My Life Story; Episode 19
The sullen look on Sarah’s face presented a kind of guilt I couldn’t understand. She avoided eye contact with me. I was very sure she knew something that she wasn’t telling me. My heart raced as we entered the psychiatric hospital. The sheer magnificence of the building wowed me a little. But it still did not shew my anxiety. I know that mad people were usually admitted here, hence I did not know if I should pray to find Hannah here or not.
As we walked in, Sarah began to drag behind. Her unwillingness to enter the building gave her away. I looked suspiciously at her and left her behind. Unlike the previous hospitals, this one had no reception. I looked around for a while, hoping to find someone to talk to. I ran towards a nurse who seemed to be hurrying out of sight.
“Excuse me ma, please help me I’m looking for someone ” She neither lessened her pace nor stop to look at me. She was focused on the file she was carrying. She walked and spoke at the same time.
“Who exactly?” she asked, flipping through her file and walking briskly.
“It’s my friend, her name is Hannah, I don’t know if…….. ”
She stopped abruptly and shot a horrible look at me immediately I mentioned Hannah’s name. I stole a glance at the file she was holding, it had… “Hannah Balogun” written on it, with a tag next to it stating clearly “Emergency”
“Are you the Sarah? ”she asked, grabbing hold of my hand.
“No ma, Sarah is just outside, I’m Ruth” I replied, trying to wriggle free from her grip.
“Take me to her” she ordered, as she pulled me towards the door. My anxiety increased, at this point I was certain that Sarah had a lot to do with what was happening.
“Do you know your friend’s Parents or anybody we can contact ?” she stopped and asked. I thought about it for a while, if Hannah wanted them to contact her family, she would have volunteered those information. I decided to withhold answers myself.
“No ma, I don’t know anyone”
“What about your school?” she asked.
“School has closed” I replied.
She resigned from her questioning and continued towards the door, till we were out in the open.
“That’s Sarah” I said, pointing towards her.
The sight of the nurse holding my hand firmly, and pointing at her frightened Sarah. She began to retreat towards the gate as we approached her.
“My friend stop there! “the nurse ordered.
Sarah froze, with a frightened look on her face. The nurse approached her and grabbed her by the hand.
“Come with me, you have some explaining to do” she said, as she led us all the way up to her office. Sarah was shedding tears already, I was totally confused.
We passed through an open ward to her office. The sight of mentally challenged people gave me creeps. Some looked calm and well behaved, you’ll rarely notice their madness. Others where obviously unruly and disorderly. Some showed waxy flexibility. I wondered why Hannah was in a psychiatric hospital. Has she suddenly become mad? I wondered. I began to recollect stories of young girls who have been used for money rituals by boys of this kind. My own thoughts sent cold shivers down my spine. But I knew my curiosity would soon be satisfied.
As we entered into a small office with three chairs and a table. She pointed at the seats for Sarah and I, while she sat across the table facing us. I looked around the office uncomfortably, wondering what was about to happen. Sarah on the other hand was sobbing. Her face was soaked with tears. For what reason, I had no idea. The nurse placed her file on the table, and flipped through several pages, clearly searching for something. She looked up, staring into our eyes, alternating between I and Sarah.
“Lets hear your own side of the story” she said, pointing at Sarah. Sarah shrugged, and turned away from the nurse. She directed her gaze to the floor, sobbing profusely. I was getting more agitated and worried, I desperately needed to hear what happened.
“I didn’t know it was going to be like that, I thought she would agree Sarah said in between sobs.
“But why did you not offer yourself instead, or at least return their money?” the nurse replied, in a stern voice. She was getting impatient and angry too.
“Ayo wanted me to himself, I have spent part of the money. Hannah was the only option left” Sarah continued.
“So you sold your friend for how much?” She shouted, springing up from her seat and banging her fist on the table.
Sarah’s head dropped to the table, her sobbing had become weeping. I turned my head from side to side, trying to decipher the situation. I just couldn’t gather the story in my head.
“Pray nothing happens to your friend, you prostitute.” the nurse shouted angrily.
“And you”… focusing on me, “how did you become friends with this girl?” the nurse asked.
I looked sullenly at her, if only she knew how much I regret knowing Sarah.
“What happened ma? ” I asked almost inaudibly.
“Your friend here was paid eighty thousand naira to arrange three prostitutes for a boy and his friends. She took you and Hannah to them. Obviously you were not open to the arrangement, I guess. From the informations gathered, I heard you threatened one of them with a sharp object”
“Yes ma,” I replied sharply.
“When you left, he demanded for his money or another girl. But I guess your friend here has spent all the money. So they settled for Hannah instead, without her knowledge. Apparently Hannah refused to accommodate two guys at the same time, so they resorted to coercion. They forced a substance into her mouth and nose. I’m not sure what it was, but from the description, it might be cocaine. Anyway Hannah passed out, she had no idea what happened. When she woke up, she was bleeding and acting abnormally. So they brought her here and disappeared. Well, your friend suffered from the effect of cocaine and the trauma she also passed through. She had a miscarriage too.”
Her last sentence shocked me, I almost jumped out of my seat.
“How is that possible?” I asked, with tears falling freely from my eyes.
“Well she told us she was six weeks pregnant, and Sarah here has been giving her pills to terminate it. I guess she has succeeded now”
I stood up from my seat with uncontrollable anger, and grabbed Sarah by her collar. I wanted to choke her badly.
“What have you done, you devil. If anything happens to Hannah, I will kill you myself ” I screamed at the top of my voice.
“Do that and you will end up in jail too” the nurse cut in sharply.
Sarah sat helplessly, making no effort to defend herself. The gravity of her actions must have sunk deep into her head. The nurse ran across to us, and freed Sarah from my grip.
“Calm down, Hannah is stable now, the worst has past” she said as she pulled me away from Sarah.
“Can I see her? “I asked calmly.
“Follow me” she ordered.
The three of us walked out of the office, as she lead us towards another room. She stood by the entrance, and directed us to go in and be brief. I opened the door and walked in, while Sarah held back. She was reluctant to see Hannah. Of course she had to be, it was difficult to predict what Hannah’s reaction will be.
I got closer to the bed and called out to Hannah gently. She turned her head towards me slowly. Her pillow was soaked with tears, her eyes were pale and swollen. She looked nothing like the girl who left school with me this morning. She was still sobbing quietly when she signaled me to come closer. I walked up to her and bent down to listen.
“Tell Sarah that I‘ll kill her and myself when I leave this hospital” she whispered into my ears in between sobs. I could feel the pain and anger in her voice, she never deserved this. I’d kill Sarah too if I had the courage.
“Please don’t bring my parents into this” she continued, as she burst in another round of tears.
I held her hand, and we cried together for a while. I couldn’t take it anymore, I had left the room. Sarah and the nurse were still standing outside. I looked at her coldly, with hatred and anger clearly visible. I felt the urge to choke her again. The nurse placed her hand on my shoulder, and spoke in a gentle voice.
“You have to help Hannah, we need to contact her family, this is a psychiatric hospital. We have done our part, we need to refer her to the teaching hospital, she needs an ultrasound which we can’t do here. So if you know any way of contacting her parents, please tell me.”
I thought about it for a while, if Hannah’s parents entered the fray, it will only be a matter of 3 mintues before my parents would know too. All our dirty secretes will be exposed. I’d probably get the beating of my life. But all that didn’t matter, I had to do the right thing, even if it would be a disaster for me. Hannah needed help.
“I know her house” I blotted out.
“Fine, I will get my keys” she replied, and headed for her office.
“What are you doing? you are going to expose all of us” Sarah whispered.
I had no idea how to reply her, I simply swung my hand around and struck her face. The slap startled her, but she made no attempt to retaliate. She simply held her cheek. My reply was clearly delivered I suppose. I knew our little hide and seek had come to an end, but what I was left to anticipate was my parent’s reaction when they find who I had become.