I woke up waiting for my alarm to go off.
Sometimes, I wonder why I bother setting the alarm since I’m always up way before it chimes, but still, I set it regardless of my location.
Then I remembered this was a two night trip, not the regular one nighters. I groaned inwardly because I still had an entire day to spend in boring Dakar. The flashing red light of my Blackberry told me I had a message at least.
‘Flesh dey hospital, thot 2 let u knw.’
That was the message from my brother.
Yho! Why do these children all pick a day when I am out of town to arrive? I wondered.
‘Labour?’ I asked.
‘Nope, blood pressure high.’ Came back his reply.
‘Pls keep me posted.’ I typed. I was going to include a big hug smiley, but decided against it; Jigga would freak out.
The day dragged on for what seemed like forever. I took to sleeping to help pass the time, but each time I woke up, barely thirty minutes would have passed from the last time. When nightfall finally came, it was only to mark the countdown to 3am when I would check out of the hotel and head back home to Lagos; that one passed fairly quickly.
In Lagos, I could barely wait for the passengers to disembark. As soon as the last passenger got off, I conducted my post flight duties quickly and raced off to the office to drop off my flight paperwork. At the office I got rail-roaded into a flight the next morning. I accepted without arguments if only to get off quickly. I was changing out of my uniform when Jigga’s profile message changed to “And now the wait begins…”
I was going to hitch a ride with a colleague of mine, but I changed my mind – he would slow me down. I hopped on a bike, stopping at an ATM machine to get some cash – after all it was Easter weekend. Thirty minutes and three bank branches later, I still had not cashed any money: The issuer or interswitch was ‘inop’.
I just got on another bike to take me to the hospital when I received a message from Mateelly:
‘Congrats dearie. Uncleeeee Franque raise to d power of…. I’ve lost count.’
I was going to send her a message and ask her to calm down when I realised she could have gotten this info from a source at the hospital. I checked Jigga’s profile and there it was “It’s a girl.”
I almost fell off the bike for joy and as soon as I changed my profile message, the congratulatory messages came pouring in.
At the hospital, a lusty cry welcomed me to the ward. I saw Jigga sitting out there and, pointing toward the door, he said to me smiling, “Oya go see wetin una 3am feeding don do.”
I pushed the door open and poked my head into the same room I had walked into almost a year ago when my son was born. I half expected a sense of deja vu, but this was different.
Mama sat there smiling like a cat that swallowed the milkbowl, while in an adjoining room a nurse was holding a baby. She put the baby on a scale and took down the baby’s weight, then turned the baby upside down, holding the baby by the legs, she took a tape and measured from the heel to head. I almost complained about how she was handling the baby, but then I remembered that the baby is not an egg. This baby hasn’t been an egg in about nine months.
Finally. I was allowed to look at her and I didn’t know if to dance or sing. She weighed in at 4.2kgs, her skin as white as porcelain, and her heels rimmed with bits of tissue like she was shedding skin. Her face, a deep crimson, and she looked like someone had taken a palm to it and pressed down. Though her facial features were flat and squashed, the resemblance to her father was unmistakable, a father who at that exact moment was flying in from out of town.
I stood there taking it all in, yet mesmerised by it all. Her mouth tiny with pale lips, but there was nothing tiny or faint about the cry that was emitted each time those lips parted. I mentally saluted her lungs, for they had to be really strong.
Eventually Big mama arrived and Ij too, and the rest of my day passed in a whirlwind of activity. Most of what I did was drive around. At one of such time when I returned, it was to find her father, who had only just arrived, standing over her cot, arms folded and looking down at her. Awe and amazement evident in his stance and look.
For the next two days, I could hardly wait for my flights to be over so I could rush over to the hospital to see my niece.
Two days ago, I fed her for the first time. Craddling her head in the crook of my left arm, I took the bottle from Mama with my right and gently stuck the teat in her mouth. For a few seconds we remained like that: me looking down at her, her face was no longer flat and had filled out, her cheeks were rosy – she looked more and more like her father – the bottle at her lips. Then she did this thing she usually did with her eyes, shutting one and looking out through the other and then alternating them. There were tiny bubbles at her lips as formula gathered there, and then as if reaching a resolution, she started working her jaws. Furiously, she sucked and I stared in wonderment as the contents of the bottle reduced by the second. It was the most magical thing I had seen in recent times. When she was done, I was loath to hand her over to Mama, but she had to burp her.
Sitting here at the airport lounge in Douala writing this, I am impatient for my aircraft to arrive. I wish I did not have to leave home, but more than that, I wish that my flight back home will be safe and quick. I cannot wait to return home to her. The lounge door opens and I look up to see the Airport Manager standing there, a sign that the aircraft has come. I smile as I drape my jacket over my shoulder, and pulling my bag, I head to the boarding gate beyond which is parked the aircraft to take me home.
None of her parents is Yoruba, but I cannot think of her as any other than ABIDEMI, the little one who would not wait for my return before venturing into this world.