Saturday, July 27, 2013

I am Coming Out of the Closet

A friend of mine came out of the closet a few months ago. It is now common knowledge that he is gay, at least among his close friends. Well, I am happy for him. In Uganda, it takes a lot of balls and guts to say you are gay. But he is very lucky. His mother did not throw him out of the house.

I would like to think that I might be as lucky as he was. So I am also coming out of the closet too. Finally.

I am straight.

And I am sorry if I have disappointed you. It’s just that, I would like to know, why is it that the gays experience the pressure of having to come out of the closet yet us, the straight guys, have it easy? Everyone should reach a point in their life where they are expected to come out of the closet. And it should be ok whichever closet you come out of.

Late last year I wrote a story that I submitted for a competition called Writivism. I titled it Emotional Roller Coaster. Recently, my story has caused a lot of debate both online and offline. It is about a gay guy who has his first heterosexual encounter. I can’t really tell what I was thinking while writing this story, but I enjoyed writing it.

After all the debate it garnered, I started thinking about the issues the story raised, especially regarding homosexuality. My gay character enjoyed the sex he had with his female best friend. (Do gay people enjoy straight sex? Someone educate me!) The next morning, he wakes up confused. He had already come out of the closet as a gay guy. Would he now have to come out of the closet as a straight guy?

So while I’m advocating for us straight guys to also come out of the closet, I suggest that the closet should remain open, so that we can go back when we feel like we are threatened. I’ve heard of middle-aged men with wives and teenage kids who finally figure out that all along they’ve been gay. Now I don’t know how that happens, but as for anything to do with closets, I am open for dialogue.

And I will stop here, because I clearly don’t know what I am blabbering about. I just wanted to simply come out of the closet, but because I’m a writer, felt like I should write more than a few sentences.

As an afterthought, I think I should now join some straight club. Anybody know any straight club?

Friday, July 26, 2013

Coming To Kampala: a short story

The bus came to a halt at the traffic lights on Jinja Road. It was the first in line, and I thought the driver had to feel disappointed for having been too slow to beat the red light. We were finally in Kampala. I expressed my excitement by inboxing Lillian.
“On Jinja Road. Will be there in a few minutes.”
She replied immediately: “Can’t wait to meet you!” and added a smiley at the end.
That’s why I liked Lillian. She was always online, and I was assured of never getting bored whenever we chatted on Facebook. Lillian had this infectious smile that drilled dimples in her cheeks, accentuating her beauty. Her large, innocent eyes sparkled in the light and were always happy.
On Jinja Road, the light turned orange, and the driver started the engine again. He turned the key in the ignition, and all the engine did was cough.
He looked at the orange light. Sweat broke out on his forehead.
The engine coughed again. It stopped.
The old, gangly driver, with hands trembling on the steering wheel, turned in his seat, looked directly at me and said, “Banange, get out and help me push the car. It won’t start!”
I averted my gaze from his tired eyes and looked at myself in the rear-view mirror. I was dressed in a new, cream dress shirt. My suit was recently dry-cleaned. I was going for the best date in my life. I hadn’t taken all my time and effort to look impeccable for my girl, travel all the way from Mbale, to get myself dirty just a short walk away from my destination.
“Banange, munnyambe,” the bus driver pleaded with us, glancing at the orange light. Any time from now it would turn green.
I could get out of this bus and walk the rest of the journey. I might be a little late. I might get my new dress shoes dusty. But that was better than getting my suit dirty.
Four men stood up and walked out to help push the bus.
The driver’s hands were shaking so badly they could barely hold the steering wheel. He turned the ignition. The engine started and died almost immediately.
Three policemen were looking at us from across the road. The driver saw them and said, “Those policemen are going to come and fine me!”
The skin on his arms had developed goose pimples. He drew in quick breaths.
He started the engine again as the men pushed. The bus shook, but stayed in the same place.
I stood up, ready to get out. Not to help, but walk to my date. It was getting late. My reputation was hanging on the line right now.
The light turned green.
The driver turned the ignition again and revved up the engine. The cars that had lined up behind us started honking. Loud, angry noise. Two of the policemen started walking towards our bus.
The engine coughed one more time. The car moved a little. The cars behind us honked.
The policemen were now a few feet away from us. The scowls on their faces carried question marks.
The four men outside pushed again. The bus came to life and started moving. It accelerated in speed and the men who were pushing started running after it so they could get back on. The driver smiled as he drove past the bewildered policemen. He increased his speed as soon as all four men were back on board. He had a silly grin on his face that he seemed unaware of as he bobbed his head to the kadongokamu song that was playing on the radio.
I sat back. I had been on the edge of my seat.
I fought the urge to gawk at the buildings on Jinja Road. They were tall and their glass, tile and aluminium surfaces glinted in the evening light. When we reached Uganda House, I said, “Maaso awo.”
The bus stopped and I got off. I checked my phone. It was four-thirty. I refreshed my Facebook inbox and read Lillian’s latest message.
“Where are you?”
“I’ve just arrived at Uganda House,” I replied.
I saw what was to be our meeting point—Cafe Bravo. I entered and was immediately welcomed with the strong, sweet aroma of coffee. I stared at the exquisite wood panelling and the large display of mouth-watering pastries.
I checked my phone. Lillian had replied, “Ok”
I typed, “Where are you?”
“On my way.”
So she wasn’t here yet. That was good. I made a beeline for a table in the corner so I could sit facing the entrance. I wanted to see her as soon as she came in.
A waiter approached my table, gave me the menu and asked, “Would you like anything, sir?”
“Let me go through the menu, then I’ll call you,” I said. He left me.
I opened the menu and started perusing through it. My jaw dropped. My eyes became saucers. The chicken was twenty thousand shillings!
It dawned on me that I was going to leave Kampala broke.
I checked my phone. I didn’t have any new message from Lillian. I almost asked her where she was again, but I thought that I would come off as desperate. I put the phone on the table.
The waiter came back to my table. “Are you ready to order, sir.”
“You see,” I said, “I am waiting for my girlfriend to join me, then we shall order together.”
What I didn’t tell him was that I was afraid if I ordered before Lillian ordered, and she ordered an expensive dish, I might not have enough money to settle my bill.
The waiter left again.
I waited for Lillian.
Just as I picked up my phone to ask her where she was, she entered the cafe. The sunshine entered with her. She scanned the cafe till her eyes landed on me. There was a hint of recognition. I smiled. She didn’t smile back, but her eyes moved from mine and continued scanning the cafe.
I almost stood up and waved my hands to catch her attention. She turned and walked back outside, like she had forgotten something there.
Fidgeting, I grabbed my phone. No new message from her. I frantically typed, “Where are you?”
I looked out at the girl I thought was Lillian. Long, manicured fingernails were tapping away at the screen of a smart phone.
The answer was instant. “Stuck in jam.”

Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Rat

Once upon a time, there was a rat. It lived in my house. I had never seen it, but I was almost sure that it was there. I was also almost sure that it might not be only one rat. Maybe there was a whole family of them—mother, father and baby rats!

I did not know whether it was as big as a shoe or as small as a large cockroach.

There was a rat trap behind the fridge. There was another one on top of the cabinet. There were two under the sink.

I had never seen this rat. The only evidence I had that it actually existed was the fact that the bread I kept putting on the rat traps as bait disappeared every night.

Then one day I decided that I was going to catch this rat. I borrowed webcams from my colleagues at work. In total, I had three webcams, one for each rat trap. And my iPhone’s camera was for the fourth rat trap, the one on top of the fridge. Today I wasn’t going to sleep.

I sat in front of my laptop in my living room watching the live feeds from all four cameras. Thirty minutes into my surveillance, I started dosing. I went to the kitchen and made myself some coffee and a sandwich. I chastised myself for going to the kitchen. I could have scared away the rat! I checked the traps again. The bread was still there. I got some more bread from the bread bin, broke it and distributed it to the traps. Some more bread for this crafty rat wouldn’t hurt. Today was the last day it would steal from me.

I went back to my couch and my laptop and watched the rat traps.

I thought I should play music. It was eerily quiet. But what if the music scared away the rat? I remained in the quietness.

Maybe I should switch off the lights. Rats love darkness. But then how would I see the rat on my live feed? I would have to try my luck today. I sat back in my couch. I watched.

I looked at the time. It was ten-thirty. I had been watching for only twenty minutes so far. It felt like an hour.

What if the rat came out at four in the morning? Well, then I guess I should have a full flask of coffee. Maybe even get a book to read. Have one eye on the book and another on the screen of my laptop. I surely wouldn’t miss a movement near the rat traps.

The couch was very comfortable. I felt too lazy to get up and make myself more coffee and pick a book. So I stayed and watched the rat traps.

I woke up to the glare of sunlight coming through the window. My laptop’s screen had blacked out. I didn’t bother to put it on but rushed to the kitchen to check the rat traps. The two rat traps under the sink were devoid of bread.

And I was sure the other rat traps also didn’t have bread on them. I gathered my surveillance gadgets. I’d need my iPhone for Facebook, Twitter and WatsApp. And my colleagues would need their webcams.

Sunday, July 7, 2013


Breathe in
Breathe out
Close your eyes
Can you see me?
Be at peace
Don’t struggle
Patience, my child
Hold on

Be still
Be calm
Spread your wings
Can you fly
I’ll be wind
In your wings
Now fly
Soar high

If you think you cannot
I’ll be there to see you try