“How you met my father?”
– - –
The expression on my face in response to how I felt inside and the ravaging thoughts coursing through my mind was evident. I had a whole lot to fathom and try and figure out about the latest occurrence but no reasonable explanation could be brought to light. I kept silent for the next few minutes while I entertain my curiosity and shock. I needed the time to myself if anything logical was to air from what was going on before me.
The man’s presence remained as daunting as ever. It felt as though someone had shut every source of ventilation and rendered the room a vacuum without air obviously. My breaths came hard for me to fulfill, and my hands trembled slightly on my lap where I placed them. I was sure the man wasn’t even aware of the kind of influence his presence was having on me but I wasn’t going to tell him.
“What does he want with my father?” I asked myself.
It was the only reasonable question I could ask, seeing the man in coma wasn’t one of such prestige or good valor to warrant the good wishes of the US Army coming to visit him. If there was something I was used to, it would be drunks like himself or poker players who needed their money back from him coming to make a hassle with the old man when I was a child.
Had three drunks or dirty looking men walked through the door and approached me, then the conviction and certainty that they were there for my father would have sunk in even before they introduce themselves. The situation at that moment was nothing but intense and I rode my confidence with shaky hands. The man who introduced himself as Colonel Fabian wasn’t going to make matters easy for me either.
To make matters even more disturbing, the man had come to introduce himself. He wasn’t one who spoke much, but his appearance spoke volumes. His broad shoulders and obviously pride driven movements made him a formidable person to share the room with. He stared at me intensely on occasions and often time made signals to the other men who had come in with him.
I had questions I badly wanted to ask. I had a whole lot running through my head which needed to be out but the fear was much more than I thought. My heart kept ramming loudly within my chest, and lumps of worry mixed with genuine fear didn’t make it any easier. I wanted my lips to part and ask the obvious question about what business they had with my father, but the words sunk deeper into my stomach and refused to air.
I moved uncomfortably in my seat, dreading to get up or even make any move that might startle the men. I wondered if they had weapons underneath their jacket which was very much likely if the men were going to escort a Colonel on such outing. The thoughts of their guns made me let out disturbing and loud sighs too. The day wasn’t at I had thought it would be.
I didn’t envisage any action of such and wondered if I should have just gone home as the doctor had asked earlier. Either ways, it was too late and I couldn’t cry over spilled milk. I needed to know… I needed to find out what they were doing there and how my father was involved in the entire thing.
I looked to Fabian where he now stood, just a few feet from me and came to realize I had no courage within. The man’s dressing was too intimidating to try and speak freely with him. The badges on his shirt made him look like a demi-god and the medals of honor presumably gotten through various acts of valor made me think about a whole lot more and what he was doing there.
“He didn’t need to introduce himself so politely to me”, I thought to myself.
I hadn’t realized it but the influence of the man and show of command had affected no just me and the air around, but the nurses available at that time as well. They avoided the second floor like it was a plague after I had seen them walk past few times without so much as a hurry in their steps. Colonel Fabian and his four, scary looking escort truly commanded power and I witnessed it firsthand.
I thought of getting up but the strength still eluded me duly. The local hospital had surely not experienced such before and I could tell. I wondered if there were more of them stationed around the hospital premise or it was just in front of the elevator and by my father’s door. The solemnity of the US National Army representative wasn’t one I had ever thought I’d come to experience, but I did and it was scary as hell.
I could feel sweat beads begin to roll down my face even before I noticed they already were. I needed to begin thinking about what my father could have done exactly and the amount of trouble he was in. My mind raced through different scenarios and possibilities. I thought of drugs, theft, or fraud which might have to do with national security, but none of them added up. The man was a magnet to problems but I never saw him as one with the manly genitals to go beyond the irritating acts he does.
He didn’t have the organizational spirit to carry out high class offences either.
“Maybe I should ask”, I thought.
I was trapped in my own mind and it wasn’t fun in any way. I couldn’t tell if the man still knew I was there, because he had ignored me for the past few minutes while he spoke with one of the four men on the floor, sending him to go and get a doctor or those in charge. His power was evident when not just one doctor arrived, but two.
The two doctors looked scared to death. They tried keeping their countenance calm and attending to the Colonel’s needs without fidgeting, but it looked too difficult to pull through. I was sure they were trying to figure out just what kind of trouble my father was as I did. We were all struck with the curiosity and fright at the same time. The Colonel walked up to my father’s room, standing before him while the doctors accompanied him from behind. The two soldiers guarding the door had their faces sweeping around the floor for any surprises while the men continued their discussion.
Their faces were white when the Colonel spoke first.
“Is this all you can do for the man?” he asked in a rather disappointed tone loud enough for me to hear from where I sat.
He had asked them of my father’s situation and health issues which they duly explained to him while he listened attentively. He shook his head intermittently through their explanations while the two men took their turns to explain what they could. Evidently, their explanations just weren’t good enough for the Colonel.
“We’re sorry Sir, but we’re trying our best considering the circumstances”, Doctor Mark said with a sincere and apologetic face.
“What circumstances?” Colonel Fabian asked.
“I’m talking about how weak his body and organs are through the year, which is why we must wait… “, he was about completing his sentence when the Colonel interjected.
The moment was a heated one and I could feel it from the distance where I was. The occurrence continued to beget the question about what exactly was going on. I needed to know.
“I demand to see the person in charge of this hospital!’ Colonel Fabian said in an angry tone. “I’ll give you exactly ten minutes for you to get the person”.
“Yes Sir… We… we will do that”, the men bowed and walked out of the room, too afraid to murmur or whisper any sound.
It had been some minutes since the doctors stormed off and I still hadn’t moved an inch from where I sat. Time felt slow, but the wait for the knowledge about what exactly was going on was even more drowning. I wondered if I should have gone after the doctors to find out more, but walking past the men in the hallway seemed too much pressure on my already tensed nerves.
I decided to walk to the rear end of the waiting room. I could get a good view of the surrounding of the hospital through there and clam my nerves about the proceedings within the hospital. Through the glass window of the balcony of the second floor, I looked down to see what was going on in the surroundings and what I saw made me gasp in breath immediately.
It was an unusual sight, and people who had just arrived the hospital stood in shock to watch as it occurred. Black limousines with some military vans drove into the parking lots around the hospital with uniformed men stepping out in unison like they were on a mission to hunt down an offender of grave importance. I tried making the count but I kept losing track as they stepped out one after the other from their vehicles.
The count of hundred was the most likely as they began wielding their weapons from the vehicles that had brought them over. The sight of ammunitions being branded by men in the Army caused a stir outside while people shoved themselves out of the way for the men to move through. They began to spread around the hospital grounds and floor, securing every corner with a least three armed men, while the others patrolled like they were warding off criminals and trying to keep one from escaping.
There and then, I knew my father was in trouble. My heart convinced me dearly and my instincts were all revved up about how much trouble my father had gotten himself into. The men looked serious and ready for business. Their marching boots echoed as the others not guarding doors and floors wielded their guns and marched around in bid to secure the entire perimeter.
They wore their green khaki and had their berets on with the same discipline as they would if they were fighting war for their country. I could hear those on the second floor checking every room for safety reasons and occasionally getting the screams of nurses unaware of them coming into the rooms. It felt like pandemonium had broken loose in the hospital, and my father was the birthing source for it all.
It felt too surreal.
“What on earth are they doing?” I whispered, while trying not to get heard or get myself in trouble.
It finally hit me when they began communicating with their comms and assuring one another that the floors were clear and safe for whoever was coming. I guessed whoever the person was would have to be someone important and the arrival was expected to be in a few minutes. The person was obviously too important for them to risk such fellow getting harmed.
People startled by the occurrence had begun to gather around the gate of the first floor in bid to know what was going on. They wanted to know who exactly was coming, and so did I as well… We all ached to find out who that would be.
Colonel Fabian waited impatiently as he lifted the sleeve of his uniform to look at his watch. He was obviously waiting for the person he asked for and I could tell by the look on his face. It wasn’t hard figuring out people of his kind don’t do well with being kept waiting. They live their life as a function of punctuality and diligence.
A tall framed man came running out the elevator and onto the hallway of the second floor where we were. I figured he was the Head Manager of the hospital without having to see his face initially. I knew him by the name Mr. Jonas and he wasn’t a really comfortable looking man as he raced with sweat pouring down his face towards my father’s room.
“Good morning Sir”, Mr. Jonas greeted. “My name is Jonas. I’m the manager of this hospital”.
Colonel Fabian exchanged a firm handshake with him before escorting him to the door of my father’s room.
“I’m Colonel Fabian, and I spoke with your doctors and I must confess I’m not entirely impressed”, he voiced his disdain.
Mr. Jonas simply nodded in agreement, obviously too terrified to argue or talk back without being granted the permission to.
“They were not the best doctors you have to offer in this facility to work with and on Mr. Martin over there”, he pointed to the man lying on the bed.
His tone was commanding, but Mr. Jonas couldn’t argue with him.
“Yes Sir. I understand your concerns”, Mr. Jonas acknowledged being granted the permission to speak. “However, we have contacted the best doctor we have and he should be here in three hours’ time from his vacation last weekend”.
Colonel Fabian looked at his watch once more. He seemed discontent by the arrangement and the idea of having to wait that long. He would rather the man arrived sooner or immediately if possible.
“Get me his immediate location and ask him to stand by”, the Colonel said to the man before him. “I will send a helicopter to pick him up within the next ten minutes”.
Mr. Jonas nodded and walked away to do as he was told. He looked like a relieved man as he distanced himself from the soldiers and the room entirely. I shared in his relief but I was still within range of the scary looking men. Colonel Fabian turned around slowly to look inside the room with his face showing the first hint of emotion I had seen on him all day.
He looked nervous for some reason and it spurred on my interest to know what was going on further. He motions to the soldier closest to him to go and make the arrangements of getting the expert the hospital said they have to the hospital immediately.
“Yes Sir!’ the soldier saluted and walked away in a march.
A doctor walked over to Colonel Fabian, asking him to accompany him into the room to see my father. Prior to then everything was silent and I could hear myself breathe. Outside the hospital, people were still gathered trying to figure out what exactly was going on. I occupied myself with images of the proceedings for a while before the emergence of the doctor averted my focus back to the room.
He had walked in looking like he knew what was going on already. I figured he was the man they had sent the solider to pick up and what a day he would be having getting to meet with a US Army official upon his arrival from vacation. He kept his calm when he approached the Colonel though, before his ask for them both to walk into the room and view the patient on a closer look.
It was then I saw it for the second time. I saw the show of emotion on the Colonel as he dallied upon being asked into the room, like he was about going to see someone he wasn’t worthy of being around. It was the feeling one gets when asked to walk into a room where an idol or superior of ours was in and I understood it immediately even though it confused me dearly.
He delayed at the entrance, refusing to take the step inside like he was about meeting someone higher in ranking than him. He finally took the step but not past the door’s threshold, choosing to visit the mirror hung on the wall in the corner of the floor. His actions surprised me as it did the doctor who watched on as I did.
The Colonel took his time to straighten his shirt and tie, as well as his sleeves. He paid attention to his hair and face like he was going to meet someone he didn’t want to access him in a rough look. He seemed like he wanted to impress the man ling in coma in the room for whatever reasons I couldn’t figure out quite rightly.
He took no less than five minutes to himself, fixing his hat and dusting his uniform as well as his shoes before finally turning around. He looked ready to meet with the man and he slowly graced the room with his shoulders proudly high. He finally made his entrance into the room in what was a long wait for the doctor who watched on.
I watched through the glass wall as Fabian put up a serious face and expression. He looked too composed and definitely like a lot was on his mind and shoulders. He stood before my father’s bed in an upright, stiff position even though the man before him was in a coma. He wouldn’t ease off and it would have brought some comical relief had it not been for the situation of things.
His arms were tightly glued to his sides before he bowed to my father respectfully in nothing but a military man’s solemnity. It baffled me dearly as I struggled to understand why that had happened. He had paid his respects before walking out the room as silent as he had before without making a noise that could disturb the man.
His actions left me shocked and baffled at the same time. I couldn’t understand a thing about what had just happened and I wished someone could have explained it to me sooner.
“What on earth!” I said to myself.
My father who barely received respect from anyone other than those selling him liquor had just gotten a salute from a Colonel of the US Army. I was simply flabbergasted to say the least. My jaw remained dropped like the hinges had been dealt a blow and got them unhinged. Nothing felt real. I wondered if I had fallen into a rabbit hole and come out on the other side in a world where anomalies occur.
I blinked several times to try and explain the situation, but I was wide awake and nothing was as otherwise. Everything was happening before me and the bow of respect my drunken and irresponsible father had just received was as real as anything.
“This man and people must be confused”, I wondered. “Should I just tell him he is making a mistake? I mean, they must have the wrong man or something”.
She thought of telling them her alcoholic father isn’t the person they were looking. She thought of them making the mistake of attributing the name Jack Martin to someone important when her father isn’t one of such. She was troubled and baffled at the same time.
Colonel Fabian stepped out with some amount of relief on his face. He had seemed otherwise before walking into the room. I could swear I had seen his lips moving slightly like he was taking his time to practice on what to say or how to present himself before a man in come. It was something to witness and watch but it was equally disturbing.
My surprise was evident on my face and I still hadn’t gotten over all I saw. The questions looming in my head doubled.
“What on earth is going on?” I asked out loud.
A sudden announcement rang aloud from the public address speakers allocated around the hospital in strategic spots. They were evacuating people off the second floor and taking them elsewhere. The commotion set about by the announcement was evident as nurses began the process of getting the patients out of their rooms and towards the elevator. They were to be moved to the lower floor where there were empty rooms.
The soldiers trooped in, assisting with the evacuation and ordering the nurses as they went about their tasks. I sat and watched as the entire floor got overrun with military men brandishing weapons I had never seen in my life except on the television screen.
The movement wasn’t optional as the announcer rang aloud into our hearings all through. I wasn’t sure on what to do but the evacuation brought some level of silence unlike what the floor had experienced as everyone on it got moved out slowly and effectively. The essence of the move was to provide my father the luxury of the entire floor to himself without others around.
It was done so the doctors could work in peace and quiet and focus solely on the man. It was to give them adequate means of walking around without difficulty and getting things done without hindrance. He was being treated like a king and it baffled me. The man I knew to be nothing of worth was being given a worthy treatment.
I wondered and pondered hard on walking over to the man to tell Colonel Fabian he was wrong about my father. I wanted to tell him before they made further preparations that my father wasn’t someone of worth they might be thinking or mistaking him to be, and definitely never been to the military. It is a fact I know about the man being a civilian.
The man couldn’t even hold his ground against a fifteen year old boy should the case come to be.
As the minutes trickled by, the numbers of people trooping into her father’s room doubled in great speed. The entire floor had initially felt empty like a ghost’s den until they began emerging one after the other with nothing but seriousness on their faces. They looked like they were on a mission to save the president even though the man they would be treating is a no good, drunk who made my childhood nothing but hell.
I just could not relate with the insanity unfolding before my very eyes. It still felt unreal and like a dream not choosing to end. The medical personnel including the mix of doctors and nurses of varying ages stepped into my father’s room with their professionalism oozing out of them as they began their various diagnosis and discussions about the man’s health.
They looked focus and driven just as some more doctors arrived. I could tell they weren’t from the hospital and had been summoned from an external hospital on request of Colonel Fabian. They inquired about the situation of the man’s health and what had been done in other to come up with proper solution on how to help him collectively.
Their chatters were indistinctive and mumbled. They weren’t going to disturb the man by speaking loudly. The newly arrived doctors looked nervous for some reason. The in house doctors walked them outside the room where they shared some brief glances and study of papers in their hands. They acted like they had an important decision to make and it had to be done quickly enough.
The soldiers guarding the floor and myself were spectators while every other person there worked and strived hard on means to keep my father alive.
As the melee continued on the second floor, I looked out the glass window once more to the sight of about fifty more soldiers arriving. It was obvious someone of grave importance to the Army was about making an arrival and I wondered who that would be and to what purpose. Those waiting below gathered around in thick fold, hoping to know who was arriving as they discussed loudly.
The ruckus heightened with each passing second and I hoped to find out who the person was too. My eagerness got me walking from where I was to meet with the disturbed looking Colonel Fabian. He was speaking privately on his phone in a hush tone which made me deter my movement down the stairs to the office of the Head Manager of the hospital to inform him of their misconception about my father.
I was going to tell them of their grave mistake and how wrong they’ve been so far. The issue was getting out of hand and I could no longer watch it continue to unravel into something beyond my powers to stop or control. I couldn’t not comprehend how they came to confuse my father for another Jack Martin who possibly was a honored person in the Military.
I just could not take it and as I stepped into the elevator and watched the door close with the lasting image of my father at heart and that of Colonel Fabian discussing away with his phone, it felt like the right and only thing to do.
My journey from the elevator to the office of the Head Manager took longer than I anticipated. The bodies crammed up around the lower floor in expectation of the important personality made it difficult navigating through them. Either ways, my determination to bring an end to the melee and misconception won and I got through.
I sat before the Manager in his office and I stared the man right in the face as he failed to understand what I was telling him. He shared my misunderstanding about the entire events and it sounded like a plus but with more questions unanswered.
“In my thirty years working as a medical practitioner, I’ve never seen a thing like this”, he confessed with his head shaking from left to right.
I believe him without any doubt in my heart.
“I believe you’d agree with me this is nothing but a mistake then. A misconception that needs to be resolved immediately”, I said to him. “You know my father. The man cannot handle a midget talk less of him being a reputable Army officer”.
“Yes… yes… yes, you’re right”, the man said.
He knew my father through the years before his alcohol and gambling addictions became the tone upon which his life continued. He knew the man before his reputation soared as an addict around the small town where news travelled like wild fire. He had really done himself hard by soiling his reputation and it was hard thinking around it that he had any valuable personality that would warrant the Army to be there at the point in time. We both knew it and he agreed with me without doubt.
I sighed tenderly, feeling drained by the whole thing while my mind drifted to an old memory of when I was pretty young. I would clean every corner of the house and wash my father’s clothes weekly. I never remembered seeing any military regalia or clothing or anything related with such around the house. The only things around then were soiled clothes stinking of alcohol and smoke from cigarettes where he had gone gambling.
My thoughts drifted back into the room as the crowd outside spoke in heightened vocal volume. Their voices made me really nervous as I thought of the important and obviously more powerful person then Colonel Fabian himself coming into the hospital. The preparations suggested so and it made me rather uncomfortable without a doubt.
“What do we do?” I asked the man whose office I was seated in.
He looked equally as lost as I was and I could tell without doubt. It wasn’t going to be easy walking to the Army officers and telling them they were wrong, but it felt like the right thing to do to save them the trouble. I couldn’t concede into believing otherwise and I didn’t want anyone persuading me into believing it. My father to me was nothing but a drunk and there were substantial proof to make that accusation stick.
It just didn’t make any sense to me.
I walked away from the office having found no solution as I hoped to look at my father once more. I needed to see the man over whom such misconceptions were going on. The walk to his room and standing before his glass wall felt longer than it should. It felt so darn long because I could feel some questions crawling into my mind. They were questions that would bring doubt to one’s soul in times like the one I was in.
I looked at him with my eyes solely focused on his body and the memories of the times we shared swirling around my mind. I could picture everything and imagine the best case scenario for the man, but nothing felt real or could explain any unknown affiliations with the military. It just wasn’t something my father could do and I felt convinced about it.
The green uniforms and rigid walking bodies around me made me ponder on question I hadn’t put in my head all through.
“Who exactly is my father?” I asked myself without hearing the words go past my lips.
It was the only question I could draw from everything, because I honestly could not understand who the man was anymore. I needed an answer.
…to be continue…
Laila could never believe that the only person she was always sure to know very well about, her shameful father, was actually the person she completely knows nothing about. In the last 7 days of his life in hospital, the pitiful and shameful father of her, each and every day there was a different guest came to visit her father, all the seven visitors drank tea with Laila in the opposite room of her father's, and told her seven different stories about her father, Jack Martin. The surprises and unbelievable things came one by one everyday. The real person of her father was gradually revealed day by day and then came to her true identity. How would Laila deal with the unexpected truths about her father's life? And how did she overcome them and continue to live her own life?