“Sit there, and don’t move until I tell you to.”
Furious. There was no other word for the way Pomaa was feeling. She stepped into the shower and waited for a flood of other emotions to engulf her. She didn’t have to wait long. Soon to follow were “pissed off”, “stabbed in the back” and “delirious”…but it was definitely fury that led the pack.
She thought about Frema, sitting there on the other side of her bathroom door, chin tilted in defiance as she perched on her bed and thought about what she was going to say to her next. Never in all their days of friendship had Frema ever pulled such a stunt. But then, that was the problem, wasn’t it? She and Frema weren’t merely friends, they were sisters. Sisters were supposed to stick together, not run off and double-cross you because they were –
What WAS Frema’s motivation? Was she jealous? Hurt? Angry? How could she be any of these things? How could she pass a value judgment against Akoto without knowing anything about him, besides what he did for a living? Frema would just have to answer – and now – wouldn’t she? Pomaa turned off the tap, grabbed a towel and rubbed her sopping wet body vigorously, sucking her teeth and pursing her lips with every rough stroke. She half expected Frema to have played the coward and be gone when she opened the bathroom door, but she was still there on the bed, cradling the ohema sandals Akoto had made especially for her.
“They really are beautiful, aren’t they?” Frema asked wistfully. There were tears in her eyes as she spoke. “You can tell he put a lot of care into the craftsmanship.”
“Why, Frema? Why did you do this?”
How much easier it would have been to defend her actions if Pomaa had asked her the question with at least a bit of malice! Frema could then indignantly snap back and tell her how wrong she was for her choice. Instead, Pomaa’s voice was heavy with pain, concern and sadness. It broke Frema’s defenses.
“I didn’t mean to hurt you, Agyapomaa. I swear it. I just…I didn’t know what to do. It’s not our way! You can’t have a relationship with someone so…poor. It’s not the Ashanti Aristocrat way!”
“Fuck your aristocrat ways and damn them to hell!” Pomaa exploded. “That is YOUR way of life. When did I tell you I ascribed to it? How dare you run and call the Council on me! Of all the shit you’ve pulled over the years – and there’s been a lot of it – I have never and would never do that to you Frema Gyasi. Don’t touch my shoes!”
Pomaa snatched the sandals from Frema’s hands and placed them guardedly on her shoe rack. And then softened as if the spirit of kindness and love in which they were given compelled her to. Pomaa settled her nude body on the bed next to her weeping friend, entwined her fingers in hers and told her not to cry.
This was their way. Frema would commit an offence and Pomaa invariably ended up soothing her. It was insane, but it was familiar. It was all the two women knew.
“Have you ever been made love to, Frema?” Pomaa whispered. She pulled Frema onto her back and stared at the ceiling.
“What a silly question, Pomaa,” she sniffed. “You know my track record.”
Close your eyes and come with me to Akoto’s container. Yes, Frema, he lives in a container. And he sleeps on a sofa with three cushions. I was so ready for him to take me in that usual way that men and women do: him on top of me, me on top of him – but he had other designs. He told me he wanted to treasure that moment, and treasure me in it. He undressed me, and watched me for an eternity. Akoto just sat there, watching me breathe, watching my nipples harden and react to the temperature of the room, waiting until I got comfortable being naked in his presence. And then he rubbed my scalp, Frema; played with every strand of my hair and twirled in in his fingers. Have you ever had a man dare to toy with your hair? It’s like they’re scared. It was exhilarating…
He discovered places on my body that I never had life: the hollow part of my collar bone, the narrowest portion of my hips, that soft spot just behind my knees. It’s like he was trying to create a map of my soul and my body with his hands. When he was done, he invited me to do the same. I felt things I had never felt before, Frema. I have never touched a man in that way, and may never be touched in that way again. Who knows? It was like he was handling a precious jewel. That’s how he made me feel; like I was unique, a star the occupied his sky all alone.
Frema furrowed her brow and glanced at Pomaa. Was she done?
“Ah. And then what?”
“And then we fell asleep.”
“So you didn’t fuck?”
“No, Frema. We didn’t fuck.”
Frema leapt to her feet and jiggled her keys, indicating that she was leaving. But before she left, she had to know if she was forgiven. She couldn’t leave the house if she had not earned forgiveness.
“Yes, Frema, you’re forgiven,” Pomaa sighed. Her tone turned solemn. “But don’t ever pull anything like this again. As much as what Lucinda did to me in Ibadan hurt, this was a hundred times worse. I can’t endure that ever again.”
The rebuke made Frema visibly uncomfortable. “Dennis called me this morning. He said he is eager to speak with you about the park project,” she said quickly, trying to change the subject. “He asked if you would call him ASAP.”
“I will,” she promised. “But I have to call Akoto first to tell him I got home safely. Before you had the council ambush me I was going to inform you that he has a mobile phone!”
Frema rolled her eyes and sauntered out of the room. She would let Pomaa have this moment of victory. Her shoe repair boyfriend had a mobile phone. So what? Hers was a returnee engineer!
A month later Dennis moved into a flat in Santasi district of Kumasi. Frema was thrilled, or course, but couldn’t help but voice her disappointment in his living arrangements. He should have rented a house with a courtyard and lots more room, she complained. His two-room flat left her feeling confined and ill at ease. Plus, she didn’t like his neighbors.
“Some of them are so bush,” she mouthed over her drink one evening. “But he says it makes him feel like he’s back in the ‘gritty city’, whatever that means. The America I’ve been to has nice lawns and everyone drives cars. I think I will advise him to move to Maryland away from DC. I think I remember the blacks in DC also being quite bush.”
“Oh, Frema! Let this man live!” Pomaa laughed. “And you should be proud of him. He’s done so well on the project we’re working on. The Metropolitan Assembly is impressed with our plans and proposals, so we should begin renovation and construction soon.”
“I’m glad he was able to help you get this going, but I really think this is something you are strong enough to do on your own.”
Pomaa took a sip of her drink and shook her head. “I am certainly smart enough to do it, but it’s hard to convince that team of accidental misogynists that I am strong enough.”
“Why do you call them accidental?”
“I wish you could sit in on some of these meetings with me, Frema. You wouldn’t believe the things men say about women. That we aren’t suited to maths or science, that we are too emotional; but at the same time they claim to be so progressive and forward thinking. That’s why I call them accidental misogynists.”
Frema took a big gulp of her drink and sucked her teeth in disgust. “That sounds like intentional misogyny to me!”
“The worst are the women who co-sign on all this behavior just to keep peace and their positions,” Pomaa spat. “I don’t have time to wage this war. I just need to get it won – and that’s why Dennis is such a convenient tool. I give him the plans, he executes them, and things get done.”
Possessiveness whipped up in Frema like a whirlwind. She gave Pomaa a sharp, disapproving look for comparing Dennis to a device just to get a job done. He was so much more than that. It would have been very appropriate at that time to run down the very familiar list of Dennis’ accomplishments, but she decided not to make a fuss about Pomaa’s choice in words. After all, she was the one who brought Dennis into the conversation. She was the one who brought Dennis into their lives, now that she thought about it. The man’s existence was engulfing her very being, overshadowing it at every turn. Pomaa thought it was dangerous – to be so completely enveloped in another human being – but Dennis wasn’t Femi. Dennis needed Frema. He had told her as much, quite frequently.
“Why don’t we go down to the park to see how far you guys have come along?” Frema asked. She had a sudden itch in her feet. “I haven’t seen much outside of the paper plans, and those mean nothing to me.”
Images of her last encounter with Mamadou flashed in Pomaa’s head. How could Frema have forgotten her nightmare so quickly? She shook her head slowly and aggressively vetoed the suggestion. “It’s getting dark. I don’t think it’s a good idea.”
Frema was disappointed, which meant she would descend into a mood and if something didn’t come along to distract her, the evening would end in a full on sulk. They were supposed to go to the cinema anyway. Had she forgotten? Tonga: Part 4 was coming out. Nothing made the evening better than a Kumawood film. Frema clapped her hands and leapt to her feet now that she had something to look forward to.
“Hurry up and finish your drink so that we can get to a good seat!” she urged.
Pomaa downed her vodka and Red Bull and grabbed her purse. A fiery sunset greeted them as they stepped out of the glass doors of the restaurant. Pomaa suggested that they walk. The theater was only a mile or so away. She reminded Frema of how they would do this in secondary school, giggling as boys shouted out catcalls and made vulgar commentary about the bouncing of their buttocks.
“You always got it worse than I did,” she teased, smacking Frema hard on the backside. “Your ass looks like you have two dwarfs fighting in your pants!”
Something familiar – dreadfully familiar – cut into the sound of their shared laughter. It was a man’s voice yelling behind them, approaching faster and gobbling up space with every step he took. It sent a chill down Pomaa’s spine.
Marie! Marie! Vien ici! I’ve been looking all over for you, Marie! Come here!
Oh, God. It couldn’t be. Terror took over every portion of Pomaa’s limbs, igniting her flight.
“Frema… It’s Mamadou. Run!”