A Friend in Need (10)
Mrs Okafo, as we later learned, was the woman we had been speaking with. She was the wife of the youth pastor in the church where Tolani served as a youth leader. She also doubled as a counsellor at a psychiatric hospital in town. Needless to say, she was a loving, caring, and an awesome woman.
Despite the characteristic delinquency and frivolity of most juveniles even in church, she always found a way of transforming them into responsible young men and women, useful to God and their community. Tolani enjoyed working with her; in fact, theirs was more like a mentor-protégé relationship. So, when Tolani came to her own hour of emotional crisis, she knew just where to go.
We arrived the hospital about an hour earlier than scheduled, so we felt we could use some minutes of relaxation, and maybe sightseeing. The later was a bad idea and we wished it never crossed our minds. We learnt that you don’t go sightseeing in a hospital, especially a psychiatric one. The patients there wouldn’t be if they had a choice. There are enough museums, zoos and amusement parks for rubberneckers, not hospitals.
Anyway, we knew how bad our idea was immediately we entered the first block of buildings. We saw things—scary things. We couldn’t even move past the second ward before turning back to find a tree to sit under, in silence.
“Do you think Tolani could be in one of those wards?” Tayo asked, after some minutes. I had been thinking too, but my thoughts were far from his. I had an important question for him but it could wait.
“Honestly, I can’t say.” He didn’t seem satisfied with my response, so I continued, “One thing I do know is that God is in control. We have prayed, let’s see how things will go.”
“I’m not sure about that, Femi. Let’s just go home. I can’t bear to see her in a horrible condition knowing that I was responsible for it. I can’t! I just can’t!” Tayo’s voice began to shake as he stood up to leave. I got up and ran after him.
From the past experience, I’d learnt that almost nothing could stop Tayo from crying. The only thing that has always worked was prayer. I reminded him of the prayers we had prayed together in the past few days, and even before setting out on our journey; of how he, while leading the prayer that morning, had committed everything into God’s hands and asked Him to take absolute control. I challenged him to believe.
It was already fifteen minutes to the scheduled time and waiting beyond then could be counter-productive. Tayo was already contemplating going back home, and I wasn’t going to let that happen. I called-up the person we came to meet immediately.
“Good afternoon ma.” I greeted, eyeing Tayo. He was telling me to put the phone on loud speaker, but I refused.
“Good morning, Femi. I hope you are still coming.” I was thinking she thought we were calling to cancel the appointment. How wrong I was! She was just teasing me. She knew how desperate Tayo was to see Tolani again.
“Of course ma. We are already in the compound. We arrived some minutes ago.” Tayo was still not sure of what to do. He appeared to be thinking.
“In that case, from the main gate, turn left. You’ll see a building marked ‘Youth Counselling Centre’. I’ll meet you at the door.”
Curiosity covered Tayo’s face since he didn’t hear our conversation.
“Wait,” he said, “We can do it this way. You will go back to the ward to meet her, if she’s okay, then you can call me to join you.”
“NO!” I said emphatically. “Do you think I ditched classes to come here for a joke? I came here WITH you, not FOR you. If you don’t want to see her, I can as well take my leave.” My voice was getting raised.
Tayo knew I was getting displeased with him.
“I’m sorry, Femi. Please, try to understand how guilty I feel right now. It’s not that I don’t want to see her, I’m just scared.” He apologized.
“There’s nothing to be afraid of. Come with me.”
We got to the building just in time. Mrs Okafo was already waiting at the door. She was a middle-aged woman, attractive and dainty.
“Welcome, gentlemen. I am Mrs Okafor.” She said, as she conducted us into a small room beside the office that had her name on the door. “Tolani should be here any moment from now. Please make yourselves comfortable.” She left the room to return with some bottles of water.
“Thank you very much ma.” We said together.
“Tayo does not look happy.” She said facing Tayo as if they’d met before.
“Erm, erm, I… I’m fine. I’m fine ma.” Hiding his surprise at how she knew which of us was Tayo was impossible. I was shocked too.
“Don’t be shocked,” she said, as if she was reading our minds, “I’m a trained psychologist and that’s my job. I knew who was who between you two the moment I saw you.”
Just then, Tolani walked in and despite her protruding tommy, she still looked delicately beautiful. While reading Tayo’s journal, I had painted a picture of her in my mind. She was far more beautiful than I thought.
“Welcome, my dear,” Mrs Okafor said to Tolani, as they hugged each other. “I’ll leave you three to discuss and be in my office next door. If you need anything, just press the bell on either side of that table and I’ll be here in a jiffy.” She said, as she left the room.
The three of us sat there, looking at one another and waiting for someone to break the silence.
To be continued…