Today may be my last. The doctors are not telling me this, but I know. It is clearly written on their faces. My heart tells me. My soul whispers it to me. My spirit finds it disheartening, so that it turns its back on me and slowly drifts away.
Everything in this hospital room looks new to me. The tubes running through my whole body. The machines surrounding me, humming a low whirr. The long shadows by the walls of the room. Even the smell of this room, I can’t tell. Yet, the bed on which I lie is familiar. Its softness is one I wake up to every day. This bed, this mass of plush foam beneath me, is generous in keeping my frail body every passing day.
There is a rose by my head. The children of St. Matthew’s Orphanage were here, earlier today. In my room. Around every corner and side of my bed. How angelic they all looked. They sang to me, a slow, sweet melody their voices were. Their display of kindness made my senses float and my heartstrings loosen, till I felt melted joy ooze through my heart. And they brought gifts, too: books, photo albums, pillows and roses. I warmly declined their gifts, but I plucked a rose stalk from its bouquet. Of what use will those gifts be when I’m gone…?
Baby, it’s February the Fourteenth. In my mind’s eye, I see two lovers strolling in a beautiful garden. The garden is quiet and sun-lit. Flush, verdant. That glowing greenness of nature. Only birds hover along the white cotton skies, singing at high pitch. I see a gift stores thriving with customers. Customers that shout their orders in an excited frenzy. Some are buying red, gleaming cards, some roses, while others are caught in a web of indecision. But I see red. And more red. Everything is red. This is it, baby: All that is red happens on Valentine’s day; love is everything red today.
I remember February 14th of last year. I don’t know why, but the memory of that day is like this rose by my head. Fresh in every sense. New and reeking of great worth. We were at an amusement park, me holding your hand, you enjoying the glorious taste of your candy floss. You walked like a queen that day. A majestic queen. Your pose for cameras showed sides of you I thought I’d seen, but really I’d never gotten close to seeing them, until then. Maybe this is what love does. It renews every day. And then, when we sat at a table, after our moments on the rollercoaster, a woman accidentally spilled baby food on you. All over your face and dress. I laughed. You were not laughing back, so that I licked the baby food across your forehead with my finger. Then you laughed. How can I forget that day?
I smile. Memories are all I have now. Memories that have you in them. Your photographs sit on top of the tiny cupboard beside my bed. But my body is too weak to get up. I can only write. This kind of cancer is wicked. It has turned me into an object of pity. A figure to be stared at, cuddled, and then told kind words. Words my ears are now taken to.
Now I find love in many ways, movements, actions, numbers, thoughts, non-thoughts. When the cable television is down, and suddenly it awakes with a miraculous start, I call it love. The ceiling fan blowing cool air shows love. And the machines humming around me have love. And the tubes around my nostrils and arms. And the birds staring at me through the glass window every morning. And the woman cleaner who comes to mop my room by mid-day. Everything and everyone has love.
It’s happening. My heartbeat is dropping slowly to a gentle lull. My spirit is close to the end of a tunnel. This tunnel is glistening with blinding white lights. I call my spirit but it refuses to answer. My hands are shaking, my heart oxygen-starved. I am watching life slowly ebb from me. But I’m happy I’m coming to join you. I know my spirit has seen you. Little wonder it refuses to answer my body, my call. It has been a year without you, since you died in that car accident. And love has been nothing but what I want it to be.
Everywhere is silent now. I want to describe how I feel. I want to describe the things I see. But….but….
Okafor Emmanuel Tochukwu is a Nigerian writer and was born in Lagos in 1993. He is currently studying electrical and electronic engineering at the University of Benin. His creative writing has appeared in Naija Stories and Uniben Talking Drum, as well as on StoryMondo, and is forthcoming in Aerodrome and the first ArtBeat Afrika short story anthology. He recently concluded an online writing course with the University of Iowa. An active member of the University of Benin Creative Writers’ workshop, Tochukwu is currently working on a full-length debut novel.