He stood from his seat, arms raised above his head; tennis ball tightly clenched in his right hand, and stretched until he felt his vertebrae pop twice. The intense sensation of relief left him a tad light headed. Placing the ball on the small reading table to his left, he sidled to where his clothes hung and ran his hands through the few outfits that lined the crossbar, stopping on the grey suit.
Work had started on the tenth day as the letter stated. He had limped into the hospital early that morning, his heart a chaotic mess, the pain in his left hind quarter from that ill executed celebratory jump felt almost as fresh as it did in the beginning; the sprained tendon had registered its predicament only when he sat on the toilet the next morning, no thanks to that name.
That name had clouded everything else.
This establishment he presently stood in, Hill Nadir Hospital, was— well— a medical facility.
The building was sited on what was once a heavily vegetative piece of land which the inhabitants of the area had readily named “Bush Road.” Thankfully, unlike past administrations, the newly sworn in government had swung into action rather quickly, fulfilling the promises it made to the people during its campaigns and had proceeded to provide the necessary infrastructure for conducive living. It had cleared several swathes of land in the area and development had begun in earnest. There were several structures to be put in place, chief amongst which was the modern market. To service it, an abandoned project by two administrations past; a bypass towards the north of the town, was quickly completed and commissioned for use. From aerial view, it was a long continuous ribbon winding here and there and undulating severally, climbing up an almost steep ascent and cascading downwards before finally continuing to meet the express. Just at the foot of this descent stood Hill Nadir Hospital, hence its name.
To be gainfully employed in his long lost father’s establishment as one of the employees to work closest with him, persuaded Oriseasotie’s conviction that surely, this was fate playing its hand.
He had tried as best he could to hide the discomfort in his gait as he stylishly limped into the hospital for fear that his injury would cause his being let off the job.
His eyes drank in his surroundings as he went, scanning through the frames on the walls for any picture with a name tape that bore that name. He caught glimpses of medical almanacs and award plaques, an occasional mission and vision statement, and numerous stickers that advised patients to have protected sex or abstain from it altogether, or warned them about the now rested threat of the dreaded Ebola virus and its preventive methods.
At the far side of the corridor where he stood in, he saw four prominent frames on the wall. As he approached them, he heard the sound of swinging doors burst open behind him. Instinctively, he had swung around to the sound of loud cries for people to clear the hallway. The first thing that met his eyes was the rear view of what seemed to be three nurses. One was of a woman who was not more than five feet and four inches tall. She was dressed differently from the two other nurses; in a skirt and a matronly top. Unlike any other nurse dressed so that he had ever seen, this one seemed trimmer and her gait told of a fit individual. To her left was a tall male nurse whose long strides and powerful arms pushed the gurney at a speed that made her and the third nurse break into a jog to keep up.
The third nurse. Whoa!
From where he stood, he had imbibed every little detail of those curves and every crease of the fabric that encased them. From the way her rear bunched and relaxed repeatedly as she jogged, to the way her feet looked in those tiny white flats. The way her slim waist tapered and fanned out into those very African hips made him want to…
A tense voice had called. His eyes followed the voice that was a few yards to the right and front of where he stood, but returned almost immediately to gaze at the view of the very perfect, very female surface anatomy that made its way to the doors at the end of the corridor.
The one in the matronly top looked back and broke away from the group. She was definitely younger than any other “matron” he had seen. She made her way to where a young, very handsome doctor stood with a stethoscope around his neck, and a very concerned look on his face. He could not be two years younger than Oriseasotie. An unexpected spark of envy struck his heart, then pain, pain at the events of his life so far. He closed his eyes and bit his lower lip, his head hung low. Unsolicited, their words filtered to his ears.
“Bose! Let these people do their job, please. Stop babying them all the time.” The doctor said. He had a soothing quality to his voice, the kind a therapist should have.
“Sweetie, I’ve told you before, I can handle it.” The woman replied.
“Bose, you are in a delicate condition. Please, please I beg you. I can’t stand us losing this one too.” He said.
“Banu,” The woman’s voice came again. Oriseasotie’s head shot up so quickly, he felt a twinge in his neck. He stared intently at the young man, searching his face. Banu?! This man was too young to be his father. Could it be? His heart lurched and picked up the pace. A mixture of conflicting feelings came over him. Warmth coursed through his system at the same time a blizzard hit. FESTAC had come to town in his head.
“I will be fine. Just let me do my job, sweetie. I promise you, I won’t stress myself. I’m just following them to make sure that the patient is properly placed in their bed, ok?” Bose placed a hand on the young doctor’s cheek and rubbed his face with her thumb.
“Properly placed in their bed! Do the nurses need a matron for that now?” Banu retorted.
Bose chuckled, “Congratulations again on the Iredia case.” She deflected.
“Thank you, honey.”
“Boss man was impressed.” She continued.
There was a moment of silence, Banu’s face had suddenly become grave. “But I almost lost him.” He said, looking at the swinging door through which the gurney had just been rolled.
“We all have had our almost encounters.” Bose replied, turning his head to face hers. He hung his head now. “O baby,” she continued, “I know how much you want to impress your father, but it worries me when I see the way you let that need push you to the edge.” Bose’s hand had left Banu’s face and now rested on his chest.
“It isn’t pushing me to the edge, honey. You know me, I’m a passionate person, I—”
“You are scaring me, Banu. You can never be your father. You will never be your father. There’s only one person you can be, and that is you! Yes, it is true that you had your failures in the past, but you have done well and righted those wrongs. Don’t let his remarks put you down. You will be a great leader of this hospital and every other business he owns when he steps down, I know this.” Bose cut in.
“How can you know? You haven’t seen me in any position of authority.”
Bose held his face in both hands this time. “I do, and I have. You lead me well.” She ran her right hand on her flat belly, “And you will lead us well when it comes.”
Banu smiled at his wife, oblivious of the man who stood staring at them, mouth agape.
Oriseasotie stood rooted to the spot, realization numbing him. This was his brother! He wanted to run up to the man and do the first thing that came to his mind, but what was it? Hug him? Punch him? Shake his hand? Kick his left knee backwards? What?! He turned around and gazed at the frames that hung at the end of the hall. As though in a trance, he headed straight for them. When he got close enough, he ignored the pictures of the President of the country and that of the minister of health. He scanned through the remaining two, and stayed on the one that mattered to him.
Micah Banu Pwanglong, Chief Medical Director, Hill Nadir Hospital.
He memorized the photo in seconds.
There he was. With silvery gray silky hair that slept well on his scalp, a youngish yet aged look, a suave demeanour, Micah Banu Pwanglong stared right back at him from the photo unflinchingly, unapologetically. There he was. His boss. His long lost father. Tears filled Oriseasotie’s eyes.
“Papa, I want to work at the agency, and there’s nothing you can do about it.” An irritated voice pierced through his silent lament.
There was a sound as of something being slammed on a table. “Come back here!”
Sounds of running feet came from his right.
A powerful collision had occurred that sent him keeling over, and as his butt muscle still felt tender, he had quickly lost his footing and was soon sprawling on the floor.
“Ewooo!” He yelled in his mind. The tears that had pooled in his eyes came cascading down and it was not due to the emotional pain he felt, oh no! He had landed hard on his left buttock.
A female voice moaned to his right. He opened his eyes long enough to see a blurry image of someone bent over, left hand on forehead. The pain shot through him again and he closed his eyes. Soon he felt a hand push his shoulder roughly.
“Can’t you see where you are headed?” The female voice had asked, filled with irritation.
“My nyash ooo!” Oriseasotie whined. There was the sound of running footsteps, then hands grabbing and lifting him up. He had kept his eyes closed. Questions filled his ears, asking him how he felt. He could do nothing more than whine and keep his eyes closed, overcome by the pain, but more than that, embarrassed by the fact that the tears would not stop streaming down his face. When he stood erect, the hands left him. In a little under five seconds, his left leg had begun to vibrate uncontrollably and he collapsed on the floor again, landing on the same left buttock. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Sobs accompanied the tears. Painful shameless sobs.
“Oh my God, are you ok?” The female voice that had been aggressive only a minute ago was now overcome with concern.
“Na so I take lose this job? Ha!” Was all Oriseasotie could say.
“Get a gurney here.” A voice that he identified as Bose’s barked.
“Rosemary, hold the left leg down, John roll it to his right.” Oriseasotie heard Banu’s voice a few seconds later. He cursed fate for letting this accident happen to him, then he spat in fate’s face for choosing Banu to be the doctor to attend to him at the moment. He felt small firm hands hold his left thigh down. The pain that shot through his system from the pressure forced him to open his eyes.
Oh happy daaaaayyyy!
The sexy nurse with the rear view of bliss was holding his thigh down. That fleeting moment of ecstasy was replaced immediately by a new surge of pain as several hands lifted him onto the gurney.
“Oga Pereyi!” Bose called again, “Please quickly open a folder for this patient.” She ordered.
A few seconds passed when an elderly man came into view. His hair was matted with patches of dirty white, and to his left stood a young lady who had the elderly man’s eyes. She had a very worried look on her face. Oriseasotie could not take his eyes off her face.
“What is your name?” The elderly man asked.
“Oriseasotie Jeremiah Onuigbo. Yeee!” He replied, and placed his head back on his pillow as another surge of pain shot through his body.
“29 years old.”
“Driver to the CMD of this hospital.” Oriseasotie said and wailed aloud. “Na my life be dis?”
“The new guy?” Banu said with surprise in his voice.
“Yeeeeesssss!” Oriseasotie cried. “Oga, Madam abeg, I was suppose to start work today o. Please help me beg oga boss, I didn’t plan this o. Let him consider me, o. Please. Heeeey!” He held on tightly to Banu’s arm, looking from him to Bose and back to him again as he spoke.
Banu had nodded and personally pushed the gurney to the x-ray buckey, Rosemary keeping up the pace, holding down Oriseasotie’s leg, and Pereyi and the beautiful woman hot on his heels. She profusely begging that he forgive her and insisting that she would pay for his treatment, Pereyi countering her with a question, “And where will you get the money from?”
He picked the grey suit from the wardrobe and placed it on his bed, then turned to the table where he had sat all morning, throwing a tennis ball, deep in thought. Several papers were scattered all over it, on one was the CMD’s picture with a large ‘X’ and ‘slowly and painfully’ written on it. He exited his room and headed to the general bathroom, awaiting his turn to have a bath.
The diagnoses told that he had a torn gluteus minimus muscle, and a strained gluteus medius tendon. When he stared blankly at Banu, the Doctor explained what the jargon meant. The tears he shed that day were the most bitter he had ever shed.
The next day, the HR officer came visiting at his sick bed with a sealed envelope. When she left and he was all alone, he tore the envelope open with shaky hands and read through. The only thing that stopped him from executing a celebratory dance was his injured buttock.
According to the letter, his condition had been duly noted, and seeing that he was a staff whose unfortunate mishap had occured in the hospital premises, and based on the diagnoses submitted to it, the management had decided that six weeks had been given for him to recuperate starting from the date of the delivery of the letter he now held. Also, his treatment would be at a highly subsidized rate. It wished him speedy recovery and welcomed him on board the team. His heart thumped as the adrenaline in his blood dissipated. Soon there was a knock on the door, and a head peeped in. It was the beautiful human bulldozer who had left him in this state.
“Hi, may I come in?” She said in a tiny voice.
Oriseasotie knew if the letter in his hand had told a different tale, injured buttock muscle notwithstanding, he would have lunged at her and pulled her beating heart out of her chest. But it didn’t, so all he did was keep a wary eye on her. She asked the question again, her voice clearer this time, and he nodded. She came in and shut the door behind her. In that split second, Oriseasotie sized her up. She was not bad by any standard.
“Once again, I want to apologize for this. I was not looking where I was headed, and I was trying hard to get away from my father who…”
By now, Oriseasotie could not understand a word she was saying. He could hear her voice though, and that in itself had left him in a trance.
“Do you have a boyfriend?” He asked. The lady’s speech ended abruptly. The confusion that had risen in her showed itself on her face. “What? Is that a bad question to ask?”
“Well, my, emm…” She sputtered.
“Emm, emm, emm, do you have a boyfriend?” Oriseasotie asked assertively.
It was evident that he had irked her and that her irritation had reached eruption point. He saw her lips move when he did the next thing that came to mind. He reached forward with one arm, grabbed her blouse, pulled her towards himself and planted a kiss on her lips. Still holding her close, he introuduced himself.
“My name is Oriseasotie Jeremiah Onuigbo, and since you do not have a boyfriend, can I be yours?” He released her immediately after.
In reply, her palm and his face were introduced. “How dare you!” She bellowed.
Oriseasotie rubbed his chin, a smirk on his face. The surprise he knew she felt didn’t match his in any way. Where did he get the guts to do that?
“How dare you?” She bellowed and swung her arm again.
He caught her wrist in midair, whincing from the pain in his hindquarters, pulled her towards himself and held her to his chest. “You are being rude, little woman.”
“What?! Leave me alone. Release me this instant!” Her barks were muffled.
Her commands fell on deaf ears.
“I said my name is Oriseasotie Jeremiah Onuigbo. What is yours?” The young lady continued to struggle. “I’m not letting you go till you tell me your name.”
The young lady struggled unsuccessfully for two more minutes before she stopped, panting. Then he heard her muffled speech.
“What was that?” He asked.
“My nammmm is mmmm mmmm.”
He loosened his hold. “What was that?”
“My name is Biomelebonye.”
“I already told you my nammmmmmm.” Oriseasotie had tightened his hold again. After a few seconds, she tapped his chest.
“Are you ready to cooperate now?” He asked. She nodded. He loosened his grip. “Yes?”
“My name is Biomelebonye Ajoke Tam-White.” She replied, out of breath.
“You see?” Oriseasotie said as he released her, “That wasn’t so, yaaaaaaaa!!! Please, please, please. I’m sorry, yeeee!” Bio had fetched herself a generous amount of his flesh and clamped on it with her teeth. “Pleeeeease! Remember you destroyed my nyash, please don’t destroy my belly too.” He cried.
That did the trick, she burst out laughing, reeled backwards and fell into a chair and laughed for a full minute. Oriseasotie gazed at her and knew at that moment that he was in deep trouble, what you would call love.
I AM ONE MEN