In the weeks that followed Achi's departure, I was unable to withstand the sound of my ringing phone. Every time it rang my heart skipped a beat. I kept holding my breath whenever it was my dad or one of my brothers, worse if it was Mrs Muyinda. Consequently, I started keeping the ringer off. I depended on the vibration of my smartwatch. I was in agony. But at least I was not unaware.
The insomnia was getting the best of me, and I was feeling so stupid feeling all these complicated emotions for someone I was not even in a relationship with. I looked forward to being at work sometimes because at home Thulani was asking me questions about when his daddy would be home, it was draining. Heartbreaking to see the disappointment wash over his face every single time. For his age, he was so mature, a little boy with an ancient soul. I guess it was from growing up with his grandparents.
My son and I were emotionally distant, I could not understand him sometimes. Not the way my mother and father did, partly I hated them for it. Mostly I hated myself. It would be so much easier to give him up and let him go and stay with his grandparents but I could not. I was too selfish.
So I found myself using my weekends as the transporter, moving my son between his grandparents like a borrowed video tape. It was not as sad as i am putting it, free meals were always welcome, and often free babysitting helped me focus on work knowing he was safe and well taken care of.
I promised Achi's mom I would take him over for holidays when school closed, Thulani was looking forward to it. Almost as much as he was looking forward to seeing his daddy. Every morning during the school run I got asked how many more days before closing.
I was working from the maternity ward, not my strong suit but I was pushing myself through each day.
It was Monday, a new week with the same old problems. I dropped Thulani off at school and joined the heavy great east road traffic just to go across to the hospital from Munali. This was why sometimes i just walked. Walking was give or take 5 minutes, Achi's car took me 30 minutes of cursing and slamming my steering wheel. I used to pride myself in clean language, but the road rage took over and most of the 30 minutes to work was a string of curses.
There were four patients scheduled for C-sections for the day so that pretty much translated into spending all day on my feet. That was why I told myself driving would be easier, I was wrong. The energy around me even as I parked the car was negative and polluted.
Luckily having studied abroad, I was not required to use my intelligence in theatre, I relegated to observing, the resident surgeon was kind and he liked to teach, just not to teach me. My first few months had been about proving myself, showing that I was competent and not just pretty to look at. We had these tell me what you know contests that the residents enjoyed putting me through. I was treated like a student doctor and I refused to let that treatment upset me. I had already done the HPCZ competence exams so if someone needed more proof that I was qualified, I was not going out of my way to provide it.
Being in surgery and not operating was much like watching a chess game and not playing, you still get a headache from watching. I assisted through three c-sections passing the surgeon blades and doing most of the things a theatre nurse should do. The theatre nurses would look at me and I would smile back.
On the fourth patient, the scalpel was thrust into my hands, and I was ordered to cut. The baby was in breach position with the umbilical cord around the neck. I cut, summoning everything I had learned from Enrique Caberera the University Teaching hospital I worked at in Cuba. The operation was a success.
We delivered a baby boy and the mothers plcenta and I stitched her up. It was after 16 when I got out of theatre and managed to check my phone. Zolani had picked up Thulani from school and gone home with him, she was a Godsend. i prayed that she and Bhek would oneday welcome kids of their own.
There was a missed call from a strange number. i looked up the country code and nothing came up. I tried to call back but the number wasn't going through. I was worried but I ignored the still small voice that told me something was wrong. I mean Mrs Muyinda would have left me a message, or tried to call me. Or Henry even though we were not exactly friendly, he would have said something.
I drove home after work, thinking only about getting there and washing off the smell of theatre. Making a hot bowl of soup and going to get Thulani from my brothers place. but when I turned into my road I immediately noticed the Military Landcruiser that was parked off the road next to my wallfence. Two uniformed men were up front, none of them was Achindikwe.
It felt like everything around me was moving slowly, I blinked even as I pressed the remote to open my gate, I could hear blood rushing in my ears. I kept wondering why this car was here, where was Achi?
As i drove into my compound, I noticed my neighbor was peeping at me from her window, as I parked the car in the shelter I could still feel her eyes watching me. I as I came out of the car, and walked to the gate that was when I saw one of the Officers coming out of the Landcruiser. He removed his maroon baret and recognition immediately set in.
Achi, a small smile played on his lips. Relief flooded through me, I realsied then that I had been holding breath this whole time. There were tears in my eyes and I had to blink fast so he wouldn't see them. For the sake of our son I decided it was okay for him to see my tears and for me to hug him.