Wasted youth

…old, but I’m not that old
young, but I’m not that bold …

          -OneRepublic in Counting Stars

 I walked out of the hospital on jelly legs and managed to turn to the left and right, then left again. Thankfully, traffic was not as busy as it usually was around the hospital, because the resident doctors were still on strike. It was dark- already late evening, but the streetlights were still off for some reason.

I gingerly made my way across the road. The zebra crossing in front of the hospital gates had worn beyond recognition. It wasn’t visible, even during the day, except for a few raised hypopigmented patches here and there. It was not as if anyone used the zebra crossings or respected them anyway. It just felt reasonable that at least, in front of the hospital things would be different. The logic was – if you get hit, well there’s a hospital right here. There were no traffic lights anywhere in this city either.

I hissed from between my teeth and hailed an auto-rickshaw. I was going to the bank. A friend of mine had been asking for a loan and for some reason I had not been able to make the transfer. I could never finish from work in time to meet the banks during working hours, that was sure. But this was the earliest I had finished from work in the past week or so. I would make the transfer via ATM.

As I sat down in the auto-rickshaw and it stuttered its way forward, I couldn’t help overhearing the conversation that was just starting, between the passengers – 2 men and one woman, who were already seated before me.
The light was dim, so I couldn’t make out their features, but one of the men had a conspicuous diastema between his 2 front teeth.

Nna, did you hear what happened today?”
“Is it about the hotel incident?”
“What else would I be asking about?”

Earlier that day, 3 young men had been brought to our hospital. 2 of them were DOA*. The other one was still unconscious and had been rushed to the ICU*. My unit had been in the theatre all day, but I had been able to catch the news as hospital gossip made its rounds. They had overdosed on a narcotic mixture- Jinco, popular among young people nowadays, while they were in the said hotel (which was actually a brothel that had become famous as a tourist destination in the city.)
I knew what incident they were talking about, but I kept quiet.

“These people are trying to twist the story o”.
I sat up a little straighter, my interest had been piqued.

“What are they saying?”
“They’re trying to say that they died because they had been taking Jinco.”
“Ba… That’s a big fat lie”
“We’re telling them the truth that they were slapped by ghosts.”
“Wait, everybody knows that’s what happened now”

Who’s doubting that?” The gap-toothed fellow added.

“I don’t know o”

At this point, I was tempted to butt in and tell them that the people in question were actually brought into our facility and that they had really died from a drug overdose. That would however start a conversation that would involve me telling them that I was a doctor and it was not safe to do that. One or more of them could easily follow me home, kidnap me and demand a staggering amount of money from my folks for ransom. And I was too tired to play detective all night on my way home, so I shut my piehole and listened.

“You know the thing with all these things is this” the other fellow volunteered.

“When you tell these educated people and office workers certain things, they don’t just understand”
He paused and belched, the smell was rancid.

“That man, the owner, had offended some spirits and they are taking their vengeance on his customers, quote me anywhere”
he thumped his chest.

“The Police has no business with spirits, that’s true”
. The other man nodded and continued

“They have to find something that they can work with. Because if you come and tell the police that spirits slapped them and they died, they wouldn’t listen to you, even though it’s the truth”
. The gap-toothed man interjected. He was slowly building a reputation in my mind as a loudmouth.
Another belch! Thankfully, I saw it coming and held my breath and pointed my nostrils towards the street and the wind rushing in as the auto-rickshaw meandered its way through the road. He continued.

“Is it not Jinco that almost every able bodied man in this town is taking. Who has it killed?”

“Nna, don’t you live in this city?”
“Nna, my brother, that’s a question o.”
The driver broke his silence.
Only the lady and I had not said anything.

They went ahead to describe the concoction, how it was made, how it was supposed to be taken and how it affected people who took it.
Jinco, as far as I know, just makes you feel good and you’ll see, you’ll just become quiet and you can think clearly”
They all nodded and grunted in agreement.
That’s what they are saying that it is killing people”.

“They don’t know what they are saying.”

They proceeded to add more details, personal recipes, additional effects and so on, stopping just short of admitting that they were all addicted to Jinco.

“Even the police, when they come to my district…”
The man with the gap-toothed smile started

“Even the police, you know…”
he looked around furtively,then lowered his voice.

“they sit down with us and we pass the Jinco back and forth.”

“How can they turn around now and say that it is Jinco that killed those men…”

The conversation continued, but I had come to my stop, so I called to the driver, paid my fare and stepped down.

Jinco  is a mixture of Tramadol, Codeine and Cannabis, boiled together with soda water and menthol sweets for flavor. It could be enjoyed as a light liquid, akin to soda, it could equally be boiled further till it became a syrup, or crystallized to a brownish crystalline powder, that could be sniffed or smoked.  This is sincerely speaking, a narcotic IED*. What is even more appalling is the ease with which the components can be procured on Nigerian streets. Perhaps it is only Morphine and cytotoxic drugs that the pharmacies insist on selling only with a prescription. Almost every other thing can be gotten over the counter. This is close to anarchy. And our youth are wasting away, dead in the clutches of substance abuse.

Maybe, it’s just me that wants to stay sane. I have never been attracted to alcohol or drugs. The thought of inebriation has always been unpleasant to me. Why would I not want to have my wits about me all the time? It just comes naturally to me.

But perhaps, for some other young people like me, if the meal cannot drown 2 people, they won’t eat. If they don’t get drunk to the point of forgetting their names, how can they say they have hung out (mind you, the concept of the designated driver is foreign here too). If the wind does not blow away the sunglasses from their heads while they drive at breakneck speed- bike, rickshaw or car, how can they say they were driving? They forget that they are carrying goods and people- human capital, breadwinners and breadeaters. Recklessness and excess everywhere. 

I don’t know if I’m the one who is not normal. I’d understand the older generation hissing in disgust, but if I can share their sentiments, then I think the line has really been drawn too far beyond shore. Everyday and everytime, I am criticized for the choices I make, not to be part of this madness growing around my people, to do what is right, sensible, safe and reasonable. I am beginning to wonder if the one with the problem is me.

*DOA dead on arrival
*ICU– intensive care unit
*IED– improvised explosive device


3 thoughts on “Wasted youth

  1. I do wonder if the unwillingness to try drugs or alcohol stems for a fear of letting go, losing control, and discovering who you are when you are uninhibited. I’ve never tried drugs or alcohol and likely never will, but besides the obvious health issues, I know it’s because I’m a control freak. I’d hate to be in a situation where I’m at the mercy of someone else or at least behaving in a way that is out of character.
    And having said that, I wonder how much this need to be in control prevents me from being more adventurous. I live such a curated life, carefully choosing circumstances where I know I’ll have at least 90 percent control, and that means missing out of opportunities that requires being at the mercy of the unknown.

    I wonder if that is also the case for you. Although, I’m likely wrong because how much control doesn’t one really have, as a doctor in the challenging world of healthcare in Nigeria?


    1. If I’m being totally honest, I have to say that being unwilling to lose control is at least part of why the idea of inebriation is unappealing to me. Of course, at a more visceral level, the smell and taste of alcohol have always put me off, perhaps because I already associated it with rotting fruit, fermenting cassava, stale bread and a host of other gross things, growing up.
      However, you are right. The thought of not being able to be completely responsible for my own actions is quite scary.
      Even though I probably don’t feel as strongly as you do about being in control, I at least like to be in control of my own actions. Understandably, this probably makes me less adventurous or less spontaneous, but nowadays, I’ve taken to doing a lot of things on the whim, just for the fun of it. Alcohol or drugs however- it’s going to take a lot of willpower to get over the nausea and the “wanting to be in control of myself” center in my brain, before I can do that. Unlikely, in this lifetime.
      Again. Spot on. Huge thumbs up
      Are you a psychologist? just kidding

      Liked by 1 person

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