This is part 4 of the arbitrary short story series: Spur of the Moment. Share, enjoy, & see you next week Friday! Even if my 9 to 5 threatens today, it’s still a Good Friday. #lockdown #stayhome #WFH
It was my mum who pulled the trigger.
She said it was a warning shot. But I know my mum. She knew what she was doing. She had done a stint with the military before deciding she wanted to diversify her people skills and try to deal with uncivilised civilians. But she always kept a shotgun. And a pistol. Small, sexy, sleek. It fit into her handbag. She got it from someone who knew someone who knew the right person. Sigh. But she would be the first person to say Americans are mad to allow so many guns on the streets killing so many innocent people. Utter nonsense. But try to apply the same logic to her choice of weapons and she would say America is not like Ghana. Besides, a woman had to be able to defend herself.
Was she defending herself when she shot Jojo’s cousin in the arm? On the arm! She said it was the left arm. That is how I knew it had been calculated.
I feel she had been itching to pull the trigger for a while now. So when the perfect excuse came walking into her line of fire, it was a no brainer. Jojo and his heavy bag of mistakes had finally caught up with him.
There had been a shocked moment when the shot had rang out and there was an ethereal silence afterwards. I would have run out but she held me back. Not with her hands but she gave me that look that forbade me to take a step forward. She had already warned Jojo never to let his shadow over the threshold. But the stupid man, being in love, had thought coming over with a contrite heart and an elderly cousin in tow would solve the situation.
They had a bleeding arm to show for all their trouble. Already, my mum had let the police round him up as a confidence trickster. She had enough contacts to pull that off. So his case was on file. They were not going to run off to report a gunshot wound at the very place they had been warned to keep away from. Jojo had thought this was Ghana. People did not do crazy like on Cheaters and 1000 ways to die. But he hadn’t factored in my mum. I never saw Jojo again.
No one asked how I was. There was too much going on to distract them. Anyway, I wanted everyone to leave me alone. But I cried. There is no other way to put it. I cried so much that I had to start pinching myself when the shudder came. I couldn’t believe Jojo had been with another woman while he was still with me. He says it was a mistake, a one night stand. But that was nonsense. Jojo and the woman (now his wife) knew each other in the UK and had met up while she was in Ghana for a few days. That is when it had happened. Right under my nose.
But Jojo kept calling me, sending me jumbled, desperate messages that I sometimes found hard to read. And even though I’d watch until it rang out, I didn’t have the heart to block him until I heard he got married. That was the clincher. I knew there was no way my mum was going to allow me within an inch of him, not to talk of getting back together but knowing that Jojo was now truly and permanently lost to me was a bit dizzying.
My friend had asked me how I felt and I remember using that exact word. Dizzying.
“I’m sorry.” There were never any recriminations or quick fix solutions from my friend. Just a listening ear. Or since we were texting, patient fingers.
“What did I do wrong?” I asked, hoping like always, that I would discover something I missed so that I would know what not to do the next time I was in a relationship, if ever I was in another relationship. But that was just the pain talking.
“What do you think you did wrong?”
“Loving him,” I typed in reply.
“That is never wrong.”
“I should have paid attention.”
“You did. You were just blindsided.”
I started to unpack it as I had done over the weeks. There was no way I could have seen it coming. Except maybe his best friend. I was always disappointed that I hadn’t met Jojo’s best friend. It was good to know a guy’s best friend. It said a lot about the guy.
“He wasn’t there. And who says he even knew?”
“Don’t sigh. Did you sigh?”
“Sigh,” I typed. “You know me.”
“Yes, I know you.”
And because it is normal for the two of us, none of us typed anything as the minutes trickled by. And then he video called and I felt a lot better afterwards.
I am a realist. And the reality is that I’d like to get married and have three maybe four kids. But the reality is also that I was too busy trying to get a career and fit into my dad’s big shoes. And then when I looked around to smell the roses, there were no good girls near me. Or so I like to think.
I learned that it is very easy to make excuses. Convenient. Until I was told I had to be responsible. Actually, that came from my mum and dad. I have great parents but the way they talk to me about getting married and being responsible would make you gag. For them, you can’t have one without the other.
And my best friend went and got married. Actually, he has two kids now. So you see where that leaves me, with not much wriggling space. The last couple of Thanksgivings have been a bit tough. About how they are getting old. About the table being empty. About having to explain to their friends that Jeremy is not a spoilt brat. He’s just working hard.
I laugh a lot when they say this. I have a great sense of humour. That’s what the kids say when we go for camping trips in the mountains. They always fight to get into my group. So it’s not as if I don’t like kids. It’s just that I want to take my time to have mine. I need to find a woman first.
But here again, my parents say I’m just making excuses. I could have any woman I want. That’s what they say. But could I really? I mean? Don’t we have to click, connect, and all that? I want to marry a friend, and of course, it would help if she was hot as well but maybe I haven’t been trying too hard.
I tell her this. She laughs at me.
She laughs a lot at me. I don’t mind. I laugh at her, too. But there was a time I couldn’t do that. Not when she said her heart was breaking into a million pieces.
But since I knew her before her heart had to go into surgery to put it back together again, I am allowed to go back to The Event to pick at and joke about it every now and then. I am happy she has gotten over that douchebag Jojo. He always sounded fishy to me. With his forced accent and empty promises. It takes another guy to know when one is faking it. And yes, I checked him out on Facebook. So wanna-be. You couldn’t even tell what he was up to.
So back to making excuses. I am working up one right now in my brain about why I can’t join the holiday trip with the guys. Maybe I should use the family excuse? I mull over it and get a bit annoyed at my friends. I thought we’d all be well into our 40s before any of us properly settled down. But look at the gang, falling in love before they were even 30 and getting married properly, making everyone proud. Poster boys for the Perfect Family. Sigh.
So forgive me if I feel I need a different sort of holiday. After all, I am a single guy. I don’t need a holiday where I have to baby sit my friends’ kids. I sigh.
“Why the long face?” Lucy asks.
“To go or not to go for a holiday.”
“Don’t you have serious problems?”
She is mocking me.
“It is serious.”
“What would Jesus do?”
“I told you, that doesn’t work.”
“Ah yes. It’s not about doing. It’s about what I believe about Jesus.”
“You are my best student yet.”
She giggles and for some reason, it doesn’t bother me.
I wave at her. I’m addicted to FaceTime.
She makes a goofy face.
It’s my turn to laugh.
“What’s the worst thing that would happen?” If I go, she means.
“I’ll feel stressed?”
“See, you’re not even sure.”
“I’m sure I’ll not like it as much as I like talking to you. And I don’t have to go anywhere for that.”
“You have a point there.” She pauses. “Since you don’t mind talking to me…”
“Not merely that I don’t mind. I like it.”
“Okay, since you like talking to me, I have a question for you.”
And I know it’s going to be something about what she heard on Sunday. We do that a lot. Talk about the Bible. Talk about Christianity. Talk about Jesus. She had a lot of questions in the beginning. I wasn’t surprised. It takes a toll to realise that a lot of what we have been taught in church is a bit flawed. A bit too regimental. Too many do’s and don’ts. When you put it side by side to the real Person of the Gospel, it did not wash. I realised it a while ago. She realised it when I talked to her about it.
It had started with what Jesus expected of us. She has an active imagination so it wasn’t hard to put ourselves in Israel, over 2000 years ago, walking by a strong, fearless, kind man called Jesus.
She had felt guilty about many things. But everyone thinks she is a good girl. And she is a good girl, except she never knew when her goodness was enough, whether it was ever going to be enough.
So like I often do with the hormone driven teenage boys that my church hauls to youth camp every year, I explained what grace is. Going back to the basics always helped. I told her she was trying to get something or be something that had already been given to her for free. She didn’t have to feel she deserved it. She was never going to be deserving, that is why it was called grace.
She had an aha moment that I loved to watch.
“Undeserved favour! Duh.”
I find it fascinating that because of Hollywood, social media and Donald Trump, you didn’t have to leave the shores of your country to learn Americanese. Duh, indeed.
“Yes, grace is undeserved favour.”
Since then, she’d ask me questions I’d never even thought of myself. She figured it out on her own that Jesus is the very definition of the grace of God. I don’t know what she had been carrying but I know a bit of how stressful expectations could be, could weigh you down with just a glance. And the worst of it is that they often came from family and friends, people who cared for you, making it harder to hide from.
I could tell her about my stresses and she could tell me about hers.
She is an only child. I am an only child. Between the two of us, there are a lot of unspoken expectations that come from the people who love us most. They are a daily hurdle. We compare notes all the time. We are like the siblings we each never had. But it’s weird because we’ve never met in real life.
We’re just online friends.