Previously on THOSE AWKWARD MOMENTS: So, Kevin’s totally got job security, now that he’s officially pop star, Demoniker’s songwriter. She even invites him to a club event with her. (Freaking out!). But wait till you see who’s waiting for him at home – Mummy Dearest! And from the looks of it, we don’t like her very much.
And that’s what you missed on Episode 6.
Who was my mother?
She was the woman who read my journal, thumbed through my private thoughts, and then reported my crush on Jude to my father, knowing full well that as a military man, he wouldn’t go easy on me. She was the one who subsequently joined my father to persecute me for my gayness.
She was the woman who threatened to leave my father when he suddenly became accepting of my sexual orientation, a threat so serious that it made the poor man quite miserable.
She was also the woman who concluded that my application to a college in the US was a guise I wanted to use to escape her to the go and have ‘homo’ sex, and subsequently forced a federal university on me.
She was the woman who, when I firmly refused to leave school to attend her birthday bash a few years ago after she and dad relocated to London, lamented to members of our family that I’d become disrespectful of her ever since I was brainwashed by the gays. The result of this was a stream of discourteous calls from relatives, the side-eyes my cousins kept giving me, and the months of church deliverances I was dragged to.
That was my mother – the woman I’d gradually grown to resent very much with the passing years.
After crying hard into her bosom, we proceeded into the apartment. She had with her a small hold-all that I hadn’t noticed when I first happened on her outside. There was no power, and due to my previously ecstatic mood, it had slipped my mind to buy fuel on my way home from work. I lit three candles in the sitting room and watched in perverse delight as she tried to find a place to sit. There was only one couch in the living room, and it was beside me. She seemed to be responding to my need to maintain some distance between us, and so didn’t want to come over to my side to sit. And I didn’t plan on helping out by fetching a chair from the dining room. She appeared to sense my uncooperative mood, and resignedly dropped her weight on a bean bag. I had to stifle sardonic laughter as I watched her struggle momentarily not to tip over from the fluffy furniture.
I sat too, on the other side of the room away from her. After what felt like a lifetime of awkward silence, I asked, “How did you find out?”
Her face lit up as though she’d been waiting for me to speak first. Adjusting her body on the bag, she answered, “Samuel called me…”
I didn’t care much for what my mother had to say next; I was too occupied with my sudden infuriation at Samuel. Who gave him the right to call my mother for me? Who did he think he was?
“So you flew in all the way from London because of that?” I cut into her monologue, not bothered by what she’d being saying that I interrupted.
“Well, what exactly did he tell you?”
She gave me a look.
“What?” I said.
“Were you even listening to me just now?”
“No,” I returned.
She nodded, the gesture of one who had come to expect rudeness from me. Then she said, “He told me that you and Jude were robbed and attacked by thugs. And that you are okay, but that Jude has been hospitalized.”
“That’s all he said?”
She eyed me, her expression telling me she knew I was looking for the slightest excuse to get angry at her again. In spite of this, she began carefully, “I know that’s not the whole story. Did you know the thugs?”
My breathing suddenly became heavy as furious indignation swelled inside me. With my voice slowly rising, I replied, “Oh, so on top of everything, you think your son’s a lowlife too?”
“Emeka – Kevin, you know that’s not what I meant. I just wanted to know –”
“If the robbers are some of my homosexual friends, right?”
She didn’t reply. She didn’t need to. The way she flinched at my words was all the confirmation I needed.
“You are unbelievable!” I hissed.
“If you must know – not that you deserve any knowledge of this – but I hadn’t seen those guys before in my life. Even if I had, I wouldn’t know. They were wearing masks. Their voices sure didn’t sound familiar to me.”
Her shoulders dropped in a silent sigh of relief. Another moment passed, during which we remained seated, not saying a word. Then she broke the silence this time with a question. “How is Jude?”
“I wouldn’t know.” At her uncomprehending look, I said, “Janet blames me for his near death and memory loss, and has banned me from visiting him and from their lives. As if his loss of all memory of me is not enough punishment.”
“Oh my!” she exclaimed as she clasped a hand over her mouth.
“Don’t act like this isn’t good news to you.” I scowled at her
“Chukwuemeka, please stop!” she barked, her eyes flashing, manifesting the mother I knew and hated.
I permitted myself a sardonic smile. She saw it and immediately understood that I’d being deliberately goading her.
She took a deep breath and said quietly, “I said I’m sorry for everything, for the past, and I mean it. But you have to understand –”
I groaned. “Here we go again. Understand what, mother? Understand what?”
“Understand that I was only trying to protect you from incidents like these. From shame. This country is not exactly accepting of –”
“Oh, save it, mother! You only cared about one person not being shamed. And that person is seated right now in front of me.”
She didn’t respond to my accusation. Instead, she got up from the bean bag, quite uncomfortably so, and proceeded to sit beside me on the couch. Then she stared at me and said, “Yes, I know that’s what it looked like, Kevin. But trust me, I was only looking out for you. I only had your best interests at heart, and no one else’s!”
Then she scooted towards me and placed her hand on my shoulder, while I looked the other way. The mere contact affected me in ways beyond explanation; the last person I was that intimately close with on this couch was Jude. I was very close to breaking down again. So I escaped by taking her arm off me and getting to my feet.
“It’s getting late,” I said stonily. “Are you leaving?”
“Do you want me to leave?” she threw back at me.
I hesitated. For all my resentment of her, I hadn’t gotten to that point where I didn’t care about her welfare. It wasn’t as though I didn’t trust her to walk out of my house and cater appropriately to herself. She had money. There were hotels. We had relatives in the city. Mother would be no madam in distress if I turned her out.
But I couldn’t. So, I said, “Stay. But you’ll have to sleep on the couch. There’s just one bedroom, and I’ll be sleeping in it.”
I began turning away to head out of the living room, when she said, “Good night, Kevin.”
“Good night, mother.”
I woke up to the inviting aroma of toast and perfectly spiced egg – the smell of my childhood mornings. First I perceived it, and then my stomach did, and it gave an angry growl, a heavy reminder that I’d had nothing to eat since a hasty lunch yesterday during the recording session with Demoniker.
I got out of bed and into the living room, in time to see Mother setting dishes on the dining table. She noticed me at once and smiled cheerily. “Oh good, you’re up. I hope you don’t mind. I saw you had some stuff in the fridge, and so I decided to whip up a little something for you before you leave for work.”
“I don’t work on Tuesdays,” I replied curtly. I walked over to the dining table and sat on one of the chairs.
The food smelled and looked nice; the toast was just the perfect shade of brown and the egg sauce looked marinated with carrots, cabbage and something else with a name. I had no idea I had this much in my fridge. I was just about to dig in, when she said, “Let’s pray.”
I sighed as she placed her hands on the table, palms open. I reluctantly put mine in hers, and as she started out on a supplicatory monologue, I instantly got transported to those moments years ago, when we would have family dinners and while praying, Mother would be sure to call me out to God, along with the demons residing inside me.
“…in Jesus’ name we pray,” she concluded.
I retracted my hands from hers before she said ‘Amen’. A pained look fleeted past her face, but she wisely decided not to express it verbally.
We began to eat.
“So, Samuel told me you’re working at a record label now,” she began conversationally as our cutlery clinked on our plates.
“Did he now? You two are best friends now?”
She smiled. “No. He’s just concerned about you. A good friend, that one. And since you won’t talk to me, I talk to him.” A beat passed. I refused to take the bait. She continued, “So, which label?”
“Highland,” I replied around a mouthful of eggs and toast.
“Seriously?!” she exclaimed. “That’s a big deal o.”
“Yes, I know.”
“You know, I went to school with the wife of the owner. Theresa is her name. If you wanted a job there, you could have come to me.”
Only with a hint of politeness, I said, “I’m not a kid anymore. I don’t always need your or dad’s help whenever I want something. Besides, I did manage to get the job all on my own.”
“Noted,” she said equanimously. “So, who have you started composing for?”
“Nobody yet,” I lied. “I’m just a junior songwriter.”
“Ahan! What about Demoniker?”
I began to flirt with the idea of taking my cutlery out to Samuel’s house. They’d come in handy when I found him and carved out his tongue from his buccal cavity – anything to shut him up for the rest of his life.
“Wow, you and Samuel must really have nice, long talks. Is there anything else you didn’t cover, seeing as you’re more updated on my life than I am?”
Incredibly, she chuckled at my sarcasm. “He tells me the basics. I was hoping you’d fill me in.”
I didn’t want to tell her anything. But she’d made us this delicious breakfast. The least I could do by way of thanking her was open up a bit to her. “What do you want to know?”
“Well, is she as bitchy as the tabloids paint her out to be?”
“Demoniker of course.”
I didn’t know which was more depressing – that my fifty-something-year-old mother just used the word ‘bitchy’ or that she read the tabloids.
“She’s actually pretty nice,” I replied.
“That’s not what the blogs are saying o. They say she overworks her crew and wore a revealing gown to one US state dinner to seduce a senator.”
“Really, mother?” I said with a chuckle. “And you believe stuff like that?”
“Well, some of these posts have pictures. And that dress she wore to that state dinner really looked scandalous.” She made a face. “Besides, my friends don’t like her.”
“And by ‘friends’, you mean Iya Mayowa and her disciples?” I arched a brow.
She ducked her head with mock embarrassment and replied, “Yes.”
“The same Iya Mayowa that told me and Jude that Kanye West burns fat girls in his backyard…”
Mother burst out into laughter, and I joined her. The memory of the horse-faced, sharp-mouthed Iya Mayowa was quite hilarious. It never ceased to amaze me how a woman like her, learned and living most of her life in London, could be so primitive and unenlightened in her thinking.
“Maybe, she was speaking from experience, maybe Kanye West – who is he sef?”
“An American rapper.”
“Ehn, maybe he has taken her daughter Aisha to his backyard before,” mother mocked.
“That’s the same thing Jude said!” I exclaimed, before laughing some more. I loved that I could still remember Jude and our times together. In light of what happened to him, my memories of us seemed even more precious to me. But all the memories felt meaningless now he couldn’t share them with me. Now that he’d forgotten all about me. In a snap, I was back to feeling depressed about his whole predicament and what part I played in causing it.
Mother noticed my mood change, intuited why that had happened and dropped her cutlery with a loud clatter that seemed to say, ‘That’s enough’. Startled by the noise, I looked up to meet her stern gaze.
“He’ll be fine,” she said firmly.
“I know. But…”
“The reassurance is not enough, right?” she cut in.
I nodded in agreement. She always did have a gift of knowing what I was thinking.
She began standing from the table. “You know what?”
“You’re going to the hospital to see your friend.”
“And I’m taking you.”
I looked closely at her, like a psychologist carefully examining his patient. “Mother, did you not hear a word I said yesterday?”
“No,” she retorted with a smile.
An involuntary smile leaped to my mouth when I realized at once that she’d returned the favour I paid her yesterday night. I chuckled. “Right back at me, huh? Nice. Anyway, I told you, Janet said she doesn’t want to see me near Central Hospital, let alone Jude.”
“Did she file a restraining order?”
“Is that even in the Nigerian constitution?”
She laughed. “See? So then, we can go and see Jude.”
“And what if Janet has already told the hospital not to let us into his room?”
“Don’t worry, I will deal with Janet. You seem to forget we’re both women. If she doesn’t understand the plea for compassion from a fellow woman, then I’ll have another language to use for her.”
That sounded ominous. A shadow of the woman who brought me up passed before me. But I didn’t fight her on this. I was simply too glad with the prospect of seeing Jude again. I finished up breakfast in a hurry and took off to get ready. We took turns in the bathroom, and I let her use my bedroom to change.
Several minutes later, while I was seated in the front passenger seat of the taxi taking us to the hospital, I wondered about my mother, who once referred to my sexuality as a retardation, and how she was now in charge of a visit to the hospital for me to see the man I was in love with. Then I wondered what Janet would do when she saw me. I wondered what my mother would do to get us past her.
And then, I thought about Jude. I wondered if he would remember me this time. I wondered if I could handle him asking again, “Who are you?”
I plugged in my headphones in an attempt to block out the silent voices in my head as the car moved. Through the rearview mirror, I caught a glimpse of Mother’s face. She looked at my reflection and smiled reassuringly at me. I managed to give one back. The exchange seemed to underscore how unprepared we both were for what trouble was waiting for us at Central Hospital.
Written by Reverend Hot