So I’ve got this friend of mine who’s such a brilliant writer eh…! 🙂 Anyway, she wrote this piece last week that managed to jolt me out of the doldrums and set me going this week with a rejoinder—> Papi
It might help if you zipped over to her blog real quick before continuing here. No worries, I’ll wait 😉 #TeleTuesdays reperesenting!
He tossed from side to side in bed…well at least he made the motions as if to do so, as much as he was able to. The high density orthopaedic mattress was playing havoc with his back once again. He’d called for the nurse only a few minutes before and she’d only just left after pulling the window blinds shut as he asked so he was a bit reluctant to call her back so soon.
Sighing, he mused to himself at how his busy life as the successful head of an Accounting Consultancy firm was now reduced to a preoccupation with the mundane…like window blinds, ambient room temperature, and mattresses…
He closed his eyes wearily as he tried to position himself a bit more comfortably, willing himself to fall asleep again. He’d asked for sleeping pills before but the doctor calmly but firmly refused his request – there was no need to turn him into an addict while care was ongoing, he’d said drily. He didn’t know how to tell the physician that it would be the best thing that could happen to him if only the memories he could never shake awake didn’t transform into the nightmares he couldn’t escape from whenever he fitfully managed to sleep at last. To him, dreamless sleep was now bliss…
He didn’t even realise he’d managed to fall asleep until a noise woke him up – a noise and the dry scratchy sensation of thirst in his throat. It sounded as if someone had sat in the chair by his bedside. Still groggy, he wet his lips before speaking in a half whisper.
“Water…can I have some water?”
“Sure, let me get the nurse for you.”
He could barely contain the snarl in his voice as he shook his head, forcing his eyes to focus on Konadu.
“What are you doing here? Haven’t you punished me enough?!”
“Oh my dear husband, don’t talk like that. You know you’re my everything…” The mocking lilt in her voice betrayed her amusement.
He turned his head to the plain wall at his bedside away from her, gnashing his teeth in frustration…
His 2 year old Lamisi was running a fever in the middle of the night and after trying the little first aid they knew, he’d bundled her and her mother into his Peugeot 504 and was having to restrain himself from barrelling down the streets towards the Community Hospital. He sweated buckets that day, only releasing the pent up breath he’d been holding when she emerged in her mother’s arms from the Treatment Room half an hour later, finally asleep. Back at home, he’d watched her sleep for hours, afraid he’d miss something else…
‘Chatterbox’ Lami just couldn’t keep quiet now. It was as if she had finally found use for the tongue in her mouth and found no use in letting it rest. She could talk constantly, asking questions to which she just might not even wait for answers to before skipping to the next item that caught her attention. “Papi, why did Mrs. Oju not come with us to church this Sunday? Did she travel? Or did she get someone else to drop her? Or is she not feeling well? I hope she’s fine o. Or maybe Mr. Oju came back and took her himself. Where is he now?” She would prattle on until something more deserving of her time came by. Those were the days he was grateful for the other neighbourhood children lured to their house by his wife’s cooking…
Surprisingly, that was the first and only time he’d had to discipline Lamisi. He usually left that duty to her mother because that was the only way he could hide the fact that he couldn’t stand to see her hurt. She’d said something particularly nasty to the little boy next door whom she’d been playing with and kicked him. His face had heated up when the boy’s mother reported Lamisi to him and calling her out, he’d knocked her on the head, regretting it almost instantly as he watched her eyes fill up with tears she stoically refused to shed. “He said your car was ugly because we were poor, that’s why I kicked him Papi!” she’d defiantly told him after they had left and he tried to explain his actions to her. His heart went out to his little bodyguard and he knelt down to wrap her in a hug, mumbling in her hair “I’m sorry Lami. Thank you for standing up for me. We’re just fine. Don’t mind that nasty little boy…”
He knew he was above average – though not a genius of a man – when it came to academia and always wondered how he was blessed with such a uniquely smart child. She never knew it but her curious mind kept him reading in secret to be able to answer some of the inquisitive questions she would ask him, her 12-year old self believing her grown-up father should by all means know. He’d deflected her questions the day before on the planets and why the sun was hot (what at all were they teaching 12-year olds nowadays?!) and hastily had a cram session before bed as his wife watched him, laughing to herself before she turned comfortably in bed to sleep. “Hmmph!” He sniffed at her, turning another page…
It was a rainy Friday afternoon of all times in the year and everyone was caught unawares as the skies suddenly let loose quite the torrential downpour as if in a last ditch effort in defiance of the forecasted harmattan. Granting himself an early release from his desk, he drove home thinking of Lamisi… Secondary School so soon, he mused to himself.
His attention was suddenly drawn to the bedraggled young lady at the bus stop trying to protect herself futilely with a plastic carry on. On a whim he turned into the stop, opening the passenger door and gesturing her in. She gratefully got in, soaked to the skin. Wiping her face with the driest part of her handkerchief, she turned to smile beautifully at him and something twisted within him. “Hello, and thank you very much,” she thanked him in a beautiful voice, extending a hand. “My name is Konadu…”
Sneaking out of the house was becoming harder and he couldn’t keep going on trips impromptu as he had for the first few months of his relationship with Konadu. He however had to make it today. It was the naming ceremony of his second son, Kofi. He’d decided to give him his uncle’s first name – the one who’d led the delegation with drinks before the naming ceremony of his first child with her to ‘pacify’ her people. Sure it didn’t mean much to him – she wasn’t his second wife or anything like that – it was just the means to an end of a particularly sticky situation…besides, no one’s life was simple. And no matter what he was, he would never let it be said that he didn’t take care of his own…
Konadu had turned into quite the harpy over the past 8 months and he’d had enough of it. Musing one evening in the shade of his porch, a cool 1931 by his side, he even considered telling Lamisi and her mother the whole sordid truth for a while but he couldn’t for the life of him begin to even imagine how those words could roll off his tongue… Maybe a gradual disengagement from her would do the trick. He would support his sons and that would be that. After all, a talented fashion designer in today’s economy could do very well for herself without his active input…yes, that might work. “What are you thinking of so seriously Papi?” Lamisi plunked herself into his lap without warning as usual, a small frown distorting her beautiful features. “Er..em..I was just thinking about our trip to Bawku. I’m sure you’ll enjoy yourself there. Your grandmother will be so glad to see you,” he deflected quickly. That was a close one…
Day 52. Lamisi was still waging this war of silence with a doggedness that could have only come down her bloodline. Konadu had done her damage and moved on. It turned out that she didn’t as much want to become his wife in full, as to cause him to hurt by any means possible. And she couldn’t have chosen a sharper knife to slash at him with.
The large house was now empty, his wife gone and Lami a ghost flitting through its rooms in silence – and that was when she was around. He couldn’t remember the last time she had called him Papi – he couldn’t remember the last time she had spoken to him, period.
His heart felt like lead, his head strangely like cotton, sitting across the table from Dr. Arhin when he read the report from the CAT Scan he’d taken a week before. Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. What in the hell was that?! All he’d complained about was some weakness in his right leg and slurring of his speech sometimes… The expected progression and timelines in light of the stage he had reached that the doctor followed up with washed over him once he’d heard the bottomline: No known cure.
Later that evening at home with the lights turned down and alone in the dark, he was startled to realise that he had taken out his phone and dialled the first 4 digits to Lamisi’s cellphone without conscious thought an hour or so to midnight. Staring at the numbers, he shook his head slowly and deleted each number in turn. He’d given them just grief, he wouldn’t burden her further. He would be fine…the tears rolling down his face seemed to expose the lie though.
“Anyway, I just passed by to see you to inform you that I’m travelling to the UK with my children. I heard you’re not feeling too good nowadays so I wanted to see you before I left. We did have some good times together after all, didn’t we?”
The smile in her voice infuriated him to no end but he could do nothing about it but doggedly refuse to even look in her direction. Until her next words nearly stopped his heart cold that is…
“And er…I thought you might want to know the truth. Only Kofi is really your son. Neither Kwame nor Ewurasi is yours. That’s why I kicked against you naming Kwame after yourself. It would have been awkward now wouldn’t it?”
Convulsively his head snapped towards her and he gingerly pushed himself up to stare at her. “Konadu!” he gasped as his heartbeat accelerated. “You destroyed my life years ago and you’re now coming here to finish the job?! You’re such an evil person.”
“Oh come of it! I didn’t come here to argue with you. I just thought it was the right thing to do after all. I didn’t really have to tell you, you know?! I was just in a difficult place and you were so nice offering to help me with your contacts and all. Kobby wasn’t in a good place either then and… ” She trailed off, for once having the good sense to look abashed. “Anyway, I do hope you get better. Really. I’ll be leaving tomorrow with their father so I guess this is goodbye.”
With that, she gathered herself and rose from the seat, large Givenchy handbag in tow. Blowing a kiss at him, she turned around and strode out of his life for the last time.
Watching her leave, his strength suddenly gave way and he fell back unto the hospital bed, gasping in pain more emotional than physical.
Squeezing his eyes shut as a solitary tear rolled down his now weathered cheek he exhaled a deep sigh, along with the last bit of his will to live…
Up until the next day that is..
‘Oh Papi, of course I came!’
[Picture Credit: Zigan ‘In the Rain”]