I cuddled Gozie in my arms and rocked him like a new born baby he wasn’t, as he struggled to breath. I fought hard to hold back my tears while I watched him scramble for air. At that moment, I tried to imagine what he would have looked like then in his mother’s arms as a baby.
I sat beside Gozie, still and without any movements. He fought helplessly to live, yet the best I could do was wave some rumpled pieces of old newspaper- which I barely managed to stretch and flatten well enough to serve as a hand fan- in his face. He was already drenched in sweat by now.
In the midst of his struggle, I noticed he was trying to say something to me. Amidst short gasps for breath he voiced some words which I had a hard time understanding
“aaahhh... tttaakk... thaaa.. thaa.. bbbaaggg...” He said.
I guessed he was referring to his small black knap sack which was a few meters away from where we sat. I stretched over as much as I could to where the bag was and pulled it closer. That bag was the only major property I knew Gozie owned and it had a few of his other belonging suffocated into it.
Gozie was practically in love with this bag. The love they both shared was so strong that on some days he would hug the bag up to his nose and sniff the material of the bag in like a flower. He would smile almost immediately like he had just perceived a sweet scent for this flower. He used to say the bag was a gift from his mother on his twelfth birthday. It was the last gift he ever got from her so he cherished it so much. Gozie and his “sacred knap sack” shared such a relationship that made me think of him as weird, but I was happy that the bag made him smile at least.
As soon as the bag was close enough, he signalled to me to open the bag. I dropped the pieces of paper I clutched in my right palm and unzipped the bag with the same hand. I hoped somehow that the bag contained his source of redemption or salvation. A hard cover note book which was blue in colour stared right at my face as I stared at its surface as well. I took the book out and flipped haste fully through a few pages. I did not have the patience to look through gently, but from the few pages I saw it seemed like the book was a storybook.
“Has Gozie been writing a story?” I asked myself as I looked back at him and our eyes met.
Gozie was still gasping for breath and his light complexion skin was already turning pale. His eye balls were red and sunken, while bags were formed below his lower eyelids.
“Taahhkk... it” he said in what sounded like a whisper but I heard him clearly this time.
I nodded in agreement and patted him on his chest to calm down.
“Don’t worry Gozie you won’t die... you can’t die... you won’t die... please don’t leave me yet...” I said crying profusely like a little child who had just been spanked.
A light liquid ran down my nostrils and dropped on Gozie’s upper lip. I wiped it away with the back of my right palm, sipped the rest on my face into my mouth and continued crying.
I remembered Gozie had some ventolin tablets which he kept anywhere in the room. Gozie’s carelessness was far too annoying. He just could not keep anything properly and it would take him only a few seconds to scatter the whole- little- room, no matter how arranged it is. Gozie knew how to get on my nerves pretty well but I was used to his nuisance already.
Gozie and I lived in one of the small rooms in an uncompleted building. Neighbours who have lived in the area for a longer time said the house belongs to a young man who became mad a few years after he came back from Italy where he used to work. Rumour had it that he was involved in drugs and blood money, people just say all sorts of things to gain attention or have other people listen to them. I cared very little about what they said.
Searching the room for the tablets did not seem like a task at all considering the size of the room. There was no bed, foam, chair, table or any form of furniture so there was nothing to lift up. I placed Gozie’s head down on the floor and crawled away to look for the drugs. I sought for the drugs amongst our few clothes which were tied together in an old faded wrapper that was kept adjacent to the entrance. It took me more time than I thought to scatter the clothes in search of the drugs so i prayed silently to find it because i was afraid of wasting any more time. I search around some more; this time i turned the whole place upside down and i didn’t care about orderliness. “Ah! There it is!” i exclaimed when a drug envelop fell out of the clothes i was holding up.
I clutched the envelop in my hands which had started to shake at that time and raced back to where i had laid Gozie. He was still keeping the fight up as much as he could. I lifted his head up from the ground and cuddled him in my arms again. I placed two of the ventolin tablets in his mouth and fed him with some of my saliva to help make swallowing the pills easier. There was no water in the house at that time and i could not go out to get any either. He gulped the solution quickly and continued his feat.
The episode was barely ten minutes old but Gozie’s body had suddenly grown cold and stiff. I got scared so i held his left palm in mine and made an unvoiced prayer to God to let Gozie survive this. I did not believe God existed but the urge to trust and confine in anyone then made me pray all the same. I needed something to believe in at that time.