I abhor this master-servant relationship so I had asked Mr. Nyavor to stop opening the door for me. But he would not take that. He was as old as my father and I was not comfortable the way he virtually worshipped me. I did everything to assure him that the gifts I gave him often were not as a result of his virtual worship. But he seemed to relish it and would not listen.
“Madam, ebi you dey think say you be small girl but if you hear de tins wey people dey talk about you, you go say I no dey serve you well well,” he once said, grinning from ear to ear.
“What do people say about me?” I asked.
“You no sabi say some people dey respect you pass de president sef?”
“Why I go lie give you?”
“But I’m just an ordinary girl and would not want to be worshipped, and by someone as old as my father. I’m OK. Just drive and I’ll be alright with everything else.”
“You dey talk of father den age matter? Eno bi you talk for your book inside say business den family matters for be separate?”
“Ei have you read it?” I was surprised because though Mr. Nyavor could communicate in Pidgin English, he could not read. He had dropped out of school at the basic level and joined his late father to fish. Unfortunately, the country’s educational system was in such a way that anyone who dropped out at the basic, and sometimes the secondary level depending on the school, was not better than the one who didn’t learn to recite ABCD at all. According to him, he left for Accra to look for a job after they had depleted the stock in the Keta Lagoon. I had met him five years ago when he was a taxi driver. So nice was he that I took his contact details and traced him when I needed a personal driver. His loyalty, honesty and frankness are peerless.
“I no read um but somebody talk for radio wey e call your name say ebi you talk um for your book inside.”
All my attempts to dissuade him from opening my car door for me had failed so on that day he still held on to the door even when I was seated.
“Ebi like say dem send that man after you,” he said when I enquired why he would not close the door.
“Errm, Ms. Owusu, would you please autograph my copy of your book?” the man stammered. You’re an inspiration and some of us have vowed to rise like you.”
“Thank you,” I said and raised my head for the first time to look at the person as I handed the autographed book back to him.
He froze. I gaped. Mr. Nyavor was confused. And for a long time, or so it seemed.
I only realized that he too was weeping when I finally reached for a handkerchief and dabbed the tears that coursed freely down my cheeks.
“Let’s meet and talk later,” I said after some time. We exchanged contacts. We had a lot to talk about but neither of us knew where and how to begin it in that sun. As my car pulled out of the car park, I turned and found him still transfixed in that position, shaking his head in disbelief.
“Madam, you sabi um for some place?” Mr. Nyavor asked as we pulled away. I didn’t reply him. That was unusual of me, but I just didn’t know what to tell him, how to tell that story and where to begin from. Mr. Nyavor doubled as my godfather, my chief advisor. I didn’t hide anything from him. I realised knowledge was powerful but wisdom was more powerful when I met him. Mr. Nyavor was a wise man and anyone who despises the illiterate despises wisdom. Some of them, like this driver of mine, are philosophers.
But I could not bring myself to tell him what had happened. I was dumbfounded for the rest of the day. I had to cancel my appointments and spent the rest of the day in my room.
Kofi Pra was partly the architect of my success. As I lay in bed that evening I tried to collect my thoughts together, arrange the series of disjointed events and convince myself that the text message I had sent him in tears years back did not amount to a curse. But that brief encounter had brought back many feelings – pity, love, hate, victory and of course pride – the pride of a determined feminine heart.
If there are two things in my life I will not forget even on my dying bed, then they are the day I broke my virginity and the day my heart was broken. And the individual at the centre of both events was Kofi Pra, my first boyfriend. It’s been many years but I still remember the day he called.
I least expected his call that morning. He had stopped calling for the past three weeks and our misunderstanding the previous day had worsened the situation. I knew all was not well with our relationship and things were getting to a terrifying peak as far as I was concerned. So I was itching to know what it was that he had to say, but it was only ten minutes to the time we were expected to enter the exam hall and the bell would go any moment soon. He knew I had a difficult paper to write. He also knew I was ill-prepared. And he knew he was the cause, though he would not admit that.
“Please, I’m just about to enter the exam hall so if you wouldn’t mind, let me call you immediately after the paper,” I pleaded with him when I heard his cold voice.
“I don’t have the patience for that stupidity of yours anymore. What text message did you send to Selina? Are you my wife that you should keep people away from me just because of suspicion?” he snarled.
My end of the telephone went dead. It was not a deliberate attempt not to mind him. I just didn’t have anything to say. I wasn’t shocked. He was corroborating my worst fears.
“Are you now getting out of your mind?” he went on. “If you care to know, I’m going out with her. But is it her fault that I love her? Or have you been told she proposed to me and not the other way round?”
“Kofi, I’m sorry. Can we, please, talk things over after the paper? I’m…” I tried to cut in as harmlessly as possible. The bell had gone for the start of the paper.
“I have nothing to talk over with you,” his voice was rising. “I only called to tell you that today marks the end of everything between us. Don’t ever call me again; not even God can intervene in this decision. Thanks for everything and better luck in your next relationship,” he said and the line went dead.
The phone dropped from my hand, and I had God to thank because it was a Nokia 3310, one of the most fashionable phones in those days. I was visibly trembling and everything around me was spinning round and round. The ground under my quaking feet began to dance. I could have collapsed but for Akosua’s quick intervention.
“Nyarkoa, take it easy. Remember you have a paper and that is your life,” she said and helped me onto the garden bench under one of the shady trees that dotted our faculty. “Was that Kofi?” she asked.
I nodded absent-mindedly. Then suddenly my head began to throb like a set of agbadza drums paying homage to Togbiwo at a durbar. My colleagues were rushing into the exam hall and I could see Akosua becoming very nervous. But she could not leave me alone.
I picked up the phone and dialed Kofi’s number. I wanted to tell him to give me the chance to explain after the paper. I wanted to apologise, apologise for his wrongdoing. That would have given me hope, an assurance that I still had a chance in his life, an opportunity to mend the broken pieces and move on with him. That alone was enough to put me at ease, at least for as long as the paper lasted. But he didn’t pick my call. He only picked when I used Akosua’s phone.
“What is it?” he snarled when he recognized my voice.
“Please, kindly allow me to explain…” The phone went dead and after several vain attempts I picked up my phone and sent a text message, the text message that defined my life.
It was when I stood up and made for the exam hall that my tears had the opportunity to flow, as if I had barrels of it concealed in my eye sockets.
“Does the exam law say that you should not write a paper when you’ve just lost a loved one?” I snarled at Prof. Nii Abbey when he tried to prevent me from entering the hall in that state. He felt very sorry and apologised profusely. It was his subject we were writing that afternoon. As a class secretary, I was very close to him. He was debauched man of matchless notoriety. It was rumoured that the only lady Prof. Abbey had did not sleep with were those who had referral in his course. I became free with him after initial squabbles following my refusal to yield to his demands. But the anger Kofi had welled up in me was this time directed at anybody who stood in my way and he happened to be the innocent victim. I had, indeed, lost a loved one. And I’m sure the A+ I scored in that subject might have been a gift from the lecturer. I still don’t know what I wrote that day.
The real import of the day’s happenings dawned on me like day when I lay in bed that night after Akosua had tried in vain to console me. I could not believe I was losing Kofi to anyone else. My heartache intensified when I called only to be told that his phone was switched off. Phone off on Val’s night?
I imagined Selina in my place, moaning and groaning with pleasure in response to Kofi’s tickling and rhythmic thrusting. Until I met Kofi, I didn’t understand why Diana still stuck to her “Monkey No Fine” McAnthony and why Aba had dumped “Freshboy” Peter. Diana and Aba were my roommates and when the subject first came up one night, I didn’t quite agree with them.
“Listen to this nonsense from a so-called Man of God oo. What’s the essence of entertaining a man who can’t entertain you when it matters most?” Aba was reacting to a TV panelist’s argument as if the man was physically present. It was a few months after she had broken up with her handsome boyfriend.
“Is that why you left Peter?” I asked teasingly, not expecting her to agree with me so easily and frankly. She had always kept the reason for their separation secret. But this night she said it.
“Is it not annoying? He’s never tired of pestering you and yearning for sex, but when you give him the chance, you’ll never know when he starts and when he finishes,” she said, still angry with the TV panelist.
“So were you able to tell him in the face the reason you left him?” I was inquisitive.
“I didn’t tell him to let us quit. I made him realize it and he rather called it quits. I told him one night when he was climbing on to me that I was tired and wanted to sleep, so when he finished, he should wake me up to put on my clothes. He knew I was not used to sleeping naked after such things.” I shook with laughter.
“Apart from him panting like a dog that has been running all day, you could sleep without knowing someone was making love to you. That was exactly what I told him and when I opened my eyes to see his reaction, he was dressing up. You know men have this stupidity in them they call ego! He left the room without a word and that was the last time we spoke to each other.”
“That was too unkind of you, Aba,” I said.
“So you now understand why I can’t leave McAnthony,” Diana, who had been reading as if she was detached from our conversation sprung up at this point. “Men, they say, enter into relationship with their eyes but we ladies have our criteria. It doesn’t take a long time for a charming man to look ordinary. What some men lack in looks is made up for in others.”
I had just accepted Kofi’s proposal, but I still had my hymen intact so their talk was just like those inapplicable theories we learnt to pass our end of semester exams and forget afterwards. But I later realised Kofi was extra-ordinary in love making.
He never forgot to plant a firm and gentle kiss on my lips before sliding out of me. It was that kiss which usually woke me up from my deep sleep of pleasure. It was usually at that point that I realized how tightly I held on to him, each time wishing he thrust deeper and deeper until he touched my very heart, the delicate heart which belonged to him.
“Are you satisfied?” he would sometimes ask, smiling.
“Pleasure is insatiable, you know. At least, not the kind you give.” I would remind him in a whisper.
“Well, then next is your turn.”
“My turn to do what?”
“To mount of course. What men can do, women can do better. Or are you now ready to concede the obvious?”
“I will never exchange the birth right of women for pleasure. I only acknowledge your superiority in this because some things are natural gifts. Who knows, sex might well be your gift of the Holy Spirit.”
At this point he would give my naked body a gently slap.
“You’ve hit me, Kofi,” I would wince, feigning pain and anger. Then he would have to placate me. It was fun and each time was as unique as a first encounter.
So as I lay in bed that night I imagined Selina in my place, taking what belonged to me. But that was not the main source of my heartache. I had vowed in my life never to meet my husband deflowered. I had told myself that I would either marry still a virgin or marry man who would tear my hymen. Virginity is the dignity of womanhood. And we lose it once in a lifetime. It is our trust, and we often want the man to whom we lose it reciprocate that trust. Unfortunately men don’t know the value of our hymen. So even after the text message of finality, I still did everything I could to win back Kofi.
I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him. I had sold my trust to him. I did not want to marry with those unasked questions in my man’s head: So who broke your virginity? How many men have you met before me? How were they? Better or worse in love making? Uglier? More handsome? Richer? Men are greedy and selfish by nature, always pretending to be uncompromising saints, but their pasts are worse than those of their partners they scrutinise.
A story was told of a lady who had deceived his suitor to-be that he was her first guy. When they went to bed for the first time and the man started complimenting her about how agile she was in bed she forgot about everything.
“Ei! So is this thing really true?” she asked rhetorically.
“What is true?” the man enquired.
“That I’m good in love making. All the men I have slept with have told me the same thing.” The man said nothing but that was the end of their relationship.
There was another story of a Christian brother who had dated a Sister-in-Christ, thinking that she was a virgin. On the night of their wedding, he asked her how many men she had slept with after realising that she wasn’t what he had thought of her after all. For a long time, the woman lay staring vacantly at the ceiling of their hotel where they were enjoying their honeymoon.
“Why, are you upset by this simple question?” he asked.
“I’m not upset, my dear. I’m still counting,” the bride said. And that was the end of their honeymoon and everything between them. Men are greedy. Ask your man the number of ladies he has dated before meeting you and you’ll have to apologise. He’ll get upset even if he doesn’t show it openly.
But I realised there was nothing I could do to win Kofi back so I decided to stick to the text message I sent him that afternoon. “You can dump me like a rag, but you’ll one day chase me for my autograph!” I didn’t mean an autograph. I meant revenge. The only revenge you can give to a man who dumps you like a “pure water rubber” is to let him regret ever leaving you. Was it my fault that my father wasn’t a minister and my mother a lecturer? Was it my fault that I did not drive a brand new Mercedes Benz? Or does dating the daughter of a minister make you a minister? Kofi was a fool and I would make him regret. I would not fail in life. That would justify his action.
Selina was not any better than I in looks, brains or anything that I knew of. But she was a lady any guy would be proud to date. Her father was the finance minister at the time and her mother was the head of the Business School of our university. She went about campus in the latest Mercedes Benz, the car in which I first spotted Kofi and her.
I had gone to Kofi’s hall after all attempts to reach him on phone had failed. I was still on the balcony of the second floor when I saw Selina’s Benz screech to a halt, and after what seemed a long time, Kofi stepped out, his face animated with that sheepish look of vain pride. His hall mates cheered and he acknowledged it. Most of those who cheered knew about my relationship with him so to avoid utter embarrassment, I quickly descended the stairs and moved towards the hall’s annex before he and his noisy lot entered his room.
When I later asked him about Selina his immediate reaction was to get angry and did not deem it fit to deny. He stopped calling and would pick my call only after many days of failed attempts. On any holiday or occasion when we were on campus, it was Kofi who suggested a place we should spend the day but the Val’s Day was less than 12 hours away but I hadn’t heard anything from him. After trying in vain to get him on phone, I made it to his room and found him reading. We both had our last end of semester exams to write the following day, and I thought there would not be any better time to end the semester than chill out on Val’s Day after many turbulent days and sleepless nights of learning.
But to my dismay, he said he would not go out the following day. When he went out to take his bath, I did what I had never done. I sneaked into the “sent items” on his phone and it was then that I realised he was planning to go out with Selina on Val’s Day. The more I read some of the messages they had exchanged the more I wished I hadn’t read them. All I could do was to send a text message to Selina after I had returned to my room, pleading with her to leave Kofi for me. And the price of what I did was the call just before my paper.
When I was too young to understand the reasoning of the heart, I thought it was foolish to cry over a man. I thought it was stupidity in its highest degree to commit suicide or to go mad due to broken-heartedness. But I realised I was thinking way the Holy Bible puts it – like a child. I went without food for many days and it was a miracle I didn’t jump into the street naked. Broken-heartedness has no cure. It only takes the intervention of time to heal and to mend the broken pieces together. And in my case, it wasn’t different. I spent more time thinking about my revenge. To excel. to ride in a better car than Selina’s. O’ yes, Efua Nyarkoa Owusu, as I later changed my meaningless foreign names to those with meanings, would not allow that direct grandson of the devil to gloat over her failure.
So I lost my head in my studies. I became more intimate with God. And Kofi was awed when I met him later.
As I had promised, we met after our encounter at the car park. Not much of him had changed and I realised he had practically nothing to boast about apart from the first degree he took a year before I graduated. He still boarded trotro vehicles to work. Selina had left him long ago and he had failed so many times to keep a steady relationship. I felt pity for him. And because of that I left a lot of details and some of my sterling achievements when it was my turn to talk. But there were those I could not leave out, which he perhaps might have heard about.
I told him how I had secured a scholarship to pursue my MBA and proceeded to do my PhD in Harvard University, that my business plan had won the first position in a competition and Microsoft was ready to pay anything for that business plan, that the Time Magazine ranked me third in its Under 30 Global Achievers, that my book sold two million copies the first month after publishing and how every organisation of repute invited me to speak at seminars and staff durbars. It was such an activity that took me to the bank Kofi Pra worked.
He apologised and was pleased to learn that I had forgiven him long ago. He felt confident and did what every man in his shoes would do – initiate a fresh start, a comeback. I was still single and unattached. And he knew it.
But I shook my head. And he understood it. There was no way I would so cheaply betray womanhood. Besides, we Africans believe in reincarnation. If Kofi Pra came back in his next world with six-inch mini cobra between his thighs, he would learn to respect the dignity of women.
When I later met Agbemo, I sent Kofi an invitation to our wedding but he did not come. After bouts of more stimulating pleasure from the man of my life, I picked up my phone which I had put on silent mode to avoid intrusion into our indescribable joy. It was then I saw Kofi’s text message.
“My absence was not out of ill-will. I could not just afford to be present. Until I had you, left you and met you again, I had always underrated the power of a determined-woman.”
The tickling sensation my well-groomed husband was giving me was so inviting and I could not keep fidgeting with my phone for long. That was my first love affair after I parted company with Kofi. It was only at that moment that I realised there was pleasure and there was pleasure. But before I put the phone down and turned to respond to his invitation, I quickly sent a reply to Kofi.
“I wish you better luck in your next relationship. But remember to spread the message, the message of what a determined woman can do; and that they are not meant to be used and dumped like rags.”