Sunday, August 23, 2009

Novella: La Conferencia (Chapter 10)

Nurses walked briskly in different directions. The waiting room was crowded, full of people with different needs and complaints. Any observer would have felt either of two feelings; repulsion or pity. It was a large room full of diseases, faces void of hope, bodies full of pain. As is peculiar to teaching hospitals, many were there to get cures to their ailments at the cheapest possible rate.
Many rooms away and two floors upward was a serene room. It had four beds; only two were occupied. On one of the beds was Fatima. She was asleep, curled up under a light sheet. She had been admitted some hours back and had received urgent attention from the staff the moment she arrived. Things had calmed down a bit and the demand on the hospital staff had increased by the hour, so she got an hourly checkup.
The door creaked and Fatima stirred. A nurse had just come in for another checkup. The nurse was gentle and didn’t disturb her much as she made observations. She told Fatima she would be back in an hour to give her drugs. As she left, Fatima turned her face back to the wall, and decided to talk to her best friend.
Before she could even start, the tears had started dropping. She was in pain; both physically and emotionally. She wondered why this challenge had to resurface after four years of healthy living. ‘Lord, did I do something wrong? Is there something you’re trying to teach me?’ Those were the questions her heart desperately sought answers to. As she got overwhelmed, even in her tears, she found her voice and sang quietly to God.
Today O! I’ll lift up my voice in praise
Today O! I’ll lift up my voice in praise
For I know You are always there for me
Almighty God, You are my all in all
No matter what I face
When troubles come my way, I will praise you Lord.
As she sang that song over again, listening to every word she sang to God, she found His heart again. She was reminded that God was there with her even in her pain, and He had a perfect and wonderful reason for allowing her suffer a crisis one more time. Her tears of pain and doubt became tears of gratitude and trust.
She heard her name and turned slightly. She hadn’t noticed anyone walk into the room. It was Doctor Festus. “How are you doing…” he was saying but as he saw her tear-stained face, he was worried and placed a hand on her forehead. “Are you okay? Nurse Maureen just told me she had checked on you and you were not in too much pain”
“I’m okay” she said, smiling through the tears. That got the doctor confused. A smile was the last thing he expected from somebody in her present state. “I just had a conversation with my boyfriend” she said, giggling but trying not to exert too much pressure on her body at the same time.
“I’m confused”. The doctor said, sincerely. “Can’t see where you would have gotten a phone from.”
The doctor raised an eye brow, still lost.
“Jesus is my boyfriend. Just spoke with Him and He had made me feel much better; at least emotionally for now, and I know He’s working on the physical part as we speak.”
Doctor Festus was dumbfounded. He had treated many Christian patients in the course of his nearly three decades of medical practice, but this one lying on the bed before him had something different about her. And she was just a kid.
“Doc, please can you spare a few minutes?”
He took a look at his wrist watch. “5 minutes”.
She motioned him to sit on the chair beside her bed and he did. “Thank you for taking good care of me so far. Was quite surprised to get such care and attention in a Federal hospital.”
“You’re welcome dear. We are trying to make health care services better.”
Fatima winced as she tried to turn.
“Sorry dear. Be careful.”
“Do you know I haven’t had a crisis in four years?”
“Really?” he asked.
“That’s strange but I must confess I’ve seen such exceptions too, especially with patients who faithfully take their medication”
“Wrong sir!” She said, now smiling. “Four years without medication”
The doctor just observed her as she spoke. She was so excited about was she was saying. It showed on her face though the tiredness of the body beclouded it a bit. Even her smile was a tired one. He tired to imagine what she was like on a normal day.
“How did you go about that?”
“Faith. Faith in Jesus!”
He had heard these faith talks before, so he let it pass. “I’m happy for you dear but you see that’s why you’re back here again because it’s not just about faith, you need the solutions science has provided for you.”
“Wrong again sir! I just have this feeling I came here not because of this…” she couldn’t continue as she allowed a wave of pain to subside.
“Have you taken your drugs?” he said, concerned at the look on her face.
She nodded. And when she could talk, she added. “The nurse said I would take another set soon.”
“Okay.” He said, standing. “I think I should leave you now so you could rest.” He paused. “By the way, would you want us to allow folks from the conference come visiting you?”
“I would love to” she said, brightening up a bit.
“Any particular people?”
“George, Uche, Mr Aminu and any others.”
He scribbled down the names. “I’ll call the Conference Director to inform him.”
“Thanks Doc.”
“You’re welcome”. He said and turned to leave but stopped as he heard her call him. “Yes Fatima?”
“I don’t know your name sir?”
He smiled. “So sorry. I’m Festus. Doctor Festus”
“Nice meeting you sir.” She paused and looked straight at him. “Doc Festus, I think God brought me here because of you.” She smiled when she saw the expression on his face. She would have laughed if she had the energy to.
Before he could ask her any questions. She waved at him and turned away. ‘Let him do some thinking’ she said to herself, smiling. Doctor Festus shook his head, smiling at the mischievous patient before him, and left the room.
Fatima didn’t know why she had just made that statement but she was so sure she had been led of God to say so. It felt so good doing God’s will even in days of trouble. She thanked God for the opportunity she was going to have to see her friends and teacher again. She was surprised how much she had missed them already. She wondered if Uche had finally given his life to Christ. As they thoughts played on her mind, she slept off.
“Thank you Sir. Would be expecting you.” Doctor Festus said as he replaced the receiver of the land line. He had just spoken with the Conference Director and they had promised to send a delegation of conference participants, including the teacher Fatima had requested for. The Director had said they would come during lunch break which was scheduled for 1:30pm.
Doctor Festus reclined on his seat, deciding to have a 5-minutes break before calling in the next patient. He had some thinking to do. The moment he had seen Fatima earlier on in the day, he had been drawn to her. She reminded him of things he didn’t want to ever remember. Yet, there was just something different about her. He had not known what it was until he spoke with her a few minutes ago. It was then he had discovered that she was indeed special.
And now, she had said she thinks she had been hospitalized because of him. It was a weird thought, but he couldn’t shake off the feeling that she just might have been saying the truth.
He looked at the calendar. It was exactly five months ago that he had tried to take his own life. He had done despicable things in his life time, and he was beginning to suffer for them. He was desperate to hold on to any glimmer of hope; if at all there was any. Fatima was offering him that.
He placed his hands on the sides of his head, trying to block away the sounds and sights that fought for his attention. He couldn’t allow them; they would ruin him. He still didn’t understand how Fatima would be of help, but for the first time in five months, he felt he was close to being free again.
Almost everyone had left the dinning hall. George stayed there. He was missing Fatima but had prayed and knew God was taking care of her. He just wished they would give him an opportunity to see her. He still wanted to ask her how to go about counseling the new girl he had met. He was new into this and was so scared of doing it wrong. He had thought he would see the girl during breakfast but he hadn’t. He wondered if she came to the dining hall at all.
As he was about to rise from the table, he looked at the plates that littered the table and he remembered what Fatima said she and Uche had done the night before. He looked up, and as if on cue, a couple of tables away was Uche, just starring at his table too. The same thoughts must have been on his mind.
George walked over to him. “Good morning Uche”
“Hey! Morning John” Uche said, plainly.
“George” he corrected, smiling.
“Oh sorry. George.” He paused. “Sorry about Fatima”
“Sorry too. I’m sure she’s fine. God will take care of her.” As George said that, he saw the reaction on Uche’s face but decided to let it pass. He couldn’t blame the guy. He was bound to have doubts. But looking at Uche, George was sure that he would eventually succumb to the love of God, so he needed to give him time to deal with his doubts like he had had to at some point in his life too.
“Are you thinking what I’m thinking about these plates?” George said, slapping Uche on the shoulder. That elicited a smile from the forlorn boy.
“How did you know?”
“I could guess. Shall we?”
“I guess so” Uche said as they both began clearing up the dishes.
When they were through, the kitchen women thanked them profusely as they had thanked Fatima and Uche the night before. As they were about stepping out of the hall, Mr Aminu walked in.
“Good morning sir” George said greeting his teacher.
“Good morning George. Good morning my friend” he said looking at George, and then at Uche. “George, I have been looking around for you. Do you know any Uche?”
George smiled. “He is Uche” he said. Pointing at his friend.
“Wow, that makes my work easier. The Conference Director just informed me that Fatima would like the three of us to come visit her.” As he said that, he saw the expressions on the faces of the two boys. ‘Fatima must really mean a lot to these guys’ he thought.
“When? Now?” It was George asking.
“No, not now”, Mr Aminu smiled. “During lunch.”
“That’s okay. I hope she’s fine anyway?” Uche asked.
“Yes she is. So, I’ll see you guys at 1:30, right?”
“Yes Sir” they echoed as Mr Aminu excused himself.
George and Uche were clearly excited as they walked out of the dining hall. They longed to see Fatima; their friend who had touched their hearts.

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