Regeneration | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, December 26, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:21 AM, December 26, 2020

Fiction

Regeneration

One  Day Last Week

I had an awful dream.

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I dreamt that I had lost my way.

I couldn't get to my university hostel. From Petaling Jaya to Pantai Hill Park, KL Central and Mid Valley, changing one bus after the other; no one knew where my hostel was.

I was carrying a huge piece of luggage; its handle and wheels, broken. A Chinese boy came forward and carried it to the next bus stop.

And instead of finding another bus, I got into his car. He drove me through a dark forest full of mosquitoes.

I kept thinking about the dream the whole day.

Around 7 o'clock in the evening, Ismat, a classmate from Sudan, prepared rice and tuna with carrots and spinach. After sharing the dinner I helped her with the dishes.

When I started washing the spoons and plates in the washing area beside the flower garden, a black and white mosquito circled around me and bit me on my shoulder.

I rushed to Ismat's room. She shrieked in terror— three dots forming a triangle: she held a mirror so that I could see.

She immediately gave me some antibiotic soap to clean that area and asked me to drink a lot of water.

Three Days Back

I rushed to the wash basin as soon as I felt blood dripping from my mouth.

I was having shortness of breath. My heart was thumping fast. My whole world was reeling.

I remembered, last night, I asked my brother to call me back as soon as he would manage a little free time during his preparation for his final exams. He said that he would definitely give me a call before going to bed.

I waited, maybe for three hours before going to sleep.

In the morning, I ate six slices of bread with three slices of cheese, a mug of hot tea and an orange; drank 3 litres of water; cleaned my room and had a long shower.

In the afternoon, I went to the hostel office to file a complaint. They expressed their genuine concern and gave me a mosquito repellent to spray in my room.

"Stay alert, cover the bare parts of your body and be careful from six to eight during the morning and the evening. That is the time when they bite," the superintendent said in a mellow voice.

"But I have already been bitten by a mosquito," I cried.

She gave me a helpless, blank look and  left her office.

I decided to go downstairs to the hostel café. I ordered tom yam soup and nasi goreng. I ate and watched the boys and girls playing handball.

I also watched monkeys arriving at the hostel, gripping the edges of the roofs with their legs and tails.

They generally start these expeditions every afternoon at five, arriving at the hostel compound mostly in large groups consisting of twelve to fifteen monkeys: babies hanging from their mothers' necks, young adults and white bearded old grandfather monkeys— they come to forage. They never lose contact with each other and always stay close. Before it starts getting dark, together they leave.

Do husbands and wives in monkey communities have to live apart because they are studying in different places?

I sent my husband a message that I had been bitten by a mosquito. He replied that even if it is dengue, no one gets killed by dengue these days. People from developing nations like ours are quite immune to such fevers.

I wanted to speak to him. I called and he declined my call. He was doing his assignments and would soon be out to join a concert of one of Brisbane's most celebrated rock bands: The Ramjet. He promised to call me 30 minutes later.

I came up and went to the toilet. I saw my face in the mirror. I had rashes all over my skin. My lips were swollen and red.

I went to bed and had a troubled sleep. When I woke up, it was two hours since my husband sent me that message with his promise.

 

The Day before Yesterday

It was 12 o'clock at noon. The sun blazed outside my window. I should be going to the clinic.

Mother called and I informed her that I had a fever, "Please pray for me, maa. I am terribly unwell".

"Oh my baby, you will be alright," she tried to calm me.

I could not remember what else she said, and I did not know for how long I lay down in bed.

When my roommate Nabila returned, she drove me to a clinic at Bangsar. A South Indian doctor examined me. I told her about the mosquito bite and she sent me for a blood test.

The report said that I had dengue fever and my platelet count was less than 150,000. She suggested that I get admitted at my university hospital the next morning. I wouldn't be able to bear the cost here.

I felt a strange indifference towards life and I asked Nabila to take me back to my room.

I noticed how she drives: smooth and elegant. I asked who taught her driving. She replied that it was her mother who insisted that her daughter should learn to drive.

We finally arrived in the room by 10 at night. As soon as I entered, I checked my phone.

No one had called.

Yesterday

I arrived at the hospital at 8 o' clock in the morning. I waited and the doctor arrived at 9. I bled like water. After three hours of tortuous waiting, finally the blood report arrived. The platelet count this time dropped to a perilous 45000.

A nurse arrived at the counter and asked me to leave the hospital. I showed her the report from the clinic and the South Indian doctor's reference. She seemed indifferent and just asked me to eat and drink well.

I started walking under the blazing sun. I had left my umbrella in my room. I had pain around my eyes. I was angry.

I wanted to eat.

As soon as I reached a nearby café, I started loading my plate with everything I could: chicken, rice and eggplant curry, chicken liver cooked with onions, bitter gourds and bean sprouts, curry puffs, boiled potatoes with some unknown scaly, smelly fish, and I ordered carrot juice with milk and ice.

I had an immense urge to listen to the voice of my husband. I gave him a call. He said that he was sleeping. Was that something very important? I said, "No, nothing of much importance."

I took the bus to my hostel and somehow reached my room.

When Nabila found me, I was bleeding profusely. She screamed and called the girls from the nearby rooms.

I was rushed to the hospital.

I could only inform my father that I had gone into shock and my platelet count dropped to a drastic 30, 000.

The doctors and nurses at the hospital were screaming at the top of their lungs, trying to figure out who it was that sent me back instead of having me admitted in the morning.

My platelet count dropped to 20, 000. I knew I was about to die. When Ismat came to see me, I asked her to check my phone, "Did anyone call?"

"No, dear," she replied.

Last Night before Daybreak

It was midnight and everyone had left for home.

According to my religion, if I am about to enter the eternal world, I have to leave all the ephemeral earthly matters behind.  Far away from my homeland, family, known and familiar surroundings, was I ready to leave everything behind at any given moment?

With large, round drops of tears rolling down my cheeks, I started to pray, as if I was having a hearty conversation with God.

I continued to speak with God for the rest of the night and, I knew, He was listening.

Today

In the morning, the doctor comes to announce of my astounding recovery. He informs me that my platelet count is rising. It has risen straight to 150,000. If I want to, I can leave the hospital tomorrow.

He also informs me that my bill is 3, 000 RM.

Where will I get so much money from?

He reassures me that since I have suffered due to their negligence I won't have to pay anything.

Nabila arrives. I request her to take me to the window. I ask her to hand me my phone. I see twelve missed calls.

I throw my phone into the deep, dark, green water of the lake beneath the window.

I can feel life jingling inside my veins. Again.

 

Sanjeeda Hossain teaches at the Department of English, University of Dhaka.

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