The next thing I knew, I was on some bed, in some room, somewhere. I opened my eyes and looked around the room. There was a desk and a chair, and a cabinet which I assumed was for keeping documents. I was still trying to figure out where I was, when a nurse, dressed in Navy and White walked in. She smiled at the realization that I was awake. “You’re up. Hey” she said. I nodded, still feeling a little out of place.

“How are you feeling?” she asked, pulling a chair and sitting down. First of all, I didn’t know where I was and who I was talking to, so I was not comfortable with answering any questions. I remained silent. “Hello?” she said, raising her hand in the air, so as to grab my attention. I looked at her. “Where am I? And who are you?” I asked. She patiently answered all my questions. She was a nurse, and she told me that I was brought to the clinic by a lady who claimed I suffered from a panic attack after being robbed. I looked away. My heart was still sinking in a pool of depression.

“How are you feeling now?” she asked.  Tears rolled down my cheeks. How I was feeling was beyond words could ever describe. I was shuttered, doomed, finished- I was dead. I cleared  my throat, wiping my eyes. “I feel a little dizzy, like this bed is spinning” I said. “You need to rest” she said, scribbling something down. “If you’re still feeling like this later, I will have to transfer you to hospital because we close at 4” she added. Maybe a hospital stay was exactly what I needed, given the fact that I had nothing and nowhere to go. Free food and accommodation sounded exactly like what I needed at that point in time.

I had to pull out a convincing act that I was sick and needed to be admitted to the nearest hospital. I was moaning and groaning, tossing and turning. I was even crying, trying to convince the nurse that I was sick. When asked what the matter was, I could not respond. I could not think of any “serious lie” to tell. I wanted to just shout “I have cancer” or a little something like “I have AIDS”, but those diseases required a professional to diagnose. The only serious thing I could think of was headache, but I wasn’t sure if people with headaches could be admitted to hospital.

The nurse checked my temperature and blood pressure. “Your vital signs seem normal” she said, scribbling something down again. “No, nurse. There is nothing normal about this. There is nothing normal about me” I said, while softly moaning. She ran out of options and just stood there, staring at me. “Call an ambulance” I suggested. She said something about informing someone else about my “condition”, and walked out of the room. The minute she walked out of the room, I sighed. I was a little tired of pretending to be sick. I breathed so hard, trying to regain my breathing pattern.

She walked back into the room, and I started where I left off. She was with another nurse. They had a lengthy conversation about whether to call an ambulance or give me an hour or so, to see if my condition was going to improve. The nurse who attended to me strongly suggested they called me an ambulance, raising sensible facts about the numbers of people who die in clinics everyday. Eventually, they both agreed to call an ambulance.

An ambulance arrived, and I was wheeled to it by a stretcher, by one of the paramedics. I was still crying and still moaning. I was still in heavy pretense of sickness. We got to the hospital and my case was treated as a matter of urgency as nobody knew what was wrong with me- not even myself. I had to go easy on the dramatic cries and groans, because I was scared that I’d be given some heavy medication. I told them that I was suffering from a severe headache, and also TOLD them that they had to admit me for a couple of days. They never argued with me at that moment, I’m sure they thought it was just the pain talking. I was admitted in a female medical ward.

I spent the rest of that day in bed, trying to come up with survival plans. The following morning, I woke up to so much noise by the other patients, preparing to go and bath. I had no toiletries, so I didn’t bother myself. I watched them as they walked up and down in the ward. “Aren’t you going to  take a bath?” a lady asked me as she walked past my bed. “No, I don’t have toiletries” I said. She told me I could go and ask the nurses for assistance, and I did. They gave me a cloth and a soap. After bathing, I went to my bed. My bed was neatly made, so I climbed on top and relaxed.

The patients in the ward were sharing reasons that landed them in hospital. If I had a choice, I wouldn’t listen to their stories. “In the middle of the night, while my children and I were asleep, a fire broke out from the kitchen. My house was a two roomed house and the only entrance and exit was the kitchen door because my windows were too high” one lady said. “Oh my word, how did you get out?” another lady asked. “I really don’t know. Its by God’s grace that my kids and I survived” she responded. Other ladies also shared their stories. “And you, young lady?” someone asked. Silence filled the room for a few seconds. I looked around, and everyone was staring at me. “Care to share your story?” another lady asked. I didn’t want to talk about my problems. I had no energy left in me to unpack all the struggle I was going through. I covered myself with my bed cover, hoping they’d leave me alone.

I must have fallen asleep, because I was woken up by a deep voice, calling my name out. I opened my eyes and was confronted by a dark skinned man, with fairly Pink lips and a neatly trimmed moustache over and around his lips. The White shirt that he was wearing complimented his skin in a very beautiful way. “Hello, how are you?” he let those words softly slip through his lips. Before I could respond, a nurse came to join us, holding a book and a pen. “I’m getting better, thanks” I politely said. “I’m Doctor Ntonga” he said. “You were in great pain yesterday, I don’t think you remember much” he added. I nodded. “What is your name?” he asked. “I’m Mandiphumle” I said. He smiled. “Okay. I have good news for you, Mandiphumle” he said. I blankly stared at him. “Tomorrow, you’re going home” he said, carrying a wide smile. “No, doctor. You can’t discharge me” I opposed. His smile slowly faded away. “Huh? I thought you’d be over the moon. With the right treatment, you will be fine in no time” he explained. I didn’t want to hear it. I wanted to stay there a little longer.

“I promise you, everything will be okay” he said. I could feel tears threatening my eyes. “Doctor please, please don’t discharge me” I begged. He turned to look at the nurse. “Could  you give us a moment?” he asked. The nurse nodded and walked away. He turned to look at me again. “Mandiphumle, what is wrong?” he asked. “I’m sick, that’s what’s wrong” I sarcastically answered. “You’re not sick. You were just in an emotional state and..” I did not even wait for him to finish his explanation. “I’m not sick? So you think this is the state that I’m supposed to be in? You think its normal for me to feel so much pain?” I asked. “Mandiphumle, calm down. I’m only trying to…”. Again, I did not wait for him to finish what he was saying. “No, doctor. I will not calm down. You can’t just discharge me. It is my right to be here” I said. He sighed. “Okay, something tells me that the problem is deeper than just what you’re telling me” he said. I looked down and fiddled with my fingers. “Tell you what, I will book you a session with our therapist. Maybe you will feel better” he said. “Does that mean you won’t discharge me?” I asked. He shook his head. “Not until you speak to Miss Kawa” he said. I silently exhaled in relief. “Thank you, doctor. Thank you so much” I said.

He walked away. I was so desperate, I had nowhere else to go. “Hey” someone said as I was still deeply consumed by my thoughts. I looked up and saw a young lady, looking at me. Judging by the hospital clothes, she was a patient.  She pulled a chair and sat next to my bed. “I couldn’t help but overhear your conversation with the doctor” she said. I didn’t care, so I remained silent. “Why don’t you want to get out of this place?” She asked. I looked at her. “Because I’m sick.” I said, and looked away. “I know you’re not sick. Everybody can see that you’re not sick” she said. She was starting to annoy me, but I didn’t want to let her get to me. “I’m Phila” she said. “And I’m sleepy” I responded. She laughed. “Wow! Now that’s mean” she jokingly said. I remained silent.

“Mandiphumle, right?”.. I nodded. “Oh okay. Pleased to meet you” she said and I cracked a smile. “People only refuse to be discharged from hospital or be released from jail when they have nothing else to live for” she said. She was right, I had nothing else to live for. Before I could tell her to leave me alone, “I was once in your position” she said. That statement caught my attention, but I just could not talk to her. I was scared of talking to anyone. I didn’t know who was going to walk into my life next and screw me over. The pieces of my heart were still scattered around, and I needed time to pick them up and mend them back together again. I knew the cracks were forever going to be there, and I was never going to completely heal. My life was a mess and it got worse each day. .