Night in a gay bar, By Ose Oyamendan

Ose Oyamendan

Women make you do many things. Men have always done things because of women. The first man got us into all this mess because he listened to the woman and ate the apple.

If only Adam was strong enough to say no, the world would have been a lot different. This would be paradise – no work, all play. Maybe women would have had to do all the work since they ate the apple. That would have been fun. Imagine the women working and all you have to do all day is drink wine and pepper soup.

I’m writing about what women make men do today because I am in Nigeria and I hear all these interesting dialogue on the place of gays in the society. It makes me remember the night a woman took me to a gay bar in Los Angeles.  I was crazy about this girl but she thought I was crazy. After a while, she decided to open a window. She wanted us to go dancing and “we can take it from there”.

I said yes. She picked a club in West Hollywood. Unknown to me, this part of Los Angeles is not a place for a kid from the streets of Ibadan at night.  Growing up, a kid like me had three fears – the fear of our fathers, the fear of the school principal and the fear of God. The order differs from day to day but God was normally at the rear.

The logic was simple. You really don’t remember God until you’re really in danger, at church or during prayer times in school and at home. Your principal and his cohorts, the teachers, had your soul and balls during the day. Your father had it when you’re not in school. The mothers were, for the most part, the gatekeepers to your safety.

Growing up, you are placed in an imaginary junction of life and you’re made to believe that wrong lay on one side and right lay on the other. In church and mosques, the pastors and imams let you know that if you take the right way, life would be good and so would be the afterlife. They let you know that if you take the wrong turn you have a reserved ticket to hell where the fire never ends.

When I moved to California on the eve of this century, I had all those fears and beliefs burnt in my brains. The goal was good and heaven. Now, I got into the club and I felt something wasn’t quite right. The boys danced with the boys and the girls danced with the girls. For a second, I wished I’d come alone. I could go home with a strange girl and get a stack of phone numbers for later, I told myself.

My friend broke into my thoughts. “I like coming here because the guys don’t bother you,” she said. I smiled and nodded but I was really thinking, “I wish I’d known this before”. We danced a little. She was your regular white girl trying to dance black. I was your regular black guy trying to over-impress with moves stuck in the sixties.

She took a bathroom break. I went to the bar to get us more drinks. This dude joins me. I thought he’s someone who loved to talk so I indulged him. My friend returned and told him, “he’s with me”. The guy rolled his eyes like someone with the onset of cataract and swiveled away.

I thought it was amusing. “He’s gay, he was trying to pick you up,” my friend said.

I was stunned. Me, picked up by a man! This is war!

“If you’re trying to pick a girl up, what would you say? You throw out the usual, how are you? What do you do? Where do you live? Right?” my friend continued.

I looked around me and suddenly realized I was in a gay bar. There were people kissing in the corner and they were of the same sex. Men were leading men into the bathrooms and women were disappearing into darkened corner with women.

When I called my closest friend, a fellow Catholic boy from the east coast, several minutes later and regaled him with my plight, he asked, “are you in jail? I’ll come bail you out.” He fully expected me to have gone medieval on the gay guy and got arrested.

But I did what shocked even me. Maybe, because I was very focused on the “take it from there” aspect of the date, I took the girl’s hand and said I was so distressed we had to go to my place. She agreed.

Later, I had a talk with my sister and cousin in Nigeria. They both counseled that I needed deliverance. When they came over and really liked one of my best friends, I revealed to them he was gay. They moved away so fast from him I thought he had a disease.

For more than a year, I never drove close to West Hollywood. Los Angeles is a very modern town with all modern things and modern people but you can take a bushman to the village, you can never take the bush away from him.


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