I was at the reception area when Ivan called to let me know he was waiting by my car. I picked up my bag and waved goodnight at the receptionist who was on the phone.
When I got to my car, Ivan arched a brow. “Tell me you adhered to my order.”
I stopped short, a few feet from the car and gave him a pointed look. “Shebi you’ll let me unlock the doors fess na. Abi what’s all this harassment ghan sef?”
“Me? Harassment? Oya, do and unlock door.”
I chuckled and unlocked the doors. As soon as we put our bags on the backseat and fastened our seatbelts, he fired, “So, did you do as you were told?”
I burst out laughing, dropping forward to rest my head on the steering wheel as my body shook. “You have no chill at all,” I said shaking my head.
“I look like winter to you? Biko, out with gist!”
I sat up, still shaking with laughter and started the car.
“Bobo, talk na!”
The car lurched a bit as his impatience set me off again. “Calm down biko and let me concentrate.”
I finally eased out of the parking lot and meandered over to the main road while listening to Sade Adu. The volume was turned down.
“I’m taking him out,” I said finally.
Ivan turned in his seat and looked at me like I had suddenly sprouted horns behind my neck. “What do you mean you’re taking him out? I thought he asked you out? Abi I didn’t hear well ni?”
Because I love Ivan fiercely, and we have no secrets, it was quite the norm for me to spill all the details about my decision to take Aliu out, while he gasped and clutched his starched shirt in mock horror.
Ivan’s high pitched squeal made every dog within a two-mile radius stand at alert and howl in pain. We’d just stopped at a red light, and he leaned forward to give me a hug, while laughing. We got curious looks from other road users.
“Christ, Iv! Get off me, you fish!” I growled. “You’re going to pierce my eardrums one of these days.”
“Will you shurrup?! You forget, Morris Vhar Ajibade, I have been the recipient of some of your terrible wailing.” After a beat, he added, “My baby is finally taking action.”
“First off, do not call me by my full name, Ivan Eros Chukwunonso! And secondly, what delusion are you operating under that you’ll call me your baby? What am I, a minion?!”
“Oh ye of limited memory! But that’s not the issue here. Tell me, what was his reaction?”
We had hit the rush hour traffic. Ivan rolled down the glass window to buy some bottled water for both of us. It gave me time to think about the expression Aliu had on when I asked him out. It was of confusion, excitement and longing. His eyes had twinkled and his mouth tugged at the corners as a smile surfaced.
I didn’t know I was smiling till Ivan waved a plastic bottle in my face. “Good and priceless, eh?”
“What is?” I said, putting the car into gear and moved slowly as the traffic gradually eased up.
“The look on Aliu’s face? You have this Cheshire cat smile on.”
“Yeah. Yeah, it was.” The smile slowly ebbed away as different thoughts flooded my mind.
Ivan, as though intuiting to my thoughts, placed a hand on my shoulder and squeezed. “You’ll be fine, okay?”
I swallowed and glanced at him. “I will be. Thank you.”
“Good. Now let’s discuss what you’re going to wear for your date. The art of seduction is what it is all about. You must make this man want you, crave you, desire you. Oh my God, this is so exciting! You have a boyfriend!”
“I think I should call him and cancel.”
“For fuck’s sake – why?” Ivan’s voice croaked from my phone’s speaker. The device was in its cradle as I idled down the road on my way to pick up Aliu.
“I dunno –”
“You don’t know? You want to call and cancel your first date in how many years because you don’t know?” He stressed the last three words, his tone incredulous. “Are you okay at all?”
I groaned as I covered my face with one hand. “Ivan…”
“Don’t Ivan me! Where are you?”
“I’m almost at his house.”
“Good, now shut up and enjoy yourself.”
I heard someone chuckle in the background.
“Oh! Bello is laughing at me, abi? Issorait. My God will judge you both.”
“Gerrout! Gaan have fun and enjoy tonight. My man is waiting for me. Muah!” And he disconnected the call.
I recognized Aliu’s car as I pulled up behind the Honda around 4.57pm. His car was parked on the kerb in front of his house, so I knew he was at home, but I had trouble with the idea of walking to the door.
I’m not ready for this. I want to be ready for this, but I’m not. I need more time. I’ll just text him I got called into work. Or I could say I’m sick. At least that wouldn’t be a lie.
I was about three breaths away from puking. I was near hyperventilation.
I had reached for the ignition to restart the engine when my phone buzzed. It was a message.
It read: Will you stay there all day? Scared I’ll eat you up before our date starts?
He’d apparently seen me parked outside from inside the house.
Stay or go? I wondered as I stared at the digital print. My traitorous thumbs make the decision for me when I found myself typing back: Lol. You wish. I’m parking now.
Okay, so I guess I’m doing this, I thought with a deeply drawn breath as I alighted.
Aliu opened the door as I was about to knock.
He smiled at me. “Hi.”
“Hello, Mr. Aliu,” I said with a tentative smile in response.
“Really? We’re still sticking with Mr. Aliu?” He smirked and shook his head. “You look good, by the way.”
Ivan had gone home with me yesterday to pick out my outfit, from the shirt, down to my socks and shoes. He’d made sure I sent him a selfie as I stepped out of the house this evening, so he could be certain I wasn’t wearing something else.
“You look good too,” I replied shyly.
I was acutely aware of his gaze on me. His eyes scanned me briefly, up and down. I could see it in his eyes – the hunger. Not for food though.
“You ready?” I asked, hands in my pant pockets because I’m nervous.
“I believe so.” He stepped out and locked the door.
By the time we got to my car, he was walking in step with me. Once we were on our way, I suddenly realized something was wrong. Aliu was unusually quiet in the passenger seat. Through my peripheral vision, I could see him watching me. I didn’t say anything. We drove all the way to the cinema in silence, got out of the car after I pulled up in the parking lot and fell in step again.
“What have you been up to?” he asked as he casually draped his arm around my shoulders and steered us towards the box office where I paid for two movie tickets.
“W-Well…” I started nervously.
Suck it up, loser! Just then, Ivan’s words slapped me so clearly, I was almost startled around to be sure he hadn’t said them to me from behind.
I cleared my throat and continued, “Being an intern is really going well. I love it. This media outfit has done some really amazing work and I’m stoked that they’re giving me a chance to work on some of it.”
“That’s cool. Really cool,” Aliu murmured beside me.
I could feel the eyes of some moviegoers on us. On Me! I caught the eye of a guy who’d been staring longingly at Aliu a moment before our stares clashed.
Oh yass! He’s mine! I said with my eyes. Now run along, sister.
Bitch! he sneered back at me with his eyes and turned away.
Aliu and I purchased some popcorn, soda and jellies. A cinema-connoisseur friend of mine had advised me to pick the seats in the middle to settle in for the movie, and it was to the middle aisle I led Aliu. The movie was soon underway, and Aliu sought out my hand in the dark and held it. His hands were big and slightly calloused. It felt good. It gave me ideas, images of Aliu over me, beside me, me just near him.
“You okay?” he whispered.
“Yeah, I am,” I whispered back, slightly breathless with our proximity.
His teeth flashed at me, white in the gloom, his smile indicating that he suspected the effect he was having on me.
When the movie finished, we strolled around the mall for a while. After that, we meandered over to the car park, and I was soon driving out while we listened to Smokey Robinson and the Miracles on my iPod. This time, there was no silence. We talked about work for a while. I passed a BMW and cut in front of it. I put on my directional to get off at his exit.
I pulled off the highway and started onto the back roads into Lekki, continuing onwards till I got to Aliu’s house and parked at my earlier spot behind his car. I shut off the engine, and the emergency brake made a clicking noise as I pulled it up.
Nighttime had long since fallen, and in his neighbourhood, lights from the different house winked from windows and punctured the night. We sat in the darkness of my car for a moment.
He turned to me. His knee pressed against the gear stick. “I had a good time tonight.”
“I did too.” I managed a small smile, not looking at him.
He chuckled and leaned forward. He tipped my head up so we could look into each other’s eyes. I licked my lips and his eyes caught the movement.
And then, slowly, he kissed me. It felt good, so good that I felt a slight tug of frustration when he broke the kiss and pulled back, retrieving his lips from mine.
“Wow,” he said. Then he cupped my face and kissed me again. “So soft,” he murmured when we broke apart again.
I chuckled, suddenly very shy again. “I know, right?”
We both chuckled at that.
He leaned forward again and kissed the tip of my nose. “You’re so friggin’ adorable.”
“You are,” he insisted. After a pause, he added, “I’m glad I met you.”
Don’t be so sure, Aliu. I thought. Aloud, I said, “Can I ask you something?”
“At this point, you could ask me anything.”
“Are you…” I hesitated and then finished, “gay?” My voice was laced with uncertainty.
He laughed out loud.
I rushed on. “Well, I’ve got to ask. We never really got that out in the open. You just attacked me in my car and kissed me silly.”
He laughed even louder. “I’m gay. Are you gay?”
“Wouldn’t you like to find out?”
“Oh, I would. I’m not even gonna lie. I want to tap that ass. I want to see what those amazing legs can do.”
I flushed at his words and felt my mouth dropping wide open. “Oya, out of my car!” I ordered.
We laughed together this time.
“I’d like to see you again,” he said when we sobered up. “Maybe cook you dinner.”
“You cook?” I asked. I couldn’t tell why I was so incredulous. I mean, he was a father. He couldn’t be bringing his son up on takeouts.
“Well, I try.” He gave a small shrug. “So, dinner? Tomorrow?”
I smiled and said, “Yes, that would be lovely.”
Written by Vhar