Later, while I waited for my father in the car, a decades-old, greyish black Volvo that was in dire need of a replacement, my phone beeped. It was a WhatsApp message from Chucks. The first time I’d heard from him since he disappeared. I couldn’t reply; he went offline right away. The message began, “I love you,” but before I could read more, my father opened the door of the car and got in, followed by his friend, Papa Kelechi, who lives on the same street as us. I quietly slipped the phone into the back pocket of my trousers, message still unread.
When my father turned the ignition on, the car let out a cough, as if refusing to start. But my father just smiled; a little pressure on the accelerator and the engine roared to life, ready to hit the road.
When my father turned the ignition on, the car let out a cough, as if refusing to start. But my father just smiled; a little pressure on the accelerator, and the engine roared to life, ready to hit the road.
My father was fond of putting me through a Q&A after church, like what the title of the sermon was, which bible texts supported it, if I remembered the hymn the choir sang, and the first and last prayer points the pastor read out. But he was unusually quiet that day. I enjoyed the silence until Papa Kelechi cleared his throat. Whenever he cleared his throat, you knew he was about to ruffle some feathers. “I still find it hard to believe what the pastor talked about today.”
“Do you mean the gay cankerworm, which is silently eating away our moral fibre in broad daylight?” my father replied.
“Yes. Why would a man want to fuck another man? It is grossly disgusting.”
My ears perked up when I heard the word “fuck.” These men were hypocrites, telling younger people not to use vulgar words, “Because anyone who does it will go to hell.” A small chuckle escaped my lips.
“What’s funny to you?” asked Papa Kelechi, facing me.
I pretended to be interested in a sports newspaper that was hanging out from the pouch behind the passenger’s seat, burning to read my message from Chucks.
When I finally got home I read the message over and over again. Does he still really love me? He apologised for not staying in touch. His mother, apparently, believed studying in Nigeria was influencing him negatively and led him to gay behaviour. He was presently going for counselling for what his mother hoped would exterminate any traces of gayism from him.
I couldn’t imagine the emotional turmoil of being subjected to a shrink who hoped to change him rather than help him accept himself. But my heart melted at the final lines of his text: “The thought of you sets my bosom on fire, the taste of your kiss, warm with soft wetness. I can’t wait to have you in my arms again.”