Friends in a Ship

Image Credit: Merseyside IT on Flickr.com

I.  Tesiro

All my mates are married with children. They have made human connections to last a lifetime. They have formed partnerships with people who have chosen to be with them.

They have begun their journeys into mid-life crisis, legacies and death. They know their friends who will lend them money and who may take care of their children in their absence. They have moved into the secondary worries of life while my soul wrestles with primary emotions like love and companionship.

Decades of camouflaging the nature of my heart and erections has robbed me of pleasant opportunities to honestly connect with other souls. Throughout my years of academic learning and societal upbringing, I never had a friend who knew my thoughts, the candid details of my escapades and how I felt about guys. I disguised the identity of my heartbeat and the footsteps of my spirit. Even my shadow was not my own.

It was a lifetime performance of lies and false living. I played the role of a homophobic straight guy while I craved to hold the hands of a guy. I worshipped at the temple of homophobes while I prayed for a man to call my own. I encouraged the affections of women but preferred the hugs of a man. I wasted decades of my life building connections with people who hated my kind, my heart and the things that made me whole. I discriminated against effeminate guys, badmouthed gay love in straight circles and avoided people with homosexual inclinations. I killed every honest emotion in my heart and disavowed everyone with the ability to fall in love with my soul. Because the Bible said so, I agreed to hate myself.

Everything changed when I lost an old friend in 2015. He discovered the duplicity of my character and chose to cut me off. That was when I realised that my friends were acquired based on false pretences. I didn’t give them the choice to evaluate my soul and decide if they liked me for who I was. A friendship based on a misconception is a fraudulent acquisition. Like fake jewelry, it will fail every examination and test of time.

In 2016, I renounced the acquisition of fake friends and fraudulent relationships. I began to build real ships based on truth, trust and total honesty. I began to entrust honest people with the truth about myself. And I have started accumulating friends who love me as I am, men who understand the nature of my affections and have connected with my soul in ways I thought was impossible.

II.   Prophet

I met him on the bench where wise-inhalers relaxed beside our neighbourhood canal. His fingers were beautifully crafted, his nails ripe for biting and his hand drawing a splendid sketch of a futuristic African man in a rural setting. His bad boy grin emanated from white teeth in burnt brown gums. I loved his lumps of Nazarene locks and would later enjoy digging my fingers into his bed of virgin-black dreads. I was stunned by his neo-liberal intelligence, non-conformist opinions and free-hearted disposition. I never expected to find someone like him at an impoverished bunk in an under-developed suburb of Lagos.

I was days away from completing my memoir, in need of a neighbourhood confidant who appreciated literature, and chilling by myself in a ship without friends. Our conversations were easy, laughter was plenty and our encounter seemed like a case of artistic serendipity. He was uncommonly generous with his smokes, respectfully considerate of my age and genuinely impressed by my literary hustle. His validation restored my waning confidence in my art and I began to see myself through his doting eyes at a time when my hopes were dependent on the success of some grants and residency applications.

I tested our friendship by reading portions of my memoir to him. That was how he learnt about my sexuality. He was flabbergasted but our friendship continued. I fell in love with his mind and the way he permitted the rights of my soul to co-exist with his heterosexual heart. He was confident in his masculinity and wasn’t threatened by my homosexuality. He listened to my past like a priest and wasn’t disgusted by the nature of my sexual expressions. He accorded me the rights of a fellow human being, the respect of a fellow man and he dignified our fellowship. I felt no shame or embarrassment discussing my same-sex affairs with him. He did not sneer at my sexuality or try to condescend to my emotions. Affairs of my heart were simply affairs of another heart. It was the strangest friendship in my homophobic world. His honesty was very strange.

I’m jealous of his girlfriend and make no attempt to hide my feelings. He doesn’t give a fuck about my jealousy and has probably told her about my existence in his life. Maybe that’s why she calls him every bloody second to speak for hours. At this stage of my life, a good friend is better than the best lover. I do find him sexually attractive and wouldn’t mind exploring his body.

But that’s because I’m a bloody motherfucker. And I think he knows this and that everyone has a friend who wants to fuck them. Hence the creation of the friend zone for safety purposes.

I feel safe with him, in spite of my sexual stirrings for him. He has made me believe that every gay man will find straight friends who understand them, heterosexual men who are not threatened by homosexual love, in a bold new ship where all men are free to express different shades of masculinity, and where everyone has acquired the grace to love gay men with no strings attached.

That is why I call him Prophet. He’s my gift from Ago, the Lagos suburb that robbed my soul.

Amatesiro Dore

Amatesiro Dore was awarded the Saraba Manuscript (Non-Fiction) Prize in 2016, shortlisted for the Gerald Kraak Award and is regional managing editor (Nigeria) of ‘The Theatre Times.’

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