ON MY JOURNEY TO GOD: LEARNING THE LESSONS LIFE SERVED ME (Part 4)
I spent 3 months in LUTH and considering how bad the accident was it was a shock I came out how I did. I had a total of 4 injuries.
Only one of them was really major.
I had one on my right shoulder that was just slightly broader than the size of a box of cufflinks. I had another on my ankle that looked like a little burn and then one on the inner part of my lower arm, just under the inside of my right elbow. It looked like a scalding from hot metal, and it very well must have been because there were lots of hot metal parts under the bus.
By far the biggest was the injury at the right side of my head. Incidentally it was the most visible of all. My skull was hit and exposed, how my brains were not spilled or affected in anyway is a mystery.
For me the injuries were very painful, but as painful as they were they paled into insignificance when compared with the aftermath of the trauma.
I suffered intense post-traumatic stress disorder and could not sleep because almost every time I fell asleep at night I would find everything happening again.
It usually happened at around the same time– between 12 midnight and 4am.
I would wake up drenched in sweat after finding myself being dragged for several meters under that bus. I would see the other-worldly faces I saw amongst the crowd at the time of the accident.
I had seen faces that were not human as they pulled me out from under the bus after the accident, and they were mocking and sneering at me.
Every single night for close to a month at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), I felt the same thing happening again and again. I would fight sleep with all the strength in my 9 year old body because I was petrified of what would happen when I did sleep.
I felt like I was on the set of “A Nightmare on Elm Street”, only this time it was more real than Freddie Krueger.
I would wake up screaming, “Nurse, Nurse!!” The night nurses already knew me and while some were at their wits ends some others were downright irritated because of my constant grating and the obvious pain, shock, and horror I experienced daily.
Maybe that influenced the way they dressed the wounds because it would be about 2 or so months later, after they did 2 skin grafts, that the wounds healed and the doctors discovered the way the nurses dressed the wounds got part of my right ear stuck to the side of my head after the wounds healed.
Prof. Omo-Dare, who was the chief plastic surgeon at LUTH at the time told me there was nothing they could do about it till I turned 18 because they were going to give me a medication that would stunt my growth if he was going to separate the little part of the ear that was stuck from the head.
I had spent 3 months already and was very tired of the smells of hospitals, antiseptics, gauze, drips, soffra-tulle, antibiotics, and every other thing there.
Most of all I was fatigued of falling asleep and then waking up to see that my neighbor who had been on the bed beside me before I slept was dead by the time I woke up.
I can’t remember how many times I would see them cordon off a bed with sheets and then they would get in a stretcher trolley to carry out the corpse.
I remember Ikemefuna, he was younger than I was, he was like 4 years old or something.
Ikemefuna was admitted halfway or so into my 3 month stay at LUTH, and his bed was like 3 spaces away from mine. His mum was there by his side throughout the time, and since my mum was at the hospital to visit me everyday it was inevitable that their paths crossed.
My mum got on very well with Ikemefuna’s mum, and she also took an immediate liking to the young boy. She would bring things for me and also come with things for Ikemefuna, and in the same manner Ikemefuna’s mum would bring things for me while bringing things for her kid.
Both families bonded in our pain.
But one day, 3 weeks or so after Ikemefuna was admitted, an odious and very irksome task was thrust on me. My mum came in to see me as she did everyday, but this time Ikemefuna’s bed was empty. She looked at me to ask if they had transferred him to another ward, but I looked up, and even at 9 years of age the next thing I was going to say was difficult.
“Ikemefuna is dead,” I muttered while a few tears dropped down my eyes.
It was like a projectile hitting its target. She almost simultaneously dropped what she had in her hands as she put them on her head.
Then she started crying. As she cried she sang a dirge that was familiar to me.
It was one I had heard on T.V while watching the televised version of Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart” and seeing where Okonkwo cut down the boy who had come to see him as a father, Ikemefuna, with a machete.
“Ikemefuna o ka isi ije?”
This was the only line in that dirge that I was familiar with, and it was the only one at that point that was most appropriate in expressing my mother’s grief at the loss of this boy we had come to know and love within these 3 short weeks.
I remember a few others that died while I was in LUTH, both young and old, friend and foe. I believe constant exposure to death only served to calcify me and get my conscience more calloused.
This showed up with greater frequency as I grew up.
I got discharged from LUTH and my physical wounds turned to scars. They were not the only scars I carried as there was probably a greater level of scarification and disfigurement in my soul.
I felt, from such a young age, a toxic mixture of anger, insecurity, fear, bitterness, and hate, all mixed with huge doses of passion.
I had already taken my first glass of beer at 7 years (courtesy of my mum’s late kid brother) so this potent mix of emotions saw me push the envelope even further.
I started smoking weed at 13 and started humping prostitutes shortly after. I would chase women twice my age because I liked them (I still like women) and I felt they would understand me more than 13 and 14 year old girls.
I got a gun at 14 while I was in my S.S 1 as a transfer student to Command Secondary School Abakaliki and became very violent and unnecessarily wicked.
I had spent my first 3 years of Secondary School at a junior seminary in Awka. I was stupefied that my father had sent me to Bishop Crowther Junior Seminary in Awka, while my 2 elder brothers were at the Federal Government College Enugu.
We grew up in Lagos and so my first knowledge of Awka was BCJS.
I hated Awka because of that school.
I didn’t believe my dad would do such a thing to me. I mean, the closest thing we had to a priest in my family was a native doctor who happened to be our village head.
He was my father’s first cousin.
In my family we had nothing remotely connected to a connection to an association of any kind with the Church so I couldn’t understand why my father would want me in a place like that.
So I rebelled and began to cause problems.
They had to ship me off to a Command Secondary School so the soldiers would straighten me out.
But I got worse.
I started a gang that was involved in almost every act of rebellion at school.
My late friend, Emeka Ngene, who I had given my gun to hold, was one member of my gang. I am still deeply pained at Emeka’s demise because I led him down a steep path only to turn the corner while in the University, but he continued down that path when he got into UNN, even after he graduated. He had left the University and had just gotten admission into a school in Canada to go do his MSc, but he couldn’t resist the urge to go gangbanging. Some guys tried to rob him so he pulled his gun on them to protect his money, and he got shot and killed instantly.
I had other friends like Chuka Okeke, and my onetime guardroom mate, Demo Olusesi, who occasionally joined us in our run-ins with the law.
A while after I transferred to CSSA (Command Secondary School Abakaliki) we got a Commandant, Lt. Col. Ayo Vaughan.
I had already started causing serious problems for the school authorities and I spent a lot of time in the guardroom (detention cells for errant and delinquent soldiers). My constant detention by the A.O (Admin. Officer), Lt. Agada, only hardened me further.
After a spell there I went on a rampage and ended up stabbing and cutting up the only brother of my good friend, Chuka Okeke, because he wasted my time and didn’t quickly bring the cubes of sugar I had asked him to bring me…so I went back to the guardroom.
Lt. Col. Vaughan came in and hit harder
Ayo Vaughan disturbed me and so I thought to disturb him back.
One day I came up with an idea.
I would open the gas tank of his red 1984 Mercedes Benz 230 saloon car that he parked right in front of the administrative block, and dip a whole length of cloth into it, while it dripped with gas I would light the little portion hanging out the gas tank and take to my heels before the fire entered the car and turned Ayo Vaughan’s prized possession into a bonfire.
(to be continued)