“Ma’am, are you a donor? We can’t admit you if you are a not a registered donor or have a pending transaction.”
Kofa was annoyed by the sound of the nurse who was probing. She hated extensive questioning. She hated the frigid staleness of Kunta County Mental Hospital altogether. The truth was Kofa didn’t know if she was a donor or not. What was left to give? She had given everything of herself to the world. And this nurse, who did she think she was with her nose turned up?
She felt herself fading as the nurse again barked, “Mrs. San, if you’re not a donor, then we will have to have your written consent to arrange a transaction to do the procedure. We want to help you get to a better state.”
Kofa looked up to meet the nurse’s piercing eyes. She shifted her beautiful locs so that she had a better view of the nurse, and for a moment that seemed like hours, Kofa stared at the nurse. Finally, she managed to say, “It’s Miss, not Mrs. I had that taken from me too.” Her sedated body became one with the hospital bed. She never imagined that her sleepless nights would come to end with a trip to Kunta County. There was a part of Kofa that was grateful for the promised peace and rest. She had long needed to quiet her mind from the daily reminders of how hard life could be. Kunta County was the nation’s leading facility for reset and erasure procedures. Though skeptical, Kofa knew she was in good hands. And whenever she doubted that, still, she knew her options were limited.
“She was out before I could get her consent,” the nurse said as Dr. Kinte entered the hospital room.
Dr. Kinte had performed most of the procedures for the residents of Kunta County. It was a running joke among his colleagues that he could do the procedure in his sleep with total success. And while Dr. Kinte was thought to be a kind man, his sharp features balanced his kindness. There was always this sense of achievement he felt when he saw his patients around town, knowing he had played an intricate part in resetting their lives. His one desire in life was to have everyone lead respectful lives with which society would be comfortable. He often told his patients that the reset procedure was a gift from God for individuals who had somehow lost their way. Because of this, it was no secret that Dr. Kinte took pride in being a part of an elite group who had discovered how to eradicate mental illness. Kofa never liked him, but he was the best.
“Ahh! Kofa San. It’s such a shame what happened to her husband. He showed so much promise, too. I really thought he’d come to his senses. At any rate, we won’t need Mrs. San’s consent. Get her admitted and have her taken to the third floor.” Dr. Kinte was clinical and cold in his response to the nurse, never looking up from his chart.
“What do you mean, Dr. Kinte? Her chip doesn’t indicate that she is either a donor or that she has transacted.”
“Without a husband, Mrs. Kofa is now under the state’s care. We know what’s best for her. We will prep her for the procedure tomorrow morning. The buyers will be here tomorrow afternoon, so there’s nothing left to discuss.” For the first time since he had entered the room, he looked up at the nurse. He was not acknowledging her presence, but reminding her of her place in his presence.
She nodded and softly replied, “Yes, of course, sir. She will be ready.”
Dr. Kinte could not see the tear that streamed down her face as his glare spoke the words his mouth had not. The nurse was embarrassed by her display of emotion. Such display of emotion was a weakness, a defect, as well. Before leaving Kofa’s hospital room, she got herself together and shook off the encounter. Tomorrow would be a long, draining day.
When Kofa finally came to, she found herself in a pool of sweat. Her heart was racing and her hands were trembling. She wondered where she was and how she had gotten there. Thoughts of her husband quickly answered her confusion.
“No! No! What have you done to him? What do you mean by this? No! Somebody please help us!” These were not the first or last of Kofa’s outbursts since she had been admitted to Kunta County. And because of that, she was now restrained to her hospital bed. The orderlies had told her it was for her own well-being, but she remembered seeing fear in their eyes that said otherwise.
“Kofa! Sshhh! You’ll wake the entire floor, chile.” A figure was moving close to Kofa from the shadows, but she couldn’t quite make out who was in the room with her. She felt a cool towel on her head and a tender, but rough hand caressed her face. Her visitor was definitely a woman. “Kofa, listen to me and listen to me carefully. You have to get yourself out of this place.”
Kofa struggled to make sense of it all. The voice sounded so familiar, but she still could not make out the image of the woman. She sat up in her bed and desperately grabbed the woman’s hand.
“I want to get better. I have to get better. Thirteen. That’s how many shots they fired. I felt them in my soul. Right in my front yard. They unloaded thirteen shots in him because he refused the procedure a month before. I have to get better. I can’t leave or I could be next. Can you imagine what they might do to a woman?“
The woman’s reply was quick. Kofa didn’t know if she had had time to process her words or not before she said, “You can’t look for wrong within just ‘cause someone on the outside said it’s there. What’s the reset gonna accomplish for you?”
“I want peace!” Kofa was angry now. “I want to live a quiet, respectable life. The reset will allow that. I’ll be healthy and whole. I’ll have a nice little home to call my own. Nobody will be able to take anything else away from me. I will be able to breathe.”
“And you think all of this just gon’ come without a price? How you think you gon’ pay for all of this? The erasure? The reset? When did you write a check, Kofa? Think about it all ‘cause it comes with a price.”
Kofa had not considered this before now, and she was livid that this woman was in her hospital room trying to argue a point that had escaped her. Two days before she was brought to Kunta County Mental Hospital, Kofa had witnessed her husband being gunned down in their front yard. He had rejected the procedure that all the other men on their block had received. Such a tiny procedure, Kofa thought. However, he thought it would be an inconvenience to permanently have his hands suspended in the air. It was for his protection, though. That was a fact everyone else seemed to embrace and know but Kofa’s husband.
That evening, Kofa tried to convince him to have the procedure one last time. And, yes, their voices may have been louder than normal. Her only concern was for her husband to get better and have the protection he deserved. Her neighbors didn’t understand this. They called The Blues due to the disturbance, and within five minutes, Kofa’s house was surrounded.
“They gonna sell you piece by piece, chile. Do you hear me? They gonna sell you to pay for this Canaan you got stuck up in your head.” The woman’s voice pierced Kofa’s soul. The hand no longer caressed her face, and when Kofa looked up again, the woman was gone.
“Good Morning, Mrs. San. I hope you had a good night’s rest. We have a long day ahead of us. You will be better in no time!” That was the voice of the annoying nurse again. Kofa sat up in the bed, remembering last night. She wondered if she had imagined it all. If she had, she knew she must really be crazy.
“Let me tell you the itinerary for today: we will start with the milk bath to get everything white and spotless for the transactions. Then, we will remove these.” The nurse motioned towards Kofa’s locs without even looking up from her list.
These. One of the things she prided herself on was her hair. Kofa remembered the evenings when her mother would wash and retwist her locs. Those were the happiest moments of her childhood. In those moments, Kofa had learned so much about where she had come from and who her mother was before she was a wife and mother. Those were moments that mattered a great deal to Kofa. However, in a few hours, her locs would go to the highest bidder whose daughter would happen to be a self-proclaimed hipster. These on Kofa, hipster on another. It was funny how it all worked.
“Then we will de-wing you before scaling down your breasts, buttocks, and hips. We will install a new chip with the standard langue, parole, and mannerisms. Your recovery will be long, but we will be there monitoring you every step of the way, Mrs. San. Any questions about your reset?”
Kofa was overwhelmed. Her lips were trembling and words were forming in her mind all at once, however, no sound escaped her lips. Before she could say anything, the nurse exclaimed, “Oh, dear! Your name! Have you chosen a name from the standard list?”
“A name? I like my name as it is. I just want to be healthy, not a completely different person.”
“But Mrs. San that is included in the reset. The reset promises new life altogether, and that includes renaming. You don’t want to be mistaken for. . .”
Kofa interrupted the nurse, “Mistaken for who? What I don’t want is to be called by any other name than the one given to me by my parents. That’s what I don’t want.”
“What about a nickname, Mrs. San? That would be acceptable as well. We just want your neighbor to feel comfortable, that’s all. You understand.” The nurse was unmoved by Kofa’s irritation. She had witnessed this kind of indignation before, and they had all been grateful for their new lives after the reset. Kofa, too, would see how the reset would prove to be the best thing to ever happen to her. She placed Kofa’s file on the nightstand beside her hospital bed to excuse herself while Kofa decided on a new identity from the list she had been given. On the front of the file it read, “San, Kofa.” A name Kofa would have to do away with forever.
“Get up from there. Pick yourself up, chile. These folks fixin’ to auction you off piece by piece, and you ‘bout to let them ‘cause you believe their lies. You make ‘tend like you care so much ‘bout a name, and you ain’t got the sense to say what it means to you. You can’t let folks heal you before you check in on yourself and see what’s the matter, girl. Never met a man who care ‘bout the next man more than he care ‘bout himself. Now, get up from there.” The woman was back like she had been there all along, but Kofa was sure she had not seen her since last night.
“Wait. How did you get here? Who are you?” Kofa was desperate to know.
“Circe, chile. Circe was my name when they had me all propped up like they got you now. I came in Kunta County just a kickin’ and screamin’. Oh, sho’, I ain’t have much, but I had my name. I knew that much. It was in the dead of summer and my window was open on account of the heat. Miserable summer, it was. I sat there hoping help would walk through them doors. And, you know what, it did. Only, it had come through ‘long with me. My help was trapped in me somewhere.”
Kofa was confused. “Trapped inside of you? What do you mean?”
“Buried so deep inside I could barely hear her tryna guide me. Didn’t know what it was. Ain’t have the slightest idea if I was sleep or woke, but the more I sought after the voice, the louder it was. What I thought was one voice was many voices. Clear as day, I heard The Voice say, ‘We are Legacy and we are many. Come with us, Circe.’ I thought ‘bout how minutes before I had up and decided to be called Mary, and when The Voice called my name like that I felt a peace, you see. I felt home. So, I followed that voice right out that window and we soared. Did we ever soar! You gotta listen, chile. You can’t just silence Legacy. Don’t let it go!”
Thirty minutes later, the nurse came back in to check on Kofa to confirm her new name and to take her to the procedure room. The nurse gasped when she found the hospital bed empty. She gathered from the blood on the sheets Kofa had struggled to free her wrists from the restraints, but had somehow managed. There was no sign of Kofa anywhere in the room except her hospital gown and the list of names she had been given. She had drawn an “X” over the list of names with her blood and had written three words at the bottom of the paper: “Not For Sale.”