Abel Kaikai. He silently sat in the room feeling tired of the number of times he had analyzed the pictures on the wall together with the invisible roach hideouts. Repeatedly he tapped the desk in front of him-who could blame him? Again, he gazed at the antique clock then turned to his watch as if the time indicated by the clock was inaccurate. It had only been 10 minutes. The door-knob turned. Adrenaline and anxiety surged through him. In the doctor walked with an envelope in his hand. “At least the hospital had the decency to wrap sad news,” he thought to himself. Placing the envelope on the desk, the doctor took his seat, crossed his hands and leaned back as if he was about to break news about the commencement of the third world war which he clearly had zero control of.
“What’s your greatest fear?” the doctor asked
“Dying poor,” Abel responded
“Interesting. Abel (he paused) I’d love to give you good news but sadly, today just isn’t the day,”
“Mind telling me what is wrong?”
“You’re suffering from fatal familial insomnia and I’m afraid you only have about 10 months to live,
“How is this possible?”
“It appears you’ve already gone through the first stages of the illness. You're lucky not to have already developed dementia but it's still inevitable.”
Silence. The doctor’s words turned to mere lip movements. Abel rose from the chair, picked the envelope in front of him and walked out of the room without saying a word. Totally unaware of what was going on around him, he walked to his car, got in, ignited it and drove off towards the main road which was free of traffic. His phone rang- his girlfriend was calling. Today was her birthday Goddamn it he had forgotten! Confidently hitting the reject button, he focused on the road and branched onto a deserted route. Minimal distractions allow one to think, for Abel, he chose to recall how his now confirmed illness began.
One fateful night, his tired-self came home bushed with high expectations of how he’d quickly fall asleep. To his surprise, he ended up tossing and turning endlessly stressing over what he termed less important. Eventually he fell asleep, but little did he know this was just the beginning of such nights. Being the ignorant man he was, he dismissed the matter with the thought that maybe it was because he was exhausted. He even went ahead to console himself with that it was because of his girlfriend’s absence. The nights that followed were peaceful-as if nothing had happened. Well, not until two weeks later. Again, he couldn’t fall asleep. This time it was for a series of hours. Hours that made up a whole night allowing fatigue to torture him the following day. See, this time he decided to do something about it. By something I mean Googling ways to help him sleep. A single night turned to a week which eventually turned to weeks. It wasn’t that he hadn’t come to the realization that things were getting worse. It was just that attending to it seemed like a waste of time.
Maybe at this point he should have paid close attention to his health. Maybe he should have decided to consult a doctor. Instead, he chose to be the opportunist he was. The hours he couldn’t sleep, he buried himself in work. His mantra being, ‘Lack of sleep is my blessing.’ (People say the love for money is present in everyone, I think in Abel it would be termed as an obsession) Nights turned to hours characterized by lack of sleep. His girlfriend was getting concerned but as always, he paid zero attention to her. The sleeping pills he had earlier on popped lost their charm. His insomnia was now characterized by panic attacks especially while driving, his levels of paranoia increased as he also began to suffer from hallucinations. Hallucinations that rapidly intensified. This he had failed to notice till one morning. During a briefing, he burst out shouting, ‘No mother. You’re wrong.” The stares he got from his employees made him shamefully walk out of the room without offering any explanation. I mean, how could he offer an explanation to something he himself barely understood? Again, he chose not to pay much attention to his condition and self-persuaded himself with, ‘Everything was because of his exhaustion’. Not until he got into a fight with his girlfriend and she brought up the issue of him being sexually uninterested in her. That’s when it hit him that they had not been intimate for about two months and he was still disinterested. See, he had forgotten that lack of sleep has its consequences. Consequences that range from aging of the skin, gaining or losing of weight, impaired attention, fatigue, poor concentration and even reduction in one’s sex drive. Unfortunately, for him it had totally killed his sex drive. This had been his cue to go see a doctor.
A stop sign quickly brought his attention back to the road. Lucky enough, his car stopped only a few meters from the edge of a cliff. Out he got from the car taking with him the envelope. There is no sky like the African sky. As he leaned on his car staring at the clear sky, he wondered if God was watching. Was HE watching him go through Hell? He walked towards the hood of his car and sat on it. Gazed at the glorious breath-taking view that lay beyond the cliff. Streaks of sweat poured down his face; not because of the sun but because of the anxiety that was in him as he took out the sheet of paper that lay within the envelope. Funny enough, he even found himself wishing that the sheet of paper contained his HIV test results. At this point, he was very ready to lead his life as a HIV positive person instead of counting the days to his death. But the doctor had made no mistake.
Drugs, women and ego. These are the things he did his best not to let control him. As he repeatedly read through his medical report, everything on it screamed, If only you had known you were a ticking time bomb. His phone rang again, it was his girl and again, he hit the reject button saying to himself, ‘she is a pain.’ There and then it struck him. Struck him that he had control over the remaining phase of his life. Struck him that the first thing he needed to do was write a will and get rid of his nagging girlfriend. Opening his phone’s notepad, he began working on a to-do list of what he intended to do for the remaining months. It seemed satirical for him to be preparing for his death. I mean, he was a living dead man. When he was done, his focus went back to the sky. The sun was setting- just as he would be in a few months. With the sun set came a new dawn of hope. Relaxation is what he now felt. He was ready. Ready to live his remaining months to the fullest. Ready to leave this world in peace. Every inch of him found himself appreciating the beauty that lay in front of him.
What if he had done something earlier? What if he had chosen to pay more attention to his condition? What if he had chosen to be with a girl he actually loved? What if this- what if that? See, he did not have control over his past. However, he now had control over the few months he had left. Putting his phone back in his pocket, he walked back to his car. Ignited it. For some seconds, he wondered if he should drive off the cliff or if he should drive back home. The latter won and he slowly drove off starting his journey back home. Or rather, started his journey as a changed man.