My doctor said that I was dying slowly. The words kept on ringing in my head.
That day I had gone to his office was a Monday morning. He was sitting behind his smooth mahogany table with piles of books to the left and right of the table and a space at the centre where he could stay to write. He had readjusted on his seat severally while he inspected my file. The way he inspected the file and cast furtive glances at me got me afraid that when he mustered the courage to talk to me, I felt sweat forming under my arms. I was afraid not that I couldn’t guess what was coming, I was afraid of fear itself. The way he had let the words out, slowly, made me think that he thinks he owed me the truth and nothing but the truth. So, I must know.
But I too knew that I was dying slowly. My lips looked darker and dried the last time I looked at myself on the mirror but I kept on consoling myself, I kept on saying it was the harmattan.
And why would I not die slowly? Who took the amount of alcohol I took and puffed in smoke the way I do and wouldn’t die slowly? Who wouldn’t?
I was sitting in the balcony of my house. A duplex. I was wearing a pair of knickers while I left my chest bare; I was drinking and smoking, yet again.
I left my cigarette and Hennessey on the small chair at my balcony and move to the bathroom. I looked back at the cigarette on the chair and it was burning away slowly. The smoke moved up in curls. That was the last stick of cigarette in the second pack of the Dorchester cigarette I had smoked today. Eleven months ago when I had started smoking, I had tried so many brands of the cigarette before I settled for Dorchester, but whenever there wasn’t that brand I did go for another, half a loaf they say is better than no bread.
The December of last year after my wife and daughter had died. My wife Georgina and my daughter had travelled home, to Nsukka for the Christmas celebration, I was supposed to be with them but I had knots to tie up before traveling, so I asked them to go before me since the road would be busier the more we delayed.
I was in my study that afternoon reading Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea when my phone rang.
“Hello, hello …”
There was something urgent about the voice at the other end. The place was noisy that I pressed the phone hard to my ear to hear her. I didn’t have her cellphone number either, so I didn’t know who was speaking.
“Am I speaking to me Mr. Richards?’’
“Yes.” I said nodding my head. I always nodded whenever I said yes to someone. While I answered telephone call I did nod too, notwithstanding that the caller couldn’t see me.
“There has been an emergency.”
Emergency kwa? I was still very calm. But what has emergency got to do with me. How did this woman get my number…I thought of Georgina and Amanda our daughter. But I had spoken to them an hour ago. They were fine.
‘’Our car… an… accident… and…was… fatal…”
‘I can’t hear you clearly madam.’ The network was just too bad added to the noise around her like there had been a bomb. By now sweat was already forming under my armpit. Whatever it was, wasn’t pleasant. My palms were getting wet too. I pressed the phone harder to hear her, I didn’t hear any sound anymore. I looked at the screen, I had ended the call. I called back but no one answered.
I held the phone tightly in my hand until it beeped and I saw the message. It was short and straight to the point. I had lost Georgy and Ama. At first I thought it was a dream till I read and read the message and my head started aching.
When I had got to the bathroom, I had stood in front of the mirror and examined myself. I was dying. The skin under my eyes were sagging fast. My eyes were slightly yellow and my lips look drier and dark. Why would I not die slowly? What I am doing in this world? Just what? I chuckled dryly “Georgy and Ama I will be with you guys in a few months. Just be patient.”