Don’t judge me

11:56pm.

It was late and I should have been getting some rest, but I was waiting for her to text me back.

It was not like her to fall asleep without saying goodnight. She was probably busy.

I hated it- the fact that I had become this dependent on her, this clingy. I hated the fact that she knew she had me in her pocket, at her beck and call. I also hated the fact that I couldn’t seem to control it.

I remember when I first met her. It was at Akwele’s traditional marriage ceremony. I hate ceremonies of any kind, but Akwele was never going to forgive me if I didn’t show up. She sat beside me throughout our Biochemistry class in the university and always remembered to buy an extra handout for me just in case my forgetful self walked into class without one. She was family. Never mind the fact that I didn’t like her husband to be. She was happy and I was happy for her; so even if it killed me to listen to the overdramatic okyeame go on and on about the contents of the presents the man came bearing, I would endure it for my dear Akwele.

It was not as terrible as I thought it would be. All of our classmates turned up, which wasn’t surprising- Akwele was everyone’s sweetheart. The food was good and the palm wine was in abundance- not that I expected anything less. It was time for Akwele to be brought out. Half of the ladies on my table got up to take pictures of the bride and her entourage. I got out of my seat to get a better view and also to save myself the misery of the ‘aahs’ and ‘oohs’ about her dress, the makeup, her hair, blah blah. Leaning against one of the bamboo pillars that had been erected for the day, I had a perfect view of the entire thing. Being a 6’4” had its perks after all.

That’s when I saw her. Not Akwele.

Clara.

She was the first person in the procession, probably because she was petite. The first thing I noticed was her daring haircut. I also noticed that her white lace dress was scandalously short, revealing her slightly bowed legs. She was dark brown- same colour as dark chocolate- and she was wearing red lipstick. She was leading the other girls in a dance. It was simply delightful to watch. She turned to speak to the girl behind her, that’s when I saw that she had a gap in her perfectly white teeth. I was smitten.

I spent the rest of the ceremony watching Clara- maybe staring would be a more appropriate word. At one point, our eyes met and she waved at me. When I waved back, she started to make her way to me.

‘Hi! You are very tall’

I laughed, simply because nothing that was going to come out of my mouth would make any sense.

‘You must be Akwele’s friend, coz you are definitely not family. I would have run into you at one of the family reunions.’ Just then one of Akwele’s cousins gestured at her and she sighed. ‘Duty calls, I will be right back!’ It was when she left that I realized how quickly my heart was pounding- like a drum being beaten by a possessed fetish priest.

She was back before I had a chance to recompose. This time, she had taken off her bright red heels and was wearing golden brown sandals. ‘I don’t like weddings’, she announced matter of factly. ‘The whole process is a bit too overbearing for me. Don’t look so shocked. Not every girl is wedding crazy. Besides, I know my secret is safe with you. You look like this is the last place you want to be too.’

‘Not anymore’

I didn’t realize that I had said it out loud until I saw her smiling. At least i had made her smile. Just when my tongue had finally been loosened, she got up to help with the distribution of favours. I seized the opportunity to say a quick hello to Akwele, and take a picture with her and her new husband.

‘Awww Kobby, you made it’

‘I wouldn’t miss it for anything in the world. You look amazing!’

We made small talk and then I excused myself. It was getting late and I needed to leave. There were still a few things I needed to do before 5pm- pick up my laundry, do some grocery shopping and get a haircut. My eyes searched for Clara to say goodbye, but after waiting for 20 minutes, I decided to leave.

Just when I stepped out of the gate, I heard a voice behind me. Clara’s.

‘Don’t tell me you plan on leaving without taking my number.’ Her eyes twinkled with mischief and she grabbed my hand. After scribbling her number in my palm, she beamed and said, ‘Call me.’

I did. That night and every night after that. Sometimes I let her do all the talking, just because I loved the sound of her voice. She told me everything-why she didn’t like snails, how she wanted to visit space one day, why she decided to cut her hair, how she would never eat ampesi and garden egg stew-not even to save her own life. She was addictive. Her fearlessness drew me to her. It almost felt like I drew strength from her. She soon had my entire family wrapped around her little finger.

When I wasn’t in the lab, I was with her. We watched movies, took long strolls, visited all the places she wanted to see- Wli water falls, Nzulenzu, Mole National Park, tried all the meals she wanted to try. All she had to do was name it, and I would think of how to make it possible. Who could blame me? She was amazing and mindblowingly so. There was one time that we had a flat tyre in the middle of nowhere, with a wobbly spare tyre. Interestingly, the only thing she remembered from that night was that the Good Samaritan who helped me to change the tyre was wearing faded Bugs Bunny boxer shorts.

She called me ‘my giant’ because she had to tiptoe to be able to hear my heart beat, and I called her Clara, simply because nobody else did. The look of indignation on her face gave me too much joy.

‘Can’t you just call me Naa Okailey like everyone else?’

‘Why would I do that, and ruin all the fun?’, I always said in reply.

Her birthday was approaching and I had a whole lot of things lined up for the day. It was our first birthday together and I was determined to make an impression. I picked her up from work that day in a really good mood. After dinner at La Villa Boutique Hotel, I drove to Legon campus and parked behind Commonwealth Hall. It had a perfect view of ‘Accra by night’. After small talk, I reached into my pocket and pulled out a box.

‘Clara, I brought you here because this is the most breathtaking view I know in Accra. It is not even half as breathtaking as you are. You have brought me so much joy over the last 8 months- like a gift that keeps revealing more exciting layers each day. Happy birthday. I love you.’

She was surprisingly quiet and I noticed tears glistening in her eyes. I opened the box to reveal a silver Michael Kors watch, with the inscription, ‘Happy birthday my Clara! You light up my world more than any of the constellations can.’ After reading it to her, I fastened the clasp around her wrist.

‘This love is timeless, Clara. This watch is supposed to remind you of that everyday. I love you and there is nothing you can do about it.’

‘ Kobby, this is too much’, she whispered.

‘Well, it is just the beginning’, I replied with a smile.

‘I need to tell you something, Kobby. The timing has never been right and today I know that it can’t be worse, but I can’t keep lying to you. I-I am married. It sounds crazy, I know. My husband lives in the UK. We have been estranged for some time now. Kobby, you are the one I love. I was just afraid. I thought I would lose you. Please don’t hate me.’

It felt like I was having an out of body experience. Suddenly everything made sense- why Akwele still didn’t know about us, why she kept postponing my meeting her parents, why she was low on PDA when we were out together, why she never picked that +447 call no matter how many times the person called. When I finally found my voice, it was tinged with anger.

‘Clara-‘

‘Kobby, I am sorry’

‘How could you be this selfish? How could you conveniently leave out this detail for 8 good months? How about after the second phone call? You don’t get to make this decision for me. You don’t get to decide what I can handle and what I can’t! Were you waiting until I was done on bended knee to break the news to me?’

She kept staring at her feet.

‘I am going to take you home now. Please don’t call me- you owe me that much. I need space to process this. In the spirit of surprises, is there anything else I need to know? Do you also have children? Are you HIV positive?’  I was out of line but I couldn’t care less. I had never felt this betrayed.

She replied quietly, ‘He is coming back to Accra at the end of this week. His parents want us to try counselling one last time.’

I didn’t say a word the rest of the ride back. Her ‘goodnight Kobby, I am truly sorry’ was met with stony silence. For the first time, I understood what the word ‘heartbreak’ meant. When I was in SS, my dorm mate got a letter from his girlfriend telling him that she had found someone else. We laughed at him because he claimed his heart was aching. That night, I realized that he didn’t mince words. My heart was literally aching.

I avoided her calls and texts for a whole 24 days. I hated the fact that I had to fight the urge to pick up the phone anytime she called. One Tuesday evening, I picked up my phone to see 15 missed calls from a strange number. Just then, the phone rang again.

‘Is this Mr Kobina Owusu-Aboagye? Clara Naa Okailey Bruce has your number on her phone as the last dialed number. She has suffered a sickle cell crisis and has been admitted here, at Lister Hospital.’

Apparently she had saved my number as her emergency contact. They asked me to rush over to the hospital to see her. Every speed rump and traffic light became invisible to me. I drove like a mad man riding a horse. The sight of her frail body in that huge hospital bed broke my heart. I began to torment myself with the thought that all this could have been my fault. I wanted to carry her in my arms and whisper that everything was going to be alright, but the stern look on the face of the night nurse kept me in check. I spent the night on the floor beside her, waking up every time I heard her stir.

I was wallowing in regret when she opened her eyes. With labored breathing, she managed to get a few words out.

‘Do you hate me? You don’t need to answer that. I know it was selfish of me to not tell you. Kobby, I need you. The past few days have been pure torture. I know I don’t deserve it but please forgive me. Don’t leave me alone, Kobby. I don’t want a world without you in it.’


11:56pm.

It was late and I should have been getting some rest, but I was waiting for her to text me back.

It was not like her to fall asleep without saying goodnight. She was probably busy.

I hated it- the fact that I had become this dependent on her, this clingy. I hated the fact that she knew she had me in her pocket, at her beck and call. I also hated the fact that I couldn’t seem to control it.

I know it doesn’t make sense. I should be keeping my distance. I should be avoiding her calls, especially since she hasn’t sorted out her issues with her husband. I know it is reckless, foolish even, but my heart and my mind want two different things. Don’t judge me…

P.S: The story continues here

©Maukeni Padiki Kodjo, 2015

125 thoughts on “Don’t judge me

  1. hv read lots of stories bt dx is jx too much…can’t wait to read part 3 of ”Dont judge me”….thumps up Keni

    Like

  2. You are an amazing writer.I was touched by your story after reading it.You made me miss your dad so much.
    He should have been alive to see the wonderful work you are doing. Keep the fire burning and God bless you.

    Like

  3. WHEW! With this one, I felt like you were sitting on a horse with a rope attached to the saddle, dragging a sack on the ground…only, my heart was in the sack the whole time!!! Lol. I’m loving it. Thanks for sharing!

    Like

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