Been a while since we Taboo-ed. No better time to start like the present. Today’s story is one that strikes a chord with everyone who has had to deal with tribal discrimination here in Ghana. Sometimes it lurks in the shadows of our lighthearted banter, sometimes it is a little more bold, a little more conspicious. ‘Krobo girls are sex maniacs, Hausa men are too domineering, Akyems are materialistic.’ The list goes on and on. I hope this story starts a conversation. Happy reading- and sharing!
Thursday nights are my favourites. Or should I say were my favourites. Those were the days when Ayerebea’s mum went for women’s fellowship meetings, all the way in Dansoman. Ever since they moved to Sakumono, her mother insisted on still attending church service in Dansoman, rather than join a new one in Sakumono. Her dad always gets home after 10pm. This usually gave us 4 solid hours -give or take- to have some time to ourselves. Not for making out. Ayerebea is not that kind of girl. She was saving herself for marriage. The first time I tried to surreptitiously slide my hand in between her thighs, she quietly dragged my hand out and placed it in her hand. Her quiet smile said everything that her lips didn’t need to. When I was lucky and she was ovulating, I got a kiss and a lingering hug. Nothing more. And I could not complain. I took it.
Ayerebea was one specimen of a woman. Wise. Classy. Oblivious to her sexiness. And she loved me. Yes, even with my protuding ears and not too flattering nose. She laughed at my jokes and we liked the same kind of music. Every Thursday, she would stand in her mother’s kitchen and cook me a meal from scratch. She would get off work an hour early and get home quickly to start before I got there. She would hum to herself, not realizing how endearing it was to see how the beads of sweat clung her baby hairs to her forehead. She could tame a bowl full of onions in minutes and no amount of steam could bully her. She also did all of this barefooted, stopping occasionally to give me a tin to open or peppers to destalk. Like I said, one specimen of a woman.
Today we were eating goat stew and boiled yam. The thick chunks of watermelon sitting in the fridge were next in line. We never got to eating the watermelons, or to lying in the sofa to talk about whether or not twin boys were a good idea, or to listening to our favourite parts in Kidi’s Odo over and over again.
Her mum came home early, just after my second morsel of yam went down my throat. That’s when everything changed.
It’s been five months since that Thursday and I still have a sharp pain in my chest.
I still can’t bring myself to eat. No, I haven’t cried. Ewe men don’t cry.
I can still play out the entire scene in my head .
Ayerebea’s mum, in her Women’s Fellowship shirt and ankara slit, complete with a white duku, clutching a leather bound study bible. The smell of the spices in the goat stew. The dripping of the water from the kitchen sink. The heaviness in the air. The look on Ayerebea’s face. The sound of my heart pounding.
‘I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting you, Mr- ‘
‘Glover. Patrick Glover.’
‘Mmh. How long have you known my daughter?’
‘A year and half, Ma’am.’
I was sweating and I knew I was on trial.
‘What do you do for a living?’
‘I am an engineer. Well, almost an engineer. I still have the panel inteview to do and then it will be official.’
‘Oh that’s nice. Good for you.’
Ayerebea fidgeted and I looked up at her.
‘Do you love my daughter?’
‘D-do I love her?’
‘Yes, do you love her?’
‘Yes ma’am. Yes, I do.’
‘I see. Glover, huh? That means you are Ga?’
‘No, ma’am. I am Ewe. I come from Yama.’
She looked up, as if she wasn’t sure if she heard right. After slowly setting her bible on the dining table, she placed her handbag on top of it.
‘I see.’, she said slowly, ending the long pregnant pause.
‘Goodbye Mr Glover.’
‘Mummy!’ That was the first time Ayerebea spoke.
‘No. You, listen to me! Whatever this is, it ends today. I am sorry, girl but there is no other way. Whether you are pregnant for him or not, whether you have made a covenant to be together for ever or not, this- whatever this is- it ends now! I will not give my daughter to an Ewe man. I will not become the grandmother of an Ewe child. I will not have Ewe in-laws. It doesn’t matter if you have never been to your hometown. You still have Ewe blood running in your-‘
‘Mum! I love this man. We plan to get married and have kids. Twin boys. You don’t even know him. He is kind and funny. He asks for my opinion and actually listens. Who cares where he comes from? I don’t!’
‘You don’t know what you are talking about. You think love will matter in 10 years’ time? You don’t even speak Ewe. What are you going to do when his relatives come and visit? You would have to wonder if they are gossiping about your cooking. I am your mother. I know what is best for you.’
Ayerebea was crying. Me? I was speechless and broken-hearted. The mother of the woman I loved was looking at me like I had some disease and she didn’t want to get infected. I had been a decent boy all my life. My parents raised me well. I knew how to be a responsible adult. I was going somewhere with my career. I had prospects and I was madly in love with this woman’s daughter.
And yet, none of that mattered. My tribe did.
I still don’t know how I got home that night. What I could not get out of my mind was how a woman could be this heartless, while she was still dripping with church anointing.
‘Don’t get me wrong. I have tried to forget her. I can’t. How do you get over Ayerebea?’, I said to nobody in particular.
‘I can’t move on- not until I no longer have a choice. Not until there is no iota of hope left.’
I am pretty certain that my walls were tired of listening to me. I could only talk to them. I could not tell my parents, just in case things changed with Ayerebea’s mum. I didn’t want to ruin my chances with Ayerebea, just because of her mother. My mother would never ever allow me to even befriend anyone who made Ewe jokes.
She always said, ‘Be proud of who you are and where you come from. If anyone wants to avoid you because of where you come from, it’s their loss not yours.’
I still love Ayerebea.
It is difficult for her.
The whole ‘honour your parents’ thing has always been a big deal for her.
These days, when I call her, the conversations are strained. Short. Void of her ‘Patrick, stop making me laugh. My tummy hurts.’ Hollow.
Sometimes she doesn’t pick up at all.
I don’t blame her.
What could she possibly say?
She’d eventually move on and cook yam and goat stew for someone else, barefooted. She would marry a man who is not Ewe, while her mother smiles approvingly from the right hand side of the aisle in her gigantic mother of the bride hat. They’d probably have twin boys. She’d laugh at his jokes. Not mine.
If I am lucky, she will remember me on random days when Kidi’s Odo plays on her little pink radio.
If you are new to the Taboo series, it is a collection of fictional stories that depict real life happenings in Ghana; those things that we normally don’t talk about. If you also have a story to share, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. My hope is that each of these stories will cause us to pause and think. I also hope that they will start conversations. Share your thoughts with the hashtag #OurTaboo. Thanks for reading, Keni.