That was nine years ago.
I will not give you the exact date, simply because it is not safe as yet… I am not yet fully out, though I know I am out. And, I plan to be celebrating the day for years to come. Our anniversary.
Nine years ago.
Seems like such a short time past. It was the beginning of the year, again. The old year had been eventful. 2000.
New year, a new millennium. It had turned out to be mundane, and also different. I had decided to come out, and go wild on the scene. The kuchu scene in
For that year, I had partied and met kuchus. I had had a few brief relationships, and lots of casual encounters. Young, newly liberated as I saw myself, my world had become a new experience. Out as a gay man in
. As out as I could be. Uganda
But, I had also discovered that, in opening myself to what I wanted, I also wanted more. I am human. I had been reluctant to form any long lasting relationships with women. Now that I was out and happy as I found myself, I wanted something more. I wanted a deep, abiding relationship. I wanted a long time relationship with another guy, another man. I wanted to set up house as I hadn’t done before. I wanted to find the man of my dreams, and set up house, our home, in
My needs were not met in the free sex. Nor in the casual encounters. I do remember, one very promiscuous friend of mine telling me derisively, ‘kuchus don’t make relationships.’ He was incredulous, he was contemptuous. He was young and into sex with every man that walked. I was sticking out for the ring and the walk!
I remember that remark because I kind of thought about it for long.
I decided to pull back. To go slow. Yes, I was getting the companionship I needed. But, I could clearly see that I wanted more than what was on offer. A meat market with plenty of humongous beef on display. But, not the commitment, not the depth that I wanted, was ready to offer, was ready to demand.
in 2000. In 1999, just the year before, the President had famously ordered the police to go out and arrest homos. Homosexuals like us. It was not that people, kuchus didn’t want relationships. It was too difficult. Uganda
For a few months, I drew back.
Over the Christmas hols, well, I did have fun. And, had a bit of down with malaria over the New Year’s day. Its like a flu. You suffer it something like once or twice a year. And, it was not a heavy bout.
I remember I was recovering at home, the juices stirring, the mind starting to remember the love and lust that I had missed over the New Years hols. Actually, I was on the sofa, in the living room.
An sms. Someone wishing me a ‘Happy New Year’, and hoping that we would be friends.
Looked at the number. Didn’t know it. Curious, I sent back a text too. Thanks, but, you didn’t sign it.
I almost forgot about it.
I mean, for reasons that are very understandable, many other kuchus did have my number. It is a precious commodity, the mobile phone, for clandestine connections. I was used to anonymous messages leading to liaisons.
But, I got a call within the next few minutes.
Very polite. I was impressed. No ‘beeping’ or flashing for him. He greeted me, told me I didn’t know him, that he had got my number from a friend, and wished that we would be friends in the new year.
I played the game. Thanked him. Wished him the best of 2001.
And, one thing led to another, and I found that we had made an appointment to meet. Hey, told you I was action starved, and recovering from malaria. I needed some! And, despite everything else, there were good indications. What? His voice was nice on the phone.
We chose a neutral ground. No meeting at one’s home on the first date. No way…! Safety first.
Chose Wandegeya. A busy suburb very near the city centre,
The university, (Makerere) is within stone’s throw, so is Mulago hospital and the rest of the city. One can come from anywhere, and disappear into anywhere. Safety first. And, far as I knew, it was two strangers meeting.
Came near time, I was shocked.
He rang to confirm the meeting. No one does that!!! At least, in my experience. I confirmed that I would be there.
I was going to use a ‘taxi’, one of our fourteen seater minibuses which do the bulk of public transport. I did, but, I had badly misjudged the timing.
I was not used to the traffic around Wandegeya. It was (still is) horrible.
Those were the days when there was a roundabout there. And, it used to choke with gridlocked traffic around evening. Appointment at six? I arrived after seven, after dusk. I had to jump out of the ‘taxi’ to walk the brief distance to my destination. And, the guy was ringing me to confirm that I was on the way.
I remember the place.
Dusk, light fast disappearing. Traffic heavy, sludgy on the roads. It is a very busy junction, at any time of the day. Early evening is hell. And, people, walking home or wheresoever.
Noise, of traffic, shouting, taxi touts on Kamwokya stage. The street lights were coming on, dirt, dust, noise, darkness strengthening. Chaos, as only Wandegeya can be. Comfortable, camouflaging chaos.
I saw him, immediately. He was standing in the space just before Kamwokya stage towards downtown, phone to ear.
I took the chance to check out my blind date.
About my height. Slim, nervous confidence. Standing while the rest of the populace moved past him in all directions. In the failing light, I knew that I didn’t know him. He had his phone out, was ringing me. Mine was in the pocket, ringing. But, he couldn’t hear it in the general fracas of a Wandegeya evening.
I decided that we could meet. (Hey, ever had that blind a date? Have had several. You don’t decide until the last moment…!)
I took out my phone, answered, told him where I was. Behind him. I had walked past, with the flow of the people. Of course he hadn’t recognized me, since he didn’t know me from Adam.
We met. Gay eyes quickly sizing up one another, weighing, assessing.
A little conversation. The decision to look for a less noisy, and more private place. We both didn’t know Wandegeya that well… Neutral ground, remember? But, we followed Bombo road a bit, going towards Bwaise. Got into a bar that I had entered once, twice.
It was called something like ‘College Inn’. Surveyed the inside, decided that it was too near the noise of the road. But, we spied a gate to the back, and decided to investigate.
A back garden. Chairs and tables.
We sat down to drink and chat.
Yeah, boy meets boy, so what happens?
I declined his offer of a beer. But I was impressed. I was usually the beer buyer. Different person indeed. I begged off, recovering from malaria, was my excuse. Fact is, I wanted to take it slow. He took a Bell Lager. Still does.
We started talking. He was talking my head off.
I listened, and listened. He was beating around the bush, going round and round the important issues. Verbose without being overly informative. I liked the game, listened, and asked him whether he was a lawyer. I asked for a Nile Special, my usual beer. And, we ordered some snacks. Chips I believe. And we talked.
He had ‘got’ my phone number from someone I was supposed to know. Actually, later I discovered that I had sent someone a new year’s message, and, that guy had not been tech savvy enough to know that he had a message. This guy had helpfully helped to reveal that important fact to him, and incidentally crammed the number…! Talk about being snitchy!
But, all I got from him on the first day was a description of the friend, that he was an acquaintance. After one beer, I was ready to cut through the bull shit.
‘Are you gay?’ I asked, directly, looking into his eyes for the reaction.
Shock. A sudden loss of words. And, looking around. I do remember that furtive look.
No one was near enough to have heard the question. Or to hear the answer, if affirmative.
It was totally dark now. Some bushes with overhanging branches over us gave more illusion of privacy. Only lights were at the open bar, and the kitchen. A soft, confortable darkness. The waiter was not disturbing us, and, the few other clientele were busy doing their own stuff.
He looked back at me, the light full on his angular face.
He nodded his head. Yes, he did.
Couldn’t verbalize it. Not at that moment.
Unsurprisingly, that admission made both of us easier in mind.
No laugh from me. Hell, I am gay, and Ugandan. And, he wasn’t bad looking…! It was my turn to tease and talk and laugh. And, we did have a good time.
Don’t remember how long we spent. Another hour, I think.
We finished when we were both happy, a little drunk, less inhibited, and well, into each other. We walked back onto the street in company, still chatting. No of course not. We hadn’t yet touched the gross subject of sex…!
Walking back, the Wandegeya junction traffic chaos had eased a bit, but not much. Walked to the place where we had met a few hours earlier. There were less people around, but they were many. Still walking home, in all directions. The traffic was less heavy, not less noisy. And, we were still together.
There, almost on the spot where we met, he gave me his hand to say goodbye.
I took it, looked into his eyes, then away, then took the plunge-
‘Your place or mine?’
Again I could see the shock in his eyes. Hey, I am blunt, no beating round the bush, especially when I don’t want to. Not with something as serious as sex. And, I couldn’t remember my new year’s resolution to go slow, and all the bullshit about a relationship…
Ultimately, he shrugged his shoulders. Giving in, ‘Me, I don’t mind. Can come to your place, or you can come to mine.’
A brief hesitation from me, and, I decided ‘Your place it will be’.
We spent the night together. And, have been more or less a couple ever since.
Boy meets boy, nine years ago. I joke that it was a one night stand which has continued for the last nine years. He agrees. He had decided that we wouldn’t meet again. I, well, I am not sure whether I would have rung him if we had parted then. We came that close. But, we didn’t.
So, how did a one night stand turn into a nine year romance?