Lives of Great Men

I open my eyes but I’m not moving. This siesta has probably lasted twenty minutes and now I’m staring at the lanky, striking man awakening beside me. It’s midafternoon, and outside the streets are choked with crawling vehicles. Over the past few days, the ubiquitous horn-blaring has been getting on my nerves. When did Ikoyi become so noisy?

At least it’s serene here inside the Moorhouse. The air conditioner is humming softly, chilling the room. The severe brown wood panelling décor is masculine. Nothing’s soft about the furnishings. This small boutique hotel may be tailored for busy business people but it’s also an oasis amidst the chaos of Lagos. And it’s in this oasis that I’m reconnecting with my childhood love. I stretch and see our naked selves in the mirror, legs intertwined on crisp white sheets. All afternoon we’ve been canoodling. Then having furtive, furious sex.

It’s been ten years plus since we last met. Even after all this time, our bodies haven’t lost that feral magnetism for each other. At first, we tried to tamp down the sexual tension by staying out with others at the bustling Eko Hotel. But in the end, we just gave in. He stirs, spurring me to inch closer, put my arms around his waist and peer over his shoulder.

He smiles and I melt.

“You dey okay?” he asks softly.

Years ago, whenever we were alone, his deep voice softening to a whisper made me feel loved, and it does today. He still has dimples, and the whites of his eyes still shine against his groundnut-coloured skin. He has no tribal marks but turns to look and see if mine remains.

Few people notice it. It is tiny and hidden like a small scar under my right eye. He finds it, smiles, and strokes it with his thumb. Then he kicks off the sheet. And as my Fulani lover’s sinewy, naked body stretches out into the ‘X’ position I touch his ’fro gently, marvelling at how thick and soft it still is. What sort of pomade is he using now? I gaze at this body that’s remained taut, even though it’s now without the chisel of yesteryear.

“You look great,” I say, gently fingering his bellybutton. His stomach tenses.

“I no be fine boy again oh,” he replies, adding, “Your hair still plenty.” He always appreciated the hair that sprouts abundantly all over me. I shave my head and face but I love my hairy chest, legs, and arms, and rarely trim or ‘manscape’. I’m happy it still thrills him but I feel trapped. Even his scent, a mix of cigarette smoke and musky cologne, holds me captive. I hug him tighter. That Diana Ross ditty floats in and out of my consciousness: 

Touch me in the morning/Then just walk away/We don’t have tomorrow/But we had yesterday…

What am I doing?

I’ve just spent hours having sex with someone else’s husband. And now we’re in a post-coital afterglow with little to say. I remember him always talking, even after sex, but today he just smiles.

We look into each other’s eyes. We both want to be here. Guilt isn’t part of the equation. With this man, it never has been. Not when I was nineteen, and not now, when we are both in our thirties. Nothing’s changed. Yet somehow today everything is different.

Alhaji Lamido Gida and I first meet in the 1980s, when we and our families lived not far from this hotel. My brothers and I are Ikoyi boys, ‘Aje butter’ children – middle-class kids whose parents have multiple cars, homes with domestic help, and who send them abroad on holiday. Lamido is twenty, and to my mind an adult. He’s friends with my elder brothers and we meet when he comes to visit them. I’m sixteen and home on holiday from boarding school in Port Harcourt.

During my years at the co-ed Federal Government College I’m introverted, bordering on shy, but come alive when I get involved with the drama troupe and the press club. It takes three years before I finally begin to enjoy boarding, and by the time I meet Lamido I have friends from all over, not just the Lagos kids.

I also discover that the boys’ dormitory, where these lifelong friendships are formed, and where everyone strategizes about chasing girls, is home to hidden but rampant guy-on-guy desire.

By sheer happenstance, I’m seduced by a classmate who I call Smiley. Although he’s two years older than me, we’re both going into Form Five and gearing up for the West African School Certificate examinations.

After oversleeping one morning I didn’t have a pail of water to bathe with. I’d already missed the bread-and-boiled-egg breakfast and didn’t want to risk wasting more time with the trek to the outdoor quadrangle where the twenty-four communal taps were situated. So I ask Smiley, who isn’t one of my friends but who is also running late, if he can share his full bucket with me. I expect a ‘no’ but he says yes with a little smile. And we bathe together, sharing the water, scooping just a little at a time so there is some left for the other. I make it to class on time and we become pals.

One evening when I go to fetch him for night study, I’m surprised to find he’s not ready. He has a brown cotton wrapper tied around his waist and no shirt on as if he’s about to go to bed. Without a word, he pulls me into one of the tiny inner rooms behind the long, bunk-bed-filled main dorm, locks the door quickly, turns out the lights and whispers, “Shhh.”

We keep still while the prefects usher everyone else out. I hear the clanging of the chains on the outer gates and know everyone’s gone. Smiley sits back on the lower bunk and beckons. The tiny room has only space for one bunk. I lie beside him on the thin foam, and in the darkness he begins giving me little pecks on my lips and then my cheeks, sending sensations I’d never had before shivering down to my toes and up along my spine.

I’m contorting each time he licks someplace. Then the furious rubbing of his prick against mine through the fabric of my shorts and his wrapper gives way to us removing our clothes. Smiley whispers, “Turn this way.” I’m confused but he gently moves us into a comfortable position. And for the first time, I’m having sex.

Intercourse feels weird at first, then fantastic. There is pain, but that comes later. When in the deep throes of ecstasy, I heave and ejaculate, I think I’ve just peed. Smiley calmly explains: “It’s just sperm.”


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