could not stop with the thoughts that flowed in.
If you don’t have a car and you’re walking
I have a car, so fuck you
Oh yes son, I’m talking to you
If you live at home with your momma
Well, I own my house. E dinor enter. I rolled my eyes even.
Oh yes son, I’m talking to you
If you have a shorty that you don’t show love
You’re the one with an imaginary partner. The joke is on you.
Oh yes son, I’m talking to you
Wanna get me with no money
I come from money.
Oh no, I don’t want no
No scrub, love
No scrub, love
While he was singing the bridge, his voice had been real mellow. Like, he was singing into my ear and just for me. During one of the “Oh yes son, I’m talking to you” lines, his index finger had slowly caressed my arm. How was he throwing shade and getting me all bothered at the same time.
I was incensed! He was going to win, but I was never going to let that happen. So I took in a deep breath as he pulled away from me and seductively stepped up to him. I went in for the kill. It was his game, and I will beat him at it. No one knew I was a bathroom rapper, so I floored them completely.
See, if you can’t spatially expand my horizons
I let my left hand settle on his chest. It was not chiseled, he had a dad-bod, and I liked the feeling.
Then that leaves you in the class with scrubs, never rising
My hand traveled down and settled on the swell of his jean.
I don’t find it surprising and if you don’t have the G’s
To please me and bounce me here to the coast of overseas
I turned around, gave a dip, and slowly brought myself back up. I grazed his bulge.
So, let me give you something to think about
Inundate your mind with intentions to turn you out
I turned to face him, hooked my right foot behind his left knee
Can’t forget the focus on the picture in front of me
I nibbled on his right ear lobe. He smelled nice.
Then Otire pulled me close and kissing me unabashedly. He ruined my performance!