ENGLISHMAN IN BENIN CITY, 1981 (PART Twenty-four)
Rufus could tell something was wrong when he opened the door and saw me. All he needed to do was to take one look into my eyes and he could read me like a book. First, I had been gone all day. All I went do was to drop off Josephine and Gina. He expected that I would be back within an hour, maybe two maximum. The hospital was not that far, maybe fifteen minutes. I left before 8 am, and it was 6 pm when I came back.
I was surprised to find my beetle parked in front of the house. Because he didn’t see me at the time he expected I would be back home, Rufus decided to get the beetle off the street, for safety reasons. The car key was on the table as usual. He went with Steve to the spot I told them we abandoned the broken beetle. They got a car electrician to check the kick starter and also to fix the dead headlamps, after which they drove the beetle home.
I slumped on the sofa. I was exhausted after spending an entire day with Josephine and Adolo at the hospital. Rufus did not ask me any questions. He simply sat down and waited for me to talk. I was also looking for a proper way to frame the issue.
Finally, I said, “Papa Ru, we have to go and donate blood for Josephine this evening.”
He could see that I was serious.
Steve came out of his room, after overhearing me. He stood there, saying nothing. Rufus still had not said anything.
I continued. “She is at the hospital. She had an erupted ectopic pregnancy. We are lucky she is still alive.”
“Stop kidding me,” Steve said.
“What is that? Eruptive what?” Rufus asked. I repeated it.
“That’s not good,” Steve said.
I explained to Rufus as I understood it from what Adolo told me. “She needed a lot of blood. They have been giving her blood all day long and they now need donors, Adolo said. She said if Josephine had not been a nurse, they would have required blood donation even before they started attending to her, given her critical condition. They are now out of blood supplies.”
“Do they need a particular blood type,” Steve asked, “or just any type?”
“Just any type,” I said, based on Adolo’s information. “They are simply trying to get anybody to donate now. Adolo says Josephine has the A- blood type and that it is very rare. They are almost totally out of the blood type. But they just need anyone to donate right now.”
“Some of my students are coming for rehearsal here in about thirty minutes,” Rufus said. “There are about eight of them coming. I wanted to block a scene for them. We will postpone the blocking and I’ll ask if they would like to donate blood.”
“Perfect,” said Steve. “But we may not find anyone of them with A-. It’s incredibly rare.”
“Adolo said we should just bring anyone,” I continued. “She said in addition we can also bring some money because they have people at the hospital who sell blood per pint.”
“They sell their blood?!” Steve was aghast.
“That’s what Adolo said,” I informed them. “They live on selling blood. Once they sell a couple of pints, they drink lots of milk with big stout. And they are ready for the following day.”
“That’s crazy!” Steve exclaimed.
“They are God-sent today,” Rufus continued. “I will ask if any of the students would like to donate, and we will also buy some pints from the blood-gurus at the hospital.”
Suddenly, I realized I hadn’t had a bite all day long. My stomach rumbled.
“Anything home to eat?” I asked no one in particular.
“There are leftovers,” Steve responded. “Rice and chicken. I had some about fifteen minutes ago.”
“Warm?” I asked.
“Sure,” said Steve. “Should still be warm enough.”
“Warm or not, I’ll wolf it down,” I said. “I can eat a stone now. I totally forgot about food when the crisis reached a peak at the hospital.”
“A peak?” Rufus asked.
“Yes,” I said. “The nurses at the theater told Adolo that there was a surgical error. The surgeon accidentally severed an artery or something to that effect. The fallopian surgery itself went well, and everything would have been okay but for the error. That was the cause of the crisis.”
“You are kidding me!” Steve exclaimed.
“Adolo said it was not unusual,” I explained, “and that they would have just buried the info among the surgical team; but it leaked because Josephine is on the staff there.”
The rice was still a little warm, but the stew was cold, and so also was the chicken. I dished out some, and stood there at the kitchen cabinet to eat it. I used a fork, in imitation of Steve.
Before Steve arrived, Rufus and I used the spoon to eat rice, though Rufus had spent several years in Britain. But no sooner had Steve arrived, Rufus switched to using the fork just as Steve. At first, I thought it was weird. The spoon was more efficient for scooping up the rice to deliver the load into the mouth. But Steve said that using a fork to eat rice was the etiquette. The idea, he said, was not to convey huge quantities of rice at a single load of the wheelbarrow.
“Don’t load it. Just in bits would be fine,” said Steve. And our Oyinbo should know. I, therefore, began to cultivate using the fork to pick up rice from the plate. After a couple of weeks, I got used to it and was using the fork efficiently, like I was born doing it.
There was a knock on the door. Steve went and got the door, and a noisome torrent of theater students, both men, and women, poured inside.
“Mister Rufus we are hungry o,” one of them said, staring at me as I ate. “Anything to eat before we start working?”
“There is a more serious matter, Goddy,” said Rufus. “We will postpone rehearsals today. My friend needs a blood transfusion. We were just about to go to the hospital.”
“Sorry to hear this,” said Goddy. “I can donate blood. If they want a bucket, I’m good. I haven’t donated before. There must be plenty in my body. Anyone else willing to donate?”
In a chorus, they all said yes, they would donate. Goddy ambled towards me by the kitchen cabinet where I was eating. “Moyo, you will wound yourself with that weapon,” he said. “You don’t have a spoon? If that fork slips and punctures your throat, it won’t be funny o.” He grabbed a spoon and began to shovel the rice on my plate into his mouth.
One of the women asked, “Any more rice?” She also moved towards us. Steve pointed to the pots on the stove. “Yes,” Steve said. “Just grab yourself a plate and….”
“Oyinbo,” the young woman said, “How are you?” She moved near Steve and pulled his beard. “You don dark o, Oyinbo! Mr. Rufus, this is not good. You are suffering our Oyinbo three much o.”
“In fact, ‘e pass three-much. Na four-much,” said another student. “Let’s just carry the entire pot of rice, pour the pot of stew over it and demolish it. Anybody game?”
Four-Much did not hesitate, and as he poured the pot of stew over the pot of rice, all the others surrounded him, grabbed some spoons and began to shovel the rice down, giggling and cracking jokes as they ate.
They emptied the pot in a matter of minutes. “Any coke to wash it down?” Four-Much asked.
Rufus replied, “Coke? What about champagne? My friend, you better grab a tumbler and get some tap water. We are running late. We should get to the hospital immediately.”
I opened the utensils cabinets and brought out cups for them, but there were not enough to go round. They took turns in filling the cups with water from the tap. In a moment, they were done and ready to leave.
I took four of them in my beetle, and all the others piled into Rufus’s bus. We drove fast, Rufus leading. In a matter of minutes, we were at the hospital. I knew the room in which Adolo was sitting and led them there.
She was with some other nurses. She was seated, but the others, all in uniform, stood around her. They were all weeping.
“What happened?” Rufus asked.
“Mister Rufus,” said Adolo, weeping. “It’s not good news. It’s too sad….”
TO BE CONTINUED.