Staring out the window, Bisi felt a supreme sense of elation and satisfaction with life. The sun was shining, dazzling bright yet soothing warm. The wind was just perfect, not disturbing yet palpable. Everything was right in her world.
Most Lagosians took Saturdays to rest from the rather hectic ‘Lagos life’, and the children in her neighbourhood took advantage of this, frolicking freely on the usually gridlocked but now empty open street.
“Bisi! My God!” her mother panicked. Like an ever-present mother eagle, Iya Funmi always sensed whenever any of her kids went out of line – even if the child was not at home. But Bisi didn’t mind; in fact, she, unlike her sister, looked forward to her mother’s overzealousness.
“This child will kill me…” she swore under her breath. “Didn’t the doctor warn to NOT strain yourself? YOU STUBBORN GIRL!”
Bisi didn’t reply. What good would that have done? She’d been warned severally, yet she had done it again. Thus, she just smiled, and welcomed the rebuke.
Iya Funmi, dreading, checked, and her fears were confirmed – she’d popped her stitches. Again! She gave her invalid teenager a slap – or two, she couldn’t recall. More infuriating was that Bisi would still smile after such occasions!
Even her doctor was exasperated. Her mother didn’t even need to say a word. Seeing Iya Funmi approach, he knew.
“Bisi…” he tried to bring out his fatherly side, hoping there was a part of her that still recognized such. “Falling down the staircase is painful. But you’re a strong lady, and you’ll recover. But you have to stop interrupting this recovery process! This…” He kept talking, but Iya Funmi’s mind faded. It usually did when Doctor Samson spoke in that soothing tone, stirring up feelings she didn’t know were still present…feelings making her wish she’d married him, instead of that fool. Of course, Iya Funmi never told anyone this.
He finished, but Bisi didn’t say much. She just kept smiling – which actually made it hard to be angry with her. He instructed she be taken and re-stitched. As she was, he turned gravely to her mother:
“This is the third time.”
“Doctor, I don’t understand again. She’s just so stubborn!” Like her father…
Dr. Samson stroked his chin, mulling it all. The repeated medical visits. The continuous complaints. Even this case ought to have ended weeks ago, yet here she was still. And she seemed to be in more pain than normal. Could it actually be…? No. He should have his head checked for even considering it. That is a white man’s problem. It couldn’t exist here, IN LAGOS. It just couldn’t be…
She’d ogled him enough to know this was his ‘troubled-face’. “What’s wrong sir?”
“Hmmm?” he woke from his cogitation. “Um…I’m just wondering why your brilliant daughter is having all this trouble.”
So he too suspected it. But far be it from her to affirm that any member of her family was under spiritual attack. So she just asked instead: “What do you think sir?”
He decided to be coy: “Not sure.” He paused, and then chuckled. “Don’t mind me jare, sometimes my mind wanders. Was just pondering something interesting I’d read on mental disorders.”
The word ‘mental’ flushed a hot wave of anxiety and anger through her frame, as she immediately caught his drift. Mad? My daughter?! An even more unlikely affirmation!
“Say, has she always been this accident-prone?” he tried again.
If she didn’t like him, she’d have slapped him for the nerve of still pressing this ludicrous idea. “No…it was around the time her father left that she somehow took on his spirit…Baba Funmi was always a stubborn ruffian…”
He stroked his chin again. “Did… you actually see her fall down the staircase?”
“No…I was at the market when it happened.”
“Did anyone actually see her slip?”
“Well…no. It was her cries for help that brought us all running.”
Samson looked again. The eye-bags on Funmi, the firstborn, told of the strain of continuously looking after Bisi. Iya Funmi herself had yawned more than thrice during this brief talk. Even he was beginning to realize his visits to Bisi’s room had become more frequent. The nurses had even begun to joke that she was ‘Doctor’s new wife’. It just couldn’t be…
As she left Funmi to stay the night with her sister, Iya Funmi fought back rising tears as she remembered happier times. It’s all Baba Bisi’s fault. How dare he leave her all alone? Four-year-old Bisi took the news of her father’s demise the hardest. She morphed from eternal sunshine to a ball of emotions, crying all the time, especially if mummy stepped away for even one second. “She’ll soon learn to cope” everyone soothed. Ten years passed, and her daughter was still draining her family, and dear Doctor Samson as well.
Bisi quickly limped to the restroom with her crutches before Funmi arrived for the night. Catching her gaze in the mirror, she wanted to hate herself for what she was costing everyone. But she couldn’t…not with such a smiling face as that. Besides, wasn’t love what made the world go round? She was only catalyzing the engine.
Opening her painkillers, she took the day’s dosage. Then she emptied it, along with half the remainder of the bottle, into the toilet – only half, of course: a nurse nearly caught her one time she’d emptied it all.
She lay on the bed, and relaxed. Soon, when alone, she’d strain for the window again. The pain would surge at the feeling of the pulling stitches, and as the blood slowly seeped, Bisi would feel a supreme sense of elation and satisfaction with life. The sun would hopefully be shining, still dazzling bright and soothing warm. The wind would hopefully remain perfect. And, she’d yelp in pain, again. Then, surely, mum would swoop in and help. Yes, everything would be right in her world, where her mother and her family would always love and take care of her…
This was a mutual challenge between myself and Chinazar Okoro. She asked me to, in 800 – 1000 words, write a story about a Nigerian suffering from any mental disorder of my choice (I picked ‘Münchausen syndrome’ – where a patient fakes or deliberately injures themselves just so to visit the hospital and/or be the continual centre of attention/care).