Dr. Fabian | Lawrence Arinze

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Fabian was in high spirits as he parked his car at his usual spot under a tree that had grown uncontrollably in the hospital’s parking space. The tree was hanging lower than usual, and Fabian stooped as he got out of his car to avoid its branches. 

This needs to be trimmed. He said to himself

No one expected the tree to grow so big; now, it not only towered over the hospital building, its branches were a danger to people’s eyes. However, it provided a much-needed shade for cars, which was necessary considering how sunny it could get in Abuja. 

Fabian preferred parking under the tree instead of the parking spots reserved for resident doctors closer to the entrance. He usually had jobs outside the hospital in the afternoon and disliked the heat his car emitted on sunny days when parked in the reserved spot. Fabian didn’t mind walking back to the hospital’s entrance. It gave him time to bring his thoughts together and plan his day before stepping into the main building. 

Today was no different. 

He crossed his laptop bag over his shoulder, preparing himself for the onslaught of greetings that would come once he walked into the hospital. He felt free and untethered as he walked, looked around the driveway to commit every scene to memory because he wanted to remember this day. 

Today, Fabian was ending an essential chapter in his life. It was his last day at Goodwill hospital, and he was glad the day had finally come. Two weeks ago, it felt like time was crawling. His days stretched endlessly, and he worked more hours so the new doctor won’t be stressed with much work during his first week. Fabian also found time to put his affairs with other doctors in order, and he was glad to do so because It would have hung over his head, which he wouldn’t appreciate.

Fabian smiled broadly when he walked into the hospital building and saw the people gathered there to welcome him. He broke into laughter when he saw a banner that read, “We love you, Dr. Fabian, thank you for your service” by the doorway, adorned with balloons, confetti, and arrangements of plastic ornaments. 

The gesture was heartwarming, and the cheers, greetings, and well wishes that followed suit made him feel great. 

“I will miss you so much,” Adanna said, hugging him tightly to more cheers and applause from the staff. Adanna was another resident doctor, and the staff addressed them as husband and wife because of how close they were, even though Adanna had a fiancée that knocked Fabian out of the park in terms of looks. 

Fabian is fair with full eyelashes. He didn’t like his puffy baby smooth face because it looked like his baby cousins that made you want to tug on it and coo. He preferred how he looked when he was in medical school. He had a bit of a structured cheekbones that made some people mistake him for a model. Fabian hated that he had no beards. He felt it would give him a more mature look, so he grew out his mustache and nurtured it as best as he could, hoping it would someday grow bigger.   

It did not. 

Adanna usually teased him on the days he bragged about his university looks 

“I get m before no be property. You can’t look like that anymore; you’re chopping money now, your cheeks have to bear testament,” she would say, ending it with, “but you still look good.” 

Adanna was nice, and for that, Fabian didn’t accept her compliment. He has a mirror that works and sees his profound cheeks and increasing weight for what it was. As such, he always avoided standing next to Adanna’s fiancee Ikenna because of how easy he made looking good look. 

Ikenna is 5.8 inches tall with zero fat. Clothes sat well on him, and he had beards that always looked moisturized, even on extremely hot days. Ikenna didn’t mind that the hospital roped Fabian and Adanna as husband and wife. You could tell no one else mattered when he was together with Adanna. They had eyes for each other, in a way that made Fabian envious sometimes because of how lacking his love life was. 

He and Adanna reveled in the compliment because they admired each other’s work ethics. Fabian couldn’t count the number of times they both ambled out of the hospital dead at night after an exhausting day, dreading driving home. They would share a moment of laughter, wishing each other well, before going home. 

Sometimes, they would stay back, discussing how things were when they first started working in the hospital or making plans for the future. She wouldn’t be long in the hospital either. Her visa was out, and she was in the process of moving to Canada to further her education “This hospital has no idea what’s about to hit them,” Fabian had said when she told him her visa was out. 

She brushed it off “they will be fine. They were fine before we came, and they would make do after we leave. Segun knows how to pick his doctors,” Fabian silently agreed. Segun was the head doctor, and he never missed a beat regarding hiring. 

They had already said their goodbyes, and the week leading to his departure was more bittersweet than Fabian cared to admit. He would miss her the most, and for fear of tearing up, he hugged her fiercely in return, laughing aloud as the cheers became louder. 

What a moment it was for them all. 

Three years have passed since Fabian walked across the threshold of Goodwill hospital as their newest resident doctor. He had stepped in with an air of promises, greeted everyone with an unwavering smile and an air of assurance of good things to come, and made good on his unvoiced promises. 

Fabian didn’t necessarily need to show up for work today, but he wanted to. He hadn’t had the chance to say a proper goodbye to most of the staff and leaving without doing so would rumple the work he had done in the hospital for three years. He had made himself indispensable to a hospital with over forty-five staff, endearing himself to many lives, and easily boasted of being the best doctor Goodwill hospital had to offer.

Fabian wasn’t one who ignored his importance or acted coy over what he believed was due to him when it came to his job unlike Adanna. He knew his value. He was the go-to doctor for everyone in the hospital, the one that you came to with your questions without getting a cantankerous response. The one that didn’t let his exhaustion after hours of surgery muddy people’s day. 

But then, all good things must come to an end. Fabian was taking his talent across town to “PCA, Precious Care Attention,” a much bigger and respected hospital, where he aimed to attain greater heights. Fabian hadn’t dared to dream that such a move was possible, at least not this early in his career. 

The hospital turned down the best of the best, and he was about to walk in there with a much bigger dream in mind and more extraordinary promises. Saying he was happy was belittling the feelings he was experiencing since he got the news.

PCA had all he needed to make him a great doctor and someone the future would not forget in a hurry. There, his work would stand for something; he wouldn’t have to go through so much rigor and answer unending questions about some of his operating methods. He would, as a matter of fact, be encouraged and his research fully funded. 

The shock on Dr. Segun’s face when he tended his resignation letter flashed through Fabian’s mind again, and he chuckled. It was a comical expression, alright. At first, Dr. Segun was dumbfounded, removing his glasses and wiping them before reading the document’s content. The headline alone had given him pause. 

Dr. Segun kicked off a series of wooing processes to keep Fabian, trying to match PCA’s payment, even throwing in research allocations which Fabian found more comical.  But it was too late. It felt good to be needed, but the prospects of his new workplace felt too good to consider anything Segun offered. 

Fabian knew he would miss everyone, but then, what use is growth if you won’t embrace what it offers when it comes knocking. 

Done with the salutations, Fabian headed to his office, clutching in his hand a wooden statue the hospital awarded him, with “best doctor” emblazoned on it. He had accepted the award from Dr. Segun, who shook his hand vigorously with a severe expression before seamlessly transitioning into a smile posing for pictures. 

Fabian smiled for the picture, pretending like he did not realize Segun was still angry over him resigning. 

“What was Segun thinking? that I would never want to leave? After he had stalled and stood in the way of my development.“ Fabian wondered.

He was almost getting to his office when a nurse blocked his way, Chijoke. Fabian could not recall seeing him by the entrance with the others, and the disgruntled look Chijoke had currently spoke volumes. Fabian sidestepped him swiftly without a word and continued his walk; his face still bore a smile, but he didn’t appreciate the encounter. 

He walked into his office and Firmly shut the door when he saw Chijoke quick on his tail. Fabian held on to the door handle, refusing him entrance when he turned the handle. Chijoke wasn’t one to create a scene; one tug at the handle and its refusal to budge was all it took to send him on his way.

Fabian sighed, walking to his desk and dropping his bag.

He was about to sit when the door opened, and another nurse walked in, followed by Chijoke. It was the senior nurse, Ifeyinwa, a woman with a knack for disrespecting authority and yet exacting it from her subordinates. She wasn’t part of the community that bade him farewell either. They had a determined look on their face as they walked in, and Fabian wasn’t looking forward to the encounter.

“Yes, what do you want?” He asked. It came out more forceful than he intended, knocking the wind out of Ifeyinwa’s sail, making her stop walking, shocked. It was too late to recant his statement; Fabian looked on at them both with expectancy

“Good morning to you too, Nnamdi,” Ifeyinwa replied disapprovingly at him. Fabian sighed inwardly. Too much familiarity did breed contempt. She couldn’t be more than seven years older than Fabian and wielded her age like a hammer, expecting every bit of respect that her forty-five-year-old accorded her. 

It was too late in the game for Fabian to change and become forceful and demanding when he gave her a lenient hand. And try as he had, Ifeyinwa was the only one in the hospital that addressed him with his native name and always with callousness, as if to chastise him for disregarding the name in the first place.

“good morning, nwanyi oma; how are you?” The warmth was back in his voice, and it was all it took to turn Ifeyinwa to butter in his hand. It was like magic as Fabian watched her confidence return, with the knowledge that they were still on good terms and his earlier retort was not something to read meaning into.

“eh he, aka m asi ka iyebago ara, I was wondering if perchance you were running mad,” she replied in Igbo, then pointing Chijoke to his waste bin “please call one of the cleaners to take care of that, and give me five minutes before walking back, I have something to discuss with Fabian” Chijoke turned to leave, stopping when Fabian asked

“Is there a need for that? Calling the cleaners,” he repeated for emphasis, “they have enough time to tidy the office and prepare it for Dr. Femi when I leave. When is he starting again?”

“I don’t know; nobody tells me anything in this hospital, which is crazy. I’m the head nurse but always the last to find out about important issues. Even the rumors don’t get to me till everyone has heard and digested it.” Ifeanyinwa said. 

It was a direct jab at Fabian for not coming to tell her he was resigning. Like the first time she mentioned it, Fabian wondered what she presumed was her relationship in his life. He didn’t need to tell her anything, just like she didn’t say anything about her life to anyone. 

Ifeyinwa, Fabian had concluded long ago needed this information to feel good about herself, to add to her ego that you had informed her of something important to you. But also, like the first time, he smiled and replied with

“It’s not like that; I didn’t want to say anything till I was sure. When you heard it was when it needed to be heard,” Fabian said with a straight face

“Nonetheless, Chijoke,” Chijoke jumped at the mention of his name, making Ifeyinwa raise her brows and look at him suspiciously, “please tell the cleaners to empty the waste bin basket,” she repeated, “besides, what are you doing here?” She asked as an afterthought. “Shouldn’t you be attending ward 11, or have they all magically healed themselves, leaving you with enough time to wander about?” Chijoke was red in the face; he muttered something and left the office. 

Fabian would have covered for him in the past, and not doing so now embarrassed Chijoke, making him leave with more questions in his eyes. Fabian pretended to be searching through his bag till he heard the door close after Chijoke. 

He looked up and saw Ifeyinwa staring at him with a curious look and her face, as usual, was devoid of any makeup. Fabian noticed she had a swollen lump on her chin that looked like the result of her pressing a pimple that should have been left alone.

He didn’t want the discussion to be about Chijoke and why he was hovering around. There was no reason for Ifeyinwa to know of the referral Chijoke asked for at Fabian’s new workplace, which he was now trying to finagle out of Fabian forcefully. The entitled behavior Chijoke was displaying irritated Fabian, and he made up his mind to say no. 

Chijoke always wanted things done for him, and Fabian couldn’t imagine dealing with that at RCA. Though they worked well together, Chijoke had shown his cards unashamedly these last few weeks enough for Fabian to notice how insensitive and self-centered he was. 

So, Fabian directed the conversation elsewhere before Ifeyinwa would ask. They both started speaking simultaneously, Ifeyinwa stopping at the last minute to let him lead.

“What can I do for you, Ifeyinwa?” He asked

“I need you to delay discharging my sister” she fell in line, took the seat opposite him, and started toying with his pen. 

Her sister had been admitted three days ago after she collapsed in her workplace from exhaustion. She was pregnant and was one that liked to be busy every minute. Ifeyinwa had dragged Fabian to attend to her. Let this be the last thing you do for me in this hospital, she had said at the time. 

“Why is that? She’s okay now and doesn’t need to stay any longer.” Fabian replied

“I know that you know that, but she doesn’t know that. Listen,” she inched closer, folded her arms, and placed it on Fabian’s desk, “my sister bu agunwanyi. You have seen firsthand how restless she can be since she was admitted. She’s a workaholic and likes being on her feet. I have told you this before, she cares only for one thing, and that’s money. Our ancestors would be proud of her,” Fabian chuckled; the reference wasn’t lost on him. Igbo people were stereotyped as money hungry and always seeking money-making ventures.

“And what has this to do with her discharge?” He stood up and turned on the AC switch, sitting down almost immediately and powering it on with the remote. Ifeyinwa was easily cold, and that was a move on his part to discharge her faster. The door opened, and their eyes turned towards it. A cleaner walked in, and Ifeyinwa was infuriated. 

“Wait, are you okay? Who gave you leave to enter this office without knocking? Or does this look like your father’s compound? Eh!!” she yelled at her. The cleaner, a dark young girl of nineteen with messy braids, stood chagrined, one ear of the earpiece connected to a small phone in her breast pocket dangling from her neck. 

“Sorry ma, I think say the room dey empty. Nurse man, tell me make I come clean.” She replied timidly, removing the other ear of the earpiece from her ear to hear better.

“And because of that, your knocking skills flew out the window?” Fabian didn’t think Ifeyinwa’s voice could go any higher, but she lived to surprise. 

“Well, as you can see, the room is occupied. Now get out of here. And next time, knock before you walk into any room. This isn’t your house. Do you hear me?” the girl nodded and quietly closed the door. Ifeyinwa wasn’t done with her

“bia, you this girl, come back here” Fabian could picture the exasperation on the girl’s face and took pity on her. Personally, he didn’t like making people’s work difficult for them. Fabian wouldn’t have uttered a word over the cleaner entering without knocking. He would have told the head cleaner to caution her without embarrassing her. 

But Ifeyinwa was a whole different breed. Fabian understood the mechanism of her reprimand. The cleaner would never come to a closed door, office, or otherwise without knocking. Even the head cleaner’s small cubicle office by the staircase would be accorded the same respect.

The door opened to admit the girl again, “take that waste bin and empty it. Then go to my office and take out mine too. If you like, don’t knock when you get here. Assume as you did here that it’s empty and watch what nemesis would do to you” the young girl genuflected, collecting the reprimand like it was her due and picked up the basket, greeting Fabian with a shy smile before leaving. As soon as the door closed behind her, Fabian turned to Ifeyinwa, saying 

“That was uncalled for; you shouldn’t knock down people’s confidence that low, Ifeyinwa. It’s wrong and very demeaning. That is a young girl with a precarious mind, and you just made her feel unwanted and stupid. I don’t like it. Remember, tomorrow is not promised.”

“And what’s that supposed to mean?” Ifeyinwa fired back, “That tomorrow, all my years of hard work that put me in position as a head nurse would vanish, and I would become a cleaner abi? Abeg!! Abeg!!” she waved it off, hissing to give her statement more weight.

Fabian sighed; as usual, his meaning was lost in translation. Ifeyinwa had sieved through his words, taken what she wanted from them, and discarded the rest. 

His phone binged, suggesting a message; he ignored it, asking, “why do you want your sister here? You know that would accrue more bills for her”

Ifeyinwa relaxed back on the seat, “she has the money; she will be fine. I know if she has her way, she will work herself to the bone and, end up here again. She is five months pregnant, which you don’t need to be told, seeing as you are her doctor and should know all this” the accusatory tone was back. Fabian ignored it again

“if you discharge her now,” she continued “she is most definitely going back to work, I guarantee you. She’s not going to ask for leave o, but to work her way back to this hospital, putting my dear niece or nephew in grave danger. I am a nurse, and I don’t like those odds.”

Fabian rubbed his head in exasperation. “This isn’t the soviet prison, Ifeyinwa. You know people don’t like spending their time in the hospital, unlike us that choose this for a living. It reminds them of death and everything that’s wrong with the world,” Fabian took the remote and increased the AC unit, and continued 

“What I‘m going to do, is to tell her the repercussions of her continuance to stress herself over work. I will make it as strict and severe as possible to knock it home. But I can’t keep her here; it’s unbecoming. Think of your nephew, the one you do know. He needs her mother.”

Ifeyinwa was anything but wowed by his words. Fabian could see her brain working, waiting for him to finish to interject what she felt. He stopped her, saying with a definite tone, “I am not keeping her in; I issued an order to have her discharged before coming in this morning.”

Seeing that she won’t make any progress with him, Ifeyinwa went the following best route, which was to undermine his authority. “I stopped the process,” she answered smugly, then caved in, “but fine, let’s discharge her, but I pray for your sake that whatever it is you’re going to tell her sinks in and make her request the leave or that your new workplace would not contain the both of us” she threatened him, standing up and staring deadly at the AC, throwing his pen on his desk without missing a beat.

Fabian laughed, “I will miss you, nwanyi oma; it’s nice to know you care about people.”

She looked at him strangely “what do you mean? Of course, I care for people; I’m a nurse. Whoever heard of an embittered nurse.” She stopped by the door. “By the way, we have a send-forth party for you later in the day. It was supposed to be a surprise, but….” 

Fabian roared with laughter clutching his sides. He wasn’t a stranger to Ifeyinwa’s antics, and ruining the surprise was nothing out of character for her.

What a woman. 

Moments later, his attention returned to the door when he heard a knock. He knew who it would be and ignored the knock.

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