Sunday 10 November 2019

Her Last Breath (Episode Fifteen)

Hey babe. When are you coming home?
-          Taofeek.

Two hours’ time. We’re still here…
-          Khayrah.

I typed, staring around the room to ensure that no one noticed that I was using my phone.

Two hours??? Gosh! I’m dying here…missing you and craving to be by your side. I made macaroni and smoked fish. It will get cold before you get here.
-          Taofeek.

I will warm it when I get home…
-          Khayrah.

But it won’t be as fresh as when it was recently made. Come home now, my love.
-          Taofeek.

“I cried when I first heard the news. It was the worst news to hear weeks to my wedding…” the rotund woman with a face covered with birthmark, bawled her eyes out as she spoke to us. People reached for tissue paper and handed it over to her to blow her nose.

I turned sideways again and was shocked to see the young man still staring at me.

I’ll talk to you later. I need to listen before I get caught…
-          Khayrah.

I clicked on ‘sent’ and pulled my phone away. I had decided to attend the event to gain a lot and Taofeek shouldn’t become a form of distraction. I glanced at the man again but he had shifted his gaze and was staring at the person who was talking.

“We were born to fight and we would not give up. We’ll fight with everything we’ve got until we take our last breath. We will leave a mark on the world. We will be bold and courageous and fight against all odds. That’s who we are…fighters!” Paul said loudly, raising his hands in the air and gleaming in excitement as we cheered in return.

Paul- a cancer survivor who looked tall and scrawny- was the leader of the cancer support group. He would start off by saying words of encouragement, highlighting stories of cancer patients who fought till the end.

“Yes! Yes! We are fighters! We will never give up!” Tomiwa, the young man who had just narrated his story, stood up from his seat and clapped with enthusiasm.

He would be in his early twenties but he looked frail and emaciated. His eyes looked sunken and his skin looked like they had wrinkles. Tomiwa was diagnosed with a stage 3 lung cancer last year and since then, he had tried to utilize his limited time on earth.

The meeting was usually held in the Cancer Support Group Centre at Allen, Ikeja. The room was painted white and had pictures of smiling faces with captions such as, ‘We were born as fighters.’ ‘Cancer has taught me the true essence of life.’ ‘Life is short…make use of the time you have.’

We were twelve in number, all seated in a circle and probably wondering what we were really doing there. The group wasn’t a solution to our problems…but somehow, we felt that we weren’t alone, we believed that being together proved that we could fight the deadly disease together. We fixed beads into ropes as we listened to Paul. Paul called it a soothing treatment. We had listened to several others narrate their cancer stories…and others would offer words of encouragement afterwards.

“Anymore stories to hear before we call it a day?” Paul asked, staring around the room.

“This lady here hasn’t shared her story.” The young man, who had been staring at me since we arrived there, stated as he fixed his gaze on me with a sly grin.

Ermm…not today. I’ll share my story in the next meeting.” I said softly, staring at my phone and noting the unread messages from Taofeek and missed calls from Aliyah.

Aliyah had been calling since we started the programme but I couldn’t step out because there were rules that prohibited the use of phones.
“Let’s call it a day then. Ensure you grab your cups of orange juice before leaving. Bye!” Paul remarked as we all got up from our seats and headed towards the door.

I was heading out of the room when I heard someone call my name. “How are you?” A slender and pretty lady with a lithe body figure grinned at me. She didn’t look in a way like someone who was inflicted with a terminal disease. She was putting on a red skimpy gown and wore a blue and red weave-on. Her face was also filled with an over-do of makeup.

“I’m Janet. Nice to meet you.’’ She extended her hand for a handshake, smiling broadly and revealing the extent of her red-blood lips.

“Nice to meet you too…You’re also new here?”

“Oh, I joined last week. Can I have your number? I hope we can hang out soon?’’

“Sure!” I replied, pulling away my phone and exchanging contacts with her.

Janet sashayed out of the room with hurried steps as her heeled sandals made squeaky sounds on the tiled floor. I hurried out of the building as I tried to redial Aliyah’s number. It didn’t go through. I crossed to the other path of the road and cleaned the beads of sweat that covered my forehead with the hem of my hijab. It was one of those moments when I missed Mr. Lolu.

Ojota!” I tried to flag down keke marwa that drove along the road but they insisted that Oregun would be their final stop.  

I squinted my eyes as I covered it with my palm, going to my Bolt app. to order for an uber. It was just then that a car parked beside me. A black Hyundai Creta that was spotlessly clean.

“Do you mind I give you a lift?” Came a voice. Looking closer, I discovered that it was the man who was staring at me back in the hall.
“Emmm…thanks. I’ll just order an uber…”

“I insist. Trust me, I’m not a kidnapper. Where are you heading?”


“You stay at Ojota?”

“Magodo actually.” I raked my head shyly, remembering that I would have been melting in pleasure if I hadn’t gotten married.

The man was a tall and handsome with chocolate skin and bright eyes. He was putting on a blue t-shirt and a red cap and he had been staring at me since I arrived at the venue.

‘No…Khayrah, lower your gaze. You are married to the handsome and wonderful man on earth.’ I soliloquized as I opened the car door and sat beside him.

He reduced the volume of the music he was playing as he started the engine. It was Ed Sheeran’s Happier, one of those songs that Fadilah would listen to while she was studying in the room.

“So…” he turned towards me with a smile and faced the road again. “Have you made any friend here?”

“Yes, her name’s Janet. She looks pretty healthy and very beautiful.”

“She approached you or you walked up to her?”

I whipped my head up and glared at him. “She walked up to me. Is there any issue in who approaches another first?”

He laughed softly. “You don’t look like someone who wants to make friends…but it’s fine. I’m Tijani.’’

“You’re a Muslim?’’ I gasped in shock.

“No, an atheist.”

I wrinkled my brows in confusion. Why would someone who bore a Muslim name decide to become an atheist?

“Why would you be an agnostic in a world filled with several wonders?”

“Look Khayrah, I just want to complete my time on earth and leave. I’m not interested in all these beliefs and the sort.’’

“How did you know my name?’’

‘’I checked the register and also asked Paul to confirm. I told him, ‘I need the name of that lovely shy woman who has been peaking at her phone since the beginning of the programme.”’ He stated and I laughed in return.

I wondered who else had noticed that I spent most of my time there, using my phone secretly.
I laughed loudly. “Oh my gosh! I feel guilty right now!”

Haha! Don’t be. What’s your main essence of joining here? Do you really want to be a part of this?”

“My husband advised me to go out and socialize…”

“You’re married?”

“Yes, I am.” I replied, brandishing my fingers and displaying my wedding band.

Surprise stole over his face but he got over the shock instantly and faced the road.

“Was it before you were diagnosed with this?”


“Why would you decide to put him through this pain? Do you know how it would feel when you finally leave?’’

“I just want to love and get married. It’s one of my lifetime goals and I don’t think my sickness should prevent me from ticking that off my list.”

“It’s all about your goal but what have you thought about him? Or you think he isn’t making plans to be with someone else when you leave?’’

“No. I trust my husband. He would never try such.’’ I stated convincingly, hardly believing myself as I remembered Zainab.

“Khayrah, do not trust anyone completely. We’re all humans. We’re not perfect.’’

“What happened to you? Why did you decided to become an atheist?”

Tijani ruffled his hair and I could see sadness in his eyes. “I lost my parents on the same day, in a fatal accident. I was the only child. My relatives deserted me so I struggled all alone. I fell in love with this beautiful and amazing lady and we were set to get married. She was the best things that happened to me and I felt she became my everything; my family. Shortly afterwards, I fell sick and we realized that it was terminal. Well, she left when I needed her the most. I felt a greater pain than when I lost my parents because I was very young then. I swore I would never forgive her for what she did. But later, I realized that she was meant to leave because she would get hurt watching me withering away. So, yes. I was all alone…all by myself again. I accepted my fate that I was alone in this world. I saw life as a meaningless place.”

“I’m so sorry, Tijani. I want you to know that life is a test and your predicament shouldn’t prevent you from having faith in Allah. Allah says that He would try us with somewhat of fear and hunger and reduction in live, property and fruits. Who are we to question the Giver and taker of lives?”*

“Look Khayrah, can we talk about something else? I’ve heard this your tale a million times and I won’t change my mind today.” He said with a frown.

“Okay.’’ I muttered, trying Aliyah’s number again but it didn’t go through.

I went through my unread messages that Taofeek had flooded my phone with.

Abeg, come home oo! What are you guys even doing in that programme? I’m missing you jare.
Should I come and pick you?
-          Taofeek.

Don’t worry, darling. A friend is driving me home.
-          Khayrah.

My regards to her. I’m so relieved she’s taking you home. I wonder what you’d have faced getting down here in this scorching sun. I need to get you a car and a driver. Cannot afford to watch you walk along Lagos busy roads.
-          Taofeek.

It’s a male. His name is Tijani. We’re almost at Ketu. I have loads of gist for you!
-          Khayrah.

Why would you agree to go with him? You could have just called for an uber to pick you up…
-          Taofeek.

I’ll be home soon, my love. There’s no cause to worry.
-          Khayrah.

I clicked ‘send’ and put my phone in my bag, working out ways to change the man that was sitting beside me from being atheist to a Muslim.

 *Qur'an 2 vs 55 (And We will most certainly try you with somewhat of fear and hunger and loss of property and lives and fruits; and give good news to the patient,)

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