Chapter 3 of The Woman Who Married 6½ men
As I stood there watching Esi Atta & Mister Smith(the white catechist & headmaster) passionately kissing, I began to plot my escape. I stepped gingerly on a pile of palm fronds that someone had cut and left on my grandmother’s farm. It made a squishing noise but the two people were too busy sucking each other’s tongues to notice. And that was how I gently retreated, out of the farm till I came to the footpath which my three male cousins had freshly weeded with hoes one week ago. It was the rainy season and weeds were growing as furiously as the plantain, palm and cocoa trees were flourishing.
I run out of the footpath, past the school where other students were having classes. If it were not that I was running away from being eaten, I would have stopped aside the school awhile. I liked to do that from time to time, stand outside the school compound, with its whitewashed stones and garden full of bougainvillea & hibiscuses. I would gaze at the yellow and blue painted walls of the school, gaze past the wooden windows into the classrooms where the teachers stood sternly in front of the class with wooden canes, writing on blackboards with white chalks. I would look at the pupils, writing on their own mini black slates with chalks I imagined that I was one of the students, wearing the uniform; a yellow blouse and blue skirt. I imagined that I was able to open a book and read whatever was in it.
But today I didn’t stop outside the school, I run past it. I run past the market place. Today was not a market day so the area was not bustling with women selling cocoyam and tomatoes and scotch bonnet peppers and dried tilapia to make garden egg stew with. I run past Otchere’s shop. The only shop in our village which stocked every product that was carried in those big ships from London- where they said the Queen’s palace was built with nothing but gold mined from Ashanti towns- to our village. Delicious tins of corned beef which we children could only eat at Christmas, sweet biscuits, sugar cubes which I loved to suck raw whenever one of the adults gave one to me, tins of sardine which the rich people ate their kenkey with, bars of soap, white powder, and kerosene lamps. I run past homes, bumped into a few people who swore at me & called me ‘foolish girl’, run down the road full of red soil leading up to my home. I rushed into my home, past the wooden fence of our house and entered the big compound structure with twelve rooms arranged in a square around a large compound. There were 3 rooms on each side of the square, the walls were unpainted but the whole house was roofed with corrugated sheets which was a testament to the fact that my grandfather was one of the few elderly men in our village who had gone to school.
‘Herh, Araba where is the basket that I asked you to bring from Aya’s farm’? That was my aunt Esaarba. She was the reason why I had gone to Aya, my grandma’s farm & ended up seeing that fearful sight. Mama Esaarba (for in those day’s we called our mothers’ sisters mama & she was my grandma’s last born & thoroughly spoilt if I may add!) had sent me on an errand to bring her the wooden basket which she forgot to bring from the farm when she went there the previous day. Mama Esaarba had gone to the farm & when she saw her friend standing across at the other farm (the same farm where I saw the two people kissing); she stopped farming altogether & went over to chat with her friend. And that was how Mama Esaarba spent the entire day helping her friend to weed her farm and she achieved the astonishing feat of leaving behind the basket she brought to the farm. The fact that she could leave a basket on a farm showed how spoilt she was! It’s the equivalent of abandoning your handbag in your office because you were chatting with a friend!
‘Herh Araba’ Mama Esaarba said again, yanking painfully on my ear, ‘I will beat you o! Have you become like those kids that refuse to run errands when they are sent’? I was an introverted child & ordinarily I’d have kept quiet but something in me snapped & I exploded ‘I-i-is it my fault that I run back home? If you knew the atrocities that are being committed on our farm, you won’t pull my ear like that. People are being killed on our farm!’ ‘Herh’? Mama Esaarba was shocked since she had never heard me speak to an adult like that. With her mouth hanging open, I told her how Mister Smith had chewed up Esi Atta’s mouth and was still eating her up as we spoke. No sooner had the words left my mouth than Mama Esaarba threw her head back & laughed heartily. Without bothering to explain to my perplexed self why she was laughing, she run straight into the room of one of her sisters, Mama Ewurafua. All I heard were whispers followed by titters and guffaws, after which they both run into the room of their sister-in-law.
That was how news spread in my village about how the newly posted white catechist had been carrying on an affair with another man’s wife. Three days later, at dawn, I was on my way to fetch water from the stream & I passed by Aunt Esi Atta’s house as I usually did. I saw Kofi Esuon, her husband throwing a jute bag full of her clothes outside the house while she wept bitterly. Kofi Esuon was weeping too, but he was weeping silently, and a solitary tear run down his cheek that he didn’t bother to wipe away. Esi Atta’s rival & Kofi Esuon’s first wife stood a short distance away from where Kofi Esuon was throwing out Esi Atta’s bag. With her baby tied to her back, Esi Atta’s rival hooted & clapped provocatively at her rival ‘Hooo!’ ‘Besia Adwamanyi’ Adulterous woman. ‘Your charms against my husband didn’t work, so all this while, instead of giving him a son you were moving around with every man in this village erh? And you have no shame, how could you date a white man, those people smell. They don’t even bath or clean their teeth with a chewing stick. Go away with all your bad luck!’
Two weeks later, Mister Smith was transferred from our village presumably to another village. His tenure at our village lasted only a month which was very unusual because catechists/headmasters were usually assigned for at least a year. No reason was given for the transfer but before he was transferred, the District Commissioner came all the way to our village (which was very rare) and had a long conversation with our chief which only the elders in the palace were allowed to hear. No one knows till today what happened but word has it that our chief asked the District Commissioner (DC) to take his catechist who ‘could not control his male member’ out of our village otherwise, he couldn’t guarantee his safety. Word also has it that our chief told the DC that had Mister Smith been a native of our village, he would have been thoroughly beaten up by Kofi Esuon & his friends, asked to pay ayefare ie: damages to Kofi Esuon & slaughter a sheep to pacify the gods for his unclean acts of not just seducing another man’s wife doing in on a farm & thus defiling the land which belonged the earth goddess, Asaase Yaa.
Eventually, although no one could explain how, Esi Atta ended up back in Kofi Esuon’s house. Some said that he had taken her back because he loved her too much. Others said that she had put a charm in his food & tied him up to her. She remained his favorite wife until the day that he died. Sometimes, even infidelity is not strong enough to destroy the love that one person has for the other.
My grandchild, don’t ask me how Esi Atta learnt how to do that thing that you people call kissing. I don’t know whether it was the white man who taught her or she learnt it on her own. These white people like to kiss. They kiss their lovers, kiss their children, even their god, Jesus was kissed by his servant Judas who later betrayed him. But for us, at least, at our village, it didn’t really use to be like that. We had other ways of showing affection even with our lovers. When a man has your neck, ears and breasts to caress, your waist beads to play with and to do all manner of exciting things with & your body to make love to until you are so full of pleasure that you can’t even remember your own name, why does he need to spit into your mouth? Don’t be shy my grandchild, I may be old now but it doesn’t mean I didn’t have fun in my days! Now I’m tired & need to sleep, let’s talk again tomorrow and I’ll tell you about the day that I felt like a woman.