The voice sounded eerie faint – and Dapo spent a moment wondering if the person calling his name was who he thought it was.
The smile that creased his father’s face was like a child’s scrawl in mud. It lent humanity to what was to easy to mistake for a papier-mâché design. The whole thing looked crazy – with the different wires hanging from all over the place. Dapo knew where to look for his father’s face was because he knew where to look – not because the man’s face stood out distinctly in the midst of all the wires.
“I’m really happy to see you…”
A frown of disapproval materialized on Dapo’s face. “You know you shouldn’t be talking,” he said in a tone that was directly at variance with the look on his face.
You know you sound like a home video character.
You know you should be quiet!
The old man wheezed. “Well, listening to advice and suggestions is not exactly one of the Ojos’ strongest points. You know that,” he finished and then threw his head back gasping for breath. Dapo rubbed his knuckles gently but firmly across the man’s chest, averting his head to avoid the stench of rotting flesh that came from the man’s open mouth.
When his breathing had stabilized, the man nodded and smiled in his son’s direction – and Dapo, for a moment, could see what the man must have looked like forty years ago.
Maybe you’ll understand why your mother fell for him so hard.
All I need do is to look at myself – and that makes all the sense in the world to me –
“There…are some things…you need to know…”
“Dad, they can wait. Please – “
“And how is the patient this morning?”
He looked over his shoulder to see an attractive woman with a stethoscope around her neck walking in from the door. She wasn’t too tall, but she had a full body with black hair that was graying at the temples.
“Disagreeable as always, doctor. He’s been trying to talk all morning.”
Dapo caught a whiff of a perfume he believed was expensive as she swung past him to bend over his father’s chest. The smile that appeared on the old man’s face gleamed.
“Don…don’t mind him, doctor. I can still sweep you…off your…feet.”
The doctor chuckled. “I don’t doubt that, engineer. But I doubt your son’s mother would very well appreciate that.” She turned her head towards Dapo and he caught a glimpse of some purple-frilly something peeking from underneath her blouse. “You’re his son, are you not?”
Dapo grunted. “Is it that obvious?”
“If it was anymore obvious, you’d be identical twins. Does that bother you?”
“Why should it?” he answered a bit too sharply and the doctor’s smile widened. “You tell me,” she responded.
He stood up. “I need…I need some air. I’ll be right back dad,” he said and dashed outside.
What the hell is wrong with that doctor?
What the hell is wrong with you?!
Dapo pulled out his Samsung S4 from his pocket and turned it on.
About time you did that. It’s been two days.
He stared down the hall while the phone loaded, trying not to think about of one man in particular lying a few meters from him at that moment. There was a smiling wheelchair-bound woman being wheeled in his direction, bantering and laughing with the smiling boy who was wheeling her. There was a male nurse discussing passionately with another female doctor who was patiently responding to his rather sharp retorts.
There was a moment in which Dapo wondered; as people are wont to do when they are in places like the one he was in; what the people in the different wards where in there for – and which of them would make it back home alive. He wondered what dying people saw..what they experienced in their last moments. He wondered if they wished they could set things right.
And he thought about his father.
A slight vibrating from his left hand brought his attention back to the moment, and he looked at the phone screen to see he had several text and Whatsapp messages. He sighed, because he could think of who the bulk of the messages were from. He made to open them – and then he changed his mind, instead looking up in time to see the doctor stepping out of his father’s room.
“Excuse me doctor,” he started as he walked towards her. She stopped and turned in his direction, squinting slightly before smiling as she recognized him.
“Handsome man – hope you didn’t take anything I said in there personal…”
Dapo shook his head. “That’s not an issue. How’s he looking?”
The doctor looked serious. “He’s holding up okay; considering. I would say continue praying; but don’t raise your hopes too high. Your sister was the one here yesterday?”
At Dapo’s nod she smiled. “She’s very pretty and quite nice. Also, she loves your dad.”
He grinned. “Mosun loves everybody.”
She grinned at him. “Is that her name?”
Dapo nodded again. “She’s quite pretty. And you,” she paused, looking him over unabashedly. “Black sheep abi?”
“That’s what they all say,” was his distracted reply. “So…you were saying…”
He liked the way she became all businesslike. “His prognosis is pretty grim – so are his chances, but really it could swing either way.” She patted his shoulder. “Pray.”
He watched as she walked away, looking but not really seeing. And as he snapped back to head into his dad’s room, his phone began to vibrate.
You are going to have to talk with her sooner or later.
He clenched his jaw and slid the circle in the centre of the phone’s screen upwards. “Hello?” he said.
“Dapo…how is daddy doing?”
He closed his eyes, concentrating on the sound of her voice as though he was young Clark in that Man of Steel movie listening to his mother. She was worried.
“Dad is fine – holding up pretty well, as well as can be expected. How are you?”
A sound, something that sounded like a sob mixed with laughter came drifting down the phone. “I’m fine. How are you doing, baby?”
- A half-smile appeared on his face. “Honestly, I haven’t had time to think about that. I’m just pretty much in ‘doing’ mode – just doing what I need to do.”
“And mummy? Mosun?”
A pair of heels clicking rapidly on floor tiles made itself known to him, and he turned over his shoulder to see Mosun coming towards him. “She just got here,” he said to Yemisi. “Hold on a bit, please.”
He hugged his sister back, and then leaned away to look into her eyes. “You’re not supposed to be here for at least…” he broke away to look at his left wrist. “…three hours. What are you doing?”
She sniffed at him. “I cannot stay at home doing nothing, worrying about him. And mummy was steadily driving me crazy with her wails and screams. I just…” she shook her braided tresses. “How is he doing?”
“He’s a lot better – the doctor just left sef.” And then he remembered Yemisi was waiting.
“I’m so sorry – “ he began, waving Mosun away.
Yemisi interrupted him. “Hey, it’s okay. Tell her I said hi.” She was quiet for the space of three heartbeats, and then; “when are you coming back?”
“Have Chidi them paid your balance?”
Yemisi snorted again. “Dapo, seriously? Get back here and we’ll talk about that.”
“You do know though – whether my dad dies or not, life goes on, right?”
He chuckled mirthlessly. “Well, I’m not known for my political correctness. And it is true, whether you admit it or not.”
“Whatever. When do you expect…”
He interrupted her. “Saturday most likely. Shade will be arriving tomorrow – and she intends to spend quite some time so…I should be back then – Sunday latest.”
“Okay. I’ll be waiting.”
Some spirit of mischief in him prompted him to ask. “How is Remi?”
“He’s – hey! How am I supposed to know how your cousin is doing?”
Dapo laughed and hung up.
Hope you realize – she’s gone too sha.
Could you be a lot more obvious?
Shoving the phone in his pocket, he walked back into his father’s ward.
Their father looked at peace, laying so still that but for the beeping monitor he would easily have passed for dead. Brother and sister stood side by side and watched the man quietly, lost in their own thoughts.
“I was shocked to see you,” Mosun whispered suddenly. “You and dad are not exactly the best of pals.”
Dapo scoffed. “Yeah maybe – but he is my father isn’t he? There’s nothing he or I can do to change that.”
“I think it’s because you’re like him so much. Mum always says that – “
“Can you guys not hold that over my head? You don’t want me to turn out like him, yet you cannot help reminding me at every opportunity that I am like him. How does that work?”
Mosun smiled sadly. “You know we love you, D. No matter what. You know mum is nuts about you. And me…” she winked at him. “I’m happy you’re my big brother. When I look at you, I see everything dad once was – I see everything he could have been…”
“And that’s why I’m so hard on you – so…so you do not turn out like me.”
The siblings turned towards the voice. Their father was struggling to sit up in spite of all the wires and tubes surrounding him. Dapo rushed over to his side and pushed him down none-too-gently.
“This is not Nollywood, ‘papa’. You’re not dying, you hear? Save all the ‘I’m-sorry-I-meant-well’ speeches for later, okay?” he said roughly.
He turned to his sister, walking away from the bedside towards the door. “It’s true, isn’t it? Abeg!”
The door handle was turning before his hand closed on it – and then the door opened and he was face to face with a very beautiful buxom woman whose lips and cheeks looked like they were made for smiling – even though they were busy with a frown at that moment. And then the golden-brown eyes met his and they expressed themselves, natural warmth lighting the gold.
“My darling!” the woman said happily, and pulled Dapo against her blue-blouse covered chest. He closed his eyes, inhaling the scent of the woman who gave him life; the woman whose love would never leave room for doubt. Mother.
“How is the food at the hotel?”
Dapo grunted. “I don’t do hotel food o. Why would I, when Iya Ibrahim is still alive and well?”
“She’s still there? Shey you will take me for lunch – or is it dinner now?” Mosun interjected while their mother rolled her eyes at their antics. Dapo grinned and nodded.
“Of course. Now we should give the wife some time with her husband,” he said as he gently took Mosun’s elbow. “We’ll see you later, maami.”
As they stepped into the corridor, Mosun pulled at his hand. “I saw Muyiwa sef.”
Dapo was surprised. “Muyiwa! Where did you see the mufu?”
“At the airport – said he came to drop his uncle off. He insisted on driving me to the park sef. I had to send the cab guy I’d called away.”
“So how is he doing? I didn’t even know he was in Lagos!”
Mosun poked his side with her elbow. “What do you actually know? He said he’s been asking you for your number – sending you messages on Facebook and so on. No response.”
“He should have tried my Twitter handle,” Dapo grumbled. “What is it that he wants to tell me?”
Mosun chuckled. “Well for one, he did say I should tell you Mope did not get married after all.”
Dapo stopped in his tracks, mouth wide open like the expressway in broad daylight. “What?!”
“Yes o – he also said I should watch when I tell you cos you might just react like that,” she said, pointing a finger at his open mouth. “Why do you find that so shocking? Who’s Mope again?”
His thoughts in a whirl, Dapo kept walking, no longer hearing his sister as she continued speaking. Suddenly it seemed as though there was so much for him to do. He had to clear things up with his parents, get Yemisi and Remi sorted out, catch up with work –
So Mope is not married!
He didn’t know whether to be happy or sad.