“Blessed, what do you want to be when you grow up?”
“I wan’to be a mummy. So that when tata cry, I will carry her and give her akamu and breast to suck.” My eyes stared into the big black eyes of my baby sister’s. I smiled.
Mummy was late, she said she was coming. The way she dashed out of the house, her wrapper trailing loosely behind her, her disheveled hair, her steps too. The unease that trailed her left me flustered. My worry heightened when, minutes later, she still wasn’t back. Baby wailed at the top of her voice. Kicking the air, while enclosed in her blue plastic crib, her mouth gaping, her tongue waggling shrilling wails.
I reached to carry her. I was scared I might mess up, I was confused—I was no mummy and can’t give her breasts. Maybe my carrying her would be enough, maybe she would stop crying and laugh like she always did when I started singing, “Cheee che chi che, mgbe ahu g’abu.”
I reached out, my feet locked to the ground to solidify my pose, my arm flexed, for fear that I might hurt her. Then I carried her, her chin connecting with mine, burnt. Her forehead was on fire. Her wails intensified.
Amidst cluttered and zonked-out thoughts, I remembered what mum did whenever I was hot. I raced to the bathroom like fire was on my behind, grabbed a towel and dipped it in water, squeezed it, before heading out to Baby and placing it on her forehead. Whilst singing, “Che chi chee.” I wished she would stop crying and laugh, flashing her pink gums to the sky. I wanted to be her hero, her Big Brother. But she wailed on. Her body burnt on.
Addled, my feet weakened. I staggered back as fear shadowed me. Baby’s eyes shut, her feet kicking the air furiously. Her wails disoriented me. My eyes danced to the clock, mummy left when the long hand was at 3, now it was almost near 7.
“I want to be a mummy.”
“So I can take care of Tata and—.”
The sentence wedged my stuttering heels, new surges of adrenaline coursed through me. In a flash, I made for Mummy’s room, took some tablets and dashed back to Baby. Singing, “Che chi che,” I gave her the drugs. For a second, no, almost an hour, I was a hero. I was finally a Mummy, a Big Brother. The calm room sang victory to me. And then Baby picked a higher note.
A pitch that disturbed more than the last. A pitch that broke me, for even I could tell something had snapped. Something had broken.
“Blessed, what do you want to become in the future?”
“I want to become a medical doctor.”
For a moment, the dark, plump aunty standing before me vanished. The starry-eyed class that stared at the class rookie vanished, too. For a moment, I was back to 2005, twelve years ago. In a clinic, seated beside Mum, a silver-haired doctor seated before us. Baby’s wailing could no longer be heard, but the man’s sweating forehead, his glasses coming off, his finger weaving through his silver hair defined unrest. He was tensed.
“Woman, what happened?” he asked finally, a little rage slithering beneath his voice—which he tried to hide.
“I-I went to call my pastor.” Mum paused; the tears in her eyes and her breaking voice made her to. “I got back and she was crying and feverish, more than when I left. So after my pastor’s prayers, I brought her here. Doctor, what is wrong?”
He muttered something, something I wasn’t sure Mum heard. Or if she did, she didn’t show it. “You Christians.”
“This is a case of drug abuse, a drug given to her has damaged her lungs. If you had waited thirty more minutes, she would have been gone, but—”
“Thank you, Jesus!” Mum’s hand rose to the air. My eyes were still glued to the doctor’s, there was no ease in them. I felt a bomb coming. His eyes held pain.
“But….” He trailed. His hands clutched together on the desk. “But you were still late. By the time you came here, her lungs had already been badly damaged. I’m sorry.”
The crack of cane on wood jolted me back. Splinters of tears behind my eyes, to flood if I blinked. And they did. Guilt weighed on my called shoulders. Every time I thought of the pale figure, the bloodshot eyes of my baby sister, I broke afresh. For I did that. I gave Ibuprofen to a baby.
“I want to become a doctor. So I can save my sister.”
About the Author:
Blessed Abraham—electrical engineer, writer and editor. Loves sightseeing, adventures and reading things that are not normal.