I feel like I am strapped to the bed. I try to move but I can’t. When I realise that I can’t move, I start to panic. The room I’m in is large and surreal; my brain tells me I’m in the hospital but it certainly doesn’t look, feel or smell like one. I feel like I am in one of those dorm rooms with double decked beds in boarding school. The walls are white, the room is tidy; I count about ten empty double deck beds. Where is everyone, I wonder? Why am I here? Is this some kind of punishment? But secondary school was years ago. What am I doing here?
As if to answer my question, I hear slow but deliberate footsteps behind me. I try without success to crane my neck to see who is coming but I am immobile. I can only move my head a few inches. I don’t have to after a time as her familiar perfume hits my olfactory. I try to call her name, but there is no sound; just the desperate movement of my lips. She is wearing the same dress she wore the last time I saw her four years ago.
“They say you may never be able to walk…” Her voice is sweet, clear and crisp. I am more intrigued by the music in her voice than by what she says.
“…or move any part of your body again.” She pauses for effect, but it doesn’t register with me…yet. She sits down on the chair beside me. I see her touch my hand but I can’t feel a thing! I’m alarmed now and make a tentative attempt to move – it is like exerting myself on the inside with no visible reaction on the outside.
“Paraphlegia…that’s what the doctor said.” She continues. “Its a spinal cord injury below your 7th cervical vertebrae. Few people recover partially from this after proper therapy. Others don’t.”
She sounds so professional, like she’s a doctor herself. I am more focused on her red blouse; there is something about it. An unpleasant memory because it makes me sad just looking at it.
“I tried Tony but I can’t. I can’t put up with seeing you like this.” She says as tears well up her eyes. She is so pretty and for a while, I get lost just looking at her pretty face; her wet eyes shine like pearls, her nostrils – they have a caucasian quality about them, her trembling but succulent lips…I remember when I used to kiss them.
“I’m leaving you!” She says suddenly. As she utters those words, the room spins and she seems to fade into the background of the room. I find my voice and I scream her name. My voice is croaked at first, the first sound slightly above a whisper. I feel strength in my arms and I reach out for her, to hold her back but she has become a mirage. Her once solid form disintegrates at my touch as she becomes a wisp of smoke before my very eyes.
“Not again!” I say to myself. Not again! The tidy dorm room, the deck beds, the whitewashed walls and her fast fading outline swirls faster and faster into a circular vortex of nothingness and all I’m left with is a bright light, a quiet and consistent hum and the familiar smell of antiseptic.
My eyes opened!
I was in a hospital. I had to squint my hurting eyes at the blinding light from the energy-saving bulb at the center of the room, which held my gaze. I turned my neck; it moved with ease. I moved my hands and my legs – they moved with a measure pain but they moved. I tried to sit up, that was when I felt the unbearable pain in my head. It felt as if someone just drove a sharp nail into my skull and I saw dancing lights before my eyes as I sunk back into the pillow losing my grip on consciousness at the speed of light. Before my lights went out, I saw her – she was curled up on the couch, asleep.
My eyes opened lazily as I felt a sweet and lazy sensation course through me. I felt like I was high. A young nurse with the biggest breasts I’d ever seen was in the process of wrapping a white cloth on my head. Her voluptuous cleavage was all in my face as she wrapped my head and it emitted a kind of warmth I found comforting. I couldn’t feel any pain…in fact, I felt bliss, intoxication. Whatever was in that drip felt real good and I drifted lazily again into sleep.
Familiar voices in the background nudged me back to consciousness. When I opened my eyes, I saw my mother, Maxwell and Omolara, my site assistant.
“Tony nwam o. God has brought you back!” She exclaimed with tears in her eyes.
“Nne…what are you doing here?” I asked groggily, trying to sit up. Maxwell was speedily by my side to help me sit up.
“I came to take care of my son. Thank God for his mercies.” She replied as she burst into praise songs in Igbo language.
“Hey champ.” Maxwell said with a smile of genuine joy and relief.
“How long have I been here?” I asked.
“Nine days. You’ve been out for the better part of it.” He said, giving me a wry smile.
Omolara edged closer with a smile on his face.
“Oga, good afternoon.”
“Omolara, how now?” I asked.
“I dey fine sir. Chief say make I come check on you. When e first come, doctor no let am see you because you dey unconscious.”
“He came here?!” I asked, rather surprised. Maxwell nodded and added, “Twice.”
“How our project?” I asked.
“Everything dey fine. Make I go give Chief report say you don wake. E wan come see you before them discharge you.” Omolara replied. “Thank God for your life oga. God like you well well!”
I smiled at him and nodded and he took his leave. He almost collided with the Dr. Ibrahim Usman at the door. They laughed and exchanged apologies, before Ibrahim let him pass and came in.
“Ah, there’s my favorite patient.” He said, beaming as he saw me sitting up. Ibrahim is a good friend of mine. We first met some years ago when a friend of mine was on admission at his private hospital. He is a wonderful doctor and we became friendly from the moment we met. We bonded more when I discovered we had mutual friends as we both attended the same University. His father was the consultant physician then but he had taken over the reigns of the efficiently-run hospital.
“Doc, how did I end up in your hospital?” I asked, glad to see him and gladder to know I was in good hands.
“The gods favour you my friend. They believe in my expert care.” He said and laughed. He examined the gauze around my head, looked inside my eyes with a flashlight and asked a few questions which he wrote down into his chart.
“You’re very lucky my friend. I saw pictures of your crumpled car on television. How you managed to escape with just a concussion and a few bruises is a miracle.” He said seriously.
My mother uttered a silent prayer of thanks, looking up to the ceiling. She held my hands.
“My car was mangled that bad?” I asked.
“Its a total write off.” Maxwell said.
“Luckily, the company that owns the truck that rammed into your car has been in touch. They want the hospital bills sent to them.” Ibrahim said, smiling.
“And they even offered to replace your car when Chief’s lawyers got in touch with them.” Maxwell said. “The wonders of being influential.” He shook his head with longing.
I sighed. Ibrahim made small conversation with me and later took his leave to continue his ward rounds after advising me to eat something solid and get some rest. Maxwell seemed to have a lot on his mind he wanted to get off but thankfully, he held back.
My mother had already sliced some apples which she insisted I eat, even though I didn’t feel like eating anything. I ate to oblige her and when I swallowed, I realised how hungry I was so I ate the lot and didn’t wait for her to slice the next batch of apples. I was in the middle of my third apple when there was a soft knock and the door opened.
It was Lola.
Malcolm O. Ifi.
Engage on twitter @saymalcolm