The radio

Aunty Ama always left even before the sun’s rays could be seen. Sometimes, when her busyness stirred me from the raffia mat, we shared, she was quick to urge me to go back to sleep.

“Kwame sorry wai, go back to sleep, okay, ”

If I did not wish to sleep any more, I would sit up and watch her as she prepared to go to Accra Market. She wanted to make sure she was there before all the fruits and vegetables that had travelled the night from their various destinations arrived. Her job was to help the big shop women unload the products to their stalls. Each time, she would tell me to make sure to eat breakfast and study hard before she left.

Mma Fatia’s porridge was my breakfast spot each morning. Sometimes she would tie it in the polythene bag for me or allow me to sit on the bench with her customers and drink it in a calabash. Aunty Ama had arranged to give her the money when she came back from work. The past 2 weeks since the new term started, my headteacher sacked me to go home. I have not told Aunty Ama about it. I did not tell her the headmaster wanted to see her, nor did I let her know it was because of my fees.

The last time I was sacked for fees, she sold the TV and the plastic chairs we had to the woman who lived across our street. Now all we have in our room apart from the mat and our clothes is the radio. I really like that radio. The radio is the one thing Wofa Kofi loved. He listened, every morning. to the big big english on the radio. I want to be like him. Someday, I will understand all the big words and things those people were talking about on the radio. I wanted to be like Wofa, to teach children too.

I never touched that shiny ash radio until the day Wofa Kofi did not return home. Aunty Ama said he had travelled to America and was not coming back. That day I cried. I cried a lot, but I did not let Aunty Ama see it. I did not understand how Wofa Kofi could have travelled and never told me. How could he have travelled to a place like America and said nothing about it? It was good to keep the radio just in case he came back. Even though Aunty Ama said he is not coming back, maybe someday he will come back, and he will not like it if the radio is no more there.

Now each morning, after collecting my porridge from Mma Fatia, I head in the direction of my school like I always did. What did I do? I would move from Pig Farm to walk around Roman Ridge, Dworwulu, Airport, all those nice areas, after changing my school uniform. In those places, I’m always careful. I don’t know why, but they do not like me being around there.

Once, in Roman Ridge, I sat under a tree counting the cars, when a man approached me and told me to get out of there. I had been doing nothing bad, just sitting there. He was angry and shouted that I should get up from there, or he will let his dogs chase me.

I just left.

The porridge was enough for the mornings, all the walking had its toll on me. But what could I do? I had no money to buy food, and I was afraid to ask people too for food. There had been stories in my area of children who had taken food from a white pickup and had been sick since then. Aunty Ama had warned me to not take food from strangers.

One afternoon while walking around Abelenkpe, I saw some mango trees in a house. The trees had very ripe mangoes on it, some were even on the floor. I wanted to ask if I could go inside and pick those on the floor. I shouted “Agoo Agoo” but no one responded. Then I rang the bell. No one came.

After standing there for a while I thought maybe I can be fast and climb the fence and gather all the mangoes.The fence was low. So, I climbed the fence and went inside the house. The mangoes were so tasty. I ate as many as I could. Then I climbed the tree to pluck some ripe ones to take home with me.

As soon as I reach the upper trunk of the tree, I heard a honk at the gate. I stayed put.

A man opened the gate and drove his car into the compound. The man got out of his car with a dog.

From the top, I could see all the dog’s teeth. The dog had chains, really big ones I had never seen in my life before. It was breathing so loudly. Maybe If I stayed up there and did nothing, the man would go inside the house and I could jump out.

Then the man called out.

“Get down from the tree”

I held on firmly to the tree branch, not wanting to let go. The dog started barking and jumping towards the tree.

Would I ever see Aunty Ama again?

I climbed down.

“What are you doing in my house, young boy” he shouted?

I knelt down and begged him. How was I to tell him this? That I had been hungry and saw the mangoes and came into his house to fetch them? The end had come, but too sooner than I expected.

The man started yelling. Yelling for some Kofi to come.

My ears grew hotter and my eyes overflowed in tears.

Would they take me to the police station?

I could not draw closer to him to beg at his feet. I was afraid the dog would tear me to pieces.

Kofi came. Kofi was a macho man.

He was like those men who always came to Baba Abdul’s shop to sit and play draft. After complaining about how Kofi has been sleeping and allowed me to come into the house. The man asked Kofi to go and bring me food. All this while the dog had not stop barking.

My tears continued. I begged him, tried to tell him I will never come into his house again. My cries choked my words.

The mangoes I had gathered in the black polythene lay scattered on the floor. The man pulled a wooden bench closer and asked me to sit by him. Kofi brought the food, but I didn’t want to eat it. I begged him I did not want to eat it. He took the food and held it in his hands.

“Kofi, take the dog back to its cage.”

The man turned towards me, his face softened.

“God loves you” were the words that flowed from his mouth.

I wondered why he was telling me this?

He squeezed some notes in my palm.

“Buy some food” he added and asked me to gather the mangoes from the floor.

I never forgot those words.

God loves you.

Writing Prompt: God loves you

How I came here

With two bags, two suitcases of clothes to be precise. 

They were overweight. Re-arranged at the airport. 

The lucky making it across the sea with me. 

Years of clothes, clothes that held memories I didn’t want to let go. 

Why so many clothes? You may ask. 

Have you been to those retail shops? 

A blouse costs 30 euros, 30 euros! 

Clothes are expensive. 

The last thing I want is my money running out on shopping sprees. 

But they were primarily summer clothes. 

Yes, two bags full of clothes for the summer. 

To dwell in a country of four seasons. 

A country where the winters are coldie coldie coldie as my son describes coldness. 

What was I thinking? 

Was I prepared for this new life? Or refusing to face it truthfully? 

I didn’t even have a winter jacket. My confidence drowned in the summer semester, typed boldly on my admission letter. 

“Why is it so cold?” I asked the administrator at the international students’ office when I arrived to register as a student. 

“I thought it is summer” I added. 

If she did answer my strange and stupid question, I don’t remember what she said. 

Here I was, expecting an April to be summer. 

Yes, the same German April that does what it likes to be sunny and warm. 

Don’t marvel, but that was the superpower I had. 

Things turning around my way and being just as I wanted, even the weather. 

Funny, isn’t it? 

When I look back, I wonder, what was I thinking? 

Why didn’t I check the weather? 

Why didn’t I ask what to bring along? 

I’d been to Germany before. Even that June, Summer had been coldie. 

Was my self-inflicted decision to return home only when I had finished my two years of studies what I was running away from? 

Maybe that was why I had packed two suitcases of tee-shirts, blouses, dresses, loafers and sandals for 2 years of summer, winter, autumn, and spring hoping, just hoping that they may all be summer for me. 

Just Mercy

Last year I read The Sun Does Shine, a true story about Anthony Ray Hinton. He was held in maximum prison precisely on death row for over 30 years for a crime he didn’t commit. That story did a lot to my spirit. I cried. I was angry. I was blown away by the injustice in the justice system, mostly because the story was non-fictional. It taught me the power of hope. It taught me the power of the mind. It pushed me to look out for and support the Equal Justice Initiative,

Here are my thoughts on The Sun Does Shine.

Since 2020, I start my year with David Goggin’s Can’t Hurt Me and Joyce Meyer’s The Battlefield Of The Mind. In the first week of this year, I picked up Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson while book hunting. I had bookmarked it last year as a want-to- read, but not really ready to read about more injustice and heart-breaking true stories. Seeing the book in the bookshop made it seem it was time to face the truth.

So, I picked it up.

Maybe The Sun Does Shine did prepare me for Just Mercy, I only cried once 🙂 while reading Just Mercy. I just could not help it, I broke down in the part about children on death row. So, I refuse to use this post to rant about the jailing and killing of black adults and children. But it is hard to now know this truth about the systems made to kill hope, and destroy lives based on the errors of society. Some children’s destinies have already been determined by the law systems even before they reach their adulthood – poverty, jail, then death.

That is just dark. Makes me sad, but Bryan Stevenson’s work gives me hope. It makes me realize it is possible to overcome darkness.

So instead of totally ranting, I choose to join forces with the heroes like Bryan Stevenson in my little way with my little light to help bring light to the places where evil brings darkness.

It’s really unfair that the US spends so much money on everything around the world, but the lives of US citizens who could contribute to the US but most importantly also see their dreams come true. People being made to pay extremely for being poor, black, or sick. That is bad.

In the case of the Walter McMillan, the majority of Monroeville would rather see him dead than benefit from all that he was to their town. Why were they keen, and the systems easily manipulated to kill people.

Evil is evil can’t fight that, it is senseless. It looks forward to robbing, killing, and destroying lives.

This book has made me stick to accepting that things really can be defined as being light or darkness.

Doing nothing about the injustice means choosing darkness. A lesson I only recently learnt.

But no matter how much darkness proceeds, light will win the moment we step up.

How to plan a funeral in 10 days

About seven years ago, I got an idea for a book. It is about two friends, women, very successful in their chosen fields. I started writing excerpts for the book and have been working on it for a while. It has metamorphosized into something that looks rather like a short story but has an unsatisfied writer sitting at the other end of it. Each year I ask myself what to do with this piece. I intend to finish it, but seriously do not know how to mend it all together into  something someone would enjoy reading.

The heading in itself sounds odd, how to plan a funeral in 10 days. In this story or book, I am supposed to give the reader ten steps into planning their own funeral. Yes, you read that right. This has nothing to do with future plans to save your family from giving you a non-warranted and non-appreciated funeral. The story is about faking your death so you can have a life away from a demanding family and society. A society which keeps pressurizing you to do things you would rather not do while they in themselves contribute zero to your life.

Okay, before you begin to judge and say this is crazy, check this out. Last year while scouring the internet for inspiration for my story, I came across a very interesting news item related to my idea, which happened in real life in Nigeria. A 19-year-old girl faked her death to avoid financial pressure from her mother.  So, it did not turn out as she and her friends had planned, for they planned it poorly. The whole social media thing was a weak link in the equation. Now she lost her job and is seen someway bi by her family.

So, you get my point, there are many people living under the heavy pressure of performing to society’s expectations such that they would rather disappear into nothingness to avoid this pressure. But is this really a viable solution? Faking one’s death? Sacrificing all that is true to you and pronouncing yourself as dead, wishing death on yourself to gain peace. I don’t know. Not everyone is that strong, not everyone can do the “I don’t care” thing. Some people cannot say no to pressure and would rather crumble under the expectations. For some hiding is their refuge.

The thing is changing society and its expectations is possible, but hard work that takes time. And until then, what do we do? There are people living half of their lives because of financial pressure for people’s wants. People living in misery (some in jail, some dead) due to society’s expectations of marriage, children, or wealth. Anyway, until I figure out what I will do to this half-baked story, may we soon achieve mastery in staying focused and not allow society to wreck us into living only a quarter of our lives.

~ peace

~Nana Kesewaa Dankwa