“Airtel Five” by Edem Dotse.

Glasses and Credit- those were the first two things that came into Mawuli’s mind when he woke up. He smelled red earth and felt like he hadn’t taken a shower in days. He lifted his dirt-crusted face and peered around.

It was a full minute before he realized he was lying by the side of a major road, and that was only after the rushing sound of a huge truck startled him into alertness, causing him to sit up. The blazing glare of the sun forced him to shield his face with his right hand. He had no idea where he was. He could not recollect the previous day’s events. The noise of cars whizzing by him confused him even more.

Where was he? Not too far from where he worked, he believed. Yes, he must have been going home, or somewhere in the area. Either that or he was completely lost- he couldn’t be certain. His eyes scanned past the sea of vehicles, looking for familiar landmarks.

Something had happened the previous night. He was sure- or at least, he thought he was sure. He knew it involved glasses and credit, but for the life for him, could not recall exactly what. He tried to form a picture in his mind from fragmented thoughts.

Glasses. He felt inside his coat pocket, but his fingers pinched an empty groove in the silky fabric where the horn-rimmed spectacles should have been. This prompted him to rise to his feet, searching all his pockets. He found a cell phone in another compartment of the coat.

He looked up at the sun, almost in the center of the sky. It was noon. He was hours late for work, and would have to call in and explain. But explain what? He didn’t understand himself.

He hadn’t noticed the construction workers digging around him until just then. Most were minding their business, but some were looking in his direction, and laughing. Instinctively, he moved towards them. They began watching him closely, smiles hidden on their faces. One of them finally said, “Maa Adwoa is not here oh,” and chuckled.

Maa Adwoa. The name registered something in his mind. “Maa Adwoa?” He looked at the fellow. “Where is Maa Adwoa?” He was not sure why he was looking for her. His question went unanswered. He took slow, uneasy steps across the steaming red sand, unable to see properly without his glasses. Did Maa Adwoa have them? Is that what had happened?

No, he resolved. The last place he would have left his glasses was the office, and his secretary would have picked them up. He tried to check the phone for her number but it wasn’t there. His account balance was empty and he could not call anyone.

Credit. It suddenly dawned on him. Maa Adwoa was the credit seller, not too far from his office. He must have been going there to recharge. His pace quickened. He had to get to her, and he knew she was close by.

The sight of the familiar blue hue of her umbrella, albeit unfocused in his eyes, made his heart warm. He began calling out to her, “Maa Adwoa! Maa Adwoa!” He had drawn the attention of everyone around him, but he did not care. He was too relieved. He would talk to Maa Adwoa, call the office and explain everything. Everything would be fine.

Serwaa saw the madman coming again and sighed. It wasn’t that she was not used to it – he came everyday- but it made her morning a little more depressing every time. He was nothing but a slight nuisance on most days. Indeed, Maa Adwoa had insisted that he wouldn’t be any trouble when she took over the stand from her two years ago. Poor Maa Adwoa- she still blamed herself partly for the accident that day that left his mind disoriented, stuck in a loop. Maybe that was why she left.

She dealt with him every day- he was like a regular customer. He would appear in his mud brown suit covered in dirt- a suit he hadn’t taken off for the past three years- asking for credit with a story about his secretary. Then he would attempt to load it into his phone, which of course didn’t work, but he seemed to believe it did. Giving up eventually, he would wander the streets looking for his office, which had closed down years ago as well. He would eventually give that up too -or be escorted away by security- and leave. She didn’t know where he went, but he always came back. She tried several times to explain it all to him, but he didn’t get it. Maa Adwoa tried too. But of course, they had both given up.

“Maa Adwoa.” He called out. She hadn’t noticed he was already by her side.

“Mawuli.” She smiled- the type of smile that hides faint sadness.

“Me pa wo kyew, ma me-”

“Airtel.” She cut him off, as she did nowadays.

“Yes, air-”

“-airtel five cedis.” She handed him a used card. He would not know the difference.

He tried to explain when he couldn’t find any money, but she waved him away. She let him stand under the cool shade of the umbrella, fumbling with his card and his phone. Then she watched him walk away finally, shaking her head sadly.

20 thoughts on ““Airtel Five” by Edem Dotse.

  1. Mind boggling, I always wondered what went through their minds as they walked for miles and miles. I guess I have a gist of it now. It’s sad. This is great Edem.

  2. For some reason the start of this piece made me think it would be poorly written and long-winded but i was pleasantly surprised to the contrary. Loved it.

  3. The beginning was a bit ehhh, but it got captivating and loved the turn about. The thoughts of a “mad man”. That makes a lot of reason. Good work

  4. Juliet says:

    Very interesting read. I love that you started with the mad mans perspective, it gave the story an interesting and unusual twist. I wish there was a little more to his back story however. Maybe the reason for his mental illness? All the same, thumps up.

  5. Rowie says:

    Loved this. The beginning was like the start of a long winded story i wouldn’t have kept reading it if i didn’t know who wrote it. but the twist was great.

  6. Unyc hMensa says:

    Not fair…you never said what happened to him…heartbroken…and wondering…and fighting off that little nagging feeling you get when you read a story that is not quite ….complete.Mmmmmmmaaaaaiiiii!

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