Wednesday, 1 April 2020

Her Last Breath (Episode Twenty-Three)



Taofeek

I had always dreaded this moment. The moment Khayrah would be fighting for her life and friends and well-wishers would storm the hospital premise and the house, to console and wish her speedy recovery…not like it would make a difference…well, maybe it will.

My legs wobbled as I folded my hands around my chest and fixed my eyes on the floor tiles- the white sparkling tiles that had been recently cleaned by a lady in a blue gown.

Again, this was the moment I dreaded so much. The moment when Khayrah would be fighting for her life and I would sit in the hospital reception, bawling my eyes and muttering prayers that Khayrah remains safe. I detested this moment so much. It was the same with my mother when she was fighting for her life seven years ago.

We were also in the hospital reception, anxiously pacing back and forth and practically quarreling with the doctor who insisted that we remained calm. But my mom lost her life afterwards. She did not make it out of the hospital alive.

I did not want the same for Khayrah. She was the only woman I had dreamt of spending the rest of my life with. Even when I knew she was terminally ill, I had lived every single day with the hope that we would live so long that she would have forgotten she was ill. That we would grow old and watch streaks of silver hair multiply on our heads, and watch our children get married and have their grandchildren. I had always wished for this. I never wished to witness Khayrah fighting for her life…and being unable to do anything about it.

“But…we should be able to see her…we should…” I prattled as Khayrah’s mother started to weep loudly.

Fadilah joined her and soon, the reception was filled with loud cries. Water dripped down my face as I watched them cry helplessly. I cleaned my wet face with the sleeve of my shirt and scampered out of the hospital building.

Sighing loudly as I inhaled the fresh air, I gave freedom to the tears that had been struggling to come out, flow uncontrollably down my face. My life felt like a mess in an instant. I might be losing my wife and child.

“Daddy,” I heard Aliyah’s voice behind me as she hugged me from behind.

I pulled her in front of me and hugged her tightly, and we both stood for minutes, shedding tears and hoping that everything would turn out fine.

“You haven’t had lunch, dad. We should visit the restaurant down the street,” Aaliyah said as she stroked my hand.

I pinned my lips tightly in frustration. “You know I can’t eat anything. I just want to…”

“Okay, tea. Tea would be fine. Let’s go somewhere for a while. You’ve been in there for hours and it isn’t helping you.” Aliyah stated as she dragged my hand and pulled me away.
“What if the doctor calls us in?”

“Aunty Khayrah’s mom and sister are there. Come on, dad. You need this.”

“Okay,” I replied and we walked out of the premises.
***
Aliyah watched me intently as she ate jollof rice and fried fish. I sipped from my tea and watched people that strode in and out of the restaurant. I stared at a fair-complexioned man whose face beamed with a smile as he walked hand in hand with a petite lady.

Love, truly is underrated. Why would love allow one to fall in love with someone, just to end up losing the person?

Aliyah cleared her throat as she caught me staring at me the fair-complexioned man. “Your phone has been ringing.”

“My phone?”

“Yes, your phone. Give it to me,” She stated as I dipped my hand into my pocket and brought out my phone.

“Here it is,” I dropped it on the table and sipped from the cup of tea, which had turned cold.

“SubhanaLlaah! You have fifty missed calls. Uncle Lukman, Uncle Lukman again, Funmilayo, Uncle Lukman again, your dad, Jalil, Zainab…you have to return these calls, dad….ah, Uncle Lukman’s calling again,” she said as she picked up the phone. “Wa’alaykumu salam. Yes, I got back yesterday. No, he wouldn’t answer the call. On your way? Okay, we will be expecting you.”

“They’re on their way?”

“Yes. Uncle Lukman, Uncle Jalil and grandpa are on their way.”

“Okay,” I muttered as I stared at the ground.

“Dad? Please look at me.” Aliyah held my hands tightly.

“Yes, love?” I whipped my head up.

“Let’s put our absolute trust in ALlaah. In sha ALlaah, she’ll be fine,” she said with moistened eyes.

I smiled weakly. “Thank you, Aliyah.”

“Let’s go the mosque. It’s almost asr. Let’s bow down to ALlaah and beg Him to keep her safe.”
“You’re right. I’ll settle the bills,” I muttered as I walked over to the counter.

Aliyah described the mosques she had visited in Canada as we walked to the mosque. However, I could hardly grasp what she was saying. An image of Khayrah with several tubes connected to her nostrils clouded my thoughts. An image of Khayrah dressed in a white hideous gown and lying on the bed with her eyes closed filled my thoughts.

I wondered if I would ever get the opportunity to spend more time with her- to gaze at her lovingly as she cracked one of her jokes and dance around the room in baggy pants. I wished she were right here beside me, talking about a random topic and planting a kiss on my lips in the middle of our conversation. I wished I could feel the softness of her skin and laugh at her as she shed tears after watching a romantic comedy. I had promised to buy a plate of ewedu soup from Mama Riskat’s buka on my way from work.

“What’s the assurance that you’ll still have the appetite to eat this when I return from work? Is it not this my pregnant wife? That’s when you’ll say that I should have bought bread and sardine.” I had laughed while buttoning my shirt this morning.

A wry smile came across Khayrah’s face. “Be pregnant for just a day and know how it feels.”

“Dad? Dad?” Aliyah tapped my arm as I drifted to the present. “Yes?”

“Someone has been calling your name.”

“Who?”

“That woman.” Aliyah pointed and I followed her finger.

I froze in shock as I saw Ummul Khayr grinning at me from afar. She had started walking towards us and I caught a clearer version of her. She was dressed in a lab coat and black gown and her hands were dug in her coat’s pockets. Ummul Khayr looked much older than when I last saw her. She was more robust and her skin was fairer in complexion. The last time I saw her was when I had called our relationship quits. She was kneeling and pleading that I continue to love her when I walked out of the restaurant. That was eleven years ago.

“Long time no see. I’m still wondering if I’m in a dream world. Isn’t this Taofeek?” Ummul Khayr chuckled as she glanced at me. “Ah, yes. He’s still the one. I can spot the tiny birthmark beside your lips. You haven’t changed much…still looking young and handsome.”

“Thank you, Ummul Khayr. Asalamu ‘alaykum.”

“Wa’alaykumu salam.”

“I didn’t expect to see you here…or to ever see you. We didn’t depart in a good way. How have you been?” I asked as I glanced at her finger to realise that she was married.

I sighed in relief when I saw a gold ring resting on her fourth finger. Ummul Khayr was one of the ladies I had dated in the past- one of the ladies whose heart was shredded into pieces by the playboy, Taofeek.

“AlhamduliLlaah, I’m doing great. I’m happily married with two girls. I also work as a pediatrician in the hospital at the beginning of the street. What about you?” Ummul Khayr asked, glaring at Aliyah as if she was wondering if Aliyah was my lover.

“Meet my first daughter, Aliyah,” I said as Ummul Khayr gasped in surprise.

Regaining her composure, she stretched her hand forward. “Nice to meet you, Aliyah. I can’t believe you got married. So, what are you doing here?”

I screwed up my face in agony. “My wife is sick. She is being admitted in the hospital you work for.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry. I hope she’s getting better?”

“In sha ALlaah, she will. We need to run along. I’ll catch up with you later.”

“Okay Taofeek,” Ummul Khayr waved as she left our presence.

“When will you tell me how many hearts you’ve broken?” A flicker of amusement passed over Aliyah’s face.

“I can’t even remember. Let’s hurry to the mosque so that we’ll get to the hospital on time. I want to be present when Khayrah wakes up.” I said as we fastened our steps.

As we hurried to the mosque, I wondered if my current predicament was a payback for the atrocities I had committed in the past.

***
Ridwan, Jalil, and my dad were seated beside Khayrah’s mother and Fadilah when we returned to the hospital. Everyone bore a solemn look on their faces as they spoke in hush whispers.
Ridwan stood up immediately he saw us approaching them. “Taofeek…” he muttered as he pulled me into a tight hug.

“I’m so sorry this is happening. I wish it didn’t happen…I really wish it didn’t happen…I’m sorry. Khayrah will be fine, in sha ALlaah.” Ridwan whispered as he sobbed openly.

“We should put all our trust in ALlaah. Everything will be fine, in sha ALlaah,” I smiled as I patted his shoulder and walked towards my father to greet him.

“Asalamu ‘alaykumm, sir.”

“Wa’alaykumu salam, Taofeek.” My father stared at me and pulled his gaze away.

His eyes were also misty and I also noticed that his hands were shivering. I knew that his heart was filled with words that were left unsaid. Like how he remembered when we were awaiting the fate of my mom as she struggled for her life. Jalil, on the other hand, said the taslim and buried his face to hide the tears that were streaking down his face. It truly hurt me to watch my family members look solemn all because of me.

“Taofeek, Khayrah’s dad sends his regards. He is currently on a flight back to Nigeria. He had visited Budapest for a meeting,” Khayrah’s mother said as she cleaned her wet face.

“Okay.” I took a seat beside the Ridwan and perceived the stench odour of antiseptic that filled the air. I felt woozy as I struggled to get up and hurry to the toilet.

I had no idea about how I safely jostled towards the toilet but three minutes later, I was vomiting all of the contents in my stomach into the water closet. I sighed in relief as I washed my face with water.

‘Put all your trust in ALlaah. Khayrah will be fine.’ I thought as I returned to the hospital’s reception.

I gasped in shock and my heart juddered in my chest as I spotted a man dressed in white, talking to my family members.

I hurried towards the scene and grabbed his arm. “How is Khayrah?”

Doctor Muyiwa was a stout-looking man with a silver moustache and he had streaks of beard beneath his jaw. He had an unusual croaky voice that sounded like he had spent his years yelling and thereby, losing his voice. “Taofeek. I’ll need to see you privately. And Mrs. Adewale. The two of you should accompany me to my office.”


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