The Bravo Barbershop
Jumal sat in the tight walled barbershop, resisting the urge to fan himself. The afternoon sun was blazing with anger. Being trapped in the tiny room of Bravo Barbershop, with no electricity to power the fans, was enough to make one crazy.
Yet Jumal cringed his fingers, battling the urge to pick up a magazine to fan himself like the lady by his side — whose makeup had been smeared by sweat. She alternated between fanning herself, her sleeping son, and making irritating complaints. "Oga barber! Why you open shop, when you know your generator is bad!? Ehn? "
Ejiro, the barber, squatted behind the generator in front of the shop and offered placatory apologies. "My sister nor vex. It would soon start."
Everything settled into a strange rhythm. Ejiro would hit the generator with pipes and rods, then he would stand up, exhale and draw. The generator would then give a loud grumble and return to its slumber. Each failed attempt made the sweaty mother more angry. After another attempt, in which the generator did not even cough, the female customer had had enough. "Junior wake up! How many hours! Instead of buying original generator you went and bought china. You see your life."
The lady flanked her son across her shoulder and began leaving — just like the other customers Jumal had met in the shop.
"Madam abeg nor vex. I’m very sorry."
"Sorry for yourself!"
Jumal exhaled and took a fresh breath of clean air, grateful that the assault of smells in the shop from hair products, body creams, and perfumes had finally ended.
"Bros, I don’t know why my generator repairer is delaying. But I will still keep trying to fix it. I hope you don’t have appointment?" The willowy barber asked from the door.
Jumal knew if he did not leave soon, he would arrive late to his appointment with Yole. Still, he said, "Take your time. When it’s time for my appointment I’ll take it."
Ejiro nodded before taking off his shirt. His singlet clung to his body as if glued to him. After a taking some water, Ejiro returned to working on his generator.
Jumal took out his phone and went through Yole’s last message.
How long can we keep denying ourselves each other. No matter what happens you will always be my number one. Meet me at our restaurant by 5:00pm. Let’s end these games!
'Games?’, Jumal thought, 'is that what they are calling cheating now?'
The heat was getting more intense. If there was electricity the place would have been crowded, with most coming to watch soccer on the flat screen. Jumal had never understood the enchanting power of soccer. Paying subscriptions to satellite companies for soccer channels had become a requirement for opening a barbershop. Some even went the extra mile and installed PlayStation consoles — charging tokens to customers. Of course! ‘Betting’ soon followed. It’s why Jumal left his former barber — one can can only endure so much commotion before snapping.
Jumal stepped out of the shop for a breath of fresh air. The barbershop was located at the tail end of a U-shaped plaza. Most of the shops sold electronics and provisions. But the shop that caught Jumal’s eyes was a small bookshop at the front.
"Does the book shop have good books?" Jumal raised his voice to be heard above the clanging of metal.
Ejiro dropped the pipe and chuckled. "Oga that your question get as it be. I neva buy book from them once. But go check fess."
Jumal cleaned his face with a handkerchief and headed for the bookshop. The lady in the bookshop was sleeping.
The lady lazily arose and greeted Jumal. Most of the books were religious, with titles that made Jumal chuckle. 50 prayers for success; How to make heaven; 30 days in hell…
Jumal was about to give up when he saw an old book, What to do when he’s always cheating.
After going through it, Jumal paid for it and returned to the barbershop.
Ejiro was no longer working on his generator. He now sat on one of the seats — fanning himself with a magazine.
"Bros abeg nor vex, the repairer don dey come."
Jumal nodded and sat on the chair closest to the door. Jumal discovered the book was by a pastor’s wife. From her picture, devoid of make up and jewellery, Jumal knew this was the kind of woman Yole was marrying. The kind of woman Yole referred to as the ideal wife. Suddenly Jumal felt like cutting lines into the face of the pastor’s wife with his finger nails
"Bros why you buy woman book?" Ejiro asked feeling amused.
"Is it your money I used to buy the book! You will not focus on your scrappy generator! Be there asking me stupid questions!" Jumal roared and hissed.
"Bros abeg nor vex. Don’t be angry. My mouth would just be running like tap. I’m very sorry."
Jumal looked at Ejiro’s peaceful face and suddenly felt bad. Ejiro was nice. He wasn’t Yole. He was definitely not Yole’s fiancee.
Jumal flung the magazine into another seat and laid back. There was an awkward silence in the room. Ejiro seemed to be holding his breadth. This made Jumal feel guilty. He needed to make things normal again.
"My partner is getting married soon and I’m going be the bestman." Jumal confessed.
"Chisos! " Ejiro exclaimed, snapping his fingers. Jumal would have laughed, were he not troubled.
"How!? Why!? What happened!?"
Jumal exhaled deeply. "It’s a very long story. But I’m meeting my partner to plan the wedding."
"Kai! Women are wicked ooO!"
Jumal sighed, wondering how Ejiro would react, if he knew the supposed partner had a moustache like the one that sat on Ejiro’s face.
"But why will you allow it?"
"What do you mean by allow it?" Jumal asked.
"You know like... Why aren’t you doing anything?"
Jumal thought about the question. He had never thought of doing anything. When Yole made the relationship an open one, he did nothing. When Yole began dating women he did nothing. When Yole suggested the sham marriage to please his parents, he simply kept away for a while.
Jumal suddenly wondered why he had been so compliant. Jumal looked at Ejiro with surprise. It was always easy to dissect a problem from the outside, but he would not give the credit to Ejiro that easily. So he gave the meaningless reply normally given to simple questions, "It’s complicated."
Ejiro shrugged his shoulders and checked his phone. "The repairer is almost here. What time is your appointment?"
Jumal checked his phone and nearly jumped when he realised it was after 4. "I can’t wait any longer. I have to go now."
Jumal grabbed his book and for a moment considered giving it as a present to the bride. Something he knew he should only imagine. People like him didn’t do such things.
"Bros before you go. I want to say that you are one of my best customers. A gentle guy like you deserves a better boyfriend; " Ejiro smiled at Jumal’s shocked expression before continuing, "Girlfriend or even both. You deserve a choice."
Jumal quickly made his way out of the shop, filled with an unholy mix of fear and excitement.
"Bros! Wait up! Your next hair cut would be on the house." Ejiro said, leaning on the door.
Jumal nodded and walked off.
On a keke napep (tricycle) en route to his appointment with Yole, Jumal pondered over his relationship with Yole. Remembering the barber’s words about deserving a choice, Jumal realised there would be no wedding talk later. For the first time he would disagree and stand his ground. Yole would have to choose between him or her.
Whatever the outcome, Jumal had nothing to lose. He hadn’t purchased the blue suit for his best man duties. He couldn’t fathom a future with Yole. And most especially, he had an offer of a free hair cut from a strange barber. All will be well no matter Yole’s choice, because, Jumal had already made his.