This story was written by Fortune Ohaegbulam. He’ll feature here from time to time.
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I took a long drag of the cigarette and my lungs almost exploded. It had been a long time I smoked, having made a conscious effort to kick the habit,. However, it seemed the hot sensation coursing through my insides was what my body which had been earnestly screaming for release really needed.
I exhaled and immediately asked the kiosk attendant to fix me two shots of locally-brewed gin which I gulped down in one swallow. I almost choked as the liquid threatened to reflux its way back through my oesophagus.
I tried to pray; amidst all the madness it seemed the only reasonable thing to do. I wondered if God would hear my prayer with all the drinking and smoking. I only hoped for the sake of Felicia that I would get a miracle soon.
I stared at the building across the road; fixing my gaze on one of the windows of the rooms on the second floor. My wife, Felicia, had been battling for life all night and as I checked my watch, my apprehension soared. The time was 5.45am.
‘God please spare the life of my wife and baby’ I muttered in supplication.
Felicia was my life. We had been married for four years without children and for everyday our apparent ‘childlessness’ had lingered, it had been hell on earth for her. We had met in Owerri where she was undergoing her teaching practice and I was a stationery distributor to the primary and secondary schools in that locality.
It was a romance made in heaven as we were not bothered about social standing but pledged that love, trust and commitment would be the bedrock of our relationship. We were married seven months later.
Four years flew past. Our parents had made various incursions to aid in our quest for a child. I could not be bothered as I had constantly reassured my wife that it was God who gave children and would not lose sleep because some people felt it was a thing of pride, fulfillment or customary to have children.
I must state here that Felicia had borne the brunt of the issue. My business had gone burst when a mysterious thunderstorm had blown off the roof of my store and had ruined a consignment of textbooks I had just taken delivery of. She had risen to the occasion and supported me all the while. Her teaching appointment at the local government secondary school in Orlu had been confirmed two years earlier and she also had a fledgling provision store which served as an alternate source of income.
Little wonder I never joked with her even when mama had threatened to bring another girl for me from the village. She had come with bottles of concoctions which she claimed would make my wife pregnant and I had vehemently refused as we were in consultation with our doctor at the Owerri Graceland medical center.
‘It’s either you take this medicine or your wife should get ready to have a mate’ Mama had stormed out of the house, refusing to accept the money I had offered her for transport.
Our joy knew no bounds when Felicia was pronounced pregnant. It was a dream come true and we were thankful that God had wiped away our reproach. I took to managing the provision store to ease the strain on her. Since my business was not doing well and I was yet to recoup my losses, I felt it was the best I could do to help.
A dark pall was cast over our joy as the doctor’s projection in the sixth month recommended that Felicia would have to give birth via Caesarian section procedure as she had a small cervix. Amidst the hue and cry of religious enthusiasts like mama, I gladly consented and began to make plans to raise the projected bill of two hundred thousand naira. I would later get the local co-operative society to lend the money at a twenty-five percent interest repayment plan. I didn’t want it to be said that I’d left anything to chance.
The drive to the hospital took forever. I kept yelling at my friend, Obiora, to step on the pedal and I’m sure he broke a thousand driving regulations that day. I prayed fervently that nothing would happen to my wife and child.
I had gotten a call while at the store that my wife had had an accident in the house. Neighbours who said they were attracted by her screams from the barn saw her sprawled on the ground and gesticulating wildly towards the direction of the yams. The sight of a snake feasting on a house-rat must have spooked her and she had tripped on a log of wood; a delicate situation for a woman in her eight month of pregnancy.
The doctors immediately decided that they had to operate on her the ease out the baby which they already termed as ‘stressed’. I signed the consent form in a daze.
The vibration of the phone in my pocket jangled my nerves. Apparently the palliative measures I had taken earlier had not had any effect.
‘Hello doctor…’ I blurted out, fearing the worst.
‘Hello, Mr Okorie, Your wife is out of surgery and has been sedated to help calm her down. However, you can still see her’. The doctor said and I could detect the unspoken words.
‘…how about the baby?’ I managed a whisper.
‘I’m sorry but the child didn’t make it. The stress was too much for it to bear. Pity it was a boy. You can come and see your wife now’. The line went dead.
I collapsed into the chair by the kiosk and sobbed uncontrollably. I wept until I choked and retched, spilling my guts which were being wrung tight with the ice-cold feeling that my pride and joy had been taken from me. I felt like dying.
Moments later, I cradled my wife in my arms as she poured her grief unto my chest. Our sense of loss was overwhelming and shattering; like a knife had been thrust in and twisted. The days ahead appeared gloomy: Children yet unborn; Debts yet unpaid; Fulfillment yet attained; Scars still fresh and a faith shaken to its roots. I just wasn’t ready to give it thought.
All I wanted to do at the moment, regardless of what anyone said or thought, was to love my wife endlessly.