I stand beneath the Pawpaw tree amongst the spider webs, and I continue to imagine.
The Indian doctor from Calcutta leant over my dying father. He was using his stethoscope to listen to the mutterings of the haggis. The doctor no longer smelt of Chanel number five from Paris. That had run its course some time ago. Now the doctor carried the musky scent of stale perspiration and nicotine.
The Nurse from Abuja, Nigeria kept her distance as always. A slight breeze caused the curtain to shift over the window beside her. The water stains on the ceiling had increased. Madagascar had now met the Seychelles. Were they at peace?
“Your breathing is better. It is not as irregular,” the doctor finally said, removing the stethoscope from his ears. He fidgeted with the biro pens in his pocket. “I do not want to be an optimist here. Cancer is a chameleon. It can be as difficult and as temperamental as...”
“Trying to build a garage,” offered the Nurse from Abuja, Nigeria. The breath that followed her sentence was almost explosive.
My father settled his eyes on her as the doctor spun on his heels.
She inhaled. She had taken the plunge. She had found her moment. “The doctor,” she told my dying father, “is trying to build a garage for his car.”
“There is no need to tell a patient this, Nurse. Please go and find something else to do.”
“Perhaps you can help him?”
“Enough of this nonsense,” The doctor said. “Please leave.”
She kept her eyes on my father. She was biting her lower lip, and her small hands were tightly clenched.
You saw this in her, father. You realised her intent, her need to have said what she had. Had she not been the only one to have crossed the line and made you the soup? Had she not been the only one to blow life into a dying ember? She has always been with reason, with cause.
“What is the matter with the garage?”
You keep your eyes on the Nurse. Even her toes are clenched against the hardness of the waxed, concrete floor.
“There is no garage.”
The Nurse from Abuja, Nigeria exhaled. “You can build one together.”
The Indian doctor from Calcutta takes a step closer to the Nurse. “What is the matter with you? This is an ill, a seriously ill patient! Go away. Away!”
There is strength in the timbre of your voice, and it startles the doctor.
“I can, at least, take a look.”
“There is nothing to take a look at. It will take weeks for the concrete blocks to be delivered. This is all very, very stupid and I apologise.”
You lift yourself off the bed, dying father. You stand. The Indian doctor from Calcutta, steps back a pace, unaccustomed to seeing you erect. He has forgotten how tall you are.
“You have mud?”
The Nurse from Abuja, Nigeria, stifles her joy through clasped hands. The whiteness of her large eyes shone bright over the temple of her fingers.
“Mud makes bricks,” you, Father, tell the doctor.
I step away into the sun and stand amongst the radish plants. The soil is moist beneath my bare feet. The rhythm of the borehole is incessant and calming. Soon the radish bulbs will go to market.
I'm going to leave you now, dying father.
You will mix the mud, and you will build the doctor’s garage. The doctor from Calcutta will anoint his hands alongside you in the African soil and as the two of you sip a gin and tonic after the day’s work at sunset, he will see the residue of life beneath his fingernails and, perhaps, together, you will look out onto the road and dream of the journey ahead.
At some point, you will journey down that road in an imported, chicken-shit free motor vehicle and head toward the undulating horizon. Perhaps the Nurse from Abuja, Nigeria, will come along for part of the ride like a Bollywood starlet. This remains in the ether, Father.
That is what I will continue imagining for now.
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