“Are you a Homosexual?”
I felt the oxygen leave my lungs. My body froze numb. I wasn’t sure what knocked me off the most; the word Homosexual with all its graveness; the entire question that required a Yes or No answer, or the fact that it was Uncle Arinze asking the question, meaning they had previously discussed that issue in my absence. I said nothing. Hibernating again, because I had to, I listened to the droplets of water dripping into a bucket under the air conditioner just outside the room, to my siblings’ breathing by the window beside the door. Their gasps told me they had heard it all. I was just going to stay there and let the soft warm breeze slipping in from under the door graze my feet in passing. I just wasn’t ready for such questions, so I didn’t think. I didn’t want to; this time, more than ever.
“Are you a Homosexual?” Mama asked, like she had an obligation to repeat her son’s question. The words sounded foreign from her mouth. It was definitely the Homosexual word. If he had asked ‘Are you gay, fag or even queer.’ it might have seemed easier to answer. And maybe Mummy could have thought ‘gay’ to be the common word for Indian hemp like the previous time the issue was discussed. Or not understand the meanings of fag or queer. But Homosexual she knew.
“Kachi is a Homosexual.” Mummy spoke up as some words were beginning to form on my lips. “There’s no point asking. I know how many times different cars have come to pick him from around Agric bank. I have heard your story. I have heard all about you. You a waste, we know.” She said with so much certainty like she was talking about the back of her palm. She stood up and made to hit me with a plate she picked from the table but Uncle Arinze held her back, so she threw the bunch of keys in her hand instead. She was determined to inflict pain on me. She wanted me to feel her pain. She needed retribution.
Daddy said nothing, merely staring into my nearly reddened face. I was beginning to flush. I couldn’t, I shouldn’t! I had to minimize the tension arising from this topic. “Mummy how many times have cars come to pick Junior from here, and how many of them do you consider homosexuals?” I said, deviating from the initial question. The question sure didn’t have a vivid answer.
She ignored my question and looked away, her lips curved down in a frown as she sat back down on the bed, her legs wiggling with a vibration that shook her bosom.
“It’s becoming normal to be homosexual, they are lots of them in Europe and I don’t understand why the government condones them, but they still do. We still need to go back to this school issue.” Uncle Arinze said impatiently, and I wondered why he brought up the conversation if he really wanted to talk about school. Irritation enveloped me and I burned up inside, ready to attack him from thenceforth. I wanted the conversation dropped, but I just didn’t like the idea of the person who initiated it trying to shut it down like he never knew it was a serious issue that needed serious tackling.
“My own problem is why my son?” Daddy lamented, ignoring the subject of school. “Why me?”
I really couldn’t understand how it was all about him. “Why Me?” Really? This was an issue about my sexuality and he was asking why him? I didn’t get what the heck was going on, nor the way the conversation was going, and all I wanted to do was give an answer that would hopefully end it. So I lied. “I am not gay; people just think whatever they want to think because they find it difficult to accept difference. I am not like every other boy out there, but I’m not gay.” I said, and wondered what Harry would think if he heard that.
“His friends made him this way. We have been complaining about his kind of friends. In secondary school, he made terrible friends, and now in the university, he has made even worse. He has the brain of a cock, and He’s easily influenced by worldly things. My brother, Chuka, asked me, after Kachi left for Lagos, if he was done with Nsukka so if not he could help him clear whatever was keeping him, but this idiot said working in Lagos for forty thousand was better than getting a certificate, all because his friends were going to Lagos to get work experience.”
“Kachi, you see, you are almost done with this one, just stop thinking you can’t do it. In life, you have to finish one before jumping to another. You cannot leave one and jump to two. If you do that, you would leave that two and jump to three, and at the end of the day you would have nothing to your name. No certificate, no results, no proof of education. I am talking to you from experience. I know what it was like going to Spain with just my O’level. I suffered before I was able to get what I’m doing now. I know what I’m saying; you can’t withstand that amount of pressure.” Uncle Arinze chattered. “Get this first certificate then you can go on to get another anywhere you want. Your parents would trust that you can get another if they decide to send you abroad.”
“He is leaving my house tomorrow. Go back to those useless friends of yours. I have given up on you. I have four of you and I won’t bother myself at all about you. You are not my son, go and find your mother. You’re a useless child. Get out of my sight. You will never be called my son again. Outsiders should come and hear; Kachi is not my son anymore, I have said my own. Useless boy.” Mummy shouted raising her voice for outsiders to hear; always silently looking at Mama to get her approval. I wasn’t sure what that was about.
Glad to be back on the school issue, I did not say a word nor look directly at anyone. I just sat silently, listening and taking in all that was being said. I didn’t want to cry. I didn’t even want to be heard anymore. All I wanted was for it to be over. i had suddenly become overwhelmed by the drama; i needed it to end. I considered running away by morning, or maybe just leaving like mummy asked me to; besides she had already thrown me out verbally. I considered moving to Nsukka and starting my life there without anyone, just myself. I considered leaving off Harry until I was able to stand on my own. I refused to consider suicide; I was too selfish for that.
But mostly, I had to prove Mummy wrong, and killing me would only indulge her. So I sat there, listened to everyone tell how much I had brought shame upon my parents, how much of a disgrace I was. I resorted to staring at Daddy’s clay-platted feet and thinking how much it reminded me of Nsukka huts.
“You will part from those friends of yours if I would ever assist you in any way, and you would have to come clean. Tell me everything I need to know about your school. All the problems you have, then, and only then, will I be able to do anything for you. But my number one issue is your friends. You must promise to never see them again; cut them completely.” Daddy was saying, “You’re my son. I can’t let you waste away.”
Tears dripped down my eyes. Was that all it took to get me going? “You’re my son”? I had let my guard down so i deserved this. I swiped at them immediately but Mama had seen the tears drop. I bit harder at my lip until I tasted blood. I didn’t want to cry in front of them. Mama, Mummy, Daddy, Uncle Arinze — none of them deserved it. I began to think; think of anything but my present situation. I wanted to think of Harry but I couldn’t because I feared Daddy would fish him off my head. He was my haven, my weapon of safety, but I couldn’t risk thinking of him now. The less Daddy knew, the better.
Mummy began, in the exact high pitched voice that rang in my head from time to time, “I will never have a gay son! All my children are better than you. Junior is serving. Look at Ada, she is in her third year, Obinna is about to go study Medicine, very soon, you’d be fighting for the same spot with Somadina. Later you would say that one of them used your luck for money ritual. Look at your homosexual counterparts and see how wasted they are.”
I suddenly craved fresh air. I began to rub my forehead and inhale through my mouth. I was beginning to choke. The air was suddenly swamped with humidity enveloping oxygen. Mummy was one person that had affluent ease to submerge into my system, and no matter how much I tried, her words just bore deep holes.
She continued, “Obinna alone is going to be better than you. He would study Medicine, higher than the Pharmacy you couldn’t study. Before you know it you would start depending on him for money. He is everything you’re not. At seventeen, he is focused, he is intelligent, he is smart, he is…”