‘Purple Dawn’ by @HL_Blue

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“In the shadow of death, hope sees a star, and listening love can hear the rustle of a wing.” – Robert G. Ingersoll

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I have always thought of dawn as the most important part of the day. That eerie silence before the first birds wake up has always been poignant for me. In that moment, when the sun is just around the corner, the birds are silent and the sky is purple. Just before dawn. Just before the noisy din of birds that made their nests in the giant dogonyaro tree behind our family house began in earnest. Just before my alarm went off, signalling that it was time for the family morning devotion. The calm before the storm.

In my later years this haunting feeling would come over me whenever I felt everything was going too well, when life was too good to be true. I came to call it The Purple Dawn. I am a sickle cell anaemia sufferer. I hate the term “sufferer” because of the pity it invariably invokes in others, but the spade should not be called a large flat spoon. Whenever I was on the verge of some great success in my life, another close shave with death would pop up. I don’t know if it was psychosomatic, or if the universe was just playing a cruel joke on me (why would the universe care about my little life anyway?). I will never know, but whenever I felt life about to be snatched away from me, I fought desperately and held on.

Being the last born and the only sickle cell patient in my family did not help.  I was doted on and never punished. I was constantly monitored for my location and the availability of my drugs, credit on my phone, insecticide-treated mosquito nets, proximity to hospitals, and the presence of friends to look out for me. I didn’t grow up into a spoiled brat simply because my frequent attacks reminded me of my fickle nature. All men are fickle, but not all men are as frequently reminded as I am. Not all men get to see their abdomen swollen with dark purple blood pooled into their spleen. Not all men suffer the sudden, inexplicable panic that comes when medication runs out. Not everyone has to see the light of attraction draining from a girl’s eyes, so quickly replaced by the glow of pity. People say they fall in love. I do not believe this. How could you fall in love and then the next second be so put off that you wish you had never ever said ‘hi’?

That was the case with my first and last true love. Jemimah and I met in graduate business school. Our meeting coincided with the period I had just made the decision to throw off the parental bonds of monitoring and “control”. I also stopped telling people straight up that I was a sickler. To hide my tell-tale eyes, I always went about with my designer sunglasses, as if to shield myself from the glare of public attention. I also went about with my Bluetooth headphones, as if to insulate myself from the blare of public opinion. Jemimah’s first question to me was all it took to break down my walls of security. She had asked, “Would you wear those shades and headphones to a date?” I was immediately charmed and embarrassed. I felt like a toddler caught hiding behind the couch to watch a late night movie when it was past my bedtime.

We started going out. And in her eyes, I saw hope for something more than my condition, something more than constant pain and medication. With her, Robert Ingersoll’s words became real to me. With her, I felt completely normal. With her, I felt love. Did I mention that her favourite colour was purple? She thought it was a royal colour but it only reminded me of the dead, static blood I used to see in the hospital. She never asked about my health status and I never volunteered the information. Who goes around doing that? (I learned later that some sickle cell carriers do that but she was not one so she was blissfully happy in the fact that she could marry anyone she pleased, or so she thought). One particular morning she was in my bed with her back to me when I looked over her shoulder out the window and saw the sky. It was another purple dawn. The familiar feeling of helplessness came over me again. I knew she would eventually find out. It seemed like I would have to face this one way or the other. As if sensing my laboured breath on her neck, Jemimah opened her eyes and looked over at me. “I have something I have to tell you…” I began tentatively. She froze, and I wondered why we humans inevitably had to be thrown down to the depths from such heights of giddy pleasure and happiness. Slowly I told her I was a sickle cell patient, familiar with death on occasion, especially during the rainy season, and how she was the first person I had opened my heart to.

I could almost see the wheels in her head turning. Well, they say to tell the dark secrets as early as possible, but how early is early? It takes time to win the trust required to open up, then it becomes awkward that so much time has passed without you telling the most important things. On the other hand, it is not dignified to go about carrying a condition you have like a signboard on your head as if it defined you. No. I would not be that small. But all these were my puny arguments. They meant nothing to the woman who had breached my walls with a sentence. Like a tortoise to its shell, I slowly withdrew, vowing never to venture beyond my boundaries. This would be the only time. At least I would have it on record that I had loved and been loved. Whatever that word meant, my quest for it had left me wounded. With every passing silent second, I felt love replaced by pity and fear and it hurt me deeply. Yes. I was a soldier for love and I suppose I deserved the Purple Heart medal for injury or death during military service. Whether I would wear it with pride was a totally different matter entirely.

Then she opened her mouth to reply…

 

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Responses

    1. Olatoxic
      I've tried to avoid commenting on the actual posts in these series seeing as I'm on the 'fellow writer' side of things but I just had to say here that I really like this piece. Throws up some very important issues.

      I especially like how it ended.

      Good one, Efe.

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  1. Tiki
    Please tell me she said 'It doesn't matter'!

    Three things struck me about this.

    First, I lost a good friend earlier this year to sickle cell anaemia. RIP Steve.

    Second is the part where you talk about when to divulge secrets. At the beginning of the relationship, you don't know each other well enough. Then you feel like the time is never right. Then you feel like too much time has passed. Love is hard yo.

    Third, I can totally relate to feeling like a freak because of a condition, and wanting to see an emotion other than pity. After a recent unfortunate event, I have a couple of unsightly scars, and it seems like that is all people see when they see me. The other day a couple of children looked at me, giggled and laughed. I felt so bad, I can only imagine how a sickler would feel. To all sicklers there, focus on the positive. You may be sick, but some people are dead. Hold on to the life you have, and make your time on earth here count for something.

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      1. Deee
        You are so brave Tiki, talking about it like this. I realised about a year ago that I haven't been keeping in touch with a childhood friend of mine who has sickle cell anaemia. At first I told myself I've been really busy, but in my heart I know I'm doing it so that it won't hurt so bad if we eventually lose her. It's selfish and I intend to fix this.

        I have my own 'scars' and yeah, that's all people see. You can't blame them though, its human nature.
        I've learnt to deal with it. Your support group is important. I'm so grateful for family and friends.

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    1. Olatoxic
      Have I ever told you I like your comments?

      1. Please accept my condolences

      2. It's amazing that my very good friend, Pinkus, wrote on this just this morning here—> http://demorrieaux.wordpress.com/2012/07/12/naked… I was smiling when I saw how Efe had infused that issue into his story. And yes, love CAN be hard, but if you know who you're with and are wise enough to have 'chosen' someone with whom you operate on the same wavelength, it doesn't necessarily have to be hard. Heck, it's beautiful! 😉

      3. I read that post on your blog. All I'll say is I'm thankful to God for your life. I pray your healing is complete soon.

      Oh, and I like your comments 🙂

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  2. terdoh
    I've been here too.

    I don't even want to talk about it.

    Awesome stuff Efe. This is one of my favourites.

    (And why does this thing keep telling me to login? Arggghhhh!!!!!)

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    1. @Sirkastiq
      First you were fat…

      Now you've had sickle cell..

      Oh we know you're gay..

      Shey tomorrow, you'll be a sex addict abi? we await.

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  3. summer
    Everytime people talk about sickle cell anemia from th pitiful angle I smile and say to them,"it could be worse"I have 3 sisters living and thriving with th illness,they can tie their shoelaces and they can have kids,they laugh and they play…
    But when its bad,it sucks,endless days with oxygen tanks and crappy hospital mattresses.
    Love again,Love…
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  4. TheAlchemist-TTXIII
    I didnt like the end. Then I liked it. Then I didnt. Then I liked it again.
    Then I decided to leave it because it mirrors the uncertainty that anyone with this kind of serious conditon has to live with about every aspect of their lives.
    Then I loved it.

    Even though its more story than monologue, I like this a lot. Yes. The range of styles is what has made 'For Colored Men' such a joy to write and edit.

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  5. iLoveFrankOcean
    "How could you fall in love and then the next second be so put off that you wish you had never ever said ‘hi’. That was the case with my first and last true love" Awwww 🙁

    Funny, from the introduction to the series, I thought this would be xo_Afro's and Green would be yours. Well… ¯_(ツ)_/¯

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  6. All Heart
    This is a lovely story. O can totally relate because I have Sickle Cell Anaemia, but i refuse to be referred to as a sickler.
    The whole knowing when to tell a loved one about this is a big issue. When is too early, and when does it become too late. I wish the ending of this story wasn't hanging though.
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  7. wannie
    Wow…this is beautifully written…one of my very best…I felt every word of it..I don’t know wat it feels like to b a sickler yea but I’m sure dere’s more to them than their genotype…
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  8. Charles
    Lovely read.

    I feel the ending is the beginning of a debate of sorts.

    what would’ve been YOUR reply?

    Ideally, it would be “it doesn’t matter, i still love you”… then a bit of sex and sweat.

    But realistically, is that how it would go down?

    Fully enjoying the series.

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  9. Glory
    This was so beautifully penned, so poignant.. Everything works, plus the closing suspense. My favorite piece so far. 🙂
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  10. So_eXclusiv3
    And d ending just had to be left hangin…lovely story. I love d poem infused, d presence of hope…story touched a chord in me, I av to treat SS pts.
    P.S. Bcos of d previous love I had for, for Coloured girls, I really wanted to see ow ds series wud turn out…I've gotta say ds z my best series so far on TNC…Big Ups to all d writers.
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  11. PreyingMantis
    I'm surprised she never noticed anything about his medical condition especially if she stayed over occasionally. His medication, where did he hide them? His crisis, he never had any while they were together? I've seen firsthand the crisis sickle cell patients experience, so I'm wondering at how well he hid this from her till he was ready to spill. Unless she's a dimwit and completely unobservant.

    From the story, love doesn't conquer all.

    Beautifully written. I wasn't expecting anything good from Highlandblue. Not sure if this is a pleasant surprise.

    , your story is artistic and great. Grey and Purple, the best so far.

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    1. deevagal
      Silly, having sickle cell anaemia doesn't mean you'l constatntly have crisis.some go as long as a full year withoug having any signs.
      As for drugs, there's just about 4main drugs they take, once a day. Very easy to do without anyone finding out.
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      1. PreyingMantis
        Moron, you have no point.

        Read my comment, this time, with a brain. You are intimate with someone, you are bound to notice a few things about your partner; eating habit, hygiene, appetite, weight loss or gain, color of his eyeballs, etc. Has she been living under a rock? Has she never heard of sickle cell or its symptoms? A year isn't required to know stuff about your partner, especially if you co-habit.

        Before you reply with another dumb comment, I'd like to know if you've lived with or treated a sickle cell patient, have you looked after one, because I have. Don't say you are doctor either, it would only reveal your ignorance.

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        1. highlandblue
          Mantis, be nice. Lol

          What if the girlfriend was foreign, or was brought up in the overseas, where these things are totally unheard of? What if that was why she seemed so different to him? Be imaginative

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          1. sisi
            lol, sickle cell disease isn't "unheard of" overseas… it's a condition exclusive to black people all over the world, regardless of origin.
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          2. noiroublanche
            Actually, I asked a roomful of 5 of my house mates and their partners, all white, and neither one of them had heard of sickle cell, or any of its symptoms. They didn't even know their genotypes. Maybe that makes them ignorant; but then we probably wouldn't know much either if it didn't hit so close to home.
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        2. silentblare
          If people discovered all about their partners in one year as you suggest, I wonder why so much more seems to be discovered after getting married, and they say: it's like he or she is a different person. Welcome to the stage of this grand performance called "courting" where men and women achieve shakespearean feats of deception and role playing. By the way I know personally 3 sickle cell "patients" who look totally normal, and several yellow eyeballed folk who are not sickle cell "patients." Your experience with sickle cell "patients" as you call them is by no means universal.
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  12. Pizzazz
    Why do I feel like I was set up? Just yesterday I put up a post about sickle cell anaemia on my blog and then this! So this is better than my rendition, but my story showed that “Love Conquers All”.

    Awesome job.

    And I hope she said “I know, and I love you all the same”.

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  13. @_OOF_
    Nice! Nice!! I love the suspense at the end and I hope she replied with 'I know, but it made me love you more than ever'. This an White are my favourites.
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  14. Kuchiiiii
    Beautiful dying to read more…… I can relate well to the story. I'm also a sickle cell patient(hate d word sufferer). We are survivors. Love
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  15. edgothboy
    I lost my best friend when I was 10 to sickle cell. Jerry was there one day and gone the next. Sickle cell survivors are normal people too. Thank you Efe for shedding light on this.
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  16. @thechubbymissus
    Its possible to have stem cell transplantation now. One stops being a 'sickler'. There is a Sickle Cell Centre in Lagos.
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  17. Naa Ayikai
    dammit. this post brought tears to my eyes. everything about this story is beautiful, from the writing, to the message. i am so glad you guys are doing this series! sniffles and walks away*
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  18. sisijacobs
    Really really good. I came very close to wanting to kill Efe at the end. He made me fall in love with the character and here I am, totally rooting for him and I'm left at the edge of a cliff with no idea what happens, aaaargh. Oh well, this way I can imagine my version of "and they lived happily ever after".
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  19. Ptörpè
    The ending's beautiful this way. To have a "it's ok, I love you…" will make it so predictable- cliche. It's beautiful this way. Reminds me of the Inception ending. Giving us something to think about.
    Wonderful piece.
    5 stars all the way.
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  20. Ugo
    Lovely story…beautifully told…I agree with Charles in believing that the ending "is a beginning of sorts"…
    This is easily one of my favourite stories in this series…
    Well done.
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  21. highlandblue
    Thanks everyone for reading. Really really happy 🙂

    Shout out to The Alchemist for his quotes and lines. I've also lost a friend to sickle cell. Dude was the liveliest bundle of joy to everyone around him.

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  22. silentblare
    Touching. I remember my English language teacher in JS 1. She was the loveliest and gentlest woman I ever knew. She had this brown and beautiful complexion, and wore geek glasses that were so cute. Yeah we lost her. She was a sickler and died having her first child. I was 10 but I felt it so bad, and missed her. Most times they turn out to be the deepest and uniquely beautiful individuals we know because of their peculiar perspective. But concerning the story, who knows where love begins and where it ends? Where it is seemingly something external to those who wade in it, with a life and grip of its own, abolishing normal reasoning, or where it is just a hard, cold and calculating choice of a partner with the best prospects? I tire for these love matters self! God help us all.
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  23. Niz
    P.Mantis: I find it quite funny when u tell someone” I never expected anything good from you’ and I wondered if you created or birthed the writer.
    I think u try too hard to be mean that it becomes pitiful. …And I aint even here to trade words with u.
    Nothing’s wrong with u having happy dispositions.
    *deuces*
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  24. bukiola
    i can relate so well to the post and its bringing back sad memories. I lost my favourite, sweetest brother to sicke cell anaemia some years back. It was like the world was gonn end for me at that moment. I believe he is in a better place tho, thinking about the pain during his crisis, the sleepless nights and the money spent.
    Like Tiki said, you may be sick, but you r still living cos many are dead. I pray a lasting, less complicated solution to SS comes soon.
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  25. sapphire013
    I actually cried… Reminds me of 2 of my sisters i lost to sickle cell anemia… RIP JOAN AND JEN…. Its heart breaking….
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  26. MBee
    Living with sickle cell anaemia is just so sad. I lost my only brother to it almost 7 years now. It never goes away even though no1 in my family likes to talk about it . Now, after 5 years in a relationship, the boyfriend and I have the same genotype (AS). #sadlife
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  27. tessadoghor
    Suspense!
    Sincerity
    But i think you exaggerated the thingy
    I know at least three 'sufferers' with S.C.A
    They are pretty normal.
    But i think you have a good story build up
    Captivated!
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  28. Amy
    I was searching on bing when I found your site. So much of what you say is true. I got alot from this post, I’m going to add your rss feed to my Google reedar. Thanks!
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