“We both always thought I would be the one to die first. The reasons were obvious. I was the one with asthma who carried an inhaler about.”
The day you died, nothing strange happened. It was a day like every other day. The sun rose at the right time. Everything happened as it was supposed to. It was the first day in November. I was in my room waiting for your new month message. You were always the first person to send me such messages: new months, birthdays, new years. And so I was waiting. I never knew things were about to change…forever.
When, after thirty minutes of waiting, I still did not receive a message from you, I decided to call. Several uncomfortable thoughts were flashing through my mind like melancholic pictures but I ignored all. Perhaps you were a little bit ill or something. After all, I saw you the day before and you complained of fatigue. I remember joking about you using my inhaler to inhale strength. You laughed.
I called your phone that day and your sister, Bola, picked the call. It was her voice that told me something was not fine. Naturally, Bola has a tiny voice, the tiniest I have ever heard. But on this particular day, she announced the news with a coarse voice like that of an old man with a stone in his throat. Bola shouted and screamed. She screamed that everything was not fine and that I should come over immediately. I smelt evil. It hung around loosely like the stench of a dead rat.
We both always thought I would be the one to die first. The reasons were obvious. I was the one with asthma who carried an inhaler about. I was the one who had a special bed in the hospital. I was the one who knew the names of all the hospital staff. I was the sick one, not you. Death should have come for me. But it did not. Death missed its way. It came for you.
I ran out of my room that day and was on a bike on the way to your family hospital in a jiffy. By the time I got there, death had ate its meal and washed its bloody hands. Death had taken its leave. I met you lying on the bed in Ward 5. You were covered in white.
Taiwo, white, not black, is the colour of death. When a child is born, it is wrapped in white. When a child dies, it is covered in white. White signifies death. It also signifies birth. The reason is simple. It is because death equals birth. When a man dies, he is born again in another world. When a man is born, something in him dies. This is why, when you died, you were covered in white, the color of purity.
I made to uncover your face, to see your eyes in death. Then, the nurse held me back. It was your mother who told her to allow me. “He is her brother,” she said. And so I rolled the sheet back and saw your eyes wide open. They were looking up. They were looking at nothing. Nothing. And it was strange. It was strange that those black eyes of yours were wide open and, still, they were not seeing. They were oblivious of the fact that I was around, that I was holding your hands, that I was weeping on your chest.
Before then, you had seemed the same to me. I had not noticed any negative change in your physical appearance. It was only now, when you were all covered in white, that the signs began to reveal themselves. The deep lines beside your eyes, the saggy bags hanging below them, the mysterious change in the colour of your fingernails. Death had left signs. We just had chosen not to notice. And now, the result of our dumb ignorance lay bare before us: your corpse.
I cried. Bola cried. Everybody cried. I cried more when Bola told me how you died. How you woke up from what seemed like a bad dream, screaming my name. “Call Michael! Call Michael! He’s in danger. His inhaler is with me!” You were yelling. Bola was about calling me when you slumped and before you got the hospital, the end had come.
I cry everyday now. Every time I see a boy and a girl walking hand in hand, I cry. Every time I see a brother and a sister talking and laughing out loud, I cry. Every time I pass by your family hospital, I cry. Every time Bola calls to tell me about her school and the new boy in her class, I cry. I have forgotten what it means to have joy. Mum says I am not getting over it. That’s not the issue. The issue is that I don’t ever want to get over it. Never!
Today makes it one year since you left this world. It’s like yesterday. Last week, I was coughing and mum suggested that I get a new inhaler. I refused. I will not let you die in vain. You took away my death that day. I was supposed to have an attack and die. Instead, you took the death spell for me, like a mother would for her son. You have taken away my asthma. And I have decided never to own an inhaler again. There would be no need because you died with my inhaler in your pockets. It died with you and my asthma too.
Taiwo, today is the first day in November. People here are saying “Happy new month.” They are making plans for the month. There are no plans for me. The whole month is for you, for me to think about you, about the time we spend together, about your death, and my asthma that went with it.
I miss you, Taiwo. I miss everything about you. I love you. And I have learnt that love is stronger than death. And so whether you live physically or within, live on. Live on, Taiwo.
Post image by Paula Borowska via Upsplash
About the Author:
Michael Inioluwa Oladele is a student at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria. He writes poetry, fiction and nonfiction and his works have been published on Tuck Magazine and The Naked Convos. He believes we all have stories to tell. You can find more of his works on his blog:mikeinioluwa.wordpress.com. Twitter: @mikeinoluwa