You can’t forget pharmacology, can you? Remember opioids? Kai, those drugs! I can hear you say. I hope medical school is still fresh in your head. You were the best student in pharmacology in our fourth year, so you would still remember that group of drugs called opioids.
Your brain is at boiling point, as Professor Ajimoh would always say. You had all the answers to every question in ward round. Remember the day he asked us some questions about what pharyngeal arches give rise to. Nobody remembered. That was the Anatomy of our pre-clinical days. We were in final year then. The five years in between had depleted our Human Anatomy memories. You remembered! I was so proud of you! And I felt like screaming out to the professor of surgery, consultants, senior registrars, registrars, house officers and fellow students: that’s my boyfriend!
You know that handsome Professor of Surgery and his eloquence. He has a way of enticing and seducing words like a magnet would seduce metal. His mouth works its way around words with such dexterity that the words themselves are roused and they flow out endlessly, with such allurement, with the ease with which uncongealed oil flows. You also know that he speaks with the self confidence of a secondary school teacher that wants to show a dazed physics class that he has and knows the stuff.
That day after our first surgery lecture, we came out of surgery seminar room and everyone couldn’t stop talking about how drop dead gorgeous the Professor was. We – me, you, Oseghale and Ehinomen – entered your car and you drove to Clinical hostel. In the car, Ehinomen confessed that if Professor Ajimoh should ask her out once, she would say yes, the first time. No acting. No forming. No PHTG; Playing Hard To Get! And you reminded her that the man was wearing a golden band on the fourth finger of his left hand. And she laughed. But we knew she was serious. It was just two months to the end of our almost eight-year-stay in medical school – courtesy of the Academic Staff Union Of Universities strikes, year in, year out – and she had no boyfriend to show for those eight, long, hard years and was desperate. She was twenty seven.
As I write this letter, I have a cup of water and those drugs with me now. Meanwhile, I think I should take you down memory lane.
Chima Nwachukwu Ololufe,
I can’t forget the first day I saw you. Ours was love that took time to crawl. And crawl it did, till it walked, till it flew, till it soared.
The first day I saw you, we, the new students, were on a very long queue, in front of admissions office for our clearance. You were directly behind me. I wasn’t really bothered about the comments of the guy, who was on a blue shirt and black trousers and was behind me. You kept complaining about your aching legs to no one in particular. When I couldn’t stand your whining, I turned to look at the young man behind me. For a minute, we were looking at each other. I turned round and faced my front. I didn’t say anything. You didn’t either. I never saw you again till a week after that, when I got into class for physics 111 and sat down in front.
As I sat down, I never knew that a new chapter in my life had opened. I never knew I was on the tarred smooth road that only led to one destination: damnation! I never knew I would, one day, be writing this letter to you. You came thereafter and sat by me. One thing led to the other and we got talking. We were both first year medical students.
Our first date would always remain fresh in my memory. You bought roses and the whole place was filled with their aroma. The trees were in a happy mood. They slowly wriggled their bodies to the classical music of the wind. Dark clouds were beginning to cover the shameful nakedness of the blue sky. We ate under the gaze of two candles that also saw our quiet shadows, repeating our every action. The candle lights were also dancing rhythmically to the magic of cool breeze. The food was tasty.
You told me you wanted to show me something and drove me to your house. Immediately you opened the door, we were applauded by the presence of more roses on the floor. The sweet aroma was now intoxicating. You held my hands and I could feel the glowing embers of love emanating from every fibre of your being. You said you wanted to make a request and I asked you to go on. You said if only I was a picture, you would have kept me at the centre of your life and woken up every blessed morning of your life to gaze at my ravishing beauty. I didn’t know when a tear trickled, like indecisive rain at the end of rainy season, from my eye. You asked me to be the queen of your life and I asked why it took you so long. You asked if it wasn’t too late. Fear was palpable in your eyes. I laughed and you joined in the laughing spree. Your palms caressed my cheeks. I said yes. The rest is history. There was fire in your eyes. There was passion in your heart. I heard sincerity in your voice.
Our tribe would be a major issue in both families. You are Igbo, from Abia state; I’m Yoruba from Ekiti state. Amongst the things we had in common, one was conspicuous: tribalism was the thick red blood that bathed the veins of our parents. They breathed, wallowed in, slept in and fed on it. At times, we laughed at them behind them, saying the world had passed through the tribalism era and at times we were scared; scared that our parents might not accept us. That was our silently roaring fear.
When we finished MBBS part III, I was scared. I didn’t know whether I had passed or failed.
I remember the day that result was released vividly. You called me suddenly and told me to wait for you in your BDPA home. I took a bike from my room in Clinical Students’ Hostel to Main Gate and from there to your house. You didn’t tell me that our results had been released.
Suddenly, I heard the sound of your car outside. In a couple of minutes, you walked in screaming, congratulations, we made it. In our happiness and excitement, we almost did what we agreed never to do. I sprang up and started screaming. Then, you held me too close for comfort and I freed myself in your arms with reckless abandon; a mixture of happiness that I passed, that we both passed, and relief that the long days of anxiety had finally come to an end. From nowhere, our lips found themselves and interlocked and for one second, I lost track of my senses. Maybe you did too. A nut loosened in my brain. Because our blood was hot, our agreement vanished from my head. We promised each other not to eat the forbidden fruit; we said we would wait till the right time; for the night, our wedding night when no holds would be barred; the night when our virginities, like neatly bound presents, would be unwrapped. We said our temples would not be defiled.
So, the day our blood was hot and the two pink snakes in our mouths interlocked and our breaths coming out in pieces and we were feeling our superimposed heartbeats, your hands started to stray but the nut and bolt that earlier on loosened in my brain suddenly fitted together. I flung your hand away from my button. I moved away from you. Then I saw it in your eyes; Shame. Remorse. Anger. Rage. You hated yourself for what you did. You sat at the edge of the bed and held your face in your palms. You couldn’t believe what you almost did. Your knuckles punched your thighs several times. You fell on your knees and asked for my forgiveness and I pulled you up and said it was alright. There was no need to be afraid. No harm was done yet.
Life went on after that, this time we were more careful. You taught me Igbo. You called me Asampete. You said I was your Omalicha. You called me Nne. You re-christened me Ifunanya m, Nwanyi oma. You taught me your Umuahia dialect. You wrote me a lot of love notes. Out of all, the words of this one would continue to meander along the serpentine lanes of my brain:
Never seen a love so pure, never seen a smile so bright. The radiant sun can’t be compared to the glow of your eyes. Even in the darkness of the night, you just can’t be hidden. Just like the lone moon illuminates the dark night, you spark up my life my love; and you would continue to light up my life for life. If only I could reincarnate and bring along my own radiance, my sunshine; it would be you, again and again. ..Chim
Tears stung my eyes when I read it. You were simply sweet.
After MBBS part IV, we went to your home together and our worst fears were confirmed. Your mother, after she learnt my name is Omobolanle, hissed, walked out and never came back till I left. I heard her mutter something like ofe mmanu, as she walked out. We saw it coming. Tribalism was beginning to take its toll on us. You told me not to worry, that she would accept me with time. I knew that if you had come to my house, the reception would have been worse. My father would have called you ajokuta mamomi ikobokobo omo nna – stupid never-do-well Igbo boy - and walked you out.
Final exams came and once again, we both passed at once. Even though we both applied to LUTH and UBTH, you got a spot for house job in LUTH and I was retained in UBTH, where we both trained. I was sad. The distance would pose a lot of problems, I insisted. But you said it won’t. We both had BlackBerries. It meant that each person would just be a ping away. I agreed. Even though I still wasn’t happy, you cheered me up.
You got to Lagos and called in the first week. By the second week, I didn’t hear from you again. Whenever I dialed your number, it was either switched off or not responding. I was scared. I thought something bad had happened to you. I took a flight to Lagos and when I got to the hospital, someone described your place to me.
I got to your door and knocked. There was no reply. I knocked the second time. You came out and almost jumped out of your skin when you saw me. You kept folding the sleeves of your shirt, out of nervousness. Your eyebrows were pulled together. Your buttons were not even fitted in properly. Something was amiss. You couldn’t even open the door to let me in. A part of me thought another woman was inside. A part of me didn’t believe that.
You finally let me in. If there was a woman in, it would have been a spirit. You couldn’t look me in the eye when you told me it was over between us. You parents had disowned you because you chose a Yoruba girl over Adaobi, the daughter of Ogbuefi Ozo Nnamani, your family friend,who they introduced to you.It was high time you obeyed them. You didn’t know how to say it, that was why you stopped calling. I couldn’t take it anymore. I fainted.
When I opened my eyes, I found myself in a ward in LUTH. My parents were by my side. My father was angry. His face was as thick as strong leather. He was making a scene, barking like a deranged dog, threatening to deal with that stupid Igbo boy.
My mother’s face was swollen. She had cried her eyes out. I was discharged some days afterwards, but my father kept making rhetorical statements: Otan abi kotan? Are your eyes cleared of love now? He made a rule thereafter: He would disown any daughter of his who dares to date or bring a non-Yoruba guy home.
You and I know that the tribalism in their veins has twisted their thinking faculty. This vicious cycle has finally caught me. Inter-tribal marriages bind different tribes together and reduce ethnic clashes. Isn’t that what we need in our country? Why would our parents run our love over with their stupid eighteenth century contraption of a car called tribalism, killing it on the spot? Why would they murder our love in cold blood? Tears are falling out of my eyes and dropping on this paper.
We spent seven years together. That was a lifetime. Somebody’s lifetime. Your seven-year-old niece’s. She was born when we started dating. Now she’s talks of playing for the Super Falcons someday.
Ours was a celebration of pure love, incredibly devoid of sensuality; love that chose to wait; love that was based on mutual respect and understanding. It hurt to realize that we can never have that wedding night we always dreamt of. Ehinomen has refused to believe that the mistake of squashing our lips of that day was the most intimate we ever were. She said it was too good to be true.
You are the opioid I got addicted to. To suddenly withdraw the drug now means serious withdrawal symptoms; suicidal tendencies.
Now, I would tell you about the opioids I have with me. I have an overdose. I intend taking them when I’m through with this letter. I want to go. Just go. Life is sheer emptiness without you. I can’t bear it. I can’t live it.
I must thank you. Thank you for making the last seven years of my life great. Thank you for adding glamour to it. One day, I hope to see you. Where? I don’t know. I hope that one day I would be in that place where the sun smiles and dries up every pain, every tear, every regret, every ache; that place where rainfall is like a symphony orchestra. But if I find myself on the other side of the divide, where worms sweetly feed on human bodies, then, well, I would accept my fate. Read this letter to our parents.
Love you forever.
Yours till eternity,
A TOUCH OF SPICE CONTEST
Name: Fiyinfoluwa Akinsiku
Country of Residence: Nigeria
Bio: Medic. Writer. Creative Writers’ Workshop Prize (Fiction) Winner