There is this law at the NYSC which they sound vehemently in the orientation camp: whatever happens to any corps member, accident or illness or some other life threatening malady, never, repeat, NEVER call the corps member’s family; report to the NYSC who are your family in your service year, and if need be, NYSC themselves will call the corps member’s family. It was a cool instruction while we were in the camp, but as soon as we rushed and admitted IBK in an Oshogbo private hospital (government hospitals are on strike), the last thing on our minds was calling the LGI, the ZI or the state coordinator.
So I stood on the waiting room, scrolling down IBK’s phonebook for her family numbers, while Mercy filled me in on IBK’s family. IBK’s father had married three wives; IBK’s mother is late, she had borne IBK and an older brother who is in show business or something equally crazy. Their father, a wealthy political contractor was closer to his business than his offspring, indeed IBK saved his number as Chief Tobias. A man whose daughter saved his number as Chief Tobias cannot be the first person you call when the daughter meets with some accident.
I scrolled on, thankfully, I found her brother’s number saved as My Only Bros. I called the number. His background rattled with music and laughter, it was 8pm and he was probably in some club. I almost smelt alcohol. He was in high spirit until he heard my voice, his voice faltered.
‘What has happened to my sister?’ There was plea in his voice.
‘She’s involved in an accident.’
‘Oh Christ! Is she hurt? What kind of accident? Can I talk to her?’
It was touchy to hear the anxious voice of a man who loves IBK more than I do, who has loved her all her lifetime.
‘You can come see her.’
‘When, can I make it this night? Osun is not far from Ibadan, you know.’
‘I will suggest early in the morning. Does your blood group match with hers?’
‘He’s coming?’ Micah asked me.
I nodded. There were just three of us in the long cold hospital waiting room, Mercy’s pastor who had brought us in his car having just left. I looked at Mercy who had resumed crying, softly. I felt like crying myself, washing my grief with tears, hiding behind its comfort.
‘Mehn, you guys made a big mistake,’ Micah said. I looked at him. He was my closest friend, even he thought I was responsible for IBK’s pregnancy. But every one should think so, I had spent so much time in IBK’s company but we mostly play ludo, or I read poems to her, or just chatted. Most times I got tentative hugs, once in a while I stole shallow kisses. ‘You guys really fall my hands,’ Micah added. I nodded. Explanation wouldn’t change anything. I didn’t have the time, anyway; I was thinking about the whole denouement.
I am a learner, I told myself. I was a small player who had rashly taken on the big league and dully got injured. Now I had been left alone in the field to nurse my injury; the professional players were gone, I was here to clear the mess, IBK’s mess, like the ball boy. Of course I knew IBK was no Saint. Before I convinced myself I was in love with her I had seen her as a runs girl, me and Micah even referred to her as On the Road Corper due to her frequent travels all over Nigeria to see ‘uncles’. When I decided she was the one, I wiped out her past records with sentiment and refused to look too closely at her affairs. So I smiled whenever Edwin sang ‘If corper marry corper dey go born mumu’ and sang back, ‘If me, I marry IBK we go born better’; yes, I saw IBK as a future wife. Yes, I am a learner.
‘Mehn, let’s go into town and take something strong, something that will redden your eyes and calm your heart.’ I looked at my friend. He was trying to help. What happened after my eyes return to its normal colour? My heart would resume boiling? No friend, this was a cowardly way of solving problems.
‘How do you see it?’ Micah pushed. ‘We can get a bottle of Magic Moment.’ I smiled, no bro, I would be sober and make my decisions with white eyes, and hold myself responsible not Magic Moment, if I took the wrong step. But I didn’t say this aloud. Micah took my silence as no and left me alone.
That night I slept on the bench and all the witches in Osun State came and tormented me. When I slept they called with grave dreams. In one, a mob of touts came to me, carrying empty fuel kegs. ‘Does this place look like a filling station?’ I demanded. ‘We are not here for fuel,’ they responded, ‘we want blood.’ ‘What nonsense are you talking about? Is this a blood bank.’ ‘We have your blood account number,’ one of them said and charged at me with a dagger and fuel hose. I shouted and woke up.
‘What’s the matter?’ Micah asked. I said nothing. I tried not to sleep. But awake, the witches came and pressed me on the bench so hard I couldn’t breathe or kick or shout Jesus. After I surrender to dying they would release me and I could almost hear them giggling. I would sit up for an incalculable time but as soon as my back returned to the bench, they would return, all of them, and sit on me. I got mad at this and decided to sleep it away. But after sleep, nightmares.
In the last one, I saw myself in a football field covered up to the ankle with IBK’s blood. I was the goalkeeper and the DG of NYSC would take the penalty. Suddenly the ball turned into a machine gun. The DG metamorphosed into Chiemeke who lifted the gun and shot me. The bullet hit me in the rib and I stamped awake with pain.
‘What’s wrong with you?’ Micah was angry. It was quarter to four. I decided to walk about the remainder of the morning. It was an evil night.
I was standing in a filling station turned motor park facing the Old Garage round about, Oshogbo. I was waiting for a dark Toyota Corolla from Ibadan driven by IBK’s brother. I was disheveled, like something that you would pick up in the bin, and would have been mistaken for a freshly mad safe for the bewitched white shirt over khaki trousers. But my mind was too far away to care, even too far away to notice that IBK’s brother had arrived and now standing before. I only saw him when he said, ‘IBK’s colleague?’
I nodded at a tall, slim chap in sleeveless jersey whose large hair was cut in cute punk Gallas, painted a shiny brown. For a brief moment I thought I was staring at the rapper Phyno. He extended a hand donned with four big rings.
‘I am Breeze,’ we shook hands. ‘IBK didn’t tell me she has a musician brother,’ was my response. He revealed sparkling white teeth in a lazy laugh. ‘Just a DJ.’
‘DJ Lord of the Rings?’
‘Oh ho ho ho,’ he slapped my back. ‘You crazy. DJ Breeze, Cool FM. Hey, what happened to my little sis?’
I looked at his car. ‘Will tell you on the way.’
One hour later I lay on a recliner, DJ Breeze standing by my side, a needle stuck in the inside of my elbow linked to a tube carrying blood into a plastic bag. It didn’t hurt and it was almost romantic looking at the beautiful eyes of the young nurse before me. Gradually, my sight began to dim, the nurse developed two more eyes. I lazily shifted my gaze to my hand. I saw two tubes linked to two elbows but they were drawing more than blood, they were drawing my eyes. I shut them in surrender. Then I felt my head slumped in hot dizziness. My heart was beating a mad rhythm, but it seemed so far away, fading, fading, it was also been drawn in the pipe. My liver too, my kidneys, I felt them leaving my body through veins, filling the blood bag. A sharp tightening charged in my stomach as my intestines began a painful crawl for the pipe.
I was losing consciousness, slowly, like the fire in a discarded cigarette end. God please, thousands of people donate blood every second and go away, bouncing like young goats; DJ Breeze just donated his share and now stood like a soldier, though he had spent a quarter of his lifetime in night clubs. Why was mine different? This was so unfair. Chukwu Okike, biko… Biko… I saw clearly the stages of life: a child, a youth corper, a Romeo, a martyr, a fool!…
A friendly hand descended on my shoulder. I opened my eyes. DJ Breeze was smiling encouragements. ‘Thanks bro.’ I tried to nod but the effort was too much, I felt light, like a leaf of paper. I recalled a story about a woman who once donated blood but collapsed as soon as the needle left her body; they quickly returned her blood. Chukwu Okike, would you let this happen to your son?
The needle had been removed and the nurse was cleaning the inside of my elbow with an antiseptic wipe. Tap, an adhesive bandage wrap covered the spot. Then a beautiful smile from the nurse. The smile energised me considerable. Although I had to use IBK’s brother’s hand as pole when I sat up and brought my legs down. I stood up. It felt like standing on drumsticks but I remained standing. The Lord of the Rings, his hand around my shoulder, led me out of the modern abattoir to the waiting hall where Mercy waited with the largest five alive juice I had ever seen. I tried to frown, to hide my happiness, but happiness is like an advanced pregnancy, impossible to conceal. I was happy to be alive, to have five alive.
But while drinking the juice, I noticed Micah frowning at me. You see this life is a terrible thing. You go to the land of the death and manage to scratch out with your life and your best friends hate you for that, because of ordinary juice?
‘Mehn, we have bad news o,’ he finally said.
‘What bad news?’
‘Edwin just called. Because of your petition the LGI has announced that there will be an election on Thursday to elect a new CLO.’
‘But that’s good news…’
‘We can’t contest for CLO with IBK here,’ Micah interrupted.
But I wasn’t listening to the boy. I was conducting a mock election in my head and Micah was humiliating Chiemeke. I burst out laughing.
‘What’s the matter with him?’ the DJ asked. Perhaps they thought I was crazy. I laughed harder, hohohohohoho….
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Handcuffed to a bed post, unarmed, ill and told that the Russians and Islanders are coming for her, Sade only laughed and said, ‘Now I have them where I want them.’ Click here to read.