*Yaw Obeng was the one man that I loved with the whole of my being. There were times that I was tempted to feel that he was the only man I would ever love in that way. But, you know what I always tell you? Never give a man the whole of your being to the extent that you stop having hope in life when he leaves you. You must always be strong enough to move on when a relationship is not working out. As we say in our language ‘esuro aware gyae a, ennya aware pa’ to wit- If you’re afraid of getting a divorce, then you’ll never get a good marriage.
Yaw Obeng! There was a time that just the thought of him would make me tingle all over! The first time I saw him was just before he set up his store in our village. Although he was born in our village, he moved away to Kumasi when he was about nineteen years and basically just engaged in trade. By the time he moved back to our village, he was almost thirty years and I had just turned eighteen.
I was walking on my way to the stream. I liked to go to the stream each sunset. I would sit on some rocks by the stream and watch the bright yellow sky turn red. Usually, by sunset, I would have performed all my chores, the evening meal would have been cooked and served and if we had gone to work on the farm that day, we would have returned. No one went to the stream in the evening and so it was quiet around the stream without people fetching water and children playing and bathing in it. I would sit on the rocks, gaze into the sky and think about my life, about what man I wanted to marry, how many children I hoped I would have and so on.
On that day, I was on my way to the stream when I saw him and two of his friends. They were setting up the kiosk that would later become Yaw Obeng’s store, the biggest store in our village. Yaw’s store would sell everything from imported canned foods to slates for the school children to write on. It would later on be said that if you wanted something and you didn’t get it in Yaw Obeng’s store, then it couldn’t be bought at all! My god, but what a handsome man that Yaw was! He was tall, broad chested, with the shiniest darkest ebony skin you could ever have seen. And what I loved most about him were his eyes, they were so large and expressive. As I walked by, Yaw looked away from the piece of wood that he was holding up while his friend hammered the other end.
‘Good evening’ I greeted them politely but aloofly. Hahaha, that’s how I used to act when I saw a man I liked oh! I’d suddenly act all reserved, as if I wasn’t into him meanwhile I was checking him out papaapa! ‘Yaa obi dier, Good evening someone’s betrothed’ he responded with a naughty twinkle in those lovely eyes of his. How flirtatious! That was when I should have realized that Yaw was quite the ladies man. You see, by calling me ‘someone’s betrothed’, Yaw had presented me with only two options. I could pretend that I was betrothed to someone although I wasn’t but if word got out that I did this, I would be the subject of ridicule for a while (People would say ‘How desperate could she be for a lover that she’s going around pretending to be taken’?). Or, I could tell him that I wasn’t ‘taken’ and that would more or less be an open invitation for him to pursue me. I had no choice and decided to take the second route.
‘I’m not obi dier or someone’s betrothed’ I told him suddenly feeling very shy. Yaw threw his head back and laughed heartily, ‘Then in that case I’m going to pursue you because I haven’t seen any damsel in this village as beautiful as you’ he said. My heart skipped a beat. Yaw was still laughing as he reached into a huge sack behind him and pulled out a huge bar of cadbury’s chocolate with its purple and brown encasing. “A lovely treat for a beautiful woman”, he said as he handed me the bar of chocolate. I grinned from ear to ear, hurriedly thanked him and rushed to the stream where I bit into the soft delicious chocolate, savoring its taste! It was really hard for a young girl like me to come by a whole bar of chocolate because they were so expensive. I reserved the rest to share with the children in my house. That was the beginning of our romance.
Yaw pursued me with the same single-minded dedication that had made him a successful businessman. He came to my puberty rites ceremony and gave me five shillings which was a huge amount of money in our village. I couldn’t help but notice how during the ceremony, he gazed up and down my body with such intense desire, focusing on my exposed, blooming breasts, all the while with a mischievous smile playing on his lips.
So, I was not surprised when he and his uncle showed up at my house one day with a bottle of schnapps to come and tell my father that he wanted to respectfully ask for a chance to ‘walk’ with his daughter and ‘observe her’. That was the culture in my village. I guess today, it’s the same way as those men who’ve been visiting you in this house. Hahaha, do you think I don’t observe them when they come here? I know that they’re crazy about my granddaughter hahaha. Anyways, like I said, the culture in my village was that if a man saw you and liked you, the respectful thing for him to do was for him to come and ask for permission to ‘walk with you’. I guess it’s like what you people call ‘girlfriend-boyfriend’? A man was supposed to respectfully ask for permission to court a woman rather than just whistling at her & trying to chat her up in secret places!If your father agreed to the courtship, then the rest of the deal was up to you. Once you’d done your puberty rites, you could have sexual intercourse with a man who asked to court you and even get pregnant and no one would really care. In fact, if a pregnancy occurred it would be considered very good news indeed! The father would come to perform the naming ceremony and accept the child as his own.
But in my case, my dad was very very strict and religious and so I was terrified to do anything with Yaw although I wanted to. It was very hard. You know when you’re a young woman, it’s like your body is always ‘on fire’, especially when you’re in love. And it was becoming more and more difficult for me and Yaw not to be physically intimate. Because he was a wealthy, young man, he had his own house and even where it was located made the situation more tempting! It was almost on the outskirts of town and located at a very obscure side of our village. So, one would see me if I entered his house. One day, I made up my mind. At sunset, the usual time I went to sit by the stream, I was going to go to Yaw’s house- alone….
TO BE CONTINUED
* As narrated to Ekuba by her Nana, her grandmother.