Because Aliu had a slew of appointments with Mr. Ajayi following that first day, I got to see Khalil almost every week, after school hours. Even though he exhausted me with questions, I’d become very fond of the boy… And his Dad? I still wasn’t bold enough to look him in the eye or speak up whenever he tried to engage me in a conversation.
He always had this oddest expression he usually gave me. It took me a while to realise why it looked strange. His lower lip, which was plush and delectable, was always being bitten on the outer edge in an expression that looked like he was indecisive about something. One time, I felt like reaching up and pulling the lip from his abusive teeth.
So that day, while Khalil was playing some game on my phone in a corner, and I was working on my laptop, he suddenly looked up at me and blurted out, “Excuse me, Mr. Moe. I need your help.”
He got to his feet and started toward me.
I turned my head and sat up. “Okay, what is it? Tell me.”
“I want to get on the internet and I need your assistance.”
For every question he asked and every response he gave, I was always in awe of how well-spoken he was relative to his grade.
“I’m not supposed to go on the internet alone,” he continued. “My dad has always sounded it in my ears.” He pulled at his right ear as if to emphasize how obedient he must be to his father’s sternness on the issue.
“Well, what site are you wanting to go to?” Still sitting down, I guided him toward my table, expecting that he needed to know the exports of Nigeria or what language was spoken in Hawaii. Truthfully, my brain wasn’t full of elementary school information.
“A dating site.” He said that matter-of-factly.
Ehen?! Egbami ke! Abi this boy is sniffing suntin ni?! Hian.
“A dating site?” Raising an eyebrow, I reiterated just to be sure I’d heard him right.
He didn’t seem to be teasing. In fact, he looked earnest. I couldn’t help it, I laughed hard. At the show of my humour, his sunny disposition faded. He looked upset, and instead of me to hakuna my tatas, I laughed the more. When I saw his eyes glistening, I was startled out of my mirth.
“Khalil, I’m sorry,” I said, feeling chagrined as I pulled him gently to me and set him on my lap. “It’s just… What? Why? Why do you need to get on a dating website?”
With his head still down, he muttered, “It’s for my daddy.”
“Yes. My daddy. I think he’s lonely because he has only me. I heard my teacher telling Mr. Uba that he met two people on Manjuum and Badoo because he’s really lonely.”
Manjuum? Or manjam?! And his teacher was telling a Mr. Uba about finding love on a gay dating site?
Before I digest that nugget of information, Khalil continued. “And I asked my teacher what manjuum was and he said that it’s for people to meet other people. Mostly for boys, but you have to say what you like to do and other things about yourself.”
What is this teacher, a Google search engine? I thought, slightly aghast. Then again, “Khalil sweety, did your teacher say manjam or manjuum?” I needed to be certain.
“I think it’s manjuum,” he replied, looking pedantic.
Hmm. But I knew it was Manjam. And somewhere in me, I wasn’t comfortable with this.
“Okay, but I don’t think your dad would want to be on this manjuum,” I said.
“Why? You don’t think he’s lonely?”
“I think your dad is old enough to find his own dates. You really don’t have to interfere.”
“But I have to! He goes to bed alone and cuddles his pillow.”
Hmm… So Aliu is a cuddler. I felt my insides leap at the news.
Khalil jumped down from my lap and ran for his bag. “I wrote something down during break time.” He brought back a crumpled sheet of loose-leaf paper which he smoothed out against the clear top of my work-desk. “These are all the things I want my dad’s date to know about him.”
I read through the list as best I could. Despite Khalil’s well-spoken English, his spelling was a hilarious mess.
“My dad is a nice person. Vewi funnel and I like him a lot. I’m 6 years old and my name is Khalil. He is old but I don’t know his age. He doesn’t look like he is old so don’t wory. My dad likes watching fotball. He is a Shelsi fan. And he has a big office, our house is big and our car too. I don’t have a mom. She’s an angel now.”
This note gave me little insight into Aliu. The minutest details, really. And I found it endearing.
“My dad’s new friend has to be nice!” Khalil’s emphatic statement cut into my thoughts. “He must be able to persuade my dad to get me a phone and he must like me. Look” – he reached forward to flip the paper over – “I don’t know if his new friend needs to know what he looks like, but I drew a picture of him.”
I blinked at the picture. The drawing was that of a really tall man with circles for his muscled arms. And an…eight pack? Each chiseled dent of his abdomen looked like an oval stacked on the next one.
I looked at Khalil with brimming amusement. He stared back at me with a proud look on his face. “I like drawing a lot. Do you think my picture is good?”
“Yes, it is.” A smile played on my lips. “Your dad looks like he works out.”
“Yes. He exercises a lot. So, will you help me get on the internet? Please?”
The drawing of Aliu smiled up at me; his mouth was in a “U”. That was like the cutest thing ever!
I looked at the personal ad the boy had crafted – a personal ad designed to get his dad a girlfriend. What about a boyfriend? Would it be too bad to daydream about being his boyfriend?
Sigh. What’s wrong with me?
“Let me talk to you dad about it. Okay?”
“Nooo! Please don’t!” Khalil cried frantically. “I…I don’t want him to know. It’s a surprise.”
“But Khalil, your dad has to know that I want to help you get on the internet. We don’t want him thinking I’m some weirdo.”
He bit it lip, just like his father while he pondered. “Okay. But please don’t tell him about the site.”
Khalil and I were both startled around to see Aliu standing in the room a few feet away from us. He had a gift bag in his hand.
How had he gotten in without us hearing him? I thought. How come the door didn’t squeak?
“Daddy!” Off Khalil went into his dad’s arms.
“Hey chap!” Aliu lifted him up and nestled him in his right arm. Then he turned to me. “Moe, what’s up?”
“Uhm, nothing much.” The suit he had been wearing the previous weeks I had seen him did not prepare me for the change in attire when he came to drop off Khalil earlier. And now, I was still floored by his sheer attractiveness in the simple black shirt and dark fitting jeans he was clad in. I hadn’t seen anyone look so good in a pair of those in a long time. Snug around his waist and down his thighs, not leaving much to the imagination. And the bulge in front, very encouraging. If that was what he sported when he was limp, I couldn’t imagine what he’d look like –
Stop! Focus! There’s a kid in the room, for god’s sake!
“So what’s this about a site?” he asked again.
“Uhm.. It’s a, er –”
Khalil interrupted me and rushed headlong into his response, “I talked to Mr. Moe about helping me get on the internet because you said don’t ever get on the internet by myself. And Mr. Moe is always on his laptop and I knew he could help me and I asked him if he’d help me get unto a website.”
Aliu winced as his son talked his ear off. Setting him down, he asked, “What website?”
The little boy was silent; his eyes wide, his bottom lip trembling. He looked to me with that expression.
“Uhm…Aliu, it’s n-nothing. It’s nothing to be worried about.” Okay, I was flustered too.
Aliu raised a brow, pursed his lips.
Those delicious lips. Kai!
“Well, I’d still like to know about this website.” He turned to his son. “Kha-lil?” he said levelly. I guessed it was his Daddy voice, one he’d used with his son over time. It was firm, but kind.
“A dating site.”
“A dating site?” Aliu widened his eyes in an expression that must be a reflection of my reaction when I first heard the words from Khalil. “Why do you want to get on a dating site?”
“It’s for you actually,” I interjected. “He thinks you’re lonely and would love to see you with someone.”
Aliu’s brows lifted, and then he looked from me to Khalil and back to me. A small chuckle escaped his lips.
“Dad, don’t be upset. It’s just that you’re lonely,” Khalil pleaded.
His father looked surprised. “Lonely? Why would you think that?”
“Well, you’re always working, and you don’t go out and you always sleep in your PJ and cuddle your pillow and you –”
“Erm, I think that’s enough young man.” He gave a self conscious laugh, his eyes skidding in my direction and back to his son. “Thank you for being sensitive but I’m not lonely, okay?”
“But you are!” Khalil was adamant.
“I’m not, Khal!”
Oh, a father-son showdown. This should be interesting.
“You are!” Khalil maintained with a pout.
“Yes, you are!” He stomped his foot, his voice rising.
“Okay, okay, I am. Calm down. Christ!” Aliu ran his palm over his face.
I sat with my arms crossed over my chest and laughed. It was a cute sight. Really.
“Funny abi?” Aliu sighed. “You can never win with this one.”
“No, you can’t. Pick your battles wisely,” I said.
“I’m yet to learn that, it seems. You’d think six years would have knocked some sense into me. So what’s up with you?”
“Not much. Just work.”
Aliu tilted his head. “How about a drink to take your mind off work a little? My treat.”
I smiled and gestured to my laptop. “Sorry, work is a demanding boss. Besides, I don’t drink.”
“Why do I feel like you’re avoiding me? I’m not the big bad wolf here, my son is. And you give him all the attention. Not fair, you know.”
I laughed at that. “He’s a cute wolf alright. But you on the other hand are the big bad wolf and I don’t want to be the venison you eat up.”
“But, don’t you think it’ll be good for one to have a taste of venison every now and then? I hear venison is delicious” – his gaze had turned smouldering – “especially if prepared right. You know, marinated, oiled and laid on some dark dimpled alter to be devoured.”
OMG! That was sexual! My insides couldn’t help but agree.
“Right. I still won’t be your free sample,” I rejoined, feeling my face grow hot from the searing focus of his gaze.
“Oh! C’mon, it’s just a drink.”
“Yes, it’s just a drink,” Khalil chipped in.
We both turned to the little boy with startled looks. We’d forgotten he was in the room. We burst out laughing.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Aliu. I’ve got work.”
Why am I even refusing to get swept off by this man? I wondered then.
Because he’s dangerous, a voice inside me answered.
“Just Aliu,” he said. “Call me Aliu.”
“Mister Aliu,” I maintained with a smile, deliberately enunciating the title.
“Alright.” He smiled back. “We’ll see about that.”
A threat? Hmm. I chuckled but didn’t say anything.
“I got you something.” He walked towards me and placed the gift bag on my table.
He’d bought me a gift? Crap! I’d never been good at accepting gifts and compliments, and for some reason getting a gift from Khalil’s dad terrified me.
He touched my upper arm and I jumped, knocking the bag to its side and rattling the table.
“I didn’t mean to startle you,” he said with a short laugh, rearing back. “Relax, please.”
I looked at him crouched next to me, and he looked back, concern etching his face and drawing the lines between his eyes. Gosh, he smelled good. There was a slight sweaty tang to the smell that made him more enticing. I felt my eyes flutter shut and open again with the heady sensation of my attraction to him and found myself swaying toward him. And then saw him reaching out a hand. I gave a start as a panicked thought that he was about to pull me into a kiss zipped through my mind. I jerked my head backward, causing his hand to remain suspended in the air.
“Are you alright?” he inquired.
Just then I realized, from the position of his hand, with the back of his hand aimed at my head, that he’d been about to feel my forehead. No doubt, I looked like I was running high on something.
Oga, if I look flushed, it’s not from fever.
“I’m fine. I must be tired or something,” I managed to get that out.
Get a grip, Moe!
Aliu lowered his hand and laid it on a much less appropriate part of me. My thigh. I pretended not to notice, strived hard to maintain a stoic facade, like a good looking man touching my thigh was just another office experience, even though goose bumps were lifting the hairs on my skin in reaction to that touch.
“You don’t look okay though,” he said.
“I am. Really.”
His hand left my thigh as he straightened. I saw myself doing it, but couldn’t stop; my fingers travelled over where his hand had been, claiming some of the heat from my thigh to my fingers.
“By the way,” he said as he went back to take his son’s hand, “for the record, I’d have thought you a weirdo if you went online with Khalil without my consent.”
With that, he winked and they were gone, leaving me seated there, wishing many things, top of which that I wasn’t such a coward.
Written by Vhar