Ada has asthma, she wheezes twice in a week. But since our kerosene stove is getting old, it brings out so much black smoke than the fumes oozed by a dead car. Ada wheezes every day lately, she hangs her inhaler on her neck; like a locket.
Mummy told Daddy to buy a gas cooker, Daddy said he does not have enough money for a cooking gas. We cook less at night and more in the afternoon and morning. Ada leaves the house to our neighbour’s while we cook. Daddy is always cantankerous – especially whenever it gets to things concerning Ada.
Ada is twenty-seven, but she is not married. Maybe that is why Dad is always not comfortable whenever she is around in our house, in Owerri. Ada lives in Awka, in her own apartment. She works as a teacher in a private school, but she thinks they pay her less than she deserves. She has a degree, she said. It is just Ada and I, just the two of us. I don’t know if Mummy is planning on making another baby. The last time I saw her stomach protrude, she was at the hospital and she had an operation. I was only six years old. Ada is fifteen years older than I am. That’s a lot.
Mummy buys a new stove. She says this will bring less smoke, and since it is new, we will cook yam and stew for dinner. Mummy praises the red and white round cylindrical thing that Ada gets tired of listening. I do too. Ada puts the wic for the stove in the stove jack.
“The man said this one will bring out less smoke and more blue flames.” Ada laughs when Mummy says blue flames. “This one is refined stove, gbo?” She laughs and hits my folded hands. “Let’s try this one and see na.” She sits up and goes into her room – to change her clothes. Dad is not back yet.
We make food together; Mum, Ada and I. Mum lights the kerosene stove and when the yellow flames come out at first, she laughs and makes a joke of it.There is slight feel of disappointment on her face. Ada slices the yam. She is wearing a yellow tank top on a short, her inhaler still hangs around her neck. She is beautiful, the kind of pretty I want for myself. Smooth brown looking skin, no pimple, no blackheads. Tall figure standing on slightly curved legs. Just like the ones I see on newspaper covers. I wonder what is wrong actually.
Ada sees the blue flames first and points it to us. Mummy dances in the kitchen out of excitement. She gives Ada and I that “I told you the stove is original” face. Ada tells her to give the stove two weeks and see the kind of thick smoke and yellow flames it would bring out. The yam boils fast and Daddy comes back just when the pot of stew is sitting off the stove. His presence whispers it’s dinner time, – the clock spells hunger at eight-thirty.
I came back in the afternoon on Thursday. School dismissed early. Tomorrow is public holiday. I came back and Ada was on the bed. She was still wearing the yellow tank top and the shorts. I greeted her and she mumbled. I took off my clothes and school bag.
“I’m a burden, what if I just die and be forgotten?” Ada is sitting on the bed when I turn around to look at her, her lower eyes are swollen, her eyes are red too. She has been crying. I find a space beside her enough for my little bums, but didn’t find what to say. “God forbid bad thing.” I snap my fingers and shrug at the same time. She cuts off a tear drop dangling her chin with her hands.
“I’m a burden to him, I think.” She pauses and sniffs. “Consuming his little earning on drugs and stupid inhalers. I can’t even take care of myself. I have problem, I come back and stay. I’m even tired of myself, talk more of him.”
“Ada, Mummy and I will take care of you. God is, already.” I try to convince her, to make her stop crying. It isn’t my first time seeing her cry. Her eyes let out streams of tears from the instant of her hearing Mummy and Daddy discussing her. Ada has been eavesdropping ever since, to their conversation. “You have to stop crying now, Mummy might come back soon.” I make her warm water for bath, so she would not wheeze. She makes me feel good for helping with her warm thanks.
It’s my birthday eve, Ada has an attack. An asthma attack. Mummy rushes her to the hospital with our neighbour’s car. Papa Jeffery’s car. It is four thirty at the wake of my birthday. Mummy pushes the inhaler air inside Ada’s mouth till it couldn’t breathe nomore into Ada’s mouth. Ada does not bring extra.
Mummy now is worn by panic and fear head to toe. Dad looks sleepy and tired. I actually am too. Ada’s wheezing was loud and her brown eyeballs are almost gone. It’s the toughest I have seen. Daddy and I stay back at home.
My eyes close without my permission in sleep and I see where Ada is buried. I make to visit Ada in the evening after school. She’s wearing oxygen and in a deep sleep. Mummy is slumbering – she must be tired. I cough to tell of my presence, Mummy opens her eyes. She asks me of school and my response is “fine.” She reports, “Ada screamed through out the morning, she just fell asleep.” I sit on the bed where she lies.
Mummy warns, I should be careful not to wake her. Mummy must rest now, I must stay with Ada alone in the hospital. She goes home to freshen up and get some clothes for Ada too.
Recalling the dream I had seen earlier but I am not even scared; not because I want her to die; but I know she will get well soon. God is in control. She’s still breathing. Her name is not even Ada, her name is Chimbusoma Cynthia Aniekwe. Ada look so pathetic that I don’t notice my eyes and nose are runny.
Daddy and I visit her on Saturday in the morning. Ada is not sleeping again, but she’s still wearing the oxygen. She smiles when she sees me and congratulates me. I am thirteen years old now.
Ada has eaten breakfast before our arrival. The doctor and nurses are doing ward check. They will come to check on Ada soon. Dad leaves after asking Ada how she feels. Ada says she feels better.
They later checked on Ada. The doctor said, “she will be out of the oxygen soon.” Everyone was very happy.
I sit outside the hospital, sitting on the pavement of the lawn. A man is mowing the other lawn. It makes so much noise. The hospital has flowers, different colours of flower. Yellow large petals on a green leave and red chrysanthemum. The red chrysanthemum has just been trimmed. We suck some juice out of it and sometimes eat the sour-tasting petal. We loved to do that when we were much younger; the other children at school and I.
I pick the fallen flowers and hold it in my palm. It’s weak, weak like Ada’s health. Its beauty far gone.
I stay outside till it’s sunny – although it’s just before midday – when I return to Ada’s hospital room. Mummy and she are saying something in hush voices. Ada has taught me how to eavesdrop; I stand by the door and listen. Ada has tears in her voice as Mummy tells her “ndo.
Having it does not mean you will die, it doesn’t.” “It is, it means death Mummy, cancer means death.” Ada let out a coarse cough. “Ada’m, you will not die.” Mummy persists.
Ada has cancer; it’s been cancer all the while and they lied about it. I sob, but not loudly. They don’t know I’m by the door, listening. I just sit by the door and weep, for Ada, for Mummy and the actualization of my dream. Adannem would be gone soon.
– Nnedimma Anumba
Current Video on Youth Shades TV – Men jump over babies in order to cleanse the babies of sins.