(Continued from here)

I loved him. I loved him with all my heart. I was willing to do anything for him. He was the kind of man that makes your blood boil. He made me want to live life. Every time I thought of him, my throat ran dry. My heart seemed to obtain a new rhythm. I was abit disillusioned. Apart from that I was willing to be committed. I wanted to be his, so that he could be mine.

We met online, on Facebook. I was an anonymous nobody. He was the attention loving and flamboyant lover boy. He was like a young prince freely hunting wild boar over summer, or in the Kenyan context, the young heir to a rich man, living the Nairobi high life. I wanted recognition, his attention. I had idolized him; in fact he was all I wanted. We chatted for a while the first night, abit more on the second and I was completely addicted by the third. I knew, I wanted this specific man. Then it hit me. I wanted a man.  I wanted a man? How was that going to work? I had never been in a relationship before, at least not a real one. I had always had a crush on this person or the other, how was this going to be? Notwithstanding, I was willing to try .I was willing to work at it. I could do anything for him. The problem was, he was away. In Tanzania, or at least that’s what he said. He was a student there. He was learning philosophy at The University of Dar Es Salaam. Surely, a student of such nature couldn’t be as intriguing as I thought! Anyway, I could not see him, so I spent time scrolling over and over again through his pictures on his Facebook profile page and the backlog of messages we had exchanged. I thought that perhaps I could get a connection. Maybe I could learn something that I did not know from this enigma. I don’t know what excited me so about him. Was it his reckless and uncaring attitude? Was it the little crazy things he did and said? I couldn’t quite put my finger to it, but I knew I wanted it. I knew I had to meet him; I had to go to Tanzania.

Then the opportunity came. Our school had organized an exchange program for the Economics students, a one in a kind chance. One in a kind both ways for me. I would get to see James and earn a few golden nuggets in my field .I fought for the opportunity. I prayed and groveled to God to give me just this one chance. I not only prayed though, am sure that God needed some persuasion, so I visited my lecturer and had a ‘talk’ with him. Am sure he will remember me .I work until I was sure I was to fly over there for an exchange program. A program that would last me two weeks. Two weeks in Dar Es Salaam University, right next to him. My mind would constantly wander off into thoughts of bliss and pure pleasure. Sunny afternoons and cool evenings. Moonlit nights in Swahili restaurants, and early mornings walking along the deserted streets, or even better, the sandy beach. I was to have the time of my life. As soon as I learnt of my trip I promptly informed him. I told him that I wanted a long boat ride with him on my first weekend there, just us. James took a while to respond. He must have been thinking of the perfect answer I suppose. Perhaps he was making arrangements. So I waited, patiently I waited. I did not go to church that SundaThe answer came three days later, a Tuesday. It was short and precise. “I am waiting,” he said, “I look forward to seeing you here. I have had a long stare at the pictures on your profile and I am thrilled at this golden opportunity. Remember your swimming costume luv. xoxo” Delight gushed in me like venom of a puff adder would course through the body of a victim. I could not wait for the trip. I feared every time we were called for a meeting, it was for cancellation. Surely God wasn’t happy with all of this! Wasn’t a punishment the logical way to go? Wasn’t lightning to strike me and devour my flesh whole? I had committed mortal sin the remedy of which was unreachable. The poison dart had hit its mark. I did not mind all this though .At least not for the moment. I was going to Tanzania, to meet my love. Nothing within my reach would stop me, and that included disease and disaster.

It seems as if yesterday, what was reliving itself inside my head. As if getting in that plane with my classmates was the last thing I did before going to bed. I knew I desired him; I was tired of sticking my hands down my boxers all the time, all by myself. I wanted to be in Tanzania as fast as possible, that was a fact. The flight took two hours. To me it seemed like a decade and I couldn’t wait to set my feet in the foreign country. I had never been outside of Kenya but that was not what dominated my mind. I was hardly focusing on the discussions my friends were having, let alone the lecturers’ information points. I just wanted James.

As soon as we got to the university and into our rooms I sent him a text message. He didn’t reply. I waited, waited the whole night. I waited the whole of the next day. My hands kept sweating. I paced about more. I didn’t want to pray because I didn’t either need God’s opinion on what I was doing or the guilt would just pour icy water on the whole idea. I tried to focus on the lectures and discussions as I went about my business. All I could think about was the response. I was nervous. Didn’t he want to hear from me anymore? Was I being too aggressive? What was going on? I need him to give me something to hold on to. I needed him to give me hope. Hope enough to last me the day.

Two hours later, lunch time, and nothing. We were seated in one of the school lunch halls. A bunch of differently dressed black people, with totally different accents. Some student council representatives kept coming over to chat us up. I was in the least bit interested. I just wanted him to answer me. I was desperate now .I stared at the plate of fish set before me with part disgust and part disappointment. I didn’t want to taste the food. Coconut rice and fish, seasoned delicately with cloves. Sounds sumptuous, I know, but with the supervening circumstances, it might as well have been bamboo shoots. I had once tasted steamed bamboo shoots. One of my mother’s friends cooked it as a delicacy for us when we visited. I was in shock for a while before I even dared taste them. They were soft and crunchy, and carried about a taste of roasted grass. I didn’t know how to receive them. I simply ran through the meal to finish. The same meal was now reincarnated here in Tanzania. Deep in my daydream, I didn’t notice someone come and sit by me. I was too engrossed in thought. I tried to take a bite of the food. Bamboo shoots again! I set the plate aside and took a sip of water. It was harsh against my throat. The minerals tore through as they rushed to my stomach.

Someone tapped me on the shoulder and I turned. I was too preoccupied to look at their face and snapped back almost immediately, “WHAT?!” The man answered back with mild amusement weaving through his voice, “It seems you are really not enjoying your trip here or you are just having a bad day.” I didn’t even bother to glance at him; I just grunted and ignored him. He continued, “I wonder what I could do to make you feel better. You know, I was really looking forward to seeing you but now it seems I may have bitten more than I can chew!”  I turned straight to look at him. It was James!

I couldn’t get over the shock and rage. I just stared at him in disbelief. How could he do that to me? I was angry at him for not replying but I was glad too, glad that he was now here. Glad that I could now spit out the bamboo shoots and eat some of the coconut rice. He was smiling at me. I couldn’t believe it. I touched his arm gently and tried to pinch him. It did not seem real to me. As I looked at me, Jesus walked into my brain and started speaking without prompting. “What are you doing Phillip?” he asked, “What are you up to? You are aware that the bible strictly prohibits the feeling you have. You know you are not supposed to desire him the way you do. Fight it, fight the feeling. Fight the desire. Fight it all away. What will people say? What will your pastor say when he finds out? Do you know you are in charge of the bible study in your church? JUST STOP!!”

I looked back at James. I weighed the conviction and the guilt I would feel afterwards. I took another long look at him. He was puzzled, but was going on and on about some thing or the other on the Tanzanian scene. I broke into a defiant smile. I would cross that bridge of guilt and the people at church when I got there. I came to Tanzania with a mission, and I intended to accomplish it. I took hold of James’ hand and stood up. I made to leave when one of my classmates called out to me. I intended to ignore her but James stopped in his tracks. He turned and faced her. I was forced to oblige. She had a curious look on her face. “Who is that?” she asked, “and where are you going holding his hand?” She gestured at him with a peculiar air of confidence. “I see academics wasn’t your only agenda here then. You had a steamy side show on the go. Need I remind you that this is Tanzania? The people around here may not be as tolerable as those back in Nairobi. Be careful or I may out you myself and see what happens. You may not go back home in one piece.”

I knew this girl well, Cynthia, and I feared her. She was one of those lethal women that extorted money from you when she had some information. She was a foul gossip that Cynthia, like the black widow, beds her husband and then bites off his head. She would use you and dump you if not worse. I simply stared back at her .I winced in panic, and then suddenly, a rush of rage flowed through my veins. I looked at James and blurted out the first thing that came to my mind. “Do your worst! I will face you and win,” I retorted.

I did not know that anyone was watching me. It scared me to realize that someone knew my secret, a secret I had worked so hard to hide. Worse still was that this was a renown gossip, a legend of sorts. Who else knew then? And why did this have to happen all the way out here? I didn’t need this on my plate right now; I just wanted to enjoy my time with James. Nobody, not Cynthia, not Jesus, not even the president would stop me. I had my mind made up.

I walked out of the lunch room with James by my side. I was happy. For the first time in my trip I was happy. I planned to enjoy my afternoon to the maximum. I didn’t even know where I was going but I was willing to go all the same. He led me by the hand out into the narrow streets. We were talking about all things random and interesting from our personal lives to the everyday experiences we had. James was event more exciting in person. I didn’t want the afternoon to end.

We were walking in the market area when it happened. A man walked up to us with disgust etched all about his face. He was dark, short and pudgy, like one of those goblins in fantasy stories. His hair was sprayed sparsely all over his graying head. The man had fat fingers, fat enough to strangle a pig singlehandedly. He seemed to have something to say. He oozed irk. He began to shake an angry fist at us. It seemed as if he had something to say to us but the words didn’t want to come out. So he had to force them out, and force them out he did. “NYNYNYINYI WATOTO! HATUTAKI MASHOGA WA KENYA HUKU!! MUSHINDWE KABISA!!” Clearly the reception of two men walking about and seeming so intimate wasn’t the refreshing cup of tea that I deemed it to be. Our joy was not one shared by many. My throat ran dry. I almost teared up. WHY OH WHY WOULD EVERYONE WANT TO RUIN THIS DAY FOR ME? It was not for me to fight this one though. I don’t know how things went or even what happened next. All I know is that a fist met a face somewhere and my feet were running faster than I was accustomed. James had come to our defence faster than I had expected. I didn’t reckon he was much of a fighter but the adrenalin must have kicked in in time. I turned and fled without a doubt in my mind that I was being followed. If not by a mob of gay bashers, definitely by James in full flight.

I couldn’t help but burst into laughter when we stopped at a street corner. This had to be one of the craziest days in my life. I had done a myriad of things that if my pastor ever knew I was up to would lead me to immediate and direct excommunication. I knew this would hurt my faith but at the moment the rash feeling in me would just brush it off without a second thought. I wanted him, I wanted him bad and I had made up my mind. Nothing was going to stop me.

We headed over to his campus room to cool off and relax in the heat of the day. The campus was a quaint and composed area with well manicured lawns. The buildings had an Arabic feel to them with a touch of African culture dashed generously in every alley. Various plants and shrubs were strewn about strategically, and the cobbled stones on the way to the hostels were exquisite. We talked little as we went over and I had a chance to have a look at him. A chance to really look at him. He was handsome. One of those refined men who could make heads turn. James was slender and tall, a spectacle to behold. His long hair, plaited into long braids was tied back in a pony tail. His light skin was spectacular in the sun, glowing a little. He had a disarming smile, one that could charm the ice queen. He leaned slightly when he walked and had a fascinating demeanor. The most interesting thing about him though was his teeth. They were a brilliant white, and curved. They were arranged like a row of piano keys in his mouth, as if their order gave a certain musical note. I couldn’t get my eyes off them.

We got to his room after about half an hour. We were trying to avoid all the attention we had attracted earlier. It wasn’t something we had discussed, because neither of us wanted to look embarrassed at what had happened. Nevertheless we wanted to be discrete and confident about whom we were at the same time.  I got in and plopped on his bed, tired. He made to change his shirt and opened his closet to take out a fresh one. I simply stared, and then I decided to act. I stood up and walked over to him. I touched his back and he turned to face me. He reached out his hand to my face. I moved closer and closed my eyes. I was to achieve my goal that day.

© Samson De Lui

(Read the Final Part here)