A week to my discharge from the hospital, I was alone, sitting upright reading a book, when a woman entered my room. She looked somewhat familiar, I wasn’t sure if I had met her before but there she was in my hospital room, paying me a visit. She stood at the door watching me at first with something akin to pity; she walked over to my bed. At that moment her name escaped me, I frowned a bit while trying to remember.
‘How are you doing Dayo? Are you taking your drugs?’ For fear of seeming without any social graces I answered,
‘I am fine and yes I am taking my drugs.’ By now I had an amused smile on my face.
She shook her head.
‘You don’t know do you?’
‘Don’t know what?’ I asked, the feeling of dread was back.
‘My name is Rebecca, He got it from me and gave it to you.’ The knowledge of who she was dawned on me, I shook my head.
‘I don’t know what you are talking about.’
‘Aren’t you taking anti-viral drugs too?’ She lifted the drip flowing into my right arm,
‘I have been here, used these same drugs, you can’t lie to me.’
‘Please don’t tell anybody!’
‘I wasn’t planning to tell anyone, I just wanted to tell you how sorry I was, I got it from my ex-husband and gave it to your husband. I only came to ask for forgiveness.’
The weight of this new information threw my resolution out of balance, and I looked away from her trying to hide my conflicting emotions. I could have told to myself she was lying but I also knew she wasn’t lying, I knew who exactly she was. Suddenly everything became clear, from the moment this episode of our lives started till now. I was in the sea of his treachery yet again; I had hoped this time would be different, that somehow he would have changed his ways. He promised me, vowed that he had nothing to do with this woman.
I looked up to ask her some more questions but she was gone. From that moment on, a battle waged within me and I thought about confronting him. However there was the stigma factor involved. I couldn’t be absolutely sure my family would accept me with my illness. I thought about the amount of money we would have to spend to keep me healthy. Dada noticed I was far more withdrawn than usual but I didn’t tell him why.
One afternoon, while the sun was over active as usual, Dada walked in with the pills. He said he had settled all that needed to be settled and it was time to honour our covenant. He gave me a pill and he took the other one.
‘it’s going to be quick and untraceable’
He swallowed his and I made to swallow mine, but I changed my mind at the last second and pretended to swallow the drug. He seemed all too happy to abandon the life we had lived together and take me with him in his ignorance.
‘You have taken it?’ I nodded my head in reassurance.
‘It should be any moment now’ he said. He took my right hand in his and carried it to his lips; he kissed it and I shuddered. He noticed my reaction and dropped my hand almost immediately.
‘I know this is hard on you Dayo, but you must understand it’s for the best…’
‘You lied to me.’
‘What did I lie about again, Dayo?’
‘I know all about Rebecca’ I looked deep into his eyes even as I said it and he looked away.
‘She is nothing, she is in the past now, it was a moment of weakness, that was all.’
‘The same moment of weakness that gave you HIV? Yes, I know she gave it to you. I didn’t give it to you, you made me think the transfusion I had 10 years ago was the direct cause, meanwhile you have been sleeping around, how many other Rebeccas are out there? Pitying me for having such a sorry excuse of a husband? Hmmn? How many did you give HIV Dada?’ I whispered to him angrily. He was silent for once, he looked sorry but it was too late, he had dragged me into this nightmare.
‘Please forgive me Dayo, I wish I could go back in time and make it better, but I can’t; all we have is now, please don’t let me die without forgiving me.’
I nodded and settled back in bed and closed my eyes…
A blood curdling scream snapped me out of my daydream; Dada was on the floor holding his chest, screaming and writhing in pain. He seemed out of breath. I was too weak to stand up from the bed. He screamed some more whilst the doctors and the nurses tried to attend to him; suddenly he stopped, and looked straight at me. It was at this moment that Dada realized I was not in as much pain as he was, I saw the way he looked at me, the morbid fear on his face when he knew I had broken our pact. My deviousness paid off; there I was, alive albeit ill while I watched in horror as Dada breathed his last. I was meant to die with him, I was meant to take that pill as well. The onus of my actions made me more reserved than usual. I could not forgive myself, God knows I tried. Jeremy the light of my life made me feel all the more guilty. I watched dried eyed as they laid him in the earth, the spot we had both picked in our will. So many months of preparation gone to waste in my moment of anger.
The worry my family had was that I would do something stupid like try to kill myself. If only they knew the cause of Dada’s death. I was discharged sometime after his death, my father made sure I always had one family member with me. Suddenly there was talk of me moving back to my father’s house and I panicked. Surely they would find out my secret now. I still had the pill Dada gave me just before he died, moreso I remembered the pact we had made and how I broke it by letting him die alone.
I hadn’t expected to miss him so much, in my anger with him I had failed to stop him from taking that pill, that was definitely on me. I was no better than him, he had betrayed our family and I but I had done worse by letting him kill himself.
The only person I had to think about was Jeremy, our only son. We had so many plans, so many places to see. I knew eventually it would come down to choosing between lying in death with Dada or living without him, I fought the urge to take the pill so many times, yet I was dying of the wasting away disease, a disease that he had given me in his selfishness, I still loved the man despite all he had done. I talked to him sometimes when no one was around, because saw him everywhere, in our quaint little house, a passing shadow at the market where I shopped. He watched me with calm judgemental eyes, silent waiting for me to take the pill and join him.
I grew weaker still from the ‘wasting away disease’ and four months after I was back in the hospital again. My doctor, Dada’a best friend, Carl fussed over me. He had been a guardian of our terrible secret; I could see the guilt on his face. Father swore I was going to get treatment abroad since no one could tell him what was wrong with me; I struggled with indecision, thinking more about the happy times I had spent with Dada than the pain he had caused.
That night when everyone had left, I took the pill out of my handbag on my bedside table. I was still holding it when, Carl entered. We were alone for the first time since Dada’s death.
He checked my drip,
‘Why didn’t you take the pill? It is not right that you are wasting away like this.’ I didn’t answer.
‘I have done my part and not told your family what is wrong with you; do you realize what this could do to me? My reputation as a Doctor, he was like a brother to me, I had had to follow his wishes, and yes I did try to dissuade him from taking that pill but he could not and would not be stopped, I just wish we hadn’t started off in this web of lies, Dada was determined not to live the way you are living now, half dying, wasting way like this’
‘I didn’t give him HIV.’
‘I know that.’ Then he sighed.
‘He made me promise as well, to make you keep your promise to him. It’s as if he knew you wouldn’t take the pill’ He sighed
‘Your father is flying you out of the country for medical care; he has a lot of questions that needs answers, answers I cannot give him.’ He said again
‘He is here you know’ I said changing the topic
‘Dada, he has been here since I was admitted’
Carl turned around in a reflex action,
‘Where do you see him?’
‘At that corner by the window’ I pointed
‘There is no one there Dayo, it’s just your imagination
‘Don’t worry about my father, I will handle him, I know what to do’ I said
‘I am so sorry Dayo, I am sorry for Dada, sorry that he made you think you were at fault.’ He squeezed my right hand softly.
He left the room quietly, leaving the ghost of Dada with me, and that night I took the pill.