I love him, I love him, I love him! I don’t know how many times I have repeated this to myself alone, whether in the silence of our den while he is away or in the stillness of the evening when returning from the bar. I sing these words like the British do during war memorial services: I vow to thee my country. Expressing myself like this is not founded on doubt, for I do not have any inkling of doubt, no inclination to question my feelings for Shaun. It is more like a reminder of the greatness of our communion. A profound sense of attachment has always pulled us together, dragging us from our naïve corners of self-assuredness and a romantic aloofness too coy for anyone being in love. There, we tell ourselves nonsensical ideas about falling in love.
The way we love each other was never like this when we started. Shaun treated me with indifference when we were together during those distant afternoons, uninterested in showing how much he cared, how much he was in love. I, for one, was a dilettante at love, and was guilty of setting a low standard when it came to not expressing our feelings. For almost two years, we loitered around the parameters of intimacy, having casual conjugal moments. We had sex most of the time, conversations being mere politeness.
Somehow, my internality brewed up a struggle with my externality; I bore the brunt of the brutal war between my feelings and what I thought ought to have been the state of our relationship. It was in the trenches of my conscience that I realised how much I needed to be with him beyond lovemaking; I wanted our souls to be in sync. One evening, I found my face pressed against a car window gazing over the city as the vehicle drove into the nonchalant city from the hamlet outside, deep in thought and gallivanting in the land of imagination, the road so hilly it held me up like Simba in The Lion King, to see the city, which gloriously worshiped my procession with its colourful lights peeping occasionally. The dusk light cast itself over the trees and houses flooding the place with its last beauty before it too retired. While all this was playing out, my body hardened from the thoughts I had of Shaun. We had agreed I would spend the night at his house, and my expectations were high.
I love him, I love him, I love him!
The early evening was already playing cacophonous noises that blended into the emptiness of the atmosphere that implored us to partake in our own invented pleasures.
Looking at his eyes, there was no more denying that he too was falling in love, because they gleamed with passion. Our passionate love was left smoldering under the shy glances and pointless questions we threw at each other. He placed his whiskey glass aside and shambled into the house, leaving me looking around the garden shyly. One of his neighbours started playing Shekinah’s Suited, and from where I sat, I could make out the singer’s voice possessing cadence and a certain level of inspirational touch when articulating the gay lyrics. The tune and the singer’s voice took off from the dark beyond the durawall and hedge, levitating in circles, casting a glow over the trees, rising higher with every second and exploding during the climax of the song over the navy bluish sky. Down they fell, beautifully sliding down over tree branches and leaves, so touching.
I saw his silhouette standing at the door, blocking the floodlight from inside. I knew right away what this meant, so I walked over to him soon enough to make out a smile that stayed briefly on his face.
“The room is ready, babe.”
“Oh no, I’m sleeping on the couch, Mr. Ncube!” I rejoined with laughter, and he laughed as well. His hand clasped the nape of my neck, pulling me closer, and we kissed. He lifted me off the ground, carried me away to his bedroom.
A little smile, a slight stroke of the other’s cheek, a grabbing of napes, then a tremendous flood of passion, love, yearning and the unexplainable terror of not being able to satisfy the other washed over us and pressed us into one. We yielded ourselves to a force so powerful it commanded the silence of heaven and earth. In that process of heavenly enjoyment, our souls departed from our conscious bodies and rose up to the highest heavens, imploring and daring the citizens of heaven to behold and drool over the tasteful forbidden fruit. I found myself crying from the sweet pain and pleasure I was enduring. Deeper and deeper, he thrust himself into me, and for the first time we were making love. For the first time, it was not fun but an experience of real love, one so real and passionate that when my eyes dilated from the goodness of his thrusts, I was transported to another country. He was sweating all over, his eyes beckoning and pleading with me as we exploded into each other.
This was the point of no return in our relationship. His look was one of surrender and acceptance of my victory over his stubbornly indifferent love. I saw how vulnerable he was through those eyes, now I knew him and understood how capable he was of loving deeply. In that moment, when looking into his eyes, I time traveled back to our first encounter. The door of possibilities had been thrust open, and I kept on seeing his ability to be in love in his terrified eyes.
Those eyes, yes those eyes. Those damn eyes, I love him, I love him, I love him!
I remembered his eyes from the time I first saw them at the upmarket sports bar. A young woman stood next to him then, she was the sanguine of the group judged by the loudness of her voice, which defied the background music moderating the conversations between guests.
It was a lonely and yet happy evening for me. I had not found anyone to be in a relationship with, not even a casual one. What mattered to me was the sense of adventure. All the men who had attempted to charm me had been simple so far, but I craved sophistication, someone to discover anew at all times. And there he was, in the midst of a crowd.
Satisfaction and pleasure waltzed betwixt the revelers, nudging them to enjoy themselves, spurring them on to a state of momentary high sensuality. I watched the loudmouth as she let her hand slightly touch Shaun’s shoulder, and that spark in her eyes made me hate her. But there was something else more interesting about Shaun, whose name I did not know then. He seemed to tolerate her flirtatious intentions while harbouring some debasing intentions himself.
Up until that point, I had not seen his face clearly; and so when he actually did turn towards the bar counter, I descended into terror. There was an unexplainable excitement and trembling, terror stirred up because of what I was looking at. The baby-smooth chocolate brown skin shone under the glare of florescent lights, and in that moment the non-existent gaffer beamed on him only; according to my imagination. The face was uninterested and disengaged from whatever was happening, signifying that its possessor knew how handsome he was and needed not try to exert himself to impress. His eyes made every effort to complement the face; they look tired and drunk with lust.
“He is an interesting fellow,” the bartender Thabo said before he shuffled away to a table close by. “On rocks or plain?… Sho sho.” He was returning, and I feigned not having heard him.
“Huh?” His response was to raise his left side eyebrow and furrow his forehead as a way of communicating that he knew I heard him the first time. I wasn’t winning this battle, so I asked, “Which fellow?” I tried hard to pretend I was lost by squinting my eyes questioningly.
He nodded to where Shaun stood. “Him…,” he poured me another glass of vodka. “On me! I saw how you were looking at him.” I watched as two ice cubes were tossed into the glass, watched as the liquid danced around the walls of the glass, and imagined love like that, thinking of it as something beautified by sacrifice of one's self and contained by our temperaments. I don’t know why I thought this way, having no idea who I was going to love wildly, although obviously I did think of him slightly.
Shaun pranced over to the counter and took up a chair two seats away from me. I saw him closer now, and the trembling and excitement increased in velocity. What I saw was a man with terrifying attractiveness. You wouldn’t know why, but you were immediately drawn to him and feared not to appreciate how wonderfully made he was. He was neither delicately handsome nor ugly, but there was that interesting in-between good looking feel about him, a sure specimen of heavenly beauty so peculiar only to him. How he would glance around the room, the look enchanting, and the reluctant smile bewitched you to instantly like him.
“You are listening to this cunt? Don’t listen to him, he doesn’t know what he is talking about. He is crazy, this one, will narrate things that don’t exist. Thabo is a dreamer. But as for me, you can trust me, I’m an honest guy, I don’t talk dreams, I know what I want.”
I wry smiled and sighed to signal I was listening to him. He and Thabo snapped fingers for a greeting. Shaun clasped the nape of Thabo’s neck, slapping him on the back. When he laughed, he bared his smile freely, and toasted to the rugby match playing on the television screen hanging above the liquor display cabinet.
“You are awfully quiet, I have never seen you around here before. Are you new this side?”
If he had only known I was trying to hold back myself from expressing how excited I was to finally have someone like him flirt with me. He never would have understood that in that moment, hope to see him again fermented inside and threatened to bust out. I never bothered with replying, perhaps because I thought he was speaking to Thabo, but intuition said otherwise. When your life is a secret, you know what is what without anyone saying it out loud, and you know intuitively how to react to situations that might drag you out of the closet. The two men spoke in hushed whispers leaning over the bar counter. Somehow, I was jealous and fearful of him withdrawing his gaze from me, retreating from the apostasy we indulged in without knowing it. When he looked back at me, I noticed he was suppressing a look of being bewildered and intensely liking someone. In some way, he managed to look into me and also speak to me without uttering a word. We did eventually chat at the bar that evening and made it out barely sober; then we went to his house, where we began our journey down the road that only promised to obliterate our hearts if we did not surrender to the truth.
I love him, I love him, I love him!
Our lovemaking had transformed him into a helpless stranger. It dragged him up from the chasm of fear and fright of being committed, and thrust him to reality. I knew he was scared of being in love because I myself did have that innate fear that becomes an apparition which hovers around the corridors of your mind. Fear of committing to such a forbidden sacred communion.
Shaun pulled up his pants, strode to the chair by the wardrobe, and affixed himself there. I got dressed, went over to him and sat on his lap, facing him. He caressed my face, pulling it close to his, his lips playing around my chin being brushed by his beard, and finally led his tongue to voluntarily wallow into my mouth and do a ballroom dance with mine. He closed his eyes to take in the pleasure.
I clasped my hands around his neck and looked into his eyes. There was a shadow of bewilderment and terror. A shadow of doubt, which transformed him into a vulnerable creature, glazed his eyes. In them, I saw fear, doubt, fright, hope, exhaustion from thought, and desire – all compounding a need to know and be certain that we were permanent. He breathed deeply, as if trying to relieve himself of a burden only he could understand and cope with.
“I’m scared, Farai.”
“Why? You know you can talk to me, baby?” I rejoined, trying not to sound alarmed, which was untrue because I was scared, too. I had seen his face during our passionate love making, that terror of the inescapable journey to a point of no return, a perpetual terror from knowing there is no room for pretense anymore.
“When I leave next week, come with me, please, will you? I don’t think I can live without you any longer. We have to be honest with ourselves, nobody else cares. Come with me to Mutare, where we can live together.” His tone was hurried and pleading.
“ I can’t just pack up and leave. My life is here; I mean all of it – my home, my job and everyone I care about.”
“You mean those who will abandon you anytime. Think about it, you will be with me, and we will depend on each other; and yes, I know you believe in independence, but we are at a state of belonging together. Farai, you can always get a new job, even a better one; we can make a home together over there, where no one knows us. Please baby, don’t think about it, say yes! It will kill me to go on living without you.”
“I love you.” I kissed his forehead. “I don’t know why you worry so much about us, we will be okay.”
“It’s not that I worry a lot, I just didn’t expect we would be anything serious, but now we have to quit pretending we are just friends.” His tone was sadly regretful; perhaps he regretted allowing us to go this far, beyond the point of no return.
“What does that mean? So I was a toy to be played with, then tossed aside someday?” There was anger in my words, but I made an effort to conceal it and remain calm and understanding. I jumped off him and shambled into the living room, where I started playing Langa Mavuso’s All of Me.
I hadn’t realised he was following me into the living room until he spoke. “I didn't mean it that way, what I meant was that I have been scared I was never going to be sufficient for you. But today, I’m sure about us, Farai. I love you, babe, and I don’t want to lose you. Every time you make love to me, you give to me a bit of you and take a bit of me. Bit by bit, I lose myself and gain you. To be with you is to be with me, I’m incomplete without us.”
“Say no more, baby, I dig you. If that’s what you want, let’s talk about it later, maybe early in the morning after glory hour.” I planted my lips on his. I had not forgiven him but found it pointless to let him continue. Nevertheless, the idea of moving with him to a new place was tempting.
We did move eventually, and now I’m waiting for him to walk through the door any second. His car just pulled into the garage.
I shall sing of my love for him till the angels yonder descend in bewilderment and curiosity, and come down to behold such humanly sacredness expressed through love.
About the author
Rabhelani Mguni is a Zimbabwean writer and essayist. His works address identity, love, sexuality, gender, social status and politics. Some of his works have appeared in publications such as Kalahari Review, Odd Magazine and Olongo Africa. Twitter: @RabhelaniM – Instagram: @rabhelanimguni