“This is weird. Is this weird? It feels weird,” I said.
“It’s only weird because I have no idea what you’re talking about,” said Imo down the line.
“The results are out,” said Kay, loud enough for Imo to hear.
“And?” said Imo.
“We all passed,” said Kay.
“But that’s great!”
“It’s weird,” said both Kay and I in unison.
June of this year had been a hell of a rollercoaster.
It was rare to find a Nursing student failing to thrive after second year. Third and fourth year usually passed without event but all of us were sure that we would be fucked.
I still had no memory of what it was that I had studied on any of the modules and I wondered how I had managed to cram all of it well enough for me to pass.
“Maybe they realized that they would have no graduation class, so they pushed us along,” said Kay.
“That’s some shit,” I said. “That would make an epic book. The Department.”
Both Kay and Imo laughed at this.
At this point, Kay branched off with a promise to catch up with me later.
“So besides you heading into the final battle, how are things?”
“They are so awesome!” I said, smiling as I thought of Dom.
He was pretty much the only thing that I had going for me outside of school and work.
I’d been enjoying movies at the cinema, both on my own and with Dom. I’d been reading books – I’d failed with The Lord Of The Rings and had now moved on to crime fiction and spies. The friendships I had with my classmates were great and now, we were all going into our final year together.
It was all great.
I shook my head, thinking about my parents and my dead communication with my sister.
“No idea how that’s going,” I said honestly. “Maybe once I’ve left Nursing behind things will go back to normal.”
“I don’t understand you people,” she said.
“I don’t understand you people,” I said, referring to her relationship with her family.
But I had spent a considerable amount of time with his family and a part of me was envious. There was a brilliant way in which they all seemed to relate to each other in all of their differences. The man of the house and the youngest boy were both ex-Marines and the youngest boy and the second born son were both in business with the grandfather; the second born and the eldest boy connected with the mother in their belief in God and the ex-Marines pretty much got what they missed at church from her.
And she and I were both Nurses who enjoyed the company of tiny humans over adults.
And then I related to the brothers in their love of cricket and to the entire family simply for my heritage, even though I knew nothing of it.
I felt like I belonged there and they treated me as one of their own.
And sometimes, I forgot that I had a family of my own.
“Can’t wait for you to meet him,” I said.
“Wooooo,” she said. “When’s that gonna be?”
I shook my head, sitting down on one of the benches on the lawn of the Medical School.
It had been almost four years and not once had I asked him home to meet my parents or spend the weekend. My parents knew he existed and that we were an item if all the various pictures that were all over the media were anything to look at.
But that wasn’t the same.
He must have noticed, surely.
“No idea…” I said. “When are you free? Maybe you can crash here one weekend.”
“I’m free every weekend!” she said. “Until February next year, that is.”
“What happens in February next year?” I asked with a frown.
“I’m moving to Cape Town. I got in to study medicine!”
I almost started screaming. “Epic!” I squealed, trying to keep my voice from rising.
And then I frowned. “Cape Town? Oh my word…”
“It’s far, I know,” she said. “But is it wrong of me to do be excited?”
“Nope,” I said. “It’s something epic. After all you’ve been through and staying there all this time? You should kill it in the Cape. Damn… I won’t be seeing you much… Oh my gosh…”
We sat there for a moment in silence.
“I suppose it’s not all that different to how things are now,” I said. “As long as we don’t lose touch with each other.”
“Right, so before Feb,” I said. “That leaves this month and January.”
So I had a conversation to have with Dom and my parents.
I strolled back to my place and en route, I ran into Maria.
“So,” she said. “Next year we’re all about research. You wanna team up? Me, you, Kay?”
“Cool,” I said with a shrug. Honestly, I couldn’t survive the rest of the class. All of them lived to dominate and I wasn’t about that life. I laughed to myself, thinking about Dominick.
I had learnt a few things about what it was that he used to do simply by Googling the things I’d seen in that room of his.
He had gone in there with some people to fix a leaking tap – it was indeed empty.
And then once again, I found myself in Hilda’s shoes.
Who wouldn’t want to know what that world was like? Suits and evening gowns and subtle communications that only certain people would understand and invitations to do things that would rock the republic of an ordinary citizen.
Once or twice, I caught a glimpse of that man he claimed to have left behind. I saw him when Dom wanted me to do something and my response was an immediate negation.
The charm came out and once that failed, he went into some dark mysterious place that had me panting to obey, for matters as simple as putting my books in order on the table where I studied. But it seemed like a test of wills on both our parts. I saw that he too was beginning to see the sex in pretty much everything. Simply watching television had become a battle in keeping our bodies to ourselves. Nothing seemed to draw our attention away from each other besides my education.
He was so diligent about that.
He even allotted time in our routine for me to study and revise and had even come close to finding me a tutor and I damn near slapped him.
“You can do better,” he had said on seeing that I was literally riding the blade’s edge on average for my Anatomy and Physiology mid-year exams.
“I really don’t give a damn though Dom,” I said. “I am putting in as much as I can put in –”
“But you aren’t giving it your best, though!”
“How the fuck do you know that?!” I demanded, pushing my papers away from me.
“I never wanted to do this, Dominick! I wanted to pursue my art and my writing and my father wasn’t about that life. He forced me to take the Science package and I was at the bottom of my class – and now I have to be here and do this, all the time!”
I rose to my feet, feeling the tears coming. “I am barely surviving here! I am passing surprisingly and if that means moving forward with madoda score, I don’t care! My parents want a degree, I will give them one. They didn’t ask for rainbow colours.”
That argument had ended with just these words and he had left me to my own devices.
Since then, I had passed into third year and now into fourth.
I really didn’t care and that shocked me. I did wonder how far I could push it if I really gave it my effort, but I was tired of using my energy to push through this degree. It took the wind out of me pushing positive vibes when that wasn’t my personality to begin with, most especially on the days when I would have preferred sitting silently in the corner festering in my own misery.
He hadn’t apologized and I hadn’t asked him to. We had simply side-stepped that discussion and continued on as we had been doing.
Up in my room, I was lounging on my bed, jamming to some really good music – it was Thursday – when my phone rang.
“You really should allow me to call you, Dom,” I said. “It makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something.”
He laughed at this. “Company resources. They must be used. Congratulations.”
“And how the hell did you know that?”
“I’ve got spies everywhere – kidding,” he said. “I was sure that if you’d failed, you would have called me immediately. And also, you never do tell me anything unless it’s bad.”
Which was kind of accurate.
I never celebrated my victories in this arena.
“How shall we celebrate?” he asked. I shrugged, staring up at the ceiling.
“You ask me this and I always tell you that it’s whatever. I wanna do whatever you wanna do if it’s cool. If not, well…”
He laughed at this and I listened to his voice, reveling in the beauty of the sound.
“My parents want to host you for lunch –”
“No!” I whined, sitting up, already tired for what might happen. “I don’t wanna be the center of attention for this! Come on!”
“I did tell them, but they just don’t get it.”
“None of you get it,” I grumbled. “And I bet you didn’t even try to explain it to them.”
“I just think it’s an accomplishment, Dilia… You’re being put through your paces and you are thriving… Your strength should be celebrated. It’s a beautiful thing.”
I shook my head.
I didn’t want this.
It was yet another thing to pretend that I was happy for. Granted, it would have been miserable if I’d failed, but I just wanted to keep it real with myself and look to the year ahead. It wasn’t over until I had the damned scroll in my bloody hand.
“Whatever,” I said. “When is this hosting?”
“Sunday,” he said brightly.
“Make no mistake, Dom, I’m not happy about this. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
I hung up the phone and then regretted it.
I called him back immediately on his cellphone and his response came halfway through the ring.
“I love you,” I said.
“I love you too.”
And then I hung up my phone.
I texted my parents to relay the relevant news and then lay back down on my bed.
Some seconds later, Kay appeared, bearing drinks.
Had this been any other day, I would have declined the offer. But I was not in the mood to do anything other than what I wanted to do and what I wanted to do was drink at eleven in the afternoon and celebrate the only thing of value in this existence – the fact that I was alive to exist.