Don’t meet in a Nigerian restaurant. Don’t wear your favorite bou-bou to wherever you will meet. Don’t hold hands in the park – even when no one might be watching. Don’t follow him home on Pride day, he has brothers living close by.
Because you do not, and probably will never be able to unconsciously pick out what people look like- despite America’s distinct personalities- the only thing that collects Nonso’s image back is the rebellious whiteness of his beards, an orderly disorderliness that climbs up his slightly chubby cheeks.
That, and how good he looks. You have met a few Nigerians here, and like you they carry an apprehension that cannot be boxed; but you have always felt yours exceeded theirs. They care about usual things like work permits, rent, work, their children running another facial, college, and every other mundane American things.
You have your sexuality added to that list, and this is bigger because you always are scared of Salome knowing. She let you stay with her until you could pay rent, she never misses church service, and has Tim Godfrey, Sinach, Frank Edwards, Sammie Okposo, Tope Alabi- even though she doesn’t understand the simplest word in Yoruba- and many other Nigerian Gospel crooners on replay.
Salome saves up to go back home for the Redeemed Camp, along with affiliated liturgical functions.
She talks strongly of Jesus, keeping her steadfast and never allowing her sell her dignity at her lowliest times.
She talks about a lady she likes to call The Lady from Greenwich Village, who wanted to sleep with her before she would find her a job. Perhaps, I relay this with obscurity, but Salome potrays this story with vigour.
No line is flunked, no possibilities fixed, she draws her own conclusions and leaves no space for comments.v
‘Een though, I badly needed money, I knew that no amount of her Dollars would ever buy my precious soul away from Jesus.’
Salome, quitti her third job because her co-worker whom she worked ‘closely’ with took her to an ice rink to meet whom he called his lover; a boy, donned in pink skating outfit, complete with a rainbow scarf, whom her co-worker kissed in front of ‘so many people, it was too disgraceful’.
For two weeks, after that event Salome, functioned on rubber brains, disconnected her line ‘to prevent the voice of possessed persons from passing on to me’, and cried herself funny at night.
A few days after that, during our frequent Dinners together, she’d say,
‘I hate those people, I swear I can kill them if I can. In fact, any of them who comes close to me again will not go back the same, are you not going to eat your fries?’.
Sorry, for the deflection, of course this isn’t of the various, demonic shapes homophobia takes around people, your people here nor about Salome, this really is about how hard it is to find a man, as ‘gay’ as Nonso.
You have met a few guys, since your financial independence began to fill with weight, but there always was that unease. Perhaps, it was just you, but you could sense their instant indecisiveness once things kicked off.
There was a guy, that barked at you while you both lay in a motel bed in Brooklyn, after you’d asked him if tomorrow would be a possibility for you both, ‘ wait sef guy, is this what you have come here to do?’
You will never forget how much of a titchy, bothersome thing you felt like.
One whom you had relayed so much of your life to threatened to ‘bust ya hass’ to Salome, in the fakest American accent you always wonder how you survived through.
You have met a guy, who just went off after weeks of cozy, virtual entanglement, and when you saw him , sitting right across from you in a carriage – sure also that he saw you- he didn’t say anything to you, and his face said he wasn’t willing to hear any of your words.
There were good ones, sure, but you have forgotten them. They only, exist as concrete ephemerals. Through a scent. A shirt. A street. An action. Words seeming poignantly familiar, because they embodied who they were to you.
Nonso stands out all right. He looks like someone who would say ‘yea sure, I am gay’ to anybody without shame or reluctance. He wears it proudly, not as a dignifying defect say like ;cancer, or blindness, it stays on his body with…. Well it just stays.
‘Kedu ife ine me? What do you do?’ He says, after we have settled to drinks ; Guiness for us both.
‘Wow, you speak Igbo, a lot of guys don’t want to do that,’
‘Oh really? How do you know?’
And you both laughed. An abiding, conflicting kind. But a laugh nonetheless. (It doesn’t happen a lot) you have only laughed with a Yoruba guy who had an helplessly hilarious outlook on life, and with a need to ‘taste different kinds of flavours’.
This is one of the reasons you came here. You know you left a lot back home. A good job, a good home, a family (however unsupportive), liberal air. Captivity.
The meet went well, normally with the other guys, which was becoming routine, you should find a good place to rest, where you might bury your fingers in his mesmerizing beard, kiss his self sure lips. Stare at his shoulder tattoo as ecstasy rides you both strong.
Do something that always feels sinful.
But you both don’t do any of that, he asks for your number (something you usually would do), he fed you peppersoup even though the room suffused with Nigerian clusters, and kissed you with head whirling concentration outside the restaurant.
He keeps looking at you after he hails a cab down for you, ( you usually would take a noisy metro to blur the chaos that builds after these meetings, but you only just want to listen to your heart at this time).
When it would happen, the sun would pour artfully on your intently entwined bodies, from his wide bedroom window. It would strike you as odd that you both are not hiding your faces away, or rushing off to your boxers, because this thing happens at night, a time that authenticates this transgression.
While he’d be spooning you to sleep, you will as always look for that sinful jab, that familiar feeling of desecrating something holy, but find it nowhere.
Something that used to exist in your lay breath.