2:32 PM. Rubaga.
Fluffy! I have missed you terribly Fluffy! You’re my bestest best friend in the whooole wide world!
What’s wrong, Fluffy? Why are you sad sad sad? Oh! I know! It’s tea-time! I will be right back! Don’t go anywhere, Fluffy or I will be very sad sad!
Okay, here’s your cup and here’s my cup. Two spoons of sugar? Okaaay!
So, do you know what happened today? I went to visit Uncle Elijah. He has a big house with a biiiiiig TV and a very big fridge! And inside the fridge, there was lots and lots of juice and food and fruits and meat and fanta fanta fanta and even coca-cola. His fridge is very big! But the best part was the ice-cream! Uncle Elijah told me that he always has ice-cream in the fridge and as long as I visit, I can have as much as I want! And he told me to promise him that I would visit again, soon.
Some more tea, Fluffy? Oh my, what an appetite you have today, Fluffy! Here’s another cookie! Cookie! Cookie!
And then and then and then and then and then and then after that, we went to the zoo at Entebbe! The animals are soo big and sooo scary! We saw an elephant and and and and a lion and a giraffe and snakes and and… a tortoise that walked very very veeerrry slowly. But I liked the birds. They were so beautiful! Like the ones we drew in class last year. There was a bird that could talk! They called it a paa… pp… paa… Yes, parrot! Parrot! Parrot! Parrot! Thank you, Fluffy.
You’re my bestest best best bestest best friend in the whoole whole world.
What? Someone’s coming? Where? But I don’t see anyone, Fluffy. Oh. Up in the sky? I still don’t see anything, but it’s getting very dark, Fluffy. Dark dark dark dark.
Fluffy? Where are you? Fluffy! It’s so dark dark dark, please don’t leave me, Fluffy… Fluffy…
The doctor bent over the bed and scribbled something into her notepad. She watched the screens next to the bed for a few seconds and wrote some more notes.
“How is the she today, Doctor?” A voice asked from behind her.
“No change, Mr. Ssengoba. Her vitals are normal, but she is still in the coma.”
“That’s alright, Doctor. Thank you.”
The doctor sat on the edge of the bed and looked intently at the man.
He was a tall, athletic man with a kind face. The kind of face you’d want your favourite uncle to have. His hair was graying very elegantly, starting with the temples, and it worked very well with the rimless glasses to give him a dignified aura that commanded respect from people. He was dressed in a casual dress shirt, on top of which he wore a simple navy blue v-neck sweater. For pants, he wore white slacks, with a pair of soft moccasins. Everything about him spoke of a meticulous attention to detail and a quiet, refined sophistication.
“Mr. Ssengoba. I think we need to explore what’s left of our options.”
“We’ve had this conversation before, Doctor. You know my answer.”
“Yes, but it’s been eight months. It’s taking a toll on you, financially, physically and mentally. I strongly recommend that you…”
“Doctor Kimera, I truly appreciate your concern. You are, without a doubt, the best doctor we have worked with and I am grateful for your unwavering professionalism despite the challenges we have faced. However, this is the last time I will say this: my health and my money are meaningless without her. If there is the slightest chance that she can recover, I will do whatever is necessary and I will wait for as long as it takes. Now, unless you can confidently tell me that she is truly, absolutely gone, with one hundred percent certainty, Doctor, and zero… zero… chances of recovery, then and only then can we have that discussion. Are we clear, Doctor?”
Doctor Kimera sighed, looked down at her notes and rubbed her temples, then scribbled some more into her notepad. Looking back up at Mr. Ssengoba, she nodded.
“Yes. We are clear.”
It was true, though, Mr. Ssengoba thought. He could feel the stress, the weariness and the fatigue of waiting without knowing when the end was. He noticed that he had lost a considerable amount of weight when he last went for a check-up. His family had slowly began avoiding him and at work, he didn’t get any communication except emergency updates from his personal assistant. There were clear instructions that everything should go on as normal. But he wasn’t worried about money, even though having a doctor on call and a full-time care-giver was terribly expensive. And that was without considering the cost of the medical equipment he’d had installed in the re-modelled reading room.
“Nurse?” Dr. Kimera called, looking towards the door.
A short, well-built man appeared swiftly into the room. He walked with short but purposeful steps and had a frightening efficiency to his movements.
“Yes, Doctor.” His words were clipped. Professional.
“Here’s an updated list. Please let me know immediately if something changes.”
The nurse hesitated for a fraction of a second.
“Actually, Doctor Kimera, since you and Mr. Ssengoba are both here, I’d like to mention something. I didn’t want to until I was sure, but I couldn’t help overhearing your conversation earlier and I figured keeping this to myself would be a disservice.”
“Speak freely, Edward.” Mr Ssengoba spoke slowly, but firmly.
He was standing by the window, looking out at the compound. The sunlight was never harsh in this room, because of the large shady trees right outside the windows. The breeze wafted in and gently swept the curtains from side to side and in the distance, weaverbirds noisily birds chirped in the trees.
This was her favourite room.
“Well,” Edward cleared his throat. “She mumbled something.”
Mr. Ssengoba turned sharply from the window and looked at Edward.
“Say that again?” Dr. Kimera asked.
“She mumbled something earlier today, just before you walked in. I could barely hear it, so I thought my mind was playing tricks on me.”
“Are you sure, Edward?” Mr. Ssengoba had worked with Edward for four months, and he believed he was the most professional nurse he had ever met. But this? This was…
“Edward, there is nothing here.” Dr. Kimera spoke gently. “There’s no indicator whatsoever that her state has changed. Are you certain about this?”
Edward hesitated a little, suddenly unsure of himself.
“Yes… it sounded like she said… puffy”
Mr. Ssengoba stepped forward and put one hand firmly on Edward’s shoulder.
“Thank you, Edward. I understand that bringing this up without being certain is a concern for you. But I trust you. I do not know where we would be without your constant help. Let me know the minute it happens again.”
Mr. Ssengoba walked back to the window and continued looking outside, lost in thought.
Fluffy. He smiled. A very subtle smile that barely lifted the corners of his lips.
It was a beautiful day and the breeze was particularly fresh. In the distance, he had the faint cry of a bird. He listened intently, waiting for the familiar shrill trill. Ahh, there it was. The Greater Painted-Snipe. It was her favourite bird. She had discovered them during one of their long afternoon walks along the stream that bordered their property. She had mentioned then, amidst a giggling fit, how the white eye-patch around their eyes made them look like they were wearing spectacles.
When he turned around thirty minutes later, he found himself alone, the only sounds coming from the respirator and the monitoring machines.
He sat down, and picking up a copy of Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations, prepared to spend the afternoon the same way he had spent the other thousand afternoons before that: by her side, reading, watching and waiting.
“Fluffy.” He smiled faintly and whispered to himself, slowly, “Fluffy, you are my bestest best friend in the whole world.”