I sit with them. Beautiful people. We sit under the open sky. Girls and boys. Big boys. And Big Girls. As they call themselves. And me. Drinks and red plastic cups litter the table. Loud music booms through ipod speakers. I’ve been back in Abuja a week. I’m enjoying the energy. Nigerians are boisterous. Like Russians. Especially after some devil’s brew. I’m as high as the rest. As loud as the rest. Competing to be heard. Unless you are telling a dramatic compelling story and capture their attention every one speaks at the same time. You got to fight for the right to be heard with wit, aplomb and high decibels. Everyone defers to the pretty young girls. Even me. I like to encourage them. One pretty young thing sits next to me. She is the color of a dark milk chocolate bar and has a killer figure. I praise her beauty and charms. She bats her eyelids.
Someone asks me ‘Lesley why did you chose to go to Brighton sef? Are you a lesbian?’
‘Shhhh’ I reply. ‘We could all get 10 to 14 years for even talking about it. Haven’t you heard about the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Law?’
‘Ah no. Lesbians are not among. We have told them to leave the lezbo’s alone’
I spent my first night back with my bff. She has a husband and 3 kids so we left them at home and went to her bar so we could be alone and undisturbed. She doesn’t open on Sundays so we locked ourselves inside. We were there for hours. Telling all the stories we couldn’t share over the phone. When we left there were some people outside. They watched us as she locked up.
‘These people must be wondering what we been doing locked up inside since. They probably think we’re lesbians.’ she says.
‘Ah! That’s serious o. So if they want to make trouble for us they can call the police?’
Suddenly I feel very vulnerable. Me and bff have been bff’s for over 15 years. We get along so well. We think alike. Believe the same stuff. We finish each others sentences. We also kiss on the mouth like all Russians do with close family and friends. We both have Russian mothers. People have been asking if we are lesbian lovers forever. A gay woman once told me she liked my bff but stayed off cause she thought we were in a relationship. She didn’t quite believe me when I said we weren’t lovers.
‘Leave the lezbo’s’ the Big Boys and Big Girls joke and laugh. For the next hour we talk about the Same Sex Law, homosexuality, gays, Shola Rhodes, peadophilia, things like that.
“We don’t mind them so long as they stay hidden.”
“But they weren’t exactly coming out before you all started this battle.”
They are unapologetically homophobic. All the men talking went to British boarding schools. They’re the Nigerian middle class. I read about British and heard about Nigerian boarding schools. Even the seminary schools. Its alleged that a lot of rape happened. I did not let my sons go to boarding school and I paid for martial arts lessons in primary school. But if I had a daughter I wouldn’t have let her go to boarding school either. In my Catholic boarding school they called it ‘kpokopi’ or ‘friend’. The scorned girls were just as mean.
A senior girl once asked me to be her friend. She said if I’m her friend I could have access to her locker. She showed me. It was full to the brim with good things to eat. Her father had a supermarket. In secondary school I was perpetually hungry. And skinny. I said yes. Before night fall word had spread round the whole school that I had agreed to be her ‘freind’. During night prep some students from my village that my father had asked to look out for me called me outside. At first they were harsh and mean till they realized I didn’t understand what the senior or they meant. I thought friend meant what it meant in America. Someone you hang out with. I dumped the senior because she was really ugly. She never forgave me. She tried to torment me the rest of the year by my village girls stood up for me. I got into trouble with a couple of boys too who said they wanted to be ‘friends’. I learnt that the English language is not the same all over the world.
“ ‘Leave the lezbo’s’ is our exit strategy. After a year or two we will tell Jonathan to amend the law and tell the west we have made a compromise.”
I smile benignly. I know them. They are soooo establishment. I’ve known them for years. I come to hang out and listen to the other story. And they let me tell my story too even if they disparage it as idealistic and unNigerian. We’re still friends. We help each other and our families when things get rough in Naija. Which is like always. The guys I mean. The chicks are mostly eye candy. Next time I go there’ll be a new set. All except for the chocolate cream pie sitting next to me. She’s a permanent fixture. I told her once I would happily become gay for her if she would marry me. Women do such things in my fathers Igbo village. That was before the Bill became law. I can’t say things like that anymore. Someone might take me seriously and tell the police on me. My enemies could use this against me.
I leave them still feeling vulnerable. I guess I have to get used to that feeling now that I’m back in Abuja.