The morning I found my sister’s diary I hadn’t set out to find it. I stumbled onto it, nestled underneath a pile of pants in her drawer. I needed a pant-liner and I knew she kept them in one of her drawers hence the discovery. I held it up; a midnight blue leather bound diary. I turned it from side to side, wondering at the secrets contained therein. I shouldn’t read it. I knew I shouldn’t, but like the forbidden fruit, it called to me. I stood there, diary in hand as I contemplated my next action. I decided to ignore the whispery voice asking me to go through it, dropping it back into the drawer, I slammed it shut and I left the room. I hadn’t found the pant-liner I came for.
My sister was out of town and wouldn’t be back for three days, there was this thrill of knowing that I could read the diary without getting caught. It was tempting, so much so that I spent time talking myself out of it. My mind was the steel, the diary was the magnet and I was inexplicably drawn to it. By evening, I had lost my resolve, giving into man’s primal urge to snoop.
The first entry was in 1996, my sister was 7 then. I had to plough through pages of a whinny 7 year old complaining about everything and nothing, then a page where she wrote ‘I love Chika’ in over ten lines. Chika was our neighbor and they used to be as thick as thieves till we moved out of that house. Once when we were playing house, I caught them kissing and for a few days, I teased them about it. As I zipped through endless complaints, I almost didn’t notice the years go by till I got to the entry about her first period. Reading her describe the fear she felt when she saw the blood stains on her panties made me laugh.
‘I know what a period is. But that afternoon when I went to wee and I saw the blood on my pant, I was scared. I ran out of the toilet screaming. My teacher said most girls see their periods from the age of 13. I was just 11. Mummy had to calm me down, she said some girls got theirs earlier.’
I ploughed on. She didn’t make any entry in her diary from 2002 and then in 2004, she resumed.
‘17th March, 2004. I had a dream. I was in bed with Rita Dominic. We were in a deep conversation; it seemed to be important because there was a lot of gesticulation involved. Then suddenly, the air went still as though the energy had been sucked out of it. She fixed me with her beautiful eyes, I felt like I could drown in her stare, then she leaned ever so slightly and kissed me. It felt so real that when I woke up, I was sill flushed from the excitement.’
18th March, 2004. The girls came over to the house for a while. I asked them which of the celebrities they were crushing on and they almost fell over themselves as they all scampered over who had the biggest crush on Ramsey Nouah or Jim Iyke or Emeka Ike and Pat Attah. I couldn’t tell them that I had a crush as big as the Kilimanjaro on Rita Dominic and Genevieve Nnaji so I lied that I had a crush on Pat Attah. Natalie met my eyes when I said it, a tiny smile played hide and seek on the corners of her beautiful lips, it was as though she knew I was lying. The talk switched to boys in our school. At 15, we were young, curious but inhibited. We couldn’t wait to get into the University because we wanted to try new things, gobble up all the world has to offer all at once. Amongst the 6 of us, everyone had already had their first kiss except me; I mean not counting the ones I had when I was a kid playing house…
20th March, 2004. Jide asked me out on a date. He’s the finest boy in my class, tall, dark, handsome with incredibly brown eyes. I ought to be excited but my friends seem more excited than I am.
24th March, 2004. The date was okay. Jide was courteous and attentive and every bit a gentleman. I had lots of fun. And when my friends asked me how it was, I said it was really okay, I couldn’t tell them that I hadn’t felt the zing they had all said they felt when they went on dates with their boyfriends. When they left, Natalie stayed behind. She wanted to know how the date really went, if I felt anything for Jide. She listened as I told her how I enjoyed his company but didn’t feel anything more. She looked at me, her eyes seemed like probes digging deep into my soul. I blurted out that I felt more excited talking with her than I felt while with him. She nodded in understanding. ‘Maybe you just don’t like Jide,’ she pointed out. I shook my head. It wasn’t Jide, I said. I just haven’t felt attracted to any males. I told her about my dream, the one where Rita Dominic kissed me. I was scared I didn’t like girls. She said to me, ‘Nneka, you should find yourself. You mustn’t be in a hurry to decide if you liked girls or boys. You should try dating boys, plenty of them before you decide.’ She leaned forward, her eyes sparkling like jewels, ‘I like to see myself as sexually fluid. I like both girls and boys. Well, I’ve kissed both and I enjoyed both equally.’
Before she left, she said to me, ‘Don’t think about it too much. Don’t force it, just ease into it slowly, you might find that you like Jide. You hear?’
25th March, 2004. I barely slept all night. For the first time in my life, I thought about the implications of my conversation with Natalie. What if I didn’t like boys? How would I tell my family?
5th April, 2004. Everyone is complaining that I’ve become short-tempered and intolerable. Mum says I’m losing weight. I know I am. My clothes are beginning to hang off my body. I feel bad for being such great pain in the ass. I just can’t get rid of the fear clinging relentlessly to me, what if I am gay?
I drop the diary on the bed and press my fingers to my eyes. I feel a sting, as though I had tiny grains of sand in my eyes – that’s the usual signal when I’m close to tears. I remember that period when my sister was being insufferable. She began to keep to herself, was rude to everyone and wouldn’t hesitate to snap your head off if she felt you were encroaching. During one of her moods, I yelled at her to stop being a bitch and watched with relish when she ran into her room, crying. I didn’t know what she was going through. Nobody knew. She was just a child, scared and confused about her sexuality, with no one to talk to.
The diary feels heavier when I pick it up again, as though the pain and confusion were embedded in its pages. I read through her struggles to find herself, countless researches on sexuality, nights spent pouring over books and articles. I read about dates that irked her to no end, about caresses that brought on the feeling of revulsion, about her journey into adulthood and her attempts to pray away the gay.
Jan 1st, 2014. God give me the strength and the grace to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to know the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference. Help me to understand and be understood. Amen.
Jan 3rd, 2014. It is one thing accepting who you are and it’s another thing being who you are. I know I am attracted to girls but can I be who I am? Can I tell my family that I am gay?
I re-read the last two entries and drop the diary on the bed. The entry is just a few days old and I can almost taste her confusion. My vision seems blurry as tears jostle over themselves. I haven’t been a good sister. Over the past ten years, I’ve been oblivious to all she’s been going through. I didn’t mind her sexuality. Her sexual preference didn’t define her; she was my sister first, before any other thing. I get up from the bed and tuck the diary back under the pile of panties, deciding there and then that I was going to tell her that I went through her diary. I was going to tell her I loved her despite her sexuality.