But It Claws Its Way Out

                                                                 
“Beloved, we are gathered…” 

Sekou was shaking. He was grateful his suit was several sizes larger his size, so it wasn’t so visible. His palms were slick with sweat; he couldn’t wipe them on his trousers anymore, or they’d start looking moist, like he’d wet himself. He did, incidentally, feel like wetting himself. Be brave, Sekou

 “The two families have been waiting for this glorious day..” 

The man’s voice sounded miles away; he couldn’t hear anything over the blood pounding in his ears. 

Sekou, be brave.

His mother’s childhood mantra. He would come running home in bruises, after the older neighbourhood boys had beaten him up, or after someone in class had confronted him and he’d fled, and his mother only ever had that to say. Fight back, be brave. He never did. He had hated himself for it all his life, but he could not bring himself to stand up to anyone, always taking the conciliatory way out. If anyone so much as raised their voice at him, he cowed, and spent the next few hours burning with mute resentment. And here he was now, unable to run, unable to do anything but stand waiting. He’d been instinctively throwing panicked glances at the front pew where he knew his parents sat, but he wasn’t wearing his glasses; it was all a blur. 

He was not prepared for this. He was not ready to be married, and especially not to this woman.

 Why was he still here? 

The belch of the organ swelled in volume all of a sudden, and the procession entered, his wife-to-be demurely walking behind two flower girls, hand in hand with her father. She looked beautiful, Agyeiwaa. She’d collected ridiculous sums of money for the dresses and cakes and whatever else she’d gotten (“12,000? For a dress?” She’d coldly replied with,”You don’t know anything about weddings, do you?”) and left him in quite a bit of debt. The dress wasn’t worth 12,000 cedis, but it was certainly flattering, with the way it lightly emphasized her curves. He thought he heard a few whistles from the back where his cousins sat. He would’ve been amused another day, but today his face was taut with fear. He wasn’t hiding it. Grooms looked emotional when they saw their brides approaching sometimes, he knew, so perhaps they’d ignore it, applaud him, even. 
Agyeiwaa would know, though. She was halfway across the hall now, and her face was veiled, but he knew what he’d find when he took off the veil; a disappointed sneer. Was he really marrying this woman? 

                                                                  ***
Agyeiwaa walked leisurely down the aisle, head modestly downcast, watching the grey petals thrown on the carpet ahead of her. She was aglow. This was her day! Her wedding day! She looked around; it was perfect. She hadn’t gotten round to selecting the organ piece and it sounded gaudy, but she could forget that because everyone’s eyes were on her dress, and the cathedral was the one she’d fantasized about since she was 8, and her father looked so happy it was silly. 

Everything was perfect.

Her eyes finally rested on her fiancé. Sekou looked like he was waiting for his death. That was fine. It could ruin your mood to be walking down the aisle to a man who looked like he’d rather be anywhere else, but Agyeiwaa had always been nothing if not pragmatic. One took what one got in life. He wasn’t the most courageous man, but he was smart, and he would succeed. He’d even been romantic back when he was trying to get her to sleep with him. She wasn’t bothered so much; they had the rest of their lives. He would learn.

It had saddened her a bit that fate had saddled her with a weak man, but she was not greedy. She knew how lucky she was that everything else had fallen into place. Now, look at her, 2 months pregnant, marrying a successful man in the making, well on her way to a stable home. She wasn’t completely sure the baby was his, but what did it matter? One did not take a woman to bed unprepared for all possible consequences. So he’d accepted her proposal (after begging, shouting, threatening, everything, really, to get out of it) and now they were almost married.

She stared at his terrified face through her veil, and smiled a little pitying smile. More and more, recently, she’d wondered how it would be, always so afraid of life. She sympathized with him, loved him, even. He was a spineless fool, but he had a way about him. She thought of how her uncertain past was clearing up into a clear future, and her smile widened into a grin. She wanted to break into dance. 
Sekou had been truly brave in his life just once, the night before. What he’d done made him physically sick just thinking about it, but earlier that day Agyeiwaa had attacked him again for money, shutting down his protests with taunts about his manhood. He’d seen a picture of what the rest of his life would be; day after day of aggressive demands, pushing, draining him of his money for herself and soon for a child he was sure wasn’t his, for the entire length of his life, till he broke down and died of misery. 

So he’d manned up and did the brave thing. 

But here she was, still, gliding to him like a scepter amidst the chatter in the church. She was still here. He was so frustrated he almost felt like crying. 

She stopped and turned to face him, head slightly bowed. He bent and lifted her veil. For a second her beauty rocked him, contempt and all.

“Who gives away the bride..”

“Does anyone have any reason..” 

The priest spoke and he went through the motions, woodenly. 

                                                         ***

Agyeiwaa’s stomach rumbled, and she pressed her hand to her abdomen. Was it the food she’d eaten this morning? She would sue the hotel if she had an upset stomach, today of all days. She hadn’t even bloody ordered for the food.

“We shall proceed to the vows. Kindly take out the ring, my son. Please repeat after me.” The priest turned to Agyeiwaa. 

“I, insert your name…” 

“I, Agyeiwaa Aduhene,” her voice shook a bit, like she was scared. Agyeiwaa never sounded scared. Sekou look more closely and saw her face was coated in sweat. Her eyes were getting bloodshot.

“..take this man, insert his name..”

“Take this man, Sekou Adidi..” She felt dizzy, and her throat was clenched. She opened her mouth to speak, and all that came out was a whisper. What was happening to her? “I..l..” She was swaying now, unable to stand. Sekou reached out and held her by the waist, curious. The people were shouting now. Her family was on their feet, and her mother made to come forward, but he held out his hand. He was a doctor, he would take care of this. She sagged into his arms, little moans of pain escaping her. Whatever was happening to her was taking effect quickly. He checked under her eyelids and alarm clouded his features. 

He shouted, “Someone get a car out!” but he knew it was futile, as the priest hoisted up his robes and run outside. The sides of her mouth were beginning to froth. His heartbeat skyrocketed. Her skin was turning clammy in his hands, and he looked around for something to help, knowing there was none. He raised himself up into a crouch, holding her. Tears flowed down his face, tears of self-disgust and relief.
Agyeiwaa’s throat felt like a demon was sitting on it, choking her to death. She kept gasping for air, her eyes wildly looking for help. Her husband was holding her, uselessly crying as usual, doing nothing. She was trying desperately looking for some way to communicate that he should do something, anything, when she realised his mouth was not twisted in grief. He was grinning.

What was…Why? 

The shock took out what little air was left in her. She tried to squirm out his grasp, but he held her firmly, looking to the rest of the world like he was protecting her.

She’d assumed one of her bridesmaids had ordered the food for her yesterday, so she’d taken just a little so she wouldn’t be bloated in her dress.

Him?

It wasn’t possible; Sekou did not have the balls.

But she looked into his eyes and saw the truth. She used the last of her strength to try and shout at him, but her throat would not oblige her. Darkness overcame her.
Sekou held her till the shudders and squirms stopped, and watched her lips struggle to mouth, “Coward!” before the lights went out of her terrified eyes. Her entire face was inflated. She looked horrifying, and the contrast to how beautiful she’d looked earlier almost amused him. 

Yes, he was a coward, but this was the bravest he’d ever been, so he didn’t mind. He gently let go of her body, and looked up. Everyone was on their feet, most of them just looking confused at how quickly things had progressed. He slowly shook his head. “She’s gone. I think..I think she was poisoned. What did she eat? Oh my God,” his face crumpled.

 She’s gone.

 He wanted to break into dance.

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Oldies


I saw a girl yesternight, a girl in a short black dinner dress. I was standing on my balcony and I saw her crossing the road to the taxi rank opposite the hostel. It had just gotten dark, and the street lights had taken on that brownish glow they get sometimes when the bulbs are about to die, so the brownish light danced across the flow of her skirt and her heels, and I thought I could hear the clack clack the heels made against the street but I couldn’t be sure. When she got to the other side of the road, she stopped and turned around, and I almost stepped back into the shadow of my room, but of course this was silly. It was 9, she couldn’t see me. Besides, this was pent. Staring at a girl at night on a university campus wasn’t uncommon, not to mention the were a few drunk boys around making noise, catcalling. The whole scene looked a bit like one of those oldies; a lady in a hurry in brown light and boys milling around and shouting and a lone protagonist standing at his balcony, lonesomely gazing on. What was it the protagonist did in these movies?  

I’d just read a quote by Bemjamin Mee; Sometimes all you need is 30 seconds of insane courage, and I promise you, something great will come of it. So, half groggy from sleep, in a singlet and very worn shorts, I looked back at the slightly stirring figure on the bed, and I skipped off the balcony and run across the street after her, fully aware how crazy I must look. She walked fast; I could barely see her outline as her shoes clacked away. I slowed to a fast walk and thought of what it was I’d say when I finally caught up to her. Something probably witty “Forgive me, I don’t usually look this homeless,” or maybe something fake deep. “Your hair looks nice. I came here to tell you that.” Yes. Yes, I’d say that. But when I got close and tapped her on the shoulder and she whirled around (real fast, like this part of school was known for rape attacks), I basically just held up my finger as I gasped for air, which was a bad start, and then I followed it up with, “your shoes,” pant, “Your shoes sound like a song.” I was an embarrassment to my literature teacher. She looked askance at me, still uncertain if I was deranged or just thirsty. And then she turned a bit more and went, “Mm..Okay?” 

Ah. I was confused for a second. Mm? Mm ok? Was this a wine tasting?

She still looked a bit confused, and then I realised (again) that I was in a singlet and must look like one of the boys hooting at her earlier. This had not been well thought out. Anything else I said would probably only make me look worse. So I just said, “Yah. So..bye.” And fled. You lied to me, Benjamin Mee. Something great did not come out of anywhere. 

I left her that way, still partly turned and looking puzzled, like this was a dream and she wasn’t sure if she liked it yet or not.

On my way back I saw the lightbulbs had finally burnt out, all but one, shining a circle on the coal tar like a huge torch. I walked into the light it cast on the street, and skipped on it, the way they did it in the musicals. It burned out a few minutes later, leaving me drained in the dark, boxers and all. My chalewote pattered on the tar as I walked back to my room. Anshelly was probably awake. I wondered whether to tell her I was tired of this. 

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ON THE CONCEPT OF BROKEN HEARTS

 

 I heard once, that moths                                They fly round and round my lightbulb          Till their wings die                                they think it’s the moon 

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Cosmopolis 

​I’m sitting at the back of a car, parked by the sidewalk, and life is bustling around me. People are in a real hurry. It’s 9, and I’m guessing most of them are late for something. Morgan is very uncomfortable at the front seat; I can tell by how he’s constantly fidgeting this way and that. He would’ve turned and asked me when we were leaving a long time ago, but I haven’t encouraged a cordial relationship. I would be uncomfortable too, parked right in the middle of such a dominantly (poor, violent) black neighborhood in a white limousine. Death wishes don’t come any clearer than that. I initially got Morgan as a sort of joke, you know, a black man from the ghetto with a white driver who’d try to act black to please me and all that. After a while I got bored of the routine, but I kept him anyway because I sensed that it pissed off my white business partners that my driver was white, and really, why lose an opportunity to amuse yourself?
I park here, sometimes, and just sit and stare at people rushing by. I don’t see anybody rushing anywhere, where I am now. Everybody moves like they know what exactly their next move in life is. Office. Meeting. Limo. Home. Bed. Limo. Bar, probably. And so on. Which is mostly true. It’s also mostly true that they couldn’t rush even if they had to, with their excess weight hanging off their torsos. Excess. It’s the first thing you have to get used to with money. The hardest, too, in my experience. To go from not having enough to having to dump things because you can’t keep them, well.

Right now there’s a boy,about 19, shuffling by, hands deep in pocket, eyes swinging this way and that like he’s waiting for something. Twenty short years ago, I was him, the boy walking quickly towards the traffic lights. If there’s any similarity between us, he’s probably not going anywhere, just really hungry and looking for something, anything, really to do. Nothing legal; that word is a joke around here. The boy’s eyes dart quickly from side to side, then he crosses the road. I really hope he’s as similar to me as I think. I was focused, determined, but that’s in abundance all around here, regardless of anything the media will tell you. We’re not all lazy cocaine addicts waiting for our next opportunity to get food in jail. But I was talented with numbers.  Could run numbers, play with numbers, predict numbers. I fought my way on out of here, found me a gig at the stock market, and the rest is math. 

Still, I appreciate this place. I don’t have that distant disdain most people who have struggled out of a place have for it. I’m not fond enough of the place to go around giving out money and advice, but I pass around occasionally and hope some radical change has started taking place. Pretty stupid, pretty selfish, maybe. But I’m no philanthropist. The place may not disgust me, but it’s left its mark pretty well. Just yesterday, I was with my therapist( Mandatory for every worker at the firm, for “workplace stress.” First time I went to see him I spent half the time laughing. It just seems like such a white thing to do, another product of life in excess. I actually like the guy half the time.) and he asked me about the challenges I’d faced as a youth in a dispassionate voice, with his hands steepled under his chin, looking into my eyes like they must’ve taught them in psych school or wherever. I stared at him, and for a second I almost told him I despised him for having had the opportunity to become moderately successful without it being an anomaly, without it being such a superhuman effort that it basically consumed your entire life and left all this residual bitterness and an inability to enjoy what you had except with this righteous I  earned it! sort of anger, and this faint aftertaste that what you had wasn’t really yours, that someone would come along for it. Wasn’t the point of all this money that you became happy? Wasn’t this sort of stress for poor people?                                                             But I smirked and told him it’d been real dandy, imitating some movie star I don’t remember.  

I’m almost done with the bottle beside me. I could tell Morgan to leave now, and I probably have better things to do, but it’s fun watching the man squirm in the front seat. What does he think, someone is going to jump through the half rolled window and attack him? It’s possible, though. Very. I’ll give him a few minutes more, then I’ll leave. Stretch this too much and he might quit, and where else would I find a white malleable driver? I laugh a bit at this, and he looks in the rear mirror.                                       “Anything the matter, sir?” I shake my head and continue looking out. The crowd of rushing people is thinned out now. Did they get to wherever they were rushing  to, I wonder? 

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On the Joys of Motherhood

Gyebi had gotten a tattoo yesternight, while she fell into a worried sleep. Not too worried, because the boy had almost no perception of time, and he was an inconsiderate fool, and she knew all this. Both attributes seemed to have increased since his recent surprising fame. Something about social media videos or something. She’d known he was probably out partying somewhere and forgotten to call. She was tired of screaming at him about it, and besides, they could both tell her heart wasn’t in her threats to leave him if he continued to act like a child. They loved each other too deeply. But now he was standing in front of her bed at 6 in the morning with a partially unwrapped bandage around his arm. What she was seeing underneath it was reddish skin (her heart caught with worry at how painful that must be, then she remembered he did it to himself and got pissed all over again) with something like a skull in black ink. She looked up from his arm to find him smiling like a student showcasing a new painting in class, “Eh? Eh? Isn’t it sexy?Look! It wiggles when I move my muscles.”

   “You don’t have muscles.” The retort came naturally. She wasn’t really thinking. He’d roused her out of sleep (knowing full well that she needed her sleep for work). A tattoo, of all things!
  “Ah ah. I’ll get muscles. I told you, I’ve registered us for the gym o.” He laughed as he said this. She was about to give the standard “With which money?” response, and remembered they had extra money now because he’d got a job. She was still in shock over that one.

She was puzzled. How exactly did he think this was okay? She wanted to beat the lights out of him, but she also needed to go back to sleep, so she couldn’t get agitated. She forced herself to remain calm as she asked, “Gyebi? Why did you get a tattoo?” Even though she knew the answer would frustrate her with its stupidity. For a second he looked honestly confused – like all this anger he sensed was unnecessary – and that was when Mariama lost it. Forget sleep. “How could you do this? I mean, what kind of-  YOU DO THIS KIND OF STUPID THING ALL THE TIME! DO YOU KNOW THE TIME I SLEPT YESTERDAY WAITING FOR YOU!? EH?” She was fully screaming now. The couple upstairs had been woken up, she could tell.

  “Ah, listen o-” His face was slowly realizing he was in trouble.  “And I don’t understand how you came here looking at me like that,” she continued, fully awake now. A part of her mind considered that she must be dousing him in morning breath. “What did you want me to do, pat you on the head?” Honest to God, this boy frustrated her!  

  “Mariama,” He’d taken on a petulant expression. “I got the tattoo as a sign of our love o. Our looove.” He said loove with a wiggle of his eyebrows and a smile, like it was supposed to be funny. Like he actually thought he could get out of this one by joking. How in the hell had she ended up living with this boy? She jumped off the bed and started shouting at him, punctuating each syllable with feeble punches on his chest. “How does a tattoo of a skull smoking signify love, eh, Gyebi? You. Are. Going. Go. Get. This. Shit. Removed! Do you understand me?” 
“Yes, Ma.” He was trying to look appropriately sorry, but he was still smiling, and he slowly brought his left hand from behind his back. He had a brown bag in it. Something heavenly hit her nostrils. 

“What is that smell? Is that-”  He was grinning now. 

“Oh, I’m sorry. What were you saying?”

“Gyebi, I’m giving you two seco-” 
“Okay, okay. It’s grilled chicken. From that chef at Novotel. I was going to start eating it, but, you know, I thought…” He was deliberately looking away now, pretending to try to walk off. 
“Bring it here!” She snarled, and tore it out his hand. Oh God, that man’s grilled chicken. She was practically salivating as she grabbed a particularly thick thigh.
So. He’d come prepared. 
“This. Changes. Nothing.” She said around mouthfuls of chicken. “You’re still getting that removed…” 
But his eyes were laughing now as he nodded obediently. They both knew she’d lost. He’d probably remove it, but then again he didn’t have to. She was his nanny, after all, not his mother.

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Time Flies South

image

Pre-Post; So I’ve been reading Stephen King for a while now. His descriptives are legendary( that guy deserves the cult following he has, I’m telling you), and I tried this to see how much of it had rubbed off on me. Ehn so please read.

Mr. Denzel Danful, reputable accountant of 20 years, stood bent over his bathroom sink and stared intently at his right arm, as he had the night before, and the night before that. He wasn’t a man of discipline, but he was a single unattached man, and he’d been working the same paper shuffling job the last ten years; there wasn’t much to distract you from a routine. So he was home at 7 every day, and at eight every night he stripped and stared at his reflection for an hour or so.

Probably no one in the town had ever seen much of his arm- he was near fanatical about wearing only long sleeved clothes- but if they had, they’d have noticed a faded tattoo a bit high up on his right forearm . It read “Tempus Fugit” in a leisurely scrawl, or at least it used to; hard work at sea in another life had faded it out till it was barely visible, some letters less so than some. The “E” and “G” were completely gone, so it appeared “T PUS FU IT”, like those old neon signs with broken off letters.

He’d gotten the tattoo when he was 16 and living in America. His mother had sent for him to be brought back to Ghana, because his philandering American father “was a disgrace who shouldn’t ever have to take care of any person.” Ghana! He was being sent to some backwater cesspool and there wasn’t shit he could do about it. He could still remember the impotent rage he’d felt. He begged, promised everything he could(and things he couldn’t) but you couldn’t change Elizabeth Danful’s mind with a gun. Once she said something, good luck trying. So a day before he was to leave, he’d gone to a tattoo parlor and gotten a tattoo, in a last silly effort at rebellion. His mother hated tattoos; they were a symbol for everything that was wrong with the youth. But even then he’d chickened out, and tattooed on one of her favorite sayings. He figured she’d be mad but eventually forgive him. “Eventually” turned out to be two years- the woman was bitter- but it was worth it. For years, afterwords, he’d looked at the tattoo as his own personal sign of rebellion.

But the tattoo was faded now, and looking at it didn’t remind him of his mother; she’d been dead these last 20 years. It didn’t even remind him of America. He hadn’t ever returned and his father had called exactly twice to ask how he was, all in a week. Nowadays he looked at the tattoo and he remembered that he was 56 years. He might not believe it, but the mirror did not lie. He looked at the tattoo, and it seemed to look back at him like an old man with missing teeth, laughing at a bad joke. Tempus Fugit, huh? Ain’t that a good one. And where did your time fly to, huh, buddy? What exactly have you done? And why not? His life had been a joke, and not even a very funny one. He’d wound up alone and with too much of his dear mother in him. He was bitter, and that impotent rage he’d felt as a child, it lay deep in his belly like a constant ulcer.
He wondered if today was the day he killed himself. He decided it wasn’t, and he stepped into the bath.

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Time Flies South

image

Pre-Post; So I’ve been reading Stephen King for a while now. His descriptives are legendary( that guy deserves the cult following he has, I’m telling you), and I tried this to see how much of it had rubbed off on me. Ehn so please read.

Mr. Denzel Danful, reputable accountant of 20 years, stood bent over his bathroom sink and stared intently at his right arm, as he had the night before, and the night before that. He wasn’t a man of discipline, but he was a single unattached man, and he’d been working the same paper shuffling job the last ten years; there wasn’t much to distract you from a routine. So he was home at 7 every day, and at eight every night he stripped and stared at his reflection for an hour or so.

Probably no one in the town had ever seen much of his arm- he was near fanatical about wearing only long sleeved clothes- but if they had, they’d have noticed a faded tattoo a bit high up on his right forearm . It read “Tempus Fugit” in a leisurely scrawl, or at least it used to; hard work at sea in another life had faded it out till it was barely visible, some letters less so than some. The “E” and “G” were completely gone, so it appeared “T PUS FU IT”, like those old neon signs with broken off letters.

He’d gotten the tattoo when he was 16 and living in America. His mother had sent for him to be brought back to Ghana, because his philandering American father “was a disgrace who shouldn’t ever have to take care of any person.” Ghana! He was being sent to some backwater cesspool and there wasn’t shit he could do about it. He could still remember the impotent rage he’d felt. He begged, promised everything he could(and things he couldn’t) but you couldn’t change Elizabeth Danful’s mind with a gun. Once she said something, good luck trying. So a day before he was to leave, he’d gone to a tattoo parlor and gotten a tattoo, in a last silly effort at rebellion. His mother hated tattoos; they were a symbol for everything that was wrong with the youth. But even then he’d chickened out, and tattooed on one of her favorite sayings. He figured she’d be mad but eventually forgive him. “Eventually” turned out to be two years- the woman was bitter- but it was worth it. For years, afterwords, he’d looked at the tattoo as his own personal sign of rebellion.

But the tattoo was faded now, and looking at it didn’t remind him of his mother; she’d been dead these last 20 years. It didn’t even remind him of America. He hadn’t ever returned and his father had called exactly twice to ask how he was, all in a week. Nowadays he looked at the tattoo and he remembered that he was 56 years. He might not believe it, but the mirror did not lie. He looked at the tattoo, and it seemed to look back at him like an old man with missing teeth, laughing at a bad joke. Tempus Fugit, huh? Ain’t that a good one. And where did your time fly to, huh, buddy? What exactly have you done? And why not? His life had been a joke, and not even a very funny one. He’d wound up alone and with too much of his dear mother in him. He was bitter, and that impotent rage he’d felt as a child, it lay deep in his belly like a constant ulcer.
He wondered if today was the day he killed himself. He decided it wasn’t, and he stepped into the bath.

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