“You know that you are taking a big risk?”
The man in a white hospital coat across the desk said with a stern look. His voice was not rude or arrogant, but it made the obvious sound too serious that Biodun pinched himself a little bit. The office was dimly lit even though it was midday, and the only source of light came through the glass windows by the right hand corner of the consulting room. The walls wore ivory and it looked more like a sick bay to Biodun than a shrink’s office. He has gotten a letter from the Head of Department to come in for a quick visit after a prolonged argument with a colleague during a meeting, and since then, it has been two years or more that he and the doctor have been on the same spot.
“You are not taking your medication and your situation is worsening with each passing day. Do you want to go back?”
At that point, Biodun didn’t really know what he wanted; it was difficult to see clearly beyond his pains. When the doctor saw that all attempts to get him talking proved futile, he just said:
“Do you know what? Why don’t you give going back a thought? We will talk about it during our next session and I will make my recommendation.”
Biodun gave a deep breath, got up, and shut the door behind him.
Students hurriedly walked towards the faculty of arts for their afternoon lecture. The heat at that point of the year was getting overly annoying, and it was rare to see people walking on the way without an umbrella or a piece of cloth tied to their heads to prevent being scorched by the heat of the sun. Biodun killed the engine right in front of the Faculty of Arts. His black Mustang nosed its ugly head into the parking lot, almost knocking over the waste bin: a new way of telling folks to keep the new faculty clean. The sleek looking four wheels knew how to make a statement, and it clearly did say one thing: the owner was different from the rest. It took a lot to convince the senators that the faculty that was built to house just a few, according to university commission stipulation, now catered for much more even though with lesser hands, just like the prisons in the country, was in need of a much bigger faculty. It was like the dried up breast of a mother with too many mouths to feed. It took a lot of patience, perseverance, striving, politics, and even ass-licking efforts to erect a mansion which seems to intimidate other faculties just by gazing at it.
His car was one of a kind; in fact, students on campus always awaited his arrival in order to gather around it, like a sworn of bees, to take selfies while he was in class, and quickly dispersed when they sighted the professor with an overly burden look, a pair of black pants and running boots with the same colour of denim jean jacket he wore ever since they sighted the black Mustang for the first time on campus. He rarely exchanged pleasantries with anyone in the faculty; they only saw him walk in to deliver his lecture, walk out to fire his engine, and then zoomed off. He was like the lone ranger; no one knew where he lived or if he even dated anyone of them just like the rest.
He crumpled his long form right out of the monster, picked up his black leather portfolio, not forgetting his Cuban cigar, and locked the door behind him. He took in the air of the afternoon, compared to the stuffy, cramped, and depressing one he left back at home; the thought of the state of his apartment made him cringe, he never allowed anyone to come any closer; that was his shrine, his haven, and nobody needed to touch any of Taye’s stuff; they had to stay the way he left them.
The strands of her wool hair still stuck to the hair brush on the table: they usually argued about it because she would forget and rush out to work in a hurry, only for him to come to use it and find tufts of hair entangled in the brush or strands flying about in the room. The white towel with a brown stain: he remembered coming home from a conference with it one day, all for her to use it to wipe off her makeup. Taye’s imperfections were so numerous that at a point he lost interest in pointing them out for her. There was this thing about her: she knew how to handle him so much so that it left him helpless. At such a time, she would simply give him a dimpled smile, a hug, a kiss, and then turn back to whatever was before her. It made him forget what brought about the argument.
Taye could drive him crazy in a thousand ways, but she really had the fire burning between them underneath the sheets and all around. She made living together worthwhile: she was the shoulder he nestled on whenever the thought about going back to the states ever came to his mind; or the frustration of coming back to the country, thinking that things have taken a new turn, only to be faced with the frustration of a dyeing educational system. She was the warmest heart anyone could ever come by, throwing her head back, wearing that sassy look as she laughed at him over an issue with those dimples on each corner of her face and her short natural hair which came with some patches of white here and there, made him pray never to miss her for a second. She liked her dresses in coloured prints, long and sweeping the floor while it hung loosely around her slender waist and fastened themselves around her posterior. He always admired her choice of dressing each time he dropped her off and before he made his way to the university, he took off some seconds to admire her and regurgitate the activities of the previous night. Taye was fire, wind and storm in one body. Now, it was only the thought of her, the sound of her boisterous life, the smell of her on her clothes, and the hair tuffs in between the brush that he was left to live with.
Biodun lifted a foot after the other which proceeded to the classroom, not minding that students turned to either admire the only lanky looking professor who wears an afro-punk in the millennium and dresses like a biker. It was as though he was the only one who existed in the entire faculty, because he could barely feel or see a thing apart from his decapitated state which stared rudely back at him whenever he looked in the mirror: his unshaven jaw, his hair hanging on his head, and a shrewd stare he carried all around. He walked like someone who knew he carried a bag of shit around, tied to his behind, but he cared less.
He stole into the classroom and an ice cold silence flooded the room immediately. His knee-joints already hurt because he always sat at one place thinking, brooding or lay face up on the bed; he barely moved around if it wasn’t necessary; it made him wonder why he hadn’t added more pounds to his weight. Social life was nonexistent in his twenty-four hour cycle. Other lecturers saw him as a threat and he preferred to be kept in the dark, far away from their politics. He made his way to the board amidst the bucketful of unresponded gestures; their greetings fell off him like rubber bullets. He rarely took note of his students; it was as though he blanked out each time he stepped into the classroom.
The whole class was as quiet as ever, and the only thing heard was the noise of the screech of Biodun’s white board marker on the board, and as he wrote, he knew that there was nothing more left for him to do here; he could not bear the loneliness anymore. Afterwards, he turned, and about less than two hundred pairs of eyes moped back at him, the majority had their writing tools right in front of them, waiting for him to start talking. For the first time in so many years, his eyes opened and he saw through them; their dreams and aspirations, their passions, likes and dislikes. Immediately, he was thirty again, walking with Taye in the University garden, laughing their hearts out; a few seconds later, the bullet rang through the left, and found its way into her. He could hear his voice scream out loud for help but before anyone could come any closer, he only heard his students’ voice screaming for help, and in their midst, Taye, covered in blood, wearing the same pants and white shirt she wore that day, walked towards him, holding out her arms for him as she always did.
Taye walked towards him, wearing a cotton V-neck white gown. Her smile was so loud that the dark on her skin glowed, causing him to want her even more. She came and sat on the white sheets close to him, and looked down on him with pity and pain buried deep beneath her eyes almost immediately.
“Taye, where have you been?”
She just gave him her usual dimple smile, and placed her hand on his forehead. He waited for an answer but she just kept on smiling, looking at him all over.
“Please, don’t leave me again. Your room misses you, and I do each second you are not there.”
She smiled all the more, and squeezed his hand, letting him know that she was there at the moment and it was all that mattered. Taye drew close to him and placed her lips on his forehead. He opened his eyes to a face that shone like the moon. She politely said with a wide smile:
“Some guests are here to see you.”
She stepped back, went to the door and opened it. The first thing that poked its head through the door was a white inflated balloon with a picture of him smiling with a, ‘Get well soon, our very own Prof!’ Immediately, they started pouring into the room, their faces smiling, one after the other, and before he knew it, it was as though they were in the classroom, and about to hold another lecture.
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Very lovely read. Worth every line and paragraph.
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