GREY AREAS

Black and white? I don’t believe people live lives in black and white and well that’s what this story about. You know the extremes. Rich and poor, beautiful and ugly, taken and single yeah well we know these stories. But I’ll tell you a beautiful grey story. I’m listening to Celine’s finest at 6p.m with a wine glass in my hand. Get comfortable.

I’m a school teacher. I teach at a primary school not very far from my house. It’s not a lot but it’s enough. It’s something I do with everything I have inside me. Summers off who doesn’t like holidays? Plus it gives me enough time to do other things that I like. Having living in Port Harcourt, Lagos’ calmer younger sister who has a wild side, there’s a lot to do you know.

Okay I lied. There’s not a lot to do or not a lot that I like anyways. Always wanted to live in the Capital. Been there a few times and it was great. Festivals, restaurants you know the sort of things to actually spend time and money on. If I find a better teaching job maybe at one of the Universities there and yes I am looking most days, I’ll transfer. In a heartbeat I will, everyone I stayed here for is dead anyways.

I’m sorry for the long pause, I was trying to find another leading sentence. Uhm okay I got one. The children in my class are good kids. Conventional but good. Very rare that you find a free thinker amongst any of them but there’s one. Sarah. She looks like the sort that will raise hell when she’s older. Not exactly a free thinker but brave and uhm and well bravery is up there with the greats. Sarah left primary 3 six years ago and yes I still teach that class and yes I remember her because she is impossible to forget. But this story isn’t really about Sarah. It’s about a PTA meeting that I will never forget.

Now get this, hold on, I need a sip of my wine. Okay yeah get this, I hate PTA meetings because not enough parents show up and more often than not, the ones who show don’t give a shit about how their child is doing. They do it to save face and put it on record that at least they came. Being one of the longest serving teachers there, I have the displeasure of being on the planning committee. Every time one of the other teachers pisses me off, I try to remember that I am doing it for the children.

I was mostly in charge of catering but this year I switched with one of the other teachers that I like, Christy. She said she had a friend who could cater for a discount and I mean who doesn’t like cheap thrills. I rather reluctantly oversaw the decorations and on the day of the PTA, Christy’s friend catered. The food was great and her name was Beverly. This story is about Beverly.

Beverly was uhm Beverly was real. I won’t describe her like the female leads in brown paper novels, her authenticity deserves more than that. On the PTA day she wore a blue dress. Very simple. Nearly three years now and I can remember what she wore. I’m trying to tell you this story in logical sequence but I don’t think I can. Cesare Pavese said; “We don’t remember days, we remember moments”. It was Bev that told me that. So I will tell you of this story in the form of moments. Moments I remember.

Moment number 1. I remember the PTA day. I had to pay Beverly for her delivery and the first thing I ever said to her was “Excuse me, can I have your account number?” She called it out and I paid and then she left giving me her card that if we were ever interested in catering again, she’d love to do it. From the card I saw that she was married. And I slipped into one of those moments where I remember when I didn’t show up for my own wedding. Nothing was wrong with him. It was that right person wrong time thing. And till today I haven’t spoken to him. I remember all the days that led up to the wedding. It’s not that big ‘oh my God I like women so I can’t do this realization’ because I long before then discovered that I was pansexual so I might as well have married another man that wasn’t Yemi. I’m sorry, back to Beverly so yeah on that day I didn’t get a hint that she liked me or women or wasn’t straight no. I didn’t get that hint till a while after.

Moment number 2. The second time I met Beverly. It was the Christmas Party and she had to cater again. This was two months after. This time, I blame my elation on the DJ. He was slipping euphoric songs when the kids were too busy not paying attention and the parents could care less. He was a good DJ. I had to pay Beverly again and this time she was less in a hurry and more smiley. She has a beautiful smile even to someone who is not in love with her. When I met her the second time and wanted to pay, she shrugged it off and said she’d like to enjoy the party first. She said it with a smile and said that after the party, she’d find me for her money. True to her word, she did and that was when she asked my name and what I taught at the school. The small talk was pleasant. She did not say anything about her husband. Just that she was a caterer and she sewed too in case I ever needed a tailor. When all was said and done, she said “Nice meeting you, happy Holidays”

Hmmm. I’ll have to think of which I want to be moment number 3. Well I guess I’ll skip ahead to when the school had the Easter Concerto. It wasn’t the next time I saw Bev after the Christmas party. I ran into her a lot of times after that but big leagues. The Easter Concerto was the first time I thought for a split second that she may like me. She smiled at me so much and brushed my hand. It felt real nice. I am a 30 year old woman but believe me I felt all the excitement a child could feel. At that night she asked if I could drop her at home as her car was bad. This was it. Of course I agreed. I took her home and her husband was waiting up for her. It was cute but it crushed my spirits. I shrugged it off. I was used to people disappointing me so. But it got exciting because three days later she texted me. It wasn’t a ‘Hey’ or ‘Hi’. It was straight up hit the nail or throw the dart in the bulls eye. ‘I can’t stop thinking about you, x”. Beverly hated to play small or little leagues.

Unlike the men I loved before she, Beverly correlated actions and intentions. She made me do things because she liked them and she wanted us to have our own things. I can’t obviously tell you everything that Beverly and I shared but I’ll tell you the ones that hit so much I remember them. The night she sent that text I was home alone. My roommate was spending the weekend with a new man that she eventually married so it was good for me. Beverly and I attended the ceremony together. It was beautiful and of course she asked me if ever wanted to get married. I told her no and told her when I almost married Yemi. She in turn went on to tell me of when she married her husband and how they didn’t have enough money so they eloped. I thought it was a cute story but I was still jealous. I was human enough to be. Back to the moment in hand, I was alone with my thoughts and the million ghost voices but all of them couldn’t help me reply articulately. I texted back “Me too”. Of course I deleted it twenty times or more but I guess it counts that the final result was what it was. I laugh now I remember it. I was fidgeting and scared yet elated. That is what I remember it as. It was ineffable to love a woman.

Moment number four would have to be the first time I kissed her. After the whole texting back and forth and ignoring reality and everything that said STOP, we kissed. The texting was like chasing fire you know. The fact that she was always doing it in spite of being married. She usually texted me at night when her husband had gone to bed. She would sit on the ground beside the bed listening to whomever held her fancy at the point and text her heart out to me. I did my best to reciprocate the energy. I struggled but it never felt enough because Beverly had such life and energy I wonder how she managed not to burn out. It was this energy I felt the first time I kissed her. It happened in the June of that year. I had pulled every string I could find to make sure she kept catering for the school. The graduation ceremony for primary 6 was coming up, the biggest event in the school year. It called for a meeting. It was after the meeting when she insisted that she’d wait for Christy and I to close up for the day. We rode together and we dropped Christy home first and after Christy, came the kiss. It was right in front of her house. I was talking about the event because I couldn’t bear the awkwardness and she sensed it because she leaned in and kissed me in the exact minute I needed her to. I don’t want to be dramatic to say the world stopped but fuck it because my world fucking stopped. It stopped in that exact minute and the one after when she smiled and the one after that when she said we should go to karaoke the next week.

Moment number four was the day I met Beverly’s husband. He was a pleasant man to look at and he could sing for ages. He was the sort you pay money to see sing and loose it. It was at the karaoke bar. She apologized that she couldn’t convince him not to come and although I was mad at the fact that he came, it was something you could easily forget. It was a beautiful night. I did karaoke for the first time in eons. I went with a song I knew that even if I was drunk I couldn’t fuck it up. It was Bob Marley. Beverly did a song by Beyoncé she has a shit voice and I laughed at her. It was a good night. After the night was over, they offered to drop me off at home and I accepted. This would have been an utterly perfect moment until Bev ran into someone she knew. The husband knew her too but apparently not too well. While Beverly was talking to the woman, the husband told me, “You know, that was the woman before you. She went out with her for I think a year, and then she had a job in Lagos so she had to move. Broke Beverly but well she found you”. Now every time I tell this story, I would be proud of the next sentence that came out of my mouth. I was quiet a while because my mouth does that when my brain is putting on his big boy pants. I just smiled and asked him why he was with her if he knew. He probably would be proud of his answer too. He said; “You’ve met her, some people you stay for” it would have been moronic to press on because I was the one dating a married woman. We left the bar in silence. A sweet sour moment.

Moment number five isn’t as happy as the other ones. It was the day Beverly told me she was pregnant. Five months after the graduation party. it was yet another December. By then she was already a month in. I was stunned and this was where the heartbreak started. She went on and on about how she had always wanted a child and she and her husband were going to keep it. of course I didn’t expect her to kill it. She was just going off answering questions I didn’t ask her. I was silent for a while until she kissed me and we had sex. I don’t think I want you to know how it felt like. That night she stayed over and while she slept I couldn’t stop thinking about how different things would be when the baby came and how much longer I could keep her. I drank myself to oblivion that night and in the morning when I woke up, she was gone.

Now these moments are the most important of my time with Beverly. Of course we had other moments. Times we went out and times we spoke on the phone. Times when she quoted poets and told me to listen to songs and read things that she was sure I would like. Her unhealthy obsession with Sam Smith and how she never spoke of her husband when we were together. She never made me feel not enough even though I knew it.

It was a wonderful thing to love Beverly. I left out the moment when I told her I loved her until now because it wasn’t long enough to call a moment. She had come over and we were watching ‘Before Sunrise’. That’s another thing. She had a list of movies ranked the best and she vowed to see all of them. Before sunrise was the 63rd one she saw and he had 37 to go. Most of the she hadn’t seen because she couldn’t find them. I told her after the movie when the credits were rolling and she told me back. I don’t think I can put to words how it felt but ‘I’ll camouflage with nice. After the movie, we danced in my living room and things like this made Beverly feel like she was worth everything in the world.

Of course she had her bad feats. She didn’t like to travel and she hated to eat. That was the irony. A caterer who hated to eat. She had her baby in due time and it was a boy. She named him after me. I was honored but did she ever come back after that day? NO. I kept Beverly for what I like to remember as a year and after that, she gave herself up for the man she had married and their child.

Happy End of Pride Month loves. To be honest, this month was so crowded I did not have time to celebrate and enjoy the month. I was rounding up university, my thesis was a lot. (That is on queer rights btw it will be out July for consumption.) My country was a mess with the banning of twitter and the insecurity. My most used phrase was “my goodness”. I had to do something to commemorate my first out pride month and to be the last charm in my bracelet for this year’s. So it goes picnic, exhibition, article on medium, thesis, article on medium, all for pride. I will commemorate because sono ancora qui.

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