I drove into my compound like it was any other day. I had eaten before returning, and I knew the indepth tiredness that was claiming my body had nothing to do with hunger. My body was just limp from a long work day. I grabbed my wardcoat and walked towards my door. Before I could pull out my key, someone opened the front door from the other side.
“Surprise!” Ije shouted and hugged my near-limp body. She smelled just like the heavens and I pitied her nose as she buried it in my neck. She felt familiar and she was just as beautiful as the last time I saw her.
“You got back early?” I asked and she nodded. She had travelled to Ghana for a conference and I was expecting her during the weekend.
“Are you not happy to see me?” she asked. She had never been insecure and I knew she was teasing. Still, I became defensive.
“You know I am always happy to see you, Ije. You are the breath of fresh air I needed after the crazy dayat work,” I told her. She looked at me for a few seconds, unsure of how to proceed. Then, she smiled brightly and pulled me in.
“I made you dinner. I know you are always hungry,” she announced. I almost told her about yam and egg sauce I had gobbled before getting home, but she looked so happy and I did not want to tether hee excitement.
Dinner was yam and egg sauce. The yam was a little soggy, but I swallowed my complaints with the overspiced sauce and kissed Ije instead. She was reliable, dependable and so much fun. She also knew how to surprise a man and make him feel special.
She caught me staring at her and she blushed.
“How was your journey today?” I asked her.
“You know how I hate planes,” she said and rolled her eyes. It was true. The first time we flew together, she was so scared that I lost all my macho and panicked too. She had all these stories about the plane crashing and the angels coming to pick their people. I just could not imagine myself making the heavenly cut off.
“How did your day go?” she returned and I said the first word that I could think of.
My day was far from normal. I saw Kara. I SAW KARA!
My countenance must have changed, because Ije appeared behind me and began to knead my shoulders. I wanted to relax, but I needed her to stop too. Giving a massage had always been Kara’s thing and Ije was not doing a great job at all. I shut my eyes tightly instead, but she considered it as ecstasy.
Get your hands off me!
“Thank you so much, babe,” I said instead. “I needed this.”
“You know I can always read your mind,” Ije replied and winked. If only she knew. Maybe she should have surprised me last night instead and convinced me to take the day off. Maybe I would not be here. My head was full of memories that I had locked up ages ago.
I was supposed to play wingman. Jeff had seen a girl on his way to his class the previous morning and he wanted me to help him woo her. I had no idea what my job description was but I came along like the good friend I was, and I followed him into the large science amphitheatre.
“Jeff, why did you even bring me here? Am I supposed to kiss her for you?” I joked. He punched my arm playfully, but it hurt anyway.
“Guy relax. I just want you to say that you are my friend, the medical student,” he explained. I could pull that off.
“So I am making you look like a decent human being you are not, abi?” I teased.
“Ik-man if you mess this compass up for me, I will deal with you,” he said with so much energy. I laughed, but I knew Jeff was not joking. If that punch was not proof enough, his history was.
The hall was packed with human beings that were oozing perfume and body odour. Medical school had managed to save me from scenes like it. Someone walked past me and I was hit by a wave of nausea. Did humans not take baths any longer? I turned to find Jeff and I realised that I had lost him in the crowd. In frustration, I found the closest exit and rushed out for air. I patted my pockets down to find my phone and call Jeff. It took a full minute for me to realise that it was missing. My mouth was hanging open and my eyes were dancing in confusion. I had just bought that device less than a month ago.
“James, are you alright?” someone asked me. I looked up, ready to gather a search team when I saw her.
“Sorry you just looked like my friend,” she said.
At that moment, when I looked uo to see who the voice belonged to, I wanted to shoot James and steal his identity. I was ready to say ‘I can be James for you’, but I was raised right. I had more pride than that.
“It is not a problem,” I said instead. “I am Ike by the way. A medical student.” I was going to scold myself for giving the extra information, but I could tell that she was impressed.
“Chikara. Microbiology,” she said. I had stopped listening. All I could do was stare at her face. It appeared self-illuminating and I wanted to drown in it.
“I would take your number, but I just lost my phone in that hall,” I finally said to her. She looked sympathetic and more innocent than anyone deserved to look. I had a compulsive urge to protect her.
“It is fine. Maybe we will meet some other time,” she said and walked away.
I had no idea that I was staring, until Jeff appeared and punched my arm again. “Oh, you met her already. She is the girl I was telling you about,” he said as he pointed after her. I wanted to crush his fingers and warn him to stay away from her, but he saw her first after all. Besides, I thought as I let my eyes fall on his strained shirt sleeves, he was much stronger than I could ever be.
“Ik, wake up,” I heard Ije say as she pulled impatiently at my left arm. “Why are you sleeping like this?”
I struggled with my eyelids until they gave way and I checked the time on my phone. It was 7:30 am and I had to be at work by 8am.
“Holy Christ!” I screamed and jumped off the bed. “You should have woken me up since.”
“I’ve been fighting wity you since. If not for the rising of your chest, I would have thought you were dead,” she scolded as I rubbed my eyes and stumbled to the bathroom.
When I got out, Ije had already prepared breakfast and laid it on the dining. I glanced at her in awe and sat at the table.
“You love me. You can say it,” she said jokingly.
“I do love you,” I replied. I did love her. She was a superwoman who could pass for a housewife and a career woman. I never could figure her out. She worked so hard in her accounting firm and still always managed to make me feel like I was the hardworker who deserved all the pampering. I finished my beeakfast in a hurry and let her clear the plates like she always did. She insisted on it.
I was late to work, but I was able to join my team in the morning rounds. They had seen two patients before I arrived and as I barged in, I apologised to my consultant. He had never been the type to let tardiness slide and he probed me continuously for the reason for my lateness. I was going to go with a bad stomache ache, but diarrhea left my mouth, before I could hold it back.
“How many episodes?” he asked. I knew he suspected that I was lying, but I was great at sustaining a story. I told him all he needed to know about my stool and the drugs I was taking for it. I even apologised in advance that I would not be able to stay for the entirety of the rounds. It helped that I had run to the wards and my forehead was lined with beads of sweat.
“Sorry, Dr. Ike,” he finally said and turned to the patient. “This was your patient, right?” I turned towards the bed and realised who the patient in question was. Subconsciously, I looked towards the white chair stationed by the bed and there Kara was, sitting like she owned the place and smiling cunningly. I smiled back before I caught myself. She always knew when I was lying and she had not bought my act.
“Yes chief,” I said after clearing my throat. I struggled not to laugh.
“Please tell us about him.”
I launched into a monologue about the lacerations on the patient’s spleen and how he was bleeding into his abdomen. I had been able to repair the tear, but recovery mightvbe slow. We were still expecting a test result to wvaluate his blood level before taking any further other action.
The consultant turned to Kara and I had to look at her too.
“Madam has your husband spoken to you yet?”
Her husband. I needed the reminder more than anyone else. Like a stubborn child, I reluctantly took my eyes off Kara’s slightly cracked lips and returned them to her eyes. They were just as distracting.
“Not yet, but he opened his eyes,” she narrated. I looked at my patient and indeed his eyes were slightly open. He had not said any word yet although he looked like he could.
“Sir, can you hear me? Mr.Abaji?” I tried.
“Obieze, talk to them. They came to see you,” Kara said. She moved close to him and delicately placed her hand in his palm. He blinked and turned slowly towards her. He looked like he had tried to whisper something.
“Good morning, love,” she said quietly. The man on the bed smiled easily and tried to raise his other arm. He winced and shut his eyes tightly.
“See, he says nothing,” she said. She seemed frightened, but it was not strange for a post operative patient not to speak after surgery. They usually preferred to conserve their energy. I allowed the consultant to counsel her on her husband’s case and allay her fears. She looked less worried when he was done and she was given instructions on how his diet would be. He could take water, but no solid foods were allowed yet.
“Try to eat as well,” I said involuntarily. “You need to be strong too…you know…to take care of him.” The other doctors agreed with me, but I knew my concern was much deeper than it seemed. We moved on to the next post operative patients. There were two patients who had had herniorrhaphies and one, a thyroidectomy, but my mind remained on the repair of the ruptured spleen. Or rather, the woman in the white chair.
I was usually called to switch call duty days with my colleagues and often times than not, I had been available and satisfied with the arrangement. Today was not supposed to be one of those days. I should have been on my couch with Ije sitting carelessly on my lap and arguing about every single scene in the Nollywood movie she had chosen for the night. Unfortunately, I had promised my friend a week ago that I would take his call while he was away at a conference outside the state.
The more I thought of what my night could have been, the more frustrated and restless I became. Ije was not particularly happy about my plans as well. She had called more times than I could count. All she ever wanted to know was if I was missing her at that moment and as often as possible she would remind me that I was missing out on a great dinner. Preparing spaghetti was one thing she was amazing at, and like an evil tormentor, she called out the ingredients over the phone and made my mouth water. She was such a tease.
“Do you miss me?” she asked for the umpteenth time. I smiled and took a deep breath as loudly as I could manage.
“Do I?” I teased.
“Well, the spaghetti is really small today and I don’t know if I can save some for you,” she threatened in that teletubbie voice that always got to me.
“You know I miss you like I miss my FIFA,” I tried and she laughed. My game pad had broken over a month ago and I never went out to fix it. She knew how much I loved playing the game with my guys.
“So I am as good as a mere game now?”
“Never, babe. I miss you way more, but I have to go back to work,” I lied.
“Fine,” she said and ended the call. I had no intention of calling back and apologizing. I was tired of the conversation anyway. Remembering that I had intravenous drugs to give to some patients, I moved towards the wards. It was really a slow night.
I decided to approach Kara’s corner after dealing with the other patients. Part of me did that because I wanted to sit and talk with her without being in a hurry, and the other part just could not bear seeing Obieze laughing like that with Kara’s palm on his chest and her smile lighting up the whole floor.
He has no idea how lucky he is.
I have a beautiful woman at home.
If I had not screwed up, he never would have had a chance with her.
Ije loves me and I love her right back.
I let the voices in my head battle and throw tantrums while I administered drugs to every patient apart from Obieze. By the time I arrived at his bed, he was sleeping.
I pulled out his drug box and took the cover off. Kara’s face was hidden behind brown pages and I could barely see the title of the book she was reading. I tried to be as noisy as possible so she would look up, and eventually it worked. She lowered her book slowly to meet my eyes.
“How is your stomach?” she asked.
“My sto…,” I was confused until I saw the stunning half-smile she was trying to hide and I remembered the episode in the morning. “Oh that,” I said and chuckled.
“If I tell, then I would have to kill you,” I said to her. It was an old terrible joke, but it warmed my heart that she laughed. An awkward silence followed as I drew analgesics from a small vial into the syringe I had found in the box.
“How did you take your hair out so fast?” I asked suddenly and in retrospect, I wanted to take my words back. It was none of my business after all. She looked up at me in surprise.
“When did you start noticing people’s hair?” she asked. She was right. While we were dating, I was the worst at noticing when she got her hair done. One time, she had cut her hair and dyed it red and I still could not tell what exactly was different.
“Well…” I started. I had only noticed her wig on the day of the accident because it was lopsided, but I was not going to tell her that. “It was just pretty,” I said instead.
“Honestly,” she said with her eyes blazing and laughing at me. “The wig must have fallen somewhere in this hospital, because I showed up in front of that theatre after running around this maze you call a building, and it was no longer on my head.” I stared at her in shock for one full second before I burst out laughing. How could someone lose a wig in a hospital?
“You are joking,” I said as I continued laughing.
“Nope. That wig was so expensive and I already miss it.”
I laughed so hard that the syringe almost fell out of my hand.
“You have no idea how many times I got missing in this place. I’m sure the wig is in someone’s office now.”
I walked unsteadily until I approached the patient’s side and noticed that he was awake. Somehow he managed to ruin the moment…if I could call it one.
“You are awake,” I said and he seemed to frown. I performed a quick examination on him to check his orientation and I looked at his wounds. When I was done with him, his eyes were already closed. Suspecting that he had gone back to sleep, I turned back to Kara.
“So we can go home in five days,” Kara said. I could almost taste the relief in her voice and it left a bitter aftertaste in my mouth.
“Yes. It was so nice to see you again, Kara,” I said suddenly and she turned to look at me. “We should really talk.” She smiled and shyly returned to the book she was reading. I pulled an abandoned chair towards her and sat quietly. I was ready to leave once she told me to, but she never did.
Something came over me. Maybe it was the fact that her right hand was was just lying on her lap and doing nothing, or it was that I wanted to touch her in anyway possible. I just reached for her hand anyway. She had always found holding hands as the most intimate gesture and I had expected her to flinch when I placed my hand in hers. I slightly prayed that it was not in disgust.
“I am married, Ike,” she said quietly, but she had not moved her hand away.
“I know. I just wanted to know if it still felt like a bowl of pap,” I said jokingly. I had always told her that she had the softest hands in the universe and she hated it so much. She hated the idea of someone thinking she was soft. She wanted to be the hardened girl with all the experience in the world.
“And…?” she asked and I smiled. I knew how to get her.
“Still the same watery ogi that I remember,” I teased. She bunched her fist and punched my right cheek.
“Leave here before I kill you,” she threatened and I ran away from her reach.
“You know you love me too much,” I joked and left the ward.
I had reached the call room when I realised what I had said to her.
You know you love me too much.
I slapped my forehead with my open palm in disgust and turned the door handle. She would see it as a joke, I consoled myself. I always joked like that.
As I took off my shoes and pulled off my wardcoat, I laid on the unfamiliar bed and closed my eyes
Please Lord , no emergencies today I prayed.
The last thought I had was of Kara’s laughing eyes. I might not have slept in my bed that night, but I definitely slept very well. She made sure of it.