Previously On THOSE AWKWARD MOMENTS: After a surprisingly great first day working for Demoniker Dawson, Kevin gets home to see his mum waiting for him. After the ugliness of their past, he’s not very welcoming of her. The road to forgiveness is really rough; both mother and son soon discover that. But Mother is not giving up. She sets out to make amends, first by making breakfast, and then, insisting on taking Kevin to the hospital to see Jude. The same hospital and Jude that Kevin had been banned from getting anywhere close to by Jude’s older sister, Janet.
And that’s what you missed on Episode 7.
HOUSTON, WE HAVE A PROBLEM!
This phrase was one Jude used a lot whenever something terrible or incomprehensible happened. When his phone died – Houston, we have a problem!
When his dog died – Houston, we have a problem!
When his many failed hetero-relationships died – Houston, we have a problem!
Even when both his parents died, Houston was the first to know.
I’d usually say to him, “This Houston guy must be exhausted from the calls you give him every time something happens.”
And he’d just give me this cute smile, the one I’d grown accustomed to over the years. The one I was madly in love with…
As the taxi pulled into the hospital, I couldn’t help but think back to the night Jude was shot; how I carried his unconscious self into his car and drove him straight there, how he was immediately rushed in by the nurses. And then, most especially, how terrified I felt.
The memories flooded my mind as I glanced at the hospital entrance, and spotted Tayo standing before it, almost as though he was guarding it. He was too busy obviously searching for cell network on his phone to notice our arrival. But once I stepped out of the taxi, as Mother negotiated the fare with the taxi driver, I watched him look in our direction and then do a double-take when he saw me, surprise instantly etching itself on his face.
He shoved his phone into his jeans pocket and proceeded towards me. When he got close enough, he said, “Hey, what’s up?” I could tell what he actually meant was: “What the hell are you doing here?”
I didn’t reply. Instead, I moved my head in the direction of my mother, who was now alighting from the taxi, after apparently paying our fare.
Tayo saw her and gave a quiet “Ooh”, as if to say, “Ok, I understand.” Aloud, he burst out, “Good morning, ma!” There was that familiar obsequious demeanour about him as he greeted my mother.
My friend, Tayo was many things, but one thing about him that I just could not stand was the fact that he had the habit of brown-nosing people, especially when they’re elderly. Sometimes, it showed him off as a very respectable guy. Other times, it was just exasperating.
“It’s a lie!” Mother said she approached us. “Tayo Bankole, is that you?”
“Yes, ma,” he replied, ducking his head the way a blushing teenage girl would do after spotting her crush.
I stifled the sudden urge to roll my eyes.
“You’re now a man o!” Mother exclaimed.
“Yes o,” he said, grinning widely.
This time, I did roll my eyes.
“How are your parents?”
“They are very fine, thank you,” Tayo answered, before asking, “When did you get back into Nigeria?”
“Just a couple of days ago.”
“And you guys are here to see Jude?”
“Yes,” Mother said with a beaming expression.
Tayo turned a swift perplexed look at me. I returned a bland one to him.
“Oh well, he’s in Ward B,” he informed us.
“Thank you, my dear,” Mother said. “Any improvement?”
“Well, he’s forming full sentences now, but his memory is still jacked as fu –”
He was looking at me as he spoke, and the stony ‘Don’t you dare finish that sentence’ look I gave to him caused him to choke off the bad language he’d been about to say.
But Mother had already caught on to what he’d been about to say; she gave a knowing smile, before she said, “Well, why are we standing outside when the person we came to see is inside?” She gestured ahead of us, and we started for the vast hospital doors.
She suddenly noticed Tayo wasn’t walking with us and turned back to see him standing exactly where we’d left him. “Aren’t you coming?”
“Uh, no, ma…” Tayo said with a smile that wasn’t bright enough to mask his anxiety from me. “I – erm, have to be somewhere.” His hands flailed in the direction of the main road, as though his business was out there.
“Oh, okay. Take care of yourself then.”
“You too, ma,” he answered, one foot already out the hospital gate.
I shook my head at his retreating back. Tayo had never been one for confrontations, and it was clear to me that his sudden need to be somewhere was an excuse to not be a part of whatever fallout would result from this visit. I didn’t blame him though; considering all I’d been through, the probability of things going smoothly was zero to a gazillion.
The minute we stepped into the hospital, I wished I hadn’t. Something in me suddenly didn’t feel right about coming. However, I didn’t explore that bad feeling, dismissing it as consternation for what Janet would do when she sees me.
We were moving across the reception room when mom paused and said to me, “Wait please, I need to use the Ladies.”
I sighed. Whether it was out of relief or frustration, I couldn’t tell.
After about thirty seconds of just standing there, a sudden weird sensation fell over me. My knees began to feel weak and my nervous sweating started building up. I quickly took a seat on one of the waiting couches, and began breathing deeply in a bid to calm myself. I didn’t even know why I was having a panic attack. I looked around the reception for something to focus on, to take my mind off my anxiety. My eyes fell on the TV hoisted up against the wall in one corner of the reception. On the screen, the E! news was ongoing. Giuliana Rancic and one other black guy with a dashing smile were, amidst some banter, listing the top ten international female stars of 2014. They were on Number Eight, and Demoniker’s photos and red carpet appearances were flashing across the screen. Ariana Grande had been the one the entertainment correspondents had talked about in Number Nine.
Pride swelled inside me as I watched, and I felt the urge to scream, “That’s right, bitches! I’m partying with that bitch tonight.” But these people with their long faces and preoccupied minds didn’t seem like the lot that would care about that.
Speaking about bitches…
It was then that I noticed Janet. The same moment she noticed me. She’d been on her way to the vending machine mounted in a corner of the reception and jerked to a stop when our gazes crossed and held. Her face twitched, and rage exploded all over it a second later. Even from where I was seated, I could see her eyes redden, her nostrils flare, and her chest heave with heavy breathing as she began stomping in my direction.
“What are you doing here?!” she started screaming from across the room. More than a few startled faces swung around in her direction. Those faces followed her to me as she came to a stop before me. “Did I not tell you that I don’t want to see your faggot ass near this hospital again?!”
“Look, Janet, I don’t want any trouble,” I said in a more subdued but equally angry tone. My anger was fueled by the embarrassment I felt at the attention her fit of temper was drawing. “I just want to see if Jude is okay.”
“I just want to see if Jude is okay,” she mimicked in a mocking tone. “Haven’t you done enough damage? Look! You better leave here before I expose –”
Then she gave a start, her words instantly drying up. Her eyes were widely staring at something behind me. Someone, I immediately confirmed when I followed her stare. Mother had just stepped out of the convenience and was watching Janet carefully, her hands on her hips and her lips pursed with slight reproof.
“Mrs. Achike!” Janet gasped. Her demeanour underwent a sudden transformation, and her tone was mellow and falsely bright as she added, “What are you doing here?”
“Janet dear,” Mother cooed as she approached us. She proceeded to give the other woman a small hug, one which she awkwardly gave back. “How are you, darling?” Mother’s smile was saccharine-sweet.
“Fine, ma…” Janet appeared to still be struggling to transition completely from nasty to nice. “Er… When did you get back from London?”
“A couple of days ago,” Mother replied. “I heard what happened to Jude, and just had to come see things for myself. How is he?”
“Who – Jude?”
“But of course.”
“Well, he’s okay. Just weak…”
Mother tut-tutted in commiseration. “Don’t worry, I’m sure everything will be alright soon. His friends are praying for him too.”
“Yes, ma… Thank you, ma.” The smile Janet gave aimed for gratefulness, but was too fake to reach the mark.
“Speaking of friends,” Mother continued, looking at me and then at Janet, “Kevin told me something disturbing when I landed. He said you accused him of hurting Jude and banned him from coming to see him. Of course I laughed and said it is such nonsense. I mean, the Janet I know wouldn’t do such absurd things like that, would she?”
“Why, no, of course not!” Janet burst out, widening her eyes dramatically.
Mine widened as well, but with stupefaction.
Mother continued, now looking at me, “Ehen! I told you, Kevin. I knew there was no way she would be that insensitive. Especially after all the things our families have been through together. Am I right, dear?” She arched her brows at the younger woman.
Janet nodded, ever so understanding of the fact that we should all be one big, happy family. I’d never seen her be this cowering before. It was such a pleasant sight, fodder for gossip between Jude and me.
“Now,” Mother was saying, “Kevin, why don’t you go and see your friend. Janet and I need to catch up on so many things.”
Yes, please, I replied silently, not forgetting to throw a quick victorious smile at Janet.
The look she returned to me would have had me dropping to my death on the floor, if looks could kill.
Unperturbed, I walked away. As I moved through the halls of the hospital, I kept saying ‘Ward B’ in my head, until I finally reached a white door with a small sign that read ‘W. B.’. I knew it wasn’t Warner’s Bros, so I stopped searching.
For a while I stood there, in front of the door, my hands resting on the knob. I wondered how I was going to handle seeing Jude all vulnerable again. I wondered if I was ready to not be recognized as the man he’d known for nearly half his life.
Then I opened the door and stepped in.
He was in bed, in blue overalls and with a phone in his hand. There was something so sweetly vulnerable about him just sitting up there on the hospital bed that caught at my heart and made me want to hurry over to him and kiss him.
He didn’t notice my presence until the door creaked the further I opened it. His gaze shifted from whatever he’d been doing with the phone, and fell on me.
“Hey,” I said softly.
“Yo!” he said as I came close to his bed, but not too close. He put on his cute thinking face, snapped his fingers playfully and said, “Kevin, right?”
I beamed. “That’s correct! You remember?” Hope began to blossom in my heart.
It plummeted when he said, “Nah. Samuel told me that we’re best friends and got robbed together at your house.”
I felt crushing disappointment that it wasn’t his undying love for me that made him remember my name. What? A man can dream, can’t he?
“Oops! Houston, we have a problem,” he suddenly burst out, speaking into the phone as though it was a walkie-talkie.
I gave a slight chuckle and played along. “What’s the problem, major?”
“You left the door open,” he replied with a grin.
“Oh,” I said, and then walked over to the door and shut it.
“I’ve been wanting to ask you something,” he said when I moved back to him.
“Did those thieves really shoot me because I refused to give up my phone?”
I wished I didn’t have to say what I said next. But it was the lie I was going to have to keep saying to protect the both of us. “Yes.”
“Oh wow! I’m so sorry.” There was sincerity in his words and eyes.
“No need to apologize.”
“There’s need o. I could have made them shoot you too.”
Tears threatened at his niceness. He’d been shot and undergone surgery and was struggling with his memory, and yet, here he was worrying about me.
I blinked the tears quickly back and said conversationally, “So what do you remember?”
“Well, the last thing I remember is my sister’s engagement party, and getting admission into Unilag.”
Oh my God, that far back? I thought with fresh dismay.
“So which game?” he asked.
“You told my sister that I came to your house to collect a game CD that day.”
“Oh yeah.” I was this close to forgetting my own lie. Quickly, I said the first thing that came to my mind. “Game of Thrones!”
“Hmm… What’s that?”
“Oh, it’s a TV show that got turned into a video game.”
“What’s the show about?”
“Well…” I began.
But he didn’t let me finish. “Don’t worry, I’ll just ask Google.”
As he began using the phone, I immediately recognized the device as Samuel’s Samsung.
“Samuel’s here?” I asked.
“Oh yes,” he said, his eyes still on the phone. “He went to get something to eat with –”
He didn’t get to complete the sentence before the door swung open to reveal Samuel holding a very-occupied KFC nylon in both hands.
He gave a start the moment he saw me, and his face contorted into that indecipherable expression one gets when he sees a ghost.
“Well, there he is,” Jude exclaimed.
“Hey, bro, what are you doing here?” Samuel asked as he began placing his purchases on the table close to the bed.
I was a bit offended by the manner of his question. It almost seemed as though he didn’t want me there.
“Isn’t it obvious?” I fired, feeling a frown steal across my face.
Jude was still preoccupied with the phone as Samuel came over close to me. He said in a low tone to me, “Well, I think you should leave before Janet sees you here.”
“Don’t worry about her. She’s with my mom.”
“Your mom’s here?” He gaped, clearly not seeing that one coming. “Well, I still think you should leave.” He was still whispering.
So I whispered back. “Look, Sam, I don’t know what your issue is all of a sudden, but I’m not going anywhere.”
“Kevin, please don’t fight me on this one.”
“Don’t you have KFC munchies to get started on?” I said coolly.
The words were barely out of my mouth before the door opened again. Samuel heard it and closed his eyes slowly. I looked up at the young woman stepping in with just one KFC bag in her hand. She was heavily made-up and the dress she wore was a snug fit. I hadn’t seen her in years, but I instantly recognized her.
“Jude baby, look what I got you,” she cooed as she sashayed over to the bed.
“Oh that looks good,” Jude said as she began to lift out the things from the nylon.
“It tastes good too,” she said with a lavish smile, before glancing in the direction of Samuel and me. She recognized me and said, “Oh Kevin, hi!”
I gave her an arctic smile, not bothering to reply, before clenching my fist around Samuel’s arm and marching him out of the room.
“Ow! Dude, when did you get so strong?” he protested once we were outside the room and I released him. He hastily continued, “Now, before you say anything, you should know that it was Janet who called her. And I didn’t know until this morning. And I was going to tell you, but –”
“But what?” I hissed at him. “From the looks of it, you were trying to get me out of there fast before she came in.”
“That’s not true,” he objected. I gave him a look, and he confessed, “Okay fine. But I was only trying to protect you from getting hurt.”
“Why the hell would you let Janet bring that bitch here? Couldn’t you have talked some serious sense into her?”
“Have you met Janet?” he said with an arch of his brows. “Besides, she’s good for Jude.”
I gave a scoffing laugh. “Who – that slut? Samuel, Lily cheated on Jude more than three times when they were still together. She hurt him more times than any woman should hurt a man.”
“Yeah, but Jude doesn’t remember that. As far as he’s concerned, they are still together.”
I gave a disbelieving shake of my head. “You see what she’s trying to do, don’t you?”
“No, Janet! First she sends me away, saying I want to corrupt her brother. And now, she’s calling in his slutty female ex.” I dropped a heavy stress on the word ‘female’.
“Kevin, are you sure you’re not just over-thinking things?”
“Say what you want to say,” I almost screamed. “I’m not staying here to watch this. That girl is leaving now!”
I shoved the door back open with firm purpose. Then I stopped short. My eyes were on Lily and Jude kissing. He was still sitting in bed, and she was standing, and there was KFC all over the place. And the sight of their intimacy crushed something inside me with the force of a sledge hammer.
I moved back out of the room and shut the door.
“Kevin…” Samuel began. He’d seen what I saw.
“I’m going home,” I bit out, and turned to walk away.
“Kevin…” he said again.
I ignored him and continued walking.
“Kevin… Oh god, man, I don’t know what to say…”
“Then don’t say anything.”
“Kevin, stop…” He placed a hand on my shoulder.
I shoved it off and continued walking fast to the reception. He followed silently after me.
We were in the reception in a few moments. We happened on Mother and Janet still talking. Mother looked up as I approached. She took one look at my face, and rose to her feet.
“Kevin, what is it?”
“Mother, let’s go.”
“Not until I know what’s got you looking like that. What happened?”
“Nothing, mom, let’s just leave.”
She turned to Samuel. “What happened in there?”
Samuel struggled to articulate his response. From the corner of my eyes, I saw something move. I shifted my gaze to see Janet getting to her feet. She was looking at me too, with her own victorious smile. In that moment, I felt more hate for her than I’d ever felt for anyone.
“Somebody, please tell me what happened,” Mother was saying.
“Mom, I just want to leave,” I said waspishly. “RIGHT NOW!”
And I turned and started for the door.
“Kevin! Emeka – wait!” Mother called after me.
But I didn’t answer. I was too hurt.
And just as I reached the door to the Central Hospital, I didn’t hear her calling anymore. Instead, her voice was replaced with a subdued but audible thump on the ground, followed by a collective gasp from the room.
I turned around to see my mother sprawled in an unconscious heap on the hospital floor.
Written by Reverend Hot