NO NIGGER NURSE; A Short Story

“I’m not even bloody nurse…”
This was Ada’s thought as she put on her TV and skipped through the channels. There was nothing in particular she wanted to watch, but TV was always a good distraction. She would stop skipping every now and again, for a little while, if something caught her attention. She stopped on all of eleven channels including a kiddies one before finally settling on a news channel. It was the day the Canadian Prime Minister announced an equal number of women in his cabinet because well, 2015. It made Ada lighten up, with a half smile, given the type of shitty night she just had at work.

The new Canadian cabinet would have no direct impact on her but it felt like a personal triumph, something to pump fists in the air for.
Being black, and full of dada hair, living in God’s own America, she would have thought prejudices against coloured people would be an extinct occurrence that people read about only in books, because, again it was 2015. But even having an equal number of women, co-human beings in a country’s cabinet was still considered a big feat, a big deal getting really loud ovation, making world news, how much more being black.
The prejudices came often, even though not in the ways that Rosa Parks got them, but in equally ridiculous eruption.
Sometimes in mild form, like one time, back in 2007, when her professor at the University of Pittsburg School of Medicine asked repeatedly if she understood the English he was speaking, if she needed him to repeat himself or speak slowly as he answered why he thought babies should get vaccinated earlier than they already did in America, never mind that she had asked him the question in English and been taught in English all through her early life in Nigeria, before her parents decided that their daughter was way above the endless strike action and below standard education in Nigerian Universities, and sent her to America for good education.

Other times, the prejudice came in a more obvious form, like last night, when she could have saved a 7 year old boy’s life, if his father hadn’t kept shouting and insisting-
“No nigger…”
“No nigger nurse touches my son.”

She had been in the food court, infusing her excitement with her third coffee of the night, looking forward to a trip she had planned with friends in about a week when her pager interrupted her. They would go to Morocco for five days, then Dubai for another four days. She particularly looked forward to having a traditional hammam in Morocco. The thought of having someone scrub and massage her entire body, ridding it off the deadness it had carried for years made her anxious and thrilled at the same time. It was therapeutic to anticipate. Care giving is what she had done for two and half years since she began her residency in paediatrics at St Johnswood hospital, and a stranger returning the favour was a much welcome proposal.
In Dubai, she would make sure to find a young handsome Emirati man, who hopefully did not have a wife or wives, dressed in spotless white robe and head wrap, a falcon balanced majestically on his forearm, and flirt with him. She would try to hold the falcon too and take selfies for memory, but most importantly for instagram. She would hashtag them #doctorshavefuntoo #workhardplayharder #makeupstillonfleek #eveninthescorchingdessertsun. She needed just to get through few more days of work before letting loose.

A woman had called 911 when she found her son convulsing in bed just before midnight, and paramedics were bringing him to St Johnswood hospital. He was rushed into the ER after midnight, Ada and two nurses waiting as they brought him in, on a stretcher that was twice his length, largely because he was curled up in foetal position, frail, his hands between his arched legs like he was hiding them. The paramedic read out all his vitals to Ada as he paced hurriedly alongside her.
She sized him up as he spoke really quickly. He wasn’t ugly, but one needed a moment to make sense of his features. His very long nose bridge dividing his very tiny eyes, set below a broad forehead that had faint worry lines. The lines arched upward such that a first quick glance at him could appear like he was about to cry. Maybe he wouldn’t look half as bad if his head was intricately wrapped like her Dubai guy, Ada thought. She cleared her throat twice, willing herself to concentrate.

“Hey little man can you hear me?” she spoke to him.
He opened his eyes for a brief second and shut them again as they set him up on a bed. “Ada noticed a fresh cut by his ear and below his jaw.
“Where are his parents” she asked no one in particular, as she examinined the cut, with latexed fingers.
There was no answer, but the boy’s father rushed into the hall screaming, his wife tailing behind him, a blanket wrapped around her frail body, worry spread all over her face like acne. Her pyjama trouser was visible under the blanket and her brown hair draped loosely over her neck like worn out silk.

“Where’s he?”
‘Where is he”?
“Where have you put my son”?

A nurse spoke gently as she approached him.
“Your son is being attended too”, but he brushed past her, shoulder to shoulder looking frantically.
When he made eye contact with Ada through the half open grey curtain of the room, he paused for half a second then resumed shouting,this time with much fury, heading towards her.
“Don’t touch my son.”
“I don’t want her touching my son” he pointed to Ada as he complained to the nurse following him.
“No nigger touches him, you hear me?”
“No nigger nurse touches my son.”
“Who’s in charge here, he barked.”

“Please be quiet”, the nurse began to say to him, but he continued.
“Do not touch my boy.” This time he was right before Ada and he had given an order. A dismissal better put.
There was silence in the whole room and across the hall for a brief moment. Only the heart monitor interjecting. Ada’s chest tightened with each beep. She instantly felt like a plague. Did she hear this man correctly, or was she in a far away place, watching a movie set in Alabama of 1940. She locked eyes with him, his furious ones penetrating the depths of her striping her of whatever human medicine she knew, as she stood slightly bent over his son. His wife walked into the room, her presence breaking the awkward silence that enveloped the room like death.

Two security men walked into the room, and as they made their way in, Ada made her way out, quietly. She said nothing to no one, shame and failure hung loosely around her neck, she did not even acknowledge the boy’s mother by the door, who tried to apologise to Ada with her eyes, a mildly pretentious apology that felt to Ada like a “I’m sorry he did that to you but he’s my husband and I can’t do anything” apology. She kept walking. Their son could die for all she cared. His blood would be on their hands, not hers.
A rancid air of waste engulfed her. Years of medical school; burning the midnight candle at both ends learning to care for humanity, only to have it flung back in her face by a selfish, disrespectful, irresponsible, barbaric xenophobe of a man.
Waste. Absolute waste of time.
She was the most qualified to examine and assess the boy at the point when he was rushed in. The consultant paediatrician was most likely in his bed having a good sleep, or at his private practice, treating children whose insurance coverage put four times as much more money in his bank account than St Johnswood could ever pay, and yet here she was, nearly at the point of tears, suddenly wishing she had grabbed the man’s neck, dug her nails deeply into the flesh around it till it released blood. She took a long deep breath in and slowly exhaled, letting all the anger steaming inside her spill out.

The boy would later die because there was only so much the nurses could do to control the frequency of seizures, whilst waiting for a non-nigger doctor to give a real diagnosis. He slipped into unconsciousness and passed away by morning. Ada hoped that his parents would live with the guilt forever even though the possibility that she may not have made a difference even if she was there occurred to her. She would even testify against them in court if she had too. Their suffering would be inconsolable and paralysing such that they would take it out on each other, eventually see a shrink, who would advice they make reparation for closure and for their son’s sake, and they would come grovelling at her feet. She played out the scene all to well in her head, like a Nigerian movie that had all the elements but still didn’t feel quite right. She rebuked herself, for letting her emotions get the better of her. If she was as religious as her mother, she would have rebuked the devil instead, asked God for forgiveness right there and attempted escaping God’s wrath by pleading the blood of Jesus on the little boy. But she wasn’t, what she was was furious.

She left the hospital for home earlier than usual, and lay in her couch under her duvet with her shoes on. Before drifting to sleep she thought about the boy’s mother, and the fragility of her; the unbearable loss she just suffered, and wondered why she remained quiet through it all. Sleep took it’s time to come to her, and when it did, it was for an hour or less. Her heart was racing when she woke and she was still angry. She had flashes in her sleep where she was running from a trail of blood that was dripping from the neck of the boy’s father. Part of her wished it was real. The stillness of morning confused her as she settled into wakefulness. Sunlight was forcing it’s way into her living room through the tiny opening in her curtain, raising with it one long line of dancing dust.
It was then she got up, picked the TV remote and began skipping through the channels.

“I’m not even a bloody nurse…”

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3 Comments Add yours

  1. hrh7 says:

    This is beautiful. And very well told. Great blog. I think I’m gonna like it here.

    1. eclectictope says:

      Thank you for reading. I appreciate it. Yes, I hope you like it here 🙂

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