The robbers emptied their cartridge into our bodies. Katharine and Adaobi died instantly but I survived without one bullet wound. I don’t know why even up till the present moment but I suspect, in looking out for her only son, mother planted different types of charms in my body, one of which must have included Ajesara.
Although I had become a man of God, there was no way I could get rid of the charms. They were powdery and rubbed into the different joints of my body. I have always believed I had nothing of such in my body until that fateful day that the thing prevented those bullets from entering my body. I don’t even know if I want to get rid of the charms anymore. That’s a story for another day.
There we were on that memorable day, my wife and I seating across Adaobi’s bed and drinking in whatever putrid smell had taken over the entire room. We didn’t mind, more so it has become a family custom to visit and hand gifts to prisoners, hospital patients, orphans and we had a plan to extend the visits to destitute children and layabouts especially during celebratory seasons as this. We didn’t care whatever it was we had to suffer in the process.
Adaobi Ngozi Osarumwense was the first child of her royal family. She was blessed with a glowing skin that reflected slightly under the linen covering her body. An oxygen mask disfigured her face; “she has been in and out of coma a number of times”, an attendant nurse whispered. She did it so gently, patting Katharine’s shoulder in a way that told of her concern for Adaobi not to be disturbed. I was surprised because I would have thought that what a comatose patient needs is an aggressive disturbance to rouse her from wherever she might have gone. Well, these sweet nurses have their ways of doing things.
A Christmas Carol was being heard from a distant giant speaker; it was the same we were humming to on our way to the hospital. It stopped some minutes ago and there couldn’t have been a better time to resume again than that protracted time we had to wait for Adaobi’s mother Oge, who had left us some minutes before to use the toilet. We enjoyed the songs and we hummed and la’d them to mark the time.
While we waited, it crossed my mind over and over again what impression Oge made on me and especially Katherine. Katherine was particularly amused by the buoyant mien of a mother whose first daughter was dead but for the oxygen mask as lifeline. She didn’t even care that she was letting out the details of her most-cherished secrets. Oge was upbeat and this contagiously infected everybody in the room. Even the nurse couldn’t help but entertain us with stories of her escapades with men, while Oge was away. She didn’t bother to tell us her name but she seemed to be enjoying the reputation that nurses are loose with men.
It was Christmas Eve and she was preparing to hand over duty to another nurse who had come in earlier and quickly excused herself. She put on a little red colour on her lips like Katherine always did when we courted before dashing out.
In the middle of the act, the knob turned, the door squeaked open and a masculine frame poured into the room throwing a minute ‘hi’ at Katherine, who if humble would be 6 years older than him. With that stupid guy fully in the room, the nurse’s act became more mechanical; amongst other things, she made herself up in our presence deliberately acting up to seduce her date. I only wonder what they’ve been to each other before that day if she still needed to seduce him. Well, times change. For a long while until he took her hand in his and flew out of the room, I feasted my mind on Oge because already I was paranoid with him. If I must say, he ignored me the whole time. And if I must ask, who cares?
Many years back, Adaobi’s father, Ogochukwu committed suicide. That was shortly after the birth of Adaobi. He was never from a royal family but having a royal blood in his family brought about his death. Immediately after traditionally wedding Oge, things became hard for the new family and in fact the entire Ebem community.
From stories that were heard later, the Eze of the town at that time had deliberately increased tax or whatever percentage of proceeds the people made. One good reason behind that decision was for the Eze to maintain a soaring reputation amongst his outside friends with whom goodies are regularly exchanged. This had a cascading effect on the economy and it was only sensible that everyone gravitated towards the Eze’s palace. That was where most of the proceeds of the town went and so the best of the women went with those proceeds.
One of the results of whatever unholy alliances took place then was Adaobi and when this came to the knowledge of Ogochukwu, there was only one choice left and that was the one he made. I thought about this hardly, focusing on a similarity between Oge and Katherine. Who knows? What about our government’s insistence on removing oil subsidy? Will it not make life difficult for me so much that the stupid date who took the nurse away and who looks very much like one of the children of those government people will wake up and say it is Katherine that he likes to impregnate? God Forbids! If it happens, there will be only one choice left and that is the choice I will make.
According to Oge, after the death of her ‘loving’ husband whom she did the abominable thing to protect and care for (she said it is not all things that can be said in public), she moved away from that community in shame to Lagos, where she remarried.
Adaobi being a complicated bastard was nonetheless adequately taken care of. She walked beside Oge to the hospital to make a surgical correction of her left foot. It was a very minor procedure, something akin to wheel-alignment of vehicles. Who would have known that the surgery would turn bad? Oge believed Ogochukwu’s unhappiness must have been responsible for such a minor surgery turning Adaobi into a comatose patient; she believed in her heart That Ogochukwu must have cursed her. Oge had submitted before slinking out to the toilet, “Adaobi will come out of this to join me, I’m sure”.
It must have been close to a day waiting in that small hospital room, humming and la’ing those Christmas songs when finally the knob turns, the door squeaks open but rather than a full woman pouring into the room, it was a trio of heavily-armed police-uniformed robbers that surged in and without waiting, without thinking, more like acting out a movie scene having robbers engage a national bank, they took positions and the crackles went up.
By the time the noise subsided and ‘our’ brains cleared of whatever fog had been raised, Adaobi had been more comatose than she was and my Katherine had joined her in coma. It was an eternal coma, I supposed; for many years later, I have still been hoping to hear her voice one day. Whatever it was those robbers came to steal, the police have been promising to keep the investigation ongoing. It’s been three years now. I trust them to do their job. While we wait, let’s wish ourselves a very merry Christmas celebrations.