My name is not Alfred… Part II
Last week Fred ended up in a real fix! Sitting in an office in General Hostipal Agege while awaiting his HIV sentence… In case you missed it, find My Name Is Not Alfred … Part I here.
Today we bring you the concluding part of the story and you could never have imagined how the tide turned for him. Read on…
By Fred Chiagozie Nwonwu:
Soon enough, a list was brought in and the matron announced that those who heard their name should go to the office immediately outside the hall. While nothing was said about the names, I was sure no one wanted to be in that list. Me, I am not known for my kalokalo luck. I don’t win raffles so I stay away from baba Ijebu and the because I know I won’t win. So you can again imagine how I felt when a Fred was called as part of the eleven names on the list. Na, I can’t be me na, Na, I can’t be me na, God no go do me like that, I thought as I waited for someone else to respond to the name. I waited perhaps for a minute that looked like an hour and no one responded. Two minutes and the exit of ten solemn faced men. Chai! I am in soup.
It was four minutes after before I balled up and went up to the nurse. Did you call a Fred Nwonwu? I asked. She looked at me, looked at her book, was about to respond when another nurse standing next to her said, “Fred? Yes, are you Fred? Ok go and wait in the office opposite I will join you in a moment.”
Okay, what got to me was not that my name was on the list, it could be anything you know, but the fact that she appeared to recognise my name. Anyway, I walked out to met a greater shock. Now, we filled a form that had questions about various illnesses and what have you and I was kind hoping it my fate was something else, but I stepped out of the hall and faced the Heart To Heart Centre.
Jesus never came faster to my lips. Feeling all the hundreds of pairs of eyes in the corridor on me, I somehow managed to walk with suddenly sodden legs to the office, with the last 31 years of my life flashing before my eyes and a now very bleak and expectedly short future failing to come into focus.
Managing to keep upright when lying or sitting down most appealed to me, I walked into the Heart to Heart Centre. A young nurse was filling a form, I told her I was asked to come in and wait and she said Going back outside was something else. It took like thrice the strength it took me to get in to open the door and walk back into the hallway. Bad enough, I was wondering where my Akwanwa was, wondering how I will tell her, and praying to God that I have not infected her and my baby, while trying to draw some comfort from the fact that she tested negative a month before. As it turned out, she had seen me walk out of the hall and into the Heart to Heart Centre and had drawn much the same conclusion that I have. Believe, you know how much a woman cares for you in the face of conflict. Believe, you know how much a woman cares for you in the face of conflict. She had walked up to me, held my hands, and walked with me to a nearby empty bench.
“Do you have HIV?” she asked in a resigned voice.
“Whatever, I am with you.” She said with a finality that made me love her more than ever. No questions about fidelity, not wailing, no tantrums, just calm acceptance. With her by my side, I waited for the nurse who soon came and I went in alone to see her.
Now, I was supposed to go in alone, or with my wife. At the door were a man and a woman. I was ushered in together with the woman. Inside, I found I could not control my shaking hands or my heaving chest, no matter how hard I tried. The first words from the nurse where like heavenly tuned cymbals to my suddenly acute ears.
“Mr Alfred, please calm down. You do not have HIV, but as we told your wife you have…”
Okay, I actually stopped hearing her after the you do not have HIV part and it took a while for me to understand that she had called me Alfred and referred to the woman in the room as my wife.
Though a lot had been said during bliss moment, I just interjected “She is not my wife, my wife is outside”.
The nurse was stunned. “Madam, this is not your husband?” she asked the woman. The woman shook he head, no.
“What is your name sir?” the nurse asked.
“Fred Chiagozie Nwonwu”
The two nurses in the office exchanged startled glances.
“Madam, what is your husband’s name?”
“Alfred…he is outside.”
Profuse apologies came, and I left the Heart to Heart Centre with more bounce in my step than I had had in years to reassure my wife and take my place in the line of those already waiting to donate blood. As I walked by, I could not help but look at the man whose name had caused me so much anxiety. Knowing he was still pondering what awaits him behind the door, I nodded at him—it is all right—and he returned a weak smile.
We joke about what happened that day in my house now, but in retrospect, is an experience I would not pray to have again or wish on anyone. I still shiver when I think about the what ifs.
Photo by: Hellobeautiful