I got my first visitor today, Wale; my lawyer, the best man at my wedding and the closest thing I had to a friend. But then, if you consider the fact that I have been here for quite sometime and this was the first time he was coming, maybe he was not that much of a friend. He came in a bit after twelve; sometime after the new nurse had given me my meds. I do not like her.
Anyways, so Wale had come to see me. After fidgeting for several minutes from across the wire gauze that separated us; several minutes of refusing to meet my eyes he finally asks how I’m doing.
I laugh at him. And then I tell him I’m as mad as ever.
He looks as though his eyes would fall out of their sockets any minute, and he begins to struggle with his pinstripe tie as if it is choking him to death. I fold my arms and watch; idly wondering what would happen if he dies in here. After some seconds of this silent struggle, he finally gets some clearance between the tie and his shirt collar.
I’m not so lucky.
As he’s gasping I lean forward and quietly ask him how much Ibidun’s dad paid him to botch my case. He stops all movement, and then looks up into my eyes. I see a haunted look in their depths and I slowly feel a rage growing within me. It must have been evident in the way I was gripping the gauze that separated us, because Wale suddenly flinches and begins to stutter something about ‘a mistake’ and how it was not supposed to go the way it went.
Somewhere at the back of my brain I start to feel the beginnings of a blackout coming on and I struggle with it, because a blackout is the last thing I need right now. I can feel the sweat start from my pores and I feel some sharp pain in my palm – as the wire tears through it and I continue straining. At that moment all my senses are incredibly attuned and I can feel Wale – through closed eyes rise from his chair; I can feel the guard on my side of the gauze start towards me…and then everything comes back into focus.
I sit in my chair, panting. Sweat is running off me in rivulets; I can feel the stinging pain as it runs into the fresh cuts in my palms, but I feel elated. For the first time I had fought off a blackout!
The guard’s face suddenly appears in my peripheral vision scrutinizing my face. Wale is sitting back in his seat – or rather on the edge of it, looking like he just survived a heart attack. I feel a sudden insane urge to laugh; insane indeed – but the guard’s presence warns me it’s in my best interest to quell it. I swallow hard.
I assure the guard I’m okay and watch him walk back to his post, suspicion heavy in his walk. And then I turn back to Wale who is cringing on the edge of his seat and emotionlessly ask him why he decided to come and visit today. He swallows hard, struggling with his throat and vocal chords as I watch him, arms calmly folded against my chest. He tries to speak once; several times but what comes out is a strangled croak. He tries again and I signal the guard on his side of the partition to get him water. I look on amused, remembering how he had behaved during the trial, running back and forth reading all sorts of gigantic law books and such crap. I remember the nights we had spent in his office as he pored over case after case as I sat and dozed in the chair opposite, starting awake suddenly to see him still reading. And then I remember how he had suddenly become lukewarm, how he had slowed down and started becoming distracted. By then I was caught up in the gloom of the moment.
I shake my head and come back to the present where he was just finishing a glass of water. He hands the empty glass back to the guard, nods grateful and continues his shamefaced perusal of the walls and everywhere except my face, shuffling the papers in his hands back and forth. I ask him again why he is here.
He says something about not getting a moment’s rest since I had been sent here because he had been feeling guilty since my case. I smugly interrupt him, saying that cannot have been the case as he has put on a lot of weight and is looking quite sharp. Then I ask him if his shirt is a TW Lewin. He starts to answer in the affirmative and then catches himself – but the jab has gone home. He flushes a deep red, and as he is fair-skinned it is pretty obvious. I chuckle bitterly.
Wale looks away. By now I begin to think I might have needled him a bit too much and that my tongue may send him on his way. I badly want to ask him not to go but I have always had a problem with apologising so I sit and school my face into a look of indifference while my thoughts run around in absolute turmoil. He clears his throat and continues speaking, telling me about how his guilt had tormented him for a while before he decided to get up and do something about it. He had gone to great lengths to find out where and who Ibidun was before we met…I cut in again to tell him he could have simply come to ask me.
Wale gives me a look that makes me feel stupid (a strange feeling, trust me) and continues his narrative as though I had not said anything. He tells me about how she was the first and only child of a wayward mother and a disciplinarian father; how it had being a struggle for the mother to have a male child but on failing, she had resorted to some juju. The man found out and went to marry some university girl who had given him two male children in rapid succession. Thus –
I rise from my seat to grip the wire gauze, starting the wounds in my palms bleeding again. I ignore them and focus on the man who is slowly tearing my memories apart. This time he does not cringe but face me squarely, some regret mixed with a little guilt in his eyes. But his look does not falter and he nods gravely as I ask him to tell me if what he is saying is true. I slowly sink back into my seat, feeling turmoil all over again. So Ibidun’s pop had two wives!
But Wale is not finished. He sorts through the papers and pulls two identical familiar – looking pieces out. They are grey and have some biro markings on them. He passes them to the guard on his side who takes a close look at them, and then passes them to the guard on my side. He also looks at them, hands them over to me and at the same time takes an obvious look at the clock – telling me Wale’s time is almost up.
I look at the papers; they are original copies of a patient’s treatment chart; mine. I scan through it rapidly, at the same time opening my mouth to ask him what I’m supposed to do with them. But then I see something that makes me close my mouth with a snap. The drugs are almost the same; the doses are correct, till I get almost through the bottom of the page where I see two inconsistencies. I am not so brilliant but I have picked up a smattering of knowledge about almost every field known to man, as a result I can read some of the medical jargon – up to a point. According to the first one, the one in my left hand I am a schizophrenic suffering from both auditory and visual hallucinations. According to the second one I am a slightly imbalanced person with bouts of severe anger and blackouts under high stress situations. I look at the dates and discover the first treatment had been administered from the week of my arrival here till some months ago when another nurse had taken over my case.
Why would I be treated for schizophrenia?
As I try to make sense of that little puzzle the guard nudges and hands me two more documents; bank statements. I collect them and notice some blood drip on the treatment papers so I spread my hands to the guard who nods and again looks pointedly at the time. As he leaves to go get some first aid stuff I carefully spread the bank statements on the table in front of me and look over them carefully. One is Ibidun’s, or at least an account in her name and the other is her mother’s. I’m studying the account balances and observe a transfer of almost fifty million naira at once. Checking the date I discover it was transferred two weeks after I was sentenced, and then a steady transfer of twenty million for every month since I had been gone. I compare this with her mother’s and make another startling observation; for the initial near-fifty Ibidun got her mother’s account got twenty, and for every twenty she got five.
The guard returns with an orderly who cleans my hands none-to-gently with mentholated spirit and covers the cuts with gauze, and then tells Wale it’s time to leave. I plead with them to allow us a few more minutes, and then ask him what all the information means. He smiles at me and says I’m supposed to be the brains and tells me to figure it out. And then he says one more thing I don’t understand; something about him running into a brick wall in his investigation till my new girlfriend brought my treatment chart and other some other things to his attention. I’m about to ask him what he means by ‘new girlfriend’ when he leaves me with the last of the documents he brought; a will and then drops another bombshell; Ibidun’s dad had died several years ago under mysterious circumstances.
I was stunned.
I had met Ibidun’s father almost immediately I began courting her; and not only was the man so NOT a disciplinarian, he was absolutely besotted with his one and only daughter. I remember he had an annoying habit of slurping his drink, picking his nose and cleaning his hands on the arms of whatever chair he happened to be sitting in at the time. He also was a pleasant enough fellow, generous with the laughs and sharing a ribald joke or two. But if anything Wale has been saying is true…
I look at Wale and then at the will the guard had handed me, asking him what all these information has to do with me and my being in here. He smiles and says again that I am the brainy one; I should figure it out. He adds that I should take my time in studying the will and that he is sure all the pieces will fall in place; he has faith in my reasoning abilities.
He mutters a small apology as the guard on his side of things ushers him out of the visiting space. I also rise, clutching the papers to me as the guard on my side duplicates the action of his counterpart; but instead of being walked into the warm sunshine I am being taken back into my cold cell, a cell suddenly all the more cold after all the enlightenment I had been getting. I am confused, and more unusually I am scared. I begin to look at the walls around me with some sort of trepidation.
The guard opens the main doors to the executive suite that houses me and my other ‘friends’ and I greeted by some scattered laughter; coming mostly from Asari and Ochuko’s cells. Edgar asks me something indistinct as I walk by his room but I don’t hear him. Nothing Wale told me makes any sense, and I get into my cubicle in a kind of daze. I look around the room carefully, trying to see if anything had been disturbed in my rather-long absence. Then I dump my luggage on the iron table and sit down before it, holding my head in my hands.
This is ridunculous.
Shortly I feel a steadiness settle over me and I despise myself for my weakness. Is that not what I lived for once; thinking through situations? If there is something to find I had better bend my back to it. I spread the papers all over my table and reach for the treatment charts first, at the same time recalling what Wale had told me in great detail. Then I remembered something he had said; when he spoke about running into a brick wall until someone had supplied him some more information; my ‘new girlfriend’.
Who could that be? How could I, an inmate at a mental institution have a girlfriend, not to talk of having one who would be in a position to supply him with information that could help explain why I am here?
I begin to feel a chill again.
Unfortunately; I do not have the luxury of a blackout this time.