I took another glance at the photo book sitting on my shelf as I swept my room yesterday and shed tears remembering stories we never forget. I always almost doubt that I once had a cheerful side. In the first picture was Ayo, on the far right, Kimberly in the middle and myself, at the far left, each of us taking a bite off our respective snacks.
I recalled the day the picture was taken. It was on March 2, 2007, exactly two weeks after Kimberly’s treatment, and we went to celebrate the success of her chemotherapy session. The three of us were a thing. We were always together, and it didn’t take long before Ayo and me started catching feelings for the girl in our midst. I was the latest addition to their crew but there was something that sparked among us the Thursday morning our paths crossed at the Faculty of Health Sciences building.
On that day, I noticed people were laughing at me but I couldn’t tell why. It was until a beautiful lady walked up to me. “Tarzan,” she called out, half-talking, half-laughing. My face creased in worry.
She smiled, “That’s what people over there are calling you,” and turned to some persons avoiding my gaze. “They’re calling you the name because of your tie. Who knotted it? Who did this wicked thing to you?”
I looked at my tie and laughed at myself. “It was my neighbour.”
“Your neighbour is a girl, right?” And without waiting for an answer continued, “Wait, let me guess: you’ve been disturbing your neighbour for something, may be a relationship. So she decided to shut you up. She should be a very mean person. And I like her.”
I giggled. I didn’t know when she loosened and rearranged the tie. “There you are. A premium fine man. Now, all the guys with girlfriends in this school are not safe.”
I chuckled, “Abi? So, are you safe?”
She laughed and prodded my arm. “Don’t be silly. I’m safe. I don’t have a boyfriend yet, but there’s no way I’m falling for Tarzan.”
“We would see about that then, Miss—”
“Kimberly. Kimberly Omolola Dara is my name. Let’s see about that then.”
She shook my hands and left quickly to join a guy waiting for her some distance away. Some days later, I discovered the young man’s name was Ayo.
IN THE SECOND PICTURE,
Kimberly was all smiles, holding my hand and eating the candy floss we both shared but funnily, Ayo wasn’t sharing much in our joy. I’d like to always remember him as the boyfriend Kimberly never had. The relationship he had with her was an unofficial one—she took him as a bestie, while he took her as his girlfriend. And joining their little circle soon made us unspoken rivals because his love interest slowly turned to a love triangle.
I soon realised that Kimberly enjoyed hanging out with me. At first, it was because I had a very high sense of humour and was often called ‘weirdly-unique’; later on, she just naturally enjoyed my company and all the ‘wahala’ I brought along.
In that picture, we were having a good time at the amusement park our faculty took us to celebrate Students Week. I recalled her impromptu question that day, “How would you live your life if you knew you had barely a year to live?”, and I felt bad that I didn’t give any tangible answer. I told her instead to stop worrying about philosophy and psychology and all those things we discussed when we were participating in debate sessions. Still recall her subtle smile and her quick diversion, “Would you attend our debate meeting tomorrow evening? I would like to go heads against you. You know I enjoy making your team look foolish, right?”
IN THE THIRD, FOURTH AND FIFTH PICTURES,
Kimberly was holding her awards. She won the prize of the best speaker and best team in a debate competition she partook in. In her acceptance speech, she thanked her friends and family and specifically wished to attend the following year’s event. I recalled smiling sheepishly as she called me and Ayo to join her in her pictures. Although that wasn’t the first time I was joining her to receive an honorary award, I still felt shy because I was standing next to the Vice-Chancellor of the school—a feat that made me realise that indeed Kimberly was a Trophy Babe.
THE SIXTH PICTURE
Was torn in half. I tore it because I was jealous of Femi, Kimberly’s department president. In it, she was hugging him so tightly and as I continued looking at it, the tautness in my chest increased. She served as one of his executives and at the department’s dinner night, was excited and hugged him.
“Mind your business, Emeka,” she defended when I confronted her few days later. “Tell me, Emeka, are you jealous?”
The truth is I was jealous. It irked me to see her hugging every guy we met on the road while we walked together. It irked me more when she told me to give her enough distance if I couldn’t watch her being happy with people she had known long before I came into her life.
I tore Femi out of the picture because I wanted to be the one to be pressed against two soft pillows and that picture was the last time I saw her smile that hard. I tore Femi out of the picture because it was him who told me the tragic news of Kimberly’s health: she had Stage IV Cancer.
It felt terrible that in the year-and-three months I was friends with Kimberly, I was completely kept in ignorance of her failing health. Worse was that he had called me to report immediately at the School Teaching Hospital that Thursday morning, I would have lived all my life with the belief that Kimberly never wanted to have anything to do with me again—till she was no more.
THE SEVENTH PICTURE
Was the patient card bearing the name, Omolola Kimberly Dara. She was recovering from her chemotherapy session when I met her in the hospital.
“Explain what this means to me,” I demanded, feeling betrayed that I was left out of a major part of her life. She told me not to worry, that it was no big deal, but I didn’t have it. I insisted that she told me the truth and she did. She told me that the doctors said she had less than a year to live and should make many memories with her little time left but she was hopeful that she would live longer than that because God never fails. I held her hands and the lightness of her hands made me cringe. I promised her that I would capture every moment I have with her and keep them for memory’s sake.
She smiled. She assured me that she would love to show her children the pictures of their mom in University days, being a Slay Queen-Church girl and living life to the fullest.
IN THE EIGHT PICTURE,
Kimberly, Ayo and I were in class two weeks after her discharge. I didn’t exactly recall what was happening there that prompted a picture to be taken. However, since I promised to capture every moment I shared with her, I decided to print every picture of her or both of us I came across. In the picture, Ayo’s eyes were fixated on her cleavages unknowing to Kimberly and I. Like me, he also had a crush on her and wanted her to himself. I believe that was what prompted the ninth picture: a devastating picture of Kimberly in the hospital bed, fighting for her life.
Some few days after the eight picture was taken, I travelled home to tidy some few stuff. In that period, I practically left Kimberly in Ayo’s hands, inquiring of her health status every now and then. His replies were always positive. I couldn’t reach out to Kimberly directly because she was advised to stop using her phone because of her phone call and social media anxiety. And since her parents were late, she had only a senior sister, Tolulope—that strongly disliked me but liked Ayo—as a relative around.
One day, while checking my archived group chats on WhatsApp, I came across a distress call—backdated five days before I saw the message—requesting for blood donors for somebody in our faculty. And to be sincere, I didn’t have any clue who it would have been because I recalled speaking with Ayo the previous afternoon and he told me that Kimberly was sleeping when I asked about her. Out of curiosity, I asked the lady who posted about the urgency of the blood transfusion in our faculty group chat.
“Emeka, I’m not ready for these your games today,” she replied, her voice dry, over the phone.
“What do you mean by that?” I spat at her.
“You are just looking for who to engage you in these long talks. And I’m not going to be the one. If it’s my village people that sent you to disturb me, tell them you didn’t see me. You are doing like you don’t know that it’s Dara that’s in need of an urgent blood transfusion.
“How many Dara’s do you know? It’s the one in Medical Laboratory Science department. The one you always follow around.”
“Wait,” I interrupted, “Do you mean Omolola Kimberly Dara? That’s the only girl I move with.”
“Yes. I think that’s her full name. I only know her as Dara MLS.”
To say I was shocked was an understatement. The next day, I was on the road and heading to the hospital where she was. The first thing I wanted to do was to smack Ayo’s face so hard that his mandible would pull out of his jaw but I refrained myself because I needed to see Kimberly and ensure she was fine. When I got there, three persons were there. They came to check if their blood samples matched hers so they would donate for her.
“WHY ARE YOU JUST COMING NOW?”
One of them asked. I knew her to be Kimberly’s lodge mate. “Didn’t you know she has been ill since last week?”
“How many pints of blood does she need? Do you know her blood group?” I asked, very irritant.
“Why are you shouting at me Emeka? After disappearing for so long, you are coming now to form good boyfriend. Me, I want Kimberly to end up with him. He’s such a gentleman,” she said, turning her head to the direction Ayo sat.
Because I didn’t want her to know that her words were a scorpion sting on my buttocks, I asked, “Where is the doctor that is testing the blood samples? I want to meet him.”
AFTER THE SAMPLES WERE COLLECTED AND TESTED,
I discovered that my blood didn’t match hers. Mine was A+ and hers was O- and it would be fatal to donate blood to her because I was told that doing so would make her blood react to mine and thus, make hers clot, something the doctor said was ABO blood group incompatibility. She was said to need over eight pints of blood and sadly, only one out of the three donors was a match to her.
The next day, Ayo asked if it was possible for me to donate blood and then swap it with another in the hospital’s blood bank but the request was declined on the grounds that her condition was critical and needed fresh blood.
Ayo then suggested we asked good people in our school to donate money for her blood transfusion. Some moments later, her sister brought a pastor that boldly declared that we shouldn’t gather the money for the blood transfusion but instead, use it to sow a ‘powerful seed’ in his church. I blatantly dismissed the idea but Ayo and Tolulope were not having it.
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Pastor Femi asked that we requested her to be discharged. I held my grounds that her blood percentage was below 20% and asking for a discharge was more or less asking for an euthanasia, but I couldn’t do much because I was not her next-of-kin. Surprisingly, after his prayers—after paying almost five hundred thousand naira—Kimberly woke up. Pastor Femi declared her healed of cancer and told her to never doubt God by going to conduct another test.
IN THE TENTH PICTURE,
Kimberly, Ayo and I were dressed up for the Fresher’s Night party. Some minutes before the pictures were taken, she complained of a biting pain in her belly and then, I suggested she took drugs.
“Why are you looking at me in that funny way?” she asked, adjusting the strap of her bra.
“I don’t know, maybe you should take your drugs,” I suggested, reaching out to her and adjusting the strap of her bra properly, “There you go, missy. You sure are going to make some guys hard tonight in this hot gown.”
She giggled, “People like you, abi? You think I don’t notice how you look at me with those eyes like you want to do really nasty things to me.” She moved towards the mirror, “I just want to have fun tonight because life is short and you know we only live once, right?”
I never realised that she had been noticing me for a while. “But seriously Kimberly, it’s four months since you miraculously woke up from the hospital bed. Don’t you think you should at least get a test done to confirm you’re completely healed of cancer?”
Her smile dropped. “Emeka, I thought we’ve been through this before. You’re one very faithless guy, Tarzan. I thought by now, you’ll know the potency of Pastor Femi. I don’t need any chemotherapy sessions anymore because I have faith. I’m healed. In fact, I can never be sick again. Cancer can never be in my body. For a while now, I have not taken any drug whatsoever and I am perfectly fine. Aren’t you a Christian? Don’t you know that God Never Fails?”
At that moment, Ayo walked in. He noticed the tension in the air, but Kimberly dismissed his suspicion.
IN THE ELEVENTH PICTURE,
I was hugging Kimberly dearly. The picture was taken about an hour after the tenth. While her breasts rested against my chest, hand in hand, taking in the breath of the other, she thanked me for making her life something worth remembering. In the background, Ayo stood, clapping for us, smiling—a curt smile.
After the Fresher’s Night Party, I went home because the year was almost ending. I hoped for the New Year to bring in happiness and joy and a stronger friendship between Kimberly and me. I decided that upon resumption, I would boldly ask her to be my girlfriend.
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THE TWELFTH AND THIRTEENTH PICTURES
Are that of Kimberly’s death certificate and lying in state respectively. Her system shut down on December 30, 2007 after struggling for life for about four days.
I confronted Ayo in her memorial service. “Why didn’t you tell me that she was sick?” I was held back by people so I won’t punch him on the face. “Now, Kimberly is dead. Are you happy now?”
He looked at me with bloodshot eyes, “Get out! What difference would it have made if I told you?”
When I discovered that she was in his house the day of her attack, I felt so bad because I knew I would have been proactive if I were in his shoes. However, my heart shattered when I learnt that she was naked at the time she was rushed to the hospital and he only had briefs on.
After her burial, I dropped out of school. I never forgave Ayo or Tolulope though. Since then, on every December 30, I recall Kimberly’s affirmation, “God never fails” and cry.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Writer: Arinze Daniel Udoye
Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Anambra State, Nigeria.
Arinze Daniel Udoye, a student of medical rehabilitation and physiotherapy, in Nnamdi Azikiwe university is a talented creative writer. When he’s not a student, he’s a hype man, actor, copywriter, and a creative writer. He enjoys pulling emotional strings in his readers.