Its 5.30am. Dr Paul O., the consultant psychiatrist on duty today at Yaba psychiatric hospital, Lagos, is awake. Sleep has been difficult this night, the same way as it has been for the past four nights. His thoughts wander near and far but always tend to come to focus around her; Bisi Washington, the girl of his dreams. How does he convince her that she is what keeps him awake at night, that she is his reason for behaving so irrationally at times, that she is… his soul-mate? Their last meeting had ended badly, with them shouting at each other over a small matter, causing a scene at the restaurant they had gone to have lunch in. Neither of them had called since then, both playing the waiting game, both waiting to see who would cave in first. It was crazy! Normally if it were any other girl he would have ignored her and moved on, but Bisi wasn’t any other girl…
The alarm clock begins its pre-programmed song to remind him of the time. Dr Paul reluctantly gets up from the bed and switches on the lights. He has to have an early start if he wants to beat the busy Lagos traffic. He goes to the bathroom and brushes his mouth, has a cold shower and towels his lean body dry. At six feet 2 inches he is a fairly tall fellow, light in complexion, with facial features that are easy on the eyes. His well kept crew-cut hair fits his round head in such a way as to give him a boyish appearance even though a scattering of grey hair on his beard and mustache betray his real age to be in his middle thirties. His naturally bright eyes which used to add credence to the illusion of his eternal youth are now dulled by the thought of that singular damsel. He sighs and goes to his wardrobe where he picks up an already ironed blue T.M Lewin long sleeved shirt and a pair of jet black trousers. He wears this sluggishly and brings down his ward coat from the hanger on his door. He has no appetite so he doesn’t eat. He looks around his one room apartment one more time, checking to see if he has missed anything, then locks the door shut. A few minutes later he is back, cursing under his breath and picking up his car keys from under the bed before going out again. The time is 6am.
The drive down to Yaba Psychiatric hospital is a tortuous one for him. Apart from the fact that his mind is still distracted from thinking about Bisi, he has to contend with other people on the road who have decided to try and beat the traffic as well. By seven o’ clock, Dr Paul is close to the hospital and has been yelled at, insulted, and nearly run into on at least two occasions by other motorists on the road. Just as he is about to turn his Toyota Camry 2008 model into the hospital premises, he hits another car, a jeep, on the fender. The woman driver comes out angrily and screams at him. She had right of way, she says, why won’t he put “Learner” on his car bumper, she says. He apologizes and introduces himself, tries to give the woman his card, says he will pay for the damage. The woman stares at him for a while and softens. Without a word she enters into her jeep and zooms off. It is only when he is about entering back into his car that he notices his left trafficator light is broken. He loses his temper and kicks at the car headlight, completely disengaging it from its socket and tearing his shoe. Exasperated, he enters back into his car, ignoring the long line of honking cars behind him and drives through the hospital gates.
He gets to his office and is relieved to find that it is Nurse Becky that is on duty today. Nurse Becky understands him, understands the way he works. On many occasions their colleagues have commended them on being a good team since they do so well together. At the back of his mind comes the thought that Nurse Becky might have a crush on him but he pushes that thought away. He likes her but his heart belongs to Bisi. At the thought of her he grimaces again. Is love supposed to hurt so much? What were they even arguing about anyway? Why did he always have to engage in an intellectual argument with her? Why was she so, so…stubborn? He reasons that, had it not been for the fact that she was so beautiful and sophisticated he would have left her by now.
He is so deep in thought that he doesn’t realize Nurse Becky has entered the office and is staring at him as if he is some kind of Greek god. She is much shorter than him, being a little above five feet, and fatter, voluptuous, she likes to call it and though her beauty isn’t going to win her any facial contests anytime soon, her dark features and smooth skin all added to an amazing smile makes her very easy on the eyes. If only Dr Paul would notice this, she sighs dreamily.
She coughs gently and he almost jumps out of his skin. What can he be thinking about? Well whatever it is, it is enough to have dampened his features and deprived him of sleep as evidenced by the dark circles around his oh so lovely brown eyes. He has a glazed look in his eyes for a moment but then they focus in on her and he smiles that smile that always leaves her weak at the knees. She hesitates for a while before saying hello. He answers her formally, though still smiling, and asks if he has any appointments today.
“Yes,” she says, “A case of drug induced psychosis. He has been on admission for three days now, went into a catatonic state for two hours yesterday after which he claimed he was alright and would like to see you.”
He nods at her, impressed at her resourcefulness and he lets her know it. She blushes although from the darkness of her skin it is impossible to tell. He asks her to bring him in from the ward, that he will see him in his office. Nurse Betty smiles and leaves the office. Dr Paul watches her go and for a while he ponders on why he has never gotten closer to her. But then again she isn’t as sophisticated or as beautiful as Bisi. And besides all the magazines he has read on the topic always put a big no-no on office relationships.
He walks around the big desk to his seat which is a swivel action affair with very soft, light blue cushions. On the right side of the desk is the patient’s case file which he picks up and inspects. On his left is a tray with a ceramic coffee teapot with intricately drawn Chinese figures written in bold red lettering at the side and a matching designer mug. He lifts up the teapot and is pleased to see that it is full. He makes a mental note to thank Nurse Betty and pours himself a cup of coffee, no milk, no sugar, just as he prefers it. He likes to be relaxed both physically and emotionally when doing his job. Seeing psychiatric patients can be tasking and he doesn’t want to end up with a mental breakdown of his own.
He takes another sip of coffee and settles down to read the case before the patient arrives. The name of the patient is Chukwudi B-, a 29years old male who hails from the east, said to have gone into a manic state in his apartment here in Lagos after smoking some marijuana. Symptoms include irrational talk, hallucinations, delusions and a recent state of catatonia after which the patient appeared rational and denied any form of marijuana use. Dr Paul smiles to himself as he reads this. It wouldn’t be the first time a drug user would deny substance abuse, but it would be interesting watching the patient trying to behave sane.
Ten minutes later and there is a knock on the door. Nurse Betty walks in with two men, one of them a burly male nurse who usually escorts patients that are deemed “violent” and the second is a young man of average height, wearing a designer T-shirt with “I am Teaser” written bolder on the front and deep blue denim jeans. The man’s face is rugged and handsome despite the stubbles of hair on his chin, probably as a result of having not shaved in three days and his eyes twinkle, like someone who knows something but will never tell. He walks in confidently with the nurses behind him and sits down without being asked. He meets Dr Paul’s stare with a friendly smile and, for a fraction of a second, Dr Paul feels there is going to be a role reversal, like he is going to be the patient and this mysterious looking man, his doctor.