I got out of bed early the next morning. Garuba was still asleep and I didn't wish to wake him up so early. But I needed to put my things together in readiness for the move today to the new house, which I hoped would happen this morning, allowing me the rest of the day to settle into my new surroundings. Yesterday, Garuba had arranged for the bed we had bought to be delivered to the new house sometime today in the afternoon. But we had bought some other things too, like crockery and such like, which I was now packing into a couple of cardboard boxes that we had obtained from the back of a supermarket in town, the Lebanese proprietor of which was a client of Garuba's firm. As I packed the new things for my kitchen, I recalled how surprised Garuba had been when on our first weekend together at the sugar plantation in Numan, living on loaves of bread, tinned meat, fruit and bottled water, I let on that I really enjoyed cooking and that back at home I was known for my culinary ability. It is unusual he told me, for males to get involved in the kitchen. Such work is considered "women's work", were exactly the words Garuba used. When I explained that in my family my parents had made no such distinction and that domestic work was apportioned to each member of the household irrespective of gender, he had just stared at me in bewilderment.
Coming back from the shower I found Garuba sitting up in bed. He looked tired and I felt guilty for being the reason why. I mean we had been quite busy yesterday and all of our activity since the weekend began was because of me and my new house. I walked up to the bed and sat down next to him, running my hand through his chest hair. Garuba smiled a greeting and I moved myself closer to him, our faces only a few inches apart, smiling too. Garuba put his arm around my waist and pulled me to him. I was overwhelmed by the force of his strength and I must have swooned, because I surrendered immediately. Later, after a second shower and while getting dressed Garuba commented that I had been irresistible earlier, being freshly showered and all. My reply was that I thought he looked tired, but he had proved me wrong and that he really wasn't that tired after all.
We both knew that there were things to be done this morning. As usual we had breakfast and then loaded the various items into the boot of Garuba's car, including my bags that had been in his room since my first arrival in Bauchi nearly two weeks before. Garuba went inside the main house and he must have passed it on that I was finally leaving, because the two young boys who had come to see me when I'd first arrived all those days ago, came out with Garuba to bid me farewell. I never did meet any other members of his family, although on one of those nights when we were just lying in bed and quietly talking, Garuba had revealed to me that his father had several wives and that his own mother lived in another city, Katsina, and that she was separated from Garuba's father. Garuba himself was his father's first son and therefore held an important position in the family hierarchy.
On our arrival at the new house, I observed that curtains had been put up in the living room and the front bedroom, the windows of which faced the front. I noticed this because there had been no curtains on the windows the day before. I opened the padlocked gate with the keys I'd been given and Garuba drove the car into the compound. Unlocking and entering through the front door, I was careful to knock, so as to alert anyone inside of my arrival. Garuba stayed behind outside, opening the boot of the car and started to unload the things. As I entered the house I heard nothing at first, then as I went down the corridor heading for my own room, passing the door of the front bedroom which I was informed yesterday was Ukpong's room, I heard some rustling sounds. And the sounds were coming from the room, so I slowed. Then I heard heavy breathing, more than one person, as of two very excited people. I knew immediately what I'd heard, so I just carried on to my room tiptoeing now, careful not to disturb what was taking place behind that closed door of the front bedroom. After opening the door of my room, I tiptoed back to the front of the house and whispered to Garuba what I'd heard. Garuba seemed indifferent to what I'd said to him and although from then on he spoke in low tones, he said we had to continue with what we came here to do. So he hauled my heavy bag into the house while I trailed behind him carrying one of the boxes containing my kitchenware.
The living room was bare, containing not a stick of furniture. But in the kitchen was a small table and two chairs, aside from the gas cooker and the refrigerator supplied by the landlord. I saw that Ukpong had arranged her things on the top two shelves of the kitchen cupboard, obviously leaving the lower shelves for me. So while Garuba continued with shifting things from the car into my room, I thought he might want something to drink afterwards. I set about making us both a pot of tea, which we had bought when we went shopping together the day before. And it was at this table in the kitchen that Garuba and I sat sipping our tea, still talking in low tones when Abu, Ukpong's boyfriend who we had met the previous day at the estate agent's office walked into the kitchen. He only had a towel wrapped around his waist and was surprised to see us. He expressed shock in his loud, ebullient manner, saying that he hadn't realised that we had arrived at the house. Garuba tactfully suggested that we thought they might be resting, so we had tried to be as quiet as possible. I was still explaining that we were waiting for my bed to be delivered when Ukpong walked into the kitchen. She too was surprised. She was wearing a dressing gown and said she'd heard voices coming from the kitchen and wondered who it was.
Abu made coffee for Ukpong and himself, and all four of us remained in the kitchen chatting, Ukpong standing next to Abu who had by then put his arm around her waist. In reply to my question about what she did for a living, Ukpong said that she worked as a research assistant at the Bauchi office of a federal government agency. She used to be at the Jos office but had only just been transferred to Bauchi. Abu worked in the Registrar's office at the University of Jos. He made it quite clear that he intended to spend every single weekend with Ukpong in Bauchi. I saw this as my chance to mention that I intended for Garuba to have free rein and unhampered access to the house. In Nigeria, it is not common for same-sex relationships to be visible and out in the open. Therefore, most people don't know what a same-sex couple looks like and people are unlikely to recognise one even when its staring them in the face. If Ukpong had thought anything of what I'd just said about Garuba having free access to the house, she didn't show it. Instead the conversation switched to a housewarming party that Abu said Ukpong and himself were thinking about. To my surprise, Garuba liked the idea of a party and Ukpong agitatedly suggested that I could even invite other youth corpers that I knew. The only other youth corper that I had met so far was Femi, but I quite fancied the idea of inviting him to a party at my house. And so it was agreed that the next Saturday, Ukpong and I jointly would have this party.
I was still trying to work out why Garuba seemed so excited about the party when the doorbell rang. It was the delivery vehicle, my bed had arrived at last. Two delivery men under Garuba's direction carried the various parts of the bed into my room and Garuba insisted that the men assemble the bed before they left. While the bed was being assembled, Garuba and I put up the curtains we'd bought for the room's single window. It wasn't a large room, and the bed which was somewhat smaller than the one in Garuba's room, was a double bed nonetheless. It took up much of the space and it was lucky that the rooms in this house had built-in wardrobes. Ukpong and Abu had disappeared into Ukpong's room again, and after all that lifting and arranging of the last couple of hours, I was glad for the bed where I could lay down and relax. Garuba had been in the toilet when I climbed into the bed, and he found me lying in it when he returned to the room. He quietly shut and locked the door, pulled the curtains shut and joined me in the bed, taking off his shoes, his caftan and his cap. Lying down we embraced each other tightly, pressing our bodies together and kissed deeply. While still holding each other I pressed my face into his neck and the thought on my mind was that this must be what heaven feels like...