Saturday 18 June 2022

'Lovers' by Vincent Anioke

I am 42 the first time I whisper those words—I love a man—hopped up on bitter bourbon, shivering eyes closed, dingy neon bar—I love a man.

I am 8 the first time I see a man naked. Friday night. Beer-sipping Papa watches NTA News with a steep forward lean, like he’s trying to disappear into the screen. Mama unshells groundnuts into a bowl on her lap, the cracks slow and tender like each nut is living, breathing, hurting.

“Tufiakwa,” Mama says, her voice crimson with sudden disgust. My gaze shifts from a carpeted battlefield of plastic velociraptors to her burning eyes to the television. A police officer with a wrinkled, important face is speaking. Behind him, two men stand bare. Their taut skins reveal the shape of bones. Bloody welts clump along their chests and shivering legs. Their blurred palms are clasped in front of their genitals. Bowed heads disguise their eyes. Lovers. Caught. Dirty Act. Mob. Mpape Motel–the officer’s words framed by grinning yellow teeth. Papa starts: wonders never cease, this is what happens when the West, all their sick shit everywhere, even at Silverbird cinema now, FedEx-wrapped Gomorrah. Mama’s shells crack faster, splintering, missile-thudding into the bowl. Strange new lines carve her face. Something has hardened in my stomach, so I close my eyes, breathing in deep to recall the scent of Friday nights: draught beer, leaking sofa foam, salt from the rising ocean of groundnuts. The smell lingers, but it no longer drifts down my throat, no longer expands in my stomach.

Later, after Papa turns off the TV, but before he ruffles my hair goodnight, he kisses Mama full on the lips. I watch how she unveils a smile’s shadow, how she grabs his waist, how she disappears into him.

1 comment:

  1. I love the layers and the imagery in this story. It is brimming with emotion and pain. It’s fantastic.


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