A Brief History of Mr. George {6}


And when the day comes

When we can’t walk no more

We’ll have two seats on my front porch

I’ll still call you young girl

So young girl, rock with me

-Jon Bellion, Rocking Chairs.
For the next five days, George watched the clock.. He could not wait for Friday to come. He lived from Sunday to Thursday as though they were unimportant. He skipped classes on Monday and Tuesday, and spent time with roommate, Stephen who had already finished his own exams. George no longer asked if Shola would survive or not. She had survived; he carried the evidence with him everywhere: her message on his phone. 
After wasting Monday and Tuesday away with Stephen, watching movies and talking about everything and nothing in particular, Wednesday came. Wednesdays were always the busiest for George. He was not supposed to have any class on Wednesday. On the school timetable, there was nothing there for him. But then, it was one week to exams and lecturers were fixing classes on every available day. Also, he had meetings to attend. He had the Classic Club meeting, the Freethinker’s Community meeting and many others. And he also had two fixed classes to attend.

George woke up around 10am that Wednesday, two days to the D.day. He washed himself and got dressed. He wore a white shirt and a brown khaki trouser. He put on his huge boots and stepped out of the room. Stephen was still snoring when he left. George’s Classic Club meeting was 11am at Law basement.

The Classic Club was a weird group of readers who were in love with classic novels. They came together every Wednesday to do nothing but discuss classic novels. There was nothing much to it. They’d just sit down, talk and talk and recommend books for one another. None of them were writers. They never had the time or skill to put pen to paper, but they had the mouth to discuss other people’s effort.

George was invited to the club by one of his good friends in the Faculty of Law. Her name was Shalom. Shalom was the type of girl one would call a nerd. She kept a low cut, wore glasses, knew all there was to know about tech, could code, was learning graphics design, could read ten books in one week, and could talk to anyone at anytime, anywhere and anyhow. She was one of the founding members of the club and made sure George fell in love with the club. And it was only natural and expected that he should anyway. He was an history student. He read historical books, novels especially, most of which were classics.

George got to Law basement that morning around 11:15. He was late and they were already discussing George Orwell’s 1984. Throughout the whole meeting, he was checking time. He wanted it all to end, he wanted Friday to come immediately. He listened absentmindedly as Shalom argued that 1984 was a boring book and that the only thing that made it popular was its theme and of course, it’s predecessor: Animal Farm. The others objected. They believed it was a great book, one of the best books ever published. When asked what he thought, George lied that he had not finished the book and so he would not want to draw conclusions yet. It was soon 12pm and they all dispersed, choosing The Invisible Man as their next read. Before George could run away, Shalom stopped him.

“Hey, G, what’s up?”

“Hey..yeah, Shalom, I’m good,” he managed to say. Shalom shook her head and sighed.

“You’re not fine, are you?” He did not answer and so she asked, “Is it your girlfriend?”

“If you mean, Shola, she is not my girlfriend. She has her own guy.”

“So why all the depressing look and awkward silence following you about?” Again, he said nothing. Shalom must have understood that he did not want to be disturbed so she tapped him on the back and said bye.

George raced down to his hostel. He had the Free Thinker’s Community meeting by 4pm. He got to his hostel, set his alarm for 3:30pm and slept off. He woke up around 6pm with joy in his heart. Another day was gone.

Thursday was the slowest. He attended all his classes. Updated all his notes. Helped Peter with his assignment (the HOD had given him more than five assignments), visited Jerry and they both took a long stroll to kill time; watched movies with Stephen and slept around 10pm.

Folarin George got to the hospital by 9am. He waited for one hour before the nurse decided to lead him to Shola’s ward.

As they went deeper into the hospital, a penetrating smell of drugs filled the air. It reminded George of the last time he was in a hospital. It was his younger sister, Tomisona, that he had come to see. She was asthmatic and had been unstable for days. When her inhaler wasn’t helping, they had to bring her to the hospital. It was as though she was not going to survive the session, but she did. George hoped this visit would end in the same way.

As they walked down a more silent corridor, the nurse in front turned around and said to George, “You should understand that, given the condition she is in now, she needs moral support and not some pitiful look. Are we good?”

“Yes, ma,” George nodded and forced a smile. They walked on until they got to a door labelled 135 A. The nurse opened the door and held it for George to enter. He closed his eyes, opened them again, and walked in.

The first thing he saw was the wheelchair. There was a wheelchair stationed right beside Shola’s bed. For a moment, George focused on the wheelchair. He let his eyes settle on the seat, the wheels, the arm rest, the back rest and every other thing that made up the chair. Then, slowly, he took in the whole room.

It was a small room, a little bigger than what he and Stephen shared back on campus. It was painted blue. The curtains were sky blue. There were only two windows; one by the door and the other opposite the door. On the single bed in the room lay Shola. She was wearing a huge blue vest and a blue baggy trousers. She was facing the other side and George assumed she was sleeping. He moved closer to her, stood beside the wheelchair and set his eyes on her legs and something within him told him those legs had not been working for a while. He touched them and was taken aback. They were cold. He looked at the wheelchair again. It looked new but he could see signs that meant someone had been using them frequently. He closed his eyes, and slowly, tears began to fall.

For what seemed like forever, George stood by Shola and wept, as silently as possible. Then he wiped his face clean and walked to the other side of the bed. Shola’s face was as radiant as ever. Her beauty did not seem to have suffered any hit. Her small lips were pressed together. Her brilliant eyes were closed in sleep. With trembling hands, he touched her face and calmly, as though she was calculating, Shola woke up.

“Hey,” she whispered. “George.”

“Shola, it’s me,” George said with a smile. Shola pressed down on the bed and heaved herself up to a sitting position. She sat up, her back resting on the back rest fixed to the bed.

George held her hands. He breathed relief: they had life. As though she had been waiting for him, she began to talk. And she started from the unexpected.

“You know, he came yesterday,” she said. “He asked if I would ever walk again and I told him, I might but never the same way. He asked if things could ever go back to the way they were and I told him that was too much to ask for. Then he left.”

George did not say a word. He let the words sink in. He let them swallow him whole and empty him in a sea of dreadful thoughts. He did not ask but he knew she was talking about her boyfriend – her ex-boyfriend. He held on to her lively hands and kept on looking at them.  She was talking again.

“He just left like that. My parents were there yesterday and he just left like that. He said he wished he could stay but he wanted to give me time, space. He said we could still be friends, if I was interested. And he left.” Her voice began to shake and George knew she was about to cry. So he squeezed her hands and looked her in the eyes. Their eyes met and she wiped her tears and sniffed.

“You should meet my parents. They’ve been here since last week. I guess they went to eat when I slept off.” George nodded and said nothing still. She continued. “It’s hard for them,” she said and kept quiet.

Silence reigned again. Silence, the horrible friend of death. In the silence lived many noisy thoughts. George did not know how to respond to the reality before him: that he had fallen in love with Shola, that this girl he had fallen in love with might never walk again, that their love might be confined to a wheelchair, that things would never go back to the way they were before. For the first time in a long time, he longed for the past more than the future.

When he could no longer hold it again, he spoke. He asked the question he had been asking for more than a three weeks now. What happened? What really happened? He asked with tears in his eyes and Shola answered.

“I was on my bed, sleeping, when they came. I didn’t really know what was happening. It was the gunshots that woke me up. I saw that I was the only one in my room, that my roommates had run out. I got up and ran out too. I was running to the gate when I was shot. I collapsed immediately and right there, I knew it was my backbone. In minutes, I heard sirens. I was put on the stretcher – that was when I saw you -, then into the ambulance and then I blacked out.

” I woke up hours later and the doctor came to see me. He was honest. He told me a bullet had stuck in my spine and they had managed to remove, but not before some damage was done. He told me my spine was damaged and I might not be able to walk again. And then he talked about hope, about therapy. ”

George was looking at her legs while she spoke and kept on looking at them when she was done. Shola seemed to have noticed. She sniffed back some tears and called, “George, my legs…. I can’t move my legs. I can’t…can’t feel completely too. I might not be able to walk again. I will sit on the wheelchair forever, George -” and she was crying.

“No, no, Shola. We’ll figure something. The therapy… therapy will work. I have seen cases….” But Shola was not a fool. She was shaking her head and crying. George did not understand why she did not seem to believe in the therapy until she spoke.

“No, George. It…it isn’t working. I’ve had some sessions….exercises. They say the damage is beyond repair…they say I…”

Grief enveloped them like a mother hen would her chicks from the evil from above. Grief covered them and plunged the two lovers into darkness. Shola was still weeping, looking at her useless legs. George was now kneeling by the bed, his head on the bed.

“I’m sorry, George. I’m sorry for putting you through all this,” she said. George could only shake his head. He wanted to tell her that his heart was split into two already and he couldn’t help it. He wanted to tell her that he was helplessly in love with her, that he had always loved her, from the time they met in Part 1 when she made it clear that she had a boyfriend. He wanted to tell her that the few weeks after the accident were filled with horror for him.  He wanted to tell her so many things at the same time…but his phone was ringing. He reached for his pocket and brought out the phone. It was Jerry. He picked it and said nothing. Jerry did not need him to. From the other side, he screamed into the phone: “George! Where are you? HOD just dismissed Peter. I think he’s going to do something stupid. Come quickly…”

“One good turn, they say, deserves another. If the Death gives you a life, be ready to give another back in return.”

8 thoughts on “A Brief History of Mr. George {6}

  1. I have a feeling – writer’s instinct – the story was not planned this way from commencement.
    So, a plea, don’t plan any twist that would hurt either Shola or George. Please, uhn. Thank you, Mr. Mike.

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