My grandfather always said, “to understand the journey of life, you need to know oneself,” but who am I? Can I be more than one thing? A Human? An abomination? A disgrace? Love personified? What exactly is love? Who sets the parameters of it?
These days, knowing who I am has been as successful as trying to kidnap someone’s shadow. Hello you, (in whatever voice you are reading this) my name is David. I want to show you parts of me, clips of memories. There will be a lot of rambling, and a lot of questions, for I don’t understand or know me as much.
Mama named me David, after the senior pastor in our church. I was to be the man after God’s own heart, but little did I know, my heart had plans of its own. I am an only child and all my life, mama always spoke about how she waited and prayed for me. She always told me, “women flocked towards your father when I couldn’t conceive; they all wanted to be called the wife of a big lawyer, but I serve a living God. You came after I prayed for 5 years, God gave you to me.” Yes, that was my mother. Daddy, on the other hand, was cool. I was a smart kid who went through primary and secondary school in a blur and then proceeded to the University of Liberia to study economics. That’s where I met Morris; he was in his first year as well, studying biology.
Morris was awesome, and with time he and I became closer than two peas in a pod. People called us brothers, but we shared a bond stronger than that. It was in our third year though, that life as I knew it, changed forever. We had gone to a friend’s party that evening, and we returned home giddy, tipsy, and high on life. As we settled on the couch, my eyes caught his, and my heart started to pound at a hundred miles a minute. I didn’t understand why. Nevertheless, we held gazes, staring into each other souls, listening to our heartbeats, and this cosmic pull that felt stronger than anything I’ve ever felt drew us closer, our lips touched, we kissed. It felt so right yet so wrong at the same time; like something both forbidden but meant to be. We both knew we still had enough control so we couldn’t blame it on the alcohol.
“I have a girlfriend, why was I doing this?,” I thought; yet, it felt right. The energy between us had merged, and we both knew there was no turning back.
Over the years, Morris held my hand, and I discovered the subset community of people like me. One day, he walked in my apartment and said, “Get ready tonight, we are going out to party. Today is Pride!” I was puzzled, and asked “what is that?” He replied with a smile on his face, “well, just wait and see.” Turns out, Pride is this big celebration for the gay community. Rainbow colours adorned the walls of the rooms and the energy was palpable and infectious. However, this is Liberia and events like this can’t be held publicly. It was a secret event and thanks to community members in high places, the party was secure and alive. I found it weird that we called it pride because we were everything but proud; we were afraid and we were discovering, but Liberia wasn’t a place that we could act, be, or wear what we were in public and be proud; we wore our masks in public.
The party rode on into the night. I remember looking at the colorful decorations and thinking of Morris’ refrain “we are the rainbows that bless the skyline;” but this wasn’t Europe or America, Liberia is a dark place for us and rainbows don’t shine in the dark. After the party, we spent the night at my apartment and woke up to a hot Saturday noon. We were lazing around on the couch in the living room and we must have forgotten to lock the door because as I leaned in for a kiss, the sound of ceramic plates breaking against the floor pierced the air. I jumped, startled, and turned only to find my mom standing at my doorway, her hands trembling and a broken bowl of food at her feet.
Let your mind hold on to that, for it might be the moment I died, and fast forward to today, for it might be the day of my funeral. I looked in the mirror, and a stranger stares back. I certainly came dressed for the occasion, a black three piece suit over a white shirt. Flowers adorn my room; it’s funny how weddings and funerals have things in common, for at that very moment, I couldn’t tell which was which.
Mama had stopped by my apartment to bring me food and she had screamed when she saw us. For the longest time, she could only whisper “no, no, no, not my son.” This was her moment of denial: I recognized it, for I too had passed this stage. Denial gave way to questioning, then anger. By the time we were smack dab in anger, we were seated in the living room. My father looked at me with disgust, “Why have you chosen to be a disgrace to the family? What will people say? What have you done to yourself? Why have you chosen to be this way?” Mama just cried. I sat across them dumbfounded. I couldn’t explain. How would they understand that I didn’t choose; that if I could, why would I choose to be someone that society persecutes? My father stood up, anger in his eyes and said, “you can’t be my son, my son can’t be….” he paused at the word, as if saying it would crack the reality he believed in. He couldn’t utter it. He couldn’t say “gay”. “You need to fix this, or else…”
Our parents met and Morris parents decided to take him out of the country; I never heard from him again. Mama carried me to deliverance services; I was prayed for, had holy water sprinkled on me, was baptized in water and born again. The pastor said that these will break the power of the flesh. Daddy became cold and I was made to move in with them. Things were never the same though, he felt betrayed. Their disappointment hung in the air, the silence, ever so eloquent in reminding me of my treachery to the family. My mind, so persistent in reminding me of my treachery to myself.
I drowned myself in wine and women. I mean, if the holy water couldn’t wash it away, then maybe I could fuck and drink my way out of it.
Some years later, I met Shari. She was a friend I liked and she understood me to an extent. She was quiet and could always tell when I needed my space and to let me be. She loved me and so, I decided to make her “the one”. I asked her to marry me, and she said yes. We could build a future together, and maybe, one day, I would grow to love her in that way. My parents loved Shari, she was everything you would want in a daughter in-law.
Today, the organ played, and I walked like a hearse across the aisle. Today, I am dancing until my legs become weak because one is expected to dance on his wedding day. Shari is beautiful. We will make this work. She will be a wonderful partner. As we say our vows, I wonder if she knows these rings are more like shackles; if she has the slightest idea of what she is getting into. I know she doesn’t have any idea, and I know it wasn’t fair to have her dragged into this; but what could I do? Tell her? I wonder if she would stay if she knew… No, I can’t tell her. I will do everything I can to try and make her a happy woman. With this resolve, I stare ahead, and as a man resigned to his fate, receiving his verdict from a judge, I reply to the priest, “I DO.”
Authored by Dounard Bondo
Feature Picture by lordzuuko.