(First published on Brittle Paper in May 2016)
The blaring of sirens was the only sound in the air that night.
Strangely enough, the ambulance had arrived early, as if they were aware of what had happened even before it did. Onlookers threw themselves around the place, in a manner that seemed more out of curiosity than genuine concern. Yeah, some went on to take pictures, eager to breathe life into their social media newsfeeds.
Melvin grimaced repeatedly as he crawled his way from beneath his banged-up Kia Picanto. He moved slowly along the cold hard tarmac and cursed himself for going beyond the 60 km/h speed limit that night. He knew he shouldn’t have had too much of that bottle of Magic Moment at the party. He wished he had listened to Sade’s warning. She was his fiancée. They were going to get married in about three weeks. He wished he had let her drive, or, at least, been less stubborn and allowed his friend Patrick take over the wheels. He wished he had not tried making out with Sade while the car was still in motion. His car had been damaged, but then there was a lot of room for things becoming much worse.
As he watched the paramedics try their best to salvage the situation, his mind drifted to Sade. His heart skipped a beat as his imagination worked out possible outcomes of the crash. Had she gashed her forehead? Had she sustained an internal injury? Had the impact flung her out through the window, or worse still, the windshield?
But one thing surprised him in all of this. No one was coming his way to help him up or express any kind of sympathy.
“Stick with her! Make sure she’s alright!” He heard a paramedic shout
The headlights on the ambulance came on and rested on Sade. He caught a glimpse of her pretty face, adorned with dimples, the very dimples that first drew him to her two years earlier. She was sobbing uncontrollably. Her yellow top shredded at an angle below her left breast . She probably had not set eyes on him yet. He began to call out to her, screaming, “I’m here! I’m here!”
“She can’t hear you, boy. Stop disturbing the night’s peace.”
Melvin looked up. An old woman, clutching a broom and a mat, was standing at the other side of the road, opposite the spot where the ambulance had been parked.
Melvin scowled. Who was this woman? What did she mean when she said Sade could not hear him? What was that talk about disturbing the night’s peace, and what on earth was she doing with a broom and a mat? He stared at her, scorn in his eyes.
“You heard me. I said she can’t hear you,” the old woman repeated, laughing in between words.
“And what is that supposed to mean?” Melvin queried.
“Wetin concern agbero with overload, or ashawo with belle?”
“Person wey don kpef nor fit relate with person wey still dey tanda.”
“Dead? What do you mean?”
“Bros, abeg look that side well.”
He stood up and walked in Sade’s direction. On getting closer, he understood what the old woman had meant. He also realized why Sade was crying. He could see his body, mangled and motionless, lying on a stretcher. His right arm looked like it was about to detach from the rest of his body, and his eyes popped out of their sockets. Contrary to his belief, he had not survived the crash.
“Cover the body! Secure the perimeter! We need to clear this place!”
He looked on as his body was covered with a long white cloth and lifted into the ambulance. He heard Sade weep louder as two men led her away.
The gap in communication would never be bridged. He turned to ask the old woman a few questions, but she was gone, though her mat was on the ground. He felt lost. Tears began to find their way from his ghostly eyes.
He saw Sade move towards the direction of the ambulance, sobbing uncontrollably as she did so. He took a few quick steps forward, with the aim of looking at her one more time, albeit in a different state. As she tore at her hair, resisting the efforts of the paramedics at restraining her, he stared into her eyes, and what he found saddened him all the more.
The last flicker of hope was gone. The eyes he met were those of one who had resigned to fate, who had caved in to life’s eventualities, and who was slowly coming to terms with his demise, just as he now had to.