The Narcissist’s second chance

Dawn broke with the clattering sound of the windows struggling to stay in their frames. The wind that coursed violently through the streets uprooted trees which ordinarily would have boasted of firm roots. Many were still in bed, giving in to the euphoria of the weather. I, on the other hand, understood the importance of punctuality, especially on a Monday morning. There was no excuse for mediocrity at my workplace. My friends reiterate how fortunate I am to have secured employment at such a reputable organization. Uncle Jola played a role in helping to get the job. I, however, consider myself a force to be reckoned with. It would have been a loss to them if they let me go.

The hurdle of getting ready for work without arousing Elizabeth, who was fast asleep on the living room’s sofa seemed impossible. Her foul mood the night before was comparable to no other! She had fulfilled her promise to sleep away from her husband after one of their famous squabbles. Though Elizabeth was wrong most times, Uncle Jola never got weary when it boiled down to apologizing for tranquility’s sake. I think there was a devilish voice in her head that instructed her to resist peace last night. It was shocking to witness her hour-long nagging, despite her husband’s pleas. She most likely inherited her stubborn nature from our mother’s side.

I somehow think Uncle Jola is at the brink of losing it, on some days I feel sorry for him, on others, I simply couldn’t care less. All that matters to me is the reduced cost of transportation to my workplace and the other perks that come with living off my big sister. I have zero responsibilities/bills to pay thanks to my ever benevolent sister.

‘Damaris!’ Elizabeth beckoned, as I strode halfway across the living room. ‘What time is it? Off to work already?’ She yawned and struggled to seat up on the sofa.

‘Yes Lizzy, it looks like there is going to be a heavy downpour today, it is best I leave
early, I don’t want to run late.’

‘Hold on! Won’t you at least have breakfast?’ Elizabeth made a feeble attempt to rise.

‘No! Sis, there you go stressing over me. I have told you, I am no longer that little girl you enjoyed babysitting years back. I am a grown woman.’

‘Oh! Really? I never got the memo,’ Elizabeth spoke in a sarcastic tone.

‘Consider the memo officially served. Why don’t you go and mend things with Uncle Jola instead?’

‘ You went overboard last night; pregnancy hormones are no excuse. He certainly did not deserve the wrath you unleashed on him. I feel the two of you should take advantage of his time away from work to reconnect and rekindle your romance.’

‘Wow! Are you now a love doctor?’ Elizabeth threw her one heavy frown.

‘It’s my fault for asking irrelevant questions. Anyway, have a chaos free day at work.’
She hissed before finally getting up.

‘Come on, it’s not that serious! You know I love you regardless,’ Pacifying Elizabeth with an air kiss was all I could afford before dashing out of the apartment.

II

The sky looked pregnant with the promise of a flood birth. I almost tripped on a massive stone as I struggled to keep my tiny, multi-colored umbrella above me. It was barely capable of protecting me from the raindrops that had started to impinge on the wind-trodden road. It seemed as though the wind was on a mission to obtain my multi-colored shield. Thankfully, I was able to make it to the bus station in one piece.

The queue for the BRT bus to my destination had started to build up. I purchased my ticket from the shabbily dressed bus conductor and stood in line before getting on the bus. BRT buses had become game-changers in the Lagos state transportation system. The old and beat up yellow coffins called “Danfos” were fast becoming extinct.

I would never forget my first and final experience with the Danfo bus; my chest pounded at the memory of the drunk driver who almost rode me into the afterlife. Thank God for his mercies, it was a miracle to have made it out of that accident alive. I still have scars from that horrifying day, it would take a few therapy sessions and prayers to get me over the traumatic experience. I shook off reverberations of my near-death experience and put my headset to use. It was amazing how great music could soothe the soul and even temporarily erase worries.

As I waited patiently for the other commuters to come on board, a young man with a
brawny physique and towering height caught my attention. He was dressed in an impeccably crisp three-piece suit with a collared shirt and necktie. It was rather strange to see an elegantly dressed hunk struggling to board the commercial bus with commoners like me. He looked like the CEO of some multinational company or better still, a runway model. I tried not to stare but couldn’t help myself. Our eyes met, and at that moment, I almost sank in my seat. I immediately looked away, it was too late, he had started walking towards me.

‘Is this seat taken?’ He asked after flashing me the…..I saw you check me out…. smile.

‘Errmm, no it isn’t,’ I stuttered and adjusted my headset.

He sat boldly by my side and gave me a thorough look, this look was unlike any I have ever gotten from a stranger, and it made me uneasy.

‘Did you like my scrutiny?’ His ridiculous question was followed by a burst of maniacal laughter.

‘I….I beg your pardon?’ I replied stammering.

‘Are you keen on staring strangers down?’ He spoke again with unbound confidence.

‘I am sorry, is there a problem?’ I asked with a brittle voice.

‘Not at all, but next time you want to gawk, don’t make it too obvious,’ his statement was followed by another cynical laugh.

‘Look mister, I take offence at your statements, they are inappropriate and preposterous.’

‘Come on, relax, I was only messing with you. Where is your sense of humour?’ He replied with a wide grin.


‘Festac bustop! Festac bustop! Owa o,’ the voice of another passenger resonated on the bus. I immediately jumped to my feet and hurried towards the exit.

‘Oh! wait! He beckoned. I didn’t even get your name?’

‘The nerve of this man! I don’t blame him; I blame myself for allowing my eyes run wild.’

I took a glance at him just before alighting from the bus, the smirk on his face was too glaring. I would most definitely never forget this narcissist who made me super uncomfortable on my bus ride.

111

Work was hectic as always, but the joy of saving lives always keeps me going. I occasionally stay back for night shifts I, however, decided to leave work early today. I was in desperate need of a warm shower and a plate of Elizabeth’s jollof rice. Being stuck in traffic for more than an hour on a trip that usually shouldn’t last longer than twenty minutes was beyond frustrating.

The main entrance to the house was open when I got home, I could hear Elizabeth humming her favourite song in the kitchen. That only meant one thing; she had reconciled with her husband. I almost tripped on my way to the kitchen, the hunger pangs made me lose focus.

‘Hey sis, you are humming in the kitchen, this means the food is going to be lit! Are you done?’

‘You and your slangs! Go take a shower, dinner would be ready before you get back,’ Elizabeth smiled.

My sister could be somewhat fierce to strangers, she might even come across as troublesome to others, but, she is the most pleasant human with the biggest heart.

Growing up without her would have been difficult, she has been my confidant, best friend and number one cheerleader. Furthermore, she championed my spiritual journey and introduced me to our quintessential and gracious God!

It was a delight to see that her smokey jollof rice had been paired with some plantain patties. I took a seat at the dining table and delved into the mouth-watering meal.

‘So, how was work today?’ Elizabeth asked joyfully after dinner.

‘Fine,’ I shrugged.

‘Hmm….are you sure? You seem deep in thought.’

‘Well, it’s not really about work, it’s something else.’

The arrogant stranger’s face had been unavoidably imprinted on my mind.

‘What’s the problem?’ Elizabeth queried.

‘Don’t worry, it’s not important,’ I replied.

‘Come on, talk to me. I know you are the medical doctor, but we can switch roles today. I’ll be your therapist, just say the word.’

‘Alright, Alright,’ I sighed.

‘So on my way to work, I met this cocky guy that sort of embarrassed me.’

Wow! It’s a guy problem,’ Elizabeth jumped in excitement.

‘Easy sis, please don’t put me in trouble with Uncle Jola,’ I immediately cautioned. Elizabeth let out a guffaw before speaking.

‘Don’t worry, you are covered, I am sure the baby is fine. It’s just that you never speak about men. Truth be told, I worry a lot about your non-existent love life.’

What? You must be kidding!’ somehow, I managed to let out a laugh.

‘When and why did you start to worry about my love life?’

‘It’s been since you turned twenty-five and never brought home a boyfriend. Mum, however, started to get worried when you graduated from medical school. Her calls for information have been choking.’

‘Mum is amazing! She is simply amazing!’ I laughed harder.

‘So, what happened?’ Elizabeth asked with keen interest.

‘I met a certain haughty guy on the bus, he was so full of himself. He sat boldly next to me and asked me absurd questions.’

‘That’s strange, what sort of questions did he ask?’ Elizabeth was curious.

‘He asked if I stared people down for a living.’

Elizabeth burst into bouts of laughter after my statement. ‘Why on earth would he say that to you? Did you look intently at him?’

Well yeah, I kind of stared at him, but only because his attire was a misfit for the commercial bus,’ I had started to get defensive.

‘Oh! What was he wearing?’ Elizabeth was amused.

‘He wore a classy three-piece suit befitting of a business tycoon.’

‘Did you only scrutinize him for his clothing or his good looks as well?’ Elizabeth asked.

‘Does it matter? I just told you this guy bullied me with inappropriate questions.’

‘Damaris, let it go, you probably would never see him again. I wonder why it bothers you this much. You are not one to be easily bullied.’

‘Yes, I know, but strangely, I am perturbed by this dandy fellow. I would try to let it go though,’ I flashed the ……thank you for listening…… smile after my statement.

‘So what have you been up to all day? Is Uncle Jola around?’ I asked.

‘He stepped out to get some groceries just before you arrived,’ Elizabeth replied.

‘Wow sis, you are one lucky woman. Your husband is so sweet and calm; a good fit for you.’

Elizabeth frowned before responding.

‘What do you mean by a good fit for me? Are you indirectly saying I am a trouble maker?’

I laughed so hard that I almost fell off of my seat.

‘You took my statement out of context, I never said that. You are sweet too, maybe not
as calm, but you are an awesome sister.’

‘Better!’ she giggled.

We both walked into the living room and got comfortable on the sofa. Elizabeth turned on the smart TV and tuned in to the news channel.

‘What’s this I hear about a virus that is wreaking havoc in distant countries? It’s been on the news for some days now.’

‘I heard about it too, I only pray we never record any case in this part of the world, we are far from prepared!’

‘I also pray we don’t,’ Lizzy echoed.

IV

Like a thief at night, a ruthless micro organism got into town and stole our peace. The tiny creature successfully crippled our lifestyle; activities which were once considered insignificant suddenly became luxuries. It felt like a nightmare we all yearned desperately to awaken from. Morbidity and mortality rates escalated before we could guard ourselves properly. The fear that ravaged the country was undeniably palpable.

I am called a frontline worker these days; in my opinion, it’s a fancy title justifying my role as a sacrificial lamb. In other circumstances, this would have been the highlight of my medical career. After all, I did take the Hippocratic Oath to serve diligently with compassion. The lingering problem of corruption in my country is, however, dissuasive.

Our healthcare system lacks the standard facilities required to battle this menace. Our leaders only allocate a laughable percentage of the country’s total budget to health.


Thankfully, I practice in the private sector as opposed to my colleagues who slave away in Government hospitals. They all complain bitterly about the profound lack of resources and protective gears in their respective institutions.

We, the frontline workers at Med view hospital had been somewhat prepped to handle cases of the highly contagious disease on presentation. This prep, however, did not stop the anxiety and panic that overwhelmed us each day. It was on one of those fear-filled days that our first casualty was wheeled in. We had all geared up with our overalls and other medical essentials.

The oxygen technician swung into action. He set up the oxygen concentrator and face mask to assist the patient who was gasping and fighting to stay alive. I, on the other hand, followed every instruction given by my unit consultant. I was to set up an intravenous line for the administration of medications. I picked up the cannula from the nurse and looked closely at my patient. A great trepidation consumed me.

It was the narcissist! This time, there was no witty smirk on his face, the eyes that ceremoniously mocked me the other day were shut. He lay helpless on the bed, hanging on to every breath as though they were his last. Pity immediately replaced the resentment I had once felt towards him.

Regardless of all that happened weeks ago, there was something about this young man that made me yearn to become an acquaintance. Watching him struggle to stay alive was beyond heart-wrenching.

I was determined to join him in the fight for his life, he became my assignment. I spent sleepless nights interceding on his behalf, my prayers became relentless, and he still did not get better.

A couple of colleagues at work began to feel I was going overboard with the numerous shifts I took upon myself. One of them was too bewildered, he asked if the narcissist was a close relative. He was surprised at how indefatigable my efforts had been towards assisting this particular patient. I sincerely did not feel the need to explain myself to anyone, I, however, needed him to get off my case.

‘He is a brother to one of my close friends.’

I mentioned hastily after my colleague’s unwarranted interrogation.

‘Oh! No wonder you are vested in his management. You are such a great friend,’ He commended.

Elizabeth was also displeased about my extra shifts. She felt my employers were callous oppressors who forced extra work hours on their staff; I had to set the record straight.

‘No Sis, I chose to work extra hours, they have nothing to do with this.’ I could sense my sister fuming at the other end of the line.

‘Why on earth would you do that Damaris? These are strange times; you don’t seem to care about your safety or those of your loved ones.’

‘Of course, I care about my safety, trust me, I am taking the necessary precautions. I decided to stay away from home to protect you and your unborn child.’

Elizabeth sighed.

‘Please stay safe Damaris, you are my only sibling and mum has been worried sick about you.’

‘I will Sis, please send my regards to Uncle Jola. I love you!

‘Love you too Damaris.’

V

My body hurt in several places, almost anyone could tell I was sleep deprived. The important thing though, was that my patient made tremendous improvement the night before. His spontaneous recovery certainly made up for the self-exertion.

I had a sheepish grin on my face as I went through his case file, the nurse had been staring at me in amusement the whole while.

‘Why exactly are you smiling, Doctor?’ She asked.

I was startled by her voice and flushed with embarrassment.

‘Oh! You are back. It’s nothing really, I only remembered something hilarious.’

‘Hmmm, are you sure? I have noticed your attachment to this patient.’

‘Yes, I am sure!’ I spoke sternly.

‘Alright, should we commence the process of moving this patient to a regular room?’ she questioned.

We might need to hold on with that, his test result has to come back negative first.’ I replied.

‘The result should be out tomorrow.’

She nodded in agreement before exiting the room. I almost couldn’t recognize myself anymore; the level of vulnerability I displayed to my nurse was very strange to me. The narcissist: Passildo Demilade, had done a number on me, it was funny to know that his name was just as sophisticated as his looks.

Demilade was now fully conscious, the next day. The sedative effect of his medications, however, made it difficult for him to stay awake.

I was elated when his test result came back negative, and immediately gave the movement order from the isolation ward to a regular room.

I was on my way out when his eyes popped open.

‘Good evening Mr passildo,’ I greeted nervously.

‘There is no need to panic, you have been on admission here for a week now, and I promise that you are in safe hands.’

‘My head hurts,’ He mumbled and attempted to sit up.

‘Relax, please don’t overwork yourself.’

He paused before speaking..‘That voice! It seems quite familiar, do I know you?’

I walked hastily towards the door in a bid to escape, I realized this time, that the narcissist was no longer the annoying bus passenger. He was my patient.

‘Well, we met a few weeks ago on a BRT bus, you sat next to me and hurled all sorts of insult at me,’ I mentioned.

Oh! I remember……..the timid bus passenger who ran off without telling me her name.’
It was hard to read the expression on his face; his tired eyes and finely chiseled face remained inconclusive.

“Look, I am sorry, I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable the other day. I was only teasing you. It’s something I love to do with my friends.’

‘Excuse me! You can call me your doctor but calling me your friend is borderline delusional.’

‘Wow! Such a tough cookie,’ He giggled.

‘Yes, I am not your friend at the moment, but I hope to change that soon. We could hang out as soon as I am discharged from the hospital.’

That isn’t the best idea,’ I replied.

‘Why not?’

‘It goes against medical ethics in this hospital, no mingling or romantic involvement is allowed between patients and their doctors.’

‘That’s why I suggested the hang out after my hospital discharge, and by the way, it’s sweet you think we might get romantically involved,’ he chuckled.

‘OK, let’s see how it goes,’ I looked away, blushing.

‘Great,’ he acknowledged.

I was almost at the door when he called out urgently

. ‘Wait! I still haven’t gotten your name.’

‘It’s Dr Damaris Ejiofor,’ I replied with a smile, before stepping out of the room.

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