The last time I saw Mama smile like that was three years ago, when I achieved my first class honors in Civil Engineering. She bragged about it to her friend as she proclaimed, “He got it from his father!”
How her lips parted, flexible like rubber band stretched to its limit. A shape so unique, only appearing when she was genuinely proud. I didn’t see it when I bought her a bronze Benz, or when I stopped attending St. Phillips Catholic Church and started heeding the call to Adhan after years of futile persuasion. I pretended not to know what she wanted. I pretended I wasn’t pretending.
And then I gave in: To her, to myself, to the society – I married Halima. Mama smiled again, only this time the rubber band stretched to the extreme.
Halima was all shades of beauty. When she wore her hijab, oh God. She looked like a brown rose with red petals, so I nicknamed her Brown rose. Something about her reminded me of a floral shop – calm, serene. Which was, in fact, the antithesis to what I felt prior to our wedding – restlessness. I was restless about a lot of things, but the honeymoon was a major cause of my anxiety: would I be able to give her the famous ‘head’? Would I make her cum? Would I make it a night to remember? Would I even kiss her?
Years rolled very quickly. We bought a vanilla cake to celebrate our second anniversary, eaten in radio silence. Our fourteen-month-old daughter struggled for attention, but no one bothered. I wondered why she acted so normal, like everything was okay. There were lots of things we never talked about, like how we hadn’t had sex in five months. How my penis would go flaccid during intercourse. Neither of us said a thing about it, and I wasn’t sure why. Maybe it had to do with how we were brought up: our culture. It was hardly a subject of discourse where we came from. So instead, we talked about my new job at Lagos, and how the Kano weather had gotten even drier.
The job broke us even further apart, especially after she also got a transfer to Abuja. Well, at least, the absence of romance was now excused by the contracts of employment. But even when we eventually saw each other, things seemed to get worse. The Viagra became less effective, and the side effects took a toll on me. I wanted to tell her, to let it all out, to put her out of this misery (or into it). I wanted to tell her I couldn’t do this anymore, that I was dying slowly, but I couldn’t. So when my penis got flaccid right at the middle of intercourse, we did the usual: put on our clothes, drown in awkwardness, and talk about work.
This was the routine until she saw the Viagra in my pocket. I tried to deny but she wanted the truth. And I gave her precisely that. She got broken, Brown rose got broken. I watched the red petals fall off. I saw myself in her, how I wept inside me for three years, how I was internally broken. She wanted to talk about the way forward; she wanted to fight for me. She told me it could be cured in a prayer house, but I told her I was certain of two things: That I wasn’t going to take the Viagra tablet ever again, and that I wasn’t sick. She refused a divorce.
“We can get through this, we can change it. Even your skin color can change, so why won’t this!” she said.
But deep down, if my sexuality was like my skin color, maybe I could get an effective skin treatment and change its tone, at least for Brown rose. But it wasn’t. I am only sorry for one thing, for taking someone’s daughter through hell.
I am sorry, Halima. I am sorry, Brown rose.