A gust of cold wind lapped onto his face. He inserted his determined hands into his jean trouser pockets. Then, he gazed at the panoply of panoramic lights crossing themselves out into a huge ambience of hues, even as the traffic lights on amber suggested to him the green light to act. Malta’s was just two blocks behind. Across the busy street he dashed. The blast of horns from a racing car and the bombastic curses from the driver who had a lady to impress inside his vehicle all zoomed past him. He must watch it. Alacrity is a word to put to practice.
In the cover of the shadows of clients describing their ailments, attendants concocting and dispensing drugs and the soft mutter of the accountant discussing the day’s sales with the pharmacist, Nosa sneaked into Malta’s. He walked briskly through the rows of long, long shelves to the pantry door at the back of the large hall. The door seemed to be locked. He slid his hand over the door handle. At first, there was no sign that it will give in. With a gentle yet firm persistent push, the door creaked. Nosa stopped and looked back. Rows of drug-laden shelves greeted him. There was no attendant in sight. In a twinkle, he slid in and closed the door.
The smell of disinfectants and some sort of deodorants was very evident in the room. A welter of empty cartons filled the room. Nosa was still contemplating where best to hide and wait for the dead of the night when he heard the sound of approaching footsteps. They seem to be slowing down as they came nearer to the pantry door. His heart skipped a beat. He held his breath. The footfalls came dangerously close to the door, stopped and then moved on. Nosa heaved a heavy sigh of relief. He pushed his way gently into the space consumed by the empty cartons with as little noise as possible. There was a cranny open enough for him to hide himself away from the view of any approaching intruder. Then, with the low light available in his cranny, he gazed at uncountable permutations of nooks and crannies of different angles and sizes caused by the welter of empty cartons. Then he sighed. Silence.
Infinity passed. The soft mutter in Malta street was forcing its way into a diminuendo. The pharmacist was the last to go. He left at exactly eleven o’clock. Nosa was sweating profusely by this time. The air conditioner in the expansive pharmacy had not done him much good. Outside the pantry, there was absolute quietness. Nosa slid himself out of the pantry and into the expansive hall. Rows of drug-laden shelves greeted him. He walked to the place in which the drug he had seen earlier in the day was still shelved. He picked two packs of Interferon, kissed them, beamed a nervous smile and shoved them into his jacket pocket.
As he turned to go, it dawned on him that there was no easy exit. The windows were all located high up the walls where his hands could not reach. There was a stepladder in the pharmacy, but it could not reach that high. He traced his way back to the pantry, hoping to stay until the next morning so that he could sneak away. As he was about to close the door behind him, he heard the sound of a car come to a halt in front of Malta’s. He rushed back to his cranny. Soon, there was a rattling sound outside the pharmacy. The entrance door was being opened! Two men were talking. He recognized the pharmacist’s voice. Did the man forget something? The other voice was strange. It had in it similar exasperation as Nosa’s. The men walked to a shelf in a corner of the hall. Nosa saw a slight but dangerous chance. If only he could make a quick dash to the now open entrance, he would find his way out of the pharmacy in a jiffy. Outside the pharmacy, there was absolute quietness. He opened the pantry door and stepped into the hall. Then he walked stealthily to the entrance, all the time expecting to come to a disgraceful ending. He sneaked through to the outside. Nothing happened. In a moment of instant fear, he dashed with long strides across the shady road into the other side of dreamy shadows cast by lonely neon lights and display signals. Catching his breath, he began a nervous swagger down the road. Somewhere in his jacket, the packs of Interferon nudged gently against him.
A big clock on the outside walls of a complex chimed one. Nosa walked down to the hospital, still feeling very unsafe. The nurses he had seen that afternoon were not there anymore. He only saw a drowsy male nurse sitting down beside a paraplegic whose eyes were open but who Nosa was not sure was awake. Nosa greeted them curtly and made to move into the hospital hallway. The slight smell of an alcoholic gasp, possibly from the male nurse, wafted across his nostrils. Mosquitoes were everywhere.
“Excuse me sir,” The male nurse called, “you’re here for someone?”
“Yes,” Nosa replied, “I’m here for my sister, Maria. She was admitted this afternoon.”
“You mean oyibo?”
“Yes.” Nosa replied, not sure whether he was doing the right thing.
“Go in, she will be there.”
Is his lack of resistance another miracle?
The smell of Formaldehyde hit his nostrils again. He walked into his sister’s ward room. She was asleep. After a while, nature took over and Nosa slumped onto a chair and fell heavily asleep….
It was morning. The doctor woke him. Maria was awake. She was humming a song to herself in low tones. Nosa was happy to see her in a light mood.
“Nosa.” she called.
“Maria,” Nosa was beside her, “how are you this morning?”
“I’m great.” Maria replied.
Nosa was touched. He could not help admiring his sister’s courage in a situation in which she may not have yet known the cause. She must need something to eat.
“Maria, I’m sure you’re hungry,” he said, “what do I get for you?”
“Not really,” she said, “but if you insist, then get me my favourite.”
“Yes, you know.”
Nosa kissed her hand, and then he turned to the doctor, “I got the drug, Interferon.”
“That is wonderful.” The doctor said with a critical stare. “Let me see it”
Nosa fished out the packs of Interferon from his jacket and gave them to the doctor. The man examined them and nodded his head, and then he excused himself and left. Nosa heaved a furtive sigh of relief. Then he crossed his fingers, looked at Maria and then left to get her puree.
Nosa was out in the open air. Suddenly, a guilt feeling overwhelmed him. That drug was eighty thousand Naira. The pharmacist had lost eighty thousand Naira. I cannot believe myself. Oh Maria!
With loud “Afro-beat” blasts coming from its speakers, a tractor-trailer pounded its way down the very road along which Nosa trudged. The stereo was blaring Fela Kuti’s Zombie. The driver was drunk. Before his wide windscreen, people were scurrying out of the road like rats before an advancing cat. He flew heavily along, unconcerned and a bit bemused. And before him now was Nosa. Curiously, this was one person that was not scurrying out of the road. The driver decided to have a little more fun. He swerved to the right towards him as he trudged along the non-barricaded sidewalk.
Nosa was sure that something heavy was coming towards him. He gazed back and instantly dived into a stall which frontage was made of glass, crashing through to the reception. The trailer hit a pole just outside the stall, overhauling into it its contents. See, canned drinks catapulted out of flying cartons and torpedoed the glass stall. In a matter of minutes, the stall was a study in smithereens. Nosa lay motionless. Blood glided down one leg of his jean trousers, trickling over his canvass shoes to the floor tiles and forming a small pool. Nosa lay motionless.
He awoke. He was in the hospital. The familiar smell of Formaldehyde hit his nostrils. What happened? How long have I been here? He tried to move and only then realized that his right leg was heavily bandaged and suspended. Instinctively, he touched his jacket. The drug was not there. He was alarmed. Only then did he remember some of the sequence of things. Oh God! Where is Maria’s yam pottage! I must get out of here! He tried to move again. Some nurses came running to him.
“Will somebody tell me what happened?” He asked.
“Don’t worry, you will soon be alright.’ One of the nurses replied.
A face came up. It was the doctor. Had he realized the truth of the matter?
“Old buddy, you’re awake now?” His voice was friendly still.
“Doctor, what about my sister? What happened to me? What is happening to her?” Nosa asked.
“She is alright. She’s been responding to treatment. The Interferon was strong. It has destroyed the tumor.”
Nosa felt fulfilled inside of him.
“But there is bad news. You’ve had an accident that affected your right leg. For the past two weeks, you’ve been in a coma. I‘m afraid you’ll be confined to a wheelchair for sometime, but you’ll get better with time if you follow closely a kind of meal prescription and exercise sessions to be given to you.”
Maria came up to his brother. She was as beautiful as ever. Her golden weaves were as resplendent as ever. She fell into his arms.
“You’re well again, baby girl.” Said Nosa.
“Yes,” Maria responded, “Thank God you’re alive. I’ve cried myself silly these two weeks, staying here gazing at you. The doctor has written off all our hospital bills.”
The doctor was beaming with smiles. Maria looked at him and turned to Nosa.
“Nosa,” Maria cannot help what she has inside of her anymore, “Wale, the doctor, has proposed to marry me.”