Deep laboured breaths were the only sounds in the room. Jermima walked intermittently, from the double windows to the door leading into the passage connecting the rest of the house with the living room. She would stop as though an unforeseen force resisted a further step.
Like a dancer swirling round in rhythm to a soft salsa beat Jerm turns. Only the etched hurt which had furrowed her brows cast a doubt on that. Olamide neither moved nor changed his posture…helplessly he wrung his hands, face fixed upon the hand crafted brown rug, with a hunched back.
The story the doctors gave was getting all lost in the background…the diagnosis had been right but they had mixed up his treatment and that of another patient…discovery of the error came a little too late… Retelling the telephone conversation to Jerm was the worst aspect of that call… he might have well had ripped out her heart, as she stood motionless with a horrified look in her eyes.
She never voiced her hurt or pain but had simply moved away to the double windows the minute she was able to pull herself. ‘Should I reach out to her?’ he had thought before dragging himself to the sofa. He let himself sink into the softness of the sofa.
Five hours they had done the same thing, neither speaking a word to each other. Jerm walked intermittently, ‘Mide sat hunched over. The clock had been stopped at exactly quarter to one pm. All it had taken was a phone call. Tragedy did not quite capture the moment. Then again tis not every day you lose a child like Ayomide, your only child…to carelessness.
Word must have gotten out for suddenly the mobile phones won’t stop ringing; sms alerts were competing with the rings. For the first time in five hours ten minutes, Jerm glanced at ‘Mide, but quickly she turned to another angle… “Had I known,” she thought, “I would have been more insistent”… “Can I turn back the events of this morning?” she queried herself, “By God I would!” A sob escaped her lips…Jerm quickly covered her mouth with both of her palms.
‘Mide stilled himself; he still could not bring himself to look at Jerm. She had said: “I still don’t like this hospital you’ve chosen for Ayomide.” She had said, “Surely we could try some other hospital.” Twas the usual barter they always had each time the need to take Ayomide to the hospital arose. Only…only this would be the last one. “How did this happen?” he thought to himself. “Would she ever forgive me? Would I ever forgive myself?… how can I live with me?”
The honking of a horn began by quarter to eight pm; they were still in the living room. Still with their individual thoughts and deep laboured breaths. Peter the gate man had been given clear instructions: No Visitors Today! Mobile phones had since stopped ringing with the death of their batteries. Slowly Olamide forced himself to look towards Jerm. She was suffering silently. The way she hugged her slim frame was all the sign he needed. And he was the cause.
Bang, bang, bang! The sound of someone banging their gate waltzed in through the double windows. Instinctively Jerm jumped away from the windows. “Oh Lord,” she muttered as a moan crept out of her mouth. Tears had not flown, she was numb. Felt like a bad nightmare which would roll away. If she only held on. “Held on to what or whom,” she queried herself. She glanced at Olamide and froze as their gazes aligned. The depth of pain she saw in his eyes kept her rooted in the look. A slicing pain went through her chest. Just slightly beneath her left breast. No Lord, her thoughts screamed…not him too, I would surely die. All Olamide saw was her hurt filled eyes. His eyes dropped to his hands and fell upon their wedding band. To love and cherish…to protect from hurt and harm… yet he had brought the hurt and harm to his baby.
Jermima! Jerm! Jerm! The voice shouted. Jerm jolted out of her thoughts and turned towards Olamide, shaking her head vigorously. He had glanced up at the first call of her name. Taking in her disposition, he pulled himself from the sofa and headed to the door. “Madam dem no dey house, abi you no hear me before? Go come back tomorrow then dey go dey.” They heard Peter shout in response. Slowly he turned and headed back to the sofa.
“No” Jerm said…pausing he looked at her.
“No” she repeated, “Please come and stand with me,” she said.
He tried to search her eyes for confirmation of what his ears heard. There was still a lot of hurt there.
“Olamide come,” she said in a firmer tone, as she stretched out her left hand to him. She stood still as he walked towards her for the first time since 12.45pm. Her eyes brimmed like a river about bursting its banks. “Dear God” he heard his thoughts say, “Please intervene.” As their fingertips touched, he willed himself to look into her eyes. His pain, her hurt, his guilt became their cry. The dams broke loose as she collapsed into him in wails.
He held her tightly as his sobs racked his body: toe tips to hair tips.
“I am so sorry”
“I will forgive you ‘Lamide”
“I should have listened to you”
“But we don’t have the past anymore,”
“Will you ever forgive me?”
“I will ‘Lamide, I will, I need you to pull through this,”
“Are you sure baby?”
“Very, I need you,”
“Don’t know…not sure if I can live with me,”
“No! No, no…don’t ever say that; it’s our loss, not just yours and no, you are not responsible,”
“Will things ever be the same?”
“Let’s take it one day as the days roll by.”
They released each other from the embrace…standing side by side they stared at Ayomide’s picture on the wall.
4th February 2013.