17 May 2009

Hope Undeferred by Nana A. Damoah

Dear Kwesi,

This letter comes with a reminder of the best gift I can ever give to anyone - my heart, my love, my life. It is very late here but I am very much awake, 'cos my dear, you are on my mind. Always on my mind. Cupid sent his arrow my way and I lurched forward with my bosom once I espied your name of the tail of the arrow; come and see the hole it has created in my heart. What sweet pain! You know, the heart is not a locket that is opened easily, and once opened, the holder of the key becomes so significant! You hold those keys, Kwesi.

I have heard one say that love, like a flower, quickly blooms and attracts but with the same celerity evaporates like a mirage in the Kalahari. If that is a popular opinion I walk a lonely path then, because my love for you is like the seed that forms in a woman's womb - once fertilised, it only knows growth. Like a mixture of concrete, this love hardens and intensifies in strength as it walks hand in hand with time.

Ah! my heart bleeds with this wound of love. I want you to walk this path of ecstasy, this journey of bliss, this adventure of forever-ness with me - always. I miss you terribly, so much my dear. Come quickly, my Prince, and heal my wound, my heart aches for you, my soul yearns for you and my eyes long to set their gaze on you, again.

I want to sing it out, shout it, tell it on the mountain tops to anyone who cares to listen, to the birds so they carry it to the ends of the world - you are mine, and oh, I love you. Lemme hear from you, darling, because you are all I live for.

She who is yours,


She sat back and looked at the letter again. The words seemed to connect with her very soul, and as she focused on each line of the missive, she seemed to be imbuing the words with her spirit, to carry exactly the emotions she felt to the intended recipient. It was about 1 a.m. and the entire ambience was as quiet as a stillborn baby. She did not attempt to hold back the tears that overflowed the swollen banks of her eyes, finding their way into her mouth like River Ankobra's journey to the Atlantic ocean. The salty taste did nothing to soothe her aching heart. Her portable stereo oozed Kojo Antwi's song "Dade anoma" [Metal bird, a reference to an aeroplane], connecting with the thoughts she had transmitted onto paper. She wished, in tandem with the Musicman, that a bird would suddenly appear to take her letter to her loved one. She clutched the scented sheet to her breast, rose and walked to the window, slowly, and watched through the netting. Serene was the view outside, contrasting her feelings. The cool breeze caressed her plump cheeks.

Kwesi was two years ahead of her in the secondary school, Amenfiman High. Araba knew him as a very serious science student, who was so much in love with his books. Rarely did you see him on campus without a book - a textbook, a novel, a book nevertheless. Grave was his countenance most times, pensive his aura almost always. Even in the dining hall, where it was usual for students to chit-chat and tease each other especially before meals, Kwesi would sit quietly at table, reading while meals were being served, and eat without as much as a look around him. In Amenfiman, there were five houses each for the boys and girls, and the houses were named such that there were five pairs. It was the custom that the girls in the female houses shared tables with the occupants of the counterpart male houses. Kwesi was in Bassanyin House, whose counterpart female house was Akoaa house; providence collaborated with fate to ensure that Araba and Kwesi shared the same table. She admired him but only at a distance. He was so sober, how could anyone get across to such? He seemed quite content being by himself always, self-contained, not caring for a chat. The impression was that he would not even have time for anyone, let alone maintaining a friendship with the opposite sex.

Passing by the corner of her dormitory called 'nnipa nse hwee', translated loosely as 'man is worthless' (so named because that was the main gossip corner in the school), she overheard Akosua, the title holder of the Kokonsahemaa (queen of gossip) wondering who the hell Kwesi thought he was, strutting like a peacock, thinking of himself better than everyone else. It was not a good thing to be a topic at Nnipa nse hwee (NNH), and it was a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the NNH council.

Interestingly, though, the more Kwesi was discussed, the more affection did Araba feel for him. She was beginning to understand that Kwesi's apparent aloofness was a challenge to many and this situation to her was like wind to fire - it extinguished the small and rekindled the mighty.

The Scripture union (SU) brought together most young christians together on campus, and both Araba and Kwesi were members. One evening at SU, the program was 'Interaction time', during which members were supposed to interact with and get to know one another better. After a short time of prayer and singing, members were asked to chat amongst themselves. Araba turned to find the first person to talk to, and who did she face but Kwesi! Kwesi, of all the people at the meeting! Her heart missed a beat, no, two beats!

"Hello, I am Kwesi Mills-Brown, form five science," he opened up.

"Hi, my name is Araba...Araba Frimpomaa Larbi. Three C."

The ice was broken. They talked the entire period, a duration which many used to chat with about three persons altogether. It was a hilarious chat they had. It was as if they had known each other for years. She was pleasantly surprised by his sense of humour. Indeed, appearances are deceptive, but smell is not, and had not the elders said that it is only when you shook the nim tree that you smell it well? Definitely one needed to get closer to be able to shake - you can't shake by remote control. She was struck by his quiet nature, his simple choice of words and his depth of knowledge. After exchanging basic information about each other - age, subjects offered, favourite food etc - interspersed with jokes and anecdotes, Kwesi challenged her to live for the Lord and never give up her faith, in whatever difficulty she went through; and to value her salvation, since it was the best thing that had and will ever happen to her.

Before long, it was time for the meeting to wind up, and Araba and Kwesi had to go back to their seats. He again expressed his pleasure at meeting her and promised to keep in touch.

Araba took a long time sleeping that night. She was excited. She relived the chat they had in her mind the umpteenth time. Oh, Kwesi was so pleasant to talk to. Truly, you could not judge an object from afar, she philosophised. She resolved to know him better, for here surely was a friend worth keeping. She reasoned that it was not that Kwesi felt superior to others but that he was just not an extrovert. Only when you got close to such people did you find the gold in them. Eh, Araba, are you now a psychologist, she teased her thoughts, with a laugh. With a angelic smile on her face, she drifted into a peaceful sleep, embracing her thoughts and taking a stroll into dreamland.

True to his word, Kwesi sent a note to her the next morning.

Hi Rabbs, [Oh she remembered! Araba smiled at his reference to her nickname]

It was great chatting with you yesterday. Once again, it's been a pleasure meeting you. I hope to be a friend, and a good one too. There are a lot of things we can share together - our challenges, our anxieties, and of course God's word. Keep on keeping on in the Lord.

God bless,

That note opened the gates to a fulfilling friendship between them. Kwesi and Araba kept nothing hidden from each other, encouraging and spurring one another on. They became an epitome of friendship on campus and grew fond of one another each passing day.

Kwesi passed his 'O' Levels and continued at the same school. After his statutory National service, he continued to the University. He was in his fourth year in Medical school when Araba wrote the letter, that memorable letter, to him.

Araba was teaching for her National service at Assin Kabrofo after completing teachers' training college. Her friendship with Kwesi had developed into something stronge, that 'something' Araba found out during this period of her service.

The National service in faraway Assin, about four hundred kilometers from the capital city, was taking its toll on Araba. Her job as a teacher in the local junior secondary school was exhausting. She was miles away from home, in the midst of unfamiliar people; she felt so lonely. Her companions were the many letters that came from Kwesi, she looked forward to them each week with the expectation of a pregnant woman in her ninth month. Kwesi had become unto her a pillar, a great companion, a balm that soothed her in times of depression and frustration. It was there, in the dense forest area of Assin, where loneliness lead her to do long reflections, excursions in her mind she called them, that she came to the realisation that she was indeed in love. In love and with Kwesi. She saw him, now, not only as a friend and a brother, but a life companion. In retrospect and with the benefit of maturity, she understood her initial feelings towards Kwesi now - it was a seed of affectionate love, right from the start.

But for two months now, she hadn't heard from Kwesi. Had Kwesi deserted her, discarded her, left her when she needed him most, when her mind had finally accepted what her heart has been belting out for a long time, that she was in love with him? Had her love been in vain? The mouth is said not to forget what it tasted only once. How could she forget this love for Kwesi that she had nurtured for all these years?

She had heard many stories about those University guys, how they could easily forget about their steadies as soon as they feasted their eyes on those kyingilingi (slim) Varsity girls. You can't do this to me, Kwesi, surely you can't...but did he love her too, she asked herself yet again. And the letter she wrote to him lately...did she reveal too much of her feelings? Usually it is the hen which went after the corn, and not the other way round. Had she taken a risk in letting Kwesi know exactly she felt about him? But why would she want to roast a juicy piece of corn and leave it in the open parlour just for the next hungry person to grab it for her nourishment? Indeed, is it not only a fool whose own tomatoes are sold to her?

It had been a particularly tiring day. It was about 4.30 p.m. and the she had just returned from school after preparing her students for the impending basic certificate examinations. It had been a week since she mailed that letter to Kwesi. As she changed into her housedress, to try and relax in bed, her thoughts turned to him almost automatically, immediately, effortlessly.

A knock on the door. Who should be disturbing my limited peace of mind at this time of day, she wasn't pleased to wonder. She hesitated for a moment, but the knocking persisted. Sometimes her neighbours could be tenacious when they wanted to ask her opinion. She rose and opened the door, reluctantly.


She jumped into his arms. He nearly lost his footing; she was besides herself with joy. Kwesi smiled at her, that slow delicious smile of his that melted her intestines. She didn't relax her embrace, and he practically had to carry her to the sofa. Araba looked up at him in sheer wonderment, it was so good to be true, Kwesi with her and such a swift answer to her prayers! Such a speedy response to her missive, far beyond her expectations, really!

He suggested they go out for a walk. She obliged and soon with her arms intertwined into his, they took the path that went towards Moseaso, by the peaceful flowing waters of the Ankobra, the waters lovingly washing the rocks in an intricate, ancient ritual, undisturbed by the passage of time. For sometime, they walked in silence. Interesting, reflected Araba, that silence could be so enjoyable when it was shared with someone significant, that silence could speak when one was well tuned to its frequency, when the ambience was right. Araba revelled in the moment and wished it would not end.

Kwesi broke the silence eventually, with a squeeze of Araba's hand. He explained why he had not written for such a long time. He had been on a team of medical students' outreach to the Brong Ahafo region to educate the folks on malaria prevention, as part of a UN-sponsored project. They had been away for about two months and on their return, he found Araba's letter in his pigeonhole - he came to Assin immediately.

"Oh Kwesi" was all Araba could say. She felt cherished, and all the anxiety and tension in the past couple of months seemed to ebb and dissipate.

They were now on the outskirts of the village, on the southern part. The sun was beginning his journey to his sleeping abode, and most of the villagers were returning to their homes from the day's work at their farms, with loads of foodstuff and firewood on their heads. Araba waved back at Auntie Mansa, who had her sixth child tired to her back, with two of her children following their father, who held in his hands a freshly trapped grasscutter. A visitor of 'Miss', as most of the female teachers were called, was always welcome and many of the other folks smiled, waved or stopped to shake hands. It was better to shake hands, since a wave from afar was sometimes deemed uncouth, and referred to as cutting a branch of a tree! However, few stopped to shake the hands of the visitor, as they sensed that Miss wanted some privacy.

Kwesi turned Araba to face him, and he looked down into her eyes.

"My dear, know this. We may still have a long way to go but take this from me. Allow me to borrow from Scripture. Human as I am, I promise never to leave you nor forsake you. You seem to think you alone have the capacity to love, more than all men; all ladies have that false impression. Hear this: I love you back! So long have I loved you, and I have heart aches too. But now I know that my love is for you, and I want to shout it out too, now! We will walk this road together.

Our elders say marriage is like a groundnut, you have to crack it to see what is inside; I think a relationship is also similar. We will crack this together and we will learn to like and appreciate what is inside. Marriage is not like palm wine that you taste and put aside, and I am committed to go all the way with you. I want you to pledge to marry me, Araba. I want you to be my wife."

He embraced Araba warmly. Contentment showed on both faces as they remained in their embrace; Araba could only manage to nod her consent to his request. That was enough for Kwesi, after all to the untrained eye, the antics of the monkey are nonsense but it communicates a lot.

Far above them, the sun smiled gently on those two lovebirds and gave them his blessings, as he opened the door to his house. The songs of the birds ceased, the wind became quiet, the tree branches craned their long necks, all nature seeming to come to a standstill as Kwesi and Araba walked back to the village slowly, arms linked, down the aisle of life, a solemn procession with the trees and creatures of nature as their companions and audience, back to the village, back to love, back to peace. Heartaches may still come their way, but at least they knew they had a cure - their love.

Hope Undeferred was written by Nana Awere Damoah.

Copyright Nana Awere Damoah 2009.

Nana Awere Damoah was born in Kotobabi, a suburb of the capital city of Accra, Ghana, where he spent the first twenty five years of his life, ‘a very tough place to grow up, but a crucible of learning experiences’. He holds a Masters in Chemical Engineering from the University of Nottingham, UK, a first class degree in Chemical Engineering from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana (where he graduated top of his class, receiving the Unilever Excellence and the Shell Foundation awards), and spent all his Secondary school years at Ghana National College, Cape Coast, Ghana.

A British Council Chevening scholarship alumnus, Nana worked with Unilever Ghana Limited from 2000 till 2005 (when he left for further studies) and returned to Unilever Ghana in 2006 after his studies in UK. Presently, he is the Production Manager (Foods) for the Tema factory.

Right from preparatory school, Nana was involved in acting plays and reciting poetry. He started writing seriously when he was about 17 years, in the Sixth form; he began with essays, but moved swiftly into short stories, and has had a number of his short stories published in the Ghanaian weeklies ‘The Mirror’ and ‘The Spectator’. In 1997, he won the first prize in the Step Magazine National Story Writing Competition. In KNUST, he was part of the Literary Wing of the Interhall Christian Fellowship, where he acted and wrote poems.

His poems were published in magazines on KNUST campus. He maintains three blogs of his writings:

Excursions in My Mind (essays)

Stories from the Loom (short stories)

Patmos Collections (poetry)

He also publishes his writings and thoughts regularly on Facebook.com, and has been circulating his Excursions in my mind series amongst his friends via email since 2004.

His first book, Excursions in My Mind, a collection of reflective essays and poems, was published by Athena press UK in October 2008 and is available on Athena.com, amazon.com and amazon.co.uk, as well as in Ghana bookshops. He is working on his second book of essays and poetry, ‘Through the Gates of Thought’, due in March 2009.

As a writer, Nana sees himself as a distillation plant which takes issues around him - mundane, routine everyday occurrences - as his raw material, reflects on and processes them, producing various fractions, fit for use by his readers.

His work with Joyful Way Incorporated, a Christian Music ministry in Ghana, of which he was National President from 2002 to 2004, takes a greater part of his spare time. He is in the Prayer and Counselling Department of the ministry and also plays the drums, when drummers are not available!

He is married to Vivian. The couple and their sons, Nana Kwame Bassanyin and Nana Yaw Appiah, are based in Accra, Ghana.


Emmanuel Sigauke said...

Thank you for this one, Nana. As it's revised, it may need consistency in tone (I found some parts too formal, even using words like "missive")... the cultural referents were priceless, reminding of Achebe (idiomatic expression, proverbial allusions)....overally, the story could use selective elements of surpise.

These are just first impressions; I will read the story again.

Nana Awere Damoah said...

Another priceless thing, Emmanuel, is your feedback and critique; thanks a lot. I learnt that second thoughts are ever wiser and also in my writing career, nothing like good writing - only good re-writing! Cheers.

Kwame Amos Baah said...

That was a truly inspiring piece. I think you made a pretty good impact with the letter in the beginning. It was a feel good story.

Ben Malm said...

A refreshing departure from the discotheque love stories of today. Pause to give brief backgrounds of local settings and landmarks. e.g. Ankobra is the main souce of water for the... Assin Kabrofo is a village of......
A non-local can then identify with the setting of the story as it is being told. You could also be the only source of knowledge about the Ankobrah, the Assins etc. to some readers. Great piece.

Nana Awere Damoah said...

@Amos and Ben, thanks for your comments.
Ben, you are right, I will look into that as well. Cheers.

Sarudzai Mubvakure said...

A good story! I like stories that hook you from the beginning and give you an incentive to carry on reading. My incentive was 'What happened to Kwesi". So your story definitely delivered for me.

I too liked the impact of the letter in the beginning. However, i was not expecting Kwesi to be an honest man. I was surprised that he came to tell her that he loved her (Aruba) too. Don't get me wrong. It was a pleasant surprise. I suppose, not all men let you down hey!

I loved this peice.... "He suggested they go out for a walk. She obliged and soon with her arms intertwined into his, they took the path that went towards Moseaso, by the peaceful flowing waters of the Ankobra, the waters lovingly washing the rocks in an intricate, ancient ritual, undisturbed by the passage of time"

Brilliant. I look forward to reading more

Nana Awere Damoah said...

@Saru: Thanks a lot! I guess there are a few good men in the world, lol. Cheers.

Kwame Amos Baah said...

That was a truly inspiring piece. I think you made a pretty good impact with the letter in the beginning. It was a feel good story.

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