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    Walt Shakes

    Walter Ude (@Walt_Shakes) is an award-winning Nigerian writer, poet and veteran blogger. He is a lover of the written word. the faint whiff of nature, the flashing vista of movies, the warmth of companionship and the happy sound of laughter. He blogs at mymindsnaps.wordpress.com.

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COUNTING IN THREES (Part 2)

The Saturday sun was coming up, its soft light stretching across the pure colourless vastness of the sky beyond my window, indifferent to me, and my suffering. I sat hunched over the windowsill of the guest room in my aunt’s house and took a deep breath of the clean air. Simply to be alive to watch the sun rise over the awakening bustle of the Surulere neighbourhood ought to have been the greatest treasure on earth; yet I could not appreciate it. Tomorrow was Easter, but I could not bring myself to feel the anticipation of celebrating Christ’s rise from the dead. I chuckled sardonically; how could I when it seemed my own life was spiraling out of existence? And unless Angel Gabriel fluttered down from up there to give me a few tips on how Jesus kicked ass out of that tomb, then it was safe to say that there wouldn’t be any celebration of an awakening for me.

“Good morning oh…”

“Ah, E káàro, ma – how was your night?”

“Fine oh. We thank God. Happy Easter, my sister…”

“Happy Easter, ma. Bá mi kí awón ebí e…”

“My regards to your family too…”

From my position at the window, I watched the two women exchange pleasantries, bouncing from one topic to another in a rapid-fire conversation frequently sprinkled with Yoruba, the complacency they felt at being alive on another day etched on their faces. I felt a sudden wave of irritation surge inside me and I felt like hollering out at them that life was fleeting and happiness a mirage, that there was no such thing as contentment, and that they could walk out on the main road and get knocked down by a bus driver still high from yesternight’s drinking spree. I wanted to spit my resentment out at them like the corrosive cascade of acid upon the soft pliancy of human flesh. The morning sounds of Saturday swelled all around me: the soft laughter from other compounds, the squeals of children playing in the distance, a radio blaring from a mallam’s shop down the street, and the shrill voice of a woman angry at her husband. They were regular sounds, most of them happy, all of them indicative of people living their lives.

And it hurt so much because I felt my life was fast reaching its end. My depression surprised a part of me, because just three days ago, on my way to Lagos, I had been all about staying optimistic.

All that had changed after my hospital appointment on Thursday.

The Communicable Disease section of the Living Waters Hospital in Yaba surrounded me with its antiseptic smell while I waited in the small but compact Patient Waiting Room. Other patients, whose ages ranged from mid-twenties to late fifties, sat around in the available padded benches, every one of us waiting our turns to see the doctors on call. There were muffled coughs, muttered complaints and the rustle of the pages of the hospital journals as some of us read, while we all waited and watched the hospital personnel move about with all the seriousness and important airs of people shouldering the big task of saving the world, one ailing individual at a time.

It was a few minutes after three, and the doctor who had left his office, with the plaque bearing ‘Consulting Room 2’ nailed to the door, for a short break, was walking back. The tails of his white overalls flapped around his legs and a stethoscope dangled from his neck. He was flipping through a chart as he walked, and he paused when he got to his door. He looked up at the patients spread out in the waiting area and his eyes rested on me.

“Michael Iheme?” he said enquiringly.

I recognized him. Doctor Adewale – he was the doctor I saw on my first consultation. I answered, “Yes.”

“You’re next.” He jerked his head towards the door, opened it and walked in, leaving me to hasten to my feet and walk in after him.

The office had a Spartan look to it, and the temperature instantly dropped as I moved into its air-conditioned interior, away from the warmer degrees of the waiting room.

“Sit, sit,” the doctor said, beckoning to the chair before his desk as he walked round to get seated himself. “Happy Easter in advance, by the way.”

I mumbled the same to him.

“How are you feeling today?” There was a cheery smile on his face, and his eyes winked at me through his spectacles.

I felt comforted by the smile and replied, “Fine, sir.”

“I saw you on your first appointment about nine months ago, right?” He was back to studying my chart again. The pages rustled as he turned them.

I nodded, and realizing he couldn’t see the gesture, I said, “Yes, doctor – on July 22nd.”

More pages rustled. “And you’ve been back here for another consultation?”

That really hadn’t been a question, seeing as he had the answers before him, but I replied anyway. “Yes. You scheduled me for another appointment on October 22nd. But that time, I saw Doctor Orji instead.”

He nodded and reached for a small sheaf of papers stacked underneath my chart. “You’ve had your blood work done from the sample you submitted this morning. I’ll just go through it and from what the results reveal, we’ll know what next step to take, okay?” He looked up and tossed me a fleeting smile. I nodded again, and he added, “This shouldn’t bother you. Your blood work was fine the first time we met – your CD4 count was very high, so I’m sure today’s consultation will result in another rescheduling. As long as you’ve been eating right, playing it safe and staying away from bad habits, there shouldn’t be a problem today.”

I nodded again, this time with some vigour, as though trying to silently assure him that I had been the poster child of exemplary living for all those who were HIV positive. I had been eating very well, not even skipping breakfast, the easily forgettable mealtime of the day. My parents wouldn’t even allow it. I don’t smoke, and I had given up drinking. The last time I hung out with my friends, they’d turned outraged looks on me when I ordered Malt instead of my usual small Stout. I also broke up with Anna, no reason given. It had been a teary breakup, which ended with her hurling some insults at me, slapping me in the face and stomping away. As much as it had broken my heart to do so, it really was for the best. I had no idea if she was the one who transmitted the disease to me, or if I’d already contracted it and passed it on to her; whichever was the case, an indefinite break was what we needed.

So yes, I had been living right. And according to the doctor, there shouldn’t be a problem today.

However, that assertion was overcast by the first shadow of doubt when I watched the doctor’s brow wrinkle as he perused the test report. The wrinkle deepened into a furrow and his eyes narrowed. As though his glasses were an encumbrance to what he was reading, he instinctively whipped them off, turned to the paper, and a second later, realized that his eyesight was in fact useless without the glasses. Then he put them back on and brought the paper closer to his face in a gesture that suggested disbelief at what he was reading, more than a need to see better.

My heart started to thump. “Er…is there a problem, doctor?” I ventured. My voice came out in a croak.

He started in his seat, looking up at me as though he’d forgotten until that instant that a patient was before him. A smile ghosted across his lips with unconvincing brightness. “Of course, of course…” he blurted. “It’s just a little problem – well, not a problem per se – just a little…actually, it’s nothing – just relax, I’ll get to the bottom of this…”

“The bottom of what?” I didn’t like the man’s evasive tactic.

He cleared his throat and pulled his professionalism together over him like a cloak. “Let me just ask you a few questions. You’ve been eating well, haven’t you? Since you became our patient? You know, living right – all that?”

“Yes, doctor.”

“No smoking, no drinking?”

“Yes, doctor,” I reiterated.

“What about sex? Have you been having any unprotected –”

“I broke up with my girlfriend the moment I got back to Owerri after finding out I was positive,” I cut in stonily.

“That doesn’t really answer my question, Michael.”

“No, no sex, doctor, unprotected or otherwise.” I was starting to feel some fear clutch at my insides. Fear and annoyance. What was going on? Why this sudden inquisition?

“What about – um, have you been to any other healthcare institutions? Maybe your parents took you to see another doctor? A healer – you were given medication which you took?”

“No!” The word burst out of me in vehemence. “This is the only hospital I’ve been to since my diagnosis.”

“Not even a traditional healer? You know, some people believe in that kind of –”

“None,” I cut in again. Then I settled a stony look on the man, but when I spoke, my voice came out hoarse and slightly trembly with the fear I felt. “Doctor, please…why are you asking me these questions? What is going on?”

He smiled again. “Nothing – nothing is wrong. These questions are just routine.”

He was lying to me. I just knew it.

I watched him as he turned back to his desk and began scribbling furiously in my chart. I couldn’t make out the unintelligible scrawl that was his handwriting. So I looked on, helplessly beset with doubt, reaching, wondering what I wasn’t being told and recoiling from the horror of what my mind was telling me. He’d asked me again if I’d been living right, eating well. He’d asked if I’d been smoking or drinking or having sex. And he’d asked these questions with an urgency that implied one thing. I was worse off than I was supposed to be. The virus had finally beaten down my immune system with a speed that was alarming. I would need the antiretroviral medication sooner than I expected. The realization came with a despair that sunk deep inside me.

Finally, the doctor looked up and gestured for my patient card. I handed it over to him and he started writing on it, saying, “I’m going to schedule you for an appointment on Tuesday next week.”

“So soon?” I blurted out.

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“Nothing – it’s just – well, I’ll have some more tests run on your blood to check out some new details –”

“What new details?”

“Nothing for you to worry about.”

“I don’t believe you, doctor.”

He sighed deeply, removed his glasses and rested his eyes on me. “Michael, I want you to have a little faith, okay? Everything is going to be alright.” He handed my card back to me and continued, “Just go home and I’ll get to the bottom of this. Come back on Tuesday and I’ll be the doctor to see you and put your mind at rest. Remember, try not to worry, okay?”

That was on Thursday. Today was Saturday and my worry had so far curdled into a thick coagulation of bitterness, anger and deep-seated despondency. I felt so much fear and hurt. And a strong dislike for the happiness the world felt during this season. I hated everyone. I hated the world. And I hated Easter.

That day when all seems dark & grim and the only thing left to do is wait…on the Lord for tomorrow morning’s hope is risen. Holy Saturday.

TO BE CONTINUED.   sad-black-man1

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9 Comments

  1. Grace oruitemeka

     /  March 30, 2013

    Eyah..he’s haysh-eye-vee positive bt smtin tells me he’ll turn negative…i mean tis Easter #coret me if iyam wrong

    Reply
  2. Q̶̲̥̅̊k̶̲̥̅̊, tuesday is a bit far, wil b waiting though

    Reply
  3. Kuku

     /  March 30, 2013

    I so agree with Grace, pls make it happen Walt

    Reply
  4. Ini

     /  March 31, 2013

    *Sigh* Reserving ma comment. Make ah c d next episode first

    Reply
  5. gbemmy

     /  March 31, 2013

    D waiting is not good at all. Sometin tells me he will commit suicide bfor tuesday. *signs*

    Reply
  6. kachi

     /  March 31, 2013

    I soo dont like this suspence Walter. Better heal that boy in writing *sad face* what is all this sef? Mtscheww! Ω̴̩̩̩̥α wa oo

    Reply
  7. yemie

     /  November 16, 2013

    Here goes another suspense. Make it good Walter or else………you’re minced meat!

    Reply

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