Someone once told me my works have just one underlying theme. She asked how come most of my works were filled with it. I am talking about a teen friend of mine who kept pestering me to ‘write fast na’ so she can read the stories. She said I liked to write about pain.
Here’s the reason why.
When I was seventeen, my eyesight was failing. I could see but my sight came with a price.
Teeth-gritting, head-splitting, stomach-churning, blood-curdling, eye-blinding pain.
My sister was a nursing student then. She would scold me for ‘causing’ it with my reading, reading and reading especially in the poor light of the lantern, whose wick I lowered every night to save kerosene as I read.
Every waking morning, the first thing I thought as I woke up was, ‘oh, no, this thing dey wait for me o.’
And sure enough, an hour later, as I was doing chores, I would be struck by stabbing pains in my eyes. The pain felt like pinpricks at the base of my skull. I would shut my eyes tight, stagger blindly to my room and lay on the bed, writhing.
While my father stood sadly, watching helplessly as I fought the bedsheet and boxed the pillows like they were responsible for my predicament.
My father was out of work then. I was two years out of secondary school and I was teaching primary three and four classes in a private school. There was no money to get me drugs. That was why my father looked so sad. Had that guilty look on his face like he had something to do with it.
And I was in too much pain to talk. To say something like, ‘don’t worry papa, it will pass. ‘
My sister would return from the hospital, with painkillers. With expert advice.
” Pour piss inside your eye,” she advised. ” E go work.”
” What?” I gave her a sour look. She wasn’t beyond making fun of me. Me and her, we had a pretty queer sense of humour.
“Yes na,” she insisted, gesticulating to be sure I understood, “e go work o.”
Well, remember what they said about the drowning man and straw ropes? I pissed into a bottle and poured drops into my eyes. They stung like heck, but they seemed to work. For brief but blessedly welcome periods of relief.
Then the pain would descend on me like a thunderbolt. And sometimes I would throw up.
I was afraid. I was this kid who couldn’t hear. Who spoke with difficulties at times. My eyes were the biggest asset I have got. My eyes and my hands. I needed to see people to understand them. I needed to see their lips move when they talk. I needed to see things to learn. To understand people by how they looked and what I saw them do, even if I don’t hear what they said.
I was afraid one day I would go to bed and when I wake, I would see only darkness. I would never see another sunrise. I would never see mama if she ever comes back.
So I lifted up my eyes and cried out to God.
We are christians. My father’s deeply religious. Though I wouldn’t exactly tag him a man of great faith. Next in line at home in spiritual order was me. My sister sometimes taunts me that , “you be pastor but you get girlfriend abi? You get mouth, ba?”
But I never believed in religion. Religion gives you nothing. I believe in God. I believe He is good even when I look at my life and everything seems to be falling apart, it doesn’t change anything about the goodness of God. To me.
Two years later, I was still battling with my eyesight problems. I still read, but only moderately. And I stopped writing at some point. I was in Lagos then, staying with mama. Planning to go to school.
Then one day, I woke up and the pain came with a combined force. I had no clue how it came to be. I was being careful how I read. I didn’t even write. So where did this one come from?
If I asked my dear superstitious mama, she would probably tell me na the witches and wizards for our village wey no want anybody get good life.
But I didn’t ask her. I went to the Ikeja General Hospital then a private practice. They diagnosed me with some medical tongue twister I can’t recollect. They gave me costly glasses which I wore.
Glasses which my eyes rejected with such a sickening pain-wracked violence that I had to rush back to the hospital to ask the doctor what he had given me. He patiently took a pen and pad and explained that such things took time. That it would soon adjust.
Well, I didn’t have time. I was tired of the on and offishness of my condition. I didn’t want to keep living on painkillers. Stuff that would drown your pain, but give you little presents of insomnia, indigestion, swallowing difficulties and the likes.
I needed two good eyes or I knew I would be kissing my writing career goodbye, thank you Talentico. I needed eyes that would let me focus. Eyes that didn’t hurt so much that it hurt to breath.
I needed a miracle.
I developed an interest in Kenneth Hagin, Pastor Chris, K. C Price and Benny Hinn. I read their takes on faith. I wanted to know what it took to move God. I really wanted to be well, I guess. I really needed that miracle.
But I learned soon enough that reading isn’t the thing. The key is application. The key is action. I learned that God wants me well.
But I didn’t understand how come He didn’t just zap in and make everything perfect the first time I asked. I didn’t understand why sometimes you have to wait for so long you are damn near giving up on your miracle.
One day, I came back from visiting a friend. I took of the glasses and rubbed my eyes. I thought of all I had been through. My ear, my voice, the accidents I had because I didn’t hear the car coming, didn’t hear the bikes screeching. The broken bones, the painful bone-setting process. The mockery by retards with advanced degrees in cruelty, the sheer weight of everything just made me want to sink to the floor and become one with the ground.
But for some reason, rather than get mad at God, faith rose in me. The kind of faith you can’t explain. The kind that you knew was a gift. The faith that brooks no nonsense from any opposition.
That faith prompted me to take off my glasses and return it to its case. It prompted me to say, ” by Christ’s stripes, I was healed and I am going to act it!”
That faith made me go out the next day without taking my glasses. I figured that the worst that could happen was the pain would kill me. But then, so what? It wasn’t as if wearing the glasses had done a lot to curb the it. I stepped out of my house that morning, telling myself if nothing happened, at least I would go to Heaven and God won’t look at me and say, ‘O ye of little faith’ . Because if there’s one time I didn’t doubt, that was it.
Three days later, I looked up from the novel I was reading and stared at the wall clock. It was some minutes past ten. It was pitch dark outside. I was reading with the aid of a rechargeable lamp. I was reading without fear of the pains that usually lay in wait for me the next morning.
And the next day, I woke up and went about my chores. Time passed and soon night fell and I picked the novel and continued from the dog-eared page I had stopped earlier that evening. The pains hadn’t bothered me since I took off my glasses.
I had been healed.