Essays, Writers

Caught In The Act by Peace Habila.

  The excruciating hunger pangs started  at 11pm on the dot. They shooed sleep off my eyes completely which resulted in me tossing from one side of the bed to the other. The pangs deferred the biting Jos harmattan cold. I was caught up between the devil and the shark-filled  blue sea. On one hand,  I had these pangs that gnawed and stretched my intestines at will to deal with. On the other hand, was this tongue freezing cold penetrating through my almost wrinkled pores down to my soul. The thought of getting up to fix some food for myself meant betrayal to my five years old friendship. A part of me decided to endure. To excuse and relief myself of the pangs, I clutched my fingers around the tip of my duvet and clipped the duvet to the bedsheet using my feet at the other end to give me enough room to stretch when the pains kicked the hardest. “Ah!  I must endure”, I whispered to myself,  although my facial expression at the time contradicted my confession. This fast was borne the day  Plangnan announced the scheduled date for her bilateral salpingo-ooperectomy. Plangnan, my flatmate and friend, has been in and out of hospital for a while now. It has been a series of  back and forth appointments with gynecologists and oncologists. It took a complete team of specialized doctors to identify the cancerous tumors in her ovaries and fallopian tubes. The surgery is the last option necessary for her survival. The diagnosis set her now “run-away” fiancé on auto-exit mode. He couldn’t risk it. It became convenient for him to say “ I’m sorry,  we can’t work”.  I learnt his folks jolted and poked him into dumping her.  But I  guess, he also found comfort in melting his love for her in the heat of the pressure. The ease with which he dismissed her left some “shock effect”  in my spine. I wasn’t really  a huge fan of his; they were  just so cute together, and for strange reasons, he made her happy. So,  I was happy that he made her happy. Dumping her actually  broke the camel’s back so much that the easiness on the eyes effect he once had on us evaporated within seconds after I got the news. My homegirl is going thorough a lot; she is sick and heartbroken. It  took us a while to pull resources together for the surgery. For lack of who to turn to, I became her larger than life companion, a shoulder to cry on, her clown and comedienne, her chef and sous-chef, and prayer warrior. That wasn’t enough to save her flesh from wasting; she has become a shadow of her once pretty self. We also had to find a way to keep most of the details about her now deteriorating health away from her parents who are begging to survive the claws of age-induced incessant fevers. Her brother, fully aware of her state of health,  flew in from Gabon, yesterday,  to sign the consent forms as well as make huge payments for the procedure. The surgical procedure is in  34 hours from now. I’m not sure if she will be forgiving enough to allow me follow her to the hospital. I don’t even know how to explain what  happened a while ago to her brother when he shows up in the morrow. When the  hunger pangs got worse, I knew I had to eat. I wasn’t sure how she would react because the fast  was solely  my invention. The doctors instructed her not to eat anything solid, at least 48hours, before the commencement of the procedure. To show the depth of my love for her, I announced the commencement of this 24hours solidarity dry fast. My intentions were genuine; I wanted  to just  register my love and loyalty. I also wanted to invoke  heaven to step into her case to ensure a hitch-free procedure. I honestly don’t know what possessed me to voice my intentions, I should have kept them to myself. However, I was glad it made her smile and the tears of joy that rushed down her face made me feel like a special friend. I sneaked out of the bed, at 11:40pm, into the kitchen and got myself a lavished  portion of jollof rice and chicken. My goal was to rush few spoons down my throat to save my dying soul. I wanted to make it quick and simple but the jollof tasted better than any jollof I had eaten before. To think I made the jollof rice, became  a puzzle. Before I could say Jack Robinson, my   senses were buried in the spiciness  of the  cold plate jollof rice on my laps. To legitimize my foolishness,  I assured myself that I would hear footsteps if anyone  was approaching. After all, my position behind  the kitchen door felt  strategic. I was religiously devouring my food with my head bent over the plate when I noticed a sudden obstruction of the brightness of light. I lifted my head swiftly, only to find  Plangnan standing over me. She didn’t say a word; her silence killed me and is still draining happiness and peace off my  bones. How she got here without my notice is still a mystery to me. She eventually dragged her weightless body  out of the kitchen to my utter embarrassment. OK!  I got caught, big deal, but I  can’t still  explain why  within split second my hunger and appetite vanished. My forehead and armpits became wet with sweat. That  episode left me confused as to what to do with the last spoon of rice in my mouth. Spitting it out would mean the highest form of hypocrisy. Swallowing it would further engrave the betrayal on her chest. While I was still musing about my confusion, I heard her teary voice pray: “father, Lord, I have no one else except you”. “This friendship is officially over”, I said to myself as I threw