The girl that lived in the blue house adjacent to ours while we were growing up. The little girl who in less than three months of meeting became a part of my life. I was not much older than her 12 years, yet she always addressed me as aunty -then. Was it my size, or the often feral expression I wore? Those were the questions I always asked myself after I had bumped into her and had been accosted by her innocent greetings.
She was small for a 12 year old and walked on her toes, like she were floating. There was something about Alicia that made you want to cuddle and tickle her whenever you saw her. She was one of those serious- looking geeky children; only, she was really pretty, never wore braces and was annoyingly vocal. She spoke really fluent English for her age, and her habit of unconsciously correcting people’s wrong pronunciations earned her a nickname- Prof. The child was really smart. ‘Twas something she even joked about in a very adult like manner. She would say, “God has trapped me in this girl’s body for a purpose Chidi.” Since I did not have a lot of friends in the neighbourhood and also, because our dads shared the same ideals when it came to disciplining kids, we became fast friends. Cartoon buddies and avid Archie fans, we had a lot in common. I noticed she was the princess at home and it’s not because she was extraordinarily smart (like her brother will say). She was cushioned at every turn and had everyone at her beck and call. It took me eight more months of friendship to discover the why.
Her bones. The last time I went to see her, it was because I had gotten a call about her being hospitalised. The doctors said there were holes in her hip bone – a medical condition known as avascular necrosis – and that she needed a hip replacement surgery. Alice had just turned eighteen the night before, and had passed out after cutting her cake at a very lavish party she’d planned for months. After she was discharged, she was asked to use a wheelchair for weeks before she finally graduated to this single platinum crutch – an extension of the fashionable woman she turned out to be. Occasions have risen, where she was forced to walk without her crutch, believe me when I say you wouldn’t notice she limps. But being the unreasonable mortal who claims she dances instead of strutting like she used to, she prefers hiding behind the crutch.
The sickly, misshapen red blood cells coursing through her blood vessels. Those inflexible cells that find it difficult to navigate smaller blood vessels thereby resulting in complete blockage of said vessels. An action that bars the entry of oxygen through those blocked vessel, resulting in incomprehensible pains and damage to her organs. A situation better known as a ‘crisis’.
It took me two biology teachers and some hours on wikipedia to understand the severity of Alicia’s condition. She suffers from an inherited condition known as sickle cell anaemia. A condition that has made her live life in short bouts of complete health followed by a cycle of pain so vehement it often leaves her wishing for death.
I had the opportune moment to witness her sufferings during one of her crisis, and seriously, I pray never to see anyone I love go through that again. Every joint on her small frame was literally on fire. She kept asking me to ease the pains. I wasn’t fast enough; my palms seemed to be inflicting more pains as I massaged her joints ferociously: the hands of an amateur masseuse. As I couldn’t stand seeing her like this, I hoisted her onto my back and wobbled to the road, where I got a taxi to the hospital. Hours after admission, I walked into the bleak looking room devoid of any furniture except the narrow hospital bed and an ugly looking cupboard pushed to one corner. I caught the look of the nurse administering her injections – a look of pity so profound, it felt like the helpless and seemingly lifeless body sprawled on that narrow bed was never going to move again. The haughty look I gave the nurse as she walked past me towards the door after her duties were done was one borne from my years of staying at hospitals with Alicia. We hated pity. Pity meant we had lost, that Hades was near. Rather than give her looks of pity, stare at her as if unseeingly. It was a better pill to swallow.
It hurts when people address her as a sickler – a term I consider derogatory and demeaning as offending as Nigger is to some black folks. Yes, she may be physically weak but I assure you this lady has got the most active imagination ever. Since fate connived to weaken her limbs and slow her body, she decided to sign up for a mental gym. Believe me when I say her mind works out every other second – nothing else can be responsible for the kind of things she spews.
It’s 4.32a.m 18th of June, my birthday. Alicia and I had been on the phone for three hours, talking about everything- plans, regrets, fantasies. She’s the one person who knows every single thing about me.
After that call, I couldn’t sleep so I decided to write about my friend. A heroine who continually battles with the Villains coursing through her systems. A woman who believes death held no power over her any longer: because every crisis saw her knocking at his door without him ever responding.
A is for Alicia. The girl that lived in the blue house adjacent to ours while we were growing up.
Sunday 19th of June was World Sickle Day. A day set aside by the UN to celebrate the progress made on the disease and preach it’s prevention. Did you know ignorance is never an excuse for failure at anything in life? Loving a man/woman today is no excuse for giving birth to children with two copies of the sickle genes.
Save a life… Know your genotype today!