It is with deep sorrow and a heavy heart that I regret to inform you on the departure of Dr. Fatima Tumsah….
“What the fuck?!”
I felt sweat break out on my forehead and absently wiped it off with the back of my hand. I adjusted my glasses- it was a new one, and I was sure that thing was happening when I read too fast for my brain to process correctly. So I closed my eyes, tried to calm my restless being for some seconds. In those seconds I heard the gushing of blood to my eyes, the rapid caffeine-infused tick of the pulse at my jugular, the insistent beating of my heart causing steady flutters of my lacy black shirt. I also heard my voice- the inner, quiet, prim and proper one- telling me to calm the fuck down. Too soon, I think, I reopened my eyes. I think, you see, because the words I saw were same as the ones I’d read the first time. That was not right. That could not be right.
“Dupe what is it?”
A far voice sounding alarmed; a little scared. Shuffling feet from somewhere in the distance I couldn’t hear clearly; blood was pounding in my ears. I stared at the letters of the opened mail on my computer screen, reading them over and over; willing that my interpretation of the words change. It didn’t.
Hands shaking me. Rude unwelcome hands interrupting the monlogue I was having with the mail on my computer screen. It forced me out of the fog of deafening comprehension.
“This doesn’t make sense. It can’t be. I can still read. But this can’t be right. Doesn’t make sense”
I was talking to the intruder; only not quite. I was talking with myself. Me and myself were orally voicing which to believe between the reality of the mail and the comprehension of my senses. It seemed at that point one of the two had to be wrong.
“Someone is d-d-dead?”
I began to really hate the intruder. She was not welcome to the debate. We- myself and I- were congruent on that nobody was dead. There was just a mistake that was making it seem so. We just didn’t know the source of the mistake- the mail, or our senses. But I began to shiver, and goose pimples started to pop over me. My fingers started flying on the keyboard; navigating to twitter to find the lady who had sent the mail and ask the clarification.
“She might not be online now”
I was seeing that she hadn’t posted anything for some days; and I knew I needed immediate answers. So I picked my phone, shaking fingers missing my pattern twice.
“God please somebody’s contact should be here”
It was the first time I was sincerely praying in so long I’d lost memory of how long. My phone had been stolen earlier in the year, in the time just after I had found Google contacts, just before I had transferred all contacts on there. I was begging God really bad that at least 1 number of a member of the National Youth Family Planning Network should be on my Google contacts. 1 number was; and shaking fingers pressed dial. In the space between that and the ringtone I bit my lips; scared to hear the voice at the other end and what it could say, yet sure it would say the mail had been a scam.
“Dupe… Yes… On Friday”
I became a blubber of stuttering words. It didn’t make sense. Did she know it didn’t make sense? Why, we just chatted last week. The week before then there had been some thing we had been tagged on. How was she dead? Did dead mean dead; as in dead as in dead dead deeaad?
I think she understood my confusion because she just kept quiet while I went on until I disconnected the call. My space was confining; I was feeling suffocated. I got up, loosening my top buttons as I did, fanning my face with my right hand, breathing through my mouth to get air through to my lungs. I looked out the window to the happy birds fluttering around Moringa branches, to school children running around in the playground. None of them was having an accident. Esther– the lady on the phone- had said Fatima had an accident. But nothing in front of me was having an accident. Even the birds perching precariously on thin branches were not.
Too little seconds later I was back to reading that mail. The whole mail; not just the first line. Fatima was really dead. Had been dead since Friday. Must have been buried on Saturday while I was bemoaning my flu, sounding like an old man with his tonsils torn out, and steering off social media. The more I thought about it the more surreal it seemed.
Only last year, two months and six days from now we were in Abuja; she and I eyeing fiesta 3-in-1 till we agreed to share a pack while our colleagues teased. We were mapping youth inclusion in family planning; the different caveats, angles… Debating, arguing, marshaling, smoothing rough edges, and agreeing to the #doroyouth stand.
God! Words fail me Fatee. I came home to a mad work out staring at the walls till all I could see was your face and my lungs threatened to burst. Drenched in sweat, my playlist set to “Dark”, I can think enough to write now. And even now I cannot refer to you in past tense.
We did not imagine this Fatee; not in our wildest imaginings. You were one of the best: friendly, lively, intelligent, and alive. Remember us teasing them Olumide and Lekan about the last night club and how they were just ‘making mouth’? Fuck?! Remember the pre-conference; the noise, the silence… the everything. I have no words. I didn’t expect this. I couldn’t have.
Fatima Tumsah, as the yoruba would say;
FarewellWe shall now see only in dreamsWhen you get to heaven, eat what they eat; drink what they drinkTell of our wars and storiesTill we meet to part no more
We will miss you. We already miss you. And we wish this wasn’t happening; that this didn’t happen. But no one asked our opinion or our permission. We are just those left to stare into empty spaces; seeing times that passed. Of your smiles and laughter. Of your voice and person. Of your passion and strength.
Lord! Rest in Peace Fatee.