The jacket had to be taken off again. And the shirt as well. His undershirt was soaking wet and the white shirt’s armpits had dark wet patches, and so did the back of the shirt.
What a mess!
And he had just got dressed.
It was 6:45pm. There was no real reason to be sweating. The rental apartment had only just started to heat up. He had locked up all the windows and doors minutes before, ready to set off, before he dashed back.
He was definitely going to be late. He had to be there by 7:00pm. It was a thirty minute drive to the place without the traffic jam and the traffic lights at the junctions. Panic set it in.
He fidgeted as he washed his face, chest, and hairy armpits, trying to ignore the real reason he was sweating. Water splattered around the combined bathroom and toilet of his two roomed apartment.
After washing his face with more force than necessary, he stared into the mirror to find his sleep deprived face staring back at him, his eyes weighed down by bags of sleep. There was brief moment of calm. He looked at the reflection of the dark doorway to the rest of the unlit rooms behind him.
He could go right at that moment and take an undeserved nap, forget about the everything else. But that daydream quickly vanished. He had made it this far, he had to see things through. He exhaled, grabbed his shirt and left the washroom for the dark bedroom.
He didn’t need to switch on the light, he could remember where everything was, at least he thought he did. He knocked over one or two bottles on the ground that dropped noisily. He needed a solution for the damp shirt. Perhaps he could iron the damp spots dry. He’d never tried it before. Would it become fresh and sundried or would it turn into a crispy fabric of dried sweat. Sigh. He switched on the light, he needed an alternative, fast.
He picked the first cloth that came into view and wore it. It was a yellow T-shirt with ‘He is Risen‘ printed stylishly on the front. He threw the jacket over his arm, picked up a cologne bottle from the bed, dabbed himself and proceeded to step out the door. Before he closed the door, he once noticed the small framed photograph of a middle aged woman and a younger woman smiling happily. The guilt hit him. He shut the door.
The sedan was parked behind the house. There was a surrounding fence but no gate. He got into the car and drove around the house to the opening in the fence where the gate was supposed to be. The radio now softly played Jolene by Dolly Parton. As he got to the first junction, something started to bang in the boot of the car, deep unevenly intermittent bangs. He nervously looked into the driving mirror even though there was nothing to look at. It was coming from the boot.
He looked through his tinted glass window at the driver in on the other side. She had started to look curiously in his direction. She couldn’t see him though. He turned up the volume to max and sent the entire vehicle booming with thunderous Tennessee accented vocals. ‘… I’M BEGGIN’ YOU PLEASE DON’ TAKE MA MAN…’ Patton loudly begged. The driver on the other side’s eyes widened before she was heckled by the drivers in the back to move on. The light had turned green.
He got to the building at 7:33pm. He shouted at the pinched faced guard that he would pay the parking ticket online.
“But the volume is too much!” The guard yelled back at an ascending black window of a car that was pulling away.
He descended into the underground parking and drove to the furthest corner and parked. He slowly dropped the radio volume listening to whatever sound might be coming from the boot. There was nothing. He was relieved. But he knew that it wouldn’t remain quiet for long.
“Shit!” He cursed after glancing at the time on his phone and the notification of twelve missed calls. “Shit. Shit. Shit!”
He threw himself out of the car, almost onto the ground. He took out the jacket from the co-driver’s seat and wore it hurriedly. He turned into his side mirror and passed his hands over his face and bearded chin, like he was trying to flourish a magic wand over an object to make it look newer and fairer.
He locked the car, turned around, stood upright, caught his breath and strode forward.
He got into a lift that took him to the second floor. The lift opened to an ambient, dimly lit lobby with glass, marble and velvet in all the right places. The kind of lobby that gave one the feeling of high tastes.
An automatic glass door opened to a cacophony of sounds; clinking of cutlery, voices, laughter and lofi instrumental music. He scanned all the spiffy dressed content looking people. The whole place was like a ballroom but with set round tables, a balcony with a palatial aerial view and a number of booths. There were couples in different spots, and some empty tables that were reserved. He looked for table seven among those.
Indeed what he had prayed had come to be. The reserved table number seven, right next to table number eight was vacant. He was relatively on time. Then what were the missed calls all about? As he hovered over his table, taking out his phone to make a call, the maître d’ wearing a bowtie and a skirt swung in with a delighted couple. She turned her back to him and with a pompous wave of her hand, showed the couple to their seats at table number seven.
“Excuse me, there might be a mistake,” he protested to the three. The maître d’ and the couple, whose gentleman had already pulled out the seat for his lady both turned with concern to face him.
“Yes, there is, ” said a voice from behind. He recognized it at once. Martha. He turned back and there she stood, looking as handsome as a lady would, with a girlish smile and a starry sparkle in her eye.
“We are table eight. Did you forget?” She said, pointing to the empty reserved number eight.
“H..hey,” he stammered, “I missed your calls, sorry”
“Ah, that, “she said pulling out her own seat, “Forget it, I thought I was late.”
And they both took their seats.
The story continues
Mukama Kevin Rushokye.
This is part of a six part relay series. I pass the relay on to Mable Amuron. I’m in the shadow about what she will write. Every part has two mysteries that should be revealed by the next writer. Mine are what’s in the boot and who are the people in the photo? The rest is up to her including the guy’s name 😬😁. Till Part 3. Much love.