“…Sorry ma’am, call for you…”
“….wondering if you’re a certain Mrs Otedola-Benson…”
“… Our hospital for identification…”
The voices resonating in her head were as loud as rain, yet the woman was hearing them only in snippets. She didn’t understand how the voices could come from different people, first – a man, a child, then a woman. They were repeating to her, conversations of the past hour which totally made no sense. One thing however was clear from the firm but comforting voice over the phone.
“… Your daughter is dead… ”
This is her second hour in the waiting entrance of St. Charles Hospital and i can tell from the impatient albeit silent tap of her heel on the tile that she isn’t used to being kept waiting.
Her charcoal gray suit gives her away as a very important person, probably someone in government. I am studying the sullen expression on her face, tracing the lines on her forehead down to her cheeks, slowly shrinking with age and i can tell that something has gone wrong – very wrong.
“Lekwa this girl oo, since i left you on this bench, you haven’t moved? ”
My very loud best friend, Ifeoma exclaimed, settling noisily on the chair beside me. The hospital receptionist turned from the television set she had been glued to for the past hour and gave us a very disapproving glare. I turned and rolled my eyes at Ifeoma but she shrugged it off. I concluded that Obiora was fine then, her boyfriend of two years that we had come to visit, he was involved in an auto crash on his way to school from Lagos, and i turned my attention back to the woman i had been studying. Ifeoma followed my eyes and shook her head in rapid succession.
“Don’t think of it! I hope it’s not this woman you’re studying for your thesis… ”
Now, Ifeoma has the loudest whisper i have ever heard and she never runs out of things to say. The receptionist is now watching us fully, disapproving glare still stamped on her terrible make-up smeared face. Ifeoma was unrelenting.
“You see, i never quite understood those lecturers in that your English department. How will Afam tell you to write a thesis on real-life experience, i don’t even… ”
I smiled. We can’t be having this discussion.
” That’s why I’m English and you’re Law. In our world it’s very complex but beautiful to create… ”
” Ehn! Ehn! Biko don’t start! If anyone should be blowing grammar here, it should be me, not you. Anyways, even if they tell you to write about God it’s not my business, just don’t write about this woman. I mean, the Otedola-Bensons? , it just doesn’t feel right. Mhn-Mhn. Don’t try it. ”
” Wait! You know who she is? Otedola? Asin the Otedola we know? As per Dj cuppy? ”
I could feel my excitement forming, the birth of a new story. Trust Ifeoma to notice my hope and kill it before i can bask in its joy. There goes my best friend for you.
” Yeye girl! That’s how you’ll go outside now and say you met Dj cuppy’s mother because that woman resemble dj cuppy for your eye. After everything I’ve been teaching you”
She hissed,pretending to be busy with her phone, and that’s one thing with my best friend i call push and pull. It’s just like Ifeoma to give me a good story, and once i show the slightest hint of interest, she withdraws and pretends she didn’t say anything. She mistakes everywhere for a law court- nothing i can’t deal with anyway.
“Oya, ejorr. Tell me na. Who is she? Why are you doing like this sef? You dey like make i dey beg you o. Odiro nma. It’s not good oo”
She eyed me from the corner of her eye, you know those ones that can annoy the most? That was when i knew she was ready to talk.
“That’s Ada’s mother, i heard her full name is Tiwatope, before the Otedola thing”
At my look of confusion, she rolled her eyes and added.
“Ada, now! Former lodgemate. Ada Benson, that won Miss Unizik in our year two, she’s in your faculty sef, in history or something, but how will you know? ”
She did her signature mock shrug and i kept my mouth shut so she wouldn’t find a reason to end her tale so soon.
” Her father is Chief of army staff, her mother works for UBA bank, the one in Ikoyi,she just flew in from Lagos this morning ”
” So, that explains why she’s here? ”
Then Ifeoma turned around in her seat, facing me, and giving the corner eye to the nosy receptionist who had been eavesdropping.
” What I’ll tell you now, if you like ehn go and put it on unizik blog or write it and give your lecturer so you’ll get A, then see if I’ll not kill you”
My pinky promise earned guiness record for speed.
“You know the bus Obiora entered yesterday from Lagos? , some of our Unizik students were in the bus, Ada was there too, but she died sha… ”
The voices in my head were ringing and talking loudly, all at once, my heart probably wasn’t beating anymore. The shock was overwhelming. I was looking at my best friend but not seeing her. How could she be so calm, announcing someone’s death like that. Sometimes i find it hard to believe she’s human.
“… you know that Amansea-Enugu road, where Holy Family is? , that’s where their bus crashed…”
“… If you see blood sha…”
“They’re keeping it quiet because of Ada’s Father. Not as if she’s the only one that died oo, i heard two final year boys died too, but you know Ada’s father is a man in government, if the news gets out, how she died? People will talk! They’ll blame government for bad roads and you know they can’t deal with such negative publicity right now… ”
“… Are you listening to me sef, this girl?…”
“… So, Obiora said… ”
I wasn’t listening, i had constructed the first three pages of my thesis.
” Sorry for keeping you waiting ma’am. I’m Dr. Francis, resident doctor here. Please follow me. ”
Silently, the woman followed him down the hallway,not noticing the two girls chattering on the bench adjacent to hers, she couldn’t hear them, even if she wanted to. The only sound she could hear was her Louboutin on the white hospital tile and her heart, beating.
Even when they went under the archway labelled ‘Morgue’, she was hoping silently for a miracle, something – a sign.
“Ma’am, if this might be difficult for you or if you have medical issues, you can stand right here and we’ll get you some of her personal effects recovered from the crash to enable you identify.. ”
” I want to see my daughter! ”
Her voice was firm, one used to issuing commands, but the doctor could hear the slight tremor, the waver. She was afraid, hoping it not to be her daughter- Denial. Nothing the good doctor wasn’t used to.
She lay on the plain white slab, as cold as death, or was it ‘it’ now? How again do they refer to dead bodies? Her Brazilian weave, the one that had cost daddy almost a hundred thousand to buy for her 19th birthday was matted with blood on one side of her head, the other side gaping open, dried blood around the edges. Her eyes were drawn back, in shock? Pain? Did her daughter die, staring death in the eye? Was it instant? Was there pain? Did she feel her life slipping away slowly as the trailer hit the bus from the side? Or did she cut her head open when the bus somersaulted? Did she at any minute cry for Mommy?
“With all due respect ma’am the body hasn’t been cleaned and taken care of, i will assume you have identified the body to be your daughter’s and we are sorry for your loss, but you’ll have to leave to the waiting room till the certificate of death is ready, please bear with us ”
The doctor was talking but she wasn’t listening. She wondered if he had ever seen any of his children die. Did he even have kids?
The voices in her head were louder now, slowly they were overwhelming her, controlling her.
She took off her court heels and flung them towards the water dispenser at the entrance of the morgue and laughed out loud, a sound, hollow and brittle, containing no humor. The doctor raised a brow.
“Madam, is there a problem? I understand your grief… ”
She laughed again, this time, louder and resonating. Then she ran for the reception, her laughter echoing down the hallway.
The receptionist was staring at her, as though she was mad. Those two silly girls were still seated where she left them, pretending not to be staring. They were the least of her problems now, all she she could think of was to
” Dance! ”
The voices in her head were screaming loudly and disjointedly,the command however, was the same.
” Dance! ”
And dance she did, on and on and on.
” on.. and on… and on…. ”
My fingers click-clacked on my laptop keypad. Ifeoma was peering over my shoulder, literarily breathing down my neck.
” Shey after everything, you still used this story. Yeye girl! Shey you wan graduate with first class, bah? Wait make Ada come pursue you from grave…”
“… but you try sha o, you can write! , Afam had better give you an A”
There goes my best friend.
Push, then pull.
I couldn’t hide my smile.
“Ifeoma do you still remember what happened to Mrs Otedola-Benson, i mean after they chased everybody from the reception? I need to close my story ”
” You’re asking me? Am i Channels news?”
“…. Sha, i heard she don ‘ara’ ”
Ifeoma put a finger to her temple, making a rapid rotating movement.
“Ara? Asin wonders? ”
I asked, still confused.
Ifeoma rolled her eyes and pursed her lips in a drawn out hiss.
” I wonder why your father is still paying school fees on your head.
Ara asin mad. She chop craze. She don kolo… but she dey jand now, Germany or something,and biko don’t ask me how i know ”
Ifeoma said, and decided she didn’t want to watch me complete my thesis after all. She was known for having a short attention span anyway, and was now focused on the new Telemundo episode on the T. V in our cramped up self-contained apartment.
I wanted so badly to remind her of her commercial law quiz the next morning,and i don’t know if i wanted to watch her fail or if my Evil twin took over me, but i said nothing, instead i stared at her, unseeing, wondering how i would feel if i had lost my best friend in an auto accident- hell, any accident at all.
The pain flashed in my head briefly but i knew that was just my imagination at it’s best.
I thought of Ada. I thought of death.
I needed something, anything, to complete my thesis.
Then, i thought of pain.
I imagined Mrs Tiwatope Otedola-Benson.