If you have lost a loved one this may be a serious trigger. I suggest you don’t read it.
I have pushed a wheelchair twice in a hospital. Both times happened the same week and both times I pushed the same person. And both times pushing a wheelchair felt like moving a planet on my own strength. It is something I did not want to do, I did not see myself ever doing and maybe I don’t want to ever do again. You live this life with some sense of arrogance or maybe it is not arrogance, maybe it is just some assurance that things will always be good. That you are not like them that have to push wheelchairs or wait right outside an operation theater. The first time was Monday June 29 2020. The sun was up. Not so bright but it was having a good day in the office. The thing I remember about this day is that I was in suede shoes. A pair of brown brogues I have not worm since then. I was in a blue jeans, a shirt whose color we can discuss for days and a black belt. There is a cardinal rule out there about belts and shoes, brown for brown, black for black and if you are a prophet we allow you to have a white belt and a white pair of official shoes. They must be sharp on the edge. It is the standard for prophets. But the day you push someone on a wheelchair in a hospital is not the day you worry so much about belts and shoes. You wake up, if there is time on your wrist you shower and if there is more time you brush your hair. You pick a belt, swing it around your waist and slide into your shoes and leave your house.
The second time the sun was having one of those days. You know those days that you clock in and plug in your earphones because you don’t want to talk to anybody. That kind of day. The person I was pushing on a wheelchair was my lover and partner, Jane. If you have been on this blog long enough you may have noticed that she was always the first to comment because before I published every post, I’d send it to her, for she had a better eye than mine. She edited most of my work here and elsewhere. This time, my heart was sitting next to my intestines. There is a terror that only exists behind the walls of a hospital. It is a bad kind of terror because it holds you by the throat and chokes you.
The first time
Three days before Jane went to surgery I was in a restaurant struggling to finish a meal I had ordered. In the days that came before this, I had not been able to eat properly, so much so, that I had lost six kilos. My trousers were beginning to fall off and I had began to look shabby. I had been alone for most of the time Jane was sick. She was living in another house with her family and I’d go there and spend time with her on a daily. She had suffered a retinal detachment due to preeclampsia. Something I only came to learn of when she suffered the condition. That Friday, I received a very disturbing call. We had hoped that her condition would improve and that she’d heal without having to go to surgery. See, misery has a away of finding you in the least expected places. She was seated somewhere in a hospital when she made this call, I was far away from her in a restaurant trying to have a meal. The thing that that call did to me was to break my heart. In life Jane spoke with a hint of jazz, some musicality to her voice. This day, the shrill in her voice was almost louder that the words she said. You don’t get ready for certain phone calls. Everyday, you are latched to the screen of your phone hurtling through the things a phone can offer. You secretly wish that nobody will call bearing bad news. But not all the wishes we hold to our chest are fulfilled. This was the first time I was crying in public in about sixteen years. The last time I got to such a place was at my mother’s funeral on December 21 2004. “The doctors says we need to have that surgery soon.” Jane cried, I cried. That call ended inconclusively. Later I sent her a text. “We are in this together.” That is the text that says, you are on the verge of giving up. It is also the text that says, even though I know my limits as a man and a lover, I know that I am willing to stretch things to be here. To go the full length to be with her. It is a great commitment to promise another human that you’ll walk with them through a difficult patch, because there is always the feeling that you will not fulfill your promise. You know? In a way I think I kept my promise. And if I didn’t it is because I didn’t know how to keep it.
When the theater nurse called out my name loudly to sign a certain thing. I was on phone with Moses Mpuria- great guy. He had called me with a new number to organize on a fundraiser in aid of the pending medical bill that stared at us. I cut short the call because the nurse was either impatient or way behind time. I told Moses I’d call him later. I missed many other calls in the hours that followed. Facebook friends were beginning to warm up to me, my friend Tatu Reginaldah has placed an SOS on Facebook about our plight and everyone was trying to reach out, if for nothing else to comfort us and wish us well. I sat Jane on a wheelchair and shared with her a joke. For a person heading to a theater for a surgery the and whose doctor had refused to guarantee of a sure success, she was too jovial. But this wasn’t the first time we shared jokes, Jane thought I was a funny human, so most things in our normal conversations passed out as jokes. And she’d laugh heartily to many of my musings. As this was happening the world was in the middle of a pandemic. The world out there was falling and our small world was caving in like a badly built structure. A colossi that had refused to remain rooted in its foundation. When we got to the door of the theater we hugged and she nurses took over. There are journeys that people must travel on their own. Even when you love them with your bones, you must allow them to go on their own journey because that is what should happen. People have to own their journeys. The doors to the theater opens like they are leading to a place far beyond. I guess it is because in our imagination, it is a place that can separate the living and the dead, it is where the grim reaper hide his scythe sometime. It is where the devil spits into the eyes of humans without chickening out. I sat outside waiting for the end of the surgery to receive Jane again. The procedure is not as complicated. Most patients walk from the surgery to the recovery ward after it is done. Twenty minutes into my long wait, Mercylene Mokeira called me, she called to know how I felt and offered to come sit with me. The hospital only allowed one person to accompany a patient. I still have a photo of my sun soaked brogues and printed socks that I took as I waited. I am big on taking photos of my shoes.
We walked back
Yes, on our way to the recovery ward, we walked. Jane was jovial. She was smiling. When I saw her standing I was quick to ask for a wheelchair from the attending nurse. I imagined she was in pain. She insisted on walking back. When someone undergoes an operation, you don’t know which part of their body aches, so you want to hold them like they would break if they dropped. But Jane was okay, or at least she seemed okay. So we walked as she has insisted. I got her the lunch the hospital makes for patients. She reminded me to take a photo. She smiled, one eye buried behind a white bandage and a smile buried in great sorrow. That moment we were so hopeful, so hopeful we had no space to wear frowns. I teased her about something, I remember she laughed until she gasped. I was so happy listening to her laughter that echoed in the entire ward. Her mother and family were waiting for us in the parking lot. Sometimes I think they did this intentionally so that we have our small moment. Lovers need that every time I suppose. That night Jane and her mother went to Maureen’s, where they were putting up as we had no residence in Nairobi. I went to Mercylyn’s who picked me on Waiyaki way, I lived at her place for the rest of the week.
Tuesday we visited the hospital again, we went to check on the success of the surgery and to get medication for what was to be the healing process. The ophthalmologist went on about the great success of the procedure. I asked the questions I needed to ask. These are questions everyone asks. When a person you love goes under the knife you get a small tent and pitch it in the vastness that is Google. You check everything that could go wrong, the success rates of procedures, the competence of the doctor and many other things. And he answered all of them with angelic grace. I was impressed. There were a few tears shed in that room the guy had to get us some tissue. When Jane opened her right eye, she could see even though just blurry images. We sighed, all of us. Pheewks! She had come from not seeing at all. Her eyesight had been lost by a good stretch. So when she said she could see a blurry thing that looked like a machine we looked at each other (her mother and I)and smiled and teared. We had been communicating mostly in sign language with her(he mother) because we wanted to filter all the negativity we could from Jane. Her vibe could only be positive. We went home with a whole granary of tablets and eye drops that we were supposed to administer to her for the following one week. And I did that with the piousness of a priest. Everyday I went to see her for at least seven hours, during this time I was in charge of administering all her drugs, answering her phone calls and responding to her text messages.
The second time
It had been a great week. I had friends call me everyday that week., People I did not know reached out to me to check how I was doing. I remember a guy that has since become my friend calling me and having a conversation with me for twenty minutes. Twenty minutes! I am not very big on calls, many times I just want it to pass. I want to have time to roast my maize. Ha-ha. But this guy called me, asked me how I was handling the whole thing as a man. Because men have this thing of carrying burdens that no one knows about. He asked if he could come see me and I promised him I’d be okay. He offered to have his line open for when things got hard. Well, like the man I am, I never called. But to this day, I still regard him highly. Friday, I went to see Jane, I was first meeting Juliani the hip-hop head, him and I had been having a conversation about his upcoming album. He called that day to ask me to collect his other three albums from a place in town. I never got to sit down with him because I was needed elsewhere. I got to Jane an hour later. She was taking TEA and was in a great mood. She saw me enter the house and recognized me, I had not Identified myself to her and this was another very emotional moment. Jane had only been noticing my presence through my voice, this day she saw me and saw my blue shirt and told me that I had brown loafers! The joy I wore on my sleeves that moment! We sat and talked for sometime then something strange happened. Jane began to pant. Right as this was happening her WhatsApp crushed as I tried to communicate with one of her cousin about something, then she lost coherence. I could hear her, but I couldn’t get what she was saying.
The first person I called was Pauline. I asked her to send me her car because I knew there was no way Jane would stay in that house in that state. Then I called Jane’s doctor who directed me to another doctor. Four hours and three hospitals later, I pushed Jane on a wheelchair for a second time. This time while restraining her because she had become so nervy. I rode in an ambulance twice, disagreed and exchanged words with three doctors that were taking too long to attend to her and cried three times. By the time we secured admission in the third hospital things hang on a very thin balance. I looked at her mother, she was defeated. She was weak, That woman could barely hold her chin up. Jane’s best friend was restless, her cousin was on the edge. We basically were people drowned in sorrow the size of two galaxies.
I went to see Jane one last time at about nine fifteen in the HDU. She was very calm. She saw me. She looked at me at smiled. I told her that we were in a hospital and that we would leave and see her in the morning. Perfect scenario I had in my head. Her eye- the one that had been operated on had bled a little. Have you felt a world crumble? Have you felt the rubbles pile up after the dust settled? Do you understand what it means for hopes to be blown out like a candle light? That is the place I found myself in. But with me, I had a company of three women that maybe in that moment looked up to me for both direction and courage because I had been the most involved that day.
Then it happened
When we dropped her mother and best friend at their place after leaving hospital, I headed home in an Uber. At some point I became a crushing can. Crumbling into myself and eventually pelting out a very loud cry. So loud the driver had to stop the car. A man hugged me and I stayed there for a few minutes. No talking. Nothing. Just two men hugging. The hospital recorded the time of death as 9:45 around the same time I was planted on another man’s chest. That moment of weakness was a signal that we had lost Jane. I did not come to know this until the following day. The hospital did not call me as I had instructed them to call her mother because my lines were off. Sadly my phones were not the only things that had switched off.
When I thought about writing this post, I wanted to write a letter to Jane, here I am many Paragraphs later and I haven’t. But I still have time. So here we go.
It is funny. It is funny how I never got to write you a letter when you could read. Funny how, I have felt compelled to do so now. But life is a comedy unravelling before our eyes. I never thought that one day I’d have to write a letter to you. See, there is always an app to make that easier and that had been our life for the three years we knew each other.
Jane, this will be the second post on this blog that you will not read, the one you will not comment first. The one you won’t know was written. But si ni sawa?
I miss you. I really do. Today, I went to three of ‘our’ restaurants. That guy? Remember him? Moses, your favorite waiter, he asked me where I had left you. And I said I had left you at home. He did not know I did not mean home as in our house. So he sent me with greetings. Last he saw us, we were pregnant. And he asked me to salimia the baby. Ahh! See, nothing sets you ready for such. So, I put on my dark glasses and my black musk and left the restaurant crying. I couldn’t tell him that you will never visit the restaurant again.
Jane, I am writing this from our house. Lately it is just a house. A shell. I come here once in a while, I come to wash the curtains because if I don’t you’d sneeze to death. Ha ha. That should be a bad pun. I come here to look at your portrait and feel the smell of your perfume. I come here to reminisce the moments we had here. But like I have said, it is just a shell. It is a place I visit now. I haven’t been able to sleep on the bed for the last three months now. Wait, I have barely slept for the last three months. But I keep telling myself that some day sleep will come around. It will.
Jane, remember the book I took part in writing? We published it. Imagine that! Imagine. It has been that journey for me. For us. I signed your copy and kept it among your documents. Thank you for believing in me and the whole team. Alafu, my signature, the one you hated, si people on social are crazy about it? Gosh! Some have bought the book just to have it with them. The book has helped me maintain a great deal of sanity. I am so blessed to be in this space right now. Otherwise…
Jane, I signed a contract to write for Safaricom! That day I received that email, I forwarded it to you. Because I wanted us to celebrate this small win. See we wanted this, we did. And now it is here with us. I haven’t started off yet, but I look forward to doing great stories with them.
Jane, can you imagine that I stayed at your shagz for thirty three days. I know right, unlike me, yes? See your mom couldn’t let me go back to our house alone after the burial. I was at a bad place and so, a kangaroo court was set and it was decided that I am given a house. And I was fed well. I added five kilos. That is not great news to you I know. But to our mother!
Jane, we cleared your closet the other day. God! That was another hard thing to do. I did not think it would be hard. Your cousins and my sister were here to help me do that. Hard! It was hard. I still have your makeup kit though. I kept it because on the days you couldn’t do it yourself, I learned to beat up your face and you never looked hivihivi for all our clinic visits. Remember how terribly I did your manicure? Ha ha. I am sorry. In my defense, I had not done it for so long.
Jane, sometimes I talk to God. I ask Him questions. Many questions. I have no answers yet. But sometimes I talk to God.
The other thing, you had true friends in Faith and Maureen, your family members are the realest humans. Your colleagues and church people? God! They are great people.
Alafu, can you now pronounce ‘confidentiality’ ama bado ni ngumu? 😂😂😂😂
I miss you. I miss you so much. And I know I will have this feeling forever.
It is well past midnight now, si I try grab some sleep? Talk soon. Sawa? Nakupenda.