SIX – 12

SIX – 12

Ivan helped Aliu into the backseat of his car. Aliu only had a small gash on his right temple, a small physical price to pay for the throbbing headache going on in his head. The accident had left him with an ache that seemed to throb throughout his body. His doctor had however said he would be fine in no time, even though the headache was denying that prognosis.

Mysteriously, the driver who drove into him had not sustained any injuries, not even a scratch or bruise. He had been discharged minutes after they got to the hospital. Aliu saw him briefly when he came over to him to apologise. He had assured him that he was fine. Both men had swapped the numbers of their mechanics, as the other driver had promised to cover the expenses of his ruined car.

“I can’t believe you’re not taking this perpetrator to court. He bashed you for Pete’s sake!” Ivan groused when he got in behind the wheel.

“Come on, Iv. That won’t solve anything. He has offered to pay for my car. That should suffice.”

“That should suffice, nyeh, nyeh, nyeh,” Ivan mocked. “This could have been worse. What if your car had somersaulted, eh? What if a truck had hit you just as your car was somersaulting? Do you think we’ll be saying what we’re saying now?”

In spite of his throbbing head, Aliu couldn’t help the chuckle that escaped his mouth. “Someone needs to put a stop to your Netflix subscription. You’re watching way too much Hollywood action films.”

“Whatever!” Ivan refused to be mollified by his humour. “I only wish I could’ve seen him just so I can give him a piece of my mind.”

Ivan was scared. And Aliu knew why. He was missing two people in his life: Moe and Khalil. It was quite understandable, his fear and anger, that is.

“Ivan, you won’t lose me just yet, OK?” he said softly, reaching his hand forward to place it reassuringly on his friend’s shoulder. “I’m here and alive, and I’m not going anywhere.”

Ivan took in a deep shuddering breath and then patted the hand on his shoulder. “Alright. Let’s get you home.”

Aliu reclined on his seat as Ivan turned the ignition. He engaged the gear and began driving out of the parking lot.

Just as he was pulling up behind a car whose driver was getting attended to by the hospital security just before the gate, Aliu saw the man who hit my car. He was leaning on the hospital’s fence. There was enough street lights on the hospital grounds for Aliu to make out the sad countenance the man was wearing. He was staring off in the distance, as though seeking a specific memory that ultimately wasn’t bringing him any joy.

“Slow down, Iv,” Aliu said just as the security waved the driver in front through and Ivan began to move forward.

“What is it?” Ivan braked at once and turned around to peer at him. “Are you alright? Are you in pain? Is something the –”

“Calm down. I’m fine. Just park over here,” Aliu said, gesturing at the kerb on the side of the road.

When he did that, Ivan turned in his seat to ask, “What is it?”

“That’s the guy right there.” Aliu pointed to where the stranger was standing.

“The one that hit you?”

Aliu nodded.

“Good! I have a lot to tell him. Stay right here!” And he began opening the door.

“Ivan –”

The car door slammed the rest of his protestation to silence. Ivan was already stomping across the road to where the stranger was standing.

Aliu got out of the car with as much haste as he could manage. He ignored his headache and started after Ivan. Knowing his friend, he was bound to say really hurtful things to the man and Aliu certainly didn’t want that. As he approached, he could already hear Ivan’s voice raised with sharp annoyance.

“What kind of person are you to go about running into people’s cars and endangering lives with such reckless –”

Aliu got to them and cut in at once. “Hello, mister. Remember me?”

The man who’d been staring at Ivan with an expression that mixed befuddlement and apprehension turned to Aliu and comprehension dawned. There was also consternation there as he began, “Oh God, are you OK? Again, I’m so very sorry –”

“You should be,” Ivan cut in waspishly.

“I’m fine really,” Aliu said, stifling the urge to shoot Ivan a “back off” look. “And this is my friend. Please don’t take whatever he’s already said to you too much to heart. He’s just understandably upset about the accident.”

What happened next caught both Aliu and Ivan by surprise. The man suddenly threw himself on Aliu, grabbing him into an embrace and began to sob against his shoulder. Over his head, Aliu exchanged a bewildered look with Ivan.

What is wrong with him? Ivan mouthed.

You! You made a grown man cry, Aliu mouthed back.

***

They found a restaurant some streets away from the hospital, where the three of them got settled. A waiter approached them and they ordered bottles of water. They waited in silence till their orders arrived. A few more minutes of silence passed, before the stranger finally spoke up.

“I’m really sorry. I don’t know what came over me.” His voice was husky with emotion as he nursed his bottled water.

Ivan was looking at him with some amount of distrust, his arms crossed over his chest and his eyes narrowed into slits.

“It’s fine,” Aliu said. He didn’t know why he was being so magnanimous, but there was something about this man, a resonance of his apparent grief that seemed to bounce off of his own pain. His eyes took in the fact that the man was light-skinned, with low-cut hair and a beard that was even fuller than his. He looked to be in his forties, with an athleticism to his build that had mellowed into early paunchiness. There was something familiar about the man, even though Aliu was positive he’d never met him. “You caught me by surprise earlier, but it is fine. I’m Aliu by the way. And my friend here is Ivan.”

“And what’s your own name?” Ivan cut in discourteously.

The man looked at him. His eyes were really sad. “Jovi,” he said simply.

“And how much alcohol did you have tonight?”

Jovi held his gaze steadily. “None. I was distracted when I ran into your friend.”

“You say ‘distracted’ like that somehow mitigates the blame,” Ivan snapped, his frown deepening. “Even distracted, you shouldn’t have been driving. You could have really hurt someone.”

“I know and I’m sorry.”

“Are you?” Ivan tackled. “Are you really?”

“I am. I shouldn’t have been driving, but I just couldn’t stay at home anymore. I didn’t feel safe.”

Ivan turned to look at Aliu, who had just then looked at him. First the crying, now this? They both seemed to be saying to each other.

“I know it doesn’t make any sense but…” Jovi suddenly looked up and stared at Aliu in the eye before sighing. “Look, I’m sorry about the accident.” He paused and then got to his feet. Whatever he’d been about to disclose had been officially put back into whatever mysterious deep dark place that was torturing the man. “I’ll have my mechanic call you. Thank you…for…you know…” Then he left the table and walked out of the room.

It wasn’t until Aliu watched the door close behind him that he remembered why the man had looked so familiar to him earlier. He hastened to his feet.

“Where are you going?” Ivan asked.

“I think I know that guy.”

“Yes, you do. He’s the psycho who bashed into your car,” Ivan said with exaggerated sarcasm.

“No, Iv. I think I know him from before.”

Ivan lifted a brow. “How?”

Aliu quickly explained who he thought Jovi was and Ivan’s rancour turned to shock, especially since he was the one who had initially told Aliu about the stranger months ago.

“Hey! Hold on!” Aliu called after Jovi as he and Ivan hurried out of the restaurant.

Jovi stopped and turned. His expression became wary when he saw the two friends moving speedily toward him. “Look, man, I don’t want any trouble –” he started.

“You had a boyfriend whose name was Moyo, right?” Aliu had looked around before saying the question in a low tone. A mix of emotions replaced the wariness on Jovi’s face – astonishment, apprehension and guardedness. Even before he opened his mouth to speak, Aliu knew he would deny it. This was Nigeria after all.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Jovi spluttered, attempting to sound bristled by Aliu’s question. “How dare you –”

“I’m not looking to cause you any trouble,” Aliu said quietly. “If it’ll make you feel assured and safe, I’m a gay man too. Ivan here is too.”

Jovi turned to his friend and Ivan nodded.

He shook his head at them, clearly not believing them. “Well, that’s good for you. But I am not –”

“Your boyfriend and his best friend were murdered,” Ivan cut in. “Your boyfriend was kidnapped from your house after you were knocked unconscious.”

The calm delivery of Ivan’s words caused Jovi to recoil.

Or perhaps, it was the memory Ivan’s words were recalling that had caused the man’s discomfort, Aliu thought.

Jovi looked at them, one after the other. He looked panicked. He ran his tongue over his lips and looked wildly around. Finally he turned to Ivan and rasped, “How did you know that?”

The fear in his voice was apparent.

Aliu responded, “Let’s just say we have a lot in common than tonight’s accident.” He brought out his phone and navigated to a bookmarked site on my browser. When he got to the page he was looking for, he turned the phone screen to Jovi.

Jovi took the phone from him and kept his gaze on the screen, viewing the content of what was a blog post. Then he let out a shuddering breath as he said, “This cannot be happening…”

Written by Vhar

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2 Comments

  1. Mandy
    July 02, 09:27 Reply

    I knew it! I just knew it! I knew Aliu would bring his Moe-abusing bad luck into this series. Biko whatever danger is brewing should maintain its lane with Aliu et al, and leave my Peka and Kareem alone oooo!

    • Vhar.
      July 02, 10:02 Reply

      LOL! LOL!
      LOL! LOL!
      LOL! LOL!
      LOL! LOL!
      LOL! LOL!

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