I wrote this piece some weeks back and debated whether I should post it or not but I’ve been told to talk about these kind of experiences more, because that will somehow disempower some fears we have, such as death and dying. This is me at my most vulnerable, trying time. I know a lot of the regular readers complain that I hardly post on this blog and I would like to apologise for that. I hope this post serves as some kind of explanation. OK… Here goes nothing:
I stare at the clock on the wall above the door leading to my bathroom. It says it’s past 9. It isn’t. The clock stopped working some days ago. It is dark outside, and I have been sleeping all evening. The top of my chest of drawers is crowded. There is a bottle of SOBO, juice boxes, fruits, so many pills and tablets, and a covered plate. I measure my level of sickness by how crowded that chest of drawers is. When I’m sick but I can walk, it’s only a bottle of SOBO and some pills. When I’m really sick, mum transfers the kitchen, fridge and medicine cabinet there. Tonight, it is so full – I can hardly see the picture frame with a picture of me smiling, hands akimbo, in front of a Boots store.
I search for my phone and check the time. It is 11: 09 pm. I remove the duvet on top of me and place my feet on the rug beside my bed. I feel dizzy. I stand and walk to the drawer. I remove the cover and stare at the food in the plate. Mum must have left this some hours ago while I was sleeping. I have asked her to refrain from waking me up so I can get more rest. I carry myself to the bathroom and wash my hands. I feel tired and weak. I wish I didn’t even have to wake up. I come back in bed and slowly have my supper.
It’s been 3 weeks since I’ve been this ill. It started way back, when my back hurt during our weekly mentorship session at Police Secondary School. As we stood in a circle with the students, playing the final game, the pain sneaked up on me and I almost screamed. The pain is not new, but it gets me every time. My colleague, Thoko, had asked if I needed a taxi to get home, but I said I would be okay and we walked all the way to town. But I couldn’t take the pain anymore. I decided I needed to take a taxi after all. It had been downhill from there. I have hardly left my room since that day.
Suddenly, I feel nauseous. I put the plate of nsima aside and rush to the bathroom. I kneel in front of the toilet and start heaving. Then I start to vomit. I feel even weaker, and my legs shake beneath me. I don’t have the energy to kneel anymore, so I sit. I am still heaving but now I can’t sit anymore. I collapse on the rug beneath me, and look up. The ceiling seems far. I lay curled in a foetal position. My body has fit the small rug. I think about how small and insignificant I am… How the world is going on, and will keep going, regardless of my state.
I am dizzy. Then I am nauseous again. I feel the room spinning. My body aches. There’s a sharp pain in my stomach. I feel it all at once and it’s excruciating. I am rolling in agony in the tiny space between the toilet and the sink. My fingers find their way behind the sink in my attempt to grab onto something. They come out covered in a spider’s web. I scold myself for forgetting this area whenever I clean. I start to feel myself going in and out of consciousness. Then I gather all the energy that’s left in me and I start to shout out for mum.
“Mum! Mum! Mum!” I scream for minutes. No one hears me.
I am in pain and I am going to die here. On my bathroom floor. My fingers covered in a spider’s web. At 12 am.
I gather more energy and scream again, “Mum! Muuuum! Mum!” My voice sounds weaker and I hate how beaten I sound. Then I remember my brother in the next room. There’s a bathroom that’s going to separate me from his ears, but I try anyway.
“King! Kiiing! Kiiiiiiing!” I draw out the last one in defeat. There’s silence. I start to heave again but I’m too weak to place my head on top of the toilet. I lay there and vomit what’s left of the little portion I ate. I black out.
I wake up and I’m still on the floor. I’m still here. Alive. I try to sit up but I’m still dizzy and weak. I call out again.
“Mum!!! Muuuum! Mummmy!” But no one hears me. How thick are these walls?
An idea pops into my head. I can crawl to the door and call for help there. I lay still as I dread the journey before me. Then I start to crawl slowly. I crawl myself out of the bathroom to the bedroom door and then I can’t go any further. I need to rest. I lay down on the floor. I stretch my hand and knock on the door. The knock is gentle; it sounds like a knock from a child who doesn’t know how to knock with their knuckles yet. I feel hopeless. I start to cry.
Unfortunately, this isn’t my first time to black out in the bathroom. Over the years, I’ve learnt to keep the door unlocked, just in case I black out again and I need help getting up. Last time, my sister found me laying here in the middle of the night. In panic, she screamed and then she rushed to call mum. I have also learnt that being this sick means there’s a chance I could go any minute. I try not to talk about it, but I think about it a lot. I don’t want people to pity me or think I want some kind of attention. I just decided to live life doing what I really love with the time I have.
“King! King!” I start to call out again, my voice shaking. Then I hear a reply.
“Yeees! Fai!” He knocks on the door before he enters. Now I am crying even more and I am a mess. I am breathing heavily, and my body is shaking. Mum and dad rush behind him. They finally heard me. Suddenly, everyone is doing something. I am quickly lifted to my bed. Dad is going to make a cup of tea and mum is giving him instructions on how to add the grated ginger she left in the fridge, while she is wiping the vomit off my face.
I want to stop everyone and just say, “I’m sorry I’m like this,” but they are all too preoccupied. Mum gives me some medication and tells me what it’s for but I’m not listening. I am in too much pain. She hands me some water as I swallow the pills. She places my head on a pillow and sits beside me, as we wait for the ginger tea.
I wake up the next morning. The clock on the wall says 6:26. I went to bed when it said it was around 2:00. I don’t even know why that matters, but it’s what I remember. I’ve been asleep for four hours. I make a mental note: when I am well, I must clean behind the sink and replace the clock’s battery. Life must go on.
Mum decided to sleep on the other bed in my room. She is still asleep, probably tired from the long night. I look at her, my heart full of gratitude. Heaven knows she’s nursed me patiently: in hospitals, as the doctor shook his head and said there wasn’t much he could do; and through my most painful moments here at home.
I remember the day today. It is the day after my second studio album has been released. I check my phone and there are some people enquiring about the album. I sit up and reply. “Everything will go as planned,” I tell myself. No one should know how ill I have actually been. I search for my album artwork in my gallery and post it on my social media accounts, “ALBUM OUT NOW!”
End note: I am fine now, although I’m on some medication that knocks me out because apparently I still need rest after everything my body went through. I would have uploaded a recent picture for proof but I’m currently having problems with uploading media to the site. Once it’s fixed, you’ll see that I am back to my usual loud, clumsy, can’t-pose-to-save-my-life self. For now, here’s a quote that I’m trying to live by that might inspire you, too:
Update: here is a picture of me, the first day I managed to walk after being bedbound for 3 weeks: