I grew up in the ‘trenches’ and I was exposed to some vices at an early age. I started drinking alcohol at the age of thirteen and it caused a lot of friction between my late father and I. He would always say, “may alcohol not be the death of you” and my response would be, “something must kill a man”. I argued with him that as long as I wasn’t stealing his money to buy alcohol and I wasn’t coming home drunk, he didn’t have to worry his head about me.
I took this habit into my marriage and my wife continued from where my father stopped. She nagged me endlessly about quitting the bottles but I paid her no attention. She was pregnant with our second child when this incident occurred. I was attending a funeral at the suburbs and I promised her that I was going to come straight home so we could have a date night. Quite unexpectedly, the funeral service went faster than envisaged because the deceased had given strict instructions on how he wanted to be buried. I got back to town by midday and I thought I could buy some time and hang out with my friends before heading home. I called my drinking buddies Papillo, Andrew and Macho to meet me at the bar, others turned up except Macho because his wife warned him not to leave home. This wasn’t the first time Tacha was doing this and we found it quite amusing because she was a petite 5ft 5inches bully while Macho was a 6ft 2inches body builder who was “afraid” of his wife. This formed part of our discussion as we laughed and talked about women, football, politics etc. (Looking back now, I think my friend Macho is a wise man).
We had only been at the bar for about an hour when four hefty gun trotting men walked in. They demanded to see the owner of the bar but when they found out that he wasn’t available, they began to shoot sporadically to scare people. Bullets were flying like confetti, you could hear the sound of bottles hitting the hard concrete, screams from people who were scurrying away or hiding from stray bullets, noise and commotion filled the air, this lasted for a few minutes then all of a sudden, there was silence… the men were gone. I tried to get up from where I had been lying on the floor when I felt warm liquid on my shirt, I looked down and saw blood. I had been hit by a bullet. I thought it was just a slight brush on my skin but I saw blood pumping out of my stomach. It felt as if the wound was breathing, I could feel blood and air oozing out from it. I tried to apply pressure to stop the bleeding but it wasn’t working. My friends saw me and rushed over to help me.
The drive to the hospital was the longest drive of my life, every minute felt like a whole day. My eyes were starting to feel heavy and my vision was blurry. Andrew was driving like an actor from Fast and Furious. Papillo held me tight at the back seat as he tried to keep me awake. The first hospital we got to refused to attend to me because it was a GSW (gun shot wound) and I didn’t have a police report to back me up. Fortunately, the next hospital admitted me and began to work at keeping me alive. I was slipping in and out of consciousness. I was in severe pains, I needed something for the pain but the nurses were standing over my head, acting as if I had all the time in the world. I could see people dressed in white moving fast all around me, I couldn’t tell if they were nurses or angels. I was slipping away, I wanted to get up but I had no control over what was happening to me. I could hear people talking but their words were incoherent, little by little I started to feel myself dropping into what seemed like a tunnel.
The tunnel was dark and I spun around really fast. As I dropped lower and lower, there was nothing to grab or hold onto, the movement was like the speed of lightening, this went on for a while until I suddenly hit the ground with a sickening thud. I found myself in a desert, the scorching sun biting my skin, my dry throat and patched tongue yearned for water and my body hurt. I wanted to cry out for help but I couldn’t form the words. I tried to take a step but I couldn’t move. Then I heard voices. I turned to look but I couldn’t see anything, I squinted so that I could make out the images. I saw myself lying on a hospital bed, the reason why I was there was so clear in my head and I regretted it immediately. I saw my aged mother and my pregnant wife crying beside my body, they were praying and pleading with me not to leave them. I tried to assure them that I wasn’t going anywhere but I couldn’t. I struggled to get up but it was difficult. Then I began to cry. I could see the tears roll down my eyes as I lay there. My wife and mother ran out to get a doctor. I started to run after them, screaming at them not to leave me alone.
Suddenly, I felt my body being lifted by a whirlwind. I was helpless. I was afraid, I knew I was going to die. The wind tossed me up and down, back and forth until I landed in another part of the desert. I lay there in pains, barely able to move. I knew it was only a matter of time before death came, so I waited. I was tired and I felt like sleeping, I started to drift off but I heard someone call my name. Only one person called me by my full name. I could tell that voice anytime, any day. It was my father’s. He leaned towards me and pulled me up. He grabbed my wrist very tight and whispered, “walk with me”. I managed to wobble along as he took me through a lush garden. He told me that I wasn’t needed there so I had to go back home because a lot of people would be hurt if I died. He expressed his disappointment towards me as he repeated those words, “may alcohol not be the death of you”. This time, I had no response.. no words. He warned me sternly to make good use of the second chance I’ve been given because it was a very rare privilege.
Father led me to a door in the middle of the garden and asked me to go home. The first step I took as I walked through the door launched me into a tunnel. The light in this tunnel was very bright and my movement wasn’t as fast as the previous one. I could hear a choir sing from a distant place, their voice was “out of this world”. I felt less pain except for some tightness around my stomach and my wrist where my father held me. I spiralled through the tunnel and landed on the hospital bed.
I opened my eyes slowly as I tried to adjust to the light and all the tubes sticking out from different parts of my body. I saw a lady in scrubs leading my wife out of the room and telling her that the baby was crowning. Oh my goodness! Our baby was coming!. I couldn’t speak so I made a sound to get their attention. You don’t want to know what happened afterwards.
Well, my wife had our daughter, Zoe the instant she realized I was awake. I found out that I had been unconscious for over three months. The bullet had missed my heart by an inch but it grazed my lungs a little. Some yoga and breathing exercises and I will be as good as new.
The scar on my stomach and the mark on my wrist (where my father held me tight), are a constant reminder that I have a second chance to do things right. I do not take it for granted at all. Its been four years since I got shot and I have not visited a bar or tasted alcohol again.