It was a hot Friday afternoon.
“Everything must be perfect; the food, the curtains, the mats and even the lawn,” he said to me.
I picked up his shirt from the floor, hoping to catch his attention.
“What’s happening, Kwesi?” But he didn’t hear me. He was preoccupied with something. I couldn’t tell what it was, but I knew it was related to this something about something going to happen. I moved closer to him, determined to catch his attention, but it was in vain. He was staring out of the window, the fifth time in a row.
“Yes?” He finally turned.
“What’s this about? This nonsense of preparing for something we aren’t sure of.”
“Patience,” he answered.
Slowly, I dropped into a huge sofa in the hall. I touched the texture, but it was different . . . perhaps Kwesi had changed it or . . . and then I saw it, a bouquet of fresh yellow tulips placed at a corner behind the television. Kwesi never bought anything trivial, and trivial included flowers. I stared hard at them, not knowing whether to be relieved or alarmed.
Kwesi was always calm, never agitated or excited. He often had the habit of scolding me if I complained about something that was yet to happen. He felt it was a waste of time to ponder over things that were yet to happen, that perhaps might never even happen.And so just like that, I grew into his habit, I became less enthusiastic.
I felt that my love for him had grown stronger. I waited on him for everything, took instructions without complaints. I felt great as a woman, a fulfilled woman at that, a woman that had been able to fit herself into the life of her man. According to Kwesi, most of my so-called feminist women friends were failures as women because they had failed marriages. After all, they had refused to surrender to their men. Kwesi was right; look at me, I had surrendered everything and see my reward: a man by my side for six good years. I felt proud, it was a good compensation for all that I had sacrificed: my bank job, friends, and family.
“Is the food ready? The potato chips, the yam and kontomire stew?” he asked.
I tried to say a word, but something inaudible came out. I didn’t know what to do with all the emotions that were threatening to break loose, I just couldn’t hold on. It was as if my head would break open at any minute. I knew it wouldn’t be long before I went insane, before whatever Kwesi was expecting came through.
“Akua!’’ he shouted.
“Sorry. I am . . . I‘ve a migraine. I think I need some rest.”
“Not today!” he shouted, and then stopped. “Sweetheart, everything has to be perfect. Just this once and it will be all over.”
I smiled with a nod.
“Great.” He smiled.
“Wait! Where’re the children?” I had suddenly remembered that it was past their school’s closing time. How could I have forgotten? How could I have erased them from my mind? What mother would forget her children just like that? With a new purpose, I stood up. I felt stronger; perhaps the guilt made me so.
“Relax, they’re still at school. I called earlier to reschedule their appointment.”
“With the dentist.” “They would spend the afternoon with Fatima”, he added.
“How . . . how? Why didn’t you tell. . . ?”
“They are fine.”
He walked into the bedroom.
With a troubled look, I followed him. “Why didn’t you tell me about the kids?”
“I didn’t want to bother you.”
“I want to check on them anyway.” I reached out for my cell phone which was on the bed. But he got there before me.
“They are fine!”
“I just wanted to be sure.”
“They will be home, as soon as this is over.”
“This is over?”
“Yes.” He walked out.
I watched him go. I felt cold, and my body felt strange.
And then I saw it, our wooden cheval floor mirror. I stared into it; a woman stared back at me. She was obese, a typical obolobo with her buttocks sticking out, her hips were like huge timber logs and her head was joined to her neck, no waist, no shape. That body wasn’t mine; everything about that woman in the mirror was ugly. I was slender and sexy, not the woman in the mirror! The mirror was a terrible liar, it must be jealous of me like my friends. I felt like shouting to the bedroom walls. I wanted to explain to them that the mirror was playing a horrible joke on me. I needed to tell them about all the things bottled up inside me. That I had had enough of all this, but I couldn’t do it. It was as if I was trapped in someone else’s body and I was a mad woman. With one last look into the mirror I dragged myself out of the room. But, I knew with certainty, that the stupid mirror would still be looking at me, watching my buttocks go up and down.
“Isn’t this surprise a bit too much?” I joined him in the hall.
“Everything must be perfect.’’
“Everything has always been perfect,’’ I whispered.
‘‘This is very important to me.”
I looked at him with a new passion. This man has never been truly passionate about anything. Perhaps I was inconsiderate, this was the first time I had seen Kwesi excited. Not even at our wedding or the birth of the girls had he been excited. No, not even when we made love. It was always I who made the effort to moan, just so he would think I was enjoying it. And with time the loving making stopped.
Why then couldn’t I share in his joy? I felt weak and stupid. Maybe, all I had to do was show appreciation and give him my full support. I might just be brooding over nothing; perhaps he had a surprise for the kids and me. Even better, it might be something romantic like a week-long vacation to Paris, Miami or Cape Town. I smiled at the thought of just the two of us on some exotic beach in a remote town even if it was just here in Ghana. I had to be positive, just like the preacher on the radio said: “our minds pick up signals, whether good or bad, and feed on them.”
The sound of my name woke me up from my daydreams. I was confused for a minute, and then I remembered where I was.
“Akua! He’s here!” He was excited. His face lit up like a kid with a new bicycle.
“Who’s here?” I stood up, looking around for a sign of someone or something. Still perplexed, I tried to put myself in a mood of expectance.
Just then I saw the person, the “he.” He was extremely good looking, beautiful like an Egyptian god. He was perhaps twenty-eight but yet he could be a thirty-something. He looked well-groomed, and poised with an air of confidence. He walked into the room with a coy smile as if he owned the house. I stared past him to see if he had anything with him, perhaps a package or something. He might be the one with the surprise Kwesi had been ranting about.
“Welcome! Come over here!” Kwesi shouted with excitement.
“Hi,” I heard him say. His voice was tender; like drinking ice water on a very sunny day.
We sat around the hall for a couple of minutes which seemed like ages. Silence rose above the ceiling and descended heavily on us.
And finally Kwesi broke the ice. “Akua! Serve the lunch.”
I rose, glad to leave. A few minutes later, we were all seated in the dining room eating yaw with kontomire stew. But in truth, none of us were eating; Kwesi was staring up at the white ceiling, the stranger at his plate, and I, at the floor. I wanted to say something, anything to lighten the mood; I didn’t want to be known as a bad host or inhospitable.
“Nice weather,” I tried.
They both smiled with a nod.
“This . . . this is new yam from the village,” I said.
“Akua, there’s something I need to tell you. I’ve always wanted to tell you.” He paused, taking a look at the stranger.
“It can wait, right?” I said trying to stop him there. I didn’t want him discussing anything in front of this stranger.
“It’s good you know it now. But I have always loved you. . .”
I beamed with joy, embarrassed that the stranger would witness something like this, something so intimate. “I know Kwesi. I have always known you love me. Just that. . .”
“Please, listen to me. I appreciate you and the kids, but my life is different. I need you to understand that.”
“I don’t understand.” My spoon dropped to the floor.
“It’s a bit complicated. But, with time I am sure you’ll understand. It’s going to be all cleared up soon and I.”
“Akua. Listen to me,” he said.
“Our food is getting cold.”
“The potato chips, they are still in the bedroom . . . no, the kitchen.” I made an effort to stand up. In the process the bowl of kontomire stew fell down.
“Stop! And listen to me.”
“Are you sick? You have a terrible disease, like cancer, right? He’s a doctor, right? You couldn’t tell me yourself, oh darling!” I felt frightened, but strangely I was hoping he would tell me I was right. And I knew if he did, I would’ve loved him forever. He’s your doctor right? You don’t need to explain anything to me. I heard myself saying all over again. I was trembling violently.
“No! He isn’t. And I am not sick.”
“Then what’s all this about? Who the fucking hell is this man?” I pointed to the stranger, who just sat there, with his hands on the cutlery.
“We’re getting married.”
“Haahaha great!” I burst into a fit of laughter. I couldn’t stop laughing.
“I am serious.”
“Can we eat our food in peace? You are making our guest uncomfortable.” I tried to suppress a chuckle, but it was difficult.
“I am gay. He is my . . . I have fallen in love with him.”
“Haahaha, tell me, just how would you two get married? This is Africa, where men like you are stoned to death.”
He felt offended by the tease in my voice. Rage rose from his eyes. “We have planned it all out. I am leaving Ghana for the UK. We have a home there.”
The “we” lingered in the air. His words stabbed me in the heart. I then remembered the passports I had seen some months ago, the explanations he had given, the foreign calls, and the late nights out. Then it all began to sink in, my mirror wasn’t the liar, it was Kwesi who was.
“You and I made love . . . we had sex.” I pushed my plate to the floor. My heart skipped a beat. “Please say it’s a mistake. I will take you back, I will forget this day,” I pleaded.
“Look. . .” he tried to say something.
“How much is that stranger paying you?”
“You don’t get it. It’s who I am, it’s normal. . . I was born this way.” The anger in his voice rose.
“I will forgive you . . . we can find a solution to it.”
“Homosexuality needs no solution, it’s not abnormal.” He stared sharply at me, hate filled his voice.
“To hell with homosexuality, am I supposed to eat it? Would it give me back my life?” I pushed the dining table to the floor; the plates came down with a bang. “I don’t care if you’re straight or gay. What about me?” For the first time in ages, I thought of myself.
“I can never be happy with. . .” He tried to touch me.
I slipped to the floor. We would adopt the children or perhaps compensate you. . . I heard the stranger say. Images of the wooden cheval floor mirror kept coming back to me, it was laughing at me . . . I wanted to shout something to it, to explain something to it, to ask for its forgiveness. I couldn’t hear Kwesi anymore. I couldn’t see the beautiful stranger. I couldn’t feel anything. Everything went blank.
Written by Portia Dery