At the far end of the hospital,
Is a structure or a building if you may like. It stands solo, away from other buildings. Its walls are high, higher than those of Babylon. They are made of concrete. Where the concrete ends are pieces of broken bottle sticking out like the spines of a porcupine. The doors to its insides are always kept closed. We knock at the door, a face peeps through the open window. There is a shuffle, then a hand and a bunch of keys sticks out through the same window. I take the keys and try opening the padlock. It opens at the tenth trial. There are a bunch of boys and girls behind us; they too are in white coats. I leave the door open. They will close it.
Men and women in white and blue stripped uniforms that make them look like prisoners are up and about. There is a gate separating the women section from the male section, a uniformed tall, lean and tough looking man stands by the gate. He lets us in to the women section.
The sun’s rays are already falling into the compound albeit weakly. A nicely dressed young woman in her late twenties or early thirties sees us and runs to hug Ahmed. He is a staunch Muslim, he prays five times a day and never gets into close proximity to women let alone shaking hands. He recently transferred to our school and hadn’t rotated in the psychiatry ward. The lady, she is beautiful by all means, her chocolate face is spotlessly smooth. Her long black hair is tied neatly in a push back. She is wearing a yellow dress that ends just below the fold of her buttocks. The dress, it’s tightly clung to her body, outlining her disproportionately large hips. She must be a wife of someone this one. She maybe mad but she is too beautiful.
The others stare at us, or them, Ahmed and his new found friend. She already thinks he is in love with her. “My husband is not with me anymore”, she says. “He left me because I have madness” she quickly adds. “But you won’t leave me right? “She implores. Ahmed is dumbstruck. He only moves when the lady moves and is looking at me with pleading eyes. “What is your name? “ I ask her. She looks at me from head to toe then looks over me and turns to Ahmed. “You don’t want to tell me she is your girlfriend?’ She lifts her left eyebrow and sneers. “She has no supporting documents, “she says. “ I mean, look at her, she is all bone no meat, no fat” before I know it. Her hand is over in my chest, palpating and declaring that I should be a tenant, that I have two flats in my chest. She wants to show Ahmed what she is got, she lets go his hand and pulls over her dress.
Roars of laughter fill the scene as the other mad women laugh at her. From the other side, the male side, necks crane over as eyes open wider to feed in the new free x-rated video. An elderly mad fellow orders her to dress, then another talkative woman dresses her by force as a nurse walks in. this is when I realize that Ahmed has left. I look around and my eyes meet his. He is standing on the other side of the gate, the male side.
In the male side, those who had stood to watch the naked woman have gone back to sit. They are chatting excitedly, laughing doing high fives. Most are married men whose wives have left. It must have been long since they had sex.
There is a bathroom at the end of their dormitory and water is running. Two uniformed nursing students are standing outside the bathroom, watching as an old man, old enough to be their father takes a bath. He is slow and reluctant, the one with a cane keeps threatening him, and the other one only coaxes him. He is bathing yes, but he might finish tomorrow. “Why don’t you want to shower”, it’s Ahmed. He looks at him briefly. He wants to ignore him but he decides to answer, because, there are men teasing me. “How?” I ask. He regards me briefly and continues staring at the running tap and the yellow basin before him. One of the students tells me he doesn’t talk to anything with hips and breasts. “How?” Ahmed asks. “They keep talking, saying what I do, when I scrub my back, they say, “Now he is scrubbing his back, now he is washing between the buttocks, now he is holding the balls, and the shaft.” They are not good this men.
There are three unknowns, all are male. Two years ago, when I first came to this ward, there was only one unknown. He is still there. He still sits at his favorite corner, and he hasn’t stopped chewing at his clothes. He hasn’t grown either; he is still the height of a walking stick. His face is still hairless, and he hasn’t learned how to sit with his legs together (he is a man anyway). He is wearing a purple robe (it’s more of a dress). He never talks this man; commonly known as brownie (he is brown). He wakes up each morning, pees and poops, showers, takes breakfast then sits at one spot. He listens to other mad people talk. He smiles at their stories, but he has never opened his mouth. I walk towards him and he puts a hand over his face. He remains like that, and then he removes it at and looks at me. I am still looking at him, so he closes his eyes. His thoughts are those of a two year old, if I can’t see you, you are not there. I love the way he thinks like a baby. I wonder how he found himself here. He was probably abandoned in one of the casualty benches like many others. Maybe he was found by the roadside and brought here by good Samaritans. He never talks, so no one knows his name, or his mother. He will remain here forever. He will grow old and die here. Even his body will never be claimed, so he will be donated to a medical school. In his death he will be useful, he will make a difference, he will make his contribution to the nation, and he will be used as a cadaver in the study of human anatomy.
There is a man who has been talking about his meeting with the ministers and how he will fire most of them, he has delusions of grandiosity. He is the president apparently, and his governance sounds Hitler-like. His trouser has no elastic and he walks while pulling at. He is euphoric, he is mad yes, but he is happier than a king.
In the single rooms, a man keeps shouting and hitting the door mercilessly; the other madmen are looking and laughing, driving his anger to evaporation point. Mad people laugh at madness too. Ha ha ha.
The psychiatrist has arrived with his suitcase; the anesthetists are done fixing branulas. Ten patients are lined for electroconvulsive therapy. We walk to the room and witness as the first patient gets a seizure, induced seizures are like dugs, they heal depression and delusions and other psychoses.
My mind goes back to Kabibi. I know her from when I was little. When I used to poop behind our house. She hasn’t changed. That woman hasn’t even grown old. Her breasts are still full. They still slap each other when she runs. She always runs to the river, and she likes balancing her five liter jerry can on her head. Little boys like teasing her, they tell her that she smells (true), and that she doesn’t shower (true). If the maize hasn’t flowered, she will not talk to the boys. She will just fetch her water and go home. She has had babies and babies. If you ask her who fathered her most recent child, she will tell you it’s your father (this is not funny). If you ask her where her child is, she will tell you her grandmother ate it (she sells them).
When the maize brings forth flowers, Kabibi stops going to the river. She stops answering questions. She goes to Birongo market and picks bananas and avocados and anything she wishes. If you deny her anything, she bites you, or says that she is your co-wife, because it’s your husband that fathered her last child. Whenever she sees a man, she gathers large stones and they run away.
The last day I saw her was two years ago. I was going to the market, she was walking before me. She was stark naked except for the boots she was wearing. She seemed to be conversing with herself as she kept throwing up her hands in the air like the mad woman she was. She kept walking then suddenly bent to pick something. The cleft between her buttocks became apparent and then she suddenly decided to push. I didn’t wait to see what would come out, I turned and left, I would go to the market after the maize had been harvested I decided.
I wonder where she went to, whether she still lives. I wonder why they build psychiatry wards at the far end of the hospitals.