Fortunately, the drive took more time than she predicted. This gave her a chance to think about the origin of her ‘sessions’ with Kaycee.
He had been one of her clients with a case of murder and a possible death sentence in proximity. In truth, Kaycee had not committed the killing but had only been a negligent pharmacist who misplaced drugs in the right bottle. This caused the death of the young boy.
Kaycee had doused all the humility he could muster as he told her the emotional turmoil his life had been spinning in since the loss of his children to the overseas. They neither contacted him nor were they considering it. Alero had empathised with him and fought to upturn an impending verdict of murder to manslaughter. Nevertheless, she could not save his license nor the next 16 years of his life. Although, he was grateful that she had preserved it.
He was an old man, in his mid-50s, and the visits started as a friendly call to check on his wellbeing in prison. Still, when her troubles were born, the table was transformed into a therapy session where she simply talked, and he paid attention. To him, it was an escape from the angular life of prison, for her, it was a conversation with a person who would listen because he had to, despite any perceived sentiment he might harbour.
Alero soon arrived at the prison. Turning the 2004 Toyota Camry through the old prison gates, she viewed the chief warden handing out instructions to the subordinates. The chief warden must have seen her car drive into the compound because just as she stepped on the doorframe, the warden saluted. She smiled. He thinks I am still a lawyer.
“Madam”, the man called out in his accentuated tongue, “Welcome o. How is the family?”
Her stomach did a tumble
“They are in God’s hands”, Alero managed to reply
“Hmmm… okay”, the warden beamed “Eh you are here to see our doctor àbí?”
They called Kaycee ‘doctor’. He had told her a remarkable experience. When he was doing his baptism – the part of telling them about what he did to warrant imprisonment – they could not phantom who a ‘pharmacist’ is. He had had to explain it in the light of a ‘doctor’ description. The latter appeared to have stuck better and stuck well as a nickname.
“Yes, I am”
“Okay. Kingsley”, he called to a younger officer “Go tell doctor sey him get visitor”. The designee hurried off to do his senior’s bidding “Madam”, he turned to Alero “Oya put your bag for that locker make this boy carry you go where you go siddon”
A few minutes after, she was in the faintly lightened waiting room. It had a flinching fluorescent bulb with half of its illumination in the darkness.
Kaycee soon came to join her. He was a well-built man for his age. Alero had no fear that he will not survive his term in prison. The oil that wheeled her visits was processed because of his perceived loneliness. He was looking untidy and sad. Alero wanted to hug him. She had tried, one time, but was rebuffed by Kaycee who said he did not want word to travel that he is weak. Alero could not connect the ley lines so she had let it be.
“How have you been?” Kaycee inquired, his eyes searching the answer on Alero’s face
“Jul?” he pressed on, the lines on his face already toning with strings of concern
“Eh? I’m coping”, her voice came out in a whisper.
Kaycee looked over his shoulders. The guards were not visible
“Why you dey whisper? Police no dey here na”, he jested
“Sorry”, this time it came out loudly “I have barely said a word to anyone for the past four days. I guess I am still finding my voice”
Kaycee let out a sharp sigh. He felt guilty about mocking her predicament
“You still dey write that book bá”, it was not a question
“Hmm”, Alero said, with a static nod
“So how far, you don finish?”
Alero did not reply
“Hello, I am the one in prison here”, Kaycee bellowed sharply
“What do you want me to say?” She retorted with a strain in her voice
“I asked you a question”
“I am not done, okay”, She said begrudgingly
“You know why”
Kaycee took his hands from the table to lean on the rickety chair. Then he folded his arms across his chest to observe the woman in front of him.
“What are you writing about? At least, that I don’t know”
Alero paused then. This was the first time he was asking her about the subject matter of her troubles. Despite the repetitive visits, Kaycee had not earned the badge of her friendship – the insignia that allowed him into her nightmares. She looked away as if to retreat from the question, but she knew he would not allow her. The silence was not an answer either.
“‘Personal’ as in it happened to…” his finger, pointing at her, complementing the sentence “or personal as in you don’t want to talk about it?”
“All of the above”
“So what are you doing here?”
“I don’t know what to do”
“Finishing the book. I want to finish it. I really do, but I just can’t find the right stones to mount the building”, Alero muttered rapidly
Another blank stare
“Kaycee, time is ticking”
“I know”, he replied “and that is why I have six words for you…no seven”, he babbled, then he moved on to count his fingers
“Who cares, just tell me”, Alero demanded
“Get your hair out of this mess”
“What mess?” Alero probed, puzzled
“This mess”, his hands motioned to signify all of her.
“Yes, you”, Kaycee motioned again, “you sit down in your darkroom, and you reminisce about the blackness around you. You think about your husband and the impending loss of your son. You reek of regret about your decision to leave the legal profession. Forgetting that time walks on lighting feet and the sooner you move on the better for you not to be trampled. No one leaves a profession like Law in Nigeria, except they are pursuing a higher calling. Get your hair out of this mess and think forward, Alero”, Kaycee concluded breathlessly.