The traffic, the traffic almost hindered me from getting to the male ward early. I knew I had to redeem myself by paying Amartey, our department driver a visit at the hospital. Almost all my colleagues had been to see him.
As soon as I stepped into the sixteen-bed fully packed ward, I heard a bell start to ring from the nurses’ bay - the type which was rang by our school prefect in the primary school. “Ten minutes more pleeeease”, a voice yelled.
My colleagues had already told me his bed was the fourth to my right so I walked straight to his side. And boy, he was so thrilled to see me. Still lying down, he quickly plucked out the ear-phones with which he was listening to music from his mobile phone whose key pad’s writings were all erased.
Then without assistance, he propped himself up properly, smiled and said to me in Ga, “I thought you wouldn’t come. You would have been in big trouble with me”. “Hoh, but I still could have visited you at home? Or were you going to resume work immediately after being discharged?” I asked.
As we chatted, the aroma of beef light soup and fragrant rice streamed in so strongly from the arena of the patient directly opposite Amartey.
And the zeal with which the partially wrinkled dark and lanky bald-headed patient ate! Gosh, I kept wondering whether he was really ill.
Selectively watching him whilst chatting within the given ten minutes, I saw him bite into a chunk of meat, about double the size of a standard match box. He would scoop the vapour-stricken rice with the metal table spoon, fetch the soup, blow on the heap, and then wham, into his mouth would the food enter.
Of course he had already started eating before I entered so it took him just about five more minutes to consume the rest of the food. I saw him at a point trying hard to suck the marrow of a bone for about a minute. There was no telling he had enjoyed the meal.
“Amartey, what illness is that man opposite you suffering from? He seems to have such good appetite.” I asked undertone. In responding my colleague smiled and said with a look of surprise, “Madam, I am myself surprised he is eating home-made meal today. Since we’ve been here (and we were all admitted the same day) I haven’t seen anyone visit him. I guess today his wife might have remembered him”.
“Tiiiiiiiiime up. All visitors should please start heading for our entrance pleeease”, the nasal voiced nurse yelled. Just about that same time, I saw a reasonably fair-complexioned gray-haired elderly man, about 52 years old, walk in gently with a look of contentment on his face. Clad in his sea blue and white stripped pyjamas, made from brush cotton fabric, he looked very pale and had a dressed wound which was quite big, showing on his left wrist.
I was soon to realise he was the occupant of the bed next to the man who was eating that obviously sumptuous meal. At his time of walking in, the “eater” had finished demolishing the mound of meal and had placed the bowl in a blue plastic basket on the table which was at the foot of his bed. He had brought out from another bowl, an orange which had been cut into four, and was eating; chewing on the orange’s fibre as though his release from the infirmary depended on it.
The nurse who had made the announcement was now patrolling the length of the ward, literally asking visitors out. I didn’t want to face any such embarrassment so I begged leave of Amartey, and promised him a visit at home after his discharge. As I turned to leave I heard raised voices coming from the “eater’s” corner.
Before long, the patient with the wounded wrist had held the eater who still had a slice of orange in his right hand, by the neck of his thread-bare La Coste T-shirt. All I heard was “bledy fool. Bledy fool! Has anyone visited you before? Bledy fool!” He was unconsciously about to hit the belly-full man with his wounded left hand when the nurse intervened. Everyone rushing to leave the ward, together with the patients, were stunned at the development. All attention was now focused on the duo.
“Ao, Mr. Klinogo, please what has he done, please leave him alone, we beg”, said the nurse who had placed the notebook and bell she was carrying on to the table near Mr. Klinogo’s bed. The other nurses in the bay came out to see what was going on. Shouts of “oh”, “agh”, “what sort of attack is this?” came from observers.
A nerve showing from the left side of Mr. Klinogo’s head indicated intense wrath. His twitching left jaw showed he was chewing on his molars to buttress his expression of “eye-red”. The face of the fair man was now very red. He had become an adrenaline junky.
Stammering involuntarily, he said to the nurse, “do you know he has eaten my food? Do you know? …I… I just went to see my wife and brother-in-law off and he has eaten all of my food … and the orange too”. Tilting the basket which was on the defendant’s table, Mr. Klinogo asked everyone around to see the emptied rice and soup bowls. “Oooh,” the chorus sounded from the crowd therein gathered.
The nurse begged Mr. Klinogo to kindly let go of the culprit whilst we sought explanation for the eater’s action. Then she asked, “but you too why did you eat food which wasn’t yours?” With a look of guilt the offender begged for pardon and said, “I went to the washroom and returned to see this basket on my table. I was very very hungry because of the vitamins I had taken. I couldn’t resist the aroma. So I ate it”.
“The fact that my wife accidentally left the basket on your table did not warrant you to eat the food?” Mr. Klinogo punched out his English like an old school teacher. Lost for words, the perpetrator asked us all to beg for forgiveness for him. It was such a pitiful sight, a man, a visitor, volunteered to donate a meal of rice and soup from a restaurant not too far from the hospital, to make for what had been wrongly consumed.
Matters settled, we began to troop out of the ward in awe, everyone having something to say to another, of the “eater”. Then one visitor shouted, “Patient abr3”. We all began to laugh.