It took me a minute to realize that the ECG graph on the Holter monitor was gradually becoming a straight line. Instantly I knew life was ebbing his nostril and his lungs were deliberately beginning to shrink into a fluffy piece of flesh dangling behind his ribs. I did not want to alert his fear-stricken wife who just was taking a nap after a fear- induced vigil while her husband was in surgery. The Paris hospital came highly recommended after the several attempts by the Nigerian doctors to improve his lot failed to yield results. They knew the exact part of his fleshy heart that was horrid, but they lacked the equipment and maybe, the goodwill to yank off the faulty valves off his chest. At least, they tried all they could before it got out of control. A lot of coins went into it. In fact, it guzzled all assets. When it became unbearable, she reached out to the extended family. The skeletal support from grudging family members turned her mind into a major battlefield. Her ego was gored by the careless words of some relatives, especially Oma, my crazy cousin. Oma accused her of not taking care of him. In her words, ‘too much fry-fry na him spoil im heart’. We cannot blame them completely, times are hard. When it became clear that he needed a major surgery, contributions were hesitantly made. I was nominated by the extended family to accompany the wife to France as a support system. I had no say and could not object because she needed that.
Without any hesitation, I punched the red button attached to the bed to draw the attention of whoever was behind the monitor that the line was becoming straight. A nurse, basking in her French accent as though it was some melodious tone from the music book, showed up like a flash of light. Her swift legs were, however, too late to save the day. He was gone. Maybe they knew he would not make it. I felt they were alerted by one of the many tube-like devices hanging loosely above our heads. The heavy movement into the ward pinched my sister-in-law from her surprisingly deep nap. She sprang up like a magma-based eruption. There were fine lines of fatigue around her forehead and her dry and patched lips could not remained sealed. She knew something was wrong the moment she decided to ward off the last batch of sleep off her exhausted eyes with a shrug of her hand. His pouted lips suggested all was not well with him even in death. That sight irritated and locked all her emotions somewhere unthinkable, almost immediately. Her face became blank and void of the minutest detail of any shade of emotion.
At that moment, my legs were shaking copiously, and I did not know how best to console her or myself. She instinctively took off the moment she noticed I was taking steps towards her. Whoever designed those large hospital windows did not mean well for me. I think a double portion of adrenalin went round her system instantly. She was swift. Within split second, she had positioned herself on the ledge of the building. It happened like magic. She rested her back firmly against the wall leaving half of her feet hanging for lack of space to completely rest them. Judging from her silence, she was more than willing to loosely release her fatigued and skinny body down the 15th floor. The entire hospital was thrown into pandemonium. The fact that I do not understand or speak French made me care less about their near gibberish in elevated accent and tone. The thought of flying one full dead body and another tattered body collected in maybe a bag or a plastic container sent cold shivers down my spine and left my intestines clinging in fear. I would not be able to explain this event to my dysfunctional extended family. That fueled my unschooled instinct-driven commitment to persuade her not to try that.
‘Please do not do this, please’, I said calmly with the upper part of my body bent outside the building to get a better view of her glued body about 7 steps away from the large window. She was mute but allowed disgust to find expression through her stone face. It angered me, made me feel stupid and so, I began to rant. Soon, a professional team of five arrived. They spoke English and one of them could speak Hausa effortlessly; I later found out he is a Ghanaian working in Paris. I was excused to a corner, by one of them, where I was quizzed. I was too distracted to supply the right answers. I fled as soon as I heard thunderous claps from all angles. A team of support workers were on the street with an airbag laid on the ground. An ambulance, obviously with paramedics, was also on ground.
‘You can have a better life after this phase’, the professional said. ‘I just want to die’, her teary voice announced. ‘How do I face his family?’ ‘How do I explain that he just died without leaving a pin for them to inherit’? ‘How do I even survive without my husband?’ She asked as though the well-paid professional with a smooth baby-like skin lives in her father’s compound in Nigeria. How was he to know? When he noticed he was not getting the desired response judging from her body language, he switched to Hausa. He persuaded, comforted, and in fact practically wooed her back to herself. His words were simple yet too lazy for my liking. He was too calm to a fault. He was not fast neither was he too slow; his words escaped his lips in a deliberate manner like a shy teenage boy who is careful about the words he utters to his new lover. They were filled with emotions and guided by empathy with traces of kindness beneath them.
And like the sun piercing through a dark cloud, his words found a place in her heart. She began to cry and became afraid almost the same time. She held firmly to the wall as she announced her fear to our hearing. ‘Move gently’, he instructed. Her gait became baby-like. She rested her back firmly against the wall, dragged herself sideways and took slow baby steps towards the professional’s open hand. He grabbed her firmly as soon as she was within his reach and pulled her into the ward where her husband had died. Another team of unnamed professionals appeared to attend to her.
Yours truly took a sigh of relief for deliverance from the claws of my village people and the near double tragedy.
Peace Habila, a resident of Jos, Plateau state is passionate about creative writing. She wrote in via firstname.lastname@example.org