It was hard visiting my brother at the hospital the first time. I stood at the entrance for what seemed like forever, thinking about the last time I was at a hospital and the end story, the reason visiting hospitals was hard for me.
I hadn’t entered the ward yet but I could smell the antiseptic aura that greets your nose when you enter a hospital. Because of what happened to my boyfriend in a hospital, Every hospital I visit smells of death, shadows and gloom. I stood at the gate and told myself, “Here we are again, hospitals and misfortunes.”
My brother was sleeping when I entered. I didn’t want to wake him up but somehow, he felt the presence of another so he woke up; “Suz, have you been here for long?”
Looking at him with a bandage wrapping around his body brought back memories. Joshua wasn’t wrapped in bandages. He was full of smiles every day when he saw me. I sent him flowers. He asked me on whose grave I plucked those flowers from. It got me angry, looking at how many minutes I spent assembling them. I told him, “You’re an archaic man. Don’t you know flowers are sold? I bought them purposely to wish you a speedy recovery.”
He took the bouquet from me and buried his nose in the petals. He said, “I can’t smell anything. So those who smell flowers, what do they get from it?” Again I called him archaic. I told him to tell the doctor to work on his sense of smell because they were dead.
One dawn, I received a call from Joshua’s mother. Her voice was hardly audible but I heard, “Dead” somewhere in her sentence. I asked, “What did you say?” She replied, “You heard me right.” And then burst into loud cries. I thought Joshua was getting well. “How? What happened last night when I left? Did he take something he shouldn’t have taken?” His mom couldn’t answer me.
That was the end of the road for me and Joshua, two years lovers and forever friends. We had dreams for the future but death said no. Because of him, hospitals lost their healing grace in my eyes. I saw them as a place we go to die instead of a place we go to get healing. The antiseptic smell of hospitals became the smell of death anytime I thought of death.
Three years later, life called me again to visit the hospital as if what I’d been through wasn’t enough. The bed in front of my brother was empty so I sat on it. We spoke of how the accident happened. He told me of the number of people who had died. He said, “I’m broken but I thank God I’m alive. Many didn’t get it this way so I’m grateful.”
He was trying hard to be motivational but I felt it was a shade to us who have lost loved ones. God didn’t love those we love so he took them away when a simple snap of his hand could have saved them. I spent an hour and left.
The second time I was there, the bed in front of him wasn’t empty. There was a guy in that bed with an oxygen mask over his face. I whispered to my brother, “You have a ward mate. Is he doing well?” I watched him very well. He was breathing and moving. His eyebrow caught my attention. They were too pretty for a guy wearing an oxygen mask.
The third time when I was there, the guy was up and healthy and bubbly. You know guys, you leave them in a room for a second and they’ll become bros. They were talking across the room as if they had known each other for so long. My brother introduced me to him. He nodded his head and welcomed me. The three of us talked. They both had something that was broken. My brother, his hand and leg. James, as I later learned his name, had his two legs broken. They both couldn’t walk but they could run their mouth all day.
For two months, they were constant in that hospital ward. Many sick people came and went but they were there. Some died in their sleep but the two of them were there, forming an alliance and building bro codes. One day I went to the ward and found my brother sleeping. James said, “He suffered before sleeping, please don’t wake him up.”
I sat next to James, waiting for my brother to wake up. We laughed out loud and spoke loudly but my brother didn’t bat an eye. I was surprised. James did something that made me read between the lines. He asked me, “When I’m discharged and gone from here, will I see you again? I’ve come to expect your visits.”
I turned and looked at my brother’s face. You can pretend to be sleeping but your eyes and lips can’t stay pretending. There was a dint of smile on his face when James asked me that question. I answered, “We are a family now. We’ll definitely meet over dinner when you both can walk.” He said, “How about becoming a friend? I mean without the involvement of your brother?”
I knew it. My brother pretended to be sleeping so James could tell me what he had to say. I said in my head, “How long did you two rehearse this? Look at him, he’s not even sleeping.”
A couple of weeks later, they were both discharged after spending over two months in the ward as bros. My brother was discharged first. A week or so later, James was also discharged. They were both walking with crutches. I made a promise to James so I visited him once. He was still learning to walk but we took a walk together in front of their house. He was slow in his crutches. I tried to match his pace. He told me, “I can’t wait to get these off my armpit so I can run with you.”
I was seeing him differently. At first, it was his eyebrows but there is more to a man than his pretty eyebrows so I started looking out for other pretty things about him. I loved the way he listened when I talked. He wouldn’t even blink. He would look at my lips and look at my face as if I was the only thing within our space. He asked me of Joshua. “Your brother told me about your boyfriend. That was too bad an experience.”
Again, he listened as I waxed lyrical about the love I shared with Joshua. He kept saying sorry and when I got to my breaking point and was about to sob, he kept quiet and looked at me, without saying a word. I loved his silence. It meant a lot more to me than anything he ever told me.
Before the crutches would come out of his armpit, he proposed to me. He used the phrase, “fall in love” somewhere. I said, “You’re using crutches. It’s easy to fall. Can you wait until you’re firm on the ground? Maybe you won’t fall again.”
We laughed over it but he agreed to give me time. I was discussing the proposal with my brother. I knew he knew about it but I wanted to know what makes him think James would be a good choice. He told me, “I’m a man. Usually, it’s hard letting our friends know we love their sisters but James just said it to me without thinking twice about it. He means well that’s why he didn’t want to hide.”
I said yes to James even before he could walk without his crutches. I hadn’t totally healed or moved on from Joshua. I was hanging in there but I knew giving another man a chance would change my heart and make it full again. It was a move I made for myself but it wasn’t easy.
Our first year together. We broke up twice. I initiated both breakups. He accused me of loving a ghost more than I loved him. I accused him of being jealous of a ghost. One evening, he drove me out of his house; “It’s evening. He might be lonely and cold out there. Go and keep him company.”
I broke up with him.
My brother called me and was so hard on me the way I’d never seen him do. “Why do you drive a good man away just because of someone you can’t have? Make up your mind. The next time you do it again, I will advise him to leave you. I’ll probably give him a woman. I have many friends who will die to have a man like him.”
I stubbornly responded, “Give him another woman. That’s your specialty. You have many women but where’s your own? Go and give him another girl and stay lonely. Mtcheew.”
That was our longest fight. We were apart for nine days. At one point, I couldn’t breathe. I put all pride aside and went to him in the evening, at the same time he drove me out of his house. He was on his laptop. He looked up at me and asked, “Ahuh, did you leave something you’re coming for?” I answered, “You can’t ask me that question. I’m in my boyfriend’s room.”
He smiled. He stopped working and walked up to me. “This is my place and I don’t remember having a girlfriend like you. You’re lost, madam.”
That night we made love—the longest we’ve ever had. In the morning he asked why I came back. I told him, “I’m back because you’re suffering. Accept it and let’s move on.”
I still don’t remember when I accepted to marry him but I remember going through the process with a heart full of happiness. My brother kept telling me, “Don’t spoil the present with the past flavour. You deserve to move on because the dead move on when they die.”
I finally accepted the love in front of me and let myself go.
What One Lesson Did You Learn From Your Dad?
On our fifth anniversary, we had a small party. My brother was there with his new wife. I looked at him and said thank you in my head. “You had an accident and nearly lost your limbs so I could meet my husband on your sickbed. Whoever wrote that script went too hard on you but I’m happy how things turned out. I have the love of my life and you turned out ok and happy with a woman next to you.”
I made a toast in my head, raised an imaginary glass and said, “To forever…But let no one end up in the hospital again.
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