Today, December 1st, is World AIDS DAY. In line with that I hope you’ll enjoy this wonderful piece.
He Chose Death
It was 3am in the morning and Ikenna was sitting on the edge of his bed sweating profusely. At a time when the whole country was asleep the tears that trickled down his cheeks blurred his vision in the dim-lit room. He blew the content of his nostril into a white handkerchief beside him____ the hanky which was already soaked with tears. He tried to stand up but he could not withstand the stab of hurt which seemed to be tearing his heart out of his chest. “I’m finished!” he mumbled.
Ikenna looked a forlorn figure sitting on the bed. He never believed that anything could make him cry but there he was paralyzed by fear; eyes swollen as a result of having cried for hours. The once ebullient and lively young man who was in his late twenties had gone to bed after drinking heavily. He could not explain how he came home last night and, as for how he ended up on the comfortable bed in his room, he knew his mother was the hand behind it. Ikenna came home the previous night drunk; the stench of alcohol mixed with the smell of cigarette oozed out of the t-shirt he was wearing. His mother found him lying down on the balcony as he kept talking gibberish. She cleaned him up and like the baby he was twenty something years ago, she, with the help of the houseboy carried her son to his room and laid him down on the bed.
One thing about getting drunk is that it has a way of making the drunkard forget his sorrow momentarily.
Reality was staring Ikenna in the face the moment he woke up that morning. His legs were shaking when he stood up and, in a staggering gait he walked to the corner of the room where a bottle of half empted 501 was lying on the floor. He lefted it with shaky hands and began to examine the label. In a moment of rage, he hurled the bottle against the wall. Within a split second, the bottle broke making a loud noise, and the pieces of the glass splintered everywhere. Almost immediately, his mother who was sleeping in the adjoining room ran into his room barefooted. She stepped on a piece of the broken glass and blood started splattering out. She sat on the bed crying ‘Chim egbumuo!’ My God has killed him.
Ikenna rushed with a tissue paper as he struggled to stop the bleeding. “Bia nw’a, kedu ife bu nsogbo gi? What’s your problem?” She asked with a frowned face.
“Mama, please I’m sorry. Biko gbahara m?
“That’s not the issue here. The last time I checked, you came home drunk and smelling cigarette. Ikenna, kedu ubosi nke’hu bidoro?” When did you start drinking and smoking?
“Press this tissue there and hold it on that spot so that the bleeding will stop,” he ignore her question.
“This is the third time you’re coming home drunk. Tell me, what’s the problem?”
“There’s no problem at all. I just hung out with some of my old friends.”
“So hanging out with friends means you should get drunk? Do you want to die before your time?”
“Mama, nobody is dying. Let me get methylated spirit and a cotton wool so that I can dress your wound.”
“It has stopped bleeding,” the woman held her son by the hand and tried to make him sit on the bed beside her. “Sit down, there’s something I want us to talk about”.
“Let me treat your wound first,” he offered.
“It’s just a minor cut,” she examined it closely. “I’m sure I’m ok now.”
Ikenna had barely sat down when his mother said, “My son, you have to tell me what the problem is so that you and I can figure out a way to solve it.”
“Mama, I already told you that everything is fine!” Ikenna blurted out.
The woman allowed some time to pass before she started again, “In case you’ve forgotten, I wasn’t born today, And you should know that I know you so well to know when you’re lying to me. Look at your eyes, they’re swollen”.
“Nne, honestly you should leave me alone,” he looked away.
“Why would I leave you alone when last night was the third consecutive time you’re coming home drunk? Tell me, what is it? Is it Sylvia? Did she make you angry in any way?”
“Leave her out of this; she has nothing to do with my drinking.”
“Well, I think it’s high time I told you this. Sylvia was here this afternoon complaining bitterly. She said you wouldn’t pick her calls for three days now.”
Ikenna’s heart skipped when he heard that his fiancée came by the house. He wanted to hear more. “What did she tell you?” he asked
“She said you started acting strangely after you left the hospital with here three days ago. She said you even sent her a text message saying that you two were not compatible and that she should move on without you.”
“She told you that!” Ikenna sounded surprised.
“Yes she did. Now tell me, why would you do such a thing to that nice girl? Someone that loves you so much as to use the influence of her father to get you a job. Ikenna, that girl is heartbroken and she deserves better than this your stupidity. Come to think of it, you would’ve amounted to nothing without her help.”
“Mama, that’s a lie! Oh, you think it’s easy to come out of the university with a 2:1? I was employed on merit,” he bragged
“You were employed on merit my fort! Where was merit when you roamed the streets without a job for two calendar years? Where was merit when we could not afford a one room self contained apartment? Now we live in a flat and you even have a car of your own. Thanks to the job you secured through the influence of that girl’s father.”
“Point of correction, Mama, Sylvia didn’t get me this job so that I’ll marry her. There are other better, healthier and more promising young men out there. And, for your information, when she introduced me to her father six months ago, before I was given appointment letter, she told him I was just a friend.”
“You’re an idiot!” the woman said angrily. “You think you’re doing Sylvia a favour by being in a relationship with her? On the contrary, she did you a favour by accepting that useless ring you put in her finger a month ago.”
“Mama, that’s enough!” tears impulsively fell from Ikenna’s eyes.
“Ike, my son, even fools do not spit out sugar that is put in their mouth. Apart from being a former governor’s daughter, that girl is pretty and as homely as any man would want his wife to be. Now tell me, if you never liked her why did you engage her?”
“Er…um, hmm“ Ikenna stuttered, “I didn’t say I don’t love her. I do love her but we’re just not compatible, period.”
“Who said you’re not compatible? I’ve watched you two for months now; all I say is a perfect couple.”
A moment of silence passed. In that moment, it was only the tick tick of the clock that was heard.
Ikenna was the first to speak, “Mama, I love Sylvia so much that I would love to make her my wife right now but fate sometimes has a way of opposing the decisions we make or would’ve made in life”.
“What do you mean by that,” the woman asked
“After the test we had at the hospital it turned out that we can’t get married because both of us are of the AS genotype.”
“How’s that possible!” the woman stood up from the bed. She thought for a while before she said, “But, wait o, before you entered the university you did that test and it showed that you’re AA like I had always known since were a child.”
“Mama, I’ve told you, I’m AS and she’s AS; that the reason we can’t get married!” Ikenna blurted.
The woman was about to say something when her son stood from the bed, took a pillow and went to the sitting room to lie down on a couch. She decided to let him be for the moment but she knew within her that that would not be the end of the matter.
The village of Umuofia was thrown into confusion on an Eke market day. The business of that day was grounded by the tragedy of that morning. At the popular Eke market square, the awful sight which was beheld by many brought tears even to the eyes of men. Leaving their thoughts to wonder, emotions were running high. An onlooker who could not hold his feelings exclaimed within the crowd, “Hey, abomination!”
Cold chill ran down the spin of many as they watched late Mazi Okafor’s son suspended on a tree by a rope. His breath was snuffed out by the well looped noose around his neck. The question on everyone’s mind was, “Why would a promising youth of Umuofia take his life in such a despicable manner?” The answer to that question was hidden in the lifeless heart of Ikenna.
It was a pity that despite Ikenna’s level of education, he stooped too low to the death on a tree. Was he drugged or drunk to have forgotten how people who die that way a regarded?
Since he returned from the hospital a week ago and started acting strangely, his mother tried to no avail to get him to open up. As she hoped he would come around soon, she did not renege in the responsibility of cleaning him up each time he came home drunk. Even his girl friend did not know what exactly was troubling him. All she remembered was that there was something about the test that made him really mad. Yes, he did tell her that genotype would be a barrier to their getting married but what she could not understand was his refusing to see her or pick her calls after they left the hospital.
Prior to their going to the hospital, Ikenna had told Sylvia that he was AA. After the test he started singing a different tune. When he asked him about his HIV status, he simply said that he was OK. The girl tested negative but unbeknown to her, her fiancé was positive. Of course the duo started having sex the day they entered into a relationship but Sylvia often insisted he wears a condom.
The coward, Ikenna, took his life because he tested positive to HIV. He couldn’t contain the thought of the stigma that awaited him in the streets of his country. What would become of my widowed mother if she hears that her only son was going to die? What would Sylvia do if she hears that I have Obilina’gocha? Ikenna belonged to the bandwagon of people that believed that HIV leads to AIDS and AIDS leads to death. He was ignorant of the fact that one can live with HIV for as long as he was meant to live by his creator.
Although he graduated with a good result, he was reckless during his Youth Service year. He stupidly slept with a number of the Secondary school girls he was sent to a remote village to teach during his service year. He was sent to serve his Father land but, like some of his colleagues, he also serviced the girls in his class. However, unlike most of them, he had unprotected sex at some points.
Who would believe that those young girls were carriers of the dreaded virus?
As Ikenna sat in a bar trying to recall how he got infected, what baffled him the most was that Sylvia’s result turned out negative. Although he didn’t exactly disclose his status to her, the thought of suicide had been on the brink of his mind since the day he was counseled and told that he was living with the virus.
Ikenna was mean, cruel and heartless. Who could’ve believed that he went to the market, bought a rope and travelled to the village where he made a noose and hung himself on a tree? He didn’t even leave a suicide note.
His choice of taking his life in his village was to be closer to the grave of his fathers.