I have always thought of concerts in Lagos as a crazy affair. It always felt like every ‘Lagosian’ was in the same space at the same time. Usually as a young lawyer working an eight to eight job, five days a week in Lagos; I seldom had the strength nor time for events like this; but my friend Shewa was a writer for an online Magazine and the music, art and fashion scene was hers as well. She had bugged me relentlessly to accompany her to this particular concert and had as a matter of fact bought my ticket which was how I came to be at the Hard Rock Cafe Beach front by 11:00pm on a Saturday night.
I was navigating my way through the crowd in a bid to locate Shewa; a task which was proving a bit difficult when I felt someone push me from behind and in a split second my head slammed into the face of a tall dark haired figure.
By the time my head stopped spinning I found myself being held steady around the waist by a woman who was easily taller than my own height of 5ft8.
I took my time to study her, she was chocolate skinned, with accentuated jaw line and a pointed nose. Her hair framed her face in loose kinky curls. She had this stunned expression and I just stood there watching the stage lights dance in her eyes turning them from hazel brown to gold. It was only when I felt the sudden sting on my jaw that I remembered how I had come to be standing in the arms of a stranger.
“I’m sorry, I wasn’t looking where I was going.” I mumbled. “That was quiet obvious” she replied as she brushed a finger over her bruised lips. Her voice was husky and she sounded bored like she had just been roused from sleep but surprisingly she did not sound annoyed.
“Are you injured?” I asked.
“I’m fine, don’t worry about me.” she answered.
She made no attempt to continue walking, she just kept looking at me in a manner that made me feel like a deer caught in front of headlights and my first instinct was to run.
“Enjoy the show”, I said to her as I made a move to sidestep her and continue my futile search for Shewa.
She caught me by the wrist with one hand and the other found its way my chin.
“Wait! You have a swelling here, we need to fix that” she said and she immediately started to lead me away from the crowd.
“I’m Jade by the way”. She said half turning to look at me, probably to confirm I was still behind her.
“Tamuno”. I responded.
“Stay close Tamuno, I would not want to lose you in this crowd” she said as she took my hand in hers once more.
Her palm was soft and I felt a sudden heat where she held me. We had to squeeze through people and half the time my body was pressed into hers in a way I found oddly intimate. I tried to rationalize the situation, this was me, a person who did not even appreciate physical contact on a normal day, and now I was willingly getting dragged to an unknown destination by an unknown person no questions asked. Call me naïve if you like but there was this air around Jade. The kind that gave this feeling of safety.
It took some effort but we eventually got to a liquor stand. Jade asked for a chapman and a cup of ice. I was certain she did not really want a chapman but that was the nicest and quickest way to get the server to give her ice. She handed the cup to me and I placed it on my chin as she proceeded to lead me to a secluded part of the beach.
We stood there quietly for a while watching the waves, our drinks on the railings and the entire concert long forgotten. Gradually we slipped into easy conversation. She asked what I did for a living and I told her I was a lawyer. She smiled and asked if I wasn’t too young to be Annaliese Keating. I laughed and told her my life was not that exciting anyways. When she said she was a programmer, I had to ask again. “A programmer?”
She laughed and nodded.
“Yes I write codes for software”, she finished.
It wasn’t that I did not know what a programmer did, it was that it was hard to find people more so a woman who studied courses outside the regular law or medicine. Sometimes they picked engineering but never computer engineering. Those were the courses our parents were most proud of. More often than not they made us study those courses just so they could be referred to as mama lawyer or mama doctor. I knew for one that my father hardly ever called me by my name since I passed my bar exams, it was always, barrister or the law and that was how he introduced me to his friends – “this is my daughter, the barrister”. To him it was some sort of accomplishment to have trained a child to become a lawyer.
This was probably the reason it always awed me when I met people with “unconventional” careers; writers, programmers, painters and the likes. I knew they had to have been strong or else society would have talked them out of their dreams. I liked that they were fulfilled being creatives just as I was fulfilled being a professional.
I don’t know for how long I stood there talking to Jade but I got to know she had schooled and spent most of her life in London and had moved back to Nigeria a few years ago. I asked her why she came back and her simple reply was; “it is still home.” It didn’t make any sense to me, Nigeria was a country people sought to get out from. I had considered leaving on multiple occasions but she had come back.
“Let me take a look at that” she said, and slowly she cupped my jaw in both hands. I was sure my eyes widened in surprise but she didn’t comment on it.
“Does it hurt much?” she asked. “Not really” I answered.
I was barely aware of any pain on my chin I was however aware of the butterflies in my stomach and the heat of Jade’s skin. Jade’s hands were strong and gentle at the same time. I did not know when, but we must have moved because now we stood so close our thighs brushed. My breathing changed and so did her’s. Her eyes had gotten dark it was impossible not to get lost in them. “Jade” I whispered, I had no idea what was happening. Whatever this was I needed to stop it before it got out of hand, but I could not find a good enough reason to.
“Yes?” She answered as she slid her hand around the back of my neck and very lightly she kissed my chin just above the bruise, and then my neck.
At the first touch of Jade’s lips against my skin I was shaking and it had nothing to do with the cold. My insides were on fire and I did not know how to put the flames out.
When she lifted her head, her eyes half closed it was I who wanted more. It was I who stood on tiptoes, wrapped my hand around her neck, and found her lips with mine.
God the way I drank from those lips like I had been in a desert for years and had only just discovered a well.
Jade’s mouth was soft, hot and demanding. My tongue skirted over the inside of her lips and my stomach twisted with a different kind of urgency. When I heard Jade groan and felt her hands tighten around my waist I knew in my mind that I had to stop. I did not understand what was happening and I was not ready for the consequences.
I sighed, pulling away from the kiss and brushing my lips over Jade’s chin.
“We cannot be doing this here” I said.
“I’m sorry, I have been wanting to do that since you bumped into me” her eyes were still out of focus and she looked around us as if just realizing we were still standing outside in the open.
Before I could reply my phone rang and I fumbled for it. Jade’s mouth was still inches away from mine when I answered Shewa’s call.
“I have to go” I said.
“My friend the one I was in a hurry to locate when I bumped into you has been trying to find me.”
“Your girlfriend?” She asked
“No, I mean my friend. I’m not gay or anything like that” I blurted out.
Jade stood absolutely still, her jaws were clenched like I had struck her hard on the face, and her eyes had become distant.
I had no idea why I had felt the need to make a clarification about my sexuality at this particular moment. I opened my mouth to pour out some kind of apology but before I could Jade cut me off.
“I’m sorry, it is my fault for assuming” she said. And with that she stepped around me and walked calmly in the opposite direction.
I turned and watched the retreating figure, till I could no longer see her, I felt a sudden chill and I wanted to call her back and take shelter in her warmth.
It had been weeks after my accidental meeting with Jade and I had not stopped thinking about her. My nights were filled with dreams about her, my waking moments were crowded with thoughts of her. I searched for her face in malls and even in traffic. I did not understand how it was that I missed someone I had never really known. I missed the roughness of her voice, the way her eyes twinkled when she smiled and the way being around her had made me feel.
I was going crazy with thinking about what that kiss had meant. I knew girls who did stuff like that when we were in secondary school, but I had assumed it was just teenagers in their experimental phase. Maybe this was my own phase since I never had one as a teenager. But I knew what I had felt when I was with Jade, I was the one who had pushed for more when she had held back. I had kissed her and then I had turned around and made her feel stupid by throwing my heterosexuality in her face. Now I was torturing myself over an encounter she had probably erased from her memory.
Eventually I had to tell Shewa about my encounter with Jade.
“You kissed a girl?”
“And you liked it?”
“I more than liked it.”
“Shewa what does this mean? I’m kissing and having sex dreams about a woman but I’m straight.”
“How do you know you are straight” Shewa asked?
“Because you grew up in a society were heterosexuality is the norm? Have you tried being with a woman as opposed to being with a man and you didn’t like it?”
“Shewa, I’m twenty two years old, I am too old to be having a sexual awakening.”
“Learn to question things my friends be it norms, beliefs or the fluid spectrum of sexuality.”
This was one of the things I loved about Shewa, she was liberal and woke to the evolvement of society. Still I was worried Shewa could not see the obvious problem.
This is Nigeria, a country with an anti-gay law. I could be looking at a fourteen years prison term for what I did and so could she just for simply knowing about it.
I am supposedly a Lawyer, a custodian of the law, so what does that make me if I am the one breaking the laws? I asked Shewa.
”Well adultery is legal in Nigeria isn’t it?”
“Yes it is. What is the point?”
“The point is our law makers are shitheads and it is nobody’s business what goes on in your private life. You should be able to kiss who you want to, man or woman.”
The truth of the situation was that I wanted to kiss Jade again, apart from that I wanted to get to know her.
One step at a time, Shewa had said; and so I took the first step. I combed through every social media platform and so did Shewa. Whenever she found a woman with a name variation similar to Jade or someone that fit her description she sent me a screen shot. It took about a week but we found her twitter handle.
Eventually, I mustered the courage to send out a simple “hey” to her one Saturday even though I was not quite sure know how to reintroduce myself. I got her reply a few minutes later; “Tamuno, how are you?”
She remembered my name. She remembered who I was,
I had never felt so elated in a long time.
“We need to talk about the night at the beach.”
“There is nothing to talk about. You are not into women, I get that and I already apologized for overstepping my bounds.”
“Jade, I don’t think you understand, I’m not sure I do either, but I need to see you again.”
“So what? All of a sudden you are a part of the LGBTQ community?” Jade asked when we got together for dinner at Nok.
She sounded serious but I could see the twinkle in her eyes and I knew she was not upset.
I shrugged, “Q is for questioning isn’t it?”
“Tamuno it took me years to get comfortable with my sexuality in a climate saner than Nigeria, and I don’t expect you to figure this out in a few weeks. Just because you kissed me doesn’t mean you are…”
“Don’t do that Jade. Don’t try to convince me that what I am feeling is not real.”
“Okay” Jade said softly.
“Okay” I responded with a smile.
To the rest of the world we were just two women sharing a plate of desert, but our eyes spoke of something more, something different.