Covid and the Kin

“Chioma tested positive to Covid-19.” The words fell out of Ada's mouth as if they carried an immense weight that left her mouth agape. She closed her eyes for a few seconds, probably processing how possible it was for someone who would easily pass as the most enviable young woman in Nigeria to have been infected with this enemy of a virus. As I watched my elder sister wallow in her thoughts, I remembered Chioma, and how she had kept her Instagram followers abreast with her recent international shopping spree. She was engaged to Davido, the popular Nigerian vocalist. Chioma was an icon to many Nigerian girls, who thought her to be lucky to have captured the attention of Davido. A deep sigh from my sister interrupted my thoughts. Then in a slow, defeated voice she said “if the super-rich can get infected, what happens to the rest of us?” I smiled, partly because I was amused by her fears, and because I thought she looked really cute with all her peevish fretting. Then she looked up at me, perhaps warmed by my smile, and said, in a tone that reminded me of Nelson Mandela, “We need to fight Covid with all our strength!” In the days that followed, Ada morphed quickly into an Anti Covid special agent, reading up loads of information about the virus. Then overnight, she became a reporter, breaking to the family every news update on Covid-19. She was the manager at a spa in Lekki, and with her boss outside the country, she easily stopped going to work. One night, she plunged into her savings and asked me to follow her to the food market. We spent a hundred thousand naira buying food items, groceries and sanitizers at inflated prices. Over dinner that night, she expressly mentioned to us –our mom , the eldest brother, youngest sister and me– that as a family, we should all stay indoors till the Covid saga was over. Sadly, nobody seemed to take her seriously, and that quickly escalated into an exchange of angry words between her and Victor, our eldest brother. The next day, the President declared a compulsory nationwide total lockdown. That evening, Ada sang songs of thanksgiving to God. Two weeks into the lockdown, my mom couldn't take it anymore. She had gained weight. The wrinkles on her forehead had somehow reduced drastically. The sexagenarian wore skin that shone brighter and a smile that hid the struggles of a previously sleep deprived hard worker. She was happy with the well-deserved rest, but her social life was suffering. She couldn't wait to resume her trading business and have fun filled moments with the other traders in the complex where her store was. My siblings and I were always on our phones, and she would stare at us, disappointed that her children would allow their phones to take this amount of time away from them, and slightly envious that she didn't find such solace in her own device. Whether Victor lived in our world was questionable, because he acted like he didn't. Nothing in his lifestyle reflected a recognition of the global pandemic. He would always leave the house every morning only to come back at night to meet Ada torn between fury and trepidation. He seemed to have believed the booming rumour, that Covid-19 was a either a sham, or it was not present in the country. The climax of the family experience happened in one night, a day in whose morning the number of recorded cases saw its first outrageous boom. Victor came back from a three day stay over with rashes all over his body. He had a serious fever and breathing was difficult for him. He was coughing and sneezing badly too. Ada almost went mad. “I warned you! I did,” She said with tears in her eyes. I still wonder if those tears were shed out of compassion for Victor, or fear that she was finally exposed to her nightmare. In the end, her survival instincts took over and she warned everyone to ensure Victor's isolation. She suggested he should be locked up in the guest room. But my mom wouldn't hear of it. She rushed to examine him, and my sister pulled her back. “Mummy! Covid is a matter of life and death! Don't touch him" she begged. At this point, my brother could not take it anymore. He lashed out at Ada. “Are you crazy?" He yelled. "How dare you? You're a paranoid idiot. These rashes are reactions to a bathing soap I used. Don't ever connect me to Covid again, ever!”. And with that, he stormed over to the room I share with him. My mom still came around to apply a medicinal lotion to his body. Then we agreed that we would alert the NCDC authorities by the third day. But by the next day, his rashes had reduced, his fever left and with that he lost the strings that attached him to Covid-19. But to be on the safe side, he reduced the frequency of his outings afterward. The best part was, for the first time in more than ten years, my entire nuclear family came together and created memories that would last a lifetime.

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