The accident hadn’t dulled my anticipation to see her. She was like an apparition that had haunted my dreams for so long before she suddenly metamorphosed into reality. She wore a blue flowered dress that matched her blue and red hand bag. I felt that familiar knot in my stomach as she walked towards me slowly but deliberately, her face showing a mixture of joy, relief and sadness. Her hair was long, falling to her shoulders. She looked every bit as pretty as I had imagined. The atmosphere in the room changed the moment my mom and Maxwell became aware of her presence. I could feel the heat from their intense stare of dislike as she drew nearer to where I lay on the bed.
“Good afternoon ma.” She said timidly.
“Hmph.” My mother answered with spite and went about what she was doing, totally ignoring her existence. Lola wanted to continue with some courtesy questions but thought better of it. They had met just once many years ago when my mother came for a wedding in Lagos. When my mother heard about our break-up, she celebrated. She never really liked Lola and Lola was well aware of this fact.
“Hi Max.” She said. Max merely nodded and continued to stare at her with a blank look that seemed to say “some nerve you’ve got coming here”. The hostility in the room was so stifling, I wondered how she managed to breathe. Her gaze finally came to me as she drew nearer to my left side of the bed where Maxwell stood. I noted with amusement at how she avoided my mothers side. He shifted to make room for her. Her smile was like the sun.
“How are you doing?” She asked, holding my hand. The faint wafts of her familiar perfume danced around my nostrils.
“Just glad to be alive.” I said and smiled back. “Never thought we’d being seeing each other for the first time in many years like this.”
“I’m so sorry. I almost feel like its…” She hesitated, looking first at my mother who seemed to be totally oblivious of her presence and then at Maxwell, who was by now, quite busy with his phone but paying attention nonetheless.
She broke into a whisper. “Can I come back later?” She asked. Her eyes were pleading desperately.
“Sure. Just hang around. They will all be leaving soon.”
She smiled with relief and excused herself. As soon as she left, my mother let out a long hiss that shocked me. My mother had always been one who preferred to mind her business and not interfere in how I ran my life, except I was seriously going astray and the one time she did was the first time she met Lola many years ago at a cousin’s wedding.
“Nne, what is it this time, eh? *O gini?” I asked.
“Nothing oh. Is that not the girl that left you for another man? What is she doing here?” She asked.
“She is. Can’t she come and pay me a visit?”
“Of course she can. You know me. I won’t say anything but I want to believe you are a lot wiser now and will not let history repeat itself.” My mom replied as she arranged the fruits and beverages she came with. A steaming plate of goat meat pepper soup was right before me which I ravenously devoured in record time. The pepper awoke my taste buds and I drank lots of water.
“But you had better be careful. She’s married now, isn’t she?” She asked.
“She was widowed shortly after her wedding.” I said.
“Jesus’ mo!” She exclaimed. “What happened?!”
As I explained, my mother eyes went wide with shock and when I was done, she was wild. “You had better not have any plans of taking her back! She must have some form of ill-luck following her around. She may even have a spirit husband. God forbid that my son will fall into something like that while I’m alive!”
“Mama!” I exclaimed. “So you won’t even show any compassion for a widow like your self?”
“I have compassion for her but she can take her problems elsewhere! The fact that she’s a widow should frighten you more. You that nearly lost all purpose in life because she left you for a wealthier man is talking to me about compassion? **Agbisi gbaa otule, o muru ako.” She said heatedly.
“What if she was widowed because she belongs to me?” I asked innocently. Max scoffed sarcastically.
“Taaa! Don’t say that again. Don’t ever say that!!” She cautioned. “My problem with you is that you don’t listen.”
“Mama, please…I have a headache.” I said weakly, not wanting to engage her any further in the argument.
“I know what I suffered to raise you up. One useless girl will not spoil all my hard work.” She fumed.
Maxwell who had been silent the whole time, listening to our exchange finally spoke up.
“You should listen to your mother. Lola is bad news for you. You wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the fact that you were on your way to see her.”
My mom gasped.
“He was going to see that girl when this happened?! She must not come near this place again!!” She screamed.
“Nne, you want me to die from headache, abi?” I said angrily.
“I’m sorry, my son. All I want for you is the best…” She said, calming down instantly but it didn’t stop the unintelligible mutters.
Maxwell wasn’t bullied in any way. “That girl will ruin you before you know it. Did you know that when Chief came here to see you, she was already putting herself out there like she was your girl?”
I was shocked but I reminded myself that Max had the tendency to be hyperbolic.
“She introduced herself as my girlfriend?” I asked.
“No but her actions did. She was fussing all over you like no one cared more than she did.” He said, well aware that once again, I had pricked his windy balloon of exaggeration.
“Max, I’m feeling sleepy abeg. I need to rest a bit. Take my mom home.”
As if on cue, the busty nurse came in with my drugs and announced that it was time for me to take a little rest. My mom was ready to go but I could see she was greatly troubled about this new info she had just learned. She knew I was a willful fellow and would always do what I wanted to. After extracting from me what I wanted to eat, she advised me to be careful. She would be back in a few hours with my dinner. Max gave me a handshake and they left.
Nurse Bola – I read her name off her name tag – made light jokes with me as she administered my intravenous medication and arranged my bed. She seemed to derive pleasure from thrusting her breasts in my face and I didn’t mind. I made a comment about that and she was laughing when Lola came back in.
“Visiting time is over, madam. The patient has to rest.” She said politely.
“Its ok, Bola. I want to see her…just briefly, I promise.” I said, pleading with her.
“Ok handsome.” She said smiling. She picked my chart and left, totally ignoring Lola’s stern look.
“I don’t like that nurse.” She said jealously after a short while. “She’s rude.”
“Serious? I haven’t noticed. She’s been nothing but nice to me and I like her just fine.” I said mischievously. She didn’t respond but looked away. Now that she was here, after the initially rush and anticipation that came with wanting to see her, the events of four years ago began to replay in my head as I juxtaposed it with my current situation.
She settled down on the chair close to my bed and held my hand.
“How do you feel?” She asked softly.
“Just a little pain but I’ll survive.” I said. She looked down at my hands as she massaged them and a tear rolled down her eye.
“I feel like this is all my fault.” She sobbed.
“Now, why would you say that? You weren’t driving the truck. Don’t be too hard on yourself.” I said, holding her hands. She smiled through her tears and leaned on the bed to embrace me. Her sobbing increased as I patted her back and comforted her.
“Its okay. You don’t have to cry.” I cooed.
“I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry.” She pleaded.
“What are you sorry for?” I asked, surprised.
“For what I did to you. I was such a fool…I want to make it right. I just need one more chance.” She said, pulling away from the embrace to look me in the eyes.
There was pain, there was sincerity in her eyes. I had come this far because my heart wanted to give her a second try. I needed to know if she was the reason I still hadn’t found somebody else.
“Well, we can try but its going to be challenging…for you.” I said softly.
“I know.” She replied.
Malcolm O. Ifi.
*O gini? – What is it?
**Agbisi gbaa otule, o muru ako! – A person who gets bitten on the buttocks by an insect will be more careful about where he sits.