Hey Queen!

I just finished reading Queenie by the brilliant Candice Carty-Williams and it was such a well told story with so much candor and very relatable. I generally don’t do book reviews and I won’t say this is one but for a 25 year old black girl going on 26, this book hit somewhat close to home which made me uncomfortable at certain moments because of the striking similarities. In that sense, I appreciate the story being up to the times and expressing our current realities as frankly yet tenderly as possible so I thought why not put down my thoughts about it?

Granted, I started off annoyed at Queenie’s pining and whining for Tom after the break which was clearly a break up. I was particularly annoyed at her friends who seemingly encouraged her and more or less prodded her on to using promiscuity as a release (definitely no judgement). Okay, that may be somewhat unfair because they did warn her, albeit rather gently and still let her have her way because well she is an adult and ultimately responsible for herself. 

But my goodness, what friends! Darcy is an absolute ace and Kyazike is that one friend you absolutely need to have in your corner as a Black Woman. As in yeah you have friends but the one who understands your lived experiences as well in this society where just existing feels so taxing. That one you can share certain things with because although you are both Blacks speaking English, your roots are different yet speak in a language only you both understand for comfort. Cassandra…well, the least said the better. I will say though, Queenie was way too generous in getting her a seat at the table after the shit she pulled but I guess that’s what they call growth or whatever (yes, I know I get emotionally invested in books, please allow). I’ll know once I’m able to afford a Janet but until then, I maintain she was a rather appalling friend and yes, I can rationalise her decision to follow Guy at that moment but really sis, really? Which takes me back to my point about Kyazike being the friend we need because my good sis sniffed out Cass from the very start smh.

Anyway, life out here where you stick out every time as an other can get exhausting no matter how much you try to, or do actually assimilate, friends are absolutely necessary in maintaining your sanity. Darcy and Kyazike pulled through for her so beautifully. I legit let out a, “finally!” when Darcy reminded her how rather basic Tom was and didn’t do much for her. Girl, you could have said that before the self-destruction but okay cool. 

Yeah, Tom did not need to be harrassed by Queenie like that after the break but also wow Tom, you let your family be racist to your partner and then make her out to be problematic for reacting? Trash. Their relationship in general was unhealthy and yet I understand her latching on when she had to let go. It be like that sometimes.

That said though, I’m upset Queenie actually put up with his racist uncle for that long. See yeah, smiles and home visits won’t ever make these people defend your humanity when needed. They’ll kiki and love up on you yet expect you to be okay with being dehumanised because decorum and propriety. As someone who has never been in an interracial relationship, I cannot speak much on their dynamics but one thing I do know for sure is it could never be me. Fuck that shit, whatever your race may be as a partner, just don’t let them get disrespected by your family and expect them to be okay with it in the name of love. 

Actually yeah, all the men in this book sucked. Every single one of them. And it was not even surprising because have you met men? Lol. Ted was a first class arsehole who had the impudence of a dying cockroach up until the very end of his character’s presence in the book. Adi, another unimaginative cowardly one. Guy too was just one posh bastard. Simon wasn’t much relevant to the story but I really hoped Darcy would leave his behind for another who won’t drag her to early retirement. 

Now, there was a point I tweeted this book had me conflicted and that was when I came to terms with Queenie’s past and what that meant for her mental health and the way she was. I do think the book spent too much time on the break up and self-pitying, which is fair, Lord knows breakups suck. A large part of the book focused on the whole eye-rolling bits and gave us background context and proper character development about forty percent towards the end. 

But what actually had me conflicted was how much of myself I saw in Queenie which I’m sure is the same for a lot of Black Women in ways we tend not to talk about often. Dysfunctional mother-daughter relationship, check. Abuse by men in our lives both formative years and personal relationships later on, check. Mental health struggles we suppress because we have an image to uphold, check. Family members being dismissive of said mental health issues because what is that to Black people, check. Perhaps it wasn’t conflict but rather a realisation of me being unkind after piecing all that together post my get-over-the-break-up-already-and-move-on moment of irritation. 

We don’t always need to be aware of the backstory of others to determine whether or not we are going to be empathetic. I was mostly worried about her losing her job which was what had me irritated but then I reminded myself I had brushed off the miscarriage she had learned of at the beginning. The shock of her finding out and then going straight to officially losing her man. Of course that was likely to make her breakdown in some way and not everyone deals with pain the same. You see, the expectation of women, Black women, is to shoulder everything with a brave face and smile. Never show your pain nor acknowledge, always make others comfortable at your own expense, compromise on your autonomy and all the while carrying on with your usual routines like all is well and dandy. I criticised Queenie and her grandmother all for internalising that only to check myself with that too lol. Unlearning on a daily, innit?

Truth is though, all is never well and dandy. I appreciate Queenie’s family coming around to the idea of therapy and being encouraging eventually. I wish that was the reality of us all. 

This book is a Black as hell one. I love the vulnerability it expressed, the beauty and love of friendships, the strength family support brings. The characters were endearing, with the obvious exceptions of the trash men who like in real life, we can’t avoid and Cass who gets an honorable mention because *eye* am personally rather petty. 

I typed this all out in a flurry right after reading and it probably doesn’t make much sense as I’m blabbering but, tl;dr, love this book, I got reminded of M.O’s “hey Queen” speech towards the end when Queenie and Darcy had the pep talk and I definitely think it should be on everyone’s reading list for the year (it’ll make a great summer read for when you go on vacation, you’re welcome). 

Shoemaker

It was their seventh visit to Korle Bu Teaching Hospital.

The last prescription had not worked either. They were prescribed something new. Her mother sighed and folded it into her purse. She would give it to her husband to buy the drugs tomorrow. 

On the way to the bus stop, the strap of her sandal got loose. Threatening to fall out. She told her mother and they noticed a shoemaker just across the street. 

They crossed and sat on a bench behind him. The enormous branches of the tree they were under providing comforting shade. 

The shoemaker squatted before her as her mother told him what the issue was. He noticed the rashes on her feet and commented on how uncomfortable it probably was.

Her mother responded saying it was the reason they had been to the hospital. 

“O sɛ wei nnyɛ hospital hospital. Ɔtaa hyɛ cambu ɛne socks?”,he asked.

Her mother answered in the affirmative. 

“Ɛyɛ heat no. Wo deɛ ma no ntaa nhyɛ sandals na mframa nfa ne nan ho. Ɛyɛ nso a na wo de Mercy Cream asra ne nan ho. Nyinaa bɛ kɔ.”,he said.

Her mother thanked him and decided to give that a try for a month and hold on to buying this new medicine.

And it worked. 

Her mother went back to the shoemaker a month later just to thank him for his advice. 

Years later as an adult living in a much colder climate, she was forced to wear boots and the like to keep her feet warm. 

Every now and then when putting on her socks while dressing up, she remembers the shoemaker and smiles as she mouths a silent, “thanks.” 

Watch out world, I’m grown now?

I am currently about 4 months shy of my 25th birthday.

When I turned 20, my plan for 25 was to be in grad school, out of my mum’s, actively working out and have a healthy savings account with investments. So far, I am in grad school, I moved out of my mum’s, I run and my savings account looks pitiful with no investment yet. I guess you could say I am fairly on track to achieving my goals.

To be honest, I have had to force myself out of my comfort zone to achieve these measly feats but they do make me proud of myself. It feels like I am doing adulthood right… except am I really?

Growing up, I was the kaakyire for all of 7 years until my little sister came along but I was still pretty much infantiled and protected. My mum still believes, of course, that she has control of my life and still nitpicks and complaints about my decisions but hey ho, our paths are different and I have to do what feels right to and for me.

I was generally excited about turning 25 but I suppose the quarter-life crisis has started gnawing away. However does one adult? Think about it, are we ever taught how to adult? We are not equipped to handle the emotional, mental and physical restrictions and strains that come along with aging. With all the noise adults make about having been kids once before so this is how to be a kid yet when it comes to adulthood, where we have a lot more responsibilities, it’s figure it out on your own but make sure you are perfect. How?

We are brought up being micromanaged about every aspect of our lives even down to when to take a piss and suddenly we are supposed to have all the answers but not quite because they made mistakes so avoid them and be fine. Except, those are not the combined possible errors that could potentially happen to one person, let alone a diverse group of people. But we have achieved so much as a species. Heck, we invented the WC. The greatest invention of all time. We cured Polio. We keep surmounting amazing feats as a group yet we dread adulthood because debts, childhood trauma and the many ills growing up comes with and it.is.exhausting. 

I mean bone wearily, mind numbingly, heart wrenchingly exhausting. 

And then we have the accompanying existential dread which is now amplified with the damage we have and continue to impact upon the earth. Who knows, we may all be dead in a dozen years by I don’t know, the angels of Revelation being prompted to pour out their assigned destructions of fire, water, death upon us ingrates for not appreciating the honour granted us as custodians of the earth… or whatever Scripture says. 

With the proximity of a potential extinction coupled with the lack of preparation and foresight into what to expect with this new “age of responsibility” makes me wonder, what really is the point? Why should I bother with achieving all these and exerting myself as a grown up? 

So now I find myself flitting between wanting to play with the little girl within, assuring her she is alright, providing the support she needed but lacked emotionally and mentally on the one hand and on the other,further suppressing the needs of the neglected child to play grown to minimise the disappointment my older self may face if I somehow manage to survive that long.

I do not have a plan for seeing this through. Heck there are mornings when I am unsure of making it through the morning let alone the full day but some way somehow I keep trudging on. I guess I do not have much of a choice but to do that until I one day resign with no further fucks to give and then check out. 

In the meantime, we shall stay self medicating with just enough to not completely self destruct but to stay numb. Numb enough to will ourselves through this circus.

Till then, I suppose congratulations to me on making it this far miss grown thang.

A walk

The season was transitioning from Summer to Autumn.

The sun was about setting and they had just moved into their new place. A one bedroom in someone’s apartment.

They took a stroll after setting everything down.

The mother was wondering how she was going to make their lives comfortable. She regretted putting them through their previous situation. Making them endure the abuse of her ex. She owed her oldest for having the courage to walk out that night for without her taking action, who knows what he would have done to them? She still did love him and she knew things would be difficult without his support. However, she knew it was way past time she gave her children a safe environment no matter the cost.

The oldest daughter was still stewing in her anger at her mother. She had tried to protect her as much as she could but she still chose to hang on to their abuser. She had moved on from sympathy to resenting. She would probably never forgive her for keeping them in that situation for longer than necessary. She also was disgusted that at the end of it her mother still loved him.

The youngest was just… sad about it all. She felt heavily depressed after the whole ordeal but could not find the words to say this to her family. She knew her sister loved her but she had already assumed responsibility of her while their mother was consumed by that man. She felt telling would only add to all she has to deal with. So instead she pretends on the outside with smiles and the prettiest words to everyone. Laughing the longest and loudest on the outside but crying herself to sleep each night. And now the latter would be impossible because they are all sleeping together in one room on a queen size bed with her in laying in the middle. She would have to learn to bottle it up. Hoping it does not kill her before she can control it.

Three people walked down the street in silence. Each consumed by their thoughts.

Her regret will linger.

Her resentment will fester.

Her emptiness will grow.

But at that moment, one thing they all felt was relief.

One of those days

It was one of those good but fucked up days where she couldn’t place how she felt but knew she didn’t want to interact with people.

She went over to the kitchen for a bottle of rosé and put on her jacket to get a joint.

On her way back, she lighted it and the first drag hit her right in the chest and her legs went weak.

She exhaled, slowed her pace and took another drag.

“Damn, this is some good shit”, she thought to herself as she looked around for some place to sit.

She needed to regain her composure before crossing the street towards her apartment.

She took out her phone and attempted to call the man she couldn’t get over for a bit of a chat.

He didn’t answer on the first ring nor second.

She had anticipated that. He was a piece of shit to her anyway yet for some reason she desired him still.

<<Hey, just checking in on you. No need to return my call. Not like you will anyway, haha.>>

She texted him. Pathetic, she thought to herself.

She stood up and walked towards the traffic light. Crossed the street and lit up her joint again.

She got to her room and poured herself a glass of rosé and played Kojo Antwi.

After her second glass she went to her bed and checked her phone. Still no notification from him.

“Asshole”, she murmured and put her phone away as she reached for her vibrator.

It was one of those shitty, bland days.

Happy Easter

Yesterday was Our Day.

The second term for class 3 was good for me because I got a lot of 100% in my exams and that made Daddy happy. Although he complained about me being 2nd in my class instead of 1st. I had to explain to him that Ewurafua had had better marks than me in some of our class tests but I will do better next term.

Because of my good grades, he bought me fried rice from Papaye to take to school in place of Mummy’s rice and kontomire stew. He also bought me chocolate Country Milk with a pack of digestive biscuits. When he dropped me off at school, he gave me 1000cedis to buy anything else I wanted.

Yesterday was the best Our Day.

When Mummy comes home from work today, she will do sporting waves for me to celebrate Easter with. I woke up early to slip a note in her handbag reminding her to buy the activator for my hair.

Kojo keeps laughing at me because I am excited about doing my hair. I had long hair o but my teachers told Daddy and Mummy to cut my hair so that it will not be a distraction for me when studying. I cried so hard the first time I went to the barber. But Kojo is a boy so he does not understand these things. Also, he enjoys making fun of me all the time because he is older than me.

Mummy did my hair after supper. We had her famous “mpatoa la breast” as she calls it, which is really just grilled tilapia, with attieke. It was very delicious. Now my hair feels so silky and looks weird but she said if I put the activator in my hair everyday it will look nice and curly.

I don’t think I like my hair like this. I only asked for it because Eno told me at school that it is the right thing to do every vacation. Anyway I will see her at church tomorrow for the Good Friday service and see how hers looks like.

I hope I will not forget to update you tomorrow. Kojo said he will go to his friend’s house after church so that means I will have the TV to myself and watch Cartoon Network all day.

Goodnight Diary and happy Easter.

lesbian n. a homosexual woman

The first time I heard the word “lesbian”, it was said with so much disgust i instantly associated it with sin. Well, the women talking about it did imply that it was an act of sin and that my neighbours daughter was bound for the hottest pits of hell for being a lesbian.

However, according to the women, there was redemption for her if only she would go to church and have the pastor pray the spirit of lesbianism out of her.

I still had no clear idea what being a lesbian entailed but i just knew it was wrong. I completed my purchase of curry powder, which we had run out of, and headed back home repeating the word in my mind so i could look it up in the dictionary as soon as i got home.

I went to the kitchen just when my mum opened up the blender and poured out the puree of onions, kpakposhito, ginger and garlic into the bowl of heated oil. She was about to make fante fante; one of my favourites although i terribly hated the process of painstakingly removing bones from the fish in the stew. It took away from the process of enjoying the meal but it oddly made it worth it. The ɛtsew had been prepared earlier and moulded into balls in a bowl on the dining table.

The heat from the blended mixture hitting the oil made my eyes water and i knew the meal promised to be delicious.

But i digress.

I headed to the hall reciting the alphabets, picked up the Oxford English dictionary from the shelf and opened up to the “L” pages and flipped over to “Les” words and scanned till i found the word.

lesbian n. a homosexual woman.

adj. of lesbians. lesbianism n.

What does homosexual mean? I mused and flipped back to the “H” section.

homosexual adj. Sexually attracted to people of your own sex. n. a homosexual person.

homosexuality n.

I knew what sexual attraction meant. I had seen enough episodes of Passions and several telenovelas but i was confused as to why it was supposedly wrong between people of the same sex.

My confusion was for the most part mixed with fear and guilt. The previous long vacation, during my stay with an aunt, i had more or less been attracted to this girl in the neighbourhood. We often read books or watched TV which made our imaginations run wild during our role playing games.

After playing out in the garden one afternoon, we went back to my aunt’s for lunch and she asked as to take a shower before eating as we were sweaty and had dirt all over our clothes. Showering together was not unusual but it was what happened during that particular shower which flooded me with guilt as i recalled it then.

We were reenacting a scene in one of the telenovelas where the main characters, who were a couple, were in a heated argument because the woman suspected her partner of having an affair. This ended in a heavy make out session during which we should have had our eyes closed but peeked through the slits of our fingers anyway.

She pinned me against the wall like Sebastian had done to Paula in that scene and placed her lips firmly on mine. I experienced a barrage of sensations as she passed her hands over my torso and kissed me. I felt heat in my nether regions, which was new and strange yet exciting and kissed her back. I do not believe it lasted more than a minute or two but i thoroughly enjoyed it. I had had my first kiss. That was all i cared for. I was not bothered by the fact that it was with a girl. I liked her too so what did that matter?

Now, much older, i had to unlearn thinking of my sexuality as a sin. It was not the easiest to overcome. Hearing my family and some friends address homosexuality with such contempt and me having to walk a tightrope of not coming out took a toll on me. Until i found a community of people like me in the most random of places; a book club meeting.

I had read Under the Udala Tree and was so moved by it i made a thread about it on my Twitter. A follower replied saying her book club was reading that for the month and they were having a meeting the following weekend and would love to have me share my thoughts there.

The meeting was such a comforting experience I had no idea i needed. These were people who lived their truth regardless of the threats our society made on their lives for simply living.

I had found my tribe. I had come home.

I felt sorry for the little girl inside who had to carry that fear of being sin personified. I embraced her and forgave myself. I have been as kind to myself as i can possibly be and as my partner will allow it.

“Morning babe”, i heard from behind me and turned away from my computer.

“Morning love”, i said back to her, smiling.

“What are you up to?”

“Just drafting a reply to this girl. Spoke at her school a week ago and she emailed me asking how i came out and embraced my sexuality. She reminds me of myself at that age. I hope she gets all the love and support she needs.”

She walked up to me and planted a kiss on my forehead.

“I love you”, she said.

This is all i need.

Saturday Morning

She grunted as her aunt entered her room clapping loudly to wake her up. She glanced at the clock and fumed internally. It was only 08.00. Too early to be rudely woken on a Saturday morning.

As if they all hadn’t watched Egg of Life parts 1 & 2 late into the night last night. She more than deserved a lay in. She would catch 30 more minutes of shut eye and then get out of bed.

“Maame Aba! Ɛnnyɛ na ɛnnsɔr nyɛ ma ɔwɔ dɛ ɛyɛ na edzidzi a?”, her aunt shouted from the hall.

She peeked at the clock again. She had only squeezed in three extra minutes of sleep. She sighed and got out of bed knowing she won’t know peace until she did.

She slipped out of her nightgown and put on a pair of shorts and a tank top. She headed to the bathroom to brush her teeth and then grabbed the buckets in the bathroom and headed downstairs to the taps. It was her weekend to do the laundry. A chore she absolutely hated.

She filled up the buckets and went back upstairs for the clothes and detergents. She had soaked the white items after school yesterday and went about washing those first. Luckily her younger cousins, the twins, were away visiting their paternal relatives so she had relatively fewer items to go through.

After an hour and half, she was done and famished.

“Me na Adwoa, me nya sika akɔtɔ waakye a? M’ahor ntar no awie.”, she said to her aunt.

“Apra asar hɔ nso a?”

“Oho, sɛ m’annkɔ sesia waakye no bɛ sa.”

“Nkyɛ ɛpɛ nda. Ame na mo somaa wo dɛ m’ɛnnsɔr ntɛm? Kɔ pra asar. Ewie a na maa ma wo sika akɔ tɔ edziban no.”

She sighed inaudibly and went to the kitchen for the broom they used for sweeping indoors.

It was almost 10.00 at this point and she knew her chances of getting waakye at this point were slim to none.

She took the money from her aunt and run out anyway. Hoping against hope that sister Fauziya would have some food left.

To her relief, she found a short queue there. That was a good sign, she mused.

There were only 3 people ahead of her. The first and second bought their meals quickly. She was so close to getting hers when the boy in front of her pulled out a folded piece of paper from his pocket.

“Mpawokyɛw mɔtɔ waakye 2cedis, wele kor, salad na taalia 1cedis. Na san so ma’m waakye 2cedis biom, nkyefoa kor, na gari 50pesewas. Kyekyer ebien yi bom. Na san so ma’m…”

Maame Aba peeked over the guys shoulder to read his list and her heart dropped. She was certain she would not get some of the waakye at this point but she still decided to hold on.

When the boy was finally done with his order, she greeted Fauziya, “Ndɛ wo ho te dɛn? Bɛka dɛ ma edziban no asa ansaana ketsew pue.”

“Oh Maame, abadze ntia na ammba ntɛm? Waakye no asa.”

“Kanzo mpo nnyi hɔ?”

“Nyinara asa.”

Feeling dejected, she fought back her tears and headed back home. She could always count on there being Richoco and bread at home. But what really is a Saturday morning without waakye?

Truth or Myth

It had happened so swiftly.

One minute Daddy was driving them to school. They lived at Manet Cottage which was quite the distance from their school in the Airport Residential Area. But with Daddy listening to the Joy Morning Ride with Uncle Ebo White in his air-conditioned 2000 Toyota Corolla, they never quite noticed how long it was.

The next, he had lost his job and they all had to take trotros. Daddy left earlier. They were supposed to be fine going on their own. Anyokor was 10 and Ayele was 6.

Anyokor was impatient one morning because Ayele had made them late. She had poured her corn porridge on the floor and mummy had had to make her a new batch. Her first lesson was Mathematics and Mr. Sackey was going to quiz them on their time tables. She had wanted to get to school in time for silent hour to revise over them. At that rate, they would make it during assembly if the queue at 37 station won’t be long.  When they alighted at Airport Junction, Anyorkor ran ahead of Ayele thinking the cars approaching were not that close so she would make it to the other side on time.

Next thing Anyokor heard was a thunk and the hawkers scream in harmony, “Ow!”.

She turned around and saw Ayele on the road, limp. A taxi had stopped by her body and a man carried her in. Some hawkers who knew they were related informed the man and led her to the taxi.

They drove to the 37 Military Hospital. If the traffic warden had been a little bit diligent about his job, they would have arrived a few minutes before losing Ayele.

She had daddy’s number memorised. The man offered her his Motorola to call him. 0264091934, she dialled and waited.

“Hello?”, He answered gruffly

“Daddy, it’s Anyorkor. There was an accident and Ayele is dead. We’re at the 37 Military Hospital.”

“I’m coming”, he said and ended the call.

He arrived in 40 minutes, finished up the administrative work, tried to pay back the kind man what he owed, which he refused saying he hoped someone would do same for him someday. They went home and he called her school to explain why they had missed school.

Anyokor blamed herself and shut herself in.

She recalled a statement their neighbour had made once,  “sɛ ɛde wodur mu nsu hohor w’anim a, ehu nsamanfo”.

She considered the possibility of seeing other ghosts too and decided if she gets to see her little sister she’d live with that.

That would do as her penance.

Her mother called out to her, “Anyokor, the fufu is ready. Bra na bo tsutsu wodur nu mu.”

She was about to find out if there is truth to the myth.

Brodo ne salad

It was more of a tradition at this point.

Ever since she had mastered handling a knife and her mother trusted her with it.

With her earphones on and the radio on her Nokia flip phone tuned in to Melody FM for her daily dose of “cools”, she would set about preparing for the next day’s batch.

She preferred starting off with rinsing the lettuces in a mixture of water and vinegar. While boiling eggs. Then she would tear them up by hand into bite sizes. That was the secret to lettuces, tear instead of cutting.

Next were the onions, sliced up in thin pieces. Followed by tomatoes and carrots – she absolutely hated dicing the carrots because they were so hard and scraping off the dirt was one thing she did not enjoy.

She would then open up a couple cans of baked beans and sardines and pour them all over the vegetables. The most important ingredient, the mayonnaise would follow next. Dollops upon dollops dropped on top of it.

At this point the eggs would be done cooking and perfectly hard. She would pour out the warm water and leave the bowl under the tap with cold water running.

Then she would grab a jerrycan, fill it up to about a third full with cocoa powder, sugar and powdered milk and stir while pouring in water.

When the mixture looked smooth enough, with no cocoa lumps bubbling about, she would pour them into these little plastic bags, tie them and leave them in the freezer.

She would then return to the eggs, unpeel them and cut them up over the contents of the bowl and the salad was completed.

Only thing left would be to run over to Auntie Joyce’s bakery at 05.00 the next morning to get loaves of tea bread, sugar bread and butter bread.

Her mother would take over from there as she dressed up for school and arrange them in the box she hawked their salad and bread in. The frozen chocolate drinks go into the little ice chest.

All she got for her labour? The feeling of satisfaction getting home from school and seeing the ice chest and box empty.