The Mombasa Hospital is a silent place. Too silent for my liking, I think to myself as I walk in. There’s a sign that will stare at you immediately you pass through the gate.
Cars of posh design are lined up. I smile. I smile because I remember how, as a kid, I dreamt of being a Doctor – you can be cold toward such a warm memory, so I stop smiling. It’s a big place, boasts two waiting areas, with wards they like to call “wings”, all white, with evidence of constant re-painting. How I know this, simple- put white on white, it stops being white. The smell of antiseptic will offend you. So I’m in a place with silence that’s very loud and walls that are very white. If you’ve read excerpts of Perfect Blue, you get where I derived the “nothing stays white for long” line (that’s a book I’m writing).
I know my way around here- I was born here, been to the E.R. a couple of times- a consequence of an adventurous child hood. I have no trouble locating the out-patient semi-private wing of this hospital. Each room has two doors, the front door always stays locked while the back one is a sliding glass door. If my bearings are correct, the doors are south-west facing designed to catch every bit of the dying sun every evening. They also give you an unbiased view of the tranquil, yet sometimes, turbulent waters of the Indian Ocean. I should have had flowers in hand since I was going to see my special lady.
It’s 6:38 pm. 8th January, 2015. A day whose evening sky was not dark at all, shot with the lightest shade of crimson, sort of. Okay, orange, the sky was orange. I’m walking through the corridors leading to a room number 6. In Mombasa, it is easy to see the wind. Palm trees beside the ocean are swaying and the sound of leaves rustling is distinct, the breeze brushes against my skin with the dying embers of the sun releasing the tension in my muscles. There’s a fresh smell of sea weed and you will appreciate how wet and briny the air is as you inhale. Nature- I adore you. I’ve been called meticulous, once. 🙂
My mother was staunch in her faith, with her rosary always in hand. So when I slid the glass door open, I was surprised to find her snoring gently. I laugh quietly to myself because I knew exactly what she’d say if I woke her up, I wasn’t sleeping, I was praying. I let her sleep.
She was undergoing second line chemotherapy. In simple, not-so-boring, non-medical terms, it’s the treatment you will receive if any cancer you thought gone has been killing you slowly in the inside. It’s harsher and seven-zeros kind of expensive. She had multiple pulmonary metastasis ( it had spread to her lungs-slowly). Maybe I’ve given too much credit to cancer by writing this paragraph, I’m sorry.
There stands a drip bottle that has a skull inscribed on to it. Above this skull, some big scientific name which I pay no attention to, I watch as the colourless chemical flows down a tube into her left wrist. I watch her sleep for minutes unending. She’s in so much pain and, at the same time, in so much peace as she sleeps. An overhead flourescent bulb shone above her. White sheets covered her up to her abdomen, her right hand, exposed, firmly clutching her rosary.
As I watch her sleep, I remember a few things about her. How she would dance every time a Brenda Fasie jam came on, oh she never cared who was watching. She would also sit me down, and sing Whitney Houston’s How Will I Know every time she caught me watching
Channel O – I think that was her favourite song. How she would warn me against doing something, but let me make my own mistakes because she was a sucker for the I told you so line. Sarcasm was her forte. She gave me sarcasm. She was full of life. All her hopes and dreams, everything she ever needed and wanted – even writing letters to God… I always wonder if He ever read those.
She wakes up, coughs and I stand to get her water.
I always thought my version of taking care of my mum was build her a large and imposing house, fill it with servants, a chauffer even, all together with her own pastry shop – she loved baking, and all this was number one on my bucket list. Make my mama a queen. Not this. Why this?
She sees me,
“Oh, David, hello. I’ve just finished praying.”
Of course you have. Aside.
As I hand her a glass of water she declines it, “I’m fine. There’s a taste of metal in my mouth.” I don’t know what to say. She can be stubborn.
“How long have you been here? What time is it?”
“Not long.” (an hour) I avoid the time question.
“How’re you feeling?”
“Mimi niko tu.” (I just am).
I hate such responses. But okay. It mattered most to her that I never worried about her-which was selfish on her part. She never liked me seeing her this way. My eyes are welling up so I stare at the white ceiling. She had this strict no crying policy.
“This room is too white.”
“What time is it?” Her tone rises.
She tells me of how one of my uncles was there to see her earlier, and had to run an errand somewhere but promised to come back.
“There’s chicken in the freezer, if you leave now, you’ll give it a chance to thaw…”
I stopped listening, there she was, mentioning chicken at a time like this, trying to take care of me. I let myself cry. And she let’s this slide- you can only be a stoic for so long. She, the queen of stoicism, understood this. I want to talk her into letting me stay. But we had had this conversation before, it was an argument actually, I had wanted to forgo reporting back to school (Uni) but she’d have none of that. And I could sense yet another argument eventuate. We were best of friends, of course we argued.
Beth (a friend of hers) walks in and this grants my mother the necessary ammunition to win an argument which hadn’t even started.
“Beth is here,” she smiles sheepishly, “she’ll take care of me, see you tomorrow.”
I was only just twenty-years old.
The story continues.