“The Stir” by Emefa Adzo.

Lying in bed, but with his eyes wide open in the dim-lit room, Mawuli stared at the whirring ceiling fan. He shook his head as Mansa’s snores echoed through the bedroom. He turned to look at her curled up in the thick grey covering, and his thoughts immediately transitioned into memories.

*

“My son, I have seen women who are as wild as bush cats. I have seen women with more audacity in their eyes than insolent hunter dogs. But as for this your woman, she is something else.” Mawuli’s father had told him, when Mansa was first introduced to the old man.

His mother had added “Are you sure you will have peace with this woman under the same roof?”

Mawuli had taken offence at his parent’s words, but he controlled himself and chuckled, shrugging off their concerns with “Come on Efo, you trained me well” and “Maama, you have nothing to worry about.” To him, they clearly stretched their antiquated forebodings to what he simply appreciated as Mansa’s self-confidence.

*

He checked the time on his wrist watch. The green hands glowed thirty minutes past five. Mawuli had thought about this for days and, though unsure if he could carry it through, he was bent on giving a try. He had read somewhere that when it came to sacrifices in marriage, a good husband would always strive to litter the matrimonial record books with his altruism. It was even biblical, he remembered: ‘Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave his life for it.’ He sniffled at the thought of giving his life for Mansa.
He gently got out of bed and walked to a specific corner of the room. With determination, he began to dig into the large rotund raffia basket they kept their dirty clothes in. After taking out what he was looking for, he arranged them on the terrazzo floor. He smiled as he counted ten panties and seven brassieres.

Mansa stirred. The twitch-twitch sounds from the basket coupled with Mawuli’s near-perfectly stifled expressions had managed to disturb her deep sleep. She sat up with a frown and laid her eyes on Mawuli. Their eyes met. Mawuli grinned sheepishly. Her eyes darted to the undergarments gathered on the floor.

“What the hell are you doing!” she barked.

“I- err- I wanted to- I- I was looking for my boxer shorts,” Mawuli stuttered. He reached into the basket again and after a protracted second, pulled out one of his own pieces of underwear. He lifted it like a defense counsel’s exhibit.

“Put-my-stuff-back,” Mansa ordered sharply and added a look that roared, ‘I’M WAITING FOR YOU TO DO THIS NOW!’.

“Sorry,” Mawuli replied and gently gathered his wife’s undergarments into a small heap which he lowered into the basket. He watched her curl back into sleep. Accordingly, he picked up his boxer shorts, tossed it into the basket and made his way out of the bedroom. As he shut the door, he heard Mansa resume her snoring.

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“Candid” by Amma Konadu Anarfi.

Dear Lord,

It’s 4am. The entire neighborhood is quiet and those bloody cats are mating right outside my bedroom window, I’ve had to turn the music up although I like to listen to Pachelbel’s Canon with the volume low. Those felines sound too human, Lord, it is very disturbing! Not that I’d rather hear humans do it, but animals should sound like animals.

Anyway about the other day when I wished them dead, I wish I could say I’m sorry. However, I am sorry I am not sorry. Forgive me. It has been hard developing any love for them, those cats; they have lost their sense of decency, it makes me wonder if that is the reason why they sound human. The dogs were much better, why did they have to die when my evil intentions were all directed at those disrespectful scrawny excuses of cats?

Father, I think I need more patience. You keep them alive to test me don’t you? My patience keeps running out. Please keep refilling. I know you are constantly at it. One morning, I was so charged up, ready to poison them and not apologize for it after. When I opened the front door, the tiniest of them all was sitting right there, staring at me doe-eyed. No, it did not break me. Just irritated me!

Which reminds me yet again, I have been meaning to ask you this. If I developed a character in a story, and killed that character, will that be counted as sin? Seeing that I created that character with a real face behind it, and I killed that character so thoroughly, too thoroughly, for it to be mere fiction, and that I relished the kill. I am not a murderer am I? But if I killed those cats I would be, not so? I hate them.

Oh God, about Maurice though, I thought briefly, just a little bit, what a relief it would be if he died. When I heard he had died, I felt like you, yes like you Lord, before I felt sorry. Just a little bit. That is just wrong. I’m sorry. Is he with you in glory? I will be so surprised if he is. I mean he was an ass to his last breath. Forgive me, o forgive these thoughts, but Maurice was the devil.

At the funeral while half the family lied through their tributes and the pastor shamelessly committed him into your hands, I watched; silent, cold inside. I should have read my tribute. But James, who is still not on talking terms with me, tore it to pieces and would not allow me to say it from memory; it was all in my head, word for word. I only wanted to say the truth. Lord he is still angry with me. Is that justifiable? I forgave him a long time ago for not allowing me to vent. I’m still working on forgiving Maurice, so help me. He was after all my brother.

I think that is the only time I have felt that way towards a human, but these cats…these cats bring out the worst in me! Thinking about them has angered me so much I can’t even breathe! I really can’t breathe Father… I should breathe. Lord??? I can’t breathe!!!

Salma folded the letter and placed it back into the chest that contained other stuff that had been her daughter’s. A year gone and she still could not let go. She could still remember that morning, exactly at 6am, when she had gone to her room and found her face-down on the floor, naked, her eyes wide open.

She closed her eyes and fought back tears.

“You really are a scrawny excuse of a thing!”

She whispered, stroking the back of the black skinny cat on her lap.

“Her Story” by Amma Konadu Anarfi.

They all said the story was going to end with the main Character, Sharon dead. They said she was going to break under a thick fog of depression and overdose on some sleep meds. They also said that long before the day she does that, she was going to suffer days and days of therapy, hospital stays…all the times when she’ll stare at her tiny, pale wrists with a hunger so grave she had to marry her skin with steel blades, they had said it will happen.

They said she will not stay in school, what with all the voices in her head, she couldn’t keep a thing of importance in there! She will get herself dismissed for assaulting school mates, teachers…even the janitor had his share.

Her parents were wealthy, they had a name – a standing in society. All eyes were on the family. Their daughter Sharon had to be hid. They said they did…yes, they hid her in a facility not many people knew about. They said it was like Heaven tucked away in the heart of the country, bustling with frenzied activities; they said she was sent off without a tear from her mother, or a final glance from her father. They said Sharon was not even bothered, because she had never really known her parents… she had known the Nanny, the Butler and the Driver; they were her family, they said.

In that facility, there were only cold sheets and metal trays filled with colourful pills and syringes that rattled as they knocked against each other with each step the nurses took. They said she made no friends, made no eye-contact to see what lay in the eyes of the people she found there. She was scared of what she’d see, they said.

It was there that she started painting again and they said it was a wonder to see her grace any canvas with her imagination. She breathed life into her paintings. It was like watching Mozart compose another masterpiece, they said, to see her at it, her hands and apron all stained with colour while she painted out the demons in her head and smiled at them when she was done.

They said she was terribly fond of all her pieces, that she’d sit for hours in her makeshift studio just watching them, a tiny smile playing around her lips, only to be broken by a twitch that caught the nurse’s eye. She was going to lose it again, they’d say. Art couldn’t keep her. So they were right, she seemed to have gone colorblind for all of her paintings turned to shades before her mind and she would run into her studio to tear up her work, piece after piece, screaming out in terror that strum the strings of other people’s hearts.

But they never talked about that silent observer in that facility, that one who one day could not take it no more, who collected poor Sharon into his arms, rocking her back and forth.

They didn’t say how she calmed down and, for the first time in too many years looked into another’s eyes. They didn’t say her tears stopped mid-way down her cheeks when she let her eyes melt into his, they didn’t say. They didn’t.  A year and half of friendship they didn’t say. Sharon fell in love with a man, but they did not say. The nurse had stolen her heart, but no one cared.

They failed, they absolutely failed to mention that he was running errands one rainy evening when the truck slid off the road and ran headlong into a parked trailer, killing him on the spot. They didn’t say what pain shot through Sharon that very night for she knew as if by some divine vision that he was gone. They didn’t say that was the day she rushed out into the studio, pulled out a fresh canvas and laid it flat on the floor, the very spot where they’d first made love, and spilled out all her tears, love, anger, hurt, frustration onto the canvas, a medley of wild, tangled emotions. They did not say.

When that piece of art ended up in a gallery two years later, along with much of her work, no one said that…no one said it. All they said, each time they stopped before that last piece of art that was her very soul poured out, was that they had known it will end that way.

Her parents took charge of all her pieces; they did, as well as all the money that they earned. Yet somewhere, in some foster home, where some of the money was channeled, lived a little girl who had her father’s warm smile…and Sharon’s eyes.

“Why” by Daniel Hanson Dzah.

It is times like these that remind me every day. Each night when we have to buy our Kenkey from different sellers, because you like your bolus very light and soft to touch, and I like mine heavy with a single grain of maize lingering in the cooked dough. Each night, like tonight, I am reminded in too many ways, that I am not like you. I like extra onions with my pepper, you don’t. I like my pepper salty, you don’t. I like my tiny Keta school boys, with a few crispy shrimps sprinkled on my pepper. You prefer a large piece of Red Fish or Tilapia or Kpanla with its gaping mouth begging you to chomp it down in your loud and uncanny eating ways. You will eat noisily, like a newly weaned piglet. Then, nearing the end of your meal, you will crack the fish bones as if you were striking bars on a xylophone. As for you dierr… I just don’t know!

You don’t mind gulping down the fermented milk from Amina’s Burkina and then letting out silent farts in my room till my acrobatic attempts to let in fresh air through the windows attract your unjustified wrath. I am proud to declare that I have never so much as belched in your presence. You often deride my strict adherence to propriety. Do you remember the week before my birthday last year, when I had caught a very bad flu? Remember when I refused your handkerchief and asked for tissue to blow my nose? You remember, surely. No? Well, you dryly reminded me that the pioneer of personal hygiene was knocked down by a borla-car. Ah! Ah! Ah!
Why can you not be like me? Eh? Why? Why?!

Why don’t you call to find out if I’ve gotten home safely after our little smooches in your stuffy bedroom? Don’t you fear God’s wrath might strike me dead before I get home? What if the trotro runs into a tree? Or some drunk driver is used as a vessel of God’s righteous indignation to mangle my body into unrecognisable pieces?  What if some sakawa spiritualists ambush me on that dark and narrow meandering footpath that leads to my house? What if they slit my throat and take out my tongue, or cut my chest and take out my heart? Who else will whisper ‘medofo pa’ as softly as I do, which other heart will beat rhythmically for you like mine does? Eh? Who?
I always trumpet my adolescent warnings to taxi-drivers to get you home safe. And when they speed off in anger after snatching the fare from my fingers, I wave contently at you in the clearing mist from their screeching back tyres. I wait for a few minutes and then I call you to find out if you’ve gotten home. I do this all the time. All the time! I do, don’t I? Yes, all the time. So why can’t you learn from me and do same? Eh? Why? Why?!

Why do I always have to be the one calling to say ‘Good Morning’ and ‘Good Night’? Are ten pesewas too much to spare from the airtime I get you every day? Or do you just find these greetings too formal for your boyfriend? Well, you can just say ‘Hi babe’ and ‘Sleep tight babe’, can you not?
Oh, I forget- you’re not sentimental. You hate all that mush. “The sentiments don’t matter, loyalty and truth are the most important things in a relationship,” you say. Loyalty eh? Loyalty to whom?  Yourself, evidently. And truth? Ah yes, another thing- truth.
You sit there and preach truth because you know you practise it much, much, much better than I do. Of all the things you do, I’ll grant you that. You stay true- true to yourself. You stay true to yourself while I painfully alter my genes to please you. While I constantly fight the need to stay true to who I really am, you waltz through this relationship staying true to yourself and doing everything within your power not to change for me. A bit of me dies every day just so all of you can live freely. You slay me afresh every day and use my blood to wash away the selfishness from which you never repent. Me: Your sacrificial lamb.

There is too much to write, too many emotions to be contained in nouns and verbs and adjectives. My condition is simple. I am tired. I am lonely. I chuckle out my sorrow. I smirk out my resentment. I bite my lower lip to keep me from yelling at you. I clench my fists and push them deep into my pockets till my trousers sag below my buttocks. I am an angry boyfriend. I am a sad boyfriend. I am a pitiful boyfriend.

I wish you would love like me. I wish you would understand like the way I do, what it means to love someone; what it means to give yourself out for the joy of the one you love. I wish you were like me. I wish you would love some of the things I love and hate some of the things I hate. I wish you would share in my interests. I wish we had more in common than our religious love for Kenkey. Even in that, you are not like me; Even in that.

“The Love Nest” by Linda Asante.

The street was empty of the screaming children and flustered mothers. The stalls had all been packed up and put away to the side of the road. The market woman had covered them with bamboo leaves to protect from the sand. It was a vain effort because the dust in the air after the market day settled everywhere, but they did it nonetheless. Consequently the leaves and everything in sight wore gleaming brown coats.

Ebo took long lazy strides, dragging his feet along in the dirt on the street.  His worn out loafers were open in the front showing his dirt clogged nails. He had rolled up his black trousers to expose his extremely hairy legs, and tucked into them his black shirt.  It was stained with blotches of paint from his last job but it was his finest so he had donned it anyway.  Of course, he had undone the first few buttons of the shirt to show off the hairs on his chest. Ebo took out the stick he’d been chewing from his mouth and spat on the floor.  He was getting close. He cupped his hands and rubbed them across his face.  The hair bristles on his face were short and spiky. He hadn’t shaved in days, but the look suited him.  He took a look at his grubby hands, and then hid them in his pockets. He probably should have washed his hands.  No time for that now, he was closer. And she was waiting. He was sure.

He could spot the place up ahead; where they were to meet. It was slightly off the side of the road where a tree stood among the bushes. This tree was special. It was an old one, extremely long and barrelling up to the sky, and yet its leaves fell really low like a rich velvet curtain.  Behind the tree, two thick branches came down and crossed each other creating a hammock-like nest, a love nest.
He saw her waiting for him. There was excitement in her eyes as she sat in the nest, her bare feet barely touching the floor and swinging above the fallen leaves. She was beautiful. Ebo walked faster with anticipation.
He slowed down when he came to the tree, and crept towards it. He would surprise her and catch her off guard. Then they would laugh and roll around in the leaves.

But when Ebo jumped around the tree to where the hammock was, she was not there. He almost laughed out loud. His imagination was very active. Ebo shook his head and sat in the hammock.  He couldn’t believe he had fooled himself to believe she would really come. The corners of her mouth had upturned in ridicule, not excitement, when he had asked her out. How dare he, a painter express interest in his Massa’s daughter? She was only mocking him. He had hoped too much.
Well, all he had to do now was imagine he didn’t really care. And as Ebo pushed off the ground and swung himself back and forth, he could feel himself caring less and less. But he still couldn’t shake off and imagine away that feeling of disappointment.