Those Awkward Moments (Episode 27)

Those Awkward Moments (Episode 27)

A wise man once said: “Sometimes we make decisions, and sometimes decisions make us.”

I once reflected on those words, and realized that in the recent past, it would be kind of hard to tell whether I was the one making the decisions governing my life, or the decisions just randomly chose me and I never really had a say.

***

“Your friend is going to be fine,” the doctor said after he came to a stop before us.

A collective sigh of relief welcomed his news.

“The bullets only scraped his shoulder,” he went on, “and the trauma of the hits caused him to go into shock. Other than that, he should be fine.”

“So he’s not going to die?” Sly blurted.

The question earned him looks of incredulity from the rest of us, and Tayo slapped him on the back of his head.

“Hey!” he yelped.

“Oh good, I just wanted to make sure you had returned to us,” Tayo said snidely.

“No, he’s not going to die,” the doctor said with a wry smile. “Like I said before, he’s going to be fine.”

“Well that is good news,” Sly said with some exuberance.

His cheer was reflected on the countenances of the others. Everyone else appeared buoyed by their good spirits, everyone but me. As I stood there, a darkness, that had steadily been eclipsing my mind ever since Samuel pushed me aside to take the bullets intended for me, inched closer and closer to the complete overblanket of my psyche.

Everything in me blamed me for this. And the guilt ate at the fabric of my mind like a cancer.

“So, has anyone been able to contact his family?” the doctor asked.

“We’re his family,” I rasped.

The doctor turned his face to me. There was something there that told me he knew I was the one who his patient had played the hero for. There was a shadow of compassion in his eyes, and I wanted to scream at him: Don’t look at me like that! I don’t deserve it!

“Yes, I know,” he said to me. “However, I meant his biological family.”

“We’ve contacted his elder brother,” Tayo said. “He’s in Ondo State, and said he’ll be taking the earliest flight to Lagos this morning.”

At Tayo’s words, it suddenly hit me that it was indeed a new day – the first of January and first day of the New Year. And instead of sleeping off a crossover night of revelry, here I was being gut-wrenched with anxiety over my friend’s sacrifice.

“So doctor, when do we get to see him?” I asked.

Before he could respond, there was a stir at the entrance of the reception. We looked in that direction to see my mother bustling in, while snappishly telling off a concerned nurse, who’d been admonishing her to not hurry so much and to take it easy.

Mother had ditched her evening wear, and was not clad in a more informal wear of loose-fitting blouse over slacks. Concern was etched on her face when she spotted us Tayo, Sly, and I standing before the white-coated doctor.

“What’s going on? What’s the update?” she began without any preambles as she walked up to us. Her eyes were reddened and she had a crumpled piece of tissue paper in her hand. It was clear she’d been crying. Considering how close she and Samuel were, her apparent grief didn’t surprise me.

“The doctor said he’ll be fine,” Sly quickly responded.

“Oh thank God,” she exhaled.

“So when can we see him?” she reiterated the question I’d posed earlier.

“Well he’s not awake yet,” the doctor said. “So definitely not now. But once he’s up, we’ll be sure to let you.” We nodded, as he continued, “But you cannot all see him at once. It can only be one person at a time.”

There were more nods of understanding.

“Very well then,” the doctor said, before walking away from us.

“Me and Sylvester are going to get something to eat,” Tayo said.

“Yea, I’m famished,” Sly said. “I wasn’t able to eat anything at that party.”

“Too busy ogling the stars, were you?” Tayo sniped. The two of them laughed, before Tayo turned to Mother and I. “Do you want anything?”

“Nothing for me,” I answered in a toneless voice.

“A bottle of water for the both of us,” Mother said, gesturing between me and her.

As Tayo and Sly started out of the reception, Mother made to go to the section of seats with the intention of sitting down. I turned and began walking away from her.

“Chukwuemeka!” she called after me.

I didn’t answer. I just kept on walking, the frantic urge to seek somewhere to be alone welling up inside me.

***

KEVIN, WATCH OUT!

And a hand knocked me sideways as two gunshots rent the air of the New Year’s exuberance. I spun and fell to the ground, feeling my friend tumble down along with me.

The flashback ripped through my mind as I made my way to the men’s room, darting this way and that, and feeding my fountaining guilt. I tried to shake the memory off, but like many other unfortunate memories I’d made in the past, this proved too hard to escape from.

I got to the men’s room and was about to push the door open, when I heard the rumble of a voice coming from within. I was just about to groan my frustration at the invasion of my intended privacy, when I recognized the voice to be Jude’s.

I stopped and listened. He appeared to be talking on the phone. It was a heated conversation, judging by his tense responses and the brittle voice coming through the phone’s speaker.

“Why would you say something like that!” he snapped at the person on the other end of the line, his voice sharp with ire.

“Why won’t I?” came the teeny rejoinder. It sounded like a female’s voice; I couldn’t be sure. “You know it’s true!”

“I don’t know any such thing!” Jude bit back.

“Listen to me please, that Kevin guy is bad luck! And I honestly have no idea why you were even hanging out with him!”

Janet! The answer to the question of who Jude was talking to dropped into my mind like a pebble on a varnished floor. Her words stung.

Perhaps because I knew it had an ounce of truth in it.

“I hung out with him because we’re friends,” Jude snapped. “It was a party and our other friends were going. That’s what friends do, they hang out at functions!”

“Oh please! Jude, you don’t even remember him!”

“And so?”

There was a sudden pause, a discerning moment of silence cutting into the conversation, one that was pregnant with uncertainties and reluctant realizations.

“Jude, you don’t remember him, right?” she said. Her voice was lowered, and even from here, I could hear the pain of a sister who suspected her brother’s prevarication.

“Do you?”

Jude didn’t answer. He remained quiet.

“Jude, answer me!” Her voice was now raised. “You don’t remember anything from five years ago just like you said at the hospital, right?”

Suddenly, I didn’t want to hear what Jude’s response would be. The fact that I also had a full bladder made me push the door open and step in. Jude stood facing the bank of mirrors lining the walls against which the sinks were positioned. He saw my reflection walking into the room and whirled around.

“Janet, I have to go,” he said quickly.

“Jude! Tamuno! Don’t you dare hang up the –”

He cut her off when he depressed the disconnect button. And then he stood there, watching me as I walked over to one of the urinary bowls.

“You didn’t just come, did you?” he said.

“No. I didn’t,” I replied as I unzipped my fly and started my business.

“You’d been standing outside the door?”

“I had.”

“How much did you hear?”

“Enough to know that I’m taboo to anyone who gets close to me,” I said flatly.

I heard him sigh. Moments later, he said in a low tone, “I’m sorry.”

“What are you apologizing for?” I said as I zipped back up and turned to face him. “You sister is right. It’s true. I am bad luck. You should probably heed her advice and get yourself far, far away from me.”

“Stop saying that!”

“I should stop saying what – the truth?” I gave a short sardonic laugh. I moved to the sink and turned one of the taps on. I could feel Jude’s stare on my every motion.

“That is not the truth, Kevin,” he demurred.

“You should ask Sam and Ngozi, before you get that assertive, if you’re just going to ignore your own experience with me.”

“Everything that has happened, all the bad, has nothing to do with you,” he said earnestly. “These were things that came about because of our decisions. I chose to mouth off at those robbers. Ngozi chose to be a part of your plan to take down that evil woman. And Samuel chose to jump in front of those bullets. None of any of these is your fault.”

“Then why does it feel like it is?” I finally turned off the tap, but remained standing with my back to him as I wiped my hands with my handkerchief.

“That is because you’re a good person, Kevin.” Jude stepped toward me, and placed a hand on my shoulder. I stiffened. “And that’s one of the many reasons I love you.”

My heart constricted. I felt hot and cold all over as I turned to face him. my eyes ran over his handsome face, taking in the jagged scar on his temple, where his gunshot wound had healed.

“Jude –”

“Look Kevin, while I was in the coma, I could still hear things.” He looked me deeply in the eyes. “And I heard everything you said that day I woke up. So even if it seems to me as though you’re fighting it, I know you still love me.”

“Yes, but Jude –”

“Why are you fighting it? What’s causing your hesitation to be with me again?”

I don’t know – maybe because I started seeing someone else, someone decent and nice and just recently was really good at making me feel all the things I feel for you? I thought.

I didn’t say my thoughts out to me. Instead I flailed for something, anything else to explain my hesitation.

“Jude, you lied to me,” I said, taking his hand off my shoulder. “That’s what.”

“I already told you why I did that.”

“Yeah, yeah, Janet. And in the three weeks that you were out of the hospital, you couldn’t tell me then?”

“I wanted to, but Samuel said –”

“Wait!” I said sharply, quick on the uptake of his words. “Samuel? Samuel knew?”

He remained silent.

“Oh my goodness! Who else? Tayo? Sly?”

“No! I haven’t told them yet.”

“But you told Samuel, your beloved best friend,” I spat, now getting genuinely mad at him.

“Kevin –”

“You told Samuel, but you couldn’t tell me! And I’m the one you love?”

“I am sorry, Kevin.” He made to take my arms in his hands.

But I drew back from him.

“I am sorry. How many times do I have to say that for you to forgive me for being so stupid?”

“I don’t know, Jude. I don’t know. A lot has changed since that day.”

“And it can still change back.” He moved closer. When I didn’t step back from him, he took my right hand and cupped it with both of his hands. “We can still work our way through whatever has changed.”

“That remains to be seen,” I said woodenly.

Then I pulled my hand away from his, and walked out of the men’s room.

***

I was approaching the reception when I realized my mother was not seated alone. Someone sat next to her, and they were carrying on a conversation. As I drew closer, my heartbeat quickly accelerated as I stared aghast at Kuddus’ profile.

Oh my God! Kill me now! I thought exasperatedly.

For a moment, I entertained the thought of turning and leaving the reception, putting off whatever calamity Kuddus being here was going to be. Then Mother glanced up and saw me. A small smile lifted her lips, and Kuddus turned to see what had caught her attention.

Our eyes met and our gazes held. Something palpable emanated from his, reaching out toward me, but not gaining entrance. My expression was shuttered as I walked up to them.

He stood, but Mother remained seated.

“Hi,” he said. He looked pleased to see me.

“What are you doing here?” I said woodenly.

“Your mother told me everything –” he began.

“That doesn’t answer my question,” I cut in.

“Ah-ah, Kevin!” Mother interjected reproachfully. “Is that anyway to speak to your friend?”

“He’s not my friend,” I said to her.

“I’m not?” Kuddus said. He looked taken aback, like he couldn’t figure out if I’d said that because he meant more to me or because he meant nothing to me.

Mother looked at me, and then at Kuddus. Sensing that there was something that should be said without her presence, she gathered herself up from her seat and said, “I’ll just relocate and leave you two to talk.”

As she walked away, I sat down. Kuddus sat beside me.

“Happy New Year,” he said.

“What do you want?” I said, unwilling to let go of my offensiveness.

He took in a deep breath, and I watched his jaw grind together as he mined himself for control. When he spoke, his voice was calm. “Isaac told me what happened at Highland. Are you okay?”

“What do you think?”

“I don’t know, Kevin!” he suddenly burst out. His eruption startled the occupants of the room, earning us a few wary looks. I felt the heat of embarrassment suffuse my face, but Kuddus didn’t seem to care. He however lowered his voice, but not the fury in it as he hissed, “It’s like I don’t know you anymore! You’re not picking my calls, or answering my texts –”

“As you can see, I haven’t had much time for texts or calls,” I shot back at him.

“Why are you behaving like this?” he said with a shake of his head. “What have I done to you, eh?”

And in that instant, I watched angry tears film his eyes. He blinked at them, and his expression remained taut with anger.

“Why, Kevin? Tell me, what have I done to deserve this horrible treatment from you?”

I didn’t have an answer to his questions.

“Is it because my cousin walked in on us? He told me you two have a beef from the past. Surely you can blame me for being relatives with someone you apparently don’t like. And I’ve tried to apologize – I have apologized through my texts for putting you in that uncomfortable situation. Why are you still giving me the cold shoulder?”

“I’m not.”

“You are,” he insisted. There was such a raw expression on his face, one that left his hurt unmasked. Anyone paying any attention to us would be able to see it. I felt my guilt surmounted by my self-deprecation. He continued, “And knowing how much I like you, you must know how painful what you’re doing is to me.”

“Kuddus, I’m sorry you feel that way –” I said, placing a hand on his, keenly aware that anyone could be observing us.

“I don’t want your sorry!” he seethed, knocking off my hand. He got to his feet but kept the angry stab of his stare on me. “I just want to know if you and I still stand a chance or if I’m just wasting my time here.”

“I don’t… I can’t think well right now,” I said in a low tone as I stood as well. “My friend is in critical condition for chrissakes.”

“and I appreciate the sacrifice he made for you, but you have a decision to make,” Kuddus returned resolutely. “I’ll be waiting for you at the eatery outside the hospital, since you clearly don’t want me here. I’ll wait till 7am. If you don’t show up by that time, I’ll know it’s over between us, and I’ll walk out from there and never disturb you again.”

“Kuddus –”

“Seven am, Kevin. Between now and 7am is all the time you have to make the decision about us.” And he turned and walked out of the reception.

I glanced at my wristwatch. The time was 3am. And in an alternate universe, I screamed my frustration and pain out loud to the world.

Written by Reverend Hot

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16 Comments

  1. Jamie
    January 12, 06:53 Reply

    This kinda shitty indecisiveness has plagued me before…

  2. ambivalentone
    January 12, 07:32 Reply

    So, it wasn’t Sly, it wasn’t Kuddus n it wasn’t Jude again. Oshey! Web spinner of life.

    • Pink Panther
      January 12, 07:45 Reply

      Wait, so supporting cast member, Sly has been a leading man in your imagination of the story?

      • ambivalentone
        January 12, 14:05 Reply

        Wasn’t it him complaining about being side-lined by Kevin abi na who sef? *insert. confused. smiley here*

  3. Mandy
    January 12, 07:52 Reply

    So Jude is getting the hesitation and Kuddus is getting the cold shoulder.
    But Samuel is the one who dived in front of the bullet for Kevin.
    Hmmm.
    Is anyone seeing where this is going or do I have to spell it out?

    • Rev; Hot
      January 12, 08:02 Reply

      In the words of pinky; “I have no idea what you’re talking ’bout….. *sipping hot tea in my well ventilated closet*

    • Brian Collins
      January 12, 09:36 Reply

      Mandy dear, you and I are the only ones with 20vision here

  4. Dickson Clement
    January 12, 10:10 Reply

    Beautifully written! I didn’t get bored at any point, I haven’t been following this story but the writer was able to keep my attention! I have a mental image of this story and if I am asked to describe the setting of this story, I’d try. Good piece, well done RevHot!

  5. Ichie RedEyes
    January 12, 11:11 Reply

    Mandy I can’t see where it’s going biko spell it out.

  6. Kester
    January 12, 12:48 Reply

    I don’t know why the various authors on this blog just go out of their way to make every protagonist miserable. Does this echo reality, is life always this harsh and hard? I am not asking for a Disney – esque ending but mehn! It’s a tad depressing..
    Abegi Kevin should have a nice relationship for a month at least, either one (kuddus or jude) even Samuel or ngozi sef will do jaare, just let him get a life for once.

    • Pink Panther
      January 12, 16:22 Reply

      LMAO. Ok this comment pulled at my heartstrings. But the love life of the average Nigerian gay man is not smooth sailing na, Kester.

  7. Francis
    January 13, 09:23 Reply

    As if it’s not pressure enough having two pipu on ya case, a third party had to enter the matter…..assuming say na love Sammy just declare by chopping bullet for am.

  8. KingBey
    January 15, 16:06 Reply

    Whew ! Just took out two days to catch up on about 18 missed episodes of this series. This is officially the second best series after Love and Sex in the City. Kudos to you Rev Hot. ???

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