Previously On THOSE AWKWARD MOMENTS: Well, besides Jude being shot in the head and leg by thugs, and forgetting Kevin altogether… Nothing much happened.

*

I was too distraught to leave the hospital premises to locate any nearby business center, so I begged one of the nurses in the hospital to lend me her phone. When she did, I immediately called my friends, as well as Jude’s elder sister, Janet; she was his only living family member, and he lived with her and her second husband. (Remember how I predicted she wouldn’t last with that one who she was wedding the day I met Jude?) She screamed into the phone as I relayed the news to her, and broke out into a flurry of cusswords and rants, hurling them at me as though I was the one to blame for her brother’s predicament. She and I had never gotten along well in all the time I’d known Jude. I disliked her from that first day of her wedding, a feeling that intensified when she began to act resentful toward me, ever since she remarked on how ‘unmanly’ I was. Sometimes, I wondered how much she knew about my sexual orientation and about my closeness with Jude.

“As I said,” the doctor was saying several minutes later, when Janet was around, “the brain vessels are fine. It’s just an effect of the damage done to the left side of his brain. But honestly speaking, at the moment, there’s no way of knowing if the memory loss is going to be short-lived or long lasting. We’re looking at a period lapse of about five years.”

Five years?! That summed up the entire time I’d been in Jude’s life. And that was just the doctor’s educated guess. A word from his statement – the word ‘long-lasting’ – kept ringing in my ears. It couldn’t be possible, could it? That Jude would forget me…FOREVER! The thought wreaked a wave of sadness in my heart, and it was by sheer force of will that I had to hold myself together to face the next part of the ordeal.

I had to deal with the police, a news outlet, and Jude’s sister. I lied to them all about the event that led to him getting shot; I told them he had come to my house to pick up his game CD that I borrowed, when the robbers attacked, took our phones and every other thing they could get their hands on. And then, Jude had resisted when he refused to relinquish his phone, so they shot him.

My heart wept as I told this lie, because even though it wasn’t true, Amnesia-Jude may come to believe it.

“You this bastard!”

It was Janet. She had just come out from Jude’s hospital room, and her eyes were blazing at me as she advanced.

“Excuse me?” I replied, my grief not holding back the snap from my voice.

“Yes! Bastard… Fag… You think I don’t know?” she screeched, making sure the whole room heard her. “It’s your fault that this happened. Because of you, Tamuno (Jude’s native name) has lost five years worth of memory. Are you happy?! How am I sure you’re even telling the truth. For all I know, you must have done this to him when he refused join you in your abomination! I swear, if I ever see you…”

Feeling my entire body stiffen with mortification, a flush which stung my eyes with tears I refused to shed, I turned and began to walk away from the woman.

“Hey! I’m talking to you!” she shrieked, her stomping steps alerting me to the fact that she following after me. “Mannerless boy! No respect! Look at what you have done to Tamuno! Are you happy now?! If I ever catch you – look at me while I’m talking to you…”

Her hand clamped down on my shoulder, and prompted by the simmering anger I was feeling, I knocked it violently off, turning to shove her back. She staggered backward, the shock etched on her face revealing how she hadn’t expected my attack. I paused a moment to glare malevolently at her, before turning and walking on away from her.

“Continue going o, you hear me?!” she yelled from behind me. “Continue going, and don’t ever carry your faggot self back to my brother’s life! Useless boy!”

The tears stung the back of my eyes faster, and I had to blink harder to stave them off. I got outside, and spotted a familiar Honda Classic pulling up in the lot. It was Samuel’s car. A feeling of relief surged inside me. Never had I felt so lightened to see my friends – especially Samuel. The three of them rushed out of the vehicle, looking at once troubled and concerned.

They besieged me with questions, and as I tried explaining to them, I ended up stammering my words. The relief I felt appeared to have loosened the control I had over my misery, and the tears threatened ever so to spill through my lids. Samuel sensed that I was near breaking point, and told Tayo and Sly to go on inside and see Jude. When they were gone, he proceeded to get the story out of me. The actual story. I told him everything. And believe it or not, the guy found a way to make it a funny affair, asking questions like: “Why didn’t you people offer the robbers free sex?” “Kissing in cinema, big mouth at gun point…has Jude being on coke all this time?” And of course, the inevitable: “But I thought you were at your aunt’s house in Oyo State?”

I managed a smile at him, one which quickly faded when Tayo and Sly came out of the hospital building, looking almost shocked.

“Did Janet send you guys away too?” I asked, feeling my ire against Jude’s sister rise all at once.

“No o,” Tayo replied. “But erm…”

“Talk na!” hollered Samuel.

Sly was the one who answered, “It’s just that…he doesn’t remember us either.” He said that like he couldn’t believe the nerve of Jude not to remember them.

“Is that all?” I asked.

“No. He’s asking for Samuel.”

And just then, it dawned on me that Tayo, Sly and I all met Jude not more than five years ago. However, Samuel and Jude had been friends way longer; they practically grew up together. That was probably why it was only him he remembered.

Samuel told Tayo and Sly to take me back home in his car, while he stayed in the hospital with Jude. As the other two sauntered off to the Honda, I hung back to speak to Samuel. I told him to try bringing up my name to Jude to see his reaction.

“Just don’t mention anything gay, or me and him kissing, or any of that stuff, ok?” I said.

He looked at me, understanding brimming in his eyes. “Sure. I’ll do my best with him.”

***

As Tayo pulled up into my compound, flashbacks of the robbery, shooting, even the robbers’ hasty escape surged through my mind. I thought about Jude’s blood which had stained the living room’s rug, and I felt something recoil inside me. I fought back my tears again, and struggled to suppress all the emotions crashing about inside me.

Tayo and Sly stayed with me almost all day, helping me put the house together again. I should have felt lucky I had such good friends, but whenever thoughts of Jude swam up in my mind, I couldn’t help but feel like the unluckiest man in the world.

Aside from commenting on the derrieres of the different women on the music videos showing on Trace TV, and taking an inventory of the things the robbers took, Tayo and Sly also bought food and Wi-Fi to make me feel better.

It was getting on into the evening when Sly had to jet off, because his hoe-ish girlfriend had just sent him one of her nudes. “Tragedy makes me horny,” he quipped before hastening out of the house.

Casting about for what to talk about to fill the awkward silence Sly left behind, Tayo and I finally settled on talking about the low level of security in Nigeria and how my ordeal could be seen as just another learning experience. Around 6pm, Samuel was back from the hospital and in my house. Tayo then said his goodbyes.

Samuel and I sat in my balcony, gazing out at the lights that had started to wink awake in the gathering twilight.

“So how is he?” I asked, trying not to sound too worried, and failing.

“As good as someone in his situation can be, I guess,” Samuel replied. It was a moment before I realized that I hadn’t imagined the thread note of his voice. He sounded like he was choking back tears as he spoke. I didn’t look at him to confirm my thinking. He continued, “Can you believe he doesn’t even remember the last four years in Unilag?”

I didn’t know what to say about that. Four years of extensive study in psychology, the memories of our university shenanigans – all of them – GONE!

“What about Janet?”

Samuel’s face changed, as though I’d touched an area he had long being avoiding.

“You can tell me,” I added. “What did she say?”

“Kevin, she said she doesn’t want to see you near Jude again, that you’re bad luck and his life was better off when the both of you were hardly speaking.”

I hissed, and then noticed the uneasy look on Samuel’s face.

“What is it?” I queried.

He said with a touch of reluctance, “Don’t go crazy one me, but can you blame her?”

I felt an instant flare of anger. Outrage simmered inside me, and I found myself wishing I could lay my hands on that gun that harmed Jude, flip back the safety catch and blast away at Samuel. How dare he take that witch’s side over me? In spite of my towering rage, I swallowed hard and remained calm.

When he sensed that I wasn’t going to fly odd the handle, he continued, “Jude is Janet’s last living relative, and practically the only permanent person in her life right now. And yesterday, she almost lost him – of course, she’s allowed to have misplaced anger, even if it’s towards you.”

“But how is it fair that she can blame me and make me look like the bad person here? Am I not feeling bad already? Didn’t I suffer too? For chrissakes, Sam – I love him…!”

And then, just then, finally, I broke down. I sank into myself and began to cry, releasing all the tears I’d been holding in since this entire ugliness began. I almost fell off the chair I was seated on, so great was the force of my crying. But Samuel quickly pulled me upright and against his body, holding me close and speaking softly for me to stop.

But I couldn’t stop. I didn’t want to stop.

Written by Reverend Hot

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