Two times three, or is it three times two? Should I take it after meals or before meals? Aargh! The pain is slowly rising and taking over my body. Inch by inch, I am engulfed in a seething pain like a thousand pins have been put against my skin. I feel cold…and hot. I pull the blanket to my head and immediately throw it away. I am shivering, sweating, panting. I need to take these drugs. Why can’t they ever write the instructions clearly these doctors? I squint in the dark to see the writing on the small brown envelope that has the medicine. I still can’t see anything. This stupid handwriting that doctors use is one only they understand. Whatever, I’ll just take the tablets, popping them down my throat until this pain stops.
Jeptha! Jeptha! Ah this kid is never around when I need him, just like his mother who left at the very first chance she had. But for what? Left me and ran away with some dirty filthy bodaboda rider that one! A bicycle rider can you believe? Did she not look at his tatters clothes and his unkempt hair? How does she even stand his stench? Look, I am not talking about these modern apiko riders! No! She left me for a man who carries people on a bicycle for a living!
Stupid woman I tell you, but who understands these women anyway? They’ll leave you for a man uglier and poorer than you. When you are poor they’ll want a rich man. Ha! “Jeptha! Come here and get me a glass of water!” I will not call him again. I am too tired to call out again. I know he can hear me. I prohibited him from leaving the compound and I know he is squatting somewhere playing with stones, or sticks, or sand. I hear his footsteps at the back of my bedroom window. He is my one and only child and that’s why I tolerate him. The boy is simply the slowest child I know, takes much after his mother in everything. Especially his eyes, those piercing brown eyes that seem to look into your soul, piercing through your flesh and bones and stripping you down for the sinner you are! Those eyes are what made me fall in love with her, his mother. But now seeing them on Jeptha makes me hate that child more and more. In fact if I had other children I would send him packing to go live with his mother and that useless bodaboda man!
“Did you wash your hands before dipping that cup into the water pot?”
“Yes Ba.” He responds meekly. I hate it how his voice is always a mere whisper, there’s something sly about it. If you didn’t know you would think the boy is humble. Ha! Don’t be cheated! I think he is a pretender just like his mother who told me she loved me a day before packing her stuff and hopping on the back carrier of that squeaky old black mamba bicycle! A woman who can lie through her teeth without blinking and you expect me to trust her offspring?
No! Don’t they say the apple doesn’t fall away from the tree?
Can’t they ever make sweet medicine? These doctors should find a way of making the sick comfortable. But anyway have they ever cared? Like that nurse, that fat bimbo! That woman has a tongue so foul I still don’t know why houseflies are not buzzing around her full mouth! They would probably die from the stink that comes from her mouth. That nurse is just a huge ball of bile coated in human flesh! She is so bitter and yells at sick people the way she wants. Can you imagine she stood at the end of the long hospital hallway and shouted “Where is this man with syphilis?” I tell you if it weren’t for the fact that the pain in my groins was like someone lit petrol fire down there, I would not have moved toward her. I remember how the whole hospital turned to stare at me as I made my way from the back of the queue to where that spiteful woman stood.
Then she asked me, “Are you the man with syphilis?” I hesitated before nodding my head. I was embarrassed and even worse, as looked around I had seen the amusement on people’s faces. Even people who were dying a few minutes earlier now had this smirk painted all over their faces. I saw even the woman at the counter picking up her stash at the antiretroviral drugs counter struggle to suppress her giggles. She will die a painful death covered in diarrhea that one!
She did not have to be rude with me like that. But she did. I swear the thunder that will strike that woman is still gathering its full strength! But what do you except with these public hospitals kindness is never a thing to be expected. Is it that they teach how to administer drugs in bad handwriting and an unkind spirit in Medical Colleges, uh? Especially when she asked me why I have been sleeping around and I told her I wasn’t. She had looked at me with contempt and asked me, “Did you eat it in your food? Stupid man!” The first part had hurt more than the insult! I only got syphilis because of that one time I slept with that girl who charged me three hundred shillings for it! Only that one time. I do not sleep around.
The pain has gone now. I get up and sit on the bed. I need to go out and urinate. I feel like the lower part of my stomach is going to burst if I hold it in any longer. I hate it when I feel like urinating. It is one of the most painful things I have experienced with this disease. It gets so painful I wish I did not have to pee at all. I try to lift my weight from the bed and get up but like a sack I fall back. I breathe heavily. I have to get up. I don’t want to call Jeptha again. After a few tries I give up, I stretch my hand and reach for the bucket that rests in the corner. Jeptha placed it there. He always does after emptying it and running water to rid it of the smell. I set the bucket between my legs and move the leso that is tied around my waist. The stench that comes from my groin is repulsive to me. With one hand, I cover my nose and the other I use to cautiously hold my rotten penis. The whitish substance from the small hole must be the cause of that smell.
Aaaaargh! I scream as tiny drops of urine fall into the bucket. I shut my eyes tight and wish it could be over.
“Baba Jeptha, are you ok?” A voice that I am well familiar with asks. But what on earth is she doing here? I feel a hand on my shoulder and open my eyes to see Margaret standing there looking at my predicament.
“Is it that bad?”
See why I told you this woman is stupid? Now what sort of question is that? Did she marry me with a shriveled penis! A rush of anger starts to set in.
“What are you doing here Margaret? You left me!” I ask her. I am sure she can tell the bitterness in my voice. I don’t want her here. She left me!
“I came to see Jeptha and to see how you are doing”
“Why? Uh, tell me why!” I scream at her. The anger does nothing to help the pain but it makes me forget the pain for a while.
She moves towards the window and opens the curtains and the window. The light that floods the room burns my eyes and tears roll down my cheeks. I look down and for the first time look keenly at my penis as it lies there flaccid against my thigh. I see Margaret looking at it and I take the leso and cover it. Margaret moves her eyes away and sits next to me on the bed. It creaks.
She has gained weight. Maybe she is pregnant.
“You still haven’t told me why you are here!” I ask, not looking at her. Instead, I stare at the bloody drops of urine that have settled at the bottom of the bucket. More tears roll down my cheeks.
“I am here because I care about you Caleb.” Her voice is like that of Jeptha when he is unsure of what to ask for from me. I sense the uncertainty in it and I’m not convinced. Maybe that bodaboda man sent her away and now she wants to come back. Or maybe he beats her. The thought of this makes me sad. I loved Margaret. I still do.
“What? You care about me? If you cared you wouldn’t have left in the first place. Leaving Jeptha here with no one to take care of him…”
“I had to…”
“You had to?”
“Yes Caleb, I had to!” She is crying now. I want to tell her to stop but I am running out of breath myself. The pain is back now. More real than before. “I had to leave because I cheated on you and gave you syphilis!”
I can’t believe it. A ringing in my ear tells me she is wrong about everything. I don’t want to believe her. I want to believe the voice in me.
“I didn’t love you anymore Caleb and so I cheated on you!”
I am red with anger now and I turn to her. With all the strength I can muster I grab her by the neck and pin her on the bed. She tries to scream but nothing escapes her lips. I squeeze her throat until I feel my hands starting to hurt. She tries to push me off her but even in my current condition she is no match for me. I squeeze it tighter. Beneath me her body starts to get limp. I know it’s not long now before she’ll be dead and gone. With one final squeeze, she takes her last breath. Her arms fall by the side of the bed and her legs slowly touch the ground. I get off her and collapse to the floor, crying. The pain is at its peak now.
I reach for the medicine and swallow them whole without water this time. I catch my breath and as the pain slows down I look at the instructions on the paper. Thanks to the curtains drawn by Margaret I can now see clearly.
DOSAGE: 1 times 3 after meals.
CAUTION: Overdose leads to hallucinations.
I look up to see Jeptha lying on the bed, limp. Dead.
About the author:
Troy Onyango is a 22 year old Kenyan fiction writer and Law student at the University of Nairobi. He writes to create his own utopia and escape the madness that is this world. troyonyango.com is his haven.