I cheated death tonight, again.
This is the third time, in the 1, 390 weeks, 5 days and eleven hours I have spent on this planet.
This is how it happened. Pearl and I were having dinner at this place she had discovered. They had opened the previous week and she thought we should check it out. She is like that, my Pearl, full of adventure and laughter and kindness. I tagged along very willingly. It would be worth it in more ways than one. We had just finished the most enjoyable dinner – Ofada rice and Ofe Akwu (littered with enough obstacles to motivate a young person to do some pilfering), topped with a very chilled sparkling vintage from La Perle d’Aquitaine, The Pearl of Aquitaine. It was splendid; we chatted and laughed all through. Pearl reminded me that we promised the twins Shawarma. Why do women always remember what was agreed on, especially if we are the ones to objectify it? I made sure to mask those thoughts with a smile as I reluctantly got up.
I was in the middle of the street when this sedan turned out of a side-street in my direction at nothing less than 80kmph. I only had enough time to wonder who this mad fellow was–didn’t even have headlamps on. While that thought was yet to crystallize, another chased it down: Get out of the way! Even before my mind was done processing, I leaped. I heard a screech as rubber fought with asphalt, followed by a loud thud and a crash. I was safe, on the other side of the road.
The cretin! Where did he learn to drive? And what on earth was that all about?! Imagine what would have happened if my reflexes were not so sharp. I shook my head in disgust and wonderment. This was a rather close shave, even for one who had been tagged invincible…
The first time I almost died, I was seven months old. My mother told me I was prone to jerking whenever someone held me in their arms, much like a caterpillar’s convoluted motion. I was supposed to be resting against the maid’s bosom when I lurched. She was only seven, with no experience in those matters. I fell all the way to the ground and hit my head on a stone slab. I suffered a concussion, as well as intracranial hemorrhage and was in a coma for ten days.
The second time was in my last year in the university. We had just finished our final exams. They had been stressful and thoroughly exhausting. Almost everyone in our clique looked like we were in the early stages of kwashiorkor – protruding heads, sunken eyes and bony frames. One wag had said that if we modeled for any refugee camp seeking aid from international donor agencies, they were sure to be overwhelmed by a flood of response within hours of their application. A few of us decided to have a picnic. We pooled resources and mandated the ladies to go to the market, buy the necessary ingredients, and cook enough food for seven of us to get two helpings apiece.
The day had dawned bright and fair, perfect weather for our purpose. We set out for the lagoon that was not far from the school. The original idea had been to eat, chat and laze – there hadn’t even been any games in the plan. But somewhere down the line, we jettisoned that, mostly the guys, and decided we were going to swim. And swim we did. Except that when the others came out of the water, I didn’t. It was a boy who was fishing and saw the last place I had been that dove into the water and rescued me. I had gotten entangled in a net meant to trap fish.
Since then my life had been relatively without incident. Until this night!
I looked over at the crowd that had gathered at the scene of the accident. The car had come to rest against a concrete electricity pole. The bonnet had opened up, as if in agony. The windshield had a hundred lines but still held; the engine emitted steam upwards and dripped water below. The driver did not appear to be any better. It seemed his seatbelt-less torso had taken the impact of the collision. If he was not dead already, he would be in a short while.
And then, I saw my Pearl. She had run out of the diner and was pushing through the crowd. She looked stricken. My gaze followed where her attention was directed.
There was something – no, someone – lying at an unnatural angle on the ground.
It was me.
Written by John Chidi