Riding with Danjuma feels like charging into forever on a comet-off-course Mouka, foam padded, red-wine-serving, air-conditioner-fitted and citrus air-freshened. It is like the feeling of warm chocolate flowing down the torso just before it meets the ice-cold tickly tongue of a naughty lover. It is like the rush of heat from a virgin body that shocks the world with its candid cravings. In a perfect world I would never have such cravings. But Danjuma strangely inflames me. Shockingly, his existence makes me bisexual.
No man taps my core the way he does. No man before him ever tapped me at all. I had once thought it was the things he said to me. At another time, I thought it was the way he said them. The way he is firm with me, instructing me without warning, steering me unbothered that I could get hurt - perhaps knowing that it is impossible. He knows how to take me to the edge just before ‘crazy’.
And he knows to insist that I study. He will not have any of that ‘I’m not in the zone’ nonsense.
When my last exam timetable came out, he zapped us from Abuja to Jos to study. Lodged in his two-bed room flat for a week, breakfast and lunch he catered for. Dinner was either a carrot or an apple each and compulsory exam quizzes, followed by reading the Psalms (from my Bible) in alternate verses right there in his room. With my phones confiscated, and the almost eternal pin-drop silence punctuated only by Westlife tracks and the occasional door squeaking to usher in hairy Danjuma, stripped to his briefs bearing a glass of juice or water, it was an interesting week.
Sexually, he knows how to make me want things that I ordinarily abhor - things that, in a perfect world, should never cross my mind.
He loves me enough to see through my shakara.
You see, Danjuma loves like a festival, then a single sword - cutting, cutting, and cutting through. Like a hundred metal wings, then like a single rose. He insists that we are boys. And boys should embrace every chance to make their mistakes early on. He says that boys are like stainless steel. No scars no smudges, fierce enough to mock our youth, our scars healing almost instantly. That was in Jos.
In the ‘perfect world’, Port Harcourt, we stopped being boys because they said we had outgrown our dreams. They said that we were too manly to pretend that we were back in Jos, cuddling in the prickly Harmattan. In the perfect world, we should not talk all night. And Muslims should not be caught reading the Bible, let alone in alternate verses. Here also men have no business being men’s desktop photos or screensavers. As such no one can explain the burning passion between two men without a splash, if not a full bath, of disgust at the picture. To keep the world perfect, we agreed, they should neither know nor see. Passions unseen are passions ‘undisgusting’.
So we are boys everywhere but here.
We can see the world everywhere else and be whatever we want, however we want. But here, I am sane. I am Nkemdilim Okolo.
I desperately needed to confide in someone here - anyone who was not Danjuma who could objectively validate my insanity by telling me that I had struck gold, and should never let go. But I am wise enough to share only the version compatible with the perfect world.
You see, the version I proudly use is:
‘An Abuja flower has stolen my heart, and I want to run away with the flower. We want to travel the world. Besides, the flower is too Muslim for my Catholic parents. And I’m too Catholic for the flower’s Muslim world.’ I am always very careful to avoid pronouns.
‘Hmm. How can you dream of travelling the world with this madness when there are more pressing things to attend to? ’ most of the people I spoke to said.
The rest of them simply turned it into a joke. Others added that I was aspiring to join and birth a fresh Boko Haram troop.
I think closely about everything save the Boko Haram bit.
Perhaps this is the universe conspiring to tell me that Danjuma is a tooth cavity I can avoid. This has been said too many times to my hearing. And like a man I must listen to the voice of reason. As if this is not sour enough, my being effeminate is becoming a bigger wahala than it was, between my girlfriend Fisayo and I.
‘A man should be firm and better comported,’ Fisayo said to me one morning after I had finished arguing with my kid sister Amara about whether or not Omosexy’s sexiness had a shelf life.
‘Just see you,’ Fisayo continued, ‘throwing your hands about, clapping and arguing like a little girl.’
I eyed her and did not say anything. She has been nagging her – and my – life away since I got my ears pierced a few months ago. Saturday. No Sunday. Or was it Monday? No, it was definitely over the weekend.
I had just returned to Port Harcourt after having passed my degree exams. It was extraordinary to have hit that milestone, but somehow I was too dazed to be festive. I did not pre-inform anyone of my returning. I was the only one in my class who did not post any Facebook status update. I had drafted one: ‘Forever is a string of 'right-now's’. It had absolutely nothing to do with my having graduated, and I had not the energy to explain it either.
One of those days I was in bed, very, very, very close to drifting away when Fisayo jumped on me from nowhere. Iska - the part of me that will have none but Danjuma - yanked her off. She landed with a crash, knocking over the side-table. Regret flushed through my insides as I rushed to help her up.
‘Nkemdilim, what’s the matter?’ she asked, confusion in her eyes.
‘Please get up.’ I said as I stood above her, offering her my hand.
Amara came barging into my room. ‘I heard a crash,’ she said
After an awkward moment, and ignoring my outstretched hand, Fisayo struggled up, snatched her bag from the table and left. She heard words that I did not say. That I did not have to. She did not know that my body was now repelling everyone else. She must have thought that she was still the one key that could unlock me. She used to be. That changed.
I was at Combo Hotel that night with Danjuma. He was in town for business engagement. We had agreed to talk about our relationship. I was trying to walk away. We did not have much luck talking. His tongue started a tsunami on my nape. Our hearts lashed out at each other. We were naked as our mothers made us. That night he put ice behind my earlobes and sunk a cold needle through them. The evening should have been a silent sober one but Danjuma wanted more. He is about the only one who can command Iska the way that none other can - in the way that I shamelessly like. Blood trickled down one of my ears. It felt like sweat. The sweetness of his kiss choked the sting as the needle pushed through the cartilage. It was a crazy night. We did not break up as we had planned.
The Iska in me grows less and less afraid with every encounter with Danjuma. I hate them – Iska and Danjuma – when I am sober. But in my wildness, I love Danjuma more than I had ever imagined that a person deserved to be loved, and Iska breaks free and rails like a hurricane at everything.
When I returned home to Amara and our parents the night I was pierced, I still had the taste of Danjuma on my tongue, and the feel of him in me. I would not have anyone tarnish this heaven. I skipped dinner and went straight to bed. No one had noticed the coloured studs in my ear lobes. No one noticed that I walked on clouds.
Iska frightens Fisayo. He is not the boy who had sexted her for two months, not Nkemdilim. But then, Iska is nothing like the rest of me. He is unrealistic, overgrown, crazy but submissive, yearning, in love with Danjuma. Nkemdilim, on the other hand is firm and everything else a man should be. Nkemdilim still wants Fisayo. Part of me still needs to have her. This dynamic drives me crazy. Knowing loving two worlds uncontrollably without either ever sitting down to learn or listen to the other: that I cannot trade this madness for something more unilateral, more comprehensible. Knowing that at every given time I could be one of either peacefully and completely, or both at once savagely, at war.
It’s not about the sex with Danjuma: it is the peaceful certainty in his eyes. He carries on like every moment is all we are about, like I am really part of his world - a world that had been solidly built prior to my arrival, without me but for me.
Whenever I am with him, I find an unshakeable validation that I have found my place and I need not move any further.
Danjuma is my dream, the man I want to be like when I grow up. He is also reality to a devout wife, muse to a trusting daughter and pillar to an observing church. Danjuma is a dream that came true too soon. Yet I love that he marks me the way he does.
When Fisayo noticed the studs glinting in a selfie I sent to her on Whatsapp, she stopped messaging and called back.
‘Nkemdilim?’ she asked almost in a whisper.
‘Yes babes,’ I answered, thinking we were on whispers now.
‘Are you gay?’
My heart skipped. ‘How can I be gay and in love with you?’ shot out of my mouth before I could think of anything. Danjuma says it so many times.
‘Why are you wearing studs then?’
‘It’s just fashion, babes,’ I said. ‘Lots of men do. Nothing to it.’ I was still, sweating and unable to blink.
When I told Danjuma about our conversation, he asked me to travel to Dubai with him for a week.
‘Didn’t you hear what I just said?’
‘Come with me.’
‘You can’t be serious.’
‘Come with me.’
‘She’s suspicious enough as it is, Dee. Besides I can’t just up and leave, man.’ I said.
‘I’m not asking you to up and leave. I’m asking you to do what you need to do: to come with me.’
I said I thought he was being unreasonable, he asked me whether I had an international passport. Crazy man.
I still have to figure out what it is that we share. Stamp on a label of some sort. Try to keep my life tidy, the way it had been before Abuja. Before he kissed me. Before I kissed him back. Before he made me laugh. Before I had preferred him to my classroom. Visiting from campus every other weekend. Before Aisha, his wife, almost knocked me down on campus with her SUV. Before all three of us had that awkward lunch-date when she bathed me in tomato sauce. And he hit her so hard across the face. Before she cursed me. Before she kissed the floor begging me to leave her happiness alone. Before she offered to trade me all of Abuja for her husband, in tears.
Danjuma has never been mine to keep. He is Aisha’s forever. Yet he is not mine to give up. Initially, when he came after me, I ran. I wanted to go far enough to escape him, to escape all this. But I also wanted to be caught. Now my conscience is ravished by guilt. My heart roars in passion. My life spins in complexities. I hate myself for ever desiring, for wanting this madness, for basking in this mistake.
I have walked away from him one time too many. Not just for Aisha.
I am a man with a girlfriend. Sex with her takes my breath away, It fills my mind with ideas for now and next time. We are smart. We play rough but we play safe- no compromises.
I am a scholar fated to be a star. Structured to be lightning, a standard, even a god.
But being a boy feels light years better. Danjuma says, ‘We are boys naked in the sun, like our mothers made us. Boys who dare to dream, to write their own forevers, live out their creeds! ’
It was Fisayo, my girlfriend, who informed Amara that my ears had been pierced. Amara ran into my room, and took a long stare at me through squinted eyes. She then knelt by me to feel my earlobes. I looked into her eyes, hoping that she would not judge me.
‘Awwww...your studs are pretty’ she said. ‘Do you have them in blue?’
‘I’ll get blue ones for you’
‘Sweet!’ she said as her thumb rubbed gently across one of the studs.
She does not know jack about Danjuma. She knows that I am in love with Fisayo. And she thinks I am Superman. I search for a suitable style to explain that I am not - that I have never been.
My phone rings. It is Danjuma. Fisayo just walked into the room. I feel her eyes stabbing me. I shut my eyes. My heart lashes at the world, pounding my insides. I do not understand anything.
It is the tenth call today. I wrench the battery out of the phone. Saying good bye to Danjuma is not an option, because I have never been successful. God help me. Please, write me this forever. He is calling my second phone.