I opened my eyes. There was a very bright light in front of me, I tried moving my arms to shield my eyes but they felt too light. The smell in the room was very familiar; the sterile ‘bluish-green’ smell of the operating room. I could see everything clearly, the operating nurse who looked extremely bored, the anaesthetists crosschecking some things on a chart, the standby power lamp we tried using for Mr. Badmus.
He had smiled at me just before it totally went black. I was sure I could differentiate the smile of a dead man from that of one alive. Only that, his smile did not seem dead or alive. It seemed, how do I describe it? Transient.
Someone was tapping my right shoulder. I smiled as i remembered Mr. Darum, one of the consultant anesthetists, teaching me the proper way of waking a patient from anaesthesia. The person tapping me should also call my name and ask if I could hear him.
Tap. Tap. “Get up, we need to move now.”
That definitely did not sound like protocol but I stood up. I had on my theatre scrubs even though I was the ‘patient’ being operated on. I looked back to the operating table. I was still there. The cardiothoracic surgeon, was still working on my heart. You know how they depict heart surgeries; the whole stopping or slowing of the heart, retractors for the opening on the chest and monitoring the heart constantly. It was all there but i was not there, not anymore.
“Dr. Mina, it is nice to meet you again.”
“Yes, yes. I know you are wondering what exactly is going on. I would try and explain as much as i can but someone is waiting for us. Come.”
He was wearing the same blue pattern native he had on the day he was admitted. He was holding a walking stick in his left hand and had on a pair of brown sandals. He was moving swiftly across the floor even though i could see his sandals touching the floor.
We left the theatre area, going towards my office. As a senior resident doctor, i was not expected to have an office but for five years now, i have more or less stood in for my consultant, Dr. Bibio. So, I use her office. Mr. Badmus opens the door and ushers me in.
I felt tears prick my eyes. It was my Hausa darling, looking more alive than I could ever imagine, sitting on my chair, her smile still as heartwarming as then.
I was embracing her within seconds, joyful at the rare opportunity to see her again, perplexed at how fast I had moved to get to her and anxious about what exactly was going on.
These two people were surely dead, as dead as dead can be dead. I was not ready to explore the implication of this to my own state just yet. I needed to understand.
“Both of us were killed. We did not die of natural causes.”
I looked at Laila, confused. I knew she had been hit by a truck. I knew she had a glass stab to her side. She had lost a lot of blood and we could not get blood to transfuse. How was that not natural?
“My father killed me. He had plans to get me married to an Alhaji who had three wives already. Likita, you remember my goal of being an only wife?”
I smiled sadly at the memory of that.
We were back at Laila’s village as it was when I was there. We walked towards the compound and waved at people as we went.
“They can see us?”
“Not exactly. They see whoever they project in their minds. If one has been longing to see his mother, he would see her, whether she is dead or alive somewhere.”
I walk into the compound and see her father. He is sitting on a bamboo chair, smoking something wrapped in green leaves. The smell is choking.
“I killed her.”
I look at him but his lips are not moving.
“I was angry and maybe a bit drunk”.”
Mr. Badmus sits on the bonnet of the Nissan bluebird parked close to the gate.
“You can hear his mind speak, that is what you are listening to.”
“Why is he talking in past tense? Things look like they were when i was here…”
“Yes, you came into the past you knew to be able to view the present as it is.”
I turned to Laila, she was sitting beside her father, crying.
“She could have lived if I just listened. I stabbed her with the broken bottle glass. I slapped her so hard she hit her head on the edge of the table. Why did I not listen?”
The man was crying now.
“What do we do? He has been carrying this guilt for years and it is eating into him still.”
“If he sees her and hears her speak to him, forgiving him and telling him she is okay, he would instantly feel better and move on with life.”
“Then why have we not done that? Make her visible to him just as I can see both of you.”
He smiled, “Not that easy Dr. Mina. Even though it was an accident, he still committed murder. He has not forgiven himself because he believes she has not forgiven him too. Till he can move beyond that and forgive himself, he would not want to see her. And like I said, they see whoever they project in their minds.”
“What if he never gets to that point before he dies?”
“He would understand better on this side.”
I blinked away tears and opened my eyes to find us back in my office.
“Still, it was an accident. I mean, he did not kill her intentionally.”
“True. Mr. Badmus’ death though, that was intentional.”
They looked at me as if weighing how ready I was to hear what they had to say.