Pelemo

Nigeria

"Whatever you can imagine is real," Pablo Picasso.

A Little Light

December 8, 2019


The metal bed beneath me was unbearably cold, nipping the back of my thigh, as I stayed in the position of which I was instructed. The radiographer walked back into the room and adjusted the heavy x-ray equipment overhead saying, "hold on, please. This is the last one." So I stayed in the agonizing pose until he returned and said "you can leave," while prying the flat panel x-ray detector from underneath my iron-sheathed leg. 

I sat in the consultation room with my crutches in hand, nibbling on a keratinous nail, as my mother and I waited for the doctor to give his assessment on my recovery. I hoped for the best, but expected nothing above mediocre, because I was aware of my shortcomings in physical therapy. My dependency on others was plausible, considering my health predicament. However, I had become so lazy over the years that it was detrimental to my recovery. So I wasn't surprised when the doctor said, "the irons won't be removed this month. They will be taken out next year, she needs intense physiotherapy." 

My mother was very displeased, but not astounded. She chastised me as I trudged guiltily to the car, waving a stubby finger in the air as she yelled. The ilisarov irons in my leg were unusually weighty that day. Passersby glanced, but most gawked at the anomaly. Some of their faces showed disgust, and others, commiseration. Nonetheless, I shunned the prying eyes and went about my life.

I have always tagged myself as disabled, and so has the world. I've isolated myelf even though all I've always wanted is to feel alive. Through exotic adventures, and even through the simplest of things like doing house chores. However, my pillow is the closest thing I have to a friend. It wipes my tears and listens to my fears and dreams without ever responding. At least it doesn't judge me or gape at me in pity.

On the ride back home, I wondered what that Christmas would be like. If I'd only just look at the world from my bedroom window again, imagining and not experiencing, like I'd done for the past four years. Or if I'd go out into the winds of harmattan, and be a first hand witness of the scorching heat of the December, Abuja sun. But every Christmas is the same monotony of excess food and colourless dreams.

The morning chilly breeze of harmattan is what tells me that christmas is near. It's evident in the chapped and cracked lips of the people; in the moisture seeping out of the pores of our skins as soon as we moisturise them; the dehydrated arid lands yearning for an outpour of precipitation; withered leaves falling to the ground like in the season of autumn. Harmattan is a paradox. Early in the morning, and late at night, harmattan whispers a lull and breathes a crisp, soothing air, that can have you clutching a duvet. Meanwhile, at noon, she can leave you gasping for air in fiery heat. 

Nonetheless, it is my favourite season. A season of transformation. Old leaves wither and fresh ones grow, dead skin is shed to make room for the new. It makes me ponder about the year ahead, and wander back to the concluding year. 

Living with a disability hasn't been a walk in the park for me. It's been years of looking at picturesque views from windows, instead of up close. It's been four years wondering what it feels like to simply saunter around a mall festooned with Christmas decorations, what it feels like to dance on my feet. It's been years of wondering what it feels like not to wonder, but to live and experience. Years of dreaming of being on the field instead of the bleachers.

The car came to a stop by the roadside, rousing me back to reality. Mother said she was only going to take ten minutes, but I knew she would probably take sixty.

The open market was boisterous as always, filled with spirited people trying to make earnings, and customers, ruthlessly bargaining. They often end up buying foodstuff or products for half their original price. It was the norm of the Nigerian marketplace. 

I clapped buzzing flies away and wiped lingering sweat from my forehead, as the swelter of the outdoors consumed me. Suddenly, a one-legged boy approached me. He looked unkempt in a raggedy white t-shirt and patterned shorts. The boy's armpits were skillfully balanced on wooden crutches, he stretched his lanky arms into the window, uttering something in Hausa. In his pleading eyes, his prepubescence was evident, he definitely wasn't older than eleven years old. I rummaged my bag for some money to give him, and I found a fifty-naira note. He said thank you in his dialect when he collected it. There was an innocence in his smile, something so genuine. He swung over to a group of children standing by a vegetable stall and they all beamed with laughter and played with youthful exuberance. 

The corners of my mouth turned up in a contagion smile. Happiness can also be found beside vegetable stalls, in the laughter and innocence of underprivileged children. A boy with an amputated leg could limp from car to car, struggling to get his daily bread. Disabilities can only disable you when you limit yourself.

So this year, I am going to step out of the confines of my mind. I am going to experience, I am going to walk, unafraid of people's opinions. I am going to feel the sun, and tell stories of my first adventure in four years, outside the white paint of my bedroom walls. 

 

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  • December 8, 2019 - 5:28pm (Now Viewing)

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