Jerry and the HOD were at it again. It was as though Jerry found it a thing of joy to always tackle the old man. He would say a point and the man would object and on and on they would go.
George was glued to his sofa. After five weeks of attending classes in the HOD’s room, he had gotten used to the place. He no longer looked around whenever he entered. He no longer inhaled the fresh air inside. And surprisingly, he no longer hated the room. The first time he entered the room, he had determined that he was going to hate the room. But now, he was already loving it. It was a useful distraction. It helped me to focus, to forget. For the past three days, he had been reading the letter Shola sent over and over again. He kept it in his pocket all the time and would bring it out whenever he thought of Shola. He would read it to himself and would let the tears drop. He knew the content offhand already. The paper itself was already crumpled and would soon fall apart.
His eyes wandered around and fell on Bimpe, the unknown girl. She still maintained her gentleness and quietness. She only spoke when spoken to. Once the class was over, she would leave immediately. George concluded that she didn’t want to make friends. He was not bothered. Friendship was not the next thing on his mind now.
He brought himself back to reality. Peter was sitting on his sofa, taking notes, paying close attention as Jerry and the HOD argued.
“Sir, are you blaming the backwardness of Africa on an event that happened centuries ago?”
“That is the mistake you are making, Jerry. The Slave Trade was not just an event that happened several years ago. It was a definitive event in the history of Africa. How can you take away all the able-bodied males in a region for more than a hundred years and expect the region to remain the same? It can’t. All the manpower is gone. All the males, who were leaders were turned to slaves. Also, inferiority complex set into the black man’s mind.”
“Sir, you are forgetting a point here. You are forgetting that the white man did not sell the black man into slavery. The black man sold the black man into slavery. We sold ourselves into slavery. We are the cause of our own problem.”
The HOD was fuming. His held his fist tight and punched the air. “Such a disgrace! I can’t believe this is really coming from you Jerry. Such a shame!”
“You may not agree with me sir, but you and I know we are the managers of our own destiny,” he finished and took his seat.
The HOD removed his glasses and paced around the class for some time before he finally spoke.
“We’ve been together for close to six weeks now. We are almost through with the semester. Exams start in three weeks time. Our exam will be on the first day of exams and it will be written here. So far you’ve done well, all of you except Peter whom I have put on probation. I’d like to remind you that this is a 5 unit course. You cannot afford to fail. Miss Bimpe and Jerry, I’d like to see you both in my office now. We meet next week, everyone.”
That night, Stephen came into the room early. George looked at him and asked what was up?
“I an done with my exams. ”
“Really, didn’t know you were writing exams.” George had almost forgotten that those in Health Sciences were operating on a different academic calendar. “So do you get to go home?”
“Nope. We have only one week break. We’ll resume after then,” Stephen said as he removed his shoes. He yawned, unbuttoned his shirt and fell to the bed.
“Hey, sorry for disturbing you, Steve. I was wondering if you could tell me more about what we were talking about in the morning….the complete paralysis stuff.”
Stephen sighed. “George I know you love this girl, but I’ve told you all I know. And I keep telling you I’m not a doctor yet, just a medical student.”
“I still value your opinion, please.”
“Okay. As I said the other day, the effect of a bullet in the spine depends on so many things. If the bullet was removed almost immediately, there can be some good news. If not, things might get messy. This is also another determinant, and that is the point of contact. If the bullet really hit the spine, we can conclude that there will be a bit of paralysis-”
“You said complete paralysis in the morning.”
“That is assuming the worst. If the bullet hit her on the lower part of the back, then from the point of contact downwards will be useless. Which means, her legs will be useless. If the bullet hit her close to the neck, that means the whole body safe the head will be useless. By useless, I mean complete immobility and lack of sensation. This also depends on so many other things.”
George swallowed. No, I won’t cry. He said to himself and asked, ” So either ways, paralysis is constant? ”
“Well, I can’t give a direct answer. But the probability that she will be paralysed is higher than the probability that she won’t.”
There was silence for a while. Stephen sat up, looking at George as he fought back his tears. For days, he had been reading Shola’s words to him, reading her grief, her pain, her broken bones and spirit and it was becoming more real, more certain that the damage had been done. She was broken.
“So…so there is no remedy?”
“For a broken spine? No. Well, that depends. If the bullet was removed quickly before much damage has been done, therapy might be an option.”
Stephen sighed. He had yawned three times already and was really feeling sleepy. “Please, George, can we continue tomorrow? I’m sorry but I’m really feeling sleepy here.”
“Okay ,okay. I’m sorry,” George said and went under his own blanket. He closed his eyes and dreamt that an angel came in the middle of the night and replaced Shola’s spine with a new one. It was a sweet dream.
It was Jerry’s call that woke him up. He reached for his phone with closed eyes and found it. He opened his eyes.
“George! This is 9am, man. You’re just getting up?”
“Shebi it’s Saturday now?”
“Yeah, I know. Hey, I gotta tell you this. You know HOD called me into his office last class?”
“Yeah. What’s up? Is it about Peter?”
“No. It’s about you, man.”
George’s heart skipped. What was wrong? Had he done anything wrong? He looked back and shook his head. He did his assignments well. He attended classes. He did not talk rudely to the old man. What had he done?
“What about me?”
“Old man’s worried about you, G. He knows you and Shola were seeing each other and he also knows Shola is in the hospital. He thinks this might be affecting you academically.”
“Well, I can’t say it’s not.” He sighed. “So what does he wanna do?”
“Nothing. Just wants me to check on you and make sure you’re good. You’re cool right?” Jerry asked.
“I’m fine. I’m fine. Hey, thanks Jerry.”
“Anything about Peter?”
“Nothing really. Old man said he can’t help Peter if Peter doesn’t want to help himself.”
George sighed. He could hear Jerry breathing heavily on the other side too. “That’s terrible, man.”
“Yeah, yeah. See, I gotta go now. Catch you online.”
“Okay, Jerry. Thanks for informing me. Bye.” Jerry cut the call and George dropped his phone. Was the HOD right? Was Shola’s predicament really affecting his academics? How did the HOD even know that he was worried? The old man must have been studying him in classes. But was it so obvious? How bad was it really?
Stephen coughed to life. George looked at him where he was lying on his bed. This was the first time in months that he will see Stephen wake up. He coughed again and got up.
“Who the hell is frying plantain with palm oil?” He screamed.
“It’s from the next room,” George said and smiled. He envied Stephen. He lived a simple life. He read his books and ate. He slept only when necessary. His parents always sent him money. He always had foodstuffs because he hardly cooked. He didn’t have any close friend. He was living a simple life and he was enjoying it. George wished he was Stephen, living without worries. And so when Steve went out of the room to confront the plantain guy, he smiled and returned to his sleep.
After church that Sunday, George removed his phone from his pocket and saw seven missed calls and one message. Who was calling him during church service? He opened it and was shocked. Shola had called him seven times that morning. And she had sent a message:
“Hey, George, sorry for disturbing you in church. You can come and visit as from Friday. Please come. I miss you.”