It was in the evening of 9th June, 2000; Joe had gone to the pub with his friends to have a drink. His closest friend, Tom, had just been awarded employee of the month in his place of work. The pub was one of the coziest and liveliest pubs in the neighbourhood and their drinks were quite affordable. Joe and his friends had planned to have a couple of drinks to set the spirit high for the evening and then dart away for the club for what promised to be a wild night. The pub was roomy and homey, nicely compartmentalized into sections with flat screen TV’s on every cubicle which made it a site of attraction during football seasons for football lovers. Joe loved being in the casino cubicle, which was Italianesque, though he never gambled. He enjoyed copiously the melody of Petrarchan sonnet often played on the background while gamblers hustled for their money.
As the pub got bubblier; filled with people, Joe was seated, with a bottle of Carlsberg in his hand, and submerged into the rhythm of the song playing on the background. He was on the second bottle when he spotted a figure. At first it looked like he was hallucinating, but his curiosity prompted him to go closer to clear his doubts. Sitting in solitude, with couple of bottles of the same brand as Joe’s, was a pretty lady, who casually dressed like she wasn’t ready for the evening outing. The look on her face easily told Joe that all wasn’t alright with her. The way she giggled when Joe said ‘hello’ was a telltale sign that she was intoxicated. Joe’s curiosity multiplied; he became more concerned about the young lady than anyone could imagine. Not that Joe was one of those miscreants who hung around pubs and clubs waiting, as cats patiently wait for stray rats, for girls who had drunk to stupor. These baddies never slacked at any opportunity that came their way. That was why girls hung out in chains of friends. At least all of them would not get drunk; there would definitely be someone clear-eyed to take the lead.
She wasn’t making sense in her responses to Joe’s numerous questions. The only thing she said that rang a bell to Joe was her name. Joe’s aunty, who died five years after Joe was born, was Amy. Amy was his favourite aunty and his mentor, which probably explained why ladies by name Amy appealed to Joe. Joe tried all he could to make Amy say something meaningful, at least to stop using swearwords as the ‘F’ words were becoming unbearable to his ears, but all his efforts seemed like a water poured on a solid rock under a scorching sun. Joe went back to his friends; he had a thought that Alice, Tom’s girl friend, might be handy as she was adept in handling drunks. But to his chagrin they were gone!
Before they left they rang Joe’s phone, but his phone buzzed in front of them as Joe left his phone on their drinking table before he went for the figure he spotted. Though Alice and a couple of other friends were worried about what could have happened to Joe, Tom wasn’t.
He said, “You guys worry about nothing, I know Joe is up for some pranks because he loves pranks like Santa loves cheesecakes.”
And they headed for club in downtown. Joe was furious; he needed his phone just like Roca-fella needed Sigel. But he couldn’t get a sight of his friends and people around the casino had no inkling of what his friends looked like talk less of giving him the information on where about his friends. Before Joe went back to Amy her crisis had started. Everything happened like one of those scenes in Nollywood movies, where a man disappeared into the thin air from a place and reappeared in his bedroom. Joe saw Amy being taken hurriedly to the ambulance. It was like a mirage to him.
What could have happened to her was the question he kept asking himself which he was unable to provide himself with an answer. His curiosity again made him join the crew to the hospital as he told the ambulance team that he knew who Amy was.
At the hospital, which was a phone call away from Emi’s, Joe’s girl friend, house, Joe was seated on a chair at the reception, and thoughts flipping through his mind like he took some mind-altering drugs. At first he thought about his relationship with Emi. He was having issues with Emi, but they were at the brink of resolving their differences. Emi always had a feeling that Joe was cheating on her and that always caused a big row between them. Their row had left them incommunicado for a couple of weeks. Thanks to Alice who had been a great mediator and who had thought it wise to use the evening outing as a platform to nip the whole issues in the bud. Emi was unable to join them in the pub as she was busy rounding off tasks given to her by her line manager, but she promised to catch up with them at the club on a condition that Joe would come and pick her up from home.
Should I just pop in into Emi’s house because I know she must have been waiting for long for my pick up?, Joe asked himself.
But that meant Joe would have lots of explanations to make, starting from how he lost touch with Tom and others to how he ended up in the hospital, that’s if he chose to tell the truth. And telling the truth as things happened would reaffirm Emi’s feeling that he had been cheating on her. Emi would definitely think that he was concerned about Amy because of some amorous feelings, and that would be a dent on the almost-resolved-row between him and Emi. Besides he probably might not see Amy again if he left abruptly. So Joe decided to save the evil for another day and remain in the hospital until he cooked up convincing lies he would tell Emi, Alice and others. He wasn’t worried about Tom because they were partners in crime.
Joe was really helpful at the hospital. Someone would think he was Amy’s brother given the way he was concerned about Amy. But that was unknown to him as he couldn't explain the invisible hand that had pushed him forth. Anie, Amy’s mother noticed his presence and concerns and that made her curious too. If not for anything she would want to thank him for his concerns, even though at the top of her concerns was to know if her only pearl had been keeping a hidden boyfriend. Annie never liked men around her daughter because she had been hurt and betrayed uncountable times by men she loved deeply, including the man she gave her entire life to: Theo, Amy’s father. She couldn't imagine the pains if a man hurt her daughter in her health condition. As she engaged in conversation with Joe her eyes were fixated on Joe’s eyes as if she was a female cop interrogating a cocaine cowboy from the hood. At the mention that Amy was a sickler, Joe was stupefied. He remembered his brother’s health challenges and vicissitudes. His brother suffered and died of the same sickle cell disease Amy was suffering from. Annie felt somewhat at ease telling Joe Amy’s stories. She felt at least Joe was sensitive to sickle cell sufferers and understood what it meant to be a sickler. And the story went!
Amy was born with sickle cell anaemia. Her parents didn't know they had the trait until her mother gave birth to her. It was few days after Anne gave birth to her that Anne learned Amy had sickle cell anaemia. It was devastating to her. Theo abandoned her and Amy when she was only two years old, at the brink of her sickle cell crisis, and absconded with another lover.
He thought Amy wouldn't survive the crisis because it was one crisis after the other and the doctor told us that her type of sickle cell was the most severe type, said Anie.
Even the nurse told us that she would have a very hard life, Anie added.
Nothing could be more devastating than that, she lamented.
Theo decided to abscond with his lover, whom he had been secretly seeing behind Anie with the thinking that his daughter wouldn't live past the age of two. But he was wrong; Amy survived. Though Amy was 19, she had struggled through severe pains as her health condition deteriorated frequently. Amy was always sick that she couldn't attend school. Pains were always all over her body. When the pains came to her stomach, she felt like some footballers were kicking her stomach; when the pains moved to her heart, she felt like a gladiator was squeezing life out of her; when the pains came to her head, she felt like a WWE champion was defending a belt on her head as the pains felt like heavy punches; and when the pains moved to her arm, she felt the pains so deep in her tissue like she was in the electric chair.
As early as five Amy had started having strokes and doctors on every occasion had advised Anie that she might die from one. She had had several transfusions and treatments were like routines. But Amy didn't die; she survived. She had managed to pass through various stages of her education. At 19 she was still in her penultimate year in secondary school. She had missed classes and exams as she was often in hospital and as a result had repeated classes severally. Though she was brilliant and had always expected to come up aces with every subject she took, her chronic crisis wouldn’t let her, but she was firmly convinced that she would achieve whatever her brain was set at if only she could attend school regularly.
But it seemed Amy had resigned herself to her fate. She had given up her confidence in herself. The stigma of being a sickler had become unbearable; the repressive hard work in chasing her dream of becoming a surgeon and still unable to perform to her expectations owing to ill health; the mental cruelty of her father’s vanishment and abscission from fatherly love and affection; and the mental torture of tales from her friends in school about their love adventures with their boyfriends while no man had ever acknowledged her beauty no matter how she tried to prettify herself. These excruciating thoughts were flagellating her mind while she was sopping her mind with alcohol at the pub. She had a fall out with her bosom buddy who misguidedly in her choice of words reminded her of how miserable her life had been. She threw her positivism into the oubliette of her heart and resigned to the illusions of how sickle cell had ruined her dreams.
But Anie never resigned to fate. She believed firmly in her daughter’s dream of becoming a surgeon. She kept alive at all times the dream of seeing her daughter correct faults in human systems; repair injuries in human bodies; and treat diseases, even as Amy lay in harsh pains and in moribund in hospital bed.