“Ronke, focus on me. Ronke!!” Dolapo whispered in a harsh, desperate tone as she tried to shake Ronke out of the trance she seemed to have fallen into.
“Dolapo, I can feel them. Every single one of them. Oh God” Ronke repeated, squeezing her eyes tight shut.
Her eyes flew open almost immediately as a lone tear rolled down her left cheek.
Dolapo threw frantic glances around. Her eyes met warm brown ones but she looked away hurriedly. It was always best to avoid eye contact at these events. The crowd pressed against them, screaming as they lifted their hands skyward. The fear of being trampled threatened to overpower her but she remembered how dangerous fear was to her friend at the moment
Ronke’s eyes glazed over as she stared into the distance. She had curled into herself and Dolapo’s arms around her shoulders were the only thing keeping her from collapsing into a pile on the dirty tarred ground.
“Is your friend okay?” someone asked.
Dolapo looked up into warm brown eyes and frowned instinctively.
“She is fine” she replied stiffly, willing Ronke to remain calm and not give in to the psychosis.
However her best friend chose that exact moment to let out a terrified whimper as she shut her eyes tight again and buried her head into Dolapo’s shoulder.
Dolapo knew if she didn’t leave Freedom Park her friend would have a seizure. It had happened before. In 2009 when they had dared to attend The Experience because Ronke thought she had developed enough willpower to handle being in a crowd. It had been a total disaster. She had alternated between laughing hysterically, crying and then deathly silence.
It had taken shots of haloperidol and lorazepam to calm her, and a whole lot of talking on Dolapo’s part to convince the protocol team that her friend was indeed not an escapee from Yaba Left.
Dolapo shook off the bad memory and instead focused on finding the Uber app on her iPhone with one hand. Her left one mind you. She had never been known for her ambidexterity.
Twice her phone nearly dropped as she struggled to hold on to Ronke with her right arm, nearly buckling under the girl’s weight. How did she pack so much weight for someone so slight?
“Do you need any help?”
She gave an exasperated sigh then glanced backwards.
“Does it look like I need help?” She asked in a deceptively calm tone.
“Yes” Brown eyes replied.
She nodded. “Then clearly I need help” she said through gritted teeth.
Brown eyes sighed and made a move towards them. He was short. She roughly guessed his height to be about 5 feet 8 inches. But then most men were short when you were an inch shy of 6 feet. Brown eyes however towered over Ronke’s 5 feet 2 inches frame.
His eyes stood out even in the harsh strobe lights of the popular Freedom Park. They reminded her of warm honey. Not my type, she thought to herself.
They were surrounded by the lights and sounds of Afropolitan Vibes, a monthly music festival of some sort that boasted a wide array of artistes whose genre was dipped in the rich African culture.
The stench of weed and SK permeated the air and Dolapo wondered how she could have thought Ronke would survive the place.
It was their first time here. They’d gotten there early, ordered some palmy, found a tree to lean against while they enjoyed the music provided by the live band.
Music was usually a good trigger for Ronke. She said it produced good auras. Good auras meant good emotions. And good emotions meant a happy Ronke.
Brown eyes was staring at her like she’d sprouted horns.
“Well welcome back, Madam Spacey” he drawled sarcastically.
“Hmm do you think Kevin Spacey’s name originated because he’s spacey?” She asked out of the blue.
Brown eyes shook his head. “You’re weird” he said. “What are you trying to do jare?”
“Call an Uber” she said.
“And it’s taking you this long?” He asked nonplussed. “Gimme that” he said taking her phone.
He paused. “In fact why don’t I drive you guys?” He said.
She stared at him slack-jawed as he slipped her phone back into her hand and attempted to lift Ronke who surprisingly let him.
She must have sensed his aura. She was good at these things.
“What’s wrong with your friend?” He asked as soon as a whimpering Ronke was in his arms.
Dolapo stiffened in response.
“Look I’m a doctor. I can help” he said looking expectantly at her.
“She has episodes” Dolapo said nodding vaguely.
“Psychosis?” He asked.
Dolapo stared into his earnest eyes but saw no judgment there only curiosity.
Most people simply assumed Ronke was psychotic. It was easier than believing her own explanation for her visions and nonexistent sense of reality sometimes.
“Not…really” Dolapo faltered.
“Look it’s none of my business but we really should get your friend to a hospital” Brown eyes said as he started towards the car park.
Dolapo followed him quietly, debating whether to tell him or not.
They walked out of the creaky gates of Freedom Park, past the crowd outside hustling to buy the 1000 naira tickets that would grant them access to the event.
They continued down Hospital road, turned left into Broad street and stopped by the Lagos Island Maternity Hospital where he had managed to find parking space beside a street lamp post. He unlocked a sleek black Skoda- one of the newer models – and placed Ronke gently on the back seat.
He grabbed a small flash light from his glove compartment and shone it in Ronke’s eyes. She mumbled her discomfort, squirming out of his reach.
“So? Hospital?” He repeated again. “I can’t really say if she’s having a psychotic episode without observing her for at least 13 hours”
Dolapo frowned. “She’s fine. Can you just take us home?” She said curtly.
Ronke blinked, rubbing her eyes with her fists.
“Who are you?” She asked Brown eyes.
Dolapo rushed to her side quickly. This had never happened before. Ronke had never snapped out of an episode without medical intervention.
“Baby. You’re okay. I’m here” Dolapo said holding her friend tight.
Ronke burst into tears as soon as she saw Dolapo.
“Oh my God Dolapo. It was bad. I thought I was going to die” she said weakly.
“I told you we shouldn’t come here. You know you’re terrible with crowds” Dolapo chided her.
“I thought my defenses were better. I didn’t think they’d be this many people with so many emotions. Gaddamit! There was even someone with suicidal thoughts. Had me thinking of killing myself as…”
Ronke stopped mid-speech.
“He’s giving me very strong confusion vibes” she said glancing at Brown eyes who hadn’t moved from his place by the car door. His mouth was still agape.
“Ermm ermm I just… I don’t even know what’s going on anymore” he sighed, running both hands through his hair. “Suicidal thoughts. Crowd. Vibes. Like babe, are you psychotic or not? Do you still need me to drive you home or not? Before my brain bursts”
“Calm down” Ronke said biting her lip to keep from laughing.
“Cam down?” Brown eyes exclaimed. “Are you guy’s witches? Oh God! I’m being scammed abi? Look I don’t have any cash on me.”
“Ronke here is an empath. She had an episode earlier. She usually cannot handle crowds because the emotions in such places are like an overload to her senses” Ronke explained in a rush.
“Wait! What? Empa- what?”
“Empath. She absorbs the emotions and moods of people around her” Ronke said matter-of-factly.
Brown eyes burst out laughing. His laugh was very different from his appearance. It was a loud guffaw infused with the occasional snort.
“Abeg abeg, you people should get out of my car. Mad people” he said impatiently.
Dolapo exhaled, rolling her eyes simultaneously. She was not surprised. It was the same reaction every single time.
She took out her phone and initiated a request for an Uber.
The driver was five minutes away. It was 10:07pm. CMS was usually swarming with cars at this time. Still they were two young ladies. Lagos nights could breed all sorts of danger for two young ladies.
“Can you walk?” She asked Ronke, who nodded in response.
Ronke slid off the back seat nearly hitting her head against the low roof. Brown eyes took a step back to allow them passage.
It seemed like a good night for a walk anyhow.
“Thanks for nothing, short man” she yelled to Brown eyes as they started to walk away.
“Whatever, witch” he retorted.
[to be continued]
Author’s Note: Hi guys, so I started another series in case you noticed. And boy did I enjoy writing this. It reminded me of the reason I started writing to begin with. To create worlds. To create basically. I really think you’ll enjoy this story. It’s been in my mind for a while. Feel free to drop comments and suggestions as to how the story should progress. I promise to talk more about empathy in the next episodes. Until then, please share.