“Faults” by Akosua Brenu.

It was all my fault. It has always been my fault. It was my fault since the first chuckle at your cheesy one-liners and it has remained my fault since then. And now, especially now, it is my fault. At times, we like to go with the flow. You know, treat life like a pot of watery Tom Brown; swirling and swirling to the rhythm of the wooden ladle. And then we go with the flow for so long, we forget to boil and sputter for the ladle to be withdrawn and a lid to be placed firmly above us. We were supposed to be best friends; To be platonic enough to rise above the stereotypes erected in our society. We wanted to remain the example; To teach people that a man and a woman could simply enjoy each other’s company without straying from the narrow path of companionship.

I am tempted to call her. But there is really no need. I do not have the courage to tell a tale that should be kept secret. And even if I tried, I wouldn’t have the right words for an explanation that should follow. The facts are not so simple. Yes, you disarmed me with your tears and your declarations of “I can’t take it anymore.” I had never seen you like that. So distraught that you couldn’t bother to pull out your handkerchief, but rather wiped your soggy face on the sleeves of your Joromi shirt. Again, really, you did disarm me. Coming to me in that shirt I bought for you on your birthday. An innocent present, but a constant reminder of how much you matter to me. Its sea-blue and dirty black patterns on the cuffs depicting our respective favourite colours and suddenly shoveling fantasies into my subconscious.

I should have asked you what she did and at least tried to play Devil’s advocate. But I ignored all the unwritten rules of sisterhood and in unthoughtful haste, sided with you without hearing her crimes. And now, you lie behind me. With your chest bare and heaving harmoniously with your snores as your lower body remains hidden under my sheets. I want to turn around and fall back into your arms. I want us to lie in bed all night and wake up to the sounds of Wofa Kofi’s cockerels competing for the crown of Town Crier. But each time I turn around, the future frowns forebodingly at me. I worry about her. I worry about what you and I have now done to our friendship. I am able to convince myself that you disarmed me, but the truth floats to the surface easily. It is all my fault.

“Kenkey For Ewes” by Edem Dotse.

Evenings with Nkansah would always culminate like this. With horseplay fuelled by alcohol and other substances, sitting in his car parked outside my house. He would talk excitedly about how beautiful the country was becoming, that he felt like more and more like a stranger every time he returned. I would laugh and remind him that the rubbish heaps behind McCarthy Hill were still high as ever. He would smirk and pinch me chidingly.

I sat idly peeling at the corners of sticker on a mug- a tacky gift from the wedding we attended hours earlier. Managing a large rip across the face of the bride and groom, I squealed with joy as he snatched it away from me.

“Why would you do that?” He asked, feigning anger.

“What? It looks better now.”

“Don’t be a hater, Sefakor.”

“Ah? Why would I hate on that sham of a marriage? Everyone knows he’s been sleeping around since they started dating. ”

The mug went limp in his hands.

“Seriously?”

“Eeeeverybody knows. I give them 5 years. Less than 5 years kraa, you watch.”

Nkansah remained silent.

“So negative. This is why my mother doesn’t like you.” He said finally, smiling coyly.

“Nonsense- my mother hates you too!” I giggled, pinching him back at last.

I changed the subject back to Accra. His gestures became animated again, exaggerated in the moonlight as he explained his ideas. This was an exciting time, he said. There was so much industrial potential- acres of arable land that stretched from the motorway to the borders. He would bring investors back the next time around. He was already drawing up contracts and making phone calls to his father’s friends. I smiled faintly.

“You’re not the same anymore, you know.” He stared intensely at me.

“What? I’m a beautiful young woman now?” I said innocently.

“Mtchew. Seriously, I don’t know… just different.”

“Look, I’m proud of you, Nkansah. I always have been. And I have your back… but…”

“But what?”

“…never mind.”

More silence. I began to feel guilty.

“Your food is in the back seat oh- don’t forget.”

I already knew he wouldn’t. Nkansah’s love for Fanti kenkey was both amusing and endearing. His curious enthusiasm for the world he had missed out on growing up in New Jersey rang to me, as experimental, almost tourist like- for the sake of storing memories one would soon leave behind. It was neither a fair assessment, nor a rational train of thought. But nowadays, I didn’t know what to think.

I stepped down from the car and exchanged one last long glance with Nkansah, in the way that old lovers do. He pulled my cheeks finally, trying to distract me from the fact he was unnerved. A little disappointed too, I noted, maybe.

“I have to make some akple for you when you come back…” I said, stroking his shoulder gently.

“Some what?”

“Akple.”

“What the hell’s that?”

I sighed, suppressing my heart warmed smile.

“It’s like kenkey for Ewes…”

“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.

“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 Kojo Nyatepe.

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.