In Ghana, there is a thing people say about love, “ɔdɔ yɛ owuo” to wit, Love is death.
At a house party one warm Friday night, I met him. I was either high on something or some things. I felt euphoric. The room spun in bright neon colours, laughing faces, floating hands, the strong smell of alcohol and cigarette fumes from the exhausted lips of teenagers, throbbing afrobeat music, and then, there was him.
Standing right there in the centre of the room dressed in a lemon green shirt and coffee coloured ankle-length trousers, he had a cocky half-smile plastered on his face as he spoke to Lumi, the girl whose party we were at.
The neon lights that washed the room kissed his dark chocolate skin so intimately, it was arousing.
It made a grand show of his angular cheekbones and jawline. His lips were plump and had a tinge of red. And the sinews of his muscle, lean though, seemed to be bursting from under his skin. He was perfect.
I guess Lumi noticed them too. I watched her fingers trace the veins on his crossed arms. He didn’t mind. She would burst into laughter and cover her mouth.
I watched him. I watched how he would shift his weight from one foot to the other as he tapped his fingers against his elbow to find an unknown rhythm.
The room stilled.
He caught me staring. He didn’t seem to mind. He smiled ever so slightly and winked. Or was he just blinking?
At that moment, It was just the two of us in that room. The room quieted. The bodies faded away. My heart slowed, and neon light cast a spotlight on him.
The distance between the two of us seemed to disappear, and there he was, standing right in front of me, breathing in the same air as me. His face was only inches away from mine. I lifted my eyes, and they clashed with his dark brown eyes. I was drawn in. I was lost in them. That moment stole a part of me.
A horn blasted in my left ear. Whatever trance I had been in was lost. The noise in the room rudely returned. My heart quickened as the sweaty bodies of teenagers came huddling against each other. The spotlight was gone.
We were back in the neon-lighted room; I at one end, he at the other, still being flirted with by Lumi, and the idiot with the horn wouldn’t stop blasting it close to my ear.
I turned and pushed the idiot to the floor as I stormed out.
The garden faintly smelled of freshly cut grass and smelled strongly of Frangipanis and African Violets. I had found a lover’s seat by the artificial creek that flowed in the garden. All was calm till I heard the crunch of footsteps approaching.
“There you are,” the rather unfamiliar voice said. I turned, and it was him, with a wide grin plastered on his face.
“I’ve been looking for you,” he said while joining me on the seat. “Why were you staring at me?”
I was Dumbfounded. He smiled. “Hey, What are you doing out here?”
“No-nothing,” I managed to blurt out. But unfortunately, it didn’t come out half as graceful as I had expected.
“So why were you staring? Something on my face?” he said, looking at me.
“No, nothing. There was nothing on your face,” I said.
“Then what?” he looked amused.
“You’re handsome,” it slipped out before I could catch it. I clasped my mouth in shock.
“Oh!,” he replied. “Thanks, I guess. You’re not bad yourself,” he said, looking shyly at me.
“Sorry. I’ve got to leave,” I mumbled as I lifted my body from the bench, but he held me down.
“Sit!” he said.
I sat. We didn’t say much; we enjoyed each other’s silent company. We talked about flowers, the creek, the party, and the sky.
I left the garden that night without knowing his name or he, mine. But I felt fulfilled, and happy.
Two weeks passed, and I hadn’t seen him again. After that, all was normal till I walked into church that Sunday morning and saw him standing on the aisle speaking to the Priest’s children.
He nodded, and I nodded back. I found myself a pew, away from the other teenagers, more like away from him, and settled in for the service. Before long, I felt someone slide into the bench beside me. It was him.
“I am running away from Lumi,” he whispered and smiled at me. I smiled back.
He smelled strongly of vanilla and sandalwood. We didn’t say much during the service. I couldn’t help but notice his firm thigh-grazing mine and quite frequently too. My brains were a mushy mess. I wondered if I could go through the service without God causing the earth to swallow me whole. My brain was filth, and I was drunk on him.
After the service, he just upped and left. “See you around,” was all he said.
Later that evening, I heard my parents talking about him and his family. They had just moved in from Takoradi. His father was a ship engineer, and his mother was a hairstylist. He was transferred to a school in my area, probably my school, and he’d be in a senior class.
I didn’t learn his name.
I stumbled into the school cafeteria during lunch break, and there he was, staring at me. He smiled and waved. I smiled back, but he didn’t see me wave. This time we didn’t speak; Lumi and her gang had him on lockdown.
I would catch him stealing glances at me while Lumi questioned him on everything. He looked like he needed some savings, but I didn’t know him well or at all to offer him any. It would look awkward.
I left the cafeteria without speaking to him.
Soon I saw him everywhere; in the cafeteria, on the playing field, at church. There was no respite. And the fewer we spoke, the more conversations I imagined we had. And the more I imagined, the more lucid my dreams of him became.
Like the other time when I dreamt it was just the two of us in the school’s cafeteria savouring each other’s lips or that time; I dreamt he had walked in on me at the school’s showers and instead of leaving had joined me, or the other time; I dreamt he had kissed me in front of Lumi, or the other time; I found us frolicking in a soft linen bed, naked, full of lust, as he entered me slowly. In those days, I was always saved by the alarm clock.
It was clear that I had fallen in love with a guy whose name I hadn’t even bothered to find out. A guy whose most intimate contact with me was when he would slide into my pew on Sunday and rub his thigh against mine or, sometimes, his fingers.
It was becoming too much to handle.
Lumi had thrown another party at her house again, something about everyone wearing a mask. That girl lived in a fantasy.
Drinks were being washed down cavernous mouths, techno music blasted from speakers while young bodies ground against each other, and I was by the buffet table stuffing my hollow cheeks with delicious cupcakes.
Once in a while, you’d hear a group shout or howl or whatever sound they could make up. The masks had allowed them to connect to their inner animal; they cannot be identified after all.
I left the table when it became crowded and headed for one of the open bedrooms. I didn’t notice anyone was already inside. I was shocked.
“You,” he said.
“Me?” I was confused. Before I could ask any questions, he grabbed me and kissed me. His hands held on to me firmly as I would escape. I went numb.
His kiss was forceful; his tongue prodded my lips to part, and when they finally did, I melted. Shock gave way to lust and yearning, so I kissed him back. I felt him relax into me when I finally responded to his kiss. I guess he was also in shock.
The forceful kiss gave way to a tender one as we sucked and savoured the taste of our lips. There was a strange feeling in my chest. He ground his stiff crotch into mine, and a soft moan escaped from my lips.
Just when things were getting heated, there was a knock on the door. He quickly pulled away from me and fixed his crotch. I was at a loss. Then the door opened, and Lumi entered.
“There you are. I’ve been looking for you everywhere. Let’s go,” Lumi said without even spotting me standing quietly in the corner behind the door.
And that was it.
On Monday, the news broke in school. He had died in a car crash with his dad while on an errand. His father survived with merely a scratch.
I discovered his name. He was Thomas Kofi Bart-Plange. I couldn’t breathe. How would I explain to my friends why I was crying?
That entire week, my life went on in a daze. A dark cloud was hanging over my head, the school, and the house. I was numb.
I stared at the pool. The others were in class. It’d be an hour before any class came to swim lessons. I didn’t know how to swim.
The darkness was all-consuming. Like an ocean, it was endless. I expected to see the light. I expected to find him waiting for me but there was no one to welcome me. He wasn’t here. I just floated in this great silent abyss.
Pain. I vomit and start coughing violently. I hear sounds, murmurs, cries. Someone is rubbing my chest, my arm. Pain.
“Open your eyes if you can hear me,” the voice coaxes. “Open your eyes, K.”
I open them slowly.
First, the light is too bright, so it hurts my eyes. I open them again. And for a split second, I see him; I see Thomas. He is smiling down at me, caressing my face, saying, “It’s okay. It’s alright. You’re safe. How are you feeling?”
I smiled. Joy. He never left me. He never left me.
I guess ‘love is death’ wasn’t always about death. It was about the absoluteness of love, like death. Even when they’re gone, a part of them still stays with you.
About the Author:
Cornerlis Kweku Affre is a newly minted graduate from the Ghana Institute of Journalism. He has a passion for storytelling and believes an appropriate representation of people especially minority groups in the media landscape would go a long way to eradicate the phobia and public ridicule they’re forced to endure.