My search history tabs were always cleared without fail. I would literally jump out of bed in the middle of the night when my anxiety reminded me that someone might snoop around and meet the ghosts that haunted me. I was always on toes, never really fully at peace, even in my sleep.
I was the first and only son of my extremely religious parents. By extremely I mean my dad was an elder and chairman of the church board. My mum, whom everyone mistook for my elder sister was the leader of the children’s ministry. She adored children so much that our home was partly a booming day care centre with kids from church always hanging around… Everywhere! They really didn’t bother me but my sister would hear none of it.
She was always screaming at someone or in my room trying to convince me to ask mum to ease up on the invitations. No wonder, I presume, her voice was raspy and hoarse as ever. She would eventually hit our radio waves I was certain. Stations would fight for that crispy voice through hell and back. I was older than her with two years but we acted like twins. She was my best friend. Regardless of her loud mouth and her stunk attitude, she was the sweetest thing on the planet.
We would spend days on end in each other’s rooms watching movies, listening to music and laughing our hearts out as humour was one thing we shared. I used to do her make up from time to time in the beginning. I was a sucker for YouTube makeup tutorials. She was my guinea pig and with time, I became so good that she literally wouldn’t let anyone else beat her face except me. She would actually pay me. I remember trying to fight her over that but Keira was pretty feisty, she always won.
One Saturday afternoon when I was sure as day that no one was around the house, I decided to finally give it a try. I was exhilarated with the thought that I was going to finally do my make up! I had been dreaming about this day since time immemorial. It wasn’t only the lack of guts that stopped me.
From the time I was seven, I just knew something was different about me. Guys my age were always gawking at girls in the church and in school yet I was not interested. Of course, I knew my sister was the most gorgeous little girl to exist but that was about it. Despite the years rushing through, I never got to figure out how a crush on a girl felt like. I was just never interested. It always bothered me, especially in high school where funkies were for meeting girls and asking them to be your girlfriend. That idea was so foreign to me.
I would spend hours and hours on the internet either watching tutorials or going through celebrities who identified as gay. Through that, I got so much knowledge about the LGBT community. I understood especially in African countries, how homophobia was prevalent and how queers were passionately hated. Because I was part of such a famous squad in high school, I hid my true nature in toxic masculinity. I was known for dating more than five girls at a time and breaking their hearts.
My parents tried to talk to me, beat me up every holiday break because I was wild. I never opened up to anyone, not even my closest friends about how I really felt, and who I really was. I would sneakily play dress up with my sister’s outfits and pose on her mirrors, forgetting the world for a while. It used to get extremely lonely. Having no one to talk to, and feeling like a taboo to your family. I felt like an outsider. Probably explains why I never did mind the presence of the children.
Handling Keira’s products and using them on my face, I toyed with the idea of starting a business as a makeup artist. Keira had always pitched it to me, telling me she would book clients for me, starting with her friends and soon enough, I’d be doing super amazing. I knew I never would have done it but thinking and planning was a lot of fun! Considering how much time I spent with my sister, I was always unsure whether she knew I was gay. She never ever mentioned it.
As I was putting on blush to my cheeks, I heard the door swing open. I immediately had a brain freeze and instead of wiping my face, I just sat there, motionless. Everyone was at that door that day, I never got to know why they were just there. Shockingly staring at me with the exception of Keira. I couldn’t read her expressionless face. What on earth do you think you are doing?” My father barked at me. I shivered at the sound, almost peeing my pants.
He was on to me within a second. My mind had completely stopped working. One.. two… three slaps did not jump start it. “What shameless thing are you trying to do?! What? You want to become a girl now?” He started choking me, so tight that I saw my lifeline fading. I tried gasping for air but that was barely possible.
“Stop it!” I heard Keira’s loud mouth. I never thought that annoying voice would ever come to my rescue. “You’re going to kill him, can’t you see?!” Amid Keira’s pleas were my mother’s sobs. I had always been her favourite child yet I knew as the submissive wife that she was, she would never raise her voice at my dad. Her face was a concoction of grief, despair and deep sadness but not shame, she looked a bit appalled but that was it. Keira wrestled with my dad. ” You will not strangle my brother as I watch you. What are you crazy? Leave him alone! It was a dare, I dared him to put on makeup. That’s it!”
A second later, I was on the floor. Father’s rage having pushed me. I hit the thick carpet I always made fun of and despite his kicks and blows, at least I could finally draw a breathe in. “So it’s just a game?” I faintly heard my dad. My hearing was failing me… Was I dying?
“No,” I whispered. “I’m just gay, so if you want to kill me, I think this is the right opportunity.” At that moment, I had nothing to lose. I did not want Keira to keep on covering up for me. It would get tiring for her. I was done living in dread and anxiety of what awaited me if someone ever caught a glimpse of my sexuality. I was ready to die than live another day acting like everything was okay yet I was afraid of facing everyone and everything around me.
Suddenly, it got really quiet. No one spoke a word, not even my father. I knew there wasn’t hope. That was the day I’d draw my last breath. Then he picked me up, looked at me with the most disgusting eyes, spit at me then shoved me away, this time, I fell on to Keira’s dressing table. I was a man of six feet strong and quite buff therefore the impact was painful. I remember crying out loud and within a split second, my mother was by my side. Holding me with so much love I thought my heart would break.
“It will be well Jesse.” She repeated that over and over again until I was able to gather myself together. Keira was seated beside the door, holding her knees and swinging back and forth. She was hysterical but in a calm way. I could see tears fall down her cheeks but she didn’t bother wiping them away. She was angry. I could see her veins on the sides of her head form. I would have lived with hurting my father but breaking my sister’s heart, I could not face that.
“Keira, I’m so sorry. I never meant to hurt you.” I started. “I failed you as a brother and mom, I’ve failed you as a son. I do not deserve you. I am extremely sorry.” Within the spur of a second, Keira joined us. She tried to speak but words failed her.
“Don’t be sorry, I knew you were gay when you were in high school. That doesn’t change anything between us. You will always be my best friend.” She whispered, holding my hands. I noted she was shaking. “How does he claim to be a man of God? Look at you! It looks like a mob attacked you!”
“Hush little one” My mama intervened. We all sat there for a solid one hour, as they cleaned up my bruises, trying to cheer me up by asking me about my current boy crushes and whether I was going to shoot my shot. It felt good to be accepted by the people I loved most. People who did not see me as a sexual object but saw me as a human being. Maybe we would eventually be at peace with my dad, maybe, most probably, he would never utter a word to me. But in the meantime, I was content with the love I had received from the two most important women in my life.
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