The movie, Salt, was showing at the cinemas. Aliu, Ivan and I took Khalil along to go see it. I loved the movie, and Aliu and Ivan were neither wowed nor underwhelmed by it. Khalil was fussy throughout the two-hour viewing, making sure the three of us adults didn’t munch our popcorn in peace. In the end, he had to himself four buckets of popcorn. He couldn’t be bothered by the movie.
When it was over, we decided to take a stroll around the mall and do a little window shopping, or actual shopping, should we come upon something we wanted. Soon, we disintegrated, with Ivan and Khalil taking off to buy some pastries. Aliu and I kept walking, and I talked all the way, which was nothing new.
“Crap,” Aliu said suddenly and stopped walking.
I stopped talking and turned to him, concern springing to my face.”Kilode? What is it?” When he didn’t answer for an eternity of three seconds, I tapped him and prodded, “O de soro naa.”
“It’s my friend,” he said in a low voice, his eyes flickering away from me and back.
“Ehn, what now happen?” I asked.
“He’s with his wife. A bloody homophobe, cheated on his wife with her sister. I’ll explain everything later.” He supplied all this without his lips moving.
“So where are they? What –”
“Don’t turn. They’re walking towards us – Shit!”
“Well, look who it is!” someone hollered behind me.
I turned to behold a good-looking, bulky man draw up to us. His face was fleshy and his hair retreating, and by his side was a full-figured woman with pert features and a sheaf of braids towering down her back.
“For a second there, I wasn’t sure if it was you.” The man had a smirk on as they stopped before us. He swept a gaze over Aliu. “How are you? You look well.”
“I am well, Jide. How are you, Dupe?” Aliu canted his head at the woman.
Dupe smiled. “I’m fine, thanks. How’s Khalil?”
“Oh! He’s around here somewhere with a friend of ours. This is my friend, Moe” – he gestured at me by way of introduction – “and Moe, this is Jide and his wife, Dupe.”
I had a smile on my face as I nodded my acknowledgement at them. “Nice to me meet you.”
“I’m sure,” Jide returned while giving me the once-over. “Your friend, huh Aliu? Isn’t he a bit too young to qualify as your friend?” He put a sneering stress on the last two words.
I stared at him, taken aback.
Aliu on the other hand apparently wasn’t. With his bland smile still intact, he replied, “He is. I think he’s about the same age as Dupe when you impregnated her few years ago.”
Gbagam! My lips began to twitch with nascent amusement as I watched a tic jump into Jide’s temple.
His sneer started to bloom as he retorted, “I see he’s the new one.”
The new one?
Then he turned and said directly to me, “Shouldn’t you be reading your books?”
Ehn?! I blinked, for the second time taken aback. Had this nigga just dissed me to my face? “I beg your pardon?” I said, widening my eyes at his impertinence.
“You didn’t understand my question? Ah, Aliu, I thought you knew how to pick them. This one seems to be –”
“Jide, behave yourself,” his wife cut in with a laugh. She turned to me as she added, “I’m sorry, he’s not always like this.”
But she wasn’t sorry. In fact, as she addressed me, she did a quick insolent sweep of my frame with her mascaraed eyes.
“Dupe, please,” Jide brushed his wife’s intercession aside. In just the short moment of our encountering him, he seemed to be getting quickly hostile. “There’s no need to make excuses for the benefit of these two. Come on, Aliu,” he jeered, “if you’re going to eat a frog, at least eat the one with eggs. I mean look at him. He looks like he’s just finished with his mother’s breast milk.”
My mother? Outrage blossomed in my chest. My eyes snapping with annoyance, I said in a tone that was remarkably free of ire, “Perhaps, your own mother’s breast milk was what you were looking for when you strayed from your wife’s vagina to her sister’s.”
Jide’s eyes bugged with shock.
Dupe drew in a hissing breath.
Aliu jerked his head around to stare at me, open-mouthed.
I returned their shocked looks with a sweet smile.
“How dare you –” Jide began sputtering.
“Tell me, bro,” Aliu interrupted him, turning a sudden steely stare to him, “was there a reason you came over to us, other than to gift us with your unsolicited observation?”
Aliu’s demeanour seemed to check the other man’s aggression. He inhaled, his jaw moving as he ground his teeth together. When he spoke, the bluster was gone. But he was clearly still antagonistic. “I just finished from the gym. Dupe was around to do some shopping. We were just heading back home when I spotted you two. I’d hoped what I suspected wasn’t true –”
“And what suspicion is that?” Aliu cut him off again.
Jide observed him with disdain. “That you two are doing what you do. I mean, it’s okay if you keep it indoors. But to be walking around, together, like you own the world, that’s just… Have you no consideration for the innocent people around here, in this mall?”
“What are we, threatening them with a communicable disease?” The words left my mouth before I could stop them. The couple turned a twin glare to me. I let my words sink in before I added, “Because that’d mean you two are now infected.”
Unbelievably, they backed a couple of steps away from us, before Jide frowned, apparently realizing the fools I’d just showed them up to be.
Aliu shook his head. “For someone who wears cologne after working out, you really haven’t gotten any smarter. Why don’t you go on home? As you can see, nobody here has time for your bullshit.”
“Fuck you, man!” Jide jabbed a finger in the direction of Aliu’s face as his voice went up a few decibels, drawing attention to us. “Just because the dead lady gave you everything, you think you’re suddenly so superior. I’m sure she merely took pity on you because your family knows you to be an abomination. You’re nothing, Aliu!” he spat. “You’re just a motherfucker who got lucky.”
Aliu instantly lost his cool. With his fists bunched and his body shaking, he took a step toward Jide. I quickly moved to his side, touched and held his arm.
“No, Aliu,” I said softly, “he’s not worth it.” I reached down to take his fist in my hand.
And as if on cue, we heard Khalil’s voice. He was calling to us.”Daddy! Uncle Moe!”
The four of us turned to see him on a headlong flight toward us, his face beaming. He got to me first and clutched his arms around my legs.
“Uncle Ivan may not know how to cook very well,” he began gushing, “but he has the best taste in pies!”
His father and I managed some chuckles at his exuberance. The other couple stood by stiffly, their tension so rife, that it tugged at Khalil’s attention.
The boy stopped talking and peered up at them.
Here are two things about Khalil: very perceptive and a good judge of character.
The bright beam left his face to be replaced with a mere tilt of his lips, an expression I recognized. It was the smile he bestowed on adults he didn’t like. “Good evening, Uncle Jide, Aunt Dupe. What are you doing here?”
“Hello Khalil, I just finished working out at the gym,” Jide said with an indulgent smile aimed at the boy.
“Yes, and we’re heading home now,” his wife added.
Khalil tilted his head to one side, sniffed as he looked Jide over. “Oh. Why are you wearing cologne then?”
Aliu and I burst out laughing. The little boy looked puzzled, but didn’t say anything more as he observed Jide grunt something undoubtedly unsavoury, before turning to stalk off, leaving Dupe to hasten after him.
“Why is he always grumpy whenever he’s around you, dad?” Khalil asked, finally turning back to us as I gave his shoulder a gentle squeeze for being the best kid ever.
“Because the sky is blue, chap,” Aliu said. Some semblance of normalcy was back in his voice.
“Is it because he and Aunt Dupe lost that their baby or because mommy laid him off before she died?”
Aliu’s expression fell and he sighed. “Probably both, I suppose.”
There was more to this Jide story apparently.
“I’m sure if your roles had been reversed, you never would have been bitter and you wouldn’t have taken it out on him,” I opined. My man is a good man, no matter the circumstance.
“He’s always mean,” Khalil offered, his tone mirroring mine.
“Aww, my two tough guys defending my honour.” Aliu leaned forward to tickle his son for a bit, before straightening to pat my shoulder. If we’d been indoors, it would have been a kiss. “Thank you, Moe,” he said softly.
I gave him a smile
And then, looking down at Khalil, I asked,”Where’s Ivan?”
“He went to buy groceries. He said he’s making dinner.”
Khalil was giggling as Aliu and I groaned.
Written by Vhar