I had just dropped a customer around Ajah and was going to call it a night when one of my regulars called. Her friend needed a ride home. They happened to be dining somewhere in Lekki, less than ten minutes from where I was. So I figured, one last drive wouldn’t be bad. I got to the location minutes shy of ten o’clock and let her know I was around. I didn’t have to wait too long as I saw a group of 5 ladies pour out of the building, giving hugs in turns to one of them and saying their goodbyes. My ‘regular’ and her friend, the hug recepient, approached my car, and after exchanging pleasantries, they said their final goodbyes. I watched her go join the others in an LR4 while her friend got in, flung her bag across the seat and pulled off her stilettos.
“Parkview Estate please”.
I let her know how much the ride would cost and she simply said “ok.”
“Do you mind if I have my window down?” she strangely requested.
I told her i didn’t mind and went ahead to turn off the AC, rolling down my window immediately. I cast one last glance at her through my rearview mirror before driving out into the road. It was a Friday night and I could tell her other friends were just about to start their adventures. I wondered if she was sneaking off somewhere or to be with someone. Her voice broke through my thoughts.
“Do you mind not going too fast? I am really not in a hurry to get home.”
Ah! Home it is. A husband waiting for her probably. Kids maybe? I looked at her once again through my rearview mirror as I changed gear. It was very difficult to place her age but she did seem pretty young. And beautiful. She reeked of money too. Who knows? Maybe she was a ‘Miss Independent’ who lived alone with a fancy dog. She had rolled the window down completely and had her head half way out, the breeze gently blowing her hair. I could hear her take deep breathes. I wondered what was going on in her head. She seemed distant with a dying spark in her eyes.
“Do you believe in reincarnation?” She asked, her head still out.
“What?” Caught unawares by the question, I laughed.
“If I am going to be reborn, I want to come back as a butterfly.” She said.
I looked at her again through the rearview mirror and noticed she had her head against the headrest now.
“Why a butterfly?” I asked, wondering what prompted this topic.
“Cos they are beautiful…and have no worries. I mean, no one in his right mind would want to hurt a butterfly.” She paused, then continued. “I want to be a blue butterfly with golden edges on my wings.”
I smiled. “I’ld rather be a dragon.”
She laughed. “So you can breath fire all day long? Pretty boring. Plus those things don’t exist.”
“So does reincarnation. You only live once.” She went quiet for a moment.
“I guess you are right.” She paused. “I may be dead sooner than I think.” She said absent mindedly, looking out the window again. “And I haven’t had the time to say my goodbyes. Not sure I want to.”
“You shouldn’t say that miss.” I replied, trying to figure out what she was on about.
“No, for real. My doctor says it’s a 50-50 chance.”
Our eyes met in the mirror. I waited for her to continue but she didn’t. So i asked, “Are you sick?”
She scoffed. “Dying, more like it. I have a pretty fatal lung disease.”
At this point, I became super attentive as she seemed to have more to say.
“It started as a usual dizzy spell. And being sickle celled, I am sort of accustomed to those kind of things. But somehow, I never fully recovered. Going about my everyday activities became tedious, constant chest pain and the likes. Doctors here said I probably needed to rest more often, pumped me with more drugs. But I wasn’t convinced. So, I flew out and I was diagnosed.” She stopped and wrapped her scarf tighter across her chest, drawing a long breathe. “Pretty advanced they said. Having an Atrial Septostomy now could increase the chances of death. My only saving grace is having a lung transplant soon.” She laughed. “I mean, you don’t go about picking lungs off the shelf. So, while I wait for a donor, which I pretty much doubt is coming anytime soon, I have decided to risk the septostomy. You see, they are going to insert some kinda tiny balloon somewhere in my heart to allow for more circulation of oxygenated blood. Doing it could be the death of me, not doing it will definitely be the death of me as my heart would fail eventually.” She shrugged. “So,…50-50”.
I was mortified. This was a vibrant young lady casually talking about death like it was the pm news. “Sucks. Am so sorry.” was all I could utter.
“Don’t be. I have made peace with myself.”
I watched her stick her head outside once again as we drove along the Lekki-Ikoyi bridge. She did look at peace. With all she told me, there was no hint of a tear. I mean, if I wasn’t a man, I would be bawling my eyes out right now. I let her have her moment. As we got off the bridge, she said
“That’s one magnificent view I might never get to see again.”
“I take it that you are leaving for the procedure soon.”
“In two days. Took a sick leave from work so no one would ask questions.”
“You didn’t tell your boss or any close colleague of yours?
She shook her head. “No one. Not even family or friends.”
“Why? Don’t you think you should tell somebody? Anybody?” I asked, trying to hide the worry in my voice.
“Nah. They have worried over me all these years. I might as well give them a break. Plus I don’t want anyone crying over my case. It could jinx the whole surgery.” She chuckled nervously.
“Not even one person?” I asked with emphasis.
“I guess one person wouldn’t hurt.” Our eyes met again in the rearview mirror. “Would think about it.”
She gave me a weak smile.I shifted uncomfortably in my seat. People who knew they were dying were usually depressed or moody or mad but she seemed….indifferent. I wished I had more time to get to know her better but we had began to get closer to our final destination. And I also noticed she had gone silent, completely lost in her world now. The rest of the journey was completed in silence. We got to her address and she gave me a big tip, along with the fare, thanking me for a nice ride. As I watched her approach her building, I couldn’t help but be awash with emotions. Pity for the charming young lady who couldn’t buy herself more time with all the money she seemed to have, gratitude for the life I had and the fear of not knowing what turn life could take tomorrow.
As I turned to drive out of the street, taking one last look at the magnificent house, I promised myself never to let go of the few lessons this experience had taught me. Most importantly to be grateful for each new day I get. It was a ride to remember.