Fiction: Where the Three Paths Meet

February 5, 2016 Fiction , POETRY / FICTION

By

Ani Kayode Somtochukwu

 

 

I knew from a very young age that something was wrong with me. Mummy never talked about it yet I somehow knew. It was only the degree that I was somehow unsure of until I was hospitalized. The doctor said that I was living a borrowed life, that I should have been dead by then. And to a huge extent, it was true. I should have been dead by then but I had help eluding it.

When I turned 15 in September, mummy took me to St. Francis de Assisi College.

“Whatever should happen should have happened by now” she said. She had very high hopes that I would outlive my sickness even though Doctor Andrew told her I would not. When I commenced classes, I was shocked at how many people were in our class, SS1 and how small a handful of them were. I was among the oldest in the class. They however did not like me very much. On my second day in school, I overheard a boy say that I was as thin as a skeleton and everyone who heard laughed except the boy who helped me elude death for so long.

“Don’t mind them” he walked over to me “they have small brains” he said. And from that day, he walked me home to my house, carrying my bags and books, walking right next to me in case I felt dizzy and wanted to lean into something. I knew that he knew all was not well with me. I saw the way he looked at me as if he was feeling bad for me and one Friday when he gave me his phone, I saw anorexia on his Google search history. Mummy said that I did not need to stress myself reading, that I should just enjoy myself but I still read. It wasn’t because I nursed any inkling that I would live to go further to university. It was just that whenever I answered a question in class, he would clap for me even though no one else would clap along. I wanted him to clap for me; no one had clapped for me. The first time he clapped when I answered a question, my heart swelled so much with warmth that I felt tingles on my fingertips so I always answered every question I was allowed to. Other people in the class started to talk.

“I don’t know why Charles likes that SS girl” Chiwendu said. I turned to stare at her and she unashamedly glared back. I became scared of her, of what she could say to me. I wasn’t anaemic, yet that statement thawed my heart like a burning match would ice. It reminded me that my condition was worse. So I left for the toilet so that she and Amara would not see me cry. I did not even like mummy seeing me cry. I spent the entire chemistry period there. Charles came to the toilet to knock but I told him I was having a running stomach. When school ended that day, I was too tired to walk home. I had started coughing out blood after I had cried and my legs were too weak to carry me. I didn’t want Charles to see me that way so I went to the Agric Lab where no one goes and stayed there till the school was empty then I called my mum and went to the mango tree to wait. Charles still found me.

“I’ve been looking all over for you. I have your school bag” he said.

“Go on home” I said to Charles. “My mum said I should wait for her” I said to him but he did not believe me.

“Chika, tell me what the problem is. Tell me what’s wrong na. Are you sick?” he asked. I chucked. It was excruciatingly painful but I could not stop the sound from bubbling out of my stomach. I’m sick? He had no idea.

“Yes” I said finally, “I’m sick Charles but it’s nothing.” He used his thumb to wipe something from under my eyes.

“Then why are you crying?” he asked. I said nothing, just wiped my eyes but said nothing. Just looked away.

“I like you, Chika” he said. “Let me sit with you until your mum comes.” I heard the second sentence but my brain didn’t process it. It was busy processing the first. Around us, the silence of the school resounded.

“I like you” I said “I have Huntington’s disease” I said quickly after that.

“I still like you” he held my hand and edged closer. I turned to him and our eyes held, then he started leaning in to kiss me. My heart started beating heavily. The pain was more excruciating than when I had laughed but I leaned in too. My heart started to beat yet faster and the faster it beat, the more painful it became. Our lips met, ever so gently, as if teasingly. I felt like I was floating amidst roses and feathers. In those few seconds our lips were touching, all I could think of was, “I really like this guy.”

When he broke the kiss, he held my eyes with his. My heart slowed gradually till I could barely feel it. I started to feel dizzy, my eyelids heavy as though laden with ice.

“Chika! Chika are you okay?” I heard Charles say. His voice sounded as though he was on the verge of crying.

“Jesus what have I done?” I heard him say. I knew he did not do anything but my mouth did not want to work. I tried to raise my hand but gravity refused to let it work freely. But I was sure that that was the last time I would close my eyes so I fought with gravity till I won. The last thing I felt was the warm wetness on his perfectly round face.

 

 

 

I woke up in a small room with white walls. Mummy was sitting on a chair beside me wiping tears from her eyes and my uniform was gone. In its place was an ugly plain green dress.

“How are you Chika?” she asked.

“Mummy I’m fine. Stop crying” I smiled. She started to shake her head. I felt sorry for her. I felt sorry that she raised a child knowing that that child would never grow into childhood. Knowing I would die early. I felt sorry even for myself. The girl who is supposed to already be dead. I had grown up feeling like I was on a point where three paths met. Sitting on the point where the three paths met was boring. It entailed never leaving the house on the 7th of Awolowo Street near The Holy Rosary College. I just stayed indoors receiving Mrs. Oluoma, the kind woman who home schooled me. Receiving barrages of pastors and prayer groups, all of them telling me that I would not die before 80. That I would not die before my time. I also received Doctor Andrew who was the only person that would not tell me that I would not die before 80. He kept saying that I was living on borrowed time.

When eventually I got to my 15th birthday, a whole year after my birthday, Mama allowed me to start regular school. Regular school was path 1. It was the best path. It had St. Francis de Assisi in it; it had Charles. The second path led here and it had a passage leading to heaven or maybe somewhere else. Path 3 led into a dark path and I did not really know what lay there but I knew there was path 3. Another thing I didn’t know was that path 1 would lead to path 2. I had always been sure that they were completely divergent, that they were parallel lines that never met.

“Where’s Charles?” I asked. Mummy started to shake her head again.

“He caused this” she said. I knew Charles had nothing to do with this. It was just that I was at a point where three lines met like the physics teacher in St. Francis de Assisi called a three dimensional representation.

“No!” I said. “He likes me.”

Saying it out loud to myself made me want to stand up and dance around screaming it at the top of my voice.

Mummy stopped shaking her head and looked up to gaze at me. She stood, smothered the creases on her dress and left. After some time, Charles came in. His eyes were swollen and puffy and red. They shocked me with their weariness.

“I searched Huntington’s disease on Google” he said before I could say anything else. Before I could say thank you. I tried to smile but did not succeed. I felt a tear rolling down my face. Charles started to sob. He didn’t cry quietly like I did. Maybe because I knew that mummy would ball her eyes out so whenever I had a violent pain attack, I cried quietly to myself, normal people like Charles did not need to learn such things.

“You’re not even supposed to be alive. That’s what I heard the Doctor tell your mother.”

“But I am” I replied. “I had to be alive to meet you, to live before I died.” He wiped his tears with his sleeve.

“Chika I’m sorry.” He said.

“I’ve lived” I said blinking back my tears. I gestured him over “Please hug me” I said. He did. He stooped over my bed and encircled my neck with his warm hands. My heart started to pound again but this time there was no pain, just joy. Or maybe it was contentment. I didn’t hug him back because my hand was on a drip and the doctors found it hard to find my vein if the needle ever slipped. I was that thin. When he broke the hug, he kissed my forehead. My heart started to slow and in place of that joyous pounding came weariness. My eyes became heavy.

“I’m feeling sleepy.” I told him. He nodded then left. I started to cry. I knew that I may never wake up again. As that sleep-like darkness crawled over me, I had one thing strong in my mind: “Charles likes me.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ani Kayode Somtochukwu

Ani Kayode Somtochukwu was born on the 29th of July, 1999. He likes to see himself as a short story writer, novelist and poet though he has nothing in print, YET. He lives in Enugu for now and is currently studying Medicine and Surgery at the Enugu State University of Science and Technology.

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