LAUNCH

We’d Meet In Damar

by Jonathan Oladeji-

He stood by the congested roadside with the soles of his feet hanging in the air, as if stretching. Standing this way was better, because the soles of his slippers had worn out and so couldn’t shield him from the burning pavement.

He walked a little forward, his body bathed in sweat, thanks to the ravaging sun, his ears alert for a whistle or a call.
“Pure water!” Someone shouted.
His feet darted to the direction of the call even before his eyes saw the caller.
“Give me two pure water” The woman sitting in the bus said and his right hand dipped into the bowl on his head.
“Shebi they cold?” The woman asked as she collected the sachet waters
“Yes, they cold”

He stood, still with his soles not touching the ground, waiting for payment.
The traffic light showed green just as the woman reached for the purse in her bag, and ZOOM, the bus drove off.

He tore after the bus like a hungry lion after its prey, but it’s tires were much quicker than his legs, so he gave up the pursuit, he gave up the money.

That night, as with every other night he didn’t bring home a complete profit, grandmother shooed him out of the hut and he passed the night in the verandah without dinner.

As he sat on the cold grounds with his back resting on the mud walls of the hut, his eyes strolled to the moon and the stars and everything illuminating within the black heavens that his eyes could see. They were magical in their beauty, they were his friends, for every time grand mother made him sleep outside it was the beauty of the heavens that sent him comfort.

A couple of hours must have past and his gaze was still pegged at the stars. But now, in the light of a new thought, it had become a mindless gaze. This new thought grew stronger with every passing minute of the night…..
This is the thought of his late mother with whom he had spent his first nine years on earth until she met a sad fate.

He brought his fingers to his face to caress a scar that was etched on his cheek.
This scar and the series of events surrounding it’s birth reminded him strongly of her. The wound of this little scar was the only scratch he came out with, as the only survivor of a bus accident that claimed eleven lives including his mother’s. He was her only child and she was her only parent. And the bond that was formed between them existed even after death had put them apart, because sometimes, she appeared in his dreams and they would converse merrily, just the way it had been before she had left.

Sometimes, when too much sadness enveloped him, he resorted to replaying the scenes during and after the accident like a film in his mind. Those were the last moments he had spent with his mother and inspite of how tragic it was, those were his
most cherished.

Thus, his mind drifted….
He was sitting on his mother’s thighs, pointing at the running hawkers by the roadside as the bus sped past them. Mother smiled and kissed his cheek.
Then, in a moment that would define the fate of every soul in the bus, the side of the bus they sat in plummeted and hit the pavement with a BOOM. He saw a tire rolling into the nearby bushes.
The bus didn’t move forward for long before it came tumble into the forest afterwards.
Screams and yells of JEEZOS JEEZOOS filled the bus as he gripped his mother tightly, yelling “mummy! mummy!”. And then the tumbling came to a halt, and the screams died, like the aftermath of a Canon blast.

A new scene flashed again before his mind….
His grandmother was holding his hand as they walked past the threshold of the door of the hut, a bag containing his little belongings firmly held in the other hand.
His grandmother sat him on a wooden chair and she sat on a couch directly opposite.
“Listen to me and listen carefully……….” she commanded. The realisation of what laid ahead hit him as she began to lay down the rules of her house. What he must and mustn’t do. He had always felt grandmother didn’t like him much. He felt she never liked him as much as she liked his other cousins.
Sometimes, when there was a family reunion and his cousins came to visit, he overhead them talking about how grandmother despised him because she thinks he and his mother were the reason for the death of her son, his father…….

Something black and nutty laying on the ground caught his eyes and broke him out of his reverie.
A kernel.
He hit it hard with a stone, peeled off the thick back and tossed the fruit into his mouth..
It didn’t take long afterwards before sleep sealed his eyes.

He preferred sitting at the desk furthest back from the chalk board. So the next morning, upon arriving late to school and serving the punishment for late coming, he trudged toward his preferred desk.

“Daniel!”
The teacher barked. He jerked automatically in response to the call.
“Sir” he answered with a voice clouded with fright
“Come here”
He walked much faster towards the teacher than the pace he had used when walking into the classroom.
He stood before him, his tremble was almost noticeable.
“You are now this mannerless that you don’t greet your teachers anymore”
“I’m sorry sir”
The teacher looked at him for long
“You’ve served enough punishment for the morning
“Submit your assignments and get out”

He dipped his hand into his sack while the teacher studied him. He could feel the weight of every eye in the class upon him.
He rummaged through all the books within, pretending to look for an assignment he hadn’t done…
“S..sir” He stuttered “I forgot it at home”
The teacher gave him a long silent glare.
“Stand there” The teacher said quietly, pointing to a spot in front of the classroom. He obeyed.

“Hello Class!” The teacher called to the entire class
“Yes uncle! ” they replied in unison
” Is there anything that qualifies Daniel to be a student of this class?”
“Noooooooo!” they all bellowed.

His eyes met with Mary’s, the only one who wasn’t responding to the teacher. They stared at each other for long as tears betrayed the little courage he had mustered to stand before the daunting class.

“So today” the teacher continued, “we are demoting Daniel back to JSS 1”
A loud bang hit his ears as the words reached him. It was soon followed by the falling chimes of an imaginary bell.

‘No, no, I can’t go back there
‘I can’t
The shame is too much to bear’ He thought.

“Chidinma” The Teacher called the class prefect.
“Yes uncle” she answered
“See him to his new class”

As Chidinma drew closer, a sudden surge of inspiration hit him. The thought of exactly what to do. He braced himself up for it.

Chidinma, now standing inches away from him, picked up his hand and started toward the Jss1 class room.
He walked along meekly but his head was still turned to Mary’s direction, his eyes bore into hers, as if saying a silent goodbye.
Then, they walked past threshold of the classroom, and DASH…..
He tore into a lightning burst of acceleration.
Chidinma ran after him.
“Come back here!!” Yelled the teacher as he ran trying to catch him. He stopped after a couple of paces, clutching his chest. Such stress is unhealthy for his heart. Meanwhile, a sudden buzz of murmur had erupted in the classroom.

And soon, the whole school was in frenzy about a Jss2 student who had ran away( from home and school).
For weeks he was searched after, posters and flyers of a missing 13 year old boy could be found in every corner of the town……
…………………………………

THIRTY THREE YEARS had passed since Daniel’s runaway.

Now, he was lying flat on a soft surface. His eye lids pulled up slowly, the bright lights from the fluorescent bulb hanging overhead reached his eyes and he sealed them shut again. He tried to turn over on his left side, away from the source of the light, when he felt a pull on his right arm.

“Easy, Easy Mr Thomas” a soft feminine voice cautioned

He opened his eyes to look at his arms.
Drips, plethora of drips, were fixed on his arms.
He turned around to look at the owner of the voice he had heard earlier. The woman, although donned in a lab coat, looked somewhat familiar. She stood with her hands folded behind her.

“Where am I?”he managed to voice

“You’re in DAMAR CLINIC Sir” the woman replied, her expression appeared gloomy and sullen “Please feel at ease, we had not recently completed a successful heart transplant on you”

The memories began to creep back in. Flashes and flashes of them.
He was sitting on his couch at home, perusing the newspapers, enjoying the freedom of retirement when the heart attack hit him.
He had had bits of heart troubles before but none had come close to being fatal as this.
He literally saw his life flashed before his eyes, his frequent quarrels with his wife, his life long service of being a teacher, Daniel’s runaway which he had since felt guilty and deeply sorry for, many more that had happened in the thirty three years that had gone by, then he saw nothing.
And now he had woken up on a hospital bed.

“Your wife and children and the rest of your families are outside this room expecting to see you again sir” the woman said.

“I….
Know
You”

Mr Thomas managed to say in barely audible whispers.

“Yes” the woman replied, she drew two steps closer “It’s Mary, your old pupil”

Mr Thomas’s mouth formed a wordless O..

“You’re in DAMAR clinic sir” the woman spoke again as a tear ran below her eyes

“It’s my husband’s heart beating in your chest”

Mr Thomas, still speechless, furrowed his brows, and creased his forehead.

“Daniel” She continued “you remember him? An old pupil too”

“Yes.. Yes..” He voiced

“I..I …lost” she sobbed “I lost him the same night you were rushed here… a car crash”

The words hit him hard— A shivering cold rippled through his body. He closed his eyes as the pain and news of Daniel’s death sunk deep inside of him.

“Eight years after we both graduated from medical school, with help from the man who had adopted him, he founded this clinic, he named it DAMAR.
D-A from Daniel and M-A-R from my own name. He did this even though we weren’t yet married at the time”.

A long emotional silence circled the room.

“I love you Danny” She broke down completely now

“I’m… I’m.. deeply sorry, Mary” he voiced. He looked at her as the thought reaches him.

His chest would be beating with Doctor Daniel’s heart for the rest of his life. A boy he once deemed unfit to be in his class.

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Jonathan Oladeji

Damilola is a content curator and creator, he writes for the passion and the thrill. He has been published on Tuck Magazine, SGNT, VivaNaija and also shares some of his stories on jonathanoladeji.com. He has an eye for juicy content and loves to make brand ideas sell.

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