A voice not accustomed to shouting was doing more than it was used to. Had I forgotten something in the bank? I wondered. Even then, the person was referring to me by my first name. I turned in the direction of the strained voice. The face of the tall dark masculine frame in the blue linen piece did not strike familiarity with the faces I knew.
“Marian, how are you doing?” he continued. His voice toned down now as the distance between us had immensely decreased.
I raised my eyebrows, hoping to show how lost I was in the situation.
“Am well, but do I know you from somewhere? I am sorry, but my memory fails me” I responded hoping not to sound rude.
The man, clean shaved, overshadowing me now, called my name again. Maybe hoping that this time it would bring back every memory I had lost of him.
My memory was slow even as I stared intensely in his face. It was slower than expected. The task seemed difficult. Poring over all the places and people I had met in my life, to put the face before me in a context. A familiar context that reflected the same joy the man standing before me expressed.
“Don’t you recognize me?” his voice low and reflecting disappointment.
“It’s me, Edward Boateng”
“Edward?” “Edward?” I questioned myself.
There are two Edwards I’ve known my life; one I had been with in Primary and Junior High School in Kintampo and the other from my former church in Nkawkaw. The one from Nkawkaw could not possibly have become darker and taller in the past two years since I saw him.
“Herrh Edward, Dancing ball, is that you?!!!” I shouted at the pleasant surprise.
A laughter grew out of the smile stamped on his face.
“The dancing ball!” I screamed again, jumping up to hug him. Drawing an audience from curious passers-by. We hugged each other; each soul filled with uncontainable laughter.
When we had drowned ourselves in hugs and laughter, he asked me what I was doing there and where I was off to.
“I came to the bank to make some cash deposits”
On days when I know I will be making cash deposits, for security reasons, I use public transport instead of my car I explained.
As the working day had ended, partly for him as well, he offered to take me home. He, however, had to drive to employees at a construction site to pay their weekly earnings.
Edward and I had lost contact with each other for over a decade after the BECE. We both left Kintampo to Accra immediately after the exams. Though I knew he was in Accra, I had no idea of how to get in touch with him. My social media search had neither yielded results, nor had my enquiry from friends. And so, I gave up on the quest.
In Kintampo, as we had been the children of employees of the Municipal office, we had lived close to each other. The bungalows’ children, we were called. There was hardly a day I did not see Edward. During the weekdays, if not at school, we would hang out with the other children in the area after school. On the weekends, we undertook mini adventures, making up all sorts of games, climbing all sorts of trees and chasing all sorts of tiny living things. On Sundays, we ended up in the same children’s service class. We had shared many meals together, some in my house, some in his or someone from the area.
The name “the dancing ball” was given to him by me, Ariana, and Shakina two other girl-friends, in our class. Edward loved to dance. He did not care the genre or place. Sometimes, when we were walking home from school, and we got somewhere with music on loudspeakers, he would immediately take to dancing.
Back then, he was so rotund, and constantly received the familiar insults from other children. “Your face like a balloon”, “Your cheeks like a balloon”, “Balloon”. He never flinched at those insults or fought back when he was abused. He mostly laughed it off. The girls and I thought calling him a ball was maybe better than a balloon. A dancing ball like the one from the discos.
Maybe he liked the name, we never did ask him. We gave it to him. Whenever, he would engage in such open acts of dance, we would cheer him on “the dancing ball, the dancing ball” clapping our hands in sync to our chants. He, having the time of his life, making those out of tune moves.
The man I sat by, who drove the white Nissan Navara, was nothing like the boy I had known and had been unable to recognize. His dark skin had an even tone. He looked healthy. Obviously, from the outward appearance, he was doing very well. According to the catch-up stories, he and his elder sister had set up a construction company as soon as he finished Senior High School. They had started by taking small contracts for building projects. Over the years, they had won a couple of major contracts, which had elevated them to a company with 30 employees.
My eyes sparkled as he shared their stories of resilience, growth, and faith. Edward, the boy who had once peed in his pants and was called to the front of the class for the act. I could hardly believe my eyes, nor my ears. All matured, grown and definitely did not look like a ball or balloon as we had nicknamed him.
After we left the construction site, he asked me to have dinner with him. As I had nothing else to do, I agreed. Sitting in the plush oriental decorated Chinese Peking restaurant, I was so captured by this new Edward, his openness, his laughter, by the person he had become and who I had known him to be. Though he had not been the most intelligent or best looking physically in school, those things had never stopped him from being who he had wanted to be. Looking back to those times on the streets, him dancing was an expression of himself telling the world he would do what he would, regardless of what the world thought of him.
I think I fell in love that evening, maybe the soothing ambience made it easier. I think Edward as well. After the main course, he held my hand and expressed how delighted he was to see me. He had been thinking a lot about me recently, wondering where I was. Of course, he found it weird it had taken such a long time for us to get back in contact.
We left the restaurant after three hours of hearty conversations and soul pleasing food. Dropping me off at my gate, he left me with a warm embrace. I left with a whiff of his wood inspired cologne. A pleasant smile stamped my face as I waved him goodbye, looking forward to future contact.
As I plumped into my couch that night, resting my tired body, I scrolled to my phone contacts and dialled Shakina.
“Shakina, guess who I saw today!” intentionally missing the necessary greetings required for phone calls.
Shakina and I had been able to stay connected over the years as we ended up in the same Senior High School.
The confused silence then her mutters interlaced with gurgles from her happy baby did not distract me.
I continued the conversation.
“Edward from our class!” I spat out.
“You mean pee-pee Edward?” Shakina blathered out.
“Oh, do you have to call him that” I questioned.
“Ah but you too you were calling him pee-pee Edward then what happened?” she answered.
“We were children then Shakina, those things are not necessary now, we are all adults now” I continued.
“You and who?” she replied in laughter!
I shared with her how the reunion had been, and everything Edward had been to me for the past hours. What I had seen as magical and sparkling failed to bring light to Shakina’s tone.
When I had exhausted myself and could not tolerate her teasing and the recall of old stories about Edward, I called it a day. We left the conversation, she, teasing me in squeaky laughter of falling in love. Unable to fathom Edward in a new light, to see who he was now.