“I don’t get it,” said Luke. “What’s the point of this?”
He glided passed me in the wheel chair and I looked at Kay, who looked as disinterested as I felt. “Why did they put us here? There’s nothing to do.”
“Maybe that’s exactly why,” I said. “Because there’s nothing to do here but rest.”
There weren’t that many patients and the ones that were here, required extremely special care and they couldn’t allow us anywhere near them.
We’d tidied up the Nurse’s station and served breakfast and snacks to the patients.
Twice, we’d gone on a stock run for the ward and I was sure that soon, they would have us getting their lunch for them.
“They could have just let us go home,” said Luke. “Shit.”
“What about the others?” I asked.
Kay looked sideways at me and Luke stopped before me.
“It’s just us,” he said. “The rest didn’t make it.”
I stared at him.
“What?” I breathed.
He shrugged. “Big mathata.”
“Dude…” I breathed. “Now what?”
“They rewrite –”
“They supplement,” said Kay, cutting Luke off. “And if that fails, they repeat the year with the things they failed. The ones that are facing exclusion, will either appeal to be taken back or apply somewhere else.”
I shook my head, thunderstruck. “And I didn’t even want this, hey.”
Kay chuckled, shaking her head. “Funny world we live in.”
The day lasted long and indeed, we stayed on shift until six in the evening before we were released. It turned out that Luke was rather strong with his powers of persuasion and had convinced the Unit Manager to allow us to work our hours in four days instead of five.
It turned out I’d gotten the mathematics wrong and I wondered why Dom hadn’t bothered to correct me that time.
Now I felt stupid.
And then it dawned on me why he hadn’t been as put out as I was that he would only be back on Thursday night.
And I laughed to myself.
As we walked back to the residence, we talked about our plans after this.
“I just wanna go home,” said Luke. “Missing small town vibes.”
“Guy,” I said. “Too much noise here!”
Kay was laughing, talking about how home was the city for her and how this was almost no different.
“Except for the beach.”
“Bikini!” said Luke, pushing passed me and putting his arm around Kay’s shoulders.
I shook my head slowly. He was such a child.
Kay shook him off and moved toward me and took my hand and began to lead me away, even though we all stayed in the same building.
Mercifully, the lifts were working and I moved to the back of the cabin, waiting for sixteen.
“I’m not gonna wear a bikini for you,” she said.
“Bet you’d wear one for her though, wouldn’t you?” he grumbled.
Kay moved to stand next to me and I looked at her brazenly.
She leaned in but I knew she wasn’t gutsy enough to go ahead and kiss me – or maybe she was. I was just about to turn away when she simply snapped her teeth hard and I laughed.
I suppose it was a thing then, biting.
“I would take one off for her.”
The doors to the elevator opened as I laughed, watching Luke’s eyes go wide.
Kay got off on the ninth floor and the elevator doors swung closed, heading for twelve next.
He looked at me and I shrugged, keeping my face neutral.
He stared and stared and I looked and looked at him, my mind being pounded hard by the memory of her and what we’d shared.
The elevator doors opened on twelve and I smiled.
He pointed at me and I waved at him.
And then the elevator took me up to sixteen and I was alone in my own company for the first time in hours.
I hadn’t heard from Dom all day.
On the second day, we did a little bit more.
We managed the wound dressings of the least complicated patients and we took turns cleaning the trolley we used then we set it up for use again.
I did not speak the language and as a result, Luke and Kay kept up the conversation with the patients. The sisters were satisfied with our work and we were equally pleased to have signatures attached to our Skills Guides.
Here was where I had my first encounter with an individual who had no lower limbs.
I imagined what it would be like to have no legs.
It was easy to take it all for granted, the simple pleasures in life. I remembered sitting at the bus stop, wishing that I had a car. But then, I had legs and I could walk and run and skip over puddles.
I shook my head.
I really should take up jogging and keep myself fit.
“Where’s your boyfriend?”
I looked at Luke, who had asked. “Greece. Family stuff.”
“So you’re dating a Greek?”
“No,” I said. “He’s Irish.”
Luke could not have looked more shocked. “So you’re with a white man?”
“Really?” I asked, my annoyance spiked. “That is a thing for you?”
“I’m just asking, nje,” he said.
“No,” I said. “He was born and raised in Ireland, but he isn’t white.”
But why hadn’t he called me? Had something happened? Did he forget?
But then again, he was part of a giant empire and no doubt, he was busy.
“When are we going to meet him?”
Kay looked at me and I kept my face straight, remembering her encounter with Dom.
“That’s not what we do,” I said to Luke. “I’m just not ready to share him with anyone.”
“Is that what he says when his friends ask about you?”
“I don’t think they do…”
He looked at me knowingly and for the first time, I wondered if Dom even had any friends on this side of the world and if he did, did they know about me?
But what did that matter? His brothers knew and by extension, his family.
“I’ve already met his family, so…”
Kay made a sound and when I looked at her, I realized that she had been trying to stifle a cough, but she couldn’t. She had a full on coughing fit and Luke clapped her on the back, which appeared to have helped dispel whatever she’d choked on.
“You’ve met the family?” she asked. “So soon?”
I shook my head slowly. “They’ve known about me for a while…”
Things were awkward between all of us from that point on. Luke had realized that he’d unintentionally opened a can of worms and Kay no doubt knew that I wasn’t telling her everything.
We didn’t return to the residence together. Luke disappeared from the moment that he exited the unit and Kay made an excuse of having to visit the ATM which was on the other side of the Medical School and way out of the way back to the residence so I walked back to the residence alone.
Once again, nothing from Dom.
On Wednesday, I was well and truly exhausted from the sleepless nights I’d had hoping to hear from him. When I thought of him, my skin went cold at the fear of what could have befallen him. I found myself watching the news for anything about plane crashes or disasters in that part of the world.
I had Googled up the main offices where I guessed he might work – I was that desperate. Maybe I could call and ask?
I normally had my lunch on campus and today, Kay decided to join me.
“So,” she said. “What’s the story?”
Of course she would ask.
“When I was sixteen, we came to Main, on a satellite trip around the local and closest universities that we could register with after matric,” I began. “When I was there, I had a little accident.”
I showed her the scar. “I was in the main library when a shelf broke and some of the books fell on me and I landed on a bookend and there was blood everywhere and it was painful and all that. He took me to the Centre and made sure that I was transferred here.
They put me on these epic painkillers and I didn’t remember much about that day… But I remembered him…”
I looked at her, coming out of my mind. “Found him again when I came here, we became friends and – here we are. So they did know about me and now, they actually know me.”
She smiled wryly. “Well damn, I never stood a chance, huh?”
I didn’t know the answer to that question.
At this point, Luke appeared and began to munch down on his burger and fries.
I got the distinct impression that he was trying to get even bigger than he already was.
We returned to the ward and continued our tedious trek through the business of doing absolutely nothing.
We got so bored that we ended up searching the WITS library database for question papers for second year.
“Yikes,” said Luke. “Anatomy. That’s what we’re going to be doing. Did you know there’s a thing called a patella in our knee? I think it’s this bone right here –”
I kicked out when he knocked my knee with a book.
I rolled my eyes at him. “So does that mean that there’ll be only three of us?”
“Nah,” said Luke. “There will be others, the ones that are repeating second year.”
I nodded my head.
I hoped I never had to go through that.
“And there were some who were repeating Physics this year,” said Kay. “You’ll see them when we start next year.”
“How do you know so much about this?” I asked.
“I ask a lot of questions,” she said with a shrug.
I took her at her word.
The day ended and we walked back to our residence.
“If we get assigned places at the end of fourth year, I am not going there,” said Luke, sounding like a whiny little boy.
I laughed tiredly. “I think I’ll just become a Botanist.”
“Work with trees and grass?” Kay exclaimed. “Score me some good weed.”
“Ha-ha. Very funny.”
And the lifts were not working. “Great,” said Kay.
We trouped up the stairs, nobody talking to anyone as we all seemed to put all our focus on climbing upward and nothing else.
“Just one more… One more day…” said Kay as she got to her floor.
We continued on and Luke said nothing as he made it to his floor.
My legs were surprisingly steady as I entered my room. I wasted no time in taking a shower and returning to my bed.
I had stared at my phone all day and even ended up flipping through my Facebook page. I knew that he had been on my page before and I hoped that he had said something there, but there was nothing.
I forced myself not to cry as I curled up under my blanket and tried to collect sleep.
My dreams were filled with dark images of things that did not make sense and all the while, I was running away from some dark terror.
When I was jolted out of my sleep, it was two hours before my usual waking time and I almost wanted to cry knowing that I had to face yet another day of this tedium.
I opened the window and a cold breeze flittered into the room.
I gazed out at the Parktown city, watching it sleep just a little more.
I could not wait for eleven to come.
I had decided that I was going to try this track that Dom had spoken of. Maybe I could get some perspective out there with myself.
I took my time and made myself some French toast and topped that off with jam, something that I was sure that he would not approve of.
I chuckled then – we were actually very opposite from each other.
He was clean and I was messy and he was healthy and I was not.
But there was something that I was sure of – he knew pleasure and I could readily believe that he had mastered it.
And then I wondered what he would look like as he was drawn through what he had put me through. Would he be whimpering my name like he made me do? Would he feel as exhausted as I felt at the end of it? Deeply satisfied?
I gazed at my journal and looked at the time.
There was no time.
There was a knock at my door and I stuffed the thing under my pillow before answering it.
“Let’s go, we’re gonna be late.”
We walked to work together and I grumbled about having to wait for those four hours just to be free.
“How many weeks do we have?”
“A whole month!” I exclaimed, squeezing her shoulder in excitement.
“You gonna spend them with him?” she asked.
“I’m gonna spend them not here! Which is the point!” I said. “No hospitals, no uniforms, no lecturers – away with it!”
She laughed at this.
And Dom was scheduled to be back tonight.
We entered the ward to find that they were already taking handover.
It didn’t bother me either way because we wouldn’t be here long enough to care.
Once again, we handled the wounds with as much enthusiasm as we had the day before and served the meals with actual smiles on our faces.
“Have you heard from the others?” I asked Kay.
“Kind of staying clear of all of it,” she said. “One, two, three…”
Both Luke and I rolled the patient over as she fixed the sheets and we set the patient down again.
“Thank you,” said the man and we smiled.
We opened the curtains and finished off the last cubicle.
Eleven o’clock came quickly from all of this and we had our timesheets signed. I was practically skipping as we made our last exit from the campus.
“Where to now?” Luke asked.
“My dad’s coming to get me on Sunday, so I’m just going to chill here til then.”
“Take a taxi!”
“Not on your damn life,” I said.
Both of them were already packed and were geared up to leave within the hour and I knew that I would be pretty much alone here.
It needed no telling from anyone that my contact with the rest of what used to be my class had come to an end and I didn’t know how I felt about that.
I would be free of them for sure, but on the downside, I didn’t know what second year would hold. What if I failed and met them again? What if this new group had me feeling worse than I had this year?
I bid them both a safe journey and continued on to my room.
I had barely set my bag down when there was a knock at my door.
For a hot second, I was excited at the prospect of seeing Dom, but it was Kay.
I dropped down on my bed as I took off my shoes. “Thought you’d be heading out by now.”
“Just wanted to say goodbye.”
I chuckled. “We won’t be gone that long,” I reminded her.
“It’s gonna feel like forever.”
When she sat down beside me, I damn near cowered from her.
“It’s a long road to KZN.”
“Can imagine,” I said, moving to the bed board so that I could lean against it. “Taking a bus?”
“Ya,” she said, looking over at me. She turned to face me then. “Can I ask a favour?”
“Sure,” I said, leaning in expectantly.
I leaned all the way back. “No…” I said almost before I’d processed the word.
“Come on,” she said. “Why not?”
“Because I’m with him…”
“He’ll understand –”
“Doesn’t make it right, though.”
“How would you feel if it were you?”
She rolled her eyes.
“Exactly,” I said. “And you promised me you wouldn’t do this.”
She rose to her feet. “It was worth a try. See you next year.”
“Wait,” I said. “I can walk you out. I just need to change.”
She sat down on my bed, looking at me with hunger in her eyes.
I rolled my eyes. “I’ll meet you in your room, man!”
She laughed at me for this but obliged and headed back to her room.
As I geared down, I thought about her request – I imagined it.
Had Dom not been a part of my life, I would have gone right ahead and done it.
Was that even normal? To have intense feelings for one person and still feel attracted to another?
What was it about Kitso that drew my attention? She didn’t have anything on my list besides the fact that she was into me. She had what I had – she had breasts and feminine curves and all the makings of a female. I had all these things as well, so what was it about Kitso?
I put on a simple pair of jeans, a shirt and sneakers. I put my phone in my pocket and stuffed my earphones in there along with it and headed down to twelve.
I found her exiting the room. “I thought you were selling me dreams for a second there.”
I laughed. I took one of her bags and we made our way down to the ground floor.
Luke waited there with his fabled old car and here I learnt that they would be travelling companions for a time. “Where are you going?” he asked.
“For a walk. I’ve got nothing better to do.”
Again, I said goodbye to them and strolled over to the Education Campus.
The ground was thin on students as most of them had long since gone home.
I found the track that he was speaking of and began my aimless walk around it. I enjoyed the sounds of traffic and people talking in the distance and the feel of the afternoon breeze as it passed over me. The grass was so soft and lush and green that I almost wanted to drop down onto it but my shirt was white – it would be a fat mistake.
The sun was just about reaching its apex when somebody approached me.
I was shocked, out of my mind.
“Hi,” she said.