I shut my eyes quickly.
Excruciating pain tensed my muscles as I groaned like a woman in labour.
I opened my eyes again, gradually becoming conscious of where I was. Removing the floral sheet that covered my legs, I saw my toes arranged as it was, like a staircase leading nowhere; from my big toe to the pinky toe. Both feet sitting close to each other in silent conversation.
Lifting my arms to support myself in a sitting position was a herculean task. Why is there no one around? I groaned, looking around for the sight of a clue of where I could be.
Most of the room was painted white. A chandelier dangled above my head glittering with the sparkles of the white electric bulb. The room was chilly from the air exuding from the split unit Air conditioner, the only source of ventilation in the room. The sliding window high up above my head was tightly shut and the curtain shielding the rays of the sun was halfway drawn.
There was nothing else in the room except a white cabinet placed against a brown tiled wall that had air fresheners above them bringing a sweet fragrance of lemon and lavender. The white walls reflected my loneliness. I felt empty, blank, vague. No thoughts occupied my head as I struggled to come to my senses of who I was and why I was alone lying on a big bed in a room so beautiful yet cold. I struggled again to raise my body with my elbows, this time, having better success than the last time. The pain became more intense and I discovered that my difficulty in sitting well was from the pain I felt.
The pain? It was from a monstrous looking hole midway my right leg. I looked at the offending leg with the hairs on it; golden, slippery and thin. My legs looked definitely fairer than my arms. My arms were a darker shade of my thighs. It was a blend of bright caramel and peanut butter with the same golden slippery hair and skinny look. My eyes traced the hairs down from my upper thighs to my pointy knee caps, down to the point of the hollow on my leg. The hollow was a chasm of burnt flesh darkened with the stain of dried blood. It looked like the scary eyes of the ‘Lord of the Rings’ and could hold a pencil. I was sure if I looked well, I would see my bones.
Why do I have a wound? I asked myself as I looked around frantically. My head began twirling as I felt bouts of pain in my head. My whole body was on fire. The pain dealt with all my bones and muscles. Was I in heaven awaiting judgement? When did I even die? Or was this purgatory; the place where the souls of the righteous were held captive for petty sins they committed on earth? “Who am I?” I asked myself in a state of utter dejection.
“Bless you!” Senater uttered softly.
“Thank you!” I replied without looking into her eyes.
“Did you take your medication this morning?” She tried effortlessly to make me converse with her.
“Yes!” I answered in my usual monosyllable.
“Ok!” She gave up saying more.
What a bore I was! Senater was a medical doctor at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital. She was robust, dark skinned and slightly taller than I was. She had told me she was 25 years but despite her size she didn’t look like she was. Perhaps it was her playful nature that made me conclude she was a teenager when I first met her, or should I say when I remembered that I first saw her. It was Senater who told me I had TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) leading to retrograde amnesia. I could not recall who I was, what my previous life was like and Senater had been trying hard to discover me but I made things difficult for her not of my own will but the trauma that came from sustaining a head injury after falling off a bike.
“I’m sorry, Sena!” I said sincerely.
“It’s ok! I understand what you must be going through.” She replied with her funny American accent.
“Are you Nigerian?” I asked the pretty sight before me, assessing her long braided natural hair. She truly had an alluring countenance.
“I told you before. I’m from Kanshio, Benue State.” She replied smiling. She must have observed I was beginning to show interest in knowing her.
“Don’t mind my asking but please am I married?” I seem to be forgetting a lot again.
Senater moved to my side. She took a stool and sat in front of me. I could see her tiny eyes scrutinising mine as she started a story she must have told me a million times over.
I liked this intelligent woman sitting in front of me. She wasn’t just a medical doctor but an angel who mattered most in my life. Despite her busy schedule she still made me meals, took me shopping, brought home medication because of the injury I had on my leg and the one she said affected my memory. I remember hearing her talk to her sister in the UK this morning. I heard her say I was educated but I didn’t have the evidence to show it. I heard her convince her sister that I would recuperate and that she was my only link to the world. I know I could trust her but I still need to know about my past life. Sena was my mirror. She had even told me I had good looks and that I could go to the university to study a course and secure a good job. I wasn’t even sure of my age but I knew I would be older than Senater.
“You must have been married.” She started. “That night of your accident, you were telling me while we were on your bike that you were tired of the Nigerian government. You complained about how hard it is to take home enough money due to the charges you pay to touts on the street. At Second Rainbow Junction that night, you hurried me to climb the motorcycle fast as policemen were impounding motorcycles who worked on major roads. I asked why you didn’t find another job but you laughed and said ‘I prefer this to being a factory worker.’ So, I suggested you go to the University to be able to get a better job. You replied sadly that you studied Sociology at the University of Ilorin.”
“So, I’m a graduate and an okada rider?” I asked slowly.
“Yes!” She replied sadly. “It was after that statement we met with the policemen that stopped us. They told me to alight from the motorcycle. You started begging them, explaining that you needed to do this to feed your family. I recalled how I urged you to go to that area even when you were unwilling to go. The policemen were armed. One of them collected your key while we both begged them. They ordered me to leave if I didn’t want to get hurt. It was late. I didn’t want to leave but I was a woman. Everywhere was deserted and I have heard stories of what those officers do to people. So I left!” Sena continued, her eyes already welling up. I was angry! Why would she leave me to the mercy of those monsters? I stood from my seat and limped to the window looking out to the landscape beyond the glass pane.
“Teryima!” Senater called me by the name I have become accustomed to. A name she gave me when I didn’t remember the one I was called before my misfortune.
“I came back! I came back but they had shot your leg. They must have pushed you against the slab because I saw your head was bleeding and also your leg. I had hidden behind a stall in the dark and watched you struggle with them not to take your only source of livelihood. I didn’t know whether to shout or call the emergency line. If I did, they would lie and say you were a thief. I watched the two policemen mount the motorcycle and zoom off. They left you to die by the roadside. So I called a bolt driver and managed to convince him to take you to my house which wasn’t very far from the spot. The more I cared for you, the more I had come to love you and want to protect you from harm.”
“You saved my life, Sena!” I was mortified. I was crying profusely. The pain in my heart was more than the one in my leg.
How can a fellow man be so callous?
“This news is unbearable! Millions of youths murdered at a peaceful protest.” I told Sena as she prepared our meal on a Sunday morning. I had just clean shaved and given myself a baldie haircut. I carried Dooshima, our daughter, against my broad chest and the resemblance she bore to me was second to none. Her nose was as long as mine and her eyes bulged just like mine. She took her mother’s doll eyelashes and my golden brown skin. She was a beauty to behold.
Sena had Dooshima at Christmas last year. Exactly a year after we wedded. Our wedding was a simple one as I had no friends or family to support me. Sena’s Mum and sister with some few friends we had were attendees at our wedding. I had proposed to Sena a few months after she recounted the story of how she saved my life. She had wanted us to search for my family but after much thought I decided to stay with her because with her I felt safe. I didn’t trust anyone else.
My leg wound had healed but every time I saw the scar, the dagger in my heart pierced deeper as I thought of the callous men who almost took my life. What mattered now to me was Sena and Dooshima. I want to protect them with all I have. I had gotten a job and registered to study Business Administration at the University of Lagos. It was a well paid job but it would support whatever Dooshima had to offer. Our marriage was sweet and peaceful. We had each other and the fruit of our love to make us happy. Sena was truly a caring woman.
“You mean they killed the protesters! But it was a peaceful protest!” Sena came out with my favourite dish of porridge with salad. She had reduced her weight since she started frequenting the gym. She was determined to keep fit. I, on the other hand, could not be called lanky anymore. I had become muscular and broad, little thanks to Sena’s sumptuous dishes.
“I wish I had joined the protest!” I said sadly.
“…and make me a widow, this time.” Sena virtually yelled back at me. “You need to stop this, Teryima! This is not good for your recovery. It could actually cause you more harm.”
I watched my wife become overprotective of me. If l was out of the home and I didn’t return on time, she would keep calling my line till I returned.
“Sena, you can’t keep doing this! I need to do this to kill the pain in my heart. What those men did to me was callous! I should seek justice. It’s time I told my story to the world.”
“But baby, I’m scared. I don’t want anyone to hurt you again.” Sena pleaded subtly.
“I want to heal…please let me.” She had to succumb to my decision and the following I sought a journalist to share my story.
My story was all over the internet soon paired with numerous stories of the protesters who were murdered in cold blood. More journalists visited us for interviews. Senater did not like the unnecessary attention. We had become famous but I could feel her fears. I could sense her insecurity. What would happen if my first family showed up after they discovered I was alive? She must be thinking I would leave her for them. Truly, I’m not even sure of what I would do.
Finally, that expected phone call came in.
It was one of the journalists that had interviewed us who called my line. We had just come back from church service one fine Sunday morning.
I watched Sena as she watered the plants on the balcony while I fed Dooshima the mid-day snack she had made. Sena was truly hardworking. Despite her busy schedule, she cared for everyone.
The Orchids she was watering were thriving in her care. I watched move her lovely figure around and noticed she was glowing and looking chubbier.
“Sen, are you pregnant again?”
I said jokingly. The look of shock on her face contrasted mine which was teasing.
“Why do you ask?” She enquired.
“You’re looking more beautiful.” I said sweetly.
I heard her giggled and turn shyly away.
“Maybe I am!” She said with a bit of seriousness.
Then, my phone rang.
I picked the call.
And the shock came in.
“Mr. Teryima, I think we have found your real family.” The journalist babbled on.
I listened to the news with a variety of emotions. Was I really eager to meet my first family? Who were they? Obviously, they must have been living in penury. What would they think of me? What decision would I take? What about Sena? And our daughter, Dooshima?
“They want to meet you. Can I organise a meeting?” I could hear the journalist on the other side of the phone.
“I will call you back!” I replied quickly as I hung up.
When Senater came to sit with us on the couch, she announced joyfully, “I have news for you!”
“And I have news for you too.” I responded without giving away any emotion. “But you go first!”
“I’m pregnant!” She said happily.
We hugged and kissed and I expressed how happy I was about the news.
Sena could sense I was worried about something. She was a smart woman and could easily read my emotions.
“Have they found them?” She asked in low tones.
“Yes!” I responded without much ado.
A graveyard silence encapsulated us as we were still in a half embrace. Dooshima played quietly between us and I stared into Senater’s eyes hoping that this time she would come to my aid again as she always does.
“What should I do, Sena?” I asked with my head bowed.
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