Majestic and I 4 by Engee Mbah
My heart was racing. I fought to breathe, as I could barely catch my breath. My mother in law looked pretty concerned.
‘It’s just something I wanted to take, um, err, medicine, you know.’ I managed breathlessly.
‘You just startled me.’ I tell her, giving her a bland smile.
‘Are you alright? I hope you didn’t cut yourself.’ She said, walking through the doorway, and into the kitchen. I shook my head at her question, indicating that I didn’t cut myself. My heart was doing a pretty fast tap dance.
‘Well, clean that up. I’ll serve the food.’ She told me. I went to the store and came back with a broom and dust pan.
As I swept up the glass pieces, I waited with a lump in my throat for her to ask what medicine that was and why I wanted to take it. She didn’t ask. She just took the plates of food out of the kitchen. As she walked through the door, I released the breath I hadn’t known I was holding. I had expected her to at least notice that the fluid from the bottle had a weird smell. Since she didn’t say a word, she probably hadn’t noticed. I hurriedly swept up the glass pieces and mopped up the fluid. Then, I got some bottles of water and cups, and headed for the dining table.
I didn’t eat much. My stomach was tied up in knots. I wasn’t hungry. When, everyone else was done eating, I cleared the table. I hadn’t taken more than a few spoons from my plate. After doing the dishes, I went into the sitting room to unwind and may be watch some television, before preparing for bed. My thoughts kept wandering back to that incident in the kitchen. Everytime my mind replayed that moment, my heartbeat would stutter and speed up, as though it was happening again.
Ikechi walked in, looking not quite right. There was just something about his expression and palor.
‘I don’t feel well.’ He said, as he slowly sat on a sofa.
‘What’s wrong with you?’ His mother wanted to know.
‘I feel like vomiting. My vision is a bit blurry. I had a bout of dizziness when I was coming to the sitting room.’ He complained. His voice had taken that whiny tone it usually did whenever he was sick.
‘Could it be something you ate?’ His mother looked a tad worried. Ikechi frowned.
‘I don’t think so. I didn’t eat out, today. Everything I ate today was made in this house.’ He answered.
‘I should go take a bath.’ He said, before his mother could say anything else. He sat up from his reclining position and moved as if to stand up. He suddenly fell back and started jerking spasmodically.
Alarm shot through me and I lunged up from the sofa. Was he convulsing?
He was having some kind of seizure. He jerked with such violence that he fell out of the chair. He landed on the ground with a loud, sickening thud as his head hit the ground.
‘Well, if the seizure doesn’t cause some damage, that hit is sure to do it.’ My mother in law muttered. Her voice jerked me out of immobility and galvanised me into motion. I rushed into the bedroom and grabbed his car keys. I ran back into the sitting room and remembered that I couldn’t drive. I didn’t know how to.
‘Can you drive?’ I asked, barely restraining my hysteria.
‘Yes.’ She answered. I threw her the car keys.
‘You do know it would be impossible for the two of us to carry him to the car, with all that jerking.’ My mother-in-law pointed out, coolly. I threw her a strange glance, for a moment. She was alarmingly cool for someone whose son was having a seizure.
‘I’ll get the neighbour.’ I said. I ran to the next compound. I banged at the big red gate with reckless abandon borne out of raw fear and nervousness.
‘Who is that?’ A deep voice yelled from within the compound.
‘It’s me!’ I replied.
‘Me na pesin name? Who are you that you are banging on my gate like that?’ He inquired, rather rudely.
‘Your neighbour.’ I said, not bothering to say my name. He wouldn’t know it. The perfunctory “good morning” had been the extent of our association till now. I heard the clanging of metal as he opened the gate. I explained the situation of things as best I could as I dragged him in the direction of our house. I was in a hurry. Too much time had been wasted already. Probably seeing the crazed and panicked look in my eyes, he followed without asking too many questions.
Getting him to the nearest hospital didn’t take more than five minutes. The hospital was basically nearby.
The doctor and nurses took over as soon as we entered the hospital. We sat in the waiting room, I, my mother-in-law and the neighbour.
I must have paced the waiting room a million times. I bit my gorgeous nails to nubs, worrying. For someone who couldn’t stand the man, I was worrying a tad too much. As I walked by the chair for probably the zillionth time, my mother-in-law dragged me down on to the chair.
‘Stop doing that! You are giving me a headache.’ She said. Having had my pacing thwarted, I resorted to tapping my right foot.
‘Has he ever had seizure before?’ I asked my mother-in-law. She glanced at me but said nothing.
‘I mean, he has never had it since we have been married. Did he used to have it as a child?’ I wanted to know. She shook her head.
‘No.’ She said, staring straight ahead , with such calm. Her calmness challenged me somewhat. I mean, there was his mother, who probably loved him more than anybody else, and she was calm. I on the other hand, who thought I would like more than anything to be free of the man was worrying myself silly. I took a deep breath, blew it out through my mouth and told myself to be calm.
It was a long while later when the doctor came to speak with us. I jerked awake from the slight slumber that I had dropped into as soon as I heard his deep voice.
‘…he’s stable, for now. Barring all unforeseen complications, he will be fine.’ I only caught the tail end of his statement. My breath whooshes out, as relief raced through me.
‘We found traces of DEET in his system. It looks like he ingested it.’ The doctor said.
‘What’s that, DEET?’ I asked, after a moment of silence in which no one asked the very obvious question.
‘In one word, poison.’ He replied. A moment of stunned silence followed. A moment in which I wondered if the fluid had somehow gotten into the food when the bottle broke.
‘It’s usually in insect repellants. It is one of the active ingredients. Any idea how he could have ingested something like that?’ The doctor inquired. I shook my head, throwing a quick glance at my mother-in-law who also shook her head. I wondered if she was rethinking that incident with the bottle, right now.
‘Can we see him?’ I asked. The doctor gave a small nod.
‘For a few minutes. He is sedated.’ He replied. After seeing Ikechi for the few minutes which I spent watching his chest move, assuring myself that he was breathing. He looked like death wormed over, with a deathly pale palor, my mother-in-law decided that we should go home and come back the next day.
‘No point staying here when we aren’t doing anything for him.’ She concluded.
We went home. The neighbour drove. Subdued silence suffused the vehicle. We thanked him, profusely, the neighbour. He had left before it occured to me that I didn’t even know his name. I hadn’t asked. We got into the sitting room and my mother-in-law eyed me speculatively.
‘What was in the bottle?’ She asked. My mouth opened, but no words came out.