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  • Slices of Memory
  • Sada Malumfashi (bio)

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Family portrait. From the series Broken Things. Fujicolor crystal archive matte dP Type II. 23.4 × 33.1in. © Tsoku Maela.

Image courtesy of the artist and 99 Loop Gallery.

[End Page 168]

Tonight I am just a little speck—this particle of dust floating on windowpanes—I learn to notice everything. I lay flat on my back on the hospital bed, still, like a wingless fly; noticing provides me wings to soar. I collect all memories around. Listening to hearts beat. Fast. Tatatatata. Then slowww, so slow I can count the beats. Chests contract, hissing air through noses. Voices wander from mouths in different shapes. My eyes red from pain like balls of flame, fixed on the ceiling. White ceiling with splendid brown splotches, fans creaking and whirling to various tunes. I focus on decorated spots. Brown denuded spots puddled with leaking water. Spots where insects crawl, spiders weave their webs, and tiny little lives exist and thrive.

My neck a decoration of holes and bandages, tubes protruding in a way tubes are not supposed to be protruding from somebody’s neck. As the neck creaks it rolls my eyes away from the ceilings. I listen to my breathing, slow like a lazy river in dry season. I notice everything. Blinking fluorescent lights. Little Sa’ad crawling underneath arranged parallel beds around the spacious hospital ward winding in between rusty iron legs. Mama sprawled loosely on one of the beds, creaking underneath her weight, as she mixes custard in a bowl, clockwise, over and over. Her face lit with a smile fighting mixed slices of suffering, painted in her eyes.

I notice two other patients. A woman squeezed inwards, coiling, lying on her side, sobbing, chest lifting, up, down. A child hung on his mother’s backside, barely clinging, as she prays, and chants in a charade of drama, hands extended into air.

Chunks of pain in my throat spank me out of this reverie, this noticing business. It is awkward. I don’t know. It is like living a dead life backwards in slow motion. Some things you cannot help it, you just have to stop and notice. Now my stomach squeaks of hunger. Watery sediments that serve as food passed through a tube connected to my nostrils have been eradicated from my tummy. I hate these stupid fluids. [End Page 169]

My tongue protrudes outwards like a slaughtered ram, my neck swollen in tandem with the size of my puffed cheeks. I am an inflated balloon. I cannot move a jaw, my lips cannot part, and I cannot chew and swallow any solid food. I am like a baby without remote ability to lift a muscle on my face.

“It is all a side effect of the surgical procedure”—insertion of this small metallic thing into my throat to widen it a little, permitting reconstruction of damaged parts just like a carpenter does to his woodworks with hammer and chisel—the regular Doctor keeps assuring Mama. I would deflate back to normal, like when a swollen balloon is punctured by a nail. Eat solid food. And be back at home again. Home. Sound of the word drags with it scents of muddy thatched rooms.

White shirts float over me like angels about to roast the devil, cooing words floating through their noses: “Tracheal Stenosis.”

STE-NO-SIS. The words whirl around and play like scrambled patterns in my head.

“Constriction of the trachea.”

TRA-CH-EA. This long pipe I can feel running down across my neck into my chest. Mine is smashed from end to end.


Narrowed. Crushed. Bone against bone.

“There is a considerable shortage of oxygen intake.”

I am incapable of breathing on my own.

The words wobble all around. Doctors and their jargons. I lie still, helpless like a harvested shrimp. They contemplate on my condition, review my medications, and give suggestions before shuffling their feet with unison hushes all as a unit and move to another patient.

It was a freak accident. Chance of it happening to anybody in this world I believe is like one out of...


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pp. 168-181
Launched on MUSE
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