I buttoned my tuxedo, and looked back with a tight smile at the man who stood behind me. The wedding was in an hour, but it wasn’t nerves at seeing my lovely bride that choked my throat. Painful memories swamped me from all sides. My best man was supposed to have been my brother, my twin brother, Odion. Our plan was either to get married on the same day, or be each other’s best man.
Odion and I were identical twins. Mama bought us the same clothes when we were children, and made sure we were in the same class throughout primary school. We went everywhere together. We got on very well together and so we didn’t mind. We loved the same type of food, and wore the same clothes most of the time. We shared one of the rooms in our house, but where we spent most of our time was in a field not too far from our back door playing games together. In the rainy season, the grass in the field was so tall, you could play hide and seek there. But it wasn’t difficult to find each other so we rarely played on our own.
When we played with other children sometimes, it could be easy to find them if one of us knew where they were. In those times, it was like our minds mingled, and the same thought came to us at the same time. This happened at other times too. We didn’t have to say a word. Odion would look at me, I would look back, and then we would start laughing. The people around us at such times would sometimes laugh, or frown and shake their heads. Even our parents didn’t understand what was going on and sometimes Papa would rebuke us.
“Odion and Akere!” He would bark at us.
Papa thought we were playing pranks on him or other adults at such times. He also got very angry when we refused to tell people our names and made them keep guessing. He actually spanked us on one occasion but Mama remained the light-hearted of the two. She would only laugh and tell him not to take us too seriously. After that we tried to control our outbursts and would just nod at each other. But Odion was more mischievous than I was. He would wink too and even run away with a teasing hoot though he only did this when papa was not around and when we were playing with other children.
In the months while we waited for the results of our entrance examination to secondary school, we spent many days in the field behind our house. It was the dry season and there was not much grass. Still there were lots of grass hoppers and we started to collect them. The insects were quite fast and often blended into the dry, ashy grass. And then, could they hop or what? It was hard to catch the grasshoppers but most times we got some fun and lots of laughter trying. We competed among us who could catch the largest grasshopper. The days and the weeks slipped by quickly and we didn’t mind that our start date for secondary school, which we had looked forward to, was postponed twice.
When we started school, our new teachers insisted we had to be in different classes. Mama tried to kick up a fuss but the principal was having none of it. He dismissed her and sent us off to the general assembly for all the boys in the school. As the school band played their martial music, we looked back at each other and marched away in different directions. That same day, I felt a terrible pain in my stomach just before break time. Within a few minutes, Odion came into my classroom followed by a scolding school prefect. He had run across the lawn against the school rules in order to get to me. He was also feeling a pain in his side but not as bad as mine. The teachers allowed us to go home earlier than usual. We were accompanied by the now grumbling prefect.
The pain continued even after the panadol mama gave me and Odion. She put me on her back and set off for papa’s office with a sniffling Odion by our side. Papa took all of us on his motor bike to the local health center. The doctor said it was appendicitis and I needed surgery. It was done the same day and I was discharged two days later. Odion was not happy that we now had a mark that made us different and easier for others to recognize us. Our teachers only had to instruct us to raise our shirts to tell us apart. I was, if not happy, at least relieved that the pain had gone. We tried to trick Mama that Odion also had appendicitis but we could not get past Papa. We were left to hope that it would happen on its own sooner rather than later.
It did come sooner, during the next term holidays. Papa had hosted his age grade to a feast to celebrate his promotion at work and the new car he had purchased. It was almost over but people still mingled around. The house was all a bustle and Mama had warned us not to get underfoot. We were in the field playing when Odion collapsed on the ground crying in pain. A sharp stab almost stopped me in my tracks as I moved to him. He was lying like a baby clutching his middle. Another jab had me falling beside him with moan. Odion groaned and rolled on the wet earth not minding the mud or the nettles hidden between the long blades of grass. I dragged myself up and limped inside to find our parents. This was different from the pain I had experienced some months earlier; I could only imagine what Odion was feeling.
“Mama, Mama!” I screamed once I burst through the door.
That was the end of the party as the crowd followed Papa as he ran out into the field and scooped Odion into his arms. Odion was unconscious by then and Mama began to wail. While the others stood around, two of Papa’s friends and another woman squeezed into the back of the car with me and Papa sped off for the clinic. Mama sat in front with Odion on her laps. She fanned him continuously, muttering a prayer intermittently. Odion came to after some minutes and whispered my name. I whimpered and leaned over the seat. The woman with me dragged me back and handed me a small drink. She handed the other to Mama with the instruction to try to give it to Odion if possible.
We finally got to the same health center where I had my surgery done. It was the same doctor and he again diagnosed appendicitis for Odion. An operation was scheduled for that evening and we were both put on antibiotics and some panadol to stop the pain. Odion woke up after surgery, groggy from all the medication but still groaning in pain. The doctor had gone off by then and the nurses assured my mother his pain must be from the wound of the surgery. My mother and I had remained to sleep over at the center with Odion, and I told her still had the sharp pain from earlier in my tummy. The next day, my father came back and demanded to see the doctor. The doctor said he would wait a couple of days till the operation site healed before making any further recommendations.
Odion remained in the health center for another week. Finally the doctor recommended that my parents take him to the teaching hospital in Benin. It was the biggest group of buildings I have ever seen. By the time we got there, Odion was critical. I continued to take panadol on a regular basis for my own pain. Odion’s condition worsened, and finally the doctors decided that their tests pointed to a kidney problem. They started what they said would be a long treatment, and I was forced to return home with my father two days later.
When the other children crowded around me, I didn’t play with them, but went into the empty room I shared with Odion. I refused to eat that night, and fell asleep crying. Something was different when I woke up. There was no pain in my side, but my head was light as if it wanted to float right out of my body. I went to wake Papa, and told him I wanted to go back to the hospital immediately. He said we’ll go in the afternoon which was the visiting time, but when I began to shout and scream that something was wrong, he dressed up and we left.
By the time we got to the hospital, Odion was dead. We only saw my mother rolling on the floor, her screams echoing off the walls of the hospital ward. A nurse said they had just taken Odion to the mortuary, and someone was supposed to be on the way to our house to tell my father. My mother had rushed at me the instant we walked in, her tears bathing my face, her wails piercing my ears. At that point, I collapsed.
The world had turned on its axis that day for me. I waited for Odion to walk out smiling, but I was old enough then to know he wouldn’t. He was buried the next day. I wanted to scream and shout and wail, but no tears came. Since then, I had not cried for my dead twin. Not when I passed my JAMB and got into University, and not when I qualified as a doctor. I know you’re wondering why. It’s not that I’m hard hearted, but all the while, I had felt Odion beside me, urging me on, keeping me company, telling me he had not abandoned me. Now I felt several thoughts pushing against my mind. This was the way I usually communicated with Odion.
“You can go on without me, you have someone else. You know she’s lovely, and I can tell you that you’ll both have a beautiful life with her and your twin children.”
Tears pricked my eyelids, and I blinked my eyes. Something snagged in my throat, words to stop him, to stop him from slipping away from me. I coughed to stop from choking.
“Are you OK?” Osas asked.
I nodded, but the cough turned into a groan as the tears spilled. I cried for my brother, and I cried for myself. After the storm passed, I squared my shoulders and went out to wait for my bride, who was lovely indeed. I couldn’t wait to see her, and tell her what Odion had said.
My twin may finally be gone, but he lives on, in my heart, and in the name of my future children.
Photo Credit: www.goodlife.com.ng
This story was inspired while Myne wrote her second novel, “A Love Rekindled”, which also features identical twins with an uncommon bond, Kevwe and Ofure. The book is now published and available for purchase through Amazon.