“A lovers heart sighs all day, and his songs are loud at night”
“A ray of light- you are my brightness and my blindness”
‘Petrichor is a heady aroma of intoxication and exotic spell”
Racism affects every black and speaking good English does not exempt you.
It’s either black or white and white is simply privileged to be untainted
Melanin can not be shed so we wear on accents and protect our black pride.
Copyright © Karen Owusu Banahene, 2020
All rights reserved
Dedication: Ex Sergeant P.K Obeng
Rest well grandpa, your memory lives on.
Mrs Veronica Yeboah, (BPharm) Mama, you have been the greatest storyteller of all times. Your rich stories of your early childhood has been the inspiration of this story. Thank you!
Sarah Opoku, IG @_ofaye_,
Thank you for this beautiful cover photo!💕😊
IT WAS ONE OF those nights when adults moved into the big compound, draped in black and faces in solemnity. I still remember my father waking up at once after he had received a phone call. He made mumbles as he buttoned up his shirt and mother seemed worried. Father was the head of all the labourers of Master PK who was a sergeant and a very wealthy man. He owned a lot of farms and livestock. His family was a reputable one since most of the children of that family were well educated. At that time, he had among his sons, a Teacher and a Lawyer. His daughters were beautiful too and married big men in the city. Once in a while, they would come for a visit and I, among the other children in the town would rush to the compound for sweets. Sometimes when we were fortunate, they’d bring us small moulds of sugar bread made specially in Kumasi. Mother loved those bread too and would tell me firmly, “When they give you bread, bring it home”
“What is it, father?” my inquisitive self, had the audacity to ask. Sometimes father would pull in something about my confidence and how school was doing that to me. The way he always muttered under his breath when He comes to meet me doing my homework instead of washing utensils like all other girls.
“Obeng, what at all is your problem?” Mother would give him a hard stare. “Are you jealous that Master PK’s wife decided to take care of my only daughter?”
“I am hungry, woman, and that is why I am here. Please give me my food”
After mother had set his table with a bowl of rice ball and groundnut soup, she would pick the matter again. “Stop listening to your other wives Obeng, they are just jealous. I don’t have a son like they have and I certainly know I have no share of your lands in future when you’re gone. What will my daughter and I eat?” she would then assume her task of washing utensils and say firmly to conclude the matter, “Adoma will go to school and be prominent like Master PK’s daughters. I will make sure of that”
Father continued buttoning his shirt. “Go and sit with your brothers Adoma” Mother said to me. And I did just that.
By mid-day father and his fellow labourers returned to the compound. They ate little and took in a lot of akpeteshi. Mother seemed more than worried while she served them and I did not understand. No one was talking to me and you see, it is very difficult as a child to enquire when all I would be told is to go out and sit with my brothers.
So I went to my brothers and sat quietly with them. Maame Benewaa, father’s first wife gave me gari soakings with bread and told me that I can stay for a while. When her sons returned from the farm, one of them looked at me and sneered “We shall see how you will go to school now!”
I went home and told mother about it and she placed my head on her lap. “Adoma, Master PK’s wife is dead oo, do you know what that means?”
What that means that no school for me again, as Mensu, had said to me or what that means by the fact that, it was death she was talking about. I nodded to both.
She began to cry silently and I wanted to tell her that it did not have to be a problem if I was not going back to school now that Ante Darkowaah was dead and that I could always help her in the market and chores like all the other girls. But then again, I could not fathom exactly what her tears were about. Sometimes I felt school did not concern me much. Most daughters of labourers were not in school like I was and when they gathered around to play ampe they would refuse to play with me. I felt left out and thought it would not matter if I stayed home and got to play ampe with my friends.
The weeks that followed were long and busy. There was going to be a funeral and it had to be big and noisy.
“But why? Isn’t it supposed to be a funeral?” I asked, Ackaa one of my father’s sons. We had gone fishing that morning when I managed to sneak out before mother found me. I was aware of the long arguments she sometimes had with father to give her money for me to go to school.
“Why?” he sounded my own question. “Because it’s Master’s wife! What is wrong with you Mmoni-ka?” Ackaa always preferred to call me by pet name making sure to add ‘ka’. It was a quick way of reminding me I was named after Ante Darkowaah- Master PK’s wife- who was now dead. Mmoni was what people fondly called her and Mmoni-ka simply meant little mother.
“You know my mother said they killed her with medicine. Are you not sad?” Ackaa asked.
“I am sad Ackaa” I supposed sad was feeling sorry that a kind woman who took care of me, bought me my school bag with a new uniform plus a water bottle and treated me well as though I was her own daughter was dead. Of course I was sad. “What I don’t understand is why the funeral must be big and noisy. Sounds like a party to me” I added and tugged at my fishing line. “I think I’ve caught a fish”
Ackaa looked at me aghast. “What is wrong with you? You and your big mouth err!”
“I think I have caught a fish” I told him again.
“No you haven’t” he seemed exasperated. What did I say wrong? “Be careful of what you say oo . That is how rich folks do their funerals”
“I see” I said and added after a while, “Ackaa?”
“Will we go fishing often if I don’t go to school again?”
He smiled and shook his head. “If you catch something today then we certainly will”
He then exclaimed and pulled out his catch and I beamed at him with so much admiration.
SCHOOL WAS LONG FORGOTTEN even after the big and noisy funeral and for me, it was not a problem. I had the liberty to play ampe with the other girls, to swim, to fish with Ackaa and to help mother when I was not playing.
That was so many years ago and quite a lot occurred afterwards. I never imagined myself living in a city and becoming a lawyer. But mother was ambitious and never accepted that I was not going back to school again. One evening when I had filled our small rack with firewood and fed the chicks, mother called me to her room.
“Adoma, what is wrong with you, don’t you miss school? Don’t you want to be a big woman anymore?”
“I want to be mother, school wasn’t bad either but how can I continue going to school when we can’t afford that anymore” I sighed. Not that I was worried about school, I was worried about mother’s stubbornness. It had been four years since Ante Darkowaah’s death and she still held on to this school thoughts.
“I have a plan” she said, her mouth set in a thin grim.
“What plan mother, won’t you let it be?”
“Let it be?” Her retort was a sharp one, clearly agitated. “Don’t even say that for me to hear! I should let it be er? And watch your father marry you away and give birth to a man who will marry another wife and neglect you err Adoma, what will become of me, of yourself er?”
“It wouldn’t be that bad as you put it Mother, besides you married father when you perfectly knew that he had other wives”
“Oh yes! So let that be my own mistake to bear Adoma, let it be! But I shan’t allow you to settle for mediocre mentality that your father has!”
“Mother!” I exclaimed disapproving how she spoke of father.
“I said I have a plan, so start preparing. She shifted on her stool and stood up “And you better not mention any of this conversation to your father!”
She waited for three fortnights and then sneaked out one very early morning. I watched her through the crack of the door as she bundled a big white fowl and walked into the fog, her quick moving legs made it obvious that she had no intention of being seen.
Three days later, when father came to eat his supper, as it was mother’s turn, he didn’t seem to be in the mood for food. When mother greeted him and served him his meal, he fumed and knocked the food away. “Nnekye, so do you still continue to regard me as your husband? Do you respect me at all?”
“Obeng, what have I done now?” Mother asked defensively. She had expected this obviously.
“Don’t ask me; don’t even ask me because I’m losing my patience!” He stood up, his solid built figure in full length. “Nnekye, did I tell you I couldn’t take care of your daughter? Nnekye, did I? Did I tell you I needed another man take my daughter to school?”
“Obeng, you didn’t but it was about time someone helped you realize that?” She said sharply. “You don’t even have intentions of taking your daughter to school, you say school is useless but look at Master’s children…”
“Am I master? Look at me carefully..” Father started moving towards mother and she backed away. The other wives were drawing near now and some of the labourers got there in time to refrain him. “If I won’t take her to school then so be it!”
“You will dare hit me, Obeng?” mother asked with disbelief. I honestly did not believe he would hit mother. I have known father not be an abusive man.
“It’s okay Nnekye, let it be!” the first wife started to take mother away. “You don’t wish me well Obeng, you don’t wish your daughter well! I know all your plans and I won’t allow it”
“It is me who wants more problem by taking you as a wife when I had three already! Now you disrespect me and talk in my face!” Father thumped his chest looking upwards towards the sky.
“The mistake of marriage to you!” Mother spat.
“Nnekye! Becareful of what you say!” One of the other wives warned.
Silently in my corner, I was ashamed. I could not believe I was the cause of all this. I wanted it to end and when later I found out that I was bound to leave for the city in a week time, I wished it would come faster. I avoided mother and visited father twice in his shackle but he would not see me.
Mother went about her business in the compound under peering eyes and wagging tongues about a woman who dared to stand up against our husband. They made comments about how ungrateful she was to their husband. And mother made sure to pause and say something about how in no time her enemies would brought to shame and if indeed they had spreading breasts like her then they might as well come out and tell her in her face.
On the day before Sunday, when I would finally make my journey, I could not take the silence anymore so I woke up early and called Ackaa with me. He brought two hoes and we went to father’s farm to work. We worked in silence until father came. When I greeted him, he pretended to be busy and hoed with us. At noon, Ackaa left to take food from the house.
“If you hoe for that long, you will get calloused hands oo” Father finally said to me.
I just continued with my task, this time more vigorous.
“Mmoni, didn’t you hear what I said, stop it!” Father shouted at once using my other name and I stopped.
I looked at him and I suddenly burst into tears. “Baba tomorrow I will be leaving oo”
“I know” he replied quietly. “I’m not mad at you oo, I’m just not sure again about making decisions concerning you”
“Baba if you don’t want me to go, just tell me and I won’t go”
“Come her” He called and patted me on the head. “Did you believe what your mother said that I don’t wish you well?” I shook my head. “Good, I wish you well, and I want you to go”
“Adoma, I’m sorry about your school but there was just no money. But now that there this opportunity, I want you to go. Now your mother may be quite a troublesome woman but I know it’s for your betterment. He said carefully. “Master’s son and his wife are good people just like their father. Look at what this family has done for us. As you’re going, promise me to be good to them, for the sake of their kindness, never ever ever disobey them. Have you heard me?”
I nodded and smiled when he said “I got you a little something to take with you. Now if you’re going to be a city girl, you might as well look like one. What are you going to do about this hair of yours er?
When I went home, mother was taking a basket of dried cassava in her hut. “You have finally come” she said to me but I ignored.
She entered the room too and saw me packing for the last time “What did your father get you er?” she asked brightly. “Let me press them for you?”
Suddenly I got a little annoyed. “No mother, let it be”
She looked at me, long and hard and quietly left the room.
At dawn when the cock crowed disturbing the serenity of the morning, mother patted me softly. “Adoma? Wake up and go take a bath for me to tidy your hair.
Mother carefully greased my hair with her specially made Shea butter that she had mixed perfume and other essence she got from the market.
“This should make your hair shiny and fresh” she said with satisfaction. I sat still and she carefully arranged strands of hair, over and under till it formed a smooth plait. By the time she was done I could feel my forehead protruded more than ever with painful tugs at the edges but I did not complain. This was very normal.
“Adoma” she called me softly
“You know I want the best for you and that is why I had to do all that for you” I nodded. “Please don’t be angry at me. It is for your own good oo”
I nodded again.
“Now when you go to city be a good girl and do everything they ask you to do OK?”
When Master’s son came that afternoon for me, mother discretely led me to the big compound of Master PK. “I don’t want any evil eyes to follow you to city, hurry and let’s go before they come out. Master PK’s son was called Master Ike and he had come along with his wife who looked at me strangely for a moment and then said. “Is that all her things?”
“Yes Madam” Mother answered quickly and tugged me closer.
“Alright then” Master Ike smiled at mother and picked my travelling bag to put in the car. “We should be on our way”
“Yessar” Father answered him.
“Go for your father’s blessing Adoma” Mother whispered to me.
“May it be well with you my daughter” Father held me up before I could kneel for his blessings. He hugged me and patted my plaited hair. And when he smiled at me, I was calmed.
As the car eased out of the compound I saw Ackaa waving, jumping and shouting “Don’t be too long Mmoni-ka and when you’re coming buy me paano”
I smiled and waved back.
It was cool and quiet in the car, with occasional soft probes from the bumpy road. The car was posh and I felt cold and dry from the cool air that faintly wheezed in the car. It was like the gush of coolness I feel from Baba Ahyino’s fridge when mother sends me to buy fish. And it was some time later that I got to know that, that cold gush that came from small compartments in the car was called AC- as Achiaa will say.
WHEN I FIRST LAID my eyes on Achiaa, she was too beautiful for me to describe, too fair like a borfo3. She looked at me with wide eyes. “Who is she, mummy?”
“Your new sister” Master Ike replied rather. “Why don’t you show her your room…?”
And she did show me her room, of course, and other intriguing things. It was Achiaa who showed me how to be a city girl, how to say Mommy and Daddy and how to eat with cutlery without touching my teeth with it. It was Achiaa who showed me how to sip tea at the table and never to belch out loud. Achiaa showed me how to sing Westlife songs and be a little American.
Whenever I woke up in the morning, I had to attend to the normal task of warming Master Ike’s bathing water, prepare tea and bread for the family as Master Ike tends to his little garden and his wife feeds their pet. They liked their things to be done in a particular way, for instance, arranging slices of bread or lettuce in bread carefully to make sandwich. Sometimes, they enjoyed their breakfast with orange juice, water melon or slices of pawpaw. While I found fried egg quite tasty and would not mind enjoying even two, they liked to share just an egg which has been fried by Mommy herself because she simply did not trust me with the oil. In fact, Master Ike’s wife did not trust me with a lot of things; salt, sugar even lettuce and she would always scold me when I forgot to shred the lettuce. “Adoma, so how many times must I tell you to shred the lettuce? This is not kontomire to be sliced!”
“Sorry mummy” I would say gracefully but I never really understood why. It only reminded me of the jagged ends a goat makes on cassava leaves after a neat nibble.
Achiaa liked to spend about thirty minutes in the bathroom singing amaalife by Westlife on top of her voice and I imagined her behind the closed doors pushing her hips left and right and throwing her hands about like a borfo3. This Achiaa, she thrilled me; walked around the house with perfumed airs, pecked her parents checks and rolled her eyes behind their back when she was being scolded. She never seemed to care about any of what her parents told her and did whatever she found pleasant to do. She was not particularly nice to me but she had days when she would sneak up into my room downstairs and tell me about all the boys who had touched her. One was called Joe whom per the softness of her voice, I realized she loved most. The other was Kingsley. “Oh I hate Kingsley, he stammers sonetimes and embarrasses me in front of my friends. Can you imagine?”
No, I could not imagine. I believed a boy must be assessed according to his intentions and visions rather than mere speech impairment. And when I blurted it out, she looked at me as if I was nothing but a child and needed a lot to learn myself before I made comments as such. Well Kingsley left to the States and his whole case did not matter anymore. As for me, I thought Kingsley was not bad at all.
It was Achiaa who told me about her kiss with Michael. “Do you even have an idea what that is, Adoma?”
I stopped the carrots I was chopping to make Spaghetti for diner and looked at her for a while then burst out laughing. Achiaa joined in the laughter and we laughed and laughed till tears sprung from our eyes. “I watch movies. Achiaa, I’m not that stupid”
She was amazed and maybe a little impressed.
But it was not long when she went to the university and started kissing another guy, one named Kelvin, then Chris, then Paul then a whole others that I lost count. Till at last it ended with Teye which made everything ran downhill. I never knew this Teye personally and Achiaa stopped talking to me about her boys, so when she started failing her exam and I was enquired about it, I could not give any proper answer. Mommy cried a lot and Master Ike spoke less of the matter. Only that, I noticed Mommy looked at me more fondly than before, touched my hands and smiled at me when I serve her morning tea. And one day when the our semester results came out and I had passed brilliantly, Master Ike excitedly said, “That’s my girl! You’re going to make one fine lawyer!”
That’s my girl!
Master Ike called me his girl and when I called home to give this news, father seemed pleased about it but mother exclaimed “He called you his girl? I hope he’s not touching you Adoma?”
I rolled my eyes to that and for the first time ever, I felt American. Feeling American was not the only transformation I could attest to. I noticed I took a lot of time to prim myself and realized I was getting more confident around my peers and I wanted Achiaa to also notice this change. I knew she would have been so proud of me.
Well she never noticed. All she cared about was her Teye.
The only time I asked if she was sure about Teye was when she was crying about a cheating issue.
She looked at me like I was even crazy to think that. “You have no idea who he is and you certainly have no idea what you’re talking about. Teye loves me”
“Right” I sighed. “Mommy wants to know when you’re coming home”
“I will see what I can do”
“That is what you always say…” I noticed a slight swelling near her chin which was turning purple against her perfectly fair skin. “…and what is that coloration near your chin?”
“Nothing” “Just tell them I will be home”
“And maybe you should know, Kingsley is back”
She rolled her eyes. “Ok”
Mommy and Daddy were lucky that day Adoma decided to come home. Apparently Kingsley was supposed to pull a surprise on her.
When Achiaa saw Kingsley she yelled at him. “Leave my house this instant! What are you doing here?”
“Achiaa, I love you and I want to marry you. Don’t do this to me, I beg you”
But Achiaa would not hear of it. She was agitated and kept yelling at him. Mummy and Daddy were ashamed. Later in the evening, Achiaa packed her things and left the house expressing her disappointment to her parents. Mummy and Daddy could not utter a word; they only looked on with silent concern.
THE YEAR THAT FOLLOWED after Adoma left the house, Kingsley continued to visit the family and I never knew I was the one who would eventually marry Kingsley. But this is how it finally happened.
One evening, Kingsley called home that he was coming for a visit again. Mummy and I took our time to prepare salad dressings with meatballs which was to be eaten with rice. It was getting quite late and the skies looked cloudy.
“Isn’t Kinglsey coming again?”
“I don’t know” Mummy responded. “Maybe you should call and ask him. I want to lie down for a while. I’m tired”
When I called him he said he was caught up in the rain because his car would not budge; the car was stuck in mud.
Without thinking I took an umbrella and ran to meet him forgetting to use the umbrella myself.
“Why are you so drenched when you have an umbrella?” Kingsley asked guiding me into the car. “ But why did you come?”
“I don’t know. I was just worried”
“Worried?” he asked surprised.
When we got home and served him his food, I sat there and waited on him to finish up. I do not know why I did that but when he touched my chin and urged me to look at him because I was giving too much attention to my fingers, I realized what it was.
I have heard about love and how it made people crazy. I was definately not acting crazy but this one made me sweat a lot. An unfamiliar ache settled on my chest and I could not breathe as well.
“Wo-ont you lo-ok at my face Adoma? Enh?” Kingsley stammered.
Then I knew he was nervous like I was. And then he kissed me.
Right after graduation. He took me to his house and asked me quietly “Adoma, please marry me”
I said yes.
When mother asked me if I loved him I replied I was not sure about it. He makes me feel warm and I like how he smells. She laughed and said “That is love oo Adoma”
NOW MANY YEARS THAT I have come to know my husband, I admit that he’s been nothing but kind to me. His caresses were gentle; always reminded me that I was thoroughly loved. It was not long until I carried his child and it was not long until the baby liquefied in me, crimson red, running along my legs and my screams were all that I could hear. Kingsley, my husband held me in his arms for days; he bathed me and tended to me till I was strong enough again. I never doubted him, never, only I always wondered whether it would have been different if I was Achiaa.
Few months later another sharp stabbing pain informed me that I was pregnant again and this time Kingsley asked me to be quiet about it especially to my mother. I wanted to tell him the only thing my mother was, was being too confident and ambitious and that is certainly not witchcraft. But I did not tell him that and someway somehow, the silence granted me a baby. That very same day Master Ike died. Mommy cried, a lot, not the American style that you dab your eyes with linen handkerchief after some trickle of tears as I expected. She cried and shook so much that her friends had to hold her back from doing something crazy.
I cried too but Achiaa did not. She hid her dry eyes behinds some shades sunglasses and pretended to be actually shedding tears. Mummy slapped her and when she looked like she was not sure of what she had done, simply because she never hits Achiaa, she slapped her again “All you father did was to make you happy Achiaa! You ungrateful child! Your father literally killed himself for you and you are here pretending tears”
Later when the will was read Achiaa laughed bitterly and gave me a look “You steal my man and steal my father’s love. Everything must be a joke!”
“No. this is not a joke” I voiced out in a monotone.
I was tired of the grudge she had against me ever since she came for the funeral. “A man must be assessed according to his intentions and visions”
“Remember, that day in the kitchen, I told you this. You never loved Kingsley, Achiaa. Don’t start now”
Achiaa looked at me alarmed by how I brazenly claimed Kinglsey. “You have no shame!” She yelled and started a whole rant I was not listening to. I was just looking at her cheeks and how the colour of her eyes was tinted red.
I grabbed her by the arm roughly. I was agitated when it dawned on me that Achiaa was suffering an abuse. “Does Teye beat you?”
“Let go of me!” surprise and fear shone in her eyes. I was more disgusted and angry. A whole Achiaa, a whole American girl Achiaa was afraid. “I said let go of me now! You have no right to make insinuations. Teye loves me!”
I did not know why I would not let go. I kept on holding her arm gradually being overpowered with anger, annoyance, and sadness. I began to cry “Achiaa he beats and you stay with him? Come home!”
She broke down in tears and crouched on the ground looking like a child. “I can’t leave him, I can’t, the pastor says he is my husband and I can’t leave him. If I leave him, I will die, he will kill me”
“Which pastor? Who will kill you?” I asked but the response I only got was more tears and gibberish non coherent words. She touched her head and pulled at her black scarf. It was obvious Achiaa was going insane so Kingsley and I drove her to the hospital.
The doctor said she was fine but I refused and asked for other test to be done. The results showed later of sexual intercourse. I concluded Achiaa had been raped so many times and suffered physical abuse. No one believed that especially when it was known that the two were actually in a relationship and in such case, real intercourse could not be deciphered from a rape.
Kingsley pleaded to take it easy and pay more attention to my child. I refused and filed a case showing dents on Adoma’s skin as a proof but anytime Teye was mentioned, she got nervous and would not even speak. “You need to talk Achiaa, I will not let anyone touch you”
“Are you sure? He said he’d kill me if I tell anyone about it and the pastor said Teye is my actual husband and no other relationship would work if I leave him”
“Well you will die in this relationship and nothing will happen to you if you talk because I am here and I will not allow anything to happen to you”
And she agreed to do so, so I argued the case in court and Teye pleaded guilty. He was a sakawa boy who took advantage of women spiritually and physically, overpowering their minds and keeping them against their own will. The shocking thing was, these women he kept would not run because they had been told if they even thought of it they would be killed. He took them to Pastors who gave the ladies concortions to drink while telling them that they are only tied to Teye spiritually.
When I informed Mommy about it she looked at me with tired eyes and said, “I have a husband to mourn, should I waste more tears on a child who has only caused us pain?”
But later in the evening Mommy came to visit Achiaa. They both hugged with tears streaming down their faces and possibly for Achiaa, the grief of her father’s death was now hitting her.
MY CHILD WAS A boy and therefore Kingsley agreed to call him after Master Ike. And after the Christening of our baby, Kingsley held me closer. “You’re the best thing that ever happened to me and I am glad I chose you”
“Would it have been better if Achiaa said yes? Was I just a concession?”
He held my shoulders and looked at me with his most serious look. “You have never been a concession. I was wrong to think Achiaa would have been the best and somehow that never happened. You are the best deal that I made. Adoma, I admire you for all the strength you have gathered from the time you came here to now, becoming the pillar and the bind of an almost broken family. What I feel for you is more than love. I am filled with so much admiration for you Adoma”
I looked at his face and the subtle hair that lined his sharply defined jaw. “Our son has your face”
He chuckled quite pleased with that fact. “Nonetheless” he wrapped his arm around me and pulled me closer. “I bet he will have his mum’s noble character”
“I love you, Kingsley” I always have. I quietly added in my head. From the time I saw you at school to the time you grovelled at another woman’s feet to be accepted, I always have.
He cradled my face and pecked on my lips urging my lips apart and taking exactly what he deserved. In the sweet moist corners of his mouth, I also sought for mine.
Akpeteshi– Locally brewed alcoholic drink
Ka- Means ‘small’ in the Sefwi language
Gari– A coarse granular flour made from cassava
Ampe – A Ghanaian sport or game for girls which involves jumping, clapping and basically counting for points scored.
Borfo3- A white man in the Sefwi language
Kontomire– Local Akan name for cocoyam leaves that can be eaten.
Paano– A local name for bread.
#gh #ghanaianwriters #poetry
I had an opportunity to coordinate a writing game online yesterday and it was amazing.
This and some other photo was my “poetic provoking” photo I used for them to give their own poetic description.
Photocredit: pin interest
This is what I pen down! Enjoy!
On the little street
That night when we took a stroll
Basking in the dark glories of the night
And the hazel fire from the street light
The small talk, work, oh this weather
Burns in back of my mind
Nonetheless, the roses you gave me
I left them there to die
Just as the ink on your letters went dry
I waited long enough…
@K O Banahene
photo credit: @Google
LIKE A SMOKE FROM A CIGAR
WHEN CONTAINED, TOO MUCH ECSTASY
WHEN RELEASED, TOO MUCH AGONY
IT’S LIKE THE NEED TO FEEL HIGH
AND THE NEED TO BE SANE AT THE SAME TIME
THIS FINE MIND THAT FILLS MY VOID
ILLUSIONAL TALKS THAT FILLS ME WITH JOY
AND WHEN THE SMOKE DISSIPATES
IT STINGS MY EYES WITH SADNESS AND WONDER
HOW BEAUTIFUL YOU ARE AND HOW YOU MAKE ME CRY
YOU SEE, I FILL THE VOID WITH YOU
AND WHEN YOU DON’T FILL IT ANYMORE
A GAPING SPACE AND SILENCE MAY DEVOUR ME
AND I’M AFRAID
I MAY ALLOW MYSELF TO BE
LIKE A SMOKE FROM A CIGAR…
It’s late and I’m supposed to be sleeping or something else. Honestly I don’t really know what I’m doing here.😥
Ok sometime ago I was speaking to a friend of mine and it suddenly dawned on me how I miss being fourteen. I believe the age sixteen has received a lot of attention that it is the prime age of magical experience. Well some of us consider this to be a bit of clichéd assumptions. For me fourteen was magical. Honestly anytime I cast my mind back to my teen days all I recall vividly is myself when I was fourteen.
The age 14 was truly magical for me. It was the year where I experienced the richness of talents and beauty. (Yes I was very good looking!😂 then, with short crop hair and some popping melanin!)
Although I started writing and reading in class four, the whole writing mantel unravelled itself to me at age fourteen. Those were the moments I could feel my characters talk to me. Those were the times I really could be lost in space creating characters; inner voices which took human forms. They lived in my head and I enjoyed every bit of their company. My characters and words knew me and I, likewise. I always panicked at the thought of myself loosing these company if I do not carve them out immediately. It was crazy!
At age fourteen, my singing voice was flawless, my dancing skills was not that bad, my fluency got me admirers. Everyone wanted to be my friend and every parent in my primary school thought my parent lucky as I was making good grades. At age fourteen, I was the hotcake for the drooling boys and a nightmare for the jealous girls😂😂😂
Really, this is no exaggeration. I am a very honest person. At age fourteen, believe me if I even tell you that kalypo tasted better; tasted like champagne😂
I’m talking too much😂 but I can not help it when I do miss being fourteen, again. When I think of fourteen I really feel sad and refreshed and old and sad and so many other things I can not even understand. Nowadays magic has become some sort of expensive commodity for me. I seek for it everywhere; in humans, in books, in relationship etc. It is just not available on the market now. Life has become sober- too sober and I do not even know if it is good or bad. Sometimes I can not even tell if I am in love or attached simply because I am in desperate need of magic😢 again. Sometimes when I sigh I do not know if I’m just tired in my body because of school work or tired in my soul because I need magic that bad.
It’s 00:44 GMT and I feel so old. So old that I have imagined my chest sagging and my hair thinning out. I’m afraid to even look in the mirror because the mental picture is so glaring🙄
I want be fourteen again, brimming with talents, grace and beauty. If I have to take kalypo to feel it or if I have to dance to Burna Boy’s “Ye” song (which I’m actually doing😂) to rid myself this pathetic cloth of gloom that has entangled me, then I will.
The sad truth is, I am tempted to believe that magic is simply the dreams and aspirations that burned in our hearts so much and kept us alive and younger. They are the dreams that quietly withered away when we stopped holding onto to them or forgot to hold onto them. Magic is simply the talent we thought we could make a career out of but our parents thought it to be foolish ideas. Magic is simply the friends and love ones we had, the friends that made us laugh and laugh with no tears and regrets. Magic is that purest and untainted form of love we experienced even before we felt beards on our chins and small soft moulds on our chest, when we shifted for that favourite person of ours to sit beside us on the school bus.
For me, magic is my lovely girlfriend, Harriet Agyekum🌷 who used to gossip with me, read every bit of the stories I wrote and share yoghurt and Ceci’s friedrice. Magic is my childhood sweetheart💓, Derrol who stole glances with me and escorted me to library several times at Archbishop Mensah Learning Center, as a shy excuse to spend time with me. Magic is that pen-pal I had from Germany, Anna Metzler, who wrote to me on postcards showing beautiful landscapes of Germany, filling my thoughts of going to Germany someday and making me feel sorry about myself as a Ghanaian or even as an African. Magic is every Mills and Boons story I stole and read and fought over with Abla and Priscilla and every Harlequin novels I have read, the numerous letter I wrote to authors telling them I want to be like them (which never got replied😂)
You see, magic could the memories we hold on to as I’m holding on to mine😊 and magic could be what we are even yet to experience, of course if we pursue it. Do not give up on magic! Become whoever you wanted yourself to be. Do not be afraid to bare your soul out to find magic again if you have to (like I’m doing🙄) And finally when you find it, do not be afraid to experience this in its purest form. Let it provoke tears, laughter, any emotion at all. Let it break upon you, like a rain upon an arid ground. 😊💓 Magic is lurking in the very corners you are afraid to go to..
Sometimes when I am caught up in an unhappy situation with mother or father, I needed to pause and remind myself again why I was the favorite son. Then I would conclude that among my five brothers and one little sister I was conscientiously the obedient one. Every weekend I would call home and ask of how they, my parents were fairing and spend almost half an hour listening about the recent death of our neighbor and the impending funerals at our hometown. She would chatter with occasional interruption from my little sister Efe-our only girl and the youngest in an attempt to talk to me too. Other times, if my dad was lucky she would call out. “Papa Benjie! Will you talk to your son?” or “Papa Benjie, Owusu is on the line, he sends his regards” she would laugh because between me and her it was simply a façade to keep her talking about some new gist without any interruption. My mother was like that and I was the kind of son who would receive calls from home that “Your big brother brought me a very big cake this morning as my birthday gift, the whole family is gathered here and I was calling that you pray over it for us”
My father himself will call and give a mild reprimand concerning why I have not called home and whether I had forgotten my weekend duty. He would then add in a brisk tone “Err the TV stations are all gone, your sister touched it again so you will have to teach me how you fixed it the last time”
Yet I found humor in them. It gave me a fulfilling feeling that I was their comfort in this their old age, not even the last born. I understood how they beam at Efe, after all she was the last born and our only girl. I found the brotherly pride too when I was around her, but me, when they listened to my opinion concerning a family matter and looked at my grades, they looked at me with this thing in their eyes; affection mixed with relief and prudence as if to say “At least, this one turned out right!”
During the Christmas vacation, amidst the excitement and festive greetings I was finding rest for myself. School is mostly disagreeable with my body and Christmas was one of the Holidays I took grasp of. I was at home with my brothers, our lanky bodies sprawled on the latex foam when mother entered.
She took in the sight of masculine naked bodies. “Did you boys bath last night? Look at those dirty feet” she poked at one of my brothers who gave a brief snort of disapproval.
“Owusu, will you escort me to a place? I’m going to learn how to prepare zonkom “
I flip my body over so that I was lying on my back. “Zonkomi. What is that one too?”
Mother pauses for a beat and glares at me “It is not Zonkomi, zonkom! zonkom!”
“Ok zonkom” I mimic the pitch of her voice. “What is it?”
“It’s a millet drink. The Hausa people sell them around, have you not seen some before?” She seemed surprised.
“Ah, don’t they sell some in your school?”
I could not imagine that. “No”
“I see” she said quite surprised. “Well wear something and let’s go”
When I finished with everything, mother was already waiting outside. She showed me an envelope with money. “Look, your father dashed us some money for chips”
“Really? That’s nice”
“Nice?” My mother chuckled. “He can do better. Last week the husband of my friend took her and their children to KFC. Is it too much for your father to do?”
I decided to keep mute and refused to answer her. She proceeded on the road leading to the market not even giving me the benefit to give an answer. I concluded it was supposed to be rhetorical.
By the time we arrived at the market, I was a little out of breath from the humid air. All I wanted to do was get out of the scorching sun and the swirling dust particles that clouded the atmosphere.
“Where can we find your Hausa friend Maa?”
“Behind the market. It’s a small green shop but first, let me get some clothes for your father’s grandson”
“Wofa Wise’s son, the one he named after your father” she explained. “They call the child doctor too and I must get him something befitting a doctor. Aw such a bouncy baby boy with bushy curly hair”
The left side of my cheek burned and my nose was really dry. I could only give perfunctory nods as I followed her to the shop.
“Customer customer!” The shop owner clapped her hands when she saw my mother.
“Customer, how are you?” Mother laughed and sat on a nearest plastic chair. “Ei so as for you, you don’t celebrate Christmas err?”
The woman laughed deliriously. She was a beautiful woman; fair skin and a neatly styled bun commonly known as ‘pony’. She had very bright eyes that glistened like there was a film of water on them. “Hoh my sister! You know my husband is not here and I lie alone these days, why would I waste my already lonely days at home. It is better to be at work”
“Of course, of course” Mother laughed with her.
“And who is this young man?” The woman squinted at me then realization hit her. “Is that Owusu? Ei this life! See how a man he has become!”
“Hoh! Customer, as for this one he is still a child” Mother said suspiciously. “Don’t be looking at him like that”
“Ah but I’m too old for him” She laughed bashfully slapping her thighs. “But Benedicta- my daughter is there. Let me give her to him”
“Benedicta?” My mother frowned her disapproval.
“She’s an obroni like me oo!” The woman exclaimed “Hw3! When she comes from America you will see”
“America err?” Mother suddenly seemed interested. I rolled my eyes a little annoyed that though I was the subject matter I was being treated like I was nonexistent at the moment.
Her customer pretended to be adjusting the cloth around her waist in such a manner that says ‘I’m also somebody’
“That is nice but my sister it is not about color, it is about character” my mother scoffed and briskly took her purse “I need nice nice faux tops and shorts for my grandson”
“Grandson?” the woman entered the shop and started to bring our bundles of clothes. She spread them on her old table which was slightly askew. “I didn’t know you had a grandson. When was that?”
“Oh this one was named after my husband” Mother beamed rummaged through the clothes and carefully selected some of them. She would stretch the clothes occasionally voicing “Doctor is a big boy oo. I don’t think this one will fit him. Owusu, what do you think?”
“I have not even seen the child before Maa. Let’s hurry and go, I’m tired” I said very exasperated.
“Owusu” she paused and looked at me. “If you’re tired of me just say it”
“Ah Maa, I didn’t say I’m tired of you. I’m just saying we should hurry”
“My customer these ones are good. Come for your money” She called out ignoring me.
“30cedis for those”
“Ei, not even 5cedis discount for Christmas?”
“Ama-Kye” the trader mentioned my mother’s full name off-handedly evoking a feeling of familiarity too. “Christmas is six days past. And if I was going to act like Mama Christmas, why come here to toil in this dust?”
“Sorry oo” Mother laughed it off. “As for you this woman, you don’t know how to play at all”
The trader took the money and gave a little smile. “You know me; if you continue to play like this you will be disappointed”
“Alright, I will see you later ok. Afehyia pa!” Mother said and got up from the plastic chair.
She stylishly managed to give me the polythene bag containing the clothes and led the way out of the shop.
“Owusu, our husband” the trader said too brightly. “Bye Bye. Take care of yourself for us”
I was a little worried whether responding to that would affirm the non serious marriage bargaining Mother had involved in with her some few minutes ago. Certainly, this cannot be a problem, not when mother was hastily walking away, and I simply smiled.
I hoped, silently in my heart that Benedicta was fair and pretty like her mother. I thought to myself that, it would not be bad at all.
“Owusu do not speak like that to me again in front of that woman” Mother snapped at me the moment I caught up with her.
I was confused. Was it the manner I spoke or the woman? Immediately I said my apologies and kept mute.
Now, I had to remind myself again why I was the favorite son.
The Hausa woman was waiting for us. It looked like she had waited for a long time and expressed her surprise “I didn’t think you were coming after all”
“Forgive me, the chores to do at home are plenty” Mother smiled graciously as though she was really attending to chores at home. “Are you busy?”
“Oh no” the Hausa woman said and adjusted her hijab before bringing us stools. “I thought it was a girl you were bringing to learn”
“Ah, my little girl is very small and so I thought to myself why not him”
I was a bit piqued. I had not imagined that I was not an escort for mother who was supposed to be the one learning this zonkom. Rather I was the student.
Mother sat down. “Sit” she said so flatly. I could not figure out if she was covering any expression of remorse for what she was doing; making me learn how to prepare zonkom or if she was still annoyed with me for what happened at the shop.
I sat down, my face now stoic. The Hausa woman arranged carefully the materials to be used and looked at me. “Fetch me some water in this basin, we will need it”
I did as she said and she begun to mix the milled millet with water. “This is milled millet but it also contains rice and ginger. Are you hearing me?”
“Yes” I answered and my mother laughed.
“Hajia he’s hearing you. Don’t worry about him. You know boys”
“You mix thoroughly kneading every possible lump” The Hausa woman continued ignoring mother. Perhaps she too was a bit annoyed at my mother she had to teach a boy this very domestic activity. “Listen and watch well well. You will do the next one”
She entered into her kiosk and brought another basin, a bigger one. She then placed an old linen over it. Probably too old from straining lots of zonkom preparations. She strained it pouring water on it occasionally when the residues were thick with millet chaff. She was a real expert judging from the swift movement of her hand as she kneaded the residues firmly on the linen cloth to get every possible juice out.
“You can do yours now” she got up and started pouring sugar and flavors in it. “This will make it smell nice” she told me with a twinkle in her eyes. I noticed how slender her nose was fitting in -between two round eyes that looked hollow due the particular curve-in of her distinguished and Hausa-like protruding forehead.
I agreed she was exotically beautiful and smiled back at her.
Mother felt a little left out and so she said. “I want to help with the next one”
“I thought you preferred to sit” I chuckled.
We did it together and could not help sometimes making mother feel unneeded. It gave me much satisfaction too looking at her fumble with the process while I sat there refusing to help. But at the end we got it done and bottled.
We said our goodbyes to the Hausa woman and mother pushed 20cedis in her slender hand. “Use this for water. It could have been much more. But you people don’t celebrate Christmas”
“Oh no” the Hausa woman pushed the money back. “I can’t take it. It’s not a worthy thing”
“Oh really” mother replied and bashfully tucked the money inside her waist wrapper. “I hear you but at least take a portion of the zonkom, for your husband or the children”
“I don’t have children and my husband doesn’t really like zonkom” She laughed. “Don’t worry, I understand you’re grateful”
“Oh you have made me a terrible person by not allowing me to return the favor. Well maybe someday” Mother said and I somehow felt the genuineness in how she slanted her head to her left and how she had one of her hand placed in the other in a pleading manner.
It was difficult trying to balance the bottled zonkom which were secured in a sack. “Buy a car Maa” I said humorously and mother.
Mother looked at me strangely clearly not happy with the joke. “Buy a car? Buy a car? Do I not give all my money for you to go to school?”
I sighed. I had had enough for the day.
“Buy a car err” she continued. “You think it’s easy err, you think it’s easy”
“Maa, can’t you take a joke?”
“Some jokes are not funny Owusu”
“Ok” I simply replied and entered a trotro that had stopped in front of us.
“Where is your mother” Father asked the moment I entered the compound.
“She’s on her way coming”
“Ah, why that face? Did you fight her?”
“Fight her? She’s the one who finds everything I say and do offensive.” I put the sack of zonkom down and started toward my room. “Next time, she shouldn’t take me along”
My father laughed and said after me. “By the way, your brothers have gone to the pool at Madonna, you should go if you are not too tired”
By the time my brothers returned from the pool, fufu and chicken soup was ready and sizzling on the table with a bottle of zonkom each. I heard them make noise as they ate and I heard them comment on the millet drink. “It is not that bad!” Nana, the eldest of my brothers said.
“Your brother prepared it” I heard mother say.
A pause, then laughter. “You don’t say!”
“Has our brother become a girl now?” They ridiculed me. “Well it’s not that bad”
They entered my room and I pretended to be sleeping. “Kudos man!” One of them slapped my back. “He’s sleeping I think” he said and they left the room.
Next year, I have only one resolution, not to be anyone’s favorite I silently vowed among the numerous usual vows we make every new year. I will try to get a girlfriend too, maybe Bendicta. I smiled to myself. Better still I should just move to America and marry her myself. Sighs. America. I needed to travel. I suddenly thought to myself. Before, I had wanted to do my internship abroad in Canada. My uncle who was there was supposed to help me go there. He failed. These uncles and their weak promises.
I should just study hard and get good grades that will grant me job opportunities abroad. Ghana is too hard. Benedicta should wait a while, two years from now, then, maybe I can marry her. Right now I need to focus.
I heard my little sister shout my name. “Owusu! Come and let’s do “All I do is win!”
I sprung up and left the room smiling. Everyone in the family adored Efe. She flanged herself at me giggling.
“Has it come?” I caught her.
“Yes” she nooded and took my hands “Hurry up! It’s on TV “
We stood in front of the TV doing our favorite dance as she sung joyously. “Amastelaya! Amestaleya!” Instead of the actual lyrics as ‘And they stand up, And they stand up’
“Come and bath, we are going to church” Mother entered and took Efe. “Owusu my son, are you still angry at me?”
“No” I replied her using my monotonic voice.
“Mmm your food is on the table. Won’t you eat my food again?”
“No Maa, I’ve not said that”
“Ok. I think you should see your father now. He has something to tell you. She said in a lowered tone making sure my brothers did not hear.
It felt important.
“Daa?” I entered Father’s room.
“Owusu, come and see” He too, spoke in whispers. “Come and see what one of your uncles in the States just sent me”
I took his mini sized tablet that he was so proud of, so much that he never brought it out of the room. It was always secured in his bag. One of his friends had given it to him when he came from America. “Handle that thing with care”
“How can I forget” I chuckled.
The message read.
HAPPY HOLIDAYS MY BROTHER! I TRUST YOU ARE FAIRING WELL WITH YOUR FAMILY. MY WIFE IS NOT DOING SO WELL I’M AFRAID. THE WINTER IS A BIT TOO MUCH FOR HER. YOU KNOW HER CONDITION. I’D LIKE TO COME TO GHANA AS SOON WE ENTER NEXT YEAR BEFORE THE WINTER GETS WORSE. I’M BRINGING HER OVER TO SPEND SOME TIME WITH HER MOTHER.
Father replied him.
OH YES AND I HAVE SOME GLORIOUS NEWS TOO. I HAVE GOTTEN MY PAPERS NOW!
GLORY TO GOD, MY BROTHER!
Father replied again. He was the kind of person who talked in briefs.
I WANT TO BRING SOMEONE OVER WHEN I’M GOING BACK. TAWIAA HAS DISAPPOINTED US SO I’M AFRAID I WOULDN’T WANT TO BRING OUR BROTHERS OVER. I THOUGHT I SHOULD JUST BRING OUR SONS. KWABENA I’M TERRIBLY SORRY I HAD NOT HELPED YOU COME OVER. THERE WAS TOO MUCH PRESSURE HERE DUE TO ISSUE WITH MY PAPERS. I HOPE YOU UNDERSTAND.
Father had typed
I THINK IT IS TIME I GIVE PROPER THANKS. I’D LIKE TO BRING ONE OF YOUR SONS WITH ME WHEN I’M GOING BACK TO THE STATES. WHICH ONE WOULD IT BE?
Without any lengthy text I saw my father had typed: OWUSU
OWUSU? WOW I HAVE ALWAYS LIKED THAT BOY. I HOPED YOU WILL CHOOSE HIM.
I’M VERY GRATEFUL, AGYEMANG.
IT’S NOTHING KWABENA. OWUSU IT IS. IS HE DONE WITH SCHOOL?”
JUST A SEMESTER TO GO
OK THEN WE WILL LEAVE THE MOMENT HE GETS OUT OF SCHOOL. I HAVE TO BE BACK IN THE FALL WITH MY WIFE.
OF COURSE. I’M VERY GRATEFUL TO YOU!
IT IS GOD WHO IS DUE THIS THANKSGIVING KWABENA. PLUS I OWE YOU THIS MUCH.
I looked at father. My tongue was suddenly heavy in my mouth.
“Say something err Owusu” Father prompted. “I trust you this much. I have five sons but I chose you the last but one. Don’t disappoint me ok”
I still could not talk.
“You are a good boy and you deserve this. You’re the apple of my eye Owusu. Don’t disappoint me” He grabbed my hands in his. “When you go, work haaardddd my boy! And come and look after this family. You are our only hope Owusu. Come for your sister. Look after her oo Owusu. We need you this much”
Outside churches were gathering themselves to have their most biggest last service of the year. It was the service for the part time Christians, as Kofi Kinata had said in his song. I was pretty sure the known members would not get seats to sit on since church would be heavily packed tonight. Every pastor was probably charging up to usher their members into the new year. The faint testing of microphones from the nearest church reached my eyes. I could hear my brothers’ shout and Efe’s squeal once in a while. I looked at father. He suddenly looked old and I noticed the weakness in his grip. He was just a man who was growing old and feeling the pressing need to off load duties to an available vessel. I felt small and tired. But when I looked into his old wise eyes, it glistened with trust. This was also a man who loved his boy to very core, wanted him to be successful and had taken a risky chance to do that.
What would my brothers think and feel? Left out? The eldest, Nana, would probably be jealous. He was that kind of brother to even express hatred if he hears this news. I think father was aware of this much and was willing to face it.
I realized, as this was an opportunity for me, it was also a big sacrifice father had taken for me.
“Owusu! Say something, my boy! Speak up” his grips became firm.
I gulped down the reeling emotions. “Thanks Daa. I will never disappoint you”
He left my hand and relaxed. “Your mother tells me you made that thing. What do you call it, Wonzomi?”
I gave a weak smile. “Zonkom”
“Zon-kom” he stretched the word. “Very nice”
TEARS ON A KISS
( A dialogue poem)
K O Banahene©
Photo credit: @Google
~…thank you for encouraging me to write again.
Darling, kiss me here
Darling, kiss me there
I will imbibe all sweetness with no fear
I will take only what is mine, my dear
Let me swallow your sighs
And all the tears from your eyes
Oh no! Tears on a kiss
Ah! No bliss
Yes, you know now how bittersweet love taste
Let your caresses be of no chaste
Please love me with no haste
Will you leave me?
Do you love me?
Yes! My love, yes
The love I have for you runs so deep, its depth you can not guess
But I have another
Whose love is like no other
Tarnished glint of our ring!
Has someone already taken the crown from the king?
Hush my love, in my heart you are still a legend
Do not feel threatened
Is my love not enough?
Why do I face such rebuff?
Your love has no flaws
There is no cause
Then what do I do?
Why do I sense a storm beneath your cool?
Just kiss me here
Kiss me there
How can I?
I want to die!
Do not die, I plea
There is no honour in such deed
Then tell me we have now and ever
We have now, yes but not forever
My heart beats for you
And I love you
Do I have to tear for you my beating heart from my chest?
No, that is not my quest
But then, my heart will beat twice for you
For such will be the ordeal of a woman who loved you
A/N: Happy Holidays everyone!
This is just a delivery of a promise and to be pardoned for not updating the impending story #ZONKOM.💥
It’s a bit slow here so pardon me…🙏
Tomorrow @20:00GMT, releasing the newest piece #ZONKOM💥 Just a fun read for New Year and specially for you to enjoy!
Don’t forget to like, share and comment as always!
I love you!😘
I sat across a dinner table Ase had reserved. I wondered how he was able to afford this. I noticed a couple two tables away and I suddenly felt out of place considering how the lady was dressed. I had no make up and made a mental note to learn as soon as I complete school. I touched my cropped hair and wished I had taken my sister’s wig.
“Anything for you please?” The waiter approached.
“Uhh no, I’m good” I said nervously.
“No, she’s not” A voice interrupted. I turned to look and there he was, Ase, the famous Ase. He looked at me and grinned. He was brewing with confidence and I could not help but roll my eyes.
“Give us something to drink for now” He said to the waiter.
“You still look you…sweet looking and all” He sat down and stretched his legs.
“Yes, yes and yourself, dashing and of course your big head” I blinked my eyes dramatically.
“You still blink like that when you are being sarcastic” He laughed. “I miss you Afia”
I took in calculated breaths as he looked at me intensely looking for a reaction to give me away. “Stop doing that”
“What?” He pretend not to know and I laughed.
“It’s certainly nice to see you again” I admitted
“You still look beautiful and natural”
“Thank you” I graciously replied.
The waiter came in with our drinks and we started to sip.
“How is your Christmas going?” I asked.
He smiled and shook his head. “Uhh you know me, I don’t do Christmas Afia but maybe…for your sake” he said and lifted his glass towards me. “Merry Christmas. You know..”
He took out his phone ” I saw this on my Facebook wall and I can’t help but agree”
I took the extended phone. It was a gridded image of an Egyptian god, Horus and of Greece, Attis, Krishna of India. Mithras of Persia and then Jesus Christ. They all had some small history of their birth and life beneath their photo.
“Amazing they all have the same birth story as Jesus”
“Ok…?” I probed feeling a hit disappointed that this Ase was the same as he was, physically and mentally.
“So I am saying as for me I don’t know which is which so I keep my cool. This is why I don’t do Christmas” He took drank the remaining of his drink in a healthy gulp and poured himself another. ” it’s either these people are lying or you Christian have been lying to us all these while” He looked at me for response.
I folded my lips and gave a tight smile. Clearly he could sense my disappointment.
“Ok Afia, I’m sorry”
“So it was a lie when you said you celebrate Christmas. Was it to lure me here?”
“No! And Afia did you really come here because I said I celebrate Christmas now?”
“No” I took a deep breath. I am here because I just wanted to see you. Nothing more, nothing less. Just see you and have fun but apparently this is a mistake”
“No no no! Of course not. I wanted to see you too Afia. You know what…?” He beckoned at the waiter.
“Let’s order some food and eat. I have a surprise for you even”
I noticed the plea in his eyes. He was thoroughly sorry. “Ok”
“Ok?” He reached for my hand ” I’m very sorry.
“Ok” I nodded and allowed him to squeeze my hand
The meal was a sumptuous one. The usual Christmas dish- jollof with chicken with a bit of salad preparation. And the wine he ordered afterwards tasted heavenly. We laughed and touched hands a lot. It was Ase, he liked to touch or perhaps the wine, it made me light and free.
Nothing really mattered but I suddenly realized my curfew mattered. I must be home before 20:00GMT.
I looked at my watch.
“Oh no” Ase said ” Let’s get you another surprise.
“Then I think we should start getting on with the surprise”
“Yes yes” He stood up and fetched for money for the bill. This one here is now a man. I thought quiet impressed. I’ve known Ase even as young as 16years. He was just a cafe boy helping his brother with his cafe shop while he helped fixed faulty computers. Now this was a man who took care of bills.
******* ******* ********* ******** ******* *******
It was not much of a surprise. Going to church was no surprise and this was some of the reasons why I hate surprises. It sometimes is not a surprise as it is intended to be. It was an evening Christmas service and we were just in time for the danceables from the singing band as offertory was being taken. Everyone was in a festive mood and I think Ase felt that too. Or he pretended to be.
He begun to dance and took my hands to dance with him. “Afehyia pa! Afehyia pa! Afe nk) m3to y3n nso bio…”*
I was too tired to dance but I laughed with him anyways “Oh Ase!”
“Now give your offertory” I said to him when the usher came around with the offertory basket.
“Of course” He dropped his offering.
I dropped mine. “We should get going, my mum will be upset”
“Ok” He nodded and we made our way toward the exit.
For some reasons we held our hands as we walked along the road.
“I miss you Afia… Please come back” he muttered.
We were getting close to the trotro station to pick a vehicle. Few street light scattered along the road and some were not functioning.
I stopped in my tracks and looked at his face. Beads of sweat dotted his large forehead, his upper lip and his shirt clung onto his body in sweat. I touched his forehead before I could stop myself. I started to wipe the sweat with my hand. One last swipe at his upper lip with my thumb I smiled sadly “Oh Ase”
He smiled too and a single tear trickled down his cheek. “Please come back. We will do a lot of Christmas if we have to. I don’t mind Afia”
“I think you know it’s not only about Christmas, Ase”
I clasped his large head in my hand and tipped slowly on my toes to peck his lips.
I hesitated waiting for a reaction. His lips was cold and his body was limp. It was as though the last wind had left him. The noise in the street was louder now.
“I just can’t Ase” I said quietly. “Ase…”
“Go Afia… Just go” He finally voiced out.
“Bossu! Madam! Mo k) Abuakwah anaa?”* The mate from a passing vehicle shouted.
It seemed like an escape. “Aane!”*
And shameless as I was or ashamed as I felt I let go of his hand and started to ran to the trotro.*
I did not just ran, I fled.
And when I did, I did not turn and did not look back. I was scared my legs would fail me if I turn and I was relieved my strength was in tact. I was sad for myself, for Ase. Nonetheless I was hopeful for a clean future. The future- it glowed in a tiny hole with promises and as I ran it got bigger and brighter. It was a glow of many more life to live even though I felt dead now.
Ase and I, it was not just about Christmas or Christmas misconception. It was about identity and purpose. It was about the kind of love that you love and you still find yourself. The kind of love that geared toward a certain vision. I needed more than attraction and Ase could not promise that. I could not accept to live in moments while they last as Ase was offering. It would be like living in a castle built on desert sand. Loose foundation can not stand against storms so I ran harder and willed myself not to cry.
Sometimes when you hold on to something that does not really exist, you miss the actual thing so I ran embracing the painful flashes of sweet memories I was leaving behind.
This particular one pierced my soul. The one Ase was singing Goodbye My Lover by James Blunt.
“Did I disappoint you?”
“Did I disappoint you…? Or..”
“Gadammit Afia!” He laughed. “I’m singing”
“Oh I thought it was a question you were asking” I teased him. “You know I cannot differentiate between your singing voice and your talking voice”
“Really?” He laughed.
Goodbye my lover, Goodbye my friend, You have been the one, you have been the one for me
I’m so hollow baby, I’m so hollow
I’m so, I’m so, I’m so hollow…
I sat in the vehicle and begun to weep, just as I felt relieved I was so hollow. How was that possible. This I guess is what happens when you experience something so pure as Ase’s love yet very disheartening as it ends because it lacks a path.
“Madam are you ok?” The mate asked concerned.
“What has happened, did someone die?” He became more inquisitive.
“Yes” I lied “My grandmother”
“Oh sorry sorry. You relax er, I will take the money later”
I could hear Ase’s faint shrill voice as he sings:
Goodbye my lover, Goodbye my friend, You have been the one, you have been the one for me.
1.“Afehyia pa! Afehyia pa! Afe nk) m3to y3n nso bio…”*
-Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas. May another year come to meet us again!
2. “Bossu! Madam! Mo k) Abuakwah anaa?”*
-Boss!Madam are you going to Abuakwah?