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Adaora Chinedu | Miracles That Come in Ampoules and Vials

You have stayed in the places you should exit, fighting to be seen, heard, loved. You have done many things you are not proud of but nothing ever prepares you for the heartbreaks that come from people you swore you could never leave. As you watch their backs peering through the elevator door, nothing can hold back the tears that follow, tears that flow from the part of your thoughts that hold them in places too sacred for your hands to reach.

So, my regret looks like this: I walked into the ICU. Resilience enclosed in a room. The white cranked-up beds, in Fowler’s position, flanked by two pillows. Ventilators, monitors that blink red and green lights, a crash cart, the ECG red, pink and purple electrodes—usually etched to the walls of the chest, it measures heartbeat, the dub rhythm of minutes left and perhaps the time the heart takes its last round of beat. Then on the other end is a suctioning machine, for the people begging, looking out of their life windows, constantly, for help.

And there you were lying on the bed to the right of the four blocks. You were separated from others. You had just returned from the theater. You were wearing anesthesia, so they secluded you in the inner room. They wanted you to recover soon, quietly; they were waiting for the sedation to wear off.

Gazing at the littleness of your stature, the innocence your frame exuded, I thought it excessively intense for your small body to borrow its breath from a ventilator. You were clenching your fist around it like a Saviour and that was all you needed. Even after you had had two other surgeries, after your brain had been repaired, something kept eating you on the inside—running wild and ruthless into the stem of your brain.

Behind the door were a team of neurosurgeons describing to your parents the structure of the brain. They were saying, “the brain is a tree—it has the branches or lobes, stems and the root. But in your little boy’s case, a tumor was growing into his brain stems, branching into every part.” And here, the words “chaos” and “catastrophe” resonated even deeper than dying itself. Chaos is a shattering—a permanent scattering of things belligerently impossible, even when they seem to present a plethora of chances to be saved, but keeps falling apart, without a center, a point of calling things to order.

II

The verb “to save” means: To rescue. To cut open. To dissect a thing. To declare a minute search in the body for a lost string of healthiness. To obliterate: exploratory laparotomy. To search for.  Like I was searching your face, your voice; I reached to you but my hands were too short to pick up the grits left in your will to stay another day and hope that the sutures will cover up your flaws, will cover the leaking roof over your head; the tiny chasm that kept selling out your secret to the world, that they kept coming back to search, to find you.

They had removed it before, and there it was now fiercer, arrogantly prying deeper, a lesion laying claim to your sacred matters, the root. When around you something breaks, you run. But how much more running will be left to do when everything inside of you is falling, failing, or cracking, or when your feet get too tired for flight?

Your father would let out a deep sigh, and your mother would say, “My little boy survived the first”, then fall under the gust of her tears and weep the burden of the years you were her spine. Her vertebrae must have crashed under the weight of your absence. She would weep, until her tears would dry up. Then she’d question God again. This time, with specifics, with assertion. She will ask, “Where do little boys go? Will my boy be well again? Can I see him again?” You know, questions are something I think heaven gets each day when people pass away; those left are always asking, “God why?” I wonder the look on his face whenever God is faced with the guilt of answering. I do not kill little children for my amusement, he would say. I save the glitters left in their eyes. I pluck their pieces and put them back into the room. Then I return them to earth, as stars, as flowers, as dews, as all the beautiful things they could not become. I make them a name out of myself.

In life, I have learned that there are types of betrayals. The type that creeps in, you do not notice till they happen. The other one is familiar; you have met them. The third, still deep water, like when you open a bag of surprise and it opens you up into a charade of excitement or abandonment, and you are emptied of self, and shame—there is no hiding from the world, you run, and run, till there is nothing to hide.

III

I shouldn’t have waved at you.

I don’t know if you were lying on that bed full of hope or deserted by them, but your eyes were timid, yet bright. A stranger could tell, I could tell. You know, I get excited when I walk into the hospital and discover that I’d be nursing a child. I came to your bed side and said hello, waving simultaneously. I waited a little longer for replies but you said nothing, so I walked away.

I know you had childhood fantasies. Like me, like all of us. Many of us at sixteen wanted to become medical doctors. We wanted to become one because our parents imagined us wearing ward coats with a stethoscope around our neck, as that would lend a prefix to their names— “Mummy Doctor,” “Daddy Doctor,”—at family gatherings. I don’t know if you wanted the same or you just wanted to grow into a cheeky stand-up comedian, a bartender, an artist, or a poet—like myself, who have learned to bury chaos and amazement between strings of metaphors.

I’m imagining what you loved most about life, what it was you wanted to make of it. I know you wanted to become something but life chooses a path for all of us and, of all things, a grave for us too. Life opens to all of us a book, and each day we write upon it words as carefree as love, anxiety, revenge, kindness, hurt, tears, people, things. Till they break our will, and bruise our tongue to silence. Two hours later, I’m writing this and wishing I hadn’t greeted you with my hand-waving. Waving forever. I promise, I wasn’t saying goodbye; I wanted you to stay, McCarthy. I’m sorry you got weary from waiting on the liquid miracles that come in ampoules and vials. You couldn’t wait but I wanted a chance to talk with you. These are just wishes now, little one. I hope you have found your voice now and can sing. I hope you are now wearing a beautiful body, where neither lesions, needles, nor ventilators exist.

Away, little one, we are here still hoping and dreaming. I will keep you alive in this essay, should you find it somewhere stacked on the bookshelf in your new home. When you find it, allow your smile to light up the entire room. You are in a happy place where blades cannot cut you open; as if in search of a medieval secret buried in time, with forceps and sutures; they assume stitches heal wounds. Here, sutures envelope our bodies like letters, then deliver us up to slaughter again. It doesn’t protect you from other lacerations. They thought they were saving you but they only created more rooms for things to eat you up. Grief ends, after all, with our last breaths; and we journey forward, reminded that life and death are the truths and gifts of living. Each given to us when our moments come—we cannot hide from the truth. At this moment, I’m wondering if you had said anything to me, what would it have been? Here I am making words off your silences, grieving and asking questions.

————

Image: Joshua Chehov on Unsplash

Adaora Chinedu
Adaora Chinedu
Adaora Chinedu is an Art, an Act of God. A Registered Nurse, and a free-spirited writer who bridges the gap between poetry and prose, she thinks beauty and broken are near-synonyms. Her works have appeared in Vowels Under Duress; A Poetry Anthology, Agbowo, Hyacinth Review, and other literary journals. When she is not reading new books, she is writing, reading poetry, and falling in love with the mushy smell of old books. You can connect with her on Twitter / X @adaora_chinedu

3 COMMENTS

  1. This is all shades of pathos – and intense. One finds oneself saying “So sorry!” Coming from a nurse, it puts the lie to the proverbial insensitivity of the profession. How do I say well-written for something so painful?!

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