The Door

The house held its breath, the inhalation and exhalation ceased like a noisy TV set that had been muted abruptly. Abrupt, yes that’s the word ; and it hung in the air for what seemed like forever as I actually came to understand and fully appreciate its meaning.

Abrupt : definition-Sudden and Unexpected.

I was distraught and  visibly shaken. My friends had teased in the past about how I sounded like I was laughing whenever I cried ; how I wish this wail would actually transform into a cackle now.

He was gone. They returned from the hospital with the remnants of what he possessed; a cell phone, a book bag, a note pad with illegible writing which he kept as a contact book and other things I was too broken to take note of.

‘What happened?’ I asked in between sobs, ‘what happened to him?’ I asked again.

‘He fell’. ‘He fell’ was the inadequate response that returned my question.

The cell phone begun to ring and for a minute after the ring subsided, we all sat in silence leaving the phone to lie  lifeless as if hoping against hope that somehow its owner would suddenly appear and ask us to hand him his phone.

The Door II

Ghana is a vast country with more than a dozen ethnic groups which in turn have their unique idiosyncrasies and conventions. I am Fante, the year is 2014 and though I believe myself a true daughter of the land, I just found out that ours is a group that has an unwavering respect for the dead. Respect that is palpable enough to make questioning minds  uncomfortable and hence my predicament.

‘The door must be locked for a year’

‘What?!’, ‘Why?!’

‘That’s how it’s done. This is out of respect, it is only after a year that the door can be opened and mainly by an elderly person’

‘I see’. Was the curt answer that escaped my lips.

The door was subsequently locked and day in day out the mystery of the locked door occupied and assailed my thoughts. How could I avoid it when the door stared back at me no matter which entry or exit point I took in the house? By some twisted fate, it seemed as if the door had also begun to purposefully amplify my fears by looking darker and more imposing than ever.

On some days, I wondered if the occupant of the room came by to sleep in. This silly and unexplainable fear of what lay beyond the door was in part influenced by the help who claimed to have heard a distinct shuffling of feet; the same way my grandad used to walk. I dismissed her claims as ludicrous and still went on observing the door; more curious than ever; checking for tell tale signs of any life , activity or occupancy.

Over time, my relationship with the door moved from a mixture of curiosity and stale fear to resignation. A kind of resignation that made one throw their hands in the air and accept their unchangeable fate.

Whatever I did, the door was here to stay.

I couldn’t dismiss the fear and curiosity that gnawed at me. What was I even afraid of in the very first place?! A fear of ghosts? Ha! Who said they even existed? Or Had I read and watched and read too much Harry Potter to the extent that the dementors in the hooded masks seemed real?

I was a mess, I yearned to know yet was unable to ascertain my willingness to face whatever it was if it decided to face me.

Our Near Death Experience with Papa Doc

What makes one stick with a person though keeping their company can potentially bring distasteful consequences? This had been the third time that such an event had happened in the company of our bubbly papa doc. Papa doc had a car that was in the winter of its life. The car made a loud wheezing sound as it sped along the road. Of course, the car turned heads and I need not tell you about how many more heads it turned!  Growing up, I had learnt what an onomatopoeia was and had been taught also to associate the sound ‘vvroooom’ with cars. I only came to fully appreciate the meaning of this ‘vvroooom’ when I met papa doc, and his car..

‘Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down’ – Oprah Winfrey

I guess this quote explained the relationship we had with papa doc and his car; not to mention the fact that on one occasion we nearly got into an accident because unfortunately the prank papa doc tried to play on us turned into a bad joke. That afternoon, we took the Road not taken (Robert Frost) and decided to journey downtown with papa doc. Before we begun the journey, papa doc asked one of us to pray, this was quite unusual very unusual to say the least, yet as religious and unquestioning as we were, one of us prayed. After the prayer, Papa doc literally stepped on the accelerator and made a crazy zig zagging and criss crossing pattern with the frail car! Young, Ghanaian and frantic, all we did was shout ‘Jesus’, Jesus’ amidst pleading with papa doc to stop whatever prank he was playing.

Disgruntled and shocked, we questioned what the  intention of the stunt was. We had only a few more minutes to chastise him for playing with our lives when we realized that the car had begun to move rather slower and with less fluidity. We rolled to a stop in front of a small house only to realize that our suspicions were indeed right! We had a flat tyre! Sometimes, a ride on the bus is worth more than a million papa doc rides! Never again! We shall keep our loyalty for another occasion when it is under less fatal conditions.

 

The Ghanaian Snipper

The light flickered on unwillingly after its usual 12hour demise. These were hard times where everything was out of line. Things had fallen apart and mere anarchy had replaced order and sanity. Streets and street corners were filled with ebony black darkness through which the feeble light of a torch could not even cut.

Dumsor – Dumsor (or more appropriately dum sɔ) (off&on) is a popular Ghanaian term used to describe persistent, irregular and unpredictable electric power outages.

He’d been up scheming all night. His blood shot eyes revealed inadequate sleep and determination. Through the heat and rampant mosquito swatting he’d sat and planned out exactly how he was going to carry out that action.
With giant steps he made his way to the bus station. One look at the man’s face told everyone not to mess with him. The bus conductor had only begun calling for the fares of those headed in the church’s direction when the man blurted out the need to turn down the volume of the damned bus radio! The menacing tone of his voice alone coupled with the Crimson red of his eyes told the driver to not argue but do exactly as told.
‘Yes, church stop, a cedi and  seventy pesewas’ ….
This was the third time the conductor had signaled to the man to pay up his bus fare. The hint of irritation in the conductor’s voice surfaced more than ever before. This forced the silent man to respond.
‘ I will give you the money when I get to the Church stop’
‘No, you need to hand it here and now before you get to the Church stop’
…Silence…
‘Did you not hear what I said? YOU CAN NOT HAND THE MONEY WHEN WE GET TO CHURCH STOP, IT SHOULD BE HERE AND NOW’
The previously servile and willing driver had suddenly morphed into an angry ogre. He stopped the vehicle and was in the man’s corner within a split second. Together with the conductor, they made to aggress the man. Onlookers gathered and in what seemed like a flash, the aggressors had now taken to their heels, shrieking dangerously, arms flying, ‘HE HAS A GUUUUUUUUUUUUUUNNNNNN’
The man did have a gun, a thick ak47, practically the most popular type in Ghana, and was headed for the Church. His plan of action was carefully planned and was indeed simple; to give the president three shots in the head; one for the DUMSOR, two for the resultant crippling of the economy and three for his son who had passed away after having received blood that was congealed and contaminated in the hospital refrigerator also due to the same DUMSOR!
***
‘My son is mentally deranged! He dares not assassinate the president, he’s lost it, pardon him, a mad person can not go to jail just like that, mercy! Reduce his sentence, he deserves to be treated at some far off asylum, or maybe at home, in the loving and caring hands of relatives who can help him get back on his feet, this is a mistake!, NO!’
These were the melange of protests , pleading and counter arguments the mother of the gun  man presented. The man’s mother had every reason to cry, her son had just received a ten year jail sentence, one of the fastest rulings ever passed in the Ghanaian courts and all for attempting to assassinate the President. How we wish other matters of national interest that needed legal attention would be handled as fast as this one.

Keeping up appearances

‘I am ready to die!’ He bellows. Like anyone cares I retort mentally as I roll my eyes. People scramble for life everyday in unstable countries and you blatantly stand here and announce your readiness to die. By all means take the lead, and do not forget to remind us to invite beggars to come get ‘small chops’, hoards of sachet water and drinks from your burial thanksgiving ceremony. ‘ I am fifty eight years and have lived a full life; I am not afraid of death! I have absolutely nothing to lose! When Kwame Nkrumah was building the port city of Tema and placing us in sustainable employment in factories where were you?!’ He continues these rants for what seem like a decade amidst spittle, sweat and foam that gathers at the sides of his lips. This foam! Eww! I can’t stand this foaming. The sight of it makes me sick and I will Myself to clear the image from my graphic mind lest it reappear while I eat later in the day.
‘Look man, you must control yourself and be disciplined, you can’t shout and make all of us this uncomfortable, if you hate the dead goat that much go and attack him personally instead this of gusty portrayal of plain cowardice and frustration’. This makes the old man really angry. He jabs at the younger man’s shoulder and makes to physically engage him. People tear them apart and the angry words continue. ‘Your kind is the group of young kids who die early, 25 years, plastered  on the wall, smiling from an obituary. A still image trapped in time and eternity because yours is the type that keeps up appearances and fails to admit when they are suffering. You sit frozen like statues never admiting your suffering and smiling forced smiles because you are too ashamed to say you are broke. The Dead goat is strangling us and may all who fail to overtly admit it die along with their pretentious lifestyles.’
dead-goatThe Dead Goat – Credit the Black Narrator
‘All you do is sigh and sigh and sigh, no action taken, chin in hand ; all lukewarm like porridge that will grow cold and eventually get chucked. ‘
I can’t help but stifle a laugh; the young attacker of the elderly man is quiet for a moment…
He freezes as he clutches his antiquated iPhone 3 even tighter.