The gas gauge shows less than a quarter of a tank. This is something I would have barely noticed a year ago. Now, I notice and remember the price of everything- milk, a loaf of bread, everything.
The sound of tyres against gravel as I pull up at the almost empty parking lot excites me. A quick look at the clock on the dashboard it’s 6:36AM, I am sure I will be done within no time. I look into the rear view mirror before stepping out and take note of the pimples beneath my eyes. So red they seem like they are about to burst any time from now. The cold crispy air hits me hard as I step out of the car and pull my scarf tighter around my neck.
The wide corridors with benches placed on each side smell of fresh detergent and bleach and stretch beyond. Above each door is a large plastic sign purple with white lettering- no fancy fonts, just bold and all caps indicating the rooms. ORTHOPAEDIC, E.N.T, OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY, THEATRE. The double doors to the theatre fly open and a body on a stretcher is wheeled out headed to the direction of the mortuary. For a moment there I think how weird death is. Always there waiting like a stalker with unlimited patience for the right time. But is there really a right time to die?
The benches outside the renal unit are empty. Within a few hours, this place will be bustling with people. Mostly old people. And boy are they a handful!
Today seems like my lucky day since the doctor is already here. Just some minutes to seven o’clock and she is finishing up on her tea. I look at her with a disgusted look as she clumsily sips a mouthful of tea : trickling from the corners of her mouth as she wipes her chin with her sleeve. Ugh!
Laying on the raised bed, I watch as the doctor tweaks on her latex gloves finger by finger until she is done. I stare dejectedly at the polystyrene tiled ceiling trying to think where the rain started beating. I feel nothing as she dabs my arm with the disinfectant. There’s nothing more left to feel.
In contrast to the day I made the worst decision in my life, the sun shone high in the clear blue skies. Not even a single cloud.
That good for nothing Emily! She’s the one who introduced me to the product. But it’s not like I blame her really. Thing is, we always have a choice. I believe no one is a victim of fate, we shape our own lives. I would have just chosen to say no but I wanted to fit in. Well, the only thing fitting in right now is these pipes carrying blood from my body to the dialysis machine and back again.
I have to undergo dialysis twice a week since my kidneys can’t filter blood anymore. This kidney failure has taken a toll on everything- mentally, physically and financially. Each session costs me Shs 9500. Failure to attend a session will just be putting my life to risk than it is right now. I am halfway through my savings and I don’t know what will happen once they’re depleted. It is like I am living in death- existing with no reason or motivation to live.
You see, it’s not like I used to wet my sheets with tears every night because of how dark I was. When I was younger, there was the occasional tease from my friends that if maybe I scrubbed a little harder in the bathroom, perhaps I would be a shade lighter. But that’s what it was, just teasing.
I remember when the doctor broke the news. I watched her lips absentmindedly trying to wrap my head around what she was saying.
“I’m sorry but after the tests we carried out following your complaints of shortness of breath and weakness, we realized they might be symptoms of kidney failure. Further tests carried on your blood samples indicated that there were concentrated ammoniated mercury levels in your body.”
Tears welled up in my eyes as I started to shake.
“Normal mercury levels in the blood are less than 10 mcg/L.” She went on as if this was nothing. ” However, your mercury concentration is at 109 mcg/L. If this had been discovered earlier, chelation would be done to bring the levels down. Chelation is removing metal compounds from a solution to counter poisoning by heavy metals. Alternatively, you could have been given liver supplements to help bind the byproducts in the gut so that they don’t get absorbed in the gut again. Am sorry yours is quite advanced and I would recommend you begin dialysis soonest possible.”
For a moment, my world came to a standstill. I felt sweat soak the white tee I was wearing.
I don’t know how longer I can keep doing this. I know it will not get any better.
Every night I go to bed wishing that none of this is real and I’ll wake up dripping with sweat from this horrible nightmare.
Only this is not my nightmare, it is my reality. And in my reality, the consequences came right after my choices. Not only do I have a bleached skin, but also an accompanying kidney failure. My reality has turned out to be a life of jabbing pipes and whirring machines, and oh, awaiting death’s sting.
As narrated by Florence.
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