Shalewa dodged the nurse quickly enough to avoid a head-bump. She was late for her practical class because of the stupid stomach upset she’d had all morning. The culprit was last night’s Suya and she had arrived at that conclusion by her 5th visit to the loo. Subconsciously rubbing her hand on her belly, she checked the time again. Four floors down wasn’t something she was willing to take on in this state, so she decided wait for the elevator. Lucky for her, the arrow showed it was on its way down.
Jaiye didn’t know how to operate these things. He was wondering why he had not just taken the stairs, instead of depending on the elevators.
But no one could blame him really. He was exhausted from having to go from third floor to ground floor repeatedly. Especially on an empty stomach. He didn’t think he would have made one more flight with the amount of glucose he had left.
Thankfully, a young doctor walked in,bringing a lovely atmosphere and scent along with her. He looked up to the ceiling and smiled in gratitude. He just needed one more wish to be granted, she should be heading for the same floor as he was.
She clicked on the button that said “4”,and then on one with two arrow heads facing each other.
Oh! That’s how it was done! He contemplated on asking for help or doing it himself. His timidity got the best of him. He would come out on the 4th floor, and take the stairs to the 3rd. He would save himself the embarrassment.
‘Why was he standing in that corner?’ she wondered.
As they approached the 1st floor, the lights went out. Shalewa wasn’t sure if it was a power outage or a technical fault,but she really hoped it was the former. There was a high chance that no one even knew there were people in the elevator. She dug through her bag for her phone, she scrolled through her list of contacts trying to figure out who would be able to get the quickest aid. She tried her class rep’s number.
“Great!” Here she was stuck midway between two floors in an elevator with some guy and no signal on her phone. She might as well be missing. For all she knew, this guy could be a psychiatric patient or a rapist or a serial killer, and she was alone with him. She tried to dispel the thoughts of evil and stay calm.
He didn’t really understand what was going on. All he knew was that the lights were out and the elevator had stopped moving. The young doctor looked a bit frantic and annoyed when she brought out her phone from her bag.
“Do you by any chance have a phone?”
Her voice startled him.
“Yes, I do.”
He pulled out his old faithful Nokia and gave it to her.
“No signal”, she read with exasperation. He wasn’t sure, but he heard some form of frustration in it too.
She handed his phone back to him, and he got a better whiff of her perfume. Fruity and flowery. He inhaled a bit more.
“Please what is going on?”
Without looking at him, she replied,”Power is out and the lifts are not functioning, so we’re stuck here.”
“For how long?”
Biting back the urge to give a really sarcastic she response, she said “I pray it’s not for too long, I’ve missed the first twenty five minutes of my class already.”
He should have just taken the stairs. He was hungry and famished, and his mother needed the drugs he had gone to buy right now. What if anything happened to her due to his lateness? Was he going to die here?
They stayed in silence for the next couple of minutes. Each engrossed in thoughts until they were rudely disturbed by the rumble of Jaiye’s tummy. He hoped she wouldn’t hear the first time, but it was closely followed by a louder one. This had to get the award for his most embarrassing moment.
“Take. For your borborygmi.”
She offered him crackers. He was a bit reluctant to accept but when he thought about how hungry he was and not knowing when he would see his next meal, he took the pack gratefully.
“Thanks. You’re a lifesaver”
“Just doing my job“.
He was confused. “What job?”
“It’s a joke. Doctors are known to save lives, and you called me a lifesaver. So I said I’m doing my job.”
“Oh. I get it. Thanks again Doctor…”
“Shalewa. I’m not a doctor yet, still in training. And since we’re going to be here for God-knows-how-long, we might as well get to know each other.”
It was his turn to giggle.
“I’m Jaiye Adewole.”
“Nice meeting you Jaiye“, she extended her right hand as a form of courtesy.
“And while we are introducing ourselves, let me state that this is my first time in an elevator“, he chipped in.
She was surprised at how firm his grip was. She liked it.
“How ironic, right? Your first time in an elevator and you’re stuck in it”
“Well, I guess it’s a cruel twist of fate.”
“So what’s Jaiye doing in UCH? Do you work here or you’re visiting?”
He could have been a patient but she wasn’t going to be so forward about his ailment if he was.
He looked a little disturbed by her question, she instantly wished she hadn’t asked.
“I’m here with my mum. She suffered a heart attack two weeks ago, so I’ve been running around the corridors of the hospital ever since.”
“Oh! I’m sorry to hear that. How’s she responding to treatment?”
“I wish I could say she was getting better, but I really don’t know. She looks so pale and weak.”
Shalewa didn’t know how to respond. The right comeback would have been something along the lines of “Don’t worry, she’ll be fine” or “I’m sure the doctors will do all they can to see that she gets better”, but nowadays she wasn’t sure of anything anymore.
Not since her little sister called to tell her their father had lost his job. It was his fifth one in eight years and he kept getting dismissed for the oddest reasons.
They had lost their mum in a car accident seven years ago. Before her death, she had been the sole breadwinner, and regardless of her position, she still showered their dad with all the respect and love any husband would need. Life had been rough since her death. Her mum was carried the burden of keeping their home together, and after her demise, the baton had been passed on to Shalewa.
She had to be strong for the sake of her family even though on most days, she felt like she was going to breakdown and run loose on the streets. The family was always in and out of debt, just as one was being cleared up, another stack was piling in some corner. They had gone from having three family cars to pushing one over-used and under-serviced Toyota around. Friends and associates had walked out the door and some even took up new roles as mockers.
Her admission into medical school had been a beacon of hope in the darkness for the family. At least, she could be certain of a good job after graduation, and she would help out in training her younger siblings. The state of the country had extended what was supposed to six short years into an infinite period. It had been seven years but she was still in her fourth year.
“Do you think she’ll make it?”
Jaiye’s voice brought her back to the enclosed four by five space.
“I… I really can’t say. I have to read her case note at least”
“Ok. But what are her chances?”
“Anything can happen. You’ll just have to keep your hopes up and co-operate with the doctors. And pray, like her life depends on it because it does.”
“Don’t our lives ALL depend on prayers?”
“Well… She needs it more than you do right now.”
Jaiye stared at the young doctor. The darkness was a good thing. It allowed him to admire her without invading her space. He admired her strength and courage even though he knew next to nothing about her. The words that emanated from her petite 5’3 height had struck him deep.
He was exhausted from all the stress he had experienced in the last two weeks, and seeing his mother’s response to treatment was not encouraging. The doctors kept writing tests after tests and he had to keep moving her for one electrocardiogram test or another chest x-ray. She was slipping away slowly, and there was no one around for him to lean on. His big brothers were all in their various duty posts and the money they sent only paid the bills, it couldn’t run the errands. Dr. Shalewa had given him food for thought. He could at least hope and pray for the sake of his mother.
Hearing her own words out loud made her stop to check herself. Here she was encouraging a total stranger and she couldn’t take her own advice. She had lost hope in her family, her father especially.
She had forgotten to count her blessings, and be thankful for the things she had- sound mind, clothes on her back, good health to name a few. It had taken a random conversation in the strangest circumstances to put her back on track and remind her of what was really important.
“Can I play music from my phone while we’re waiting?“, Jaiye brought her back to the present from her faraway thoughts.
Seconds later, the warmth of Michael Buble’s voice engulfed their shared space. She was pleasantly surprised at his choice of music. She had expected his choice to be a mix of Nigerian artistes who sang only about girls, money and parties. When Ray LaMontagne’s “You are the best thing” came up, she had to voice her thoughts.
“Your choice in music is rather impressive”
“You think so? A lot of my friends think I’m old school.”
“Old school is for the young at heart.”
They laughed together, and talked more about different songs and albums they both preferred. They moved on to books and movies,all the while seating on the elevator floor. She was more of a crime fiction person, while he preferred autobiographies and war films.
They clicked and connected like long lost buddies.
The lights of the elevator came on suddenly. She checked her watch and discovered they had been in it for over half an hour. Time had passed so swiftly and neither of them noticed. The lecturer would be concluding by now. She glanced across the compartment at her fellow-hostage, he was staring up at the lights with a loop-sided grin. In seconds, the doors of the elevator opened and they were on the fourth floor.
“What ward is your mom in? I think I have a couple of minutes to spare.”
The look on his face said it all.
Photo Credit: theblackertheberry.org
Rolayo Williams is a soon-to-be dentist by profession, a writer when inspired, and a wannabe chef to a certain few. A total product of grace, and a non-apologetic Christian. She loves LOVE and has big dreams. Rolayo shares her thoughts on her blog – Heartstrings & Keynotes.