MEETING RICHARD – Some Time in 2009

On campus at Central University College. It was either late October or early November 2009. I was a fresh man; so was Richard. Except that he had a diploma so he enrolled in second year while I enrolled in normal first year. Right, I knew nothing of him.

On my first day, I did not bother to make any friends. I made it clear to myself that friendship would be my last priority in this school. Because making friends was too easy and also because I liked too much fun. If I ever got concerned about making friends, it would take too much of my time and my brains would suffer.

My first class in first year, listening and speaking skills was held in ABT 1, the first room on the faculty of arts and social sciences block. I sat on the second chair in the first row. Mimi sat on the fourth chair in the first row. I noticed her. I was still not bothered about making friends. But I knew Mimi from my high school. She was in my class but she was not my friend. I did not want her to be my friend now. I only wanted to give her company; she looked too quiet. I beckoned her to come over and join me on the first row. She said the second seat would be too close to the lecturer. We moved to the third. She was my friend.

Then there was Lovia. Her voice was squeaky. Squeakier than mine. And she had an accent. And she was so bold, it was rude. She gave me the creeps!
Richard was Lovia’s old friend. Later on, he would tell me how they met, anytime she came up in a conversation but I would always forget. I have still forgotten. I don’t remember how he came to be my friend through her but there’s this incident I always regarded as the first time I met him and Mimi always stood to correct.

Once when we had finished with the day’s lectures, Mimi said she had to give Richard a message from Lovia. “Who is Richard?” I had asked. “Oh! Richard, Lovia’s friend. The one she introduced to us when…” (I could never remember when or meeting him or anything else related to that). Her attempts at getting me to remember became boring and I said “ooh ok ok”. I still had no idea who she was talking about. And I was not exactly interested in finding him to deliver that message or whatever it was he was needed for, except that I would be helping Mimi if I got myself interested at all. So I kept trailing behind her while she roamed in and around campus searching for the unknown-supposed-to-be-known Richard. We found him eventually- somewhere a little ahead of the school gate where a lot of people passed to their hostels. At this time, some minutes past 3pm. The scene on that road looked like the subway in New York City at 7:00 am on Monday- a convoy of fast-walking young men and women looking over-focused on their destination. At 7:30 am in New York, the focus is work. At 3pm in Central University College, the focus is hostels- to chat and eat and see booboo and study and sleep. For a few though, maybe one, to get back to work.

Richard was part of this convoy. Mimi screamed his name so we would not lose him in an attempt to catch up. “RICHAAAAAARD”. He turned after the first call and noticed us immediately. That moment. That split second when he turned. The look on his face. The distant look. His attitude; his eyes; his nose; his lips; his white shirt; the side pocket on the left side of his shirt; the blue pen cover that stuck out of his pocket. That look has never left me.

There was something about Richard that I fancied very intensely. These days, I have come to understand what goes into forming that part of his personality; but even so, some times when I think about him in his absence, I struggle to comprehend it fully. Three and half years ago, which was a year into our friendship, I called him Silas Manner. My consciousness informed me that I was having fun, calling him names. Quite recently though I understood that it was my way of familiarizing myself with the part of him that I could not understand. That though was rooted in my sub- consciousness.

 

WHEN MY COUSIN DIED- May 2013

When my cousin died, it was the first time I knew death; I thought I “experienced death” was a more appropriate expression. Something died inside of me. I did not forget myself; but I forgot who I was. I did not forget what I wanted to become; but I forgot I wanted to become something. My life came to a halt. I fell sick; then I thought I was going to die as well. I though everyone around me would die, one person at a time, then I would take my turn. I would wake up with a fever and have no appetite. My stomach was tight. It would neither receive food nor air- right. I could not breathe. After a few days, I knew I was beginning to suffocate but my stomach would still have neither food nor air. My throat was tight. Air could not pass. So I turned to water. I drank at least, 12 glasses a day because it was all that my body accepted. I realised I needed it desperately to survive. Otherwise I would die.

After a week, I began to grow weak. I knew I was not sick so I chose not to go to the hospital. Instead, I called my auntie, the nurse. I told her my breathing was irregular, that my heartbeat was heavy and I could not eat at all. If I attempted to put anything in my mouth, it came out through my anus- the tiniest of things. She asked if I had a temperature and I said no. she asked if I was anxious about something and I said no to that too. So she recommended Nugel. Nugel was a regular drug for treating stomach upset. She said I could also take a multivitamin to give me appetite. She did not understand that I had appetite but my body would just not take the meal- it rejected it. I could only drink water. During the two weeks it took to complete my medication, the situation did not change. It got worse. My heart beat and breathing irregularity got worse. Sometimes I would not breathe at all for about a minute, then I would start to cough. I turned to fruits. Bananas, watermelons and mangoes. Any other fruit I took would give me heart burns that were so severe; I thought I had drunk pure acid. These would remain the only fruits I ate for the next four months.

After I completed the medication my auntie prescribed and got no results, I decided to go to the hospital. At this point, I had accepted that even if there was no medical reason to cause me to be sick, lack of food and nutrients would be the reason.

Oh! I forgot to say earlier: Each time I got those breathing and heart- beat attacks, I would first contact my boyfriend before even starting to wonder what was happening. I would describe what I was feeling and we would diagnose together. Each time, the diagnosis would be lack of food and prescription would be a good balanced diet. Meanwhile, another important reason I would call him that promptly each time was to make sure I spoke to him before I died. I did think and almost certainly that I was going to die. The pain was unbearable. Eventually, it was my boyfriend, who concluded through a lecture of his own eating experiences that I had fallen sick from lack of food and nutrients.

The hospital I went to had been my regular hospital since I was about sixteen. – Sakumono Community Hospital. My dad’s company provided us with mutual health cards, so I could run there even when I had a headache without worrying about bills. By this time, I had grown very familiar with the doctors and other health workers but I was meeting this particular doctor for the very first time. He diagnosed me of anxiety disorder. What! I didn’t believe him…

“What is anxiety disorder?”

He mentioned its medical name- something attacks- but I cannot remember the first word.

“Why would I have that?”

“Is something bothering you?”

“Hell no”

“Are you anticipating something?”

It was about three weeks before my boyfriend came back after studying in New York City for ten months and I countered every second that passed. “No”

“Are you writing exams?”

I was in final year in the university. My internship results were not out yet; my life management skills results were not out yet (I never studied LMS but I wrote the paper, anyway); and I had not completed my long essay. “No”

“Do you have issues at home?”

“Dad; say no; say no; say no; but you need a solution anyway. Well, this could be it” “yes”

“What issues?”

“Do I really have to tell you?”

“Yes”

A nurse walked in and said something about rounds. The doctor wrote inside my folder and raised his head smiling. “I won’t give you any prescription. If you are unable to deal with it, come back and I’ll give you something to calm you down.” I still didn’t believe him.

It took about ten seconds to think of getting up from the patients’ seat, holding the arm rest, pressing my palms against it and raising myself slowly till I stood up right. The nurse was staring; the doctor as well, except he was smiling. Then I used another ten seconds wondering what he was smiling about and hesitating about asking him why. The nurse was staring more intensely. I chose to smile lightly at him and turned to the nurse to give her share of the fake smile before I finally walked out. I still hadn’t believed him…