Osemhen Elohor Akhibi | Klo1
Two words and I’m out of bed, fumbling in the darkness for my car keys with one hand and fastening the catch on a pair of jeans with the other. It doesn’t matter that it’s 2 am and that I have to be at work by 7. I don’t care that he’s my ex and I’m to be married next Saturday to another man. Dafe calls me and I go. I can’t help him but I go.
It’s pouring outside but there’s no time to get an umbrella. By the time I make it to my car, I’m shivering with cold, and with fear. I have to be where Dafe is.
His house is the only one without security lights, the only one with the gate flung wide open. I park outside and sprint to his front door. It’s unlocked and I step inside, my right hand instinctively reaching for the light switch I know is there. I know this house; I would know my way around it blindfolded with my hands tied behind me. Light floods the hallway and my voice echoes as I call out, “Dafe, where are you?”
There is no reply.
I search the house and find him in the kitchen, sitting at the table and staring at his bleeding wrist. There’s a razor in his left hand, an empty Jack Daniels bottle on the floor and a glass filled with an odd assortment of pills on the table. He looks at me through glazed eyes, smiling sadly. He is crying, his face is wet. But his smile is the most beautiful thing in the world. It breaks my heart. Oh, Dafe.
We have been here before, many times before. But I’d never seen him slash his wrist and try an overdose on a bellyful of whisky. It must be really bad this time. There is a First Aid kit in the bathroom and I fetch it for him. The spirit is gone so I clean his wound with cognac instead, and bandage it. He hasn’t been bleeding for too long. He won’t need a transfusion, not like the first time we met, when he’d pretty much succeeded in killing himself.
Then it had been broken glass, and he’d passed out in a men’s room at a club. He hadn’t been pleased at surviving, and it was the first and only time I had met a person with absolutely no compulsion to live…
Dafe is manic-depressive.
I tried to make him happy, and he let me. In. He let me into his mind, into everything that is Dafe. He showed me his poems, he played me his guitar, he wrote me a song. Good times. In return, I bandaged his wrists, cut down nooses, administered antidotes, drove him to hospitals if necessary. I held him when he cried, when he shook from the fear that he wants to escape when he tries to kill himself.
I left Dafe when I couldn’t hide the scars from my family anymore. I love him, God, I love him. But I couldn’t help him. I still can’t.
“How’s your fiancé?” He asks in a husky whisper.
I nod. “He’s fine.”
I don’t ask how he knows I’m engaged even though we haven’t spoken in two years. There are a lot of things I simply accept about this man, things I know transcend explanation. Like why he let me into his life and calmly let me leave as if he knew I wouldn’t stay forever. Like how he got my new number, and why he called me tonight and didn’t just let himself die like he wanted in the first place.
He stands up and staggers unsteadily to the kitchen drawer. In other people’s houses, the kitchen drawers are filled with napkins, cutlery, crockery. Dafe’s kitchen drawers are filled with reams of gleaming white paper and thousands of biros. He returns to his seat with paper and a bic.
He’s drawing, and he’s talking.
“I met a man yesterday, Aisha. He noticed my wrists, and he wanted to speak to me about Jesus. I don’t even believe in God; my parents were agnostic.” He’s scribbling furiously with his left hand. “But this man, I can’t stop thinking about him. He showed me his wrists, Aisha, his wrists. And he had scars like mine. Did you know Jesus was nailed in his wrists?”
I arch an eyebrow. “You think he was Jesus?”
Another symptom of manic depression is delusion, hallucination. Dafe manifests this symptom from time to time; I had seen him hold conversations with the clock.
Dafe shakes his head, smiles a little. “Haha, funny. He was black, and his name was Christopher. But he said, he said Jesus could set me free, that Jesus had set him free. Free…can you imagine?” Wonder at the concept flits across his face. “Tonight, I thought I’d try what he said, you know, just for kicks. I asked Jesus to set me free.”
I can’t help myself. “And Jesus said to kill yourself? Come on, Dafe!” I’m angry now at this Christopher whoever he is for filling Dafe’s head with weird ideas. Free! I took his hand. “Dafe, there’s nothing to be free of, okay? This thing is a sickness, like malaria, like cancer. You want freedom? Take your drugs,” I glanced warily at the cocktail on the table. “At the recommended dosage.”
“I prayed, but nothing felt different…”
“As expected. You prayed to a dead man.”
“So I came downstairs and thought, Okay, I’ll just take my drugs. And then…” He stops scribbling, and is looking at his paper calmly. “I cut myself and I swear, this time nothing was going to stop me; I wanted to die but God, the darkness scared me…I must have aid something, prayed, maybe, because I saw Him.” He pushed the paper to me. It is the portrait of a man, of the Christ as countless artists have depicted him. Long, dark hair, Arab looking, flowing robe, sandals. But I have never seen a picture with eyes so animated.
“Jesus appeared to me, Aisha.”
“You were drunk and losing blood, Dafe.” I count off on my fingers as a chill crawls down my spine. “Two, you’re prone to hallucinations. Three, that Christopher person put ideas in your head.”
“He wasn’t an hallucination.”
“How do you know? How can you differentiate between a vision and your hallucinatory experiences?” I’m struggling to keep my voice even-toned but I want to shake him.
“He helped me, Aisha. I told Him to help me and He did.”
Dafe is puzzled. He peers closely at me. “You came.”
“I came because you called me.”
He shakes his head. “I didn’t call you. I don’t have your number.”