This story is set in the University of Ibadan Campus. Apart from the settings, all events narrated in the story are fictional. Any resemblance to any person or character, dead or alive, is purely coincidental.
It was 7:09pm, the lecturer had just left the fixed marketing class and I was packing my books into my backpack when Cynthia, a course-mate, walked over to me and asked for the whereabouts of Aramide.
“I don’t know”, I told her; “I did not really notice her in class today”.
“Probably, she didn’t come”, She said.
“Nah…nah…nah…I doubt that”, I replied, shaking my head, “Only death would keep Aramide from class.” I concluded, laughing softly.
“Then where could she have gone to?” She asked.
Actually, I had no idea where she could be at that moment, nor did I, any idea, of where she had been, since the night of that incident at the faculty quadrangle. I had been avoiding her religiously since that night. I could not bear the passionate torments of the tremendous emotions she had triggered in me since that night; neither could I decipher its significance. So, I resolved to “dodge” her. I did not call her mobile phone and did not pick her calls when she did call mine.
“Ehm…maybe you should ask one of her friends around”, I said to Cynthia. As if on cue, Benedicta, Aramide’s friend and hostel mate came into view. “Ehn-ehn…that’s one”, I almost exclaimed, “Benedicta, you can ask her.” I said, pointing to her.
“Thank you.” Cynthia replied and walked towards Benedicta.
I knew I could not run away forever from Aramide, but I was just not ready to meet her yet. I had to know the meaning of the feelings she arouses in me anytime I even made the slightest mistake of thinking about her, something I had not been able to stop doing since that night.
I finished packing my things and I left the lecture room. I was zipping up my backpack and at the same time walking to the Nescafe lounge, directly in front of the lecture room, to grab a cup of coffee, when I heard Cynthia call my name. I turned around to see her running towards me, alarm boldly written on her face.
“Mac…Mac…Mac…”, She shouted, almost bumping into me, “Come now!” She literally ordered me, breathing heavily and gesturing frantically with her hands for me to follow her.
I stood still where I was, looking at her with indifference.
“What is it?” I asked her, raising my eyebrows questioningly.
“Aramide”, She said simply and started to walk back towards the direction she came from.
That got my attention instantly. I dropped my backpack on the spot and ran after her.
“What happened?” I asked her, immediately worried, “Where is she?”
“Beside the small lecture theatre…at that space in-between the lecture theatre and the ladies’ toilet.” She replied, her fast walk breaking into a jog at that moment.
I did not wait to ask her any other question. I ran as fast as I could and got there in seconds. I saw Aramide there, sitting on a dried tree stump, gasping heavily and struggling for breath frenetically. Two other ladies stood in front of her, fanning her vigorously with lecture notes. Had it not been for the serious gravity of the situation, I might have burst into laughter at the comical manner these two ladies were wielding their lecture notes-turned-fans as if their lives depended on it.
My worry turned to fear instantly.
“What happened? What is it?” I asked, trying to catch my breath.
“Asthma”, Benedicta, one of the ladies said, looking at me hopefully.
“Asthma…asthma…asthma”, I repeated to myself, turning my back on them and thinking hard, my heart thumping wildly, when realization suddenly dawned on me. Her inhaler!
“Where is her inhaler?” I asked hastily, turning around.
“She said she forgot it in her room”, Oyinda, the other lady replied.
“What!!!” I exclaimed loudly.
Cynthia, who just arrived at the place, almost jumped out of her skin.
“What happened?” She asked.
I ignored her question, so did the other two ladies.
“She forgot what?” I asked, turning to face Aramide herself, “How could you have forgotten something as precious as that to you in your room?” I asked her, “Are you crazy or what?”
The fear in me mixed with anger, and their foul combination were turning my insides upside down. I was so helpless at that moment; I did not know what to do. I began to walk away, towards the faculty entrance, thinking hard.
“Mac, where are you going?” Cynthia asked.
I did not reply; I continued to walk.
“God!” I thought, “This lady must not die. What do I do now?” I asked myself, really perplexed. I knew at that particular moment that I would not be able to bear it if she died. Like a sudden thunderstorm, it dawned on me then, that I loved her, more than I ever thought I did and could ever love a woman. Like an avalanche, I suddenly realized that she held the key to my happiness and completeness and that if she died, I might never be happy again.
These thoughts fastened my pace subconsciously and I walked towards the faculty entrance as if a force was pulling me towards the place. As I got to the quadrangle, I noticed that it was deserted, most of the students had gone, but there was this fair complexioned, slim lady sitting on one of the round cement seats under the trees, with a tabloid in her hands, using the Wi-Fi probably. I did not know what got into me; I just walked up to her.
“Hi” I greeted.
“Hi” She replied.
“Please, do you by chance…have an inhaler?” I found myself asking her, squeezing my face uncertainly.
“Yeap” She answered and without further questions, she opened her purse and brought out a pink one. I took it from her and started to run back, towards where Aramide was.
“Thank you!” I shouted over my back, not even pausing to look at my benefactor.
By the time I got back there, Aramide’s gasps were noisier and her struggle for breath was getting weaker. Hurriedly, I gave the inhaler to her and she began to spray the content into her mouth, inhaling it with all the strength that still remained in her. Without hesitating at all, I lifted her up and began to carry her outside the faculty grounds, towards the Students’ Union Building car-park. When I got to the tarred road, I saw a chartered cab dropping a woman beside the lawn tennis court.
“Hey!” I shouted at the driver before he could drive off. He reversed the car; I opened the back door, placed Aramide on the seat gently and got in after her.
“Jaja straight!” I ordered the driver and he compliantly stepped on the accelerator, driving so fast as if he was in a car race. We got to Jaja, the university health clinic, in less than four minutes. I opened the door, literally threw a #200 note at the driver, carried Aramide and started to walk-run towards the clinic entrance, not bothering to ask for my change from the driver.
I looked at Aramide; she was still spraying the ventolin in the inhaler into her mouth, but it looked as if it was not working for her. I walked into the reception area and shouted “Nurse!” Two nurses appeared and rushed at me almost instantly.
“Asthma” I said to them and they nodded knowingly as they took Aramide from my hands and carried her towards the inner wards, shouting several instructions to their colleagues.
I ran back outside and met the cab driver waiting for me.
“Oga, your change Sir”, He said as I approached him.
I was touched by his fairness and honesty and my heart melted.
“Thank you Sir, God bless you.” I said as I accepted the naira notes he extended towards me.
“How is she?” He asked.
“She will be fine”, I replied, “They are attending to her.”
“May God heal her o”, He prayed, getting into his car.
“Amen Sir”, I said.
He started the car and drove away. I looked up and I saw Benedicta, Oyinda and Cynthia walking towards me, with my backpack and Aramide’s in their hands.
“Where is she?” Oyinda asked, as soon as they were very close to me.
“She’s been admitted”, I answered, “You girls, please stay here and attend to whatever the doctor or nurses might ask you to bring or do. I have to do some things.” I said to them.
They all nodded and I ran off. I ran to Aramide’s hall of residence, Queen Idia Hall, and called the phone number of one of her roommates that I had on my phone. She picked the call and I hurriedly told her what happened. I then instructed her to carefully search for Aramide’s inhaler and if possible, her Jaja card and bring it to the hall gate. She did so in minutes and she came down and handed them over to me. She then promised to visit her at the clinic when she is done with cooking.