My Final year experience was extraordinary. As at the end of the third year, I had made a pleasant acquaintance, it happened in one of those crowded University buses that transported us from faculty to hostel and back. Eunice was one of a kind. At first glance my eyes refused to peel away from her, even though I was well aware of how impolite staring in a public transport could be. She was a natural beauty, petite with a gap teeth that fashioned her warm smile. She held dearly to a pole as the bus came to an unsteady stop. I only noticed that the seat beside mine had become vacant, when she walked across to it and sat. She introduced herself as Eunice. I was surprised, in buses more than anywhere else on campus, people kept to themselves.
We couldn’t say much to each other. We were both in a hurry. But when we met at the School hospital and chatted throughout the idle hours of waiting to see the doctor. Our friendship was sealed. Strangely enough, we didn’t speak about the reasons we were both there. But as our friendship grew I got to find out hers later.
Eunice had a boyfriend named Peter. Peter was charming and proper with me. He seemed like the perfect gentleman. Until one day, when I visited Eunice. It was an unplanned visit, I decided to stop by to give her a surprise. That day I heard the vilest of words come out of a person’s mouth. I wouldn’t repeat those words to anyone, it was Peter and I had never seen him in such a furious fashion. They were screaming words at each other and there was a small group of people who had come to see what had happened. Peter in a hurry to leave, brushed past me without a word. When he did, I held my breath in anticipation of the stench of alcohol but there was none. Eunice shut her door and locked it, and what happened next took me by surprise. Holding her head in both hands she sat on the floor. And demanded that I reached into a drawer for a bottle of Ergotamine. Her brows furrowed in distressed, as she rolled and squirmed, she made sounds of obvious distress and pain but I was quick to notice that she wasn’t exactly crying. She was rolling and squirming without a word. I tried to help but my touch seemed to worsen the situation, so I stood there dumbfounded watching her.
Weeks later, I had just come out of a morning lecture when an acquaintance I met through Eunice, gave me the shocking news that Eunice had an emergency. I had seen Eunice two days before with Peter they had both been casual towards me like what I had witnessed weeks before between them existed only in my imagination. I wanted to know what had happened to Eunice but she didn’t have all the details. So I left immediately to the School’s hospital, there I wasn’t allowed to see her and no one would tell me anything. Even Peter who I had found head hanging low didn’t say a word to me. At this point I was anxious, a couple of things crossed my mind, and none of them made any sense. Eunice wasn’t the type to harm herself. She spoke and acted with a certainty that there was always light at the end of the tunnel. Three hours later, a doctor informed us that the surgery was successful. I looked at Peter, what surgery? He didn’t seem to have a clue too. The doctor noticing how clueless we both looked asked if any of us were related to Eunice by blood, when our answers came in the negative. He told us to call her relatives and he wouldn’t give us any more information.
When we were finally able to see her, Peter went in first, and for the first time I resented him. In an absurd way of thinking, I felt he was behind all of this. Eunice was not weak or feeble looking, she was the epitome of health, if there was a role for a rosy cheeked, strong woman in her mid-20’s Eunice would get it. So how did all of this happen?
When I went in, I took notice of the fresh dressings on different areas on her abdomen and I was frightened by the sight. She was however doing better than I thought. The first thing she said to me was that her body, she reckoned had been on a journey and was still going through one. She had been having bouts of violent pain, ever since she was thirteen. She had thought it was normal and every girl was going through it. It all began with heavy periods, periods that lasted weeks and pain that surged through her, in her abdomen, back, waist and legs. Most girls had dysmenorrhea, but when she started having them so violently demanding and in public places where she couldn’t express her discomfort, she knew something was wrong with her. Fatigue ate at her. She would miss school on most days but had managed to pass on to the next year. Other times, she wasn’t so lucky so she repeated the year. She had been on several trips to the gynecologist, had been presented with so many options, she was offered pills that proved futile, which she later abandoned. Her mother at some point had asked her if she was exaggerating what she was going through. It was later when she had seen a recommended specialist that she was diagnosed with endometriosis. She had mispronounced it, later goggled it, and found out the reason for the late diagnosis was that symptoms varied between women and the only way a diagnosis could be made for sure was by a mini surgery with a nicely designed camera. Somehow, she felt glad to know that what she had been struggling with was a condition, it had a name and she wasn’t crazy.
Some of her earlier doctors had been quick to dismiss what she had as a bad case of dysmenorrhea, some others said she was just stressed! I had an earful; I was being educated of this devastating condition in the most arduous of ways. I honestly would have preferred a more theoretical version of the lecture. I remembered my own experience with my ovaries. I felt so sorry, but I didn’t know how to express that. Peter was standing at the other side, mute and staring morosely.
We were back in her room, perched side by side on her bed. Two months had gone by. Eunice had deferred the year, it was either that or repeating. Her stitches were gone and even her scars were fading. I could look at them, even touch them without feeling so sorry for her. She could lift things herself and go about her morning routine, I was becoming redundant to her. She turned to look at me, smiling with her eyes, like she could tell I was thinking of her. “It’s not supposed to be painful, she said, I looked puzzled but she went on, they always said the first time was painful, but it was supposed to be better as you went on.” Finally I felt we were having a conversation, not just any but a conversation about her. “Sex? Or Surgery?” “It was frustrating, really embarrassing and always painful. I have never been in a relationship. They never lasted long enough to be called one. Peter is the longest. Four months.” At that moment, I wanted to say something meaningful, tell her that all the others who had left had missed out on a big opportunity, and had missed out on being part of her journey, and being part of her life. That they were all shallow, self-gratifying idiots. But I quickly said, “I wouldn’t know about that.” Sex wasn’t something I was open to talking about. It was something I had never spoken about. So just like Peter denied Jesus, I denied any knowledge of the subject. She said it was actually getting better, and thatPpeter was patient, he was always shopping for items that could make things easier for them. I wanted to ask if that was part of the reason for their big fight the other day. But she was pulling the covers, she wanted to get some rest. It was my cue to leave.
On my graduation day, while I was smiling and posing flirtingly for the camera, Eunice was undergoing a second surgery. The next day when I visited, I spent hours regaling Peter and her about the event and after party, the dresses, cocktails, and my very vague plans for the future. She wanted to hear all of it, it was the first time anyone wanted to live vivaciously through me and it sucked. The days that followed all we spoke about was her recovery, diets, exercise, chakras and lifestyle changes.