Linda: I'm sorry...
(Chris looks at her briefly, sighs and lies down on the bed).
Linda: I'm sorry to disturb you again, but I have a message...
James gets up, surveys his surrounding as usual, looks out the window and begins to smile cheerily.
James: Good morning to you Dr. Good morning Chris.
(Chris sighs with disgust and turns his back on them).
Linda (cheerfully): Oh good morning Mr. Ebo. Did you sleep well?
James: Yes, thank you. As well as a new born babe.
Linda: So how do you feel this morning?
James: I'm still weak, sick and all that, but I thank God I'm splendid in spirit.
James: It's such a fine morning. Every morning seems better than the one before. (looking out the window) Look at the grass. They look cheerful to me.
Linda: Yes, Mr. Ebo, God is wonderful. Nature is beautiful to those who bother to look at her.
James: Yes, it's splendid. Thank you Lord for this day.
(There is a brief silence).
Linda: You have not forgotten, I hope?
James: About the treatment? No I've not. It's today isn't it?
Linda: Yes, this morning.
James: Hm. To think that such an experience awaits me this morning. And it's such a fine morning. Look at the colourful early morning sun emerging. Glorious sight!
(Linda is touched. Chris gets up in anger).
Chris: You miserable escapist. You blithering coward. You go on talking about life. How colourful the sun is; how good the morning is; how splendid nature is; how cheery the afternoon is; how terrific the weather is; how glorious the evening; and so on and so forth. You go on talking about the beauty of life when all you really want to talk about is its decay; the kind of decay that is taking place inside of you. You talk about life when all you really desire to talk about is death. You are talking to the living about life. But you are not living. You are dying. You are decaying. And there is no one to talk to about the true things tha really bother you, is there? So you carry on pretending, smiling like all the rest of them. Everyone wants to sweep the nastiness of this disease under the carpet so that the living do not get embarrassed. But that is no solution at all when you are the one who feels it. So shut up and stop acting this absurd drama. You are driving me insane with your pretence and insincerity; your fraudulence.
James (smiling ironically): You are the one who is pretending, Mr. Dawan. You are the one who is insincere. I talk, you don't.
Chris: You talk. What do you talk about? How beautiful the weather is; how glorious nature is. Why don't you talk to her about the nights? Tell her how the disease is not only devouring your bone marrow but is also playing with your mind. Go on; tell her about your acute euphoria and your madness. And your unending nightmares. Tell her how death haunts you doggedly in his gory shapes every time you close your eyes in sleep. Tell the good doctor what it is that makes you scream your guts out in the nights. You dare not because you do not want to embarrass her or anybody. You want to carry on that fraud that is pretence. "Good morning ... Oh it’s such a glorious sight: this sunrise." Nonsense. Tell her about the blood chilling nights. Tell her what you want to tell her not what she wants to hear. Stop being patronising.
Linda: Why are you so bitter? Why are you so wicked?
(James is silent. He is lost in thought. Soon he begins to smile again).
Chris: Something bitter is happening to me. Something wicked is eating up the inside of me. I cannot be otherwise, Doctor. I cannot lie about it.
James: I understand you Chris. But there's so much to be happy for. You know, Doctor, I'm really going to miss him. I don't know how I would have managed without him. I'll miss him and I have the feeling it's going to be sooner than we expect.
Linda: Don't talk like that. You have survived all this long...
James: But there comes a time ...somehow I always forget the name of that treatment I have to take again today.
Linda: It's called Radiation Therapy.
James: Radiation Therapy. So beautiful a name. But how could something with such a beautiful name be so dreadful? I have the feeling it's more dreadful than the disease itself.
Chris: It's 'frying'. Call it frying so that you'll never forget. Imagine being fried in hot vegetable oil - like akara. That is what the experts call Radiation Therapy.
James: You are right, you know. Sometimes you are so precise you make me want to scream.
Chris: So why don't you go ahead and scream?
James: No. There's so much beauty around. Your problem is too much pre-occupation with ugliness. You are blind to beauty.
Chris: It cannot be otherwise with me. I have become ugly. Nature has turned finally made me ugly.
James (humorously): I cannot argue with you there. Dr. I would like to pray with you just before this Radiation Therapy.
There is a soft knock on the door. Two nurses enter with a wheel chair.
James: So soon to the frying room?
Linda (trying to be cheery): Come on now, hurry up. Get on the chair and we'll soon be on our way.
James: Good. Come on now give me a hand.
(The nurses and Linda help him into the chair. As they prepare to wheel him out he turns to Chris. Chris goes and takes his hand).
James: My good friend, I really will miss you, you know.
Chris: But you are coming back.
James: Remember what you said about my being close to death. You are right.
Chris: No. I didn’t mean it. You are coming back. I know that.
(James looks around the room fervently and then returns to Chris).
James: May be. Now don't you really think it's a glorious morning?
Chris: Yes. It is … it is a fine morning afterall.
James (laughing): Good. Keep it up. Look out for beauty. Goodbye, my friend.
Chris: See you soon.
Chukwuma Okoye teaches African Theatre and Dance/Choreography in the Department of Theatre Arts, University of Ibadan, Nigeria. He has written a number of plays, most of which have been performed at the Arts Theatre of the University of Ibadan. His only published play We the Beast won the ANA Drama Prize in 1991. He has also published a collection of stories entitled The Paradox of Being.
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