Pieces of consciousness stirred me awake. I felt the impression of the soft blanket on my skin, the hotness of the room, the stuffiness of the room and the drip gently resting on my wrist. My eyes opened to see. Where was I? I slowly searched the room for familiar faces among the beds that crowded the room. I saw none. I shut my eyes again and fell asleep. I awoke to a woman changing my drip she was dressed in a white plastic suit covering her whole body. I wanted to ask her where I was and what I was doing there but I was too weak to speak. She looked down at me, behind her goggles I saw a painful expression that I couldn’t decipher. I watched as her whiteness disappeared into the darkness.
My mind plays images of me playing “fulayi”. Thandanani laughs and threatens that this ball will “kill me” for sure. She swings her hand backwards and sends the colourful ball made from multi-coloured plastic bags accelerating towards me. I lift my feet sending thousands particles of dust into the air. My legs freeze straight in the air as the ball passes. I reach the ground…breathless from the physical exertion and exhilaration. I smirk deridingly at Thanda almost saying “I survived”.
My eyes open again to find the nurse changing my drip. “Where am I?” I asked.
“In a clinic…your family brought you here yesterday. You have Ebola.”
Her words fell into my ears like pieces of hail falling on one’s head: Cold…and painful.
“Where are they?” I wanted to ask where my Mother is?! Where is Thandanani?! But my strength failed me.
“They aren’t allowed in here.”
I wanted to ask why not. But my voice failed me. There was something about the nurses cold eyes that made me shrink inside. Where was my family and why couldn’t they be here.
I dont know how long I slept for. Lucid images flashed in my mind of Amayi.
“You have to eat.” She said gently as though she was speaking to a baby.
“I dont feel like eating.” I said glancing at the maize porridge in the bowl. It was going cold now and looked even less appetizing than before.
“Magodise, you have to eat so you can give your body the strength to fight the malaria in you.”
With a defeated look, she placed it aside.
“I feel hot.” I moaned.”And cold.”
Thanda took a wet face towel that was hanging on the metal bed post and started pressing it against my forehead. The coldness of the towel against my inflamed skin soothed me.
I was so thirsty I looked around for Amayi and Thandanani. I looked around the room it was filled with frail looking women and crying children. No mothers to comfort their children. The room smelled. I heard woman next to me call the nurse. The lady asked her to change her sheets. They were covered in blood she complained. The nurse in a big voice told her they were no more sheets. She went on shouting how she had already changed her sheets in the morning. I turned the other side to escape the nurse’s loud scary voice. There was a little girl much younger than me maybe eight who lay so still in her sleep. The nurse finally came near where I was. I asked her for water. She gave it to me. The nurse was scary she did everything with an angry face. When I asked her for water she looked at me like I was bothering her. She went to the little girl’s bed and turned her then went outside. She came back with two men in ebola suits and they took the girl outside the room.
“Where are they taking her?”
“She is dead. She has been dead since morning. “The woman who had complained about the bed sheets said in an agitated voice.
“What will they do with her body? Will they return in to her family?”
“No they will bury it near here in a plastic bag.”
I didn’t know the girl but my heart pitied her. She had been alone in here without a mother and now she was going to be buried alone. Even in death she was separated from her family.
I could not sleep that night. What if I died? Would I too be taken and buried in a plastic bag? Would my family attend the funeral? Would I have a funeral? Why weren’t they visiting me? Another little girl was brought into the bed the other girl slept in.
Mai mabvuto seeing that I was awake started telling me about her family. She told me how her last born had Ebola.
“I didn’t want to bring her to the clinic because I knew they wouldn’t let me see her. So I used to make her drink holy water that I got from Nigeria. I tried not to touch her. But she was in so much pain she kept crying. I couldn’t watch my child suffer like that. I wanted to hold her soothe: Ease the pain somehow the way only a mother can. So I did. She died in my arms.”
I wept as she told me. Where was my mother? She had just dropped me off at this clinic with no explanation. Did they think I would survive? Even if I survived would they welcome me with open arms or would they cast me aside as people had been doing with the few that had survived this plague. I thought of the little girl that died next to me and how she was buried in a plastic bag. She was forever separated from her family. Ebola had not just robbed her of her life. It had robbed her of love. It had robbed us all of our dignity. We had become statistics in a lost war.
Today Mai mabvuto died the whole of yesterday she had been bleeding and complaining of a headache. I watch as they take her body out of the clinic ready to put it in a plastic bag. I cling on to life. I refuse to die and be separated from my family’s love forever. I refuse to be a statistic…
The Authour Wongile Mbano is a student at University of Malawi, Chancellor College. She is currently working on publishing her Play Ka’ulimi