Still by Jake Isaac
“Caramel Frapaccino with roasted nuts and two pumps of classic for Linda”
The host at the Starbucks called out. I continued to click away on my phone.
I was so distracted as I waited in line for my drink. I was engrossed in paying bills over the phone.
A password to my utility bill’s account was escaping my mind as I tried to remember.
The payment was already late but a fee would have been incurred if I didn’t make the payment by noon that day.
This was the usual struggle.
Month to month.
The hostess at the counter said in a melodious tone,
“I have Caramel Frapaccino with roasted nuts and two pumps of classic for Linda”
I still didn’t catch it.
A lady behind me who must have seen me order, gently tapped me on my right shoulder and said,
“I think your drink is ready ma’am”
I turned to look at her, smiled and proceeded to collect my drink.
A man was coming in as I was leaving and he held the door open for me. I smiled and said a quick “thank you” as I turned into the streets of downtown Atlanta.
One long drag from my drink, I pressed the button the side of my phone to unlock it.
I kept my head down, navigating my way as I walked down the crowded street and simultaneously tried to figure out my password to the account.
A few minutes later, I arrived at my destination. The automatic doors parted as I approached and the noise level increased.
I approached the desk and there was a short line of people waiting.
I took my place behind a couple of people and continued on my phone. I finally figured out the password!
It was the name of my youngest child.
There was a huge smile on my face as I approached the lady after she said “next in line please”
She flashed a bright smile back and I could tell she had only started her day and that smile would probably fade by lunch time.
“I’m here for an appointment with Dr Fairborn at 9:15am”
She clicked a few times on the computer and said,
“Do you have your medical card and a form of ID”
I reached in my jacket pocket and pulled out the two cards and handed them to her.
She clicked again a few times and then handed the cards back to me with a few documents on a clipboard. She said,
“Fill these out and have a seat they will come and get you.
When you’re done filling them out, place them in box A over there.”
she pointed to the corner of the room. There were two wall files hanging on the wall tagged “A and B”
I left the counter and took a seat.
The forms were a breeze and I promptly placed them in the wall file and returned the clipboard to the counter.
I returned to my seat and continued my unofficial job as a finance manager and market predictor as I crunched numbers and projected analysis of my paycheck.
This was always a depressing task.
The constant pain that came with getting paid and the money very quickly disappearing from my account.
Everything had to be properly planned out. There was no room for unplanned expenses or surprise activities.
Every dollar had a purpose and sometimes even months before it arrived in my account.
I was working away and the door next to the files swung open.
A nurse with a clipboard in her hand came out and said,
She was pronouncing my name wrong but I got up anyways and walked towards her.
“I’m pronouncing it wrong huh?”
I nodded and smiled politely as we headed in the back section of the hospital where the real work was getting done.
She smiled and said,
“How do you say it?
I really want to know how to say it right”
I kept smiling as I said,
She repeated after me but again said,
I nodded, lied and said,
“Yeah, you got it”
She seemed so pleased. She was pronouncing it wrong but I wasn’t here for that.
Besides, I was so used to it.
Almost everyone has been pronouncing my name wrong since I moved to America.
I sat down and she strapped my left arm up and asked me to open my mouth. She carefully placed the thermometer in my mouth.
I closed my mouth and directed my attention to the blood pressure machine on my left.
The pump went on and trapped my arm and then relaxed.
Numbers flashed on the screen as she wrote them down and I got up.
“Oh that looks a little high.
Come here lets get your weight and height”
Normally weight loss would be something that I would be stoked about but this time, I wasn’t. She recorded my weight, 7 pounds lower than my last visit, just under a month ago.
The nurse led me into one of the rooms and said,
“Take off your clothes and put on the robe. The doctor will be with you shortly.”
I smiled as the door shut and then I became nervous. The uncertainty of what was coming next was overwhelming.
I sat there, looking around the room and reading some of the posters hanging on the wall and then the door opened.
My doctor came in with his handsome smile on his handsome face.
He was just yummy.
He reminded me of a young George Clooney on General hospital but with a beard and a more chiseled build.
That wedding ring on his finger always annoyed me whenever I came for a checkup. But what would he been looking for with me anyways.
I just admired in silence as he said,
“Linda! How are you?”
I smiled and replied,
He pulled a chair and sat down across from me and said,
“So what brings you in today?”
My smiled disappeared and I said,
“The pain is back doctor”
He didn’t flinch, he just said,
Tell me more about that”
“Well…. sometimes I just feel hard cramps and it almost feels like I’m on my period but I haven’t had one in years.
And sometimes it gets really painful.
Oh… sometimes there is a discharge too”
He got up and got behind the standing the computer and said,
“How’s your activity level been?
Have you been working out?”
I see your blood pressure is high…”
I replied and said with a laugh,
“Try raising three grown children and see if your blood pressure will not be high.”
He laughed with me and said,
“Have you been resting?
And cutting back on your salt intake”
I shook my head and I said,
“Not really doctor. It’s hard working two jobs and maintaining a household to get anytime to sleep”
“I understand but you have to rest and also watch what you eat.
I’m going to give you some pain meds to hopefully tackle the pain and I’m also setting up an appointment downstairs so you can have a CT scan done.
Do you have some time for that today?”
I nodded and he continued.
That will give me a clear picture of what’s going on in there and we can go from there. Okay?
In the meantime, try to get some rest and stay away from Starbucks”
He had seen the cup sitting by my handbag on the floor.
I blushed like a kid that had been caught sneaking candy after halloween.
“Trust me, I know it tastes good but it’s ultimately not good for you.
And we don’t want you having to come and see more times right?”
I shook my head as he said,
“Because, I’m open to you visiting all the time if you want. I just know you are a very busy woman.”
I smiled as he said goodbye and exited the room.
I got off the bed and began to put my clothes on. I felt somewhat relieved and I wasn’t sure why.
Maybe it was the “doctor effect” that talking to him just made it feel better.
I reached for my jacket, it wasn’t the flashiest. Back in Nigeria, they called the yellow fever jacket for traffic officers.
I worked in the similar field as a toll collector.
My phone buzzed and I reached for it.
I looked at the message and then the time, I had to go. I had work soon.
People hope to find their purpose in life.
And sometimes you hope that your purpose is somehow linked to the work that you decide to do.
Everyday as I made my way into work that afternoon, I was just tired. I hated the work.
Regularly, I felt like a failure or like I was not accomplishing enough of what I could with my potential or the education below my belt.
I walked into the building and headed into the staff room.
My co-worker Bernice, was filling out some paperwork.
I said hello and we got chatting.
“I cannot wait for Friday so I can go on vacation with my family.
My husband and my kids are taking me to Orlando for my birthday”
“Aww thats really nice.
I bet you are excited”
“I am beyond excited. It is the first time they have come together to do something for me like this.
I just want the week to speed by”
she chimed back.
The smile on her face said it all.
She was happy.
And I wasn’t.
I was happy for her but I wasn’t happy.
My children were too busy in their various lives and of course; I had no husband.
Well, technically I do but only in the title, not in the presence.
But that was not something that I dwelled on too much.
It was my reality and more importantly, it was my past.
And part of my reality was that my birthday was a month away and my own children most likely had nothing planned.
My shift was about to start in 6 minutes and when my co-worker Greig walked into the room and said,
“Did you guys get your checks yet?’
I replied and said,
“No, I didn’t get a chance to last week.”
I got up and headed into the accounting room. I stopped and asked Lacy for my check, she looked through a folder and handed me an envelope with my name on it.
I opened it up I looked straight at the bottom line to see how much I had made in that pay period.
I was shocked as the amount was less than I had calculated.
I asked Lacy why it was so low, she said,
“You’re going to have to ask Rob”
I rolled my eyes and walked into my supervisor Rob’s office and said,
“Hi Rob, I was looking at my paycheck and I noticed it was lower than what I worked last week.
What happened to the overtime pay?”
He looked up from his desk and said,
“Oh, we processed that separately. It should come in a separate check.
Talk to Lacy tomorrow.”
I felt better and sure my money was coming. I said,
I was about to leave when Rob said,
“I’m glad you came to talk to me. I was going to speak to all staff individually before the all staff meeting on Wednesday. We are cutting back.
As you know the state approved automated toll stations a few months ago, so we are phasing out staff.
Starting next week, there will no longer be overtime and as you know, your position will be completely discontinued once all the installations are completed in 3 weeks”
I swallowed hard. That development was a hard pill to take.
The overtime was the crux of what we lived by.
I had always known that I would have to look for a new job. I just didn’t think that I had to give up the overtime opportunity that I was getting. I really didn’t have an answer for what I was going to do next.
I just knew I had to do something; fast.
I nodded and quietly left the room.
I tucked my check in my bag and placed it in my locker. I ran out onto the freeway and made my way to my station.
It was those hours before rush hour and I just sat there.
The things about my job was that it was so mechanical that I just sat there and collected money, gave change and sat in my thoughts.
Sometimes, some of the drivers would say hello as they handed their cash to me but most times people just wanted to be on their way.
I respected that as it gave me time to think.
That day, I just sat there and pondered.
It had been 7 years since I left Nigeria with my three children.
I had left a comfortable life but I was being physically and sexually abused daily.
It had gotten to a point where I had to leave. So I worked it out with the help of my very good friend and after a few months of secret planning.
I left my husbands house with my three kids aged 17,14 and 10 at the time.
They thought we were travelling to Abuja for a wedding and did not realize we were coming to America till we stopped over in London’s Heathrow airport.
My children were my priority and the older they got, I couldn’t allow them to witness what I was going through.
The sacrifices I had to make for my children now seem to have gone unnoticed.
My oldest, now 24, hates me even though all my children had constant contact and interactions with their father.
He questions why I left the “good life” to struggle in the States.
I have never blamed him because I never told him what I truly went through. I would never want my children to think their father was not a good father to them.
My younger two, both girls are interesting cases. One was on the verge of graduating from college as the other was preparing to go in a few months.
They seemed to be doing fairly okay but sometimes I just wondered if they would soon turn like their older brother. I used to always pray that “America wouldn’t change them” like people always claimed it did when children moved out here.
I prayed everyday for a miracle or breakthrough in my life.
I was so tired of struggling and putting my children through hardship.
I went back into balancing mode as I tried to figure out where the money for my daughter’s college trip to New York was going to come from.
It had already cost a fortune to send out all the college applications and now she needed money for some college trip with her friends.
One thing I always made sure of was that my children never felt like they were less than or they didn’t have enough.
If it was important, I would make sure they could be a part of it or attend.
And I celebrated all their birthdays with great happiness.
It was around those days that I felt some level of reward for leaving their father.
He was a wealthy man and sometimes I would begin to wish I was still connected to him so my children didn’t struggle.
But my pride was worth more than anything he had.
There was a lesson, I wanted my children to learn from my leaving their father.
Money couldn’t and should never buy love or respect.
I closed my shift 4 hours early. There was no overtime, so I was able to leave earlier.
On one hand, I was glad that I got to leave early because it meant that I could sleep a few hours before having to go to my other job later at night.
Normally, I only got a couple hours at home before having my youngest child drop me off at my other job.
She would then pick me up in the morning and we would switch off using the car. I would drop her off at school and go to my job at the tolling station, pick her up during my lunch break in the late afternoon and then have her drop me back to work.
It was a rotation that worked seamlessly for months and was made easier because she had finished up her credits early, so she didn’t have to be in school a lot during her senior year.
That day, we didn’t have the switch because I had the doctors appointment early in the morning. I left work that day feeling uncertain as I drove home but things were already set in motion beyond my dreams and I had no idea.
If you’re new to the blog, Welcome to 19th series on #WhatTheHeckMan!!! There are a ton of stories.
From Turbulence, Pains, Faded, Blurred, Triangle of Revenge, Scarred, The Wordsmith, Fallen Heights, Homeless, Amnesia, Mirage, Savages, Selfish, Imperfect, Trapped, Empty, Remote Control and of course the legendary; Undercover Player. 😊
If you want to read up on them, there is a link here. Click on that and it will take you to the links for each one.
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Anytime after 4pm was chaos at out apartment complex.
Finding parking was impossible.
I circled for about 7 minutes before I finally found a spot. I squeezed my car into the spot and began the long walk to our unit.
It felt like I parked in Africa and was walking to Washington DC.
I was so tired too.
I walked to the mailbox right in front of our building and opened it up.
The mail had not been taken for a few days.
I stood there and scanned through them.
Separating bills, coupons and looking out for my daughters college responses.
I was going through them when I noticed the envelope from Columbia University in New York.
Unlike most parents that I saw on television that waited for their children to open the letters themselves. I began to open it.
Her success was my success and her failure was my failure too.
I couldn’t wait to find out.
I pulled out the paper on the inside and fleshed it out.
“Dear Amanda Akala,
I am pleased to inform you that you have been accepted into the School of Engineering and Applied Science at Columbia University for the Fall 2014 program.”
I squealed and started running to the house shouting.
The joy in my heart knew no bounds.
I kept on shouting as I ran up the stairs.
“Amanda! Amanda! God has done it o!”
I even burst out in song as I opened the front door. I began dancing around the living room singing
“He has done it for me…. He Has done it for me”
A popular Nigerian Praise and Worship song.
Amanda was nowhere to be found. But I didn’t notice as I kept on dancing.
I stopped temporarily to catch my breath as I called out,
“Amanda! Come out na. God has done it!”
I began dancing again and slowly the bedroom that she shared with her sister opened and there she was.
My pride and joy.
I was so happy.
“Amanda come and dance with me. Come and see what the Lord has done”
I kicked into another round. Swinging my tired hips from left to right as I weaved various local choruses together in praise of God and this thing that gladdened my heart.
And then it happened, just as Amanda reached me, Tyler a boy from her school that I had told she should no longer see or allow into my home. Walked out sheepishly behind her.
I stopped dead in my tracks.
I looked at him and then Amanda.
I didn’t even have the words to rain the curses I wanted to on his head.
You could tell that he hoped the ground would open up and swallow him.
In other circumstances, it would have been funny to watch but this was my daughter; my last hope at the life.
Her success was almost linked to that of the family.
“Good evening ma’am”
I didn’t even realize it but I blurted out.
Get out now before I rain curses on your head. The devil wants to use you to derail my daughter.
Oh he ran so fast with his undone fly.
I almost laughed as he tripped over himself while bolting out the door.
I turned over to Amanda and said,
You this girl. After everything we have been through. What were you doing with that boy in my house?”
I was about to kick in a gear of insults when my phone began to ring.
I stopped mid sentence and turned. My bag was in the corner of the room as I had thrown it in the happy chaos that seemed like a distant memory now.
I picked up my phone and looked at the number.
It read “Unknown”
I normally didn’t pick up “Unknown or blocked numbers” because their father used to harass me years back trying to force me to come back to Nigeria.
I answered and said “hello”
The voice on other end said,
“Hello Linda, it’s Dr. Fairborn. How are you doing?”
I relaxed a bit while still shooting the worst possible stink eye at a now tearful Amanda.
“Hi doc. I’m okay.
How are you?”
“I’m okay. Is this a good time to chat?”
I replied and said
“Yes. I can talk”
He continued and said,
“Well, I got the results back and from what I see, we discovered some tumors around your ovaries
And it looks aggressive this time.
The good thing is their treatable but the bad news is that the procedures can be very expensive and take a lot of time. I know you’re a busy woman, so I’m open to working with you around what works best but we need to get you in as soon as possible.
The sooner, the better.”
I didn’t realize that I was crying.
Amanda would tell me later that I just started crying.
I ended the call with the doctor and slowly walked back to the couch.
I sat down and began to cry profusely.
Amanda walked over to me and said,
“Mom are you okay? Is everything okay?”
In my teary eyes, I looked over to her.
She could see it in my eyes.
Everything was okay.
She reached her hands around me and hugged me.
Another set of tears flowed.
End of Part 1
Please pray for all those that are seeking the face of God for healing. Particularly my friend C.O’s mother.
I just found out about her situation a few days ago and I decided to dedicate this story to her, her family and God’s wondrous work of healing that he will perfect in their lives.
Say a quick prayer for her and anyone else you know that needs his touch. May he always protect you and yours too.
Thank you and come back for Part next Saturday.
From The Wordsmith, it’s #WhatTheHeckMan
As always, please don’t forget to leave a comment.
Give me feedback. How did this make you feel?
Thank you for reading and commenting. You are highly appreciated.
Lookout for The Cradle starting next week.
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