When I opened my eyes, I found myself in this room of white walls. My vision was blurred for a few seconds but as time went by, it became clearer. I was on a 4feet wide bed; the kind you usually see in hospitals. Hospitals…was that the reason I could perceive this pungent but familiar smell of disinfectants? Alarmed, I sat up! I was really in a hospital but not your conventional hospital. As least, it didn’t seem so. How did I get here, I wondered. There was something not right about the setting.
There was a guy on the other side of the rectangular room in a bed just like mine. He had only his shorts on but he lay uncomfortably on his back. He was asleep but I somehow could feel he was in great pain. His chest was well formed but his stomach was bloated with lumps and visible abdominal veins but there were still traces of an amazing “six pack” that once was. Something that I was constantly ever so conscious of even as my stomach continued to swell in the midst of my unhealthy eating and drinking habits. His legs were well-formed and muscular. This dude had to be an athlete, I thought. However, he was drenched in sweat in the rather cool weather and his skin had taken on a colourful tinge.
I tried to stand up but felt a shooting pain in my leg, so I lay back in bed wincing in pain. A handsome young doctor in coveralls opened the door and walked inside the room and when he saw me, he smiled.
“You’re finally awake.” He said.
He went to check my roommate first who was still in fast asleep in pain. He adjusted the drip a bit that slowly entered the man’s blood stream via a needle attached to his hand. I wondered why I’d missed the drip in the first place.
“What’s wrong with me doctor?” I asked, when he came to me.
“Just a little dislocation on your left ankle. You’ll be fine in no time.” He said, examining my right ankle. I felt that familiar pain connect with my brain again.
“Sorry. I just have to tweak it a little bit.” He said when he saw my grimace. With a fast movement of his gloved hands, he somehow tweaked my ankle and painlessly, the pain vanished.
“There! You’re good to go but I advise you rest a little first.” He said. I nodded and thanked him.
As he was about to leave, I asked what was wrong with my roommate.
“He has cirrhosis. Its a liver disease. Its terminal and in the absence of a liver transplant, he’ll die. Unfortunately, he hasn’t a dime to pay for it.” He said sadly.
“He’s in pain so I give him something to ease it. He has decided to check out later today and go home to die. Such a promising young man.” With that, the doctor left.
I felt I drowsy too like I was on drugs so I drifted off immediately the doctor left.
The sound of his distressing moans woke me up. He had just put on his very dirty shirt. Every move he made was with such great effort. How could somebody with a healthy body like that be this ill? I stood up gingerly on my affected ankle; there was no pain. I put back on my watch which lay on the bedside table. It was a Hublot. I never recalled owning one but it had been there so I imagined it was mine as there were still so many unfilled gaps in my memory, especially as to how I got here.
The sound of his collapse on the bed and a loud moan of pain brought me back.
“Do you need help?” I asked gently, rather concerned.
“I’ll manage. Thank you.” He said softly.
“Don’t you have any family that could assist you home?” I asked, my compassion getting the better of me.
“Oh, don’t worry. They can’t be bothered about me.” He said dismissively.
Ok. I thought. Time to mind my business. I still felt sad for him with the story the doctor told me.
“My name is Greg. Greg Oduware.” He said, after a pause.
I turned. That name sounded very familiar. “I’m Paul.”
“I’m about to die Paul.” He said with a finality that jolted me. Of course, I already the knew this but something in me hadn’t accepted it yet.
“Don’t say stuff like that.” I said nervously.
“But its true. I’ve made my peace with it. I just want to tell you how I got to where I am.” He said and so I sat down. His fair complexion now left him with a reddened face.
“My greatest pain in life is being the last child of my parents. I was pampered as a kid and pretty much left alone as I grew up. So when I dropped out of secondary school to play football, nobody asked me a damn thing.”
Aha! I thought. He was the young and upcoming footballer I’d read about somewhere, some time ago.
“My talent was obvious so it wasn’t hard to get up there. I joined a local club and did very well. In less than two years, I had foreign scouts fighting over me. So I ended up in Turkey where I was given a bumper package to ply my trade. I was just 19 then with a lot of money on my hands and I spent it the only way the young and foolish do. I had an endless stream of girlfriends and I drank and partied to my hearts desire. That went on for four years and I continued to excel at my game and I made more money but I totally forgot about my family. They didn’t care about me so I didn’t care about them. My father has been a drunk for the better part of his life, especially after my mum died but he’s still as strong as an Ox so it was a surprise when I failed one of my medicals after being diagnosed with liver disease. I could no longer play football so my club, quite aware I was the cause of my problems, dropped me like a bad habit.
I still didn’t believe I was that ill but I continued drinking anyway while I searched for other clubs to ply my trade but it was like I had been blacklisted so I went to England but it was even worse there. After nearly a year of visiting almost every known pub in England, I came back home broke and very sick. Well, here I am. I guess I got what I deserved.” Tears rolled out of his yellow eyes.
I cleaned my wet eyes.
“I just wanted to tell someone my story. I just wanted someone to sympathize with me, without judging me. Thank you for listening.”
“But…but you can’t just give up now.” I said, my voice breaking.
“Paul, look am me. I’m finished. Nothing can help me now.” He said weakly and without emotion.
I struggled for words to encourage him but how do you encourage a man who’s convinced he has no hope and is ready to die. My tears flowed freely now as I still couldn’t believe that he was going to be no more soon.
“Do you believe in God?” I asked.
“No. Do you?”
I nodded. I knew in my heart that I had never been a good christian despite a very christian upbringing but I was desperate to console him. I was suddenly desperate that if he died, he would go to hell. I didn’t want him to die.
“Will you pray with me?” I asked. He shrugged nonchalantly. I drew a chair nearer to him and sat in front of him, ignoring the stale odour that emanated from him. I held his profusely sweating hands and we both closed our eyes.
“Dear Jesus, I come to you with a deep burden in my heart knowing I am not worthy to call on you for if there is anyone who has constantly spurned your advances, it is me. I have crucified you over and over again by fleeing continuously from your presence. I’m so sorry. I come to you on behalf of Greg, my sick friend here who has never felt love and is about to die. You are the greatest doctor. Please heal him Lord. I don’t want him to die from this illness. I don’t want him to die in sin. I don’t want to die in sin. Please give us both a sign that you still care. And if it is your will that he should die, please welcome him to your bosom whether he believes in you or not. Amen.”
When I opened my eyes, there were tears in his yellow eyes. He smiled through his tears for the first time and we hugged each other with our tears pouring like a fountain, feeling lifted in our hearts and spirits.
That was when I felt the wetness of the pillow on my face. I had been dreaming and crying in my sleep. So I went down on my knees and prayed.
Malcolm O. Ifi.
Engage on twitter @saymalcolm.