When my sexuality was a deadly secret, a lover died. I was 19, going 20, I think.
I could not tell anyone. There wasn’t a single soul to hold me,
so I held myself together.
I knew he smelt of rum most times we were together but the word alcoholic
never crossed my mind. I knew he had occasional outbursts of rage that
would have him punching walls and screaming, but I put that down to his temper.
I loved him. Blindly so. He had 22 years’ life experience over me, so of course
it followed that I assumed he had life figured out.
He was kind most days, sad on some and too tired to even get out of bed on some.
On the days that he’d stay in bed, I would go over – his mom in the next room –
and hold him. He would cry. He cried for things I knew nothing about…
His dad who’d died years earlier, his desire to go away somewhere (with me)
and never return, how he wanted to do so much for his mom but never could
and how he couldn’t get over Njabu, his previous lover before me.
Through all this I held him.
I had no idea what we were doing, but I knew that I felt safe in his gaze and that
what I wanted with him was unconditional. I knew that when I was having a rough
time being in my body, the nuzzle of his thick, chocolate brown beard on the nape
of my neck made life more bearable.
I knew of no other way to love and be loved by another human in a way that made me
visible, even to myself.
He was my secret. He was my window into what was possible between two souls.
We lived in a country that seamed its society with threads of homophobia and
weaponised sexuality and sexual orientation in ways that served people like me to
the world as demonic spirit vessels.
Through all that, when I was alone with him, I was loved.
I was loved by a man who was broken beyond repair by addiction and other things
I will never comprehend.
I guess in a way this prepared me to know that even in the deepest depths of turmoil,
I can always show up for others. Especially in ways that seem so insignificant for myself
but could change someone’s life in ways I couldn’t consciously conjure up.
On the day he died, I wasn’t with him. I wish I had been. He died on a pavement in the city
centre of Bulawayo from alcohol poisoning of sorts. He had too much alcohol in his blood.
I was shopping at Haddon & Sly that very moment. I got a phone call from his mother to say
he’d just been reported dead. I never saw him again. I wasn’t even invited to the funeral.
But I have no doubt that I was loved. In all that turmoil, hurt and pain- there still was room
for love for me. I loved him unconditionally. There is a power in that.