The phone rang again in the night and Aaron picked it up and dreamily said, “Hello?”
The voice that came through the phone was of his friend’s daughter, still asking for the favour, still begging him. He was too lazy to listen to her crying which was annoying to him, especially as he was enjoying his sleep. And so he dropped the phone and returned again to his soundless sleep.
“Who was it that called earlier this morning?” asked Anna, Aaron’s wife, a lean lady who always wore a headband on her head. Aaron didn’t answer as he was chewing his breakfast; eggs and toast simmered with butter, and a healthy orange juice to wash it down.
“It’s them… again… the Mazibukos,” he said bitterly. “They’re asking for my help still. Christ! Do they really think it’s an easy choice for me to just give Richard Mazibuko my kidney with their sorrowful words?”
“He’s your friend who—”
“Who enjoys his meats and whiskey more than his bed,” he interrupted, and drank the orange juice long and deep until only a drop remained in the glass.
“But, Aaron, he’s in the hospital fighting for his life,” said Anna politely, in attempt to cool her husband’s distress. “Last week when Nomfundo came here she told me about the kidney donor list… Aaron, she said her father was at the bottom of the list and you’ve seen the man hasn’t got many days left. He’s dying and it may be that you are to be his saviour now.”
He sighed. Lifting his empty glass up and asked for another refill.
“You know, countless times I’ve warned him not to drink too much, for I thought how it could ruin his family. But since he found out about his kidney failure he married the gin and brandy and beer. He was fine all these months, enjoying his drink and mocking his wife, but now the joke is on him. Who will live longer now, me or him? I know not.”
“He’s your friend!” Anna stomped her foot on the floor. “Shouldn’t you be thinking of helping him rather than to condemn him? He’s a sick man and may never recover unless you choose to help him.” She went to sit down next to him, and held his hand. “You are their friend and his daughter and wife depend on you to wipe away their misery. You don’t give him one of your kidneys, you’ll live, he’ll die, you give him, life will be prolonged and we will still be friends with them. Why, you’ll need him someday when he’s not there.”
“If a man must die he must.” He clenched his jaw. “I want to be buried with all my organs still complete, not a thing missing. But yes, I want to help but it’s not an easy choice to make.”
“Choose wisely and consider the future, Aaron, would you?”
“Fine I’ll go talk to his daughter and wife in the afternoon,” he said with an effort, “but I am going to give them terms of my own if I choose to help him.”
He found Nomfundo in the sitting room talking on the phone. She was talking to the doctor, nodding now and then and her face displaying depression. When she saw Aaron at the door she went to greet him. They sat down and Joyce walked in the room after she heard Aaron speaking.
She resembled her daughter with her bright black eyes, thin wide lips, a flat nose and oily brown skin. But Nomfumdo was more fairer by far than her mother, even though her beauty had been concealed by the stress and her eyes were teary than usual nowadays, but still her hair was shiny as if she had just put some oil into it, and her smile, when she would try to smile, at the guest was the brightest.
“I called you in the middle of the night while you were sleeping,” said Nomfundo to Aaron. “Pardons, but it was urgent.”
Everything with this family is urgent these days, he thought to himself.
“How’s your father doing?” he asked. He preferred to ask Nomfundo about his friend than Joyce; she looked haggard and depressed and couldn’t find patience within her now. But Nomfundo handled everything well: the hospital calls, the list of kidney donors, and her father’s health were all managed by her than by her fragile mother who looked like she would break down and die anytime.
Joyce was often reluctant to go the hospital to check on her husband and an excuse she always had was that she was afraid of hospitals. But the truth she confined was that she was afraid to go and see her husband dying.
“Not so well,” she said, bowing her head slightly. “All those machines and pipes… it’s hard and unbelievable to see him in such a state. And it’s not so easy to find a kidney donor.”
It was so easy for him to find gin and beer at the store, though, Aaron thought. Poor girl, she’s a woman now, not a girl. So young to be taking her mother’s place.
“Have you found a blood match for Richard?” Aaron asked. So far he’d known it was only him with the blood type O, or if they’ve found another match they hadn’t told him about it.
They want my kidney inside their father, that’s all.
The thought of meeting with a laparoscopic donor surgeon and going through a CT scan, and determining his genetic make-up, his stress levels, and a PAP smear, a mammogram and a PSA, all made him tire when he thought about it. He knew how long was the procedure; to meet with the social workers and going now and then to the hospitals for check-ups, and that would take time, and time was what Richard did not have left.
“We haven’t just yet,” said Nomfundo. “We’re looked wide and far but our efforts are in vain. It is you we put our hope to now. Our bloods don’t match with father’s, for if they did we wouldn’t be bothering you like this.”
“We’ll have to go the hospital and meet with the surgeons,” said Aaron, though the words were a weight to say.
Nomfundo’s eyes brightened, a smile twitching on her lips. “Do you consent? Are you going to give my father a kidney?”
“Yes,” he said, “but so as long you watch him and he doesn’t touch a bottle of gin or beer. I’ll tell him that once he’s alright as well.”
“Oh, thank you, thank you!” Nomfundo was too excited to even speak properly; some of the words faded in her mouth before she could say them.
Richard lay on his bed with a blue hospital blanket on top of him from toe to neck so that only his face, which was hard to see with all the pipes on his nose, appeared. He stood next to him looking down at him. Nomfundo and Joyce were at the reception. Aaron wanted to see Richard alone.
“You knew you had a kidney failure and yet you continued to sex the gin with your thatched throat and sleep with a beer, even after the doctors told you many times,” he said. Richard didn’t reply, not even to move a finger.
“Damn you, Richard! You should see what kind of woe you’ve put your family into, and me as well. Now I’ll have to lose a kidney because of your ignorance and pride and an undying love for gin. Look at you, just look at you.” He then left.
Three weeks passed and all the tests were complete and the meetings with the social workers and surgeons were done. And another week passed and two after that the operation began.
The last thing Aaron remembered was entering the Newcastle Provincial Hospital in a bed, pushed by a nurse taking him to the surgery room. And then there were massive white lights and two masked doctors- and there was nothing more.
He woke up with a thin but long scar on his waist and a little pain. His vision was blurry at first and there was a figure next to him but he couldn’t see who it was. He was light-headed now and in pain, it felt like a sharp sudden stab on his left waist. He sank back into his white comfortable pillow and slept a dreamless sleep.
There was a voice calling his name but sounded distant and faint. A warm soft hand touched his. He felt lucky to feel it and alive, and now it came clear to him that he was alive, indeed.
“Aaron. Aaron.” Anna’s voice was clear and was ringing like chimes in the wind.
He tried to raise himself up on the bed, but he had no strength to get up and so he just opened his eyes and saw his wife smiling at him. She kissed his brow and returned to her seat.
“It’s the 4th of June and you are in a hospital,” she told him, and chuckled. “My brave husband, how are you? Have you strength in you just yet?”
You should be asking Richard that, not me, Aaron thought. I want to know if I’ve given my kidney for nothing or something. That man must be walking by now.
“I am fine,” he said, but as he said there was a sharp pain in his head. “How is Richard? I want… water. Water.” Speaking only brought more throbbing pain in his head.
“Hush, I’ll call the nurse.” Anna hastily said.
Presently the nurse came with a glass of water and Aaron sipped once and swallowed hard.
“Richard is on the wheelchair for now but he’s practising to walk, and he’s getting there,” Anna told him, after the nurse had gone. “He came to see you but you were in a deep sleep and he left. You are getting discharged tomorrow and I am taking you home. The Mazibukos are celebrating your name and the health of Richard, thanks to you. It was hard to do but you’ve agreed at last and now they’re a happy family. Richard is more than grateful.”
He is, I know, he thought. He’s going to continue drinking and that is what he would be grateful for the most. When they entered the house, Nomfundo with his mother and Richard in crutches now, were standing at the gate.
“Well met,” said Richard, the big smile on his face was everything Aaron needed to be assured his friend was well, and that he saw. “You got one kidney now, I’ve stolen the other.” And he burst out with a laugh.
The whole day they had lunch at Aaron’s house and dinner, too, and then the Mazibukos gave them gifts… only Nomfundo and Joyce brought the gifts, not Richard.
“You have me as a friend, and my life is a gift to you. Be happy.” Richard said.
A week later after Aaron returned from the hospital he was sleeping on his bed and the phone rang at exactly the time when Nomfundo called. With the sleep heavy in his eyes, and not being able to ignore the annoying noise of the phone, he stretched out his hand to reach for it and picked it up.
“Hello?” he said, and the voice on the phone was Nomfundo’s, filled with sorrow and sobbing.
“It’s my father,” said Nomfundo over the phone. “He went out the night before last with his other friends saying that he was bored and…” Her voice trailed off, but Aaron insisted she speak before he hangs up the call.
“We just found out, Mr. Aaron,” she continued. “My father was involved in a car accident. He was driving. He was drunk. Aaron, my father’s dead.”
The phone fell limply from his hand and all the sleep was completely wiped off from his eyes.