LIFE!

The oxford dictionary basically defines life as the period between the birth and death of a living thing.

I don’t agree with this.

Sure, the bosses at Oxford got it right, but I prefer to think of life as two aspects of human existence – what you get and what you do with it.

Yes, I like to think of life as so because then, it doesn’t leave a huge weight on me; and that’s literally my philosophy towards everything; I give them small meanings so they don’t affect me so much. It’s become both a relief and a burden to me.

As you may have observed already, I’m Funke Brown.

Not Funky or Funkabella! (Some people just like to funkyfy my name when no be me send them). Just Funke! Ms. Brown, if you want to get all officious.

And this is the story of how I existed, a simple Lagosian girl with the craze called my life.

*

It all started one early Monday morning.

Now, many twenty-six year old girls (I don’t know them but I’m sure they exist) would normally wake up in the morning to work alarms or the muscles and warmth of a boyfriend. But that’s not me. Oh no. I must have depressed both the answer and speakerphone button on my phone somehow, because I woke up to the grating voice of my best friend, Isaac, as he ranted on, not even aware that I wasn’t properly on the other end.

“Girl, where you dey? Our shift starts in like twenty minutes. Do you want Mrs. Etim to kill you?”

He kept going on and on like that.

Note to self: Never get a part-time job as a nurse in my next reincarnation, especially if your best friend works side-by-side with you.

I wouldn’t have had to though, if I made enough money moonlighting as a DJ.

I didn’t realize when I used my hand to smack the Samsung out of my bed. The rant was cut off abruptly when the phone clattered to the floor. I groaned. Hopefully, I hadn’t shattered the screen. It’d just be typical of me to set off one problem while taking care of another.

Groaning still, I sluggishly got up from my bed and reached for the phone. It was fine. Thank God! I headed for the bathroom. En route, I walked past the full length mirror, catching a glimpse of my unattractive reflection – one hand rummaging through a halo of messy hair and the other scratching my butt. I cringed. The horror of my morning look!

And you wonder why you don’t have a boyfriend, Funke.

You know how girls on instagram go: ‘I WOKE UP LIKE THIS’? Well, mine would be a bit different: ‘I WAKE UP LIKE SHIT!” Hair sticking out in a tangled mess as though I’d been electrocuted, my usually perky boobs sagging for some reason under my worn peignoir, and my dark skin protesting for a new moisturizer.

Not helping your self esteem, Funke!

Note to Self: Get rid of this mirror… Or at least, move it away from the position between the bed and the bathroom.

I hastened into the bathroom, and in record time, I’d had my bath and dressed up in the hospital nursing colour code for Monday – black and white. I snatched my phone and my bag and hurried out of my boxy, self-contained apartment. Just as I got to the gate of the compound, I realized I hadn’t brushed my teeth.

So I went back in!

Just kidding, I didn’t.

I decided I’d settle for the mouth-refresher crash course of Milkose or Tom-Tom when I got to the bus park.

***

Because of the location of my accommodation, it’s usually hard to find public transport early in the morning. So I’d usually have to walk all the way to the bus stop. But I was really very late. The reality of Mrs. Etim’s wrath was starting to set in. That woman makes whatever evil mother-in-law character that Patience Ozokwor takes on in Nollywood films seem like the fairy godmother. Plus she spits when she’s berating you. Her saliva on my face plus my unwashed mouth on a Monday morning – not my portion in Jesus’ name!

I had to call an Uber. The ride turned up in record time, complete with functional air conditioning, comfortable new leather seats and an interior that smelled of lavender.

I could get used to this.

I sat in the back and tried to pretend I was the madam of a conglomerate, you know, the sequel of Folorunsho Alakija, being chauffeured to her fiefdom. And then I glanced at the window and beyond, I spotted a guy and a girl canoodling. I gaped at them; they were basically one smooch away from getting down and dirty right there on the side of the road. I noticed the few pedestrians out that early in the morning threw them looks that ranged from embarrassment to amusement. But the lovers, who looked to be in their thirties, didn’t look abashed. In fact, they didn’t seem to notice the world beyond them as the girl clung to the front of her man’s shirt and gazed up at him with adoring expression in between brief kisses.

I rolled my eyes as I grunted, “Honeys, do this somewhere more private please.”

I mean, this is Naija for chrissakes. No one wants to see PDA, except as newspaper headlines that scream the words: PRESIDENT DIES AGAIN!

I hissed and looked away from them as my taxi pulled ahead. For a fleeting moment, I wondered why the unabashed affection of the couple had bothered me so much. Then I happened upon two words: LOVE SUCKS!

I hadn’t grown up as a girl who believed in pink and frilly things and fairytales and all the accouterments of happily-ever-after. Plainly put, I’d never being a believer of love. At twenty-six, I’d only ever been in one relationship, and as though to buttress my point that men were just no good for anything long term or emotionally exclusive, the relationship hadn’t ended well.

Sure, I had crushes – multiple crushes, in fact. But they usually ended there, never manifesting into anything that’d pose a nuisance to my daily routine.

And while I attributed my faithlessness in commitments to the many douchebags my mother dated since my father passed away when I was a child, much was also to be credited to the annoying way Hollywood presented love to be. All that last-minute, airport-dashing, light-bulb-moment romance movies had started to sicken me when I was barely twenty.

I mean, seriously, Julia Roberts, ya just had to realize Dermot Mulroney was the love of your life when he was all set to walk down the aisle with his sweet bride?

Ugh! Kill me now!

A cussword jerked me out of my musing, and I turned to the driver to see him ramming his feet down on the brake panel of the car.

“What’s going on?” I queried, feeling faint unease begin to coil inside me.

He didn’t respond. Instead, he kept struggling with the wheel and jamming his feet down, swearing as he did. Beads of moisture had sprung up on his temples.

“What the hell is going on, driver?” I said in a loud squeak.

“Madam, it’s brake –”

“What!” I screeched. “You took your car out on the road without servicing your brakes?!” Panic snowballed inside me as I turned to grab at the door handle. “Please stop this car right now, let me get down!”

“I can’t stop –!”

“Stop this car!” I shrieked when he made a swift swerve in order to avoid ramming a couple of pedestrians who’d started crossing the road. The people darted back to the side of the road and swore after us. “Please, stop this car! Please! Please!” I screamed over and over again.

A car pushed into the road from a corner on the right, and the driver swerved again to avoid hitting it. This time, his tyres squealed in protest as he struggled to get it under control. The taxi swiveled a bit and careened towards a concrete post.

The post leaped forward and I stared at it, a silent scream coming from the depths of my soul as I watched a certain end approach speedily toward me. In that quick moment, my life began to flash before my eyes – and it was right then that I realized I hadn’t been doing much with my time on earth.

It was also right then that I blacked out before I heard the sickening crunch of metal against concrete.

***

I woke up to find myself in a small room painted white. I could hear beeping sounds and a couple of voices. At first, everything was kind of blurry, but soon, the mists began to solidify into shapes and discernible forms.

I groaned as I moved and a bearded man clad in a white jacket immediately materialized to my side. Looking beyond him, I saw two people that caused me to groan.

My mother and my younger brother! Oh God! I now want to die!

“Funke! Funke!” Mother was already calling out from behind the white-jacketed man, who I supposed was a doctor. She pushed past the doctor to take my hand, her face suffused with worry and cautious relief. “Funke, can you hear me?”

I groaned yet again and was still trying to find my voice when she instantly panicked. “Jesu o! Omo mi ti di ode!

Inwardly, I rolled my eyes. Mother could be such a Yoruba woman.

“Calm down, Mrs. Brown,” the doctor said to her and then turned to face me. “Funke can you hear and see us?”

It was then I realized who was talking to me. The man was Dr. Osondu, one of the attendants in the hospital where I worked. I was in my hospital!

“What’s going on?” the words flew out of my mouth in a croak.

Mother sighed with audible relief and Doctor Osondu smiled.

“You’re a lucky girl, that’s what,” he said, smiling through his beard. “Do you remember anything?”

“What happened?” I asked again, shaking my head slightly and poking delicately into my memory banks.

“The taxi you were lost control of its brakes and was headed to a roadside post –”

“Yeah,” my brother hurriedly interjected, “when the driver suddenly swerved and jammed an okada that was speeding past, which was carrying a man and his family of three. All those innocent lives…” He effected a shudder of abject horror.

I gasped.

“Eniola, will you stop scaring your sister!” Mother chastised, raising her hand to strike him on the back of his head with the purse in it.

Eniola easily dodged the swing of her hand and threw me an unrepentant grin.

The doctor continued, “The uber driver hit the post, but aside from the damage to the car, no lives were lost. He’s fine too. You lost consciousness, but he was mostly awake during the impact.”

I sighed.

“So how do you feel?” Mother asked as she began touching my neck and face with her palm, in a bid to feel my temperature.

“I’m fine, mum,” I rasped.

“Did you see the light?” Eniola asked, and then he paused to reevaluate his question, before saying again, “Wait, what am I even asking? Did you see the darkness?” He burst out laughing.

I gave him a look that promised untold pain for him when I got better and out of this hospital bed.

“Why don’t we give Funke sometime to rest,” Doctor Osondu suggested.

Eniola left the room at once. Mother had to led firmly out by the doctor; she kept staring back at me until the door was shut behind her.

Once I was alone in the ward, the morning I’d had so far began to come back to me. The memories rushed in with a fierceness that made me wince from the mental pressure. I remembered the accident and the realization I’d had right before I lost consciousness.

I was in spinning tracks in a nightclub, with its bubbling atmosphere and spinning lights. And in every corner, I could see people moving, dancing and snuggled up next to each other. There was a certain reckless abandon that was in the air as they all groped, caressed, smooched and ground up against their partners to the beat of the music. The music I was churning out from the solitary corner reserved for the DJ.

I was alone.

And I shouldn’t have cared, seeing as I was a love cynic. But I had. In those racy few seconds before I blacked out in the doomed uber, I’d cared that I was alone.

And now, on the hospital bed, as my mind was saturated with that vision, I realized that the universe had been trying to tell me something, and what the message was.

TO BE CONTINUED.

Written by The Reverend

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