BLINKERED- GRACE OCHIGBO
EPISODE TWENTY THREE
THE RUMPLED AIR.
She was still bringing it to me even when she saw how obvious I couldn’t handle it.
“No, Success, you know I can’t do that now!” I murmured tiredly as Success brought my laptop before me again.
“What do I now tell him? I can’t keep repeating the same storyline for good four days, not when he is beginning to suspect that I’m hiding something from him by responding to calls in your stead.” Success lamented, gesticulating alongside.
“Sis, tell him something! Anything! We both know I can’t respond to that now…” I insisted, pleading with my eyes. My left hand held with admiration to the thing around my neck, the gold heart pendant he placed round my neck beside the fountain, that chilly New year morning. I haven’t removed it since then, I love it that much.
Success picked back the laptop reluctantly and made to leave when my phone, on the table a bit far from the bed, started to ring. She moved over and took the phone.
“At least, you’ll pick this one. This isn’t Tosin on Skype.” She jeered with a roguish smile as she handed over the phone to me. I sat up hastily on seeing the caller so I can have enough energy to speak.
“Hello Tee, how are you this evening?” Jerry asked with enthusiasm in his voice, from the other end of the phone.
I can’t let him know that am on the hospital bed again. Or rather that I’ve been on the hospital bed for some days now,
“I am fine Jerry. How is the bar exam coming?” I responded with the most decent voice I could afford at the moment
“Well, coming great. I don’t know if am just being paranoid but this exam didn’t turn out to match up with the avalanche of threat meted on us by all this rigid legal professors earlier. Gosh! I felt I was going to die midway. I couldn’t even afford totally enjoying my Christmas break.” He explained with that same tone, the extremely elated tone he uses all the times he called my phone these days. I wonder what came over him all of a sudden since January, so much that on Valentine’s day, he sent me pictures of the jollof rice he burnt in an attempt to cook. I couldn’t hide my laughter finally when he said I should taste and judge the food.
“Excuse me?! You are crazy Jerry.” was the only thing I could say. I mean, who taste food in pictures?
“‘You are crazy’ is most times the basis of geniuses” he had replied me. Fallacy! Jerry and his unprovable theories. As if that’s not enough, he would be trying so hard to justify what isn’t true. Weird! But that is one of the irreplaceable reasons why I was head over heels for him. Yea, ‘was’! I refer to it in past tense because I doubt if there is a present tense, I doubt if there will ever be a future tense.
“Really?…” I managed to voice out as a sharp pain pierced me down from my back towards my lower abdomen.
“Are you OK Tee?” He asked, with utmost suspicion in his voice.
“Uhmm” I mouthed into the speaker of the phone. This is it, right here. I couldn’t talk any further. The pain has become intolerable, gripping and squeezing my intestine so tightly that I feared they would pull out anytime from now. Profuse sweat soaked my whole body as I struggled to keep the shout, which was always impulsive, back in. I rolled my mouth into a balloon, perhaps that would allow the pain stay in till am done talking with Jerry.
Jerry didn’t feel comfortable talking any further. “For the past few days you have been unusually reserved when we talk. Apart from the fact that that’s unlike you, I have this instinctual feeling that you are not OK… Is there anything you are…”
“Ouch!” I screamed out unable to keep it in any longer before he could complete his statement. Success hurried over to me from where she sat outside the ward and I beckoned on her to call mum.
“Can I? We will… talk…” I managed to say amidst severe pains and threw the phone away without ending the call. Just when I thought that the dialysis sessions I’ve been faithfully taking for about six months would completely bring an end to this vaso-occlusive crisis. I thought as the first few months has been, so shall my whole year be hitch free. But I was wrong. The pain had grabbed me at my IT centre at Realway pharmaceuticals on Tuesday and I was rushed back down to the Federal medical centre as usual.
“Am so sorry baby… Please be calm… Lemme massage the place… it’s here right? or here?” Mum pressed her fingers on different areas on my abdomen while she spoke. I was still screaming, louder, and louder. I have never been able to decipher the real point where the pain emanated from. It seems to be moving with every touch of her hand, all around my body.
Mum saw now how futile questioning me for precision was and she started massaging everywhere- from my chest down to my thighs . My eye muscles got so weak they couldn’t open and close reflexively as normal. It took me great energy to force them open intermittently, to see mum’s face, if she looked cheerless again, if they was any guilt written in there again as I saw two days ago. Yes! It’s always written therein, as always as I’ve known. I gave up struggling to keep my eyes open. Sometimes you just have to close those eyes and listen through the mind.
If am not sure of anything else, I know Success would be standing somewhere afar off, gripping the wall like a lifeline and muttering some inaudible words, that sounds like prayers to herself. Oh how much she wished she could share my pain with me all the time.
“Sisi, why won’t you just tell him you are in so much pain once and for all?… Tell him you’re sick, in fact you’ve been sick, all your life. Tell him you have broken down again and missed about a week from your Industrial training. I see how you smile when you both talk, if he has that much effect on you, then share your pains with him as well. Tell him you’ve have been hospitalised… again. If he makes you that happy, why won’t you share your pains with him also?” Success said all these at once without breaking in between. It sounded like she was provoked, like she wanted to vent all her anger, all her frustration, out. I watched her quietly as her ‘pick and drop’ braids felt like a load on her head. Her feeble young body shook vigorously as she spoke those words. Even with the four year age difference between us, I look like twice her younger one in stature, but then she is never over the limit. She is blood.
“Success… there are some pains that are too deep to be translated into meaningful words even with someone that makes your world.” I responded softly. I didn’t say them all at once like this, I took them one at a time, as if the next word got stuck in my neck as the present one came out.
Mum looked up at me and saw that the massage was relieving me of the pain. She just started swaying her hand, rocking back and forth on my lower abdominal region and I enjoyed every bit of her touch. Those doctors that insist on pills, I wonder if they have smelt gun powder before, because the smell from these drugs are horrible, as horrible as the gunpowder itself. They said my name has been moved to the No.1 position on the list of ‘patients awaiting donors.’
“The world sometimes form words from our deepest obvious wounds” Mum interjected and kept quiet immediately as though she didn’t mean to talk in the first place. Success and I gave her a questioning look
“Mum, you don’t have an idea what we are talking about…” I responded politely
“O yeah! For real?” she asked, looking up at us with her forehead squeezed. “At least, we all have an idea someone is still seriously mad at me, right?”
I took a deep breath and held it. Now I could picture where she was headed.
“Till now?” my sister and I chorused as though we planned it.
Mum nodded her head slowly and sadly
Success sighed and fell into an armless chair behind her while mum held me closer to her, cuddling my face on her chest.
Jerry had to end the call after several unanswered ‘hellos’. It became obvious Tonia had dropped the call or thrown the phone away or possibly done something worse. But what could have gone wrong? This question would slide answerless again through his mouth for the umpteenth time. It wasn’t hallucination, he was sure he heard her scream so long, in anguish, before the line went dead. He planned talking to her today, a bit longer than he did when he called her two days ago. Reason he chose to remain in the hall even after exam had finished over two hours ago. He didn’t want the poor network reception in the hostel where he lives to break his conversation with her. Her voice came through his auditory canal like a gentle storm, calm enough to ease his tension and violent enough to set the muscular walls of his young heart clamouring for more, more of her warm responses.
‘But what could have gone wrong?’ he asked himself again.
He began undoing his black tie and unbuttoning the upper part of his well ironed white shirt, the sweat dripping down his face had no respect for the ceiling fan he was sited underneath. He picked back his phantom galaxy phone and dialled Tonia’s number and again it rang out with no response. He felt like throwing the phone down the stairs of the sloping seats in the large exam hall. Worries showed clearly on his face converting the contours into wrinkles. ‘Should I call Simon and just go hang out with him?’ he questioned himself underneath his breath again. Feeling uneasy was one thing he never loved to be left alone with.
His heart raced quickly as the phone in his hands began to buzz but it was his mum. He watched it ring out, he needed to steady himself before she starts asking him ridiculous questions as usual. The phone started ringing again and he had no choice but to pick it up this time.
“Hi mum, Olane ma.” He said ‘good evening’ courteously.
“Olane omami, abuwele ke?” She responded to his greeting asking how he was doing alongside.
Jerry smiled… “Mum, am fine! Am sure you were happy when I started by greeting you in Igala… I can’t keep up again please. That’s the much I can speak for now, not when lots of cases are in front of me to read up for my exams.” Jerry uttered. The part of the ‘too many cases to read’ struck a cord in him like he just told a lie immediately he was done saying it. The only case in front of him now, as much as he was concerned, was Tonia’s abrupt drop on his call.
“How was exam today?” his mum asked, adjusting her language back to English after chuckling lightly.
“Mum, I thought you had forgotten your first son was writing Bar part 1 exam o. For close to five days now you haven’t bothered checking up on me. Haba” Jerry complained, changing into a tone that sounded like that of an over pampered adult
” I am sorry son. Something really stabbed me deeply. But no reason is good enough to neglect my dear son, I know! And am sorry…” She apologized with an unusually quiet tone that got Jerry wondering if someone else was impersonating his mum over the phone
“Mum, what is the problem. What stabbed my sweet younger sister?” Jerry asked trying to lighten her up with the pet name he often called her. But she sounded indifferent toward it for the very first time.
“Don’t worry son. We’ll have ample time to talk when you come home next week. Thank God your holiday is spanning throughout the whole month, ” she replied, counting her words
“Mum….!!!!!!!!!!” Jerry stressed, “Hope Dad hasn’t done it again?”
She kept quiet for a little while, “Everything is well son. Just be on the lookout for a wife.”
Her last statement moved Jerry into an uncontrollable laughter.
“All this is about Tonia, huh? Mum, relax! We’ve been coming on so well and are beginning to get along lately. At least we enjoy each other’s company the times we talk. You should be happy and proud now right? You finally got what you wanted.” Jerry jeered with loud excitement as he spoke those words. The line became very, extremely quiet on the other end. He removed his phone from his ear to check the screen, to be sure the call hadn’t gone off during his moment of excitement
“Mum! Are you there? ” Jerry asked, almost screaming, after seeing the phone was still connected.
“Obviously, you were too excited to hear me well and I don’t mind repeating myself all over again. I said, Jerry be on the lookout for your wife. She is not Tonia and definitely will not be” she said firmly.
“What!!? What are you talking about mum!?” Jerry voiced out in utter confusion.
To be continued.