Saturday, 16 July 2016

Odimnobi - I smell his sweat

Odimnobi(my pet name for him, literally meaning ‘he who is in my heart’) is dead. Olufemi(his real name), my shield. He was part yoruba and part fulani, small frame, light brown in complexion, beautiful and 38 years old. I am 27. He died last month in the course of a heart surgery. He was unmarried and without a child, but he made me his everything.  He became lover, father, and protector to me. He always won all the arguments because he spoke better English, and I could barely keep up with the depth of his knowledge. We met and worshipped in the same church.
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He was subtle and calm. At first sight, no one would believe he was a medical doctor and part of the Nigerian Navy, a lion. There was this one time, he roared for me: It was Benin, Nigeria, 2014. I could not make out the several images in my head. I had not resolved the Valentine incident. It had been three years already. Still I could not help the volts that ran through me when a whiff of tobacco smoke twirled across my nostrils. Or the knife that thrust through my mouth each time a man’s palm met my nape. But I saw Dafe, a police man, stare me through and thin from across the restaurant.
I was there with Olufemi to celebrate his promotion to the rank of a Naval Lieutenant, just both of us . Dafe, whose age I have never known, had come with another police officer to have dinner.  A few minutes earlier, we had run into each other in the gents accidentally. He hugged me. I had not prepared for this meeting and I froze once more in his arms. He laughed when he let me go. ‘Timi, Timi. Useless boy.’ He called me, smacking and squeezing my butt as I walked away.
He was still powerful. Three years had done a lousy job at healing this scar.
The evening turned sour. All I could think of was this beast running lose. He hurt me again and again with his eyes, his laughter. He hurt me all over in my mind. Sweat trickled down my back, the memory of that Valentine night lashing at me all over again. Olufemi had ordered the cake, we would have to stay.
‘Timi,’ as I was saying Olufemi continued, ‘It was a mad evening. Every one was…’then he trailed off  into French, while I trailed off into February 14, 2011.
Onitsha had always been a busy and enterprising place. The Main Market had been the hub of everything under the sun from tooth picks to second hand clothing to office equipment. I had moved from Port Harcourt to serve as an apprentice under my Aunt Maria’s husband, Uncle Amadi. He sold auto-mobile spare-parts for Honda and Toyota vehicles. Uncle Amadi’s sister Aunt Sandra lived with us. She was on the National Youth Service Corp programme, and was serving in a bank in Asaba.  They were very nice and calm people. Everywhere except our home felt like Onitsha. It was calm and I never got to know the name of the street because Uncle Amadi would always chaperon me to and from the shop.
Aunt Sandra had a boyfriend, Dafe. He was light skinned and slim. He had red lips and silky side buns. Everyone at home liked him. He was a police man. He would visit whenever Aunt Sandra was home. And when she was not, he would still visit to spend some time with the family. Aunt Sandra spoke so highly of him. She called him ‘Odimnobi’ because, she said ‘he lives in my heart.’ He did not understand a word in igbo except ‘Nkem’ meaning ‘mine’ which Aunt Sandra had taught him to call her.
Olufemi snapped his fingers in my face, ‘Timi!’
‘I have been calling you for almost three minutes now’ Olufemi said.
‘Yes.’he said, ‘And you are crying.’
‘Am I?’
He passed me a serviette. ‘What’s up?’
‘Nothing. I’m fine.’
‘You’re not. This isn’t you.’
‘I’m okay’ I insisted, forcing a smile as the blurry tears fell and my clearer vision caught Dafe winking at me.
A few minutes later, Olufemi had to use the rest room. As soon as he left, Dafe came through to our table.
‘I see you haven’t changed, you faggot.’ He said.
I was silent.
‘I still have those pictures you know.’ He said.
‘Please go away.’
‘Useless boy’ he called me again,‘I’m still using my old number. Make sure you call me tomorrow. We just arrested some homo-boys and they gave us this long list. Who knows whether your name is there. Eh. You know with this new Anti-gay law we are hunting for you guys.’ He looked up, ‘ Your magah is coming.’ he said ‘You better call me, I no dey joke.’
‘Hi’ Olufemi said.
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‘Good evening’ Dafe responded, stretching out his hand for a handshake.
‘Is there a problem here?’ Olufemi asked glancing down at Dafe’s hand before slipping both of his into his pockets.
‘No. Timi is an old friend.’ Dafe said.
‘I see.’ Olufemi said before returning to his seat.
‘My name is Dafe.’ he said.
‘Good.’ Olufemi said, ‘now get lost.’
While Olufemi’s response dazed Dafe and I, I danced Azonto in my head.
‘Do you know who you are talking to?’ Dafe fumed.
‘Dafe please go away,’ I pleaded.
‘No, no, I dey try dey polite to this idiot. Him dey follow me form.’ He pulled out his handcuffs.
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Those  handcuffs he used to arrest me on St. Valentine’s night when Aunt Maria and her husband had travelled, leaving me with no electricity. ‘Uncle Dafe will check on you once in a while’ they had said and I was comforted. The night he told me that he was the one I was chatting with over ‘2go’(social network) and had sent my nude photos to. The night he seized my phone and went through all my 2go chats, as he forced his erect penis into my mouth while his hand gun’s nuzzle pinned to the crown of my head, threatening to take me to the police cell and report me to my Aunt if I did not cooperate . And that if I mentioned 'our arrangement' to anyone he would kill me. The whole time, I was on my knees with both hands tightly bound in handcuffs. Sweating, frightened and surrounded by fate, darkness the smell of his sweat and the smoke from the cigarette he had smoked half way and left to glow bright red. His shoves piercing deeper, choking and hurting me. When he was done with my phone he threw it on the wall. At some point, he pulled my nape to a
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chair, knees sweeping across the cold floor that was now smeared with my tears and saliva. When he sat, he slammed my head on his penis, it almost got to my stomach. I thought I would throw up. He pulled back. The room was smeared dark and stale with the night. I could see Dafe faintly. He then banged my head to meet his jamming organ continuously, controlling the frequency of the thrusts with firm fingers around my head and nape. He was dripping with sweat, and smelling of everything wrong. The thrusts seemed to have gone on forever, the room increasingly throbbing with temperature, when he squeezed my nape and head tightly, groaned deeply and slammed his pelvis one last time on my face forcing sweat, semen, pubic hair and tears into my mouth. Then I felt the tightness of the handcuffs around my wrist and tip of his hand gun return to my crown.  ‘Swallow’.
Those handcuffs were dangling once more. The images smacking around in my head, the putrid taste of pubic hair and sweat, my mouth suddenly filled with everything wrong. I could hear the beeps from my phone. I could smell his sweat from my seat.
‘Stop. Dafe.’ I screamed. ‘Leave us alone’ just before storming for the exit. The other police man intercepted me.
‘Oga where you dey go?’ He pushed me back to my table.
Customers started taking their last sips and darting out of the restaurant. I was pushed back into my chair. Olufemi, who was just dropping his phone, looked at me.
‘Did he hit you?’ he asked.
‘I was too shaken to speak.’
‘In fact both of you’ Dafe finally said, ‘are under arrest.’
Olufemi stood to his feet, smoothened his shirt with his hands and said to me in a hush tone ‘let’s go’.
When I hesitated, he tone got firmer, his eyes now squinted, he was no longer amused.
 ‘Mon sir!!!’ four uniformed Naval officers walked into restaurant.
‘I want these idiots arrested’ Olufemi ordered.
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I did not tell him of my St. Valentine past. He did not want to discuss the idiots. He maintained that it was people like them that smear the name of the Police Service with mud and dishonour. My body insists that they have done more than that. But who can we tell? Who can I tell that I was raped? ‘A man cannot be raped. He is a man.’ A mouth cannot be raped, it’s a mouth. Who wants to be exposed as homosexual in Nigeria? What boy wants to be known to have been raped by man in Nigeria? In a place where being homosexuality is deemed contagious, and the police deemed always right and final. Who do we report the Police to when they destroy us under the guise of doing their job? We have the Police Service Commission to attend to police when they misbehave but where is the Commission, when it is needed? Can I tell them that I am homosexual and that a police man had violated my constitutional rights and committed a crime? Who will they arrest first? My ‘gay foolishness and criminality’ or  tell me that the law does not recognised oral rape, or rape of a man. Will they ask me to go the Police station? May I then go to the Police station to report Dafe for violating me and stealing my pride when it’s his friends who are at the complaint desk?
 Who will make Dafe stop now that Olufemi is no more? Who will make Dafe pay? Who will bring the rapists and oppressors, the bad apples in uniforms to justice? How can we say we have a voice when fear haunts our reality and crumbles our democracy? The worst of it, we barely know better than to succumb and pray for some magic.      Magic!? when the miracle of democracy lives in our home, dines with us every day. When things can be done better and discipline amongst public officers enforced. But what is the law without the will or implementation?
Olufemi roared for me when the law should have. Especially in a Nigeria where sexual minorities cannot, for their own safety, report any crime that begins with ‘ I am gay, and …’
Olufemi’s demise has filled me with fear. I’m still in Benin. Dafe has married Aunt Sandra, and they both live in Lagos. But the fear of Dafe lives in my heart, as he has moved into my home, my family. As I mourn Olufemi, I hear the Dafe’s handcuffs dangling, I smell his sweat, my fate and everything wrong.
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