The drive to Kumasi from Accra should have only taken four hours. It took Pomaa and Frema six.
This is what happened every time Frema “fell in love”. She literally wanted to stop and smell life’s roses. Every few miles of the 200 mile journey, Frema would stop the car to ask traders, artisans and police officers after their welfare.
“How is your day?” “Caught any criminals lately?” “Ei! Why would you carve wood too look like a penis? Ha! Yes, I’ll buy two…”
Pomaa wondered if she might not have been better off taking that last flight into Kumasi, despite the terror she felt every time the cabin crew shut the door. She felt trapped…like the air was being sucked out of her body. Somehow, sitting in a car for half a day with an overly exuberant Frema was no different. Every time she mentioned Dennis’ name or recounted any portion of the events from the night before, it was like a mini-death. She knew it was stupid, but still…
It wasn’t until they had reached Nkawkaw that Frema noticed that something was wrong.
“Ah. Agyapomaa, are you tired? You’ve hardly said word this whole trip!”
“When have you given me the chance to respond,” Pomaa countered.
“Oh, nonsense.” Frema checked her side mirror before changing lanes. “Since when do you need my permission to interrupt? Seriously. Tell me what’s wrong.”
Pomaa sighed and rubbed her temple.
“It was last night. It was horrible!”
“Because I brought a man over? You’ve never had a problem before.”
“It wasn’t that,” Pomaa replied, shaking her head. “I actually met Dennis before you did.”
“Ah. So are you angry because you wanted him?”
Frema sounded irritated. Pomaa realized how foolish she must have appeared and spoke quickly, coughing up the words to her painful memory.
“No. It was because Dennis was in the club with Femi.”
“Eh? Femi! Your Femi?!”
“Frema! Keep your eyes on the road!”
The little grey Honda jerked back into the center of the highway, barely missing a trotro driver who gestured an obscenity at the two women. Frema was silent, then she broke into a broad smile that gave way to a delighted guffaw.
“Ho! Is that why you left Aphro without telling me? Because you saw your ex-fiancé? Did you actually see him?”
“Who or what did you see?”
A watershed of shame doused all over Pomaa when she realized what Frema was about to do.
“I saw a man with an afro.”
“And you heard Dennis call ‘Femi’, isn’t it?” Frema clapped her hands in delight. “Shall we do Sherlock and go through the process of deduction?”
Pomaa sucked her teeth. “No, Frema. I do NOT want to ‘do Sherlock’. I get it.”
Frema was heartbroken. She liked being a sleuth. She put her hand on Pomaa’s and gave her a reassuring smile.
“Pomaa, listen me and listen to me well,” she said in measured tones. “I am your very best friend, and if your ex was in the club, you would be the first to know…because I would have called you to watch while I beat him. Got it?”
Pomaa nodded and looked back out of the window forlornly. Her attitude sucked. She was a grown woman, not a lovesick teenager. What was this foolishness? Frema was still talking.
“…and I met Dennis’ friend. He’s a Nigerian. I didn’t ask his name. He was tall, but Dennis’ had a better body. You know I have x-ray vision. I could spot the potential of Dennis’ massive erection from ten feet away. As for his Naija friend, his heavy breathing told me has a bad heart.”
“You were doing Sherlock in the club?” Pomaa asked, laughing. “Deducing erectile potential?”
“Chale. These are hard times. Women have to be smart!”
The rest of the ride went smoothly after that. Pomaa even got out of the car to ask about pineapples and beaded trinkets whenever Frema had the mind to break the journey. When they arrived at the outskirts of the city, a sense euphoria overtook Pomaa.
Welcome to Kumasi: The Garden City
At last, she was home.
A slender boy with wide set eyes opened the trunk of the car and extracted Pomaa’s luggage. His name was Frederic. He was 16 years old. No, he had only been with auntie for one year, not very long.
Pomaa surmised that this Frederic must have been one of her mother’s latest projects. Ernestina Agyemang was very much a believer in the old ways. She felt it was her bound duty as an elder in the community to give young people an opportunity to work, learn a skill – usually via apprenticeship -, and send them out into the world to make their fortune. Some did better than others, like Serwaa who had gone on to start her own catering company in Cape Coast, and others not so well. What was the name of the boy who became a hacker? He was wanted in the UK for credit card fraud. What a waste. All those computer classes were for nothing. Pomaa wondered what this kid’s story would be.
“What have you chosen for a profession?” Pomaa asked half-heartedly. Unlike her mother, she never garnered any genuine interest in the dreams of these children. Her mother was addicted to doing good, but the emotional toll required in guaranteeing their success and what that toll exacted if they failed was one Pomaa was unwilling to pay.
“Please sister, I want to be a shoemaker,” Frederic replied shyly.
She resisted the urge to scoff. Sure, Kumasi had a dilapidated shoe making factory in the industrial district, but the company had died years ago, like many of Ghana’s other bourgeoning industries begun in the 1960’s.
Instead, she smiled at the young protégé and offered him a kind smile.
“Then you will do well. You know we women love shoes. The suitcase you are carrying is full of my favorite ones.”
Frederic flashed her a bright smile. His teeth were gleaming white against his ebony dark skin. This was a good kid. Pomaa was sure of it. She instructed him to take her suitcase up to her room and leave it. She would sort out her belongings later. Something was odd about the house, however. Why were there so many cars in the driveway?
“Oh! I must have forgot to tell you on the way up,” Frema said, rubbing concealer over her broad nose. “They have come for you.”
Pomaa felt sick. “Ewurade. All of them?” A knot twisted in her belly. “We had a six hour drive! How could you have forgotten to warn me?”
“Why do you think I’ve dressed like a class four pupil?” Frema asked, sniggering her rhetorical reply. “Let’s get this over and done with.”
Pomaa and Frema held hands and entered the hall together. Frema tried to assure her it would be okay, but Pomaa knew better. This gathering only happened on the most odious of occasions, and she was right in the center of it.