I had been crawling behind Clara, on each and every step of the stairs. Scare beyond my wits, I had stubbornly refused to heed the foreboding fear churning at my guts. I thought I could handle it until the fear became paralyzing. Now, I wished I had listened to my gut instinct. I shouldn’t have climbed this dizzying pedestrian bridge.
My loud scream was drowned by the noisy vehicles speeding past underneath. I couldn’t hear my own voice anymore and my throat suddenly felt scorched painfully like parched earth in the heat of harmattan. My heart was pounding furiously and vibrated my entire body till it reached my ear drums making it impossible to hear any other sound; I was awashed with cold clammy sweat like a drenched cat.
At that point, my perceived death flashing right before me, my mind momentarily drifted to the promise I made to my dad barely a year ago. How was I going to fulfill my promise made on the day we had driven in his Peugeot 504 to the University of Benin Teaching Hospital of becoming a medical doctor?
I recalled the doctor’s office vividly. The doctor had been a beautiful soft-spoken woman who had listened with rapt attention as my father explained to her that I have been irritable with poor appetite and had trouble sleeping. She had asked him some questions and wrote in the file the nurse had given her.
I was still staring at the pictures on the wall of her office when she walked up to me, smiled and placed something my father later told me was a stethoscope on my chest and connected it to her ears. She then placed a thin cylindrical bottle in my armpit which my father told me was a thermometer. She checked my eyes pulling down my lower eyelid and also checked my tongue.
‘How are you feeling Esther?’ the doctor had asked with a radiant smile.
‘I am fine ma’ I replied trying to return her smile.
‘Do you feel cold?’ she asked.
‘Yes.’ I answered but I was sweating though I was cold inside.
I looked at her surprised at how she knew.
Maybe that thing she placed on my chest had told her. I mused. I wanted her to keep talking; the melodious tone of her voice was soothing to my throbbing head.
‘And headache too.’ I announced.
She placed her hand on my temple and the soft feel of her hand made me want to sleep.
‘You will be fine.’ She cooed, walking back to her seat.
The laboratory attendant came in just then and handed her an envelope. He had earlier taken a sample of my blood in a syringe. She opened the envelope, read through the piece of paper. And her soft voice came up again.
‘It’s malaria.’ She said.
‘She will be just fine after taking the prescription’ she assured my dad.
‘Thank you doctor.’ My dad said as he lifted me to my feet.
On our way home from the hospital, I had told my father I wanted to become a medical doctor.
‘That’s my Estee baby’ he had said with the biggest smile I have ever seen, rubbing my plaited head with one hand while the other remained on the car steering. Then, he said calmly; ‘You must read your books every day and always come first in your class’
‘Yes dad, I will always come first in my class, go to the university and study doctor’
‘It’s medicine my daughter’ he had said with a smile.
Then he continued; ‘You will study medicine in the university and become a medical doctor. Doctor Obakpolor that just attended to you is a pediatrician. There are other branches of medicine’ my dad said. Our conversation continued till we got home.
I wanted all the memories to go away, I couldn’t bear the torture of knowing I was going to die without making good my promise to my dad. My nostrils began to get congested making breathing a herculean task. I couldn’t fight the dizziness anymore as waves of profound fatigue swept through me.
Everything happened so fast. My legs felt like jelly, more like butter on a red hot frying pan and could no longer hold. Lowering my body I crunched into a kneeling position. How I had managed to achieve that feat instead of going straight down on my face like a Yoruba groom before his bride’s family remained a mystery till this day. Desperately looking for something to hold, I felt my grip tightened on the basin of rice on my head in a death grip.