The first time you heard the word Grindr was on a series on the tv. One of the gay characters had used it to meet up with a boy, after which they began to make out before the scene faded to the two of them lying in bed together. You thought gay characters and scenes were getting too much on the television, as if they were trying to shove it in people’s faces.
The name Grindr however stuck with you.
Sometimes you would tentatively call up the name from memory as if to check it was still there. And it always was.
One hot afternoon, you went into the Google Play Store and searched “Grindr”. The app showed up, a yellow mask with black eyes. Your finger hovered over the install button, but then you changed your mind, deciding to download the apk file from the internet so the app wouldn’t register on your list of installed apps on Google Store.
You opened the apk file and installed Grindr. Then you changed your phone’s password, so your nosey sister, who had figured out the previous one wouldn’t have access to your phone. Over the next few days, you would open the app and look at the screen asking you to create an account, but just when you were on the verge of doing so, you would close the app.
It was a month after you installed it that you created a new Gmail account, and then created a user profile on the app. You left your profile blank, only giving your name as X, and you perused the other profiles displayed for you.
Some were straight to the point: “Looking to fuck.” A lot said, “No bitchy queens.” Only a few profile info seemed well-thought-out. They often either had pictures of their faces cropped out or showed just their bodies. You never messaged anyone and no one messaged you. You told yourself you were just looking.
Then your phone finally buzzed. You picked it up to see the notification of a message from the app. You opened it. The message said, “Hi.”
You stared at it for a bit, and then closed the app. Bloody homosexuals.
Just like the time after you installed the app, you began to open it just to look at the “Hi”. The sender’s profile identified him as Fayette, and had the picture of a light-skinned face cropped just so that all was left was a slender nose and a mouth with lips that you felt looked too pink to be on a guy.
Then one day, when the button that showed whether the person was online was grey, indicating that he was offline, you sent a “Hello” back.
The grey button almost immediately turned green and a message came in. “How are you?”
“I’m fine, you?”
“I am okay. Where are you?”
“Mainland or Island?”
You considered the question and lied. “Mainland.”
“Shucks, I’m on the island.”
You chuckled. Who the heck says shucks?
Fayette was typing again.
“Pics?” he said.
“Why?” you replied, after spending some time contemplating the question.
“NVM. What role are you?”
“What’s that?” you asked, ignoring the shyness you felt.
“Lol. The part you like to play in bed.”
“Oh. I’m not gay,” you said.
There came the crying-with-laughter emoji followed quickly by the response: “Then why are you on a gay hook-up app?”
“I’m just looking,” you typed, feeling stung by his question.
“Whatever you say, X.”
You closed the app, muttering to yourself. Bloody fag thinks I am gay. You couldn’t be gay. You fucked girls often. It was easy to get them, too, because they threw themselves at you. It helped that your face was easy on the eyes and you went to the gym a lot. Gay guys don’t gym; they were too busy throwing tea parties and dressing in girly outfits to do that. Sure, you checked some of the guys out in the showers at the gym. But every guy does that, right?
Annoyed with the conflict you could feel brewing in your chest, you opened WhatsApp and asked Chika with the massive boobs and thick thighs if she wanted to come over. She was at your place later in the evening, and while she sucked you off, images of Fayette’s lips crept unbidden into your mind.
The next morning, there was a message from Fayette. “So what exactly are you looking for?”
He responded in the afternoon. “Okay. Is there anything you like to do?”
“I gym a lot,” you typed after thinking for a bit.
“Awesome. Can I see?”
You were about to type “No”, when you thought: What the heck. You loved to show off your body whenever you could anyway. So, you picked one of your many gym selfies, cropped your head off and sent to him.
“Wow! Your body is awesome.”
As you were typing your “Thank you” a picture came in. It was Fayette. You could tell from the too-pink-for-a-guy lips, but this time there was a light dusting of a beard around his chin. He looked handsome, you admitted to yourself.
“I like to paint,” was the message under the image.
“Painting is cool,” you typed. And then, as an afterthought, you lied. “I love art.”
“Really? Maybe I could show you some of my work in person sometime?”
The message made your heart begin to race and you were about to decline. But then you looked at his picture and found yourself typing, “Sure.”
“I don’t know,” you said, trying not to seem eager.
“Tomorrow by 3?”
“Tomorrow’s cool,” you responded.
He gave you directions. He lived in an estate close to Chevron. He would pick you up in his car when you got to the Chevron Roundabout.
“It’s just to check out your paintings. No funny business,” you typed.
“I promise we won’t do anything you don’t want to do,” he replied.
The next day came with what felt like apprehension. As you showered, you began to wonder: What were you doing? Why had you decided to go meet a fag? You tried to answer the questions in your head. You were not homophobic; so of course you could be friends with a gay person. Besides you just wanted to check out his paintings. Maybe he could help you appreciate art.
What if he makes a move on you?
You felt a twinge of pleasant panic in your stomach at the thought. You would firmly tell him you weren’t interested. You were bigger than him from what you could see in the picture he sent. He even looked delicate. Keeping him in check wouldn’t be a problem.
You logged into Grindr and told him you were on your way. You lazed around the house till it was quarter to three, and then headed out to Chevron Roundabout. It was the weekend, so there was none of the annoying traffic. When you were a couple of bus stops away, you messaged him that you were close.
He was waiting for you at the roundabout, standing beside a blue Ceyena. He looked almost exactly like his picture, except his beard was no longer a light dusting. He was taller than you imagined he would be; a full head taller than you.
You approached him and he looked at you. “X?”
“Fayette,” you said.
He smiled. “Call me Seyi.”
He extended his hand and you shook it. You saw him hungrily take in your face in and you looked away.
“Shall we?” he said.
You both got into the car. You noticed a stethoscope slung across the rearview mirror.
“You didn’t say you were a doctor,” you said after a few minutes of silent driving and glancing at each other.
“Well, the topic was what I liked to do. I don’t like to doctor very much,” he said with a small chuckle.
The rest of the drive was in silence until you reached his house in the estate. It was a small bungalow with cracks on the paint. You both got out of the car and after fumbling with the keys and unlocking the door, you entered the house. The automated air freshener went Pfft!, as if in greeting when you stepped in.
His living room was small but tastefully furnished in what you imagined only a gay man would be able to accomplish. There were pictures on the wall, no paintings.
“Where are the paintings?” you asked.
“Ahn-ahn! You only just got here. Have a seat, let me offer you a drink,” Seyi said.
“Water will be fine,” you said.
“Okay, fit fam,” Seyi retorted, and you couldn’t help but chuckle.
He gave you a cold bottle of water and after taking a sip, you asked if he lived alone.
“I have a, erm, flat mate,” he said with an expression you couldn’t read. “He travelled.”
“The paintings are in the guest room,” he said after a few moments of silence. “They are plenty but I could go bring them out for you to check out in here.”
“No, no! It’s fine. We can check them in there,” you said, not wanting to seem uncomfortable with the idea of being alone in a room with him.
“Great! Shall we?” he said, standing up.
He led you down a dimly lit corridor, past a door that led into what looked like a study and into the guest room at the end of the corridor.
“Here we are.” With a bit of a flourish, Seyi flipped the switch and fluorescent light washed over the room. At the centre was an unmade bed with a paint-splattered towel on it. There were an array of paintings on the walls and some on the floor.
“Wow,” you said, impressed in spite of yourself. “That’s a lot.”
“I started painting seriously when I was in university as a way to de-stress. It was particularly helpful when I got depressed because I had to repeat a year.” He was guiding you to one of the walls and you were uncomfortably aware of his hand on your back.
You looked at what appeared to be a university gate with someone in front of it, arms outstretched.
“I took a picture in front of the school gate when I finally got admission in there,” Seyi was saying. “I was ecstatic. Kind of wish I took the hint the universe was giving me when I didn’t make it the first three times.” He chuckled. “That is supposed to be me,” he said, scratching the figure in orange clothing.
“Do you sell these?” you asked.
“I used to in school, when I used to daydream about dropping out and becoming a renowned artist. But I would sell like only one in three months. And then I finished school and I was making so much money as a doctor.”
They were nice paintings. You didn’t know the first thing about art, but they looked like things anyone would be happy to put up on their walls, even the one you were looking at right now that had a face torn in two clutching an emerald heart and crying too-blue tears.
“I did that when my first boyfriend broke up with me,” Seyi said from the bed he had now gone to sit on.
“You had a boyfriend?” you croaked.
“Were you the man or the woman?”
“Wow, smooth one, X.”
You heard the sarcasm in his voice slice like a saw and turned to see him sneering at you.
“What? Did I say something wrong?”
“There are no men or women in gay relationships. There are just men or just women.” His words were coloured by a condescending tone you didn’t like.
“Of course there is a man and a woman,” you snapped. “That is the way things are meant to be. That’s the natural way it is meant to be.”
He opened his mouth to say something but seemed to think better of it and just waved at you to continue looking.
Feeling satisfied that you won the argument in proving your point about the unnaturalness of gay relationships, you picked up a framed portrait of a bust that wanted to look like Tupac, except the man had flowers on his head instead of the usual bandanna. You edged backwards till you were sitting on the bed beside him.
“You spoilt the picture,” you said.
“How? The flowers?”
You nodded. “Guys shouldn’t be wearing flowers on their head. Even that Snapchat flower filter – that’s for women or fa–” You stopped yourself.
“Fags?” Seyi supplied.
You didn’t say anything. You just stood up and returned the painting and looked at the others.
“Masculinity so fragile,” he said with a chuckle.
“What does this one mean?” you asked, pointing to a tangle of lines and colour that was both chaotic and pleasing to look at.
“Nothing. I was bored and decided to play around,” Seyi said. “But if a serious buyer were to ask, I’d say it represented the inner turmoil I was feeling and was looking for an escape from.”
“I would know you’re lying,” you said.
“This one,” you pointed at the breakup picture, “is different from this one.”
“How is that so?” he said, coming to stand beside you. You tensed.
“It just is.” You moved to the next wall, acutely aware of his gaze on your back. You began to wonder if coming here at all was a mistake.
“I will be back soon,” he said then. And you heard him leave the room.
You were done looking at all the paintings when he returned. You had picked up the Tupac painting and were looking at it while seated on the bed. Through the windows, you could see the evening turning to night.
He sat beside you and you said, “I actually like this one.”
“I thought you said it’s faggy?”
“It is,” you said.
“Well, you can have it.”
“Oh no, you don’t have to do that.”
“Don’t worry about that. I have too many, that’s what my flat mate says.” He put his hand on your shoulder. He didn’t take it away and you didn’t flinch from it.
You turned to look at him and he was looking at you. He brought his face closer to yours, and although you felt like you wanted to move away, you didn’t. And when his lips touched yours, you knew that you really didn’t want to. You let him kiss you a bit before your mouth melded into his and you kissed him back. Then you stopped and so did he.
“I am not gay,” you said into his mouth. You felt the corners of his lips twitch before he pulled away.
“Okay,” he said.
There was silence that was oddly not awkward. You wanted to draw him back to you, but you were not gay. So instead you said, “I should head home now. The mainland is far.”
Seyi nodded and stood up. “I will drive you to the roundabout.”
“No need. I saw bikes at the estate gate.”
“No need,” you said with more force than you intended. It made Seyi silent.
He walked you to the gate of his compound. You told him there was no need for him to see you off to the gate either. He was holding the Tupac painting and he tried to hand it to you.
“Please,” he said.
You looked at his face and found yourself saying okay.
So, you walked in the dimming evening light to the estate gate with a painting of Tupac with flowers on his head in one hand, and your phone on the other, deleting Grindr.