DEAR DIARY by Tega Onobrakpeya
by Tega Onobrakpeya
Thursday 19 March 2020
I saw him today. Remember him? The guy who offered me his seat in a crowded BRT?
I was on the queue when he tapped my shoulder and we talked for the rest of the ride to our destinations. I have thought about him in the past three weeks, hoping I would get the opportunity to meet him again.
You know I like him. Akin is cute with a deep set of dimples and sleepy eyes. He also seems to have a great sense of humour. He’s going to call me tonight! Running into him was definitely the highlight of my day.
P.S. She-who-must-not-be-named is getting on my nerves. Again.
Monday 23 March 2020
I smell fear in the way people lean away from each other. I see it as they frown at those who cough. There were no smiles or conversations in the bus today. I have never felt this kind of dread before. It is now dawning on us that this is not a joke. For the first time, the attendants at the BRT park wore gloves and face masks.
The infection rate nationwide as at this morning is about 30, with speculations that thousands are roaming the streets of Lagos untested. Reports around the world are more frightening. Italy seems to be one of the most affected with over 500 deaths daily.
She-who-must-not-be-named is being a bitch as usual. Yesterday she told me I’d have to stop going to work. Does she think I like jumping from bus to bus? Does she think I like interacting with customers everyday? She knows how much I suffered to get this job. Besides I am safe. I wash my hands every second; I also wear a face mask in public places.
Akin called today. He has called every night since we exchanged numbers. Every morning, he sends these sweet texts to me. He said he fell in love with me from the moment he set his eyes on me. Cliché, right? However, with what I feel for him, emotions I can’t explain, I know what we have is the start of something special.
Akin is a software engineer, and he lives around, just down the estate. It is crazy that we live close to each other and we’ve never met before. The way things work is beyond my comprehension. I don’t want to sound cheesy but I think the moon and stars are aligned for us. Guess what? We are going on a date on Saturday! For the first time in forever I am happy. This is the only rainbow in my cloudy life – a man’s attention.
Wednesday 25 March 2020
The worst has happened. I am sick! I woke up this morning coughing. I don’t know where it came from, I went to bed fine last night. Every time I cough, my lungs rattle. I can barely breathe, taking in a few gasps with pain.
My body is boiling hot, like I am being cooked over a fire. I am so weak I can’t get out of bed. I have never felt this miserable before. I think I am going to die.
She-who-must-not-be-named came to the room to yell at me to get up and then she heard me cough uncontrollably. After an hour of coughing and groaning, she left a mug of hot water with ginger and honey infused at the door. It gave me a bit of relief, at least in that moment. But now it is getting worse.
I am getting weak. My mouth is wide open and I try to take deep breaths. My chest hurts with a sharp pain. I don’t want to believe it. It just can’t be.
I shouldn’t have, but I Googled the symptoms. It fits. This is why she hasn’t said anything and has kept her distance all day. I have it. That damn virus! How is this even possible?
As I deliberated my condition, she stood in the doorway. She told me she was leaving tomorrow. She’s going home.
Home is the bustling city of Port Harcourt. Home is where my parents and siblings live while I came here to seek greener pastures, living in the home of one considered a family member Home is safe.
“What about me?” I managed to ask
“I warned you, but as small as you are, you like to do like you know better than your senior. I will stock the house with food for you. It is the most I can do.”
Thursday 26 March 2020
She left this morning, while the sky was covered in darkness. Not a goodbye, not sparing any chance of getting infected. The kitchen is stocked – the shelves filled with groceries and the fridge with stew and soup – she told me last night.
My laugh comes out as a croak. Never would she have stepped into the kitchen until now. She always relegated the house chores to me. However, my despair broke her laziness.
I wonder what she is going to tell my family when she gets home. The last time I spoke to them, I told them I was safe, that there were only a few cases in Lagos. That was three days ago. It will break them to hear that I am sick and alone. Mummy will tell me to come home, but not in this state. No sane driver will have me in his vehicle. Besides, to risk infecting them at home? Mummy might suggest coming over to Lagos, but I can’t do this to her. Let my death be on me alone.
By the way, the Lagos state government has initialised a partial lockdown from today, for a week. Non-essential businesses are to be closed. No wonder she ran away.
I have called the toll free NCDC number over ten times, so they will come get me. But my calls went unanswered. What did I expect? This country never surprises me with how disorganised it is. Do they even have the facilities to deal with this? Before I got sick, I read that some patients escaped from an isolation centre because of the terrible conditions. It is better to die in my house than be surrounded by people whose only aim is to loot.
I have always hated being sick. I detest the weakness that follows. This, I loathe even more. All I can do is stare at the ceiling. I can barely sleep because I am in pain, the darkness filled with chasing monsters.
My phone rings and I stare at the screen. Akin has been calling all day. He did the same yesterday. But I didn’t take his calls, or reply his texts.
Sunday 29 March 2020
Water is gone. I woke up this morning to a dead house. I used to love the silence and the calm, it meant she was not home and I could be free, but today it fills me with heaviness.
The light went sometime in the early hours, instantly shrouding me with heat.
I got to the bathroom just in time to catch the last trickles from the tap. Worse, I am bleeding. You know when I bleed, it rains. I saw this coming – weeks of having uninterrupted water supply seemed too good to be true – so last night I filled every container I could find with water. But how long will this keep me? The last time the water went, it lasted three weeks. I can hear the gritting of the barrows of the passing abokis on the gravel as they sell their water ware. Will I have to resort to them? And stand the chance of infecting them? Is it even safe for me to let any of them in when I am alone? Perhaps I will do it just to take victory that I am letting them into the pristine home of She-who-must-not-be-named who calls them animals.
I feel like shit, like someone ripped my lungs out. I haven’t eaten anything in two days, I have been too weak to prepare any food. But I have to make an attempt today, otherwise I will die more from hunger than the virus.
I haven’t heard from her since she left. Is it bad for me to hope that she got into an accident? What is there to lose after all I am dying. It would give me great pleasure to see her in hell when I get there. Or not. It would be an everlasting torture.
Yesterday was supposed to be my date with Akin. It was supposed to be memorable. But I was battling for my life, while my phone lit up with his calls.
P.S. Your president was live on TV today. There is going to be a full lockdown and restriction on interstate movement in Abuja, Lagos and Ogun state from tomorrow. For two weeks! This is getting serious and I know this first-hand.
Friday 3 April 2020
I bawled like a baby today. Mummy called. She visited her older sister, She-who-must-not-be-named’s mother without notice and saw her. She asked of me and she had no option than to tell the truth. Daddy is pissed as well. Mummy had to restrain him from heading over there and getting into a fight.
She said she did it to protect herself. It is all she’s concerned about. It is why she treated me like I was the help. It is why she kept me starving for days. It is why she called me cruel names. It is why she hit me.
I wanted to tell them all she has done, but it would only fuel their rage, and when daddy is mad, he turns to the Hulk. Besides, mummy’s relationship with her stepsister has always been on thin ice, I don’t want to further damage it.
Mummy wants to come over, but she can’t with the movement restrictions. She wants to call family members who live around, but I know no one is going to come to my rescue. Not with what’s happening, anyway.
I called the NCDC number today again. This time I got through and I was asked a couple of questions by a man who seemed annoyed with me.
“How do you feel?” he asked.
“I have been coughing for days.”
“My chest is—”
“I also have fever and—”
“How do you know you have fever? Are you a doctor?”
“My body is very hot—” I said.
“So, you now have the virus?”
“And I have no appetite.”
He asked about my travel history. I have been within Lagos mainland in the past three months. Had I come in contact with anyone who travelled to affected countries? With my interaction with customers at the betting company, I wasn’t sure.
“Right now, we are busy, but we will get back to you. In the meantime, eat healthy and isolate yourself,” he said in a robotic voice he must have fed others all day.
I would have been surprised if I had gotten a better treatment. I am on my own. Alone.
Sunday 5 April 2020
I never thought about death before this. I always felt I was too young to die. No one – well except Nigerian politicians – deserve to die in a slow and agonising manner. It is like being set on fire and watching your bones gleam white. The best way to die is fast, a bullet ripping through your skull and then the walk towards the light. Unfortunately for me, my fate is slow.
I threw up in the toilet bowl filled with bloody poop. The bathroom stinks but I have to preserve water.
I caught my reflection in the mirror and I am scared of the person I saw. I look empty; those eyes of mine which remained bright even when she used a broom on me are now defeated. They say you can overcome death by empowering yourself with positive thoughts, but do you think I care about telling myself that everything will be okay, when I know it won’t?
My phone is on silent but the screen lights up regularly with calls. I have limited my calls with mummy and daddy. Every time I talk to them, I cry and feel lonely. They are all together, mum, dad, Ebube, Chinaza, Pamela and Nonso, and I am here alone. No one will check on me, not even the neighbours who alienated us, because of the troublesome nature of She-who-must-not-be-named.
I know I shouldn’t do this to them. They must be worried sick about me, but the more we talk, the more broken we will be. We all know the truth, and their prayers are no help. Even their attempts to get through to NCDC failed.
Akin has still been calling. I thought he would have given up on me. I wonder what he thinks. One minute I was warm towards him, giving him glimpses of a future with us, and the next I am completely cold to him. Heaven must be playing a cruel joke on me. I’ve been a good girl all these years, played by the rule book, and the first time I decide to take a leap, I get this. Bad things indeed happen to good people.
Monday 13 April 2020
Am I sorry we haven’t spoken in days? No. I have come to stop caring about many things. How I look, my dreams of getting rich, and of course you. When someone knows they are dying, nothing matters but death.
To be honest, I have been unable to write because of how weak I’ve been. Too weak to hold a pen.
Everything I manage to cook goes out, through my mouth or ass, so I don’t bother any more. The best decision She-who-must-not-be-named made was to stock biscuits which means I don’t have to make wasted efforts.
The pyjamas I have been wearing for weeks stinks like rotten eggs . The bottom slips down my hips. I have since been done with the blood reign and the pads torn into pieces and flushed down to the septic tank. I am glad I don’t have to go to Hades with blood dripping down my legs. Lucifer would like that don’t you think?
Why do I think I am going to Hades? Because this world is fucking twisted and it just makes sense that after the suffering I have gone through as a Nigerian with access to nothing, I end up there. Suffering continues right?
This seems like the perfect time to repent and all that mumbo jumbo. But I will do no such thing! No creator in the sky deserves my life for the way I have been treated. I’d rather give it to the devil, he fucking deserves it for his cruelty to me.
Can you believe the conspiracy theories flying about? That 5g is responsible for covid-19? Seriously? People are really stupid o! Some don’t even believe there’s anything like covid-19. They think the government is lying to siphon money. If only I can tell them my story, but I know they don’t have the capacity to deal with such knowledge.
I am angry. And I deserve to be. Guess what? Donations are being made to federal and state governments by institutions and wealthy individuals. Are they fucking out of their minds? We all know where that money is going to end up. In the deep pockets of politicians. The only time I go on social media, I see complaints about no response from NCDC or poor facilities at isolation centres and they donate millions to them? This is crazy!
Maybe I should have come as an animal, then I would accept that the way I am treated is just. What is the difference between me and an animal? I have no rights. I have no water, and I get few blinks of power every day.
You know what, I am getting more pissed right now. I need to rest my head because it hurts.
Thursday 16 April 2020
You shouldn’t have led me in. you made me believe in us and then you turned your back on me. That was the text I received from Akin three days ago, I just had the courage to open it.
I think you’ve poorly developed the relationship with Akin and the protagonist. We don’t have more context about how she treated him/her feelings for him during her sickness. All we see are a few missed calls here and there.
He thinks I ghosted him, but all I did was save him. I have a strong feeling if I told him what has been happening, he would come over and rescue me. I can’t let him in. Every night, I check the data. Infected cases are rising at an alarming pace. There’s no cure. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone – well maybe She-who-must-not-be-named.
I wish I could talk to Akin. For one last time before I die. But our goodbyes were said a long time ago. We might meet some day, but I doubt it. Fate already has me in her little black book.
Sunday 19 April 2020
I think I am getting better. The cough has subsided and the fever is gone. I don’t want to cling to hope, but could this be true? I ate three times yesterday without vomiting, and with how hungry I was, my appetite is back.
I haven’t even taken any medication – well except the vitamins I found a bottle of. But could that have helped?
It has been all over local news since on Friday that a government official died from the virus. There are rumours he was flown to Cuba and even the UK despite the lockdown. These politicians ehn! I feel pity because I know how it is to be sick with the virus. But my pity is overcome with happiness. They did nothing to make this country liveable, and we all get to suffer the consequences.
I spoke to the family today. Mummy was relieved to hear my voice. She was worried that something bad had happened to me. We all know what that something means of course. I didn’t tell them that I am better, I don’t want to give them false hope and then the next thing my rotting corpse is found wrapped in the woollen duvet in She-who-must-not-be-named’s room. Do you know she actually locked her room door? Like I was going to go in there and steal something to wrap around my sick body? She absolutely read my mind.
I heard sirens in the estate, and I thought they were headed here. That somehow my family had gotten through to them and they had come for me. It was a stupid wish because it headed down the estate.
Wednesday 22 April 2020
Water is back! Yippee! For the first time in three weeks, I had a decent bath, with hot water and strawberry bath gel She-who-must-not-be-named forgot to take with her. It felt so good to stand on my feet without them giving way.
I ate much today, placing several pieces of meat on my plate. It is the most meat I have eaten since I got here. There’s no one to peep over my shoulder to remove a piece from my plate because it is too big. Hiyaaa!!
I danced today. I danced to music videos on MTV Base while shaking my tiny waist. I am so glad she’s not here! You know how she would try to ruin my fun. That woman certainly has a place in the seventh circle of hell fanning the devil.
I called Akin today, but his phone is turned off. I think he has blocked my number. I really wish it didn’t get to this, but I have a lot of explaining to do. With all that is going on, I wonder when I will get to meet him again.
The lockdown will be extended for the third time I am sure, with how many cases we have. Almost a thousand! And I didn’t even count myself o!
I doubt I have a job to return to. I know I made a mistake ghosting them but I thought I was going to die. They deserve it. For the past six months I have worked non-stop everyday, giving it my all, and yet no one deemed it fit to check on me. They don’t deserve me.
Saturday 25 April 2020
I video-called the family today. Seeing their faces, I realised how much I miss them. Daddy cried for the first time ever! I started crying too. And before you know it everyone was crying. They have been praying for me. Mummy said they even fasted for seven days.
Globally, the cases have crossed two million. There’s a high recovery rate compared to the deaths. Nigeria and other African countries are not in the red zone, but it is just a matter of time.
The country may be on lockdown but people are just too damn stubborn. They have refused to stay home. I heard people are travelling interstate, all they need to do is tip the law enforcement officers on the roads. But do I blame them? With the stupid palliatives the government gives, people need to hustle. Imagine they gave mummy two packs of Indomie, a coke-sized bottle of groundnut oil and seven cubes of Maggi. Is that what a family is supposed to survive on? In other countries, citizens receive stimulus check, and food prices are not going through the roof.
I am just glad that I am well, that I am among the statistics of the recovered, albeit unofficial. I don’t even want to look back at the person I was, the weak and frustrated me.
I have been having fun in the house. Alone of course! Thank God she left. Seriously it would have been torture to be indoors with her for weeks. It was either she killed me or I snuffed the life out of her with a pillow.
I eat whatever I want. I sleep whenever I want. I watch whatever I want on the TV. Freedom has never felt so good!
Monday 27 April 2020
My boss is dead. I got a call from a colleague who suddenly remembered me. He died two weeks ago and there are speculations he died of covid-19, but no one is sure. I asked if any other person from work was/is sick and she said no. I didn’t tell her I was sick. That girl has a big mouth, in ten minutes everyone in Nigeria will know I was sick.
With how close I worked with him; I think I got it from him. I remember he went for some event where he interacted with a lot of people.
I don’t know what will happen to the company now. I was kind of hopeful I would explain about my health and get my job back. With his death, I really don’t know what to expect.
It sucks to be jobless during the pandemic. Many have lost their jobs with more to come. How am I supposed to get a job in these crazy times? Who will even hire me sef? I won’t tell the family about this. There’s a lot to worry about already.
Do you know She-who-must-not-be-named has not called since she left? Like she hasn’t even called to check on me! That woman is a witch I swear. I know she hopes to find my decaying body when she returns but I will shock her.
I called Akin for what seemed to be the hundredth time. How the tables have turned. I might have to go out there and get a new SIM card to call him. I think it is time to explain to him, and patch things up.
Tuesday 5 May 2020
I went out for the first time in over a month. It was great to be outside after such a long time, and to breathe in fresh air. You should see my skin right now. My complexion has gotten lighter and I don’t have any pimple.
The neighbourhood is quite busy, with people moving about as if nothing is happening. Many have masks on, mostly cloth masks, but there is nothing like social distancing.
I stopped at Iya Bola to buy a bottle of coke and the woman was surprised to see me. She thought I travelled or something. I told her I have been around. While I was there, another woman came in and they started talking in hushed tones. Someone died in the estate!
“You know say e don reach two weeks wey NCDC come carry am. Na today he die o. Na the early hours of this morning he die,” the other woman said.
“Ah! Very young and respectful boy. Chai! Akin don go!” Iya Bola cried.
It was only as I returned home, I recalled her words. Akin? I doubt it’s my Akin. Do you know how many Akins there are in this estate? Probably around fifty. It is definitely not my Akin. Whoever this Akin is, may his gentle soul rest in peace.
Wednesday 6 May 2020
I have been crying since morning. It is true. My Akin is dead! I saw it on Instablog9ja’s page on Instagram. His pictures were posted and his friends posted condolence messages. Ah! I am finished!
All this while I thought he was angry with me, he was sick. I hate this. Why did this have to happen? Why can nothing good happen to me?
Akin and his cute smile. Akin with those kind eyes. Akin who gave me his seat while I got pushed around in that bus. I may not have known him for long but I know he was a nice person. A nice person I developed feelings for.
Death be not proud! You have taken from me a jewel. I have never been shaken like this. Not even when I was sick. I thought there was something there for us. I felt it! It would be better if he was still alive and just ignored me. At least he would be alive.
God! Why do you do this to us? Why do you take from us and break us? Why do you make us weep? Why do you make us feel pain so deep we just want to fade away?
Saturday 9 May 2020
I haven’t gone out in days. I can barely function. I eat with my taste buds dead. I just stare at the TV, with no idea of what is on the screen. Life goes on, as usual. I don’t even bother checking the rates any more but I know it is definitely soaring.
I have been doing a lot of thinking these past days. How did Akin get sick? Was it me? Did I cause his death?
As much as I tell myself he got infected some other way, I know deep down that I am responsible. Those minutes we laughed. The moment we sat together in that bus talking, not only did I connect with him on an emotional level, but also biologically. Because of me, he’s dead. If only I hadn’t opened my heart to him. I should have frowned and rolled my eyes at him like I did with the others. I should have ignored him. I should never have taken his seat that day. I should never have cared.
Monday 11 May 2020
I don’t know when next you will hear from me. I just… I want to be left on my own.
Source: From the Isolation Issue (September 2020)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
TEGA A. ONOBRAKPEYA is a reader and a bit of a closet writer. She writes on different genres although she finds herself drifting more to the supernatural. She has a throng of uncompleted works which she should complete in the future.