May 20th, 2013.
The gods are not without a sense of karma. Sometimes, penance is not good enough to blot out a career of promiscuity. In the end, the unforgetting and unforgiving hands of time gets back at you.
This is Nemesis; this is the force of nature showing to me once again how powerless we are as humans against certain things.
As I write the final episode of my memoirs, my heart bleeds and my blood is my ink.
I wanted to keep the fact that I was free of the deadly virus secret until Christy and I did the test yesterday but I just couldn’t. The joy and relief was too much to contain. Over, the past few weeks, Christy spent every weekend with me. We seldom went out. We would stay in-doors and talk for hours. She hadn’t told her folks about the engagement yet. We were going to break the news this weekend to them if all went well, she said.
I had smiled secretly to myself. There was nothing like taking a test you already knew the answers too. My level of confidence was 1000% and she noticed it.
“You’ve been a bit different.” She said. We were at home in the kitchen. She was cooking and I was doing the dishes.
“How do you mean?”
“You know what I mean.” She insisted.
“Honestly honey, I don’t.” I said. I suspected that she suspected something so I had to tread carefully so as not to reveal the knowledge I could barely contain.
“Is different good?” I asked after a pause.
“Well, yeah. Its sweet actually. You seem really happy.” She said with a smile.
“Why wouldn’t I be? I’ve got everything I need…right here, right now.” I dropped the plate I was rinsing and advanced closer to her. She retreated playfully.
“Your hands are wet!” She screamed playfully as I grabbed her waist and pulled her to me. I tried to kiss her but she threw her face away coyly. After a brief struggle, she succumbed and gave me a deep kiss that was heavily suggestive…the kind that gets the show on the road.
A breathless me looked into her eyes inquiring if we could get the show on the road. A tongue out was what I got in response.
“You wish!” She said as she laughed. I pleaded with my eyes as my hands caressed her body the way she liked it but she pulled away.
“Seriously?!” I exclaimed extremely disappointed…again. She laughed and went back to the pot on the fire.
I stood and watched her. She had on one of my tee shirts that was a little bogus on her which she knotted at the base and those little shorts that drove me mad. Her curved backside potruded viciously. I licked my lips hungrily and shook my head in regret as she opened the pot. The wonderful aroma of jollof rice filled the kitchen again.
“Almost done.” She said, more to herself than to me. She turned to say something but stopped and stared at the obvious bulge in my shorts.
“This is getting ridiculous.” I complained bitterly. “For how long are you going to be this mean to me?”
“Oh, come on! You’ve patiently waited for a month. Why can’t you wait a couple of hours?” She said still smiling.
I sighed heavily. If anyone had told me I’d be able to wait this long, I’d have asked what the person was smoking. I turned back to conclude the dishes.
“Baby,” she said affectionately, “I promise I’ll make the wait worthwhile.”
“Its okay. This is your way of getting even with me. I get it.” I said feigning nonchalance.
“No…that’s not true.” Christy said, rather alarmed. “I’m not trying to get even.”
“Ok. If you say so.” I said, cleaning my hands. I waited for her to turn off the gas.
“Do you want to eat now?” She asked. Her face glistened with sweat. She looked perfect as always. Her hair was down to her shoulders and the knot on the tee shirt at the base made her look sexy-casual.
“When we get back.”
We headed to the room in silence. I lay on the bed and switched on the TV. She undressed and wrapped her towel around her. I made no attempt to shift my gaze from the TV and oogle as I normally would.
She noticed this and blocked my view. “Are you mad at me?”
“I can’t get mad at you. You know that.”
She came and sat by my side on the bed. I pulled her to me and kissed her forehead.
“I trust you baby. I just want to be sure.” She said with a sad look on her face.
“What if I told you I’m positive that I’m negative.” I said mischievously. She looked at me with surprise.
“How do you mean?” She asked puzzled.
“I took the test last week.” I said unable to contain myself any further. She gave me a look that made me laugh.
“Are you that desperate?” She chided shaking her head.
“You know I am.” I said laughing. I reached for the bedside drawer and retrieved a novel. The envelope was inside it. She took the envelope and opened it. As she read through, a smile crossed her face.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” She asked.
“I really didn’t want to. I don’t know why I just did. I wanted us to go there with the knowledge that I had the answers to the test.” I said grinning evilly.
She hit my leg playfully. “I hate you!”
“And I love you too.” I said laughing as I grabbed her, tugging at the towel.
“Don’t even think about it!” She said, her eyes flashing in mock anger.
“Ok, I’ll wait.” I said, letting go.
“I still don’t trust it anyway. It could be doctored.” She said giving me the tongue as she headed to the bathroom. I laughed.
An hour later, we arrived at the hospital just in time for our appointment. The pretty nurse of the other day was not on duty. The one on duty had a very bored expression on her face as she watched the Nollywood movie on the screen. When Christy asked her about Aisha – the other nurse, she answered with a very uninterested tone, hardly volunteering the information required.
“What a sour puss.” Christy muttered as she came back and sat next to me.
“Just for kicks, what happens if I’m infected.” I asked. “Have you ever thought about it?”
“Of course I have.” She said sweetly. There was a long silence before she continued.
“I’ll probably kill Kemi…and do you last to save you the misery.” She said sweetly.
“Ha, ha! Very funny.” I scoffed.
“You’ll be surprised.” She said, still smiling. The smile was superficial and I sensed a seriousness veiled underneath it.
“And if you find you’ve been infected?” I asked still pressing.
“Same thing.” She said casually resting her back on the chair.
I laughed nervously and began to think of different scenarios. What if Andrew’s test was wrong?
The door opened and an elderly woman stepped out with a younger man I assumed was her son. Behind them was a handsome man with a sprinkle of grey on his hair and a totally white goatee. He wore gold-rimmed glasses that glinted in the bright light of the waiting room and an immaculate white coat.
I assumed he was the Dr. Bode George. Christy had told me so much about him. In fact, she practical harped his praises. Looking at him now, I could see why. He was very handsome and regal in appearance. Time and age had been very kind to him. I admired him instantly.
He glanced in our direction and as he spotted Christy, a wide smile appeared on his face.
“Chris!” He exclaimed, beaming and expanding his arms which Christy ran into.
I stood up and inched closer.
“Meet my fiance, Uncle George. His name is Michael.” Christy said, looking at me smiling. I was pleasantly surprised. So she had told him? I put on my winning smile and extended my hand which he took. His grip was surprisingly fit and firm and his stare, not really friendly.
“How are you, young man?” He had a deep and cultured voice.
My mind was a mixture of emotions as I felt with a weird sense of certainly that something was amiss. His eyes were very familiar.
“I’m great sir.” I said, suddenly unsure of myself.
“Uncle George is my godfather.” Christy said excitedly. I knew this but what I didn’t know was he was the doctor we were coming to see.
He led us into his expansive and tastefully furnished office replete with all sorts of medical charts and told us to sit. The chairs were very comfortable and as I looked around, I didn’t fail to see award plaques and certificates from around the world. He reeked of wealth and success.
“So, what happened last month? You ran off on me.” He said with a smile to Christy.
“I told you, our friend’s wife put to bed that day and requested that we come over.” Christy replied, looking at me.
“Oh yes, you did.” He said. To me, he said, “So we finally meet. I’ve heard a lot about you.”
“Yes indeed. So have I.” I said. I could feel some vibes from this guy and I knew it wasn’t that he liked me. I wondered how much Christy told him about me.
He surveyed me for some seconds before he reached for the phone on his desk.
“Tell Shola to come in here with the kit.” He said into the phone, presumably to the nurse in the waiting room and put down the phone.
He looked at Christy who was suddenly quiet and laughed. “Don’t tell me you’re still afraid of needles.”
“Its not funny Uncle.” She pouted. I looked at Christy and recalled that she indeed hated injections.
“It’s going to be ok. Needles are not that bad. Just a prick and it’s over.” I said caressing her hands affectionately. She gripped my hands and smiled at me.
From the corner of my eyes, I caught another strange but yet intense look from him. Damn! What it is with this guy?!
“So, what do you do for a living young man.” He asked, more out of courtesy than interest.
“I’m into advertising…and the name is Michael.” I said, gradually getting irritated.
“Advertising…hmmm.” He said, rubbing his goatee thoughtfully. “How’s the advertising industry these days?”
I was about to respond when the door opened and a younger doctor came in carrying a kit. Christy shivered and tightened her grip on my hand. I felt the cold metal of the engagement ring and smiled.
“It’s gonna be right honey.” I whispered reassuringly.
The blood extraction went without much issue and we sat back to wait while Christy and Dr. George chatted back and forth. I was troubled, not by the test but the attitude of this man. Was this how godfathers responded to their goddaughter’s fiances? I thought of Olivia.
“Have you both considered doing a blood type test?” I heard him ask.
“Not really.” Christy replied.
“Why?” He asked looking at me.
“Well, I’ve always known my genotype is AS. Luckily, Christy is AA.” I said, returning his hard stare.
“But you’ve always known mine.” Christy said to him.
“I see.” He said quietly. He looked troubled and remained silent till Shola returned with two slips and handed it over and left as unobtrusively as he came.
Christy leaned forward excitedly. “What does it say?”
He took his time. “The HIV tests came up negative.” He said quietly.
Christy sighed with relief. She looked at me with a smile that made the world beautiful.
“I love you.” She whispered with gratitude. “We’ll be off now Uncle. We’ve got plans to make!” She said giddy with excitement as we both stood up.
“Thank you sir.” I said, grateful to leave.
“Christy, can I talk to you…in private?” He asked with sunken shoulders. The confidence he exuded when we came in was gone.
“You can tell us anything.” She said happily, leaning against me, totally oblivious of the change in his demeanor. Inasmuch as I was gratefully aware that the celibate wait was finally over, I had a premonition.
“It’s ok honey. I’ll wait outside.” I said, kissing her forehead.
“You sure you’ll be ok?” She asked pouting, looking up at me. Her eyes…they were so beautiful.
“Of course.” I smiled at her. I cast a glance at Dr. George. He had taken off his gold-rimmed glasses and was cleaning the frames nervously. I saw that familiarity again and this time, the warning lights in my head went off.
I hesitated as I looked at Dr. George. His face pleaded for privacy. I obliged and left the office pensive. Outside in the waiting room, I couldn’t sit down. I was nervous and worried as I paced back and forth to the obvious discomfort of the nurse. There was an answer to the question that plagued me but I couldn’t just put my finger on it.
I paced for about ten minutes and sat down as more patients came in. I continued to wait impatiently. The nurse picked up the phone some fifteen minutes later and called to announce the arrival of the new patients. Shortly after, Christy came out. She had lost the spring in her step and her make-up was smeared with tears.
“What’s the matter?” I asked alarmed as I stood up. She looked dazed and lost and didn’t utter a word. She walked past me and sat down.
I was enraged and barged into Dr. George’s office. He was sitted at his desk with his hands on his face. He looked up in shock.
“What just happened? What did you tell her?” I asked angrily.
He composed himself and put his glasses back on before he responded.
“It’s a family affair. It’s none of your business.” He replied curtly.
I wished I could grab his throat and shake the answers out of him but I had to be out there with Christy. I stormed out of his office shaking with rage. Christy hadn’t moved an inch as she continued to stare vacantly into space from where she sat.
“Honey…” I started as I sat next to her, holding her.
“Please take me home.” She said listlessly.
I suddenly became aware that all attention was focused on us. I took Christy by the hand and led her out into the warm sunshine.
“Baby…what is it?” I asked again, unable to contain myself. When she didn’t respond, I sighed in frustration and led her to the car. I opened the door for her and she stood still, looking lost. This is serious, I thought. I gently led her into the car and strapped her seat belt.
I got into the car started the engine. From the corner of my eye, I saw the nurse at the waiting room running towards the car. I rolled down.
“She forgot her bag.” She said breathlessly as she handed the brown Louis Vuitton bag I bought Christy some weeks back. I took the bag without a word, ignoring the curious expression on her face. Christy’s face remained deadpan.
I drove like a madman weaving through the light Sunday traffic and beating some red lights in the process till we got home. Christy’s phone rang incessantly all through the drive but she made no attempt to get it. My mind was in severe turmoil as I couldn’t even guess what was wrong.
She came down from the car after I parked, ignoring Salisu’s greeting. She went straight to the door and waited with folded arms. My heart was in my throat as I grabbed her bag and rushed to open the door for her. The phone in her bag was still ringing. She went into the sitting room and sat down.
“I need a drink.” She said, finally. An odd request to complement the surrounding mystery.
I retrieved the half-full bottle of Jack Daniel in the refrigerator and poured a generous shot into a glass and handed it to her. She drank the whole thing once!
I fixed myself a generous one and followed suit.
“My life is a lie.” She said as she broke down into uncontrollable tears. I held her close, a little bit relieved that it wasn’t about me. I was still lost.
“It’s ok baby. Whatever it is, you can tell me. I’m here.” I said desperately. She clung to me tightly as her tears poured in torrents soaking my shirt.
My head swirled in total confusion. What in the world is going on?!
I held her close and waited patiently till her tears subsided. I continued to kiss her salty tears and reassure her that whatever it was, we would be alright, we would get through it. After a while, her tears stopped.
“Do you love me?” She asked with baby-like innocence that rent my heart.
“You know I do baby. I love you with every fibre of my being.” I said in utter desperation. I kissed her salty lips again and again.
“Talk to me.” I pleaded.
“I’m AS.” She said as her tears came again.
My heart stopped.
“What…what do you mean? H…how’s that possible?” I stammered helplessly.
Her tears streamed again. My head swam to the past, to the saddest day of my life…the day my mother died. I was transported as if by magic to when I was twelve. My father was still very young. There were tears in his eyes as he held me close.
“Your mother had an SS genotype. That’s why she was sick all the time.” He explained.
“Are you going to be sick and die too?” I had asked, young and ignorant with tears in my eyes.
“No son. I’ll always be here with you.” He said, wiping my eyes.
“Am I going to die?” I asked.
“No, you won’t die. When you get older I’ll explain it all to you.” He had said. He never had to explain to me because I was obsessed with the SS Genotype for many years. I pored through medical books so much so that he thought I was going to study medicine.
This was the second time in many years that I remembered this sad episode of my life. The first time was last year when I told Christy about it.
“But you told me you were AA…your whole family…” I whispered, heartbroken.
“It’s complicated…my mother lied to me…” She whimpered.
“What do you mean?” I was a confused man.
“I’m not my father’s daughter. Dr. George is my biological father.” She said as the fresh tears rolled out without restraint.
Illumination came immediately. It was the eyes!
Thanks to every Mickey Jay fan out there for being a source of encouragement and inspiration.
God bless you all.
Malcolm O. Ifi.