A boom sound startled Jerry out of his sleep. The sound was in unison with the thunder which accompanied the night-long rain. His cheeks were wet and his body was bathed in sweat despite the cold weather. The sheets of his bed were twisted around his limbs, probably because he was thrashing in his sleep. His heart pounded against his chest. He trembled when he noticed that the room was entirely dark. The Electricity Company of Ghana had done their thing again.
It was then he realized that everything he experienced a few minutes ago was a nightmare. Sigh!
Jerry kneeled beside his bed and said a prayer to God. Even after that the remnants of his nightmare still clung to his mind, haunting him. A ghoul in the image of his demised best friend, Kobby, stared into his soul, through his eyes with heavy eyelids and a slack mouth. His cheekbones accentuated his skeletal look and in his gaze, Jerry’s mind was robbed of emotion. Instead of running or screaming, he was glued to the edge of his bed like a statue.
At this point, he could not tell if he was dreaming again or it was real. “I am a man. It is only a nightmare”, he reminded himself. He was too much of a man to be scared by a mere dream. He psyched his mind to brush it off. Just then, a flash of lightning swept across the room and caused him to let out another frightened shriek. He buried his face into his pillow. Even his breath trembled.
The morning faded in like a scene from a bad theatre production. Although Jerry had been waiting for it so long, he barely believed his eyes when streaks of sunlight penetrated the window and blinded him. He dragged himself out of the bed into the washroom. The first thing he saw in the bathroom startled him. It was his own image.
Jerry had grown very lean with his head becoming the biggest part of his body. His face was pale and his once glowy appearance was all wrinkled. His eyes were red hot and looked like they were going to fall out of their sockets. His once muscled arms where flaccid like his grandmother’s breasts. If anyone told you the man standing in front of the mirror was not yet thirty, you would not believe it. He closed his eyes and splashed some water on his face.
“Kobby, I’m so sorry”, that’s all Jerry could say after the awkward moment of silence between them. He had just told his best friend he slept with the latter’s twin sister.
“God damn it, Jerry!” Kobby was furious. “You gave me your word. You promised”.
Anger boiled deep in his system, as hot as lava. It churned within, hungry for destruction, and Kobby knew it was too much for him to handle. The pressure of this raging sea of anger would force him to say things he did not mean, or to express thoughts about his best friend he had suppressed for ages. He punched the dashboard!
That scared the living hell out of Jerry. He did not think Kobby would react in that manner. He felt sorry. Not sorry for sleeping with Amanda, but sorry for telling Kobby about it. Maybe that was not the best time. Perhaps, he should not have told him at all.
Jerry turned to look at his friend. Kobby had an earpiece in his ears. He had to distract himself with something to stop his anger from erupting. Jerry stretched his hands to touch Kobby to console him. Kobby resisted any form of contact from his friend who was in the driver’s seat but Jerry was adamant.
Feed up, Kobby took his friend’s hand, gave it a painful twist and threw it backwards. Jerry suppressed a grunt of pain. He deserved it, he thought. He smiled and let go of the steering wheel, stretched forth his too hands to hug Kobby. A hug should calm him down. That’s when it happened. Their car swayed out of its lane and slammed into an on-coming vehicle from the other lane.
Jerry wiped his face with a towel to make him forget the rest of the gory details of the trip that has changed his life for the worse. He removed a picture stuck on the mirror. It was of his girlfriend, Amanda, and he. He sat on the toilet seat and admired the picture again. A streak of tears fell from his eyes as he saw the once strong and vibrant couple that they were. This was a ritual he kept every morning. He would cry the guilt of keeping the real cause of Kobby’s death who was also Amanda’s twin brother from his girlfriend. Then when he finished, he would step out of the room and pretend to live a happy life.
This morning, however, the tears would not stop flowing. Flashes of major events in his life flooded his life – especially that getaway trip with Kobby, their fight on the trip when Kobby found out that Jerry had slept with Amanda, and how Jerry lost control of the vehicle and caused his friend’s death. He considered the lie of a life he was currently living and the unimaginable future imagined anytime he thought about Amanda finding out about the real cause of death of her brother. Each thought suffocated him.
The little of his senses that belong to him that morning wandered in confusion trying to find a connection between his nightmare and his emotional state that morning. Nothing came of it. He brushed his teeth, took his bath, got dressed and out he went.
He had no destination. No. Actually, he had one. Hell. He wished he would just walk into the place of eternal torment where he would receive the punishment for his sin of killing his best friend once and for all. This slow punishment of living and bearing the guilt was harrowing. Death, to him, was a better option.
It is only when you wish to die that you realize that dying is not an easy thing, Jerry found out. Death practically avoided him. Taking his life was not an option so he wanted to make it seem like an accident but apparently, people are too careful to kill him.
He took his time to cross the street pretending to be absent-minded yet these drivers will not knock him down. They would swerve, take a minute to curse him (none of which has worked) and leave him to his fate. In one of these experiences, an old woman who witnessed the scene called him and said, “Abrantie, you are so lucky. If this reckless driver did not knock you down, I do not think you will die any time soon. I bless God for your life”. Jerry shed a tear as he heard these words. How miserable can a man be?
His thoughts were disrupted by distant screams. Like a vampire, his ears popped out to get a clearer sense of where the yells were coming from. He found it and instinctively went in that direction. There was a fire outbreak. A compound house was in flames. Occupants and neighbours were restless. A few people attempted to put the fire out with buckets of water and sand. Sadly, their efforts were futile.
The flames burned with colours. Jerry had never seen anything like that. With each flare, the tenants let out a shriek knowing that another of their possessions was alight. The smoke coming from the compound was thick. The wind carried it to the left and rained the dirty ashes down other houses. They could hear sirens. It could be the Fire Service. The sound was indistinct. And judging from the road network, it would take forever for them to get to the scene.
“My son! My son!” one of the women screamed. She tried to get in the house but the onlookers prevented her. “I just left him there to go and buy salt for the soup I’m preparing. I have to go and get him”, the woman was hysterical. “My son. Awoooooo, my son”, she cried some more.
“Hey! Where do you think you’re going? One of the elderly men at the scene shouted. The question was directed at Jerry who was at the verge of entering the burning house. Jerry turned and smiled at the man.
“Brother, God bless you. Brother, God bless you. Save my son for me. Please, help my son. He’s in there”, the woman urged him on.
Jerry kept the smile on his face. He knew he was not doing this for the little boy’s mother, nor was he doing it for the little boy. This was for him. He ventured into the fire so that perhaps death would accept his sacrifice and take him finally. If the little boy gets saved, awesome. However, he (Jerry) was not counting on coming out from the fire alive. It was an opportunity – a good day to die and a good way to die. Jerry looked at the people one last time and dashed into the flames.
Beep. Beep. Beep. The EKG in the hospital ward made sounds. “Doc! Nurse! Doc!” Asabea called out. “There is a sound coming from the machine”. A doctor and three nurses ran into the ward. Asabea pointed at the electrocardiogram. She was besides herself.
“Calm down, madam”, the doctor advised Asabea and conducted some checks. The young man in the bed opened his eyes. He was confused. How did he end up in the hospital? He tried to sit up but the nurses gently put him back on his back.
“Can I talk to him? Can he speak? Does he remember anything? Does he remember me?” Asabea obviously did not take the doctor’s earlier advise. She was still in panic mood.
“Young man, what is your name?” the doctor asked his patient.
“Jerry”, he responded.
“Thank God you came back to life, Jerry. Thank you so much, Jerry. Thank you. Do you remember me? You saved my son. Yes, it was me. The woman whose son was in the fire. I knew it… I knew God will not watch for a good man like you to just pass on like that. You did a good thing. You could not have died through that. God bless you, young man. God…” Asabea did not finish her words before two of the nurses pushed her out of the ward.
There was a minute’s silence.
“How long have I been here, Doc?” Jerry broke the silence.
“Three months”, he replied. You’re a lucky man. Death’s got nothing on you. Nobody survives the fire you went through and your skin did not see any damage. You are blessed. Death’s really got nothing on you”.
Jerry shed tears as he heard the words of the doctor. “Don’t cry, my man. OK, I understand. They are tears of joy. You just escaped death.”
Clearly, the doctor did not understand Jerry’s tears for he did not escape death. Death had simply rejected him – one more time – to suffer the misery of living. Perhaps, he should stop trying to die. Living could be the path to his death.