A man is lying in bed. It's just after 2 am.
He's awake because his teenage son went out on the town and he's not home yet. The man waits up for his children when they go out, but he is never going to get used to it. He hates it.
Awake? More like drifting between sleep and wakefulness. You know the state I mean; you are at the border of dreamland, but you haven't crossed immigration yet.
Suddenly his son walks into the room. The man sits bolt upright on the bed. He didn't hear him come home. The son sits on the edge of the bed, smiles at his father, and says, "I'm sorry Dad; I didn't make it home tonight. You told me not to go out earlier this evening. They'll be calling you with news of the accident. Forgive me."
Pause. Then the man opens his mouth in a horrific wail of grief as the import of the words sink into his mind. But no sound comes out. His son is still smiling at him, and it's a lovely smile. The kind of smile he will always remember.
The man's eyes open....again. How is that possible? He is already awake....isn't he? He looks around him. He is indeed sitting up in bed....alone. No sign of his son. And the man is panting, hard. He's also sweating. He is shaken wildly by what he just experienced.
He is paralysed and it takes him awhile to regain use of his legs. He steps onto the floor. In a huge rush, the scene with his son comes tumbling back into his consciousness. "I didn't make it home tonight." Was that a dream or was it real? The man comes to his senses, gets up and rushes to his son's room. The light is off and the bed is empty. He looks at his wristwatch in the dark. The hands glow 2:20.
He goes back to his room, picks up his mobile phone, calls his son's number. It rings until it cuts. For some strange reason, he remembers an old phrase he and his friends used at work: "Ringing, no reply", delivered in a high-pitched nasal tone. They used to say that was how 'professional' Ghanaian receptionists spoke. Funny.
He's wide awake now, calmer and concerned about his son. The 'dream' was way too vivid. He decides not to go back to bed, and he sits at the table in the kitchen. He doesn't switch the light on. Somehow the darkness seems more comforting. Also, his daughter is asleep and she's a sensitive sleeper.
Where is this boy? The man doesn't remember where his son said he was going. Did he even say whom he would be with? He has the mobile numbers of a couple of his son's best friends. His son would not be amused if he called a friend's phone to find out where he is, and even less amused if he called a friend who was not actually with his son. As he sighs in the dark and contemplates what to do, his mind drifts to Sam....if she had been here. She would have been asleep is what she would have been doing!
She always found him amusing when he said he waited up for one of their children. Somehow she slept with nary a thought for who was in or out. And yet she liked the idea that he also waited up for her when she was out. Of course, since the accident, he's been wondering whether she was always where she claimed to be.
Samantha....she who made him a widower. Truth be told, by the time she passed on the marriage was floundering. No one knew, not even the children. At least, he didn't think so. The discovery that she was certainly seeing someone else almost destroyed him. He couldn't handle it! His Sam! Sleeping with another man! His imagination ran riot, conjuring up all sorts of scenarios, and Sam was naked in all of them. But he was not the man in those scenes. His mind couldn't even put a face to the man, a friend of theirs, not even after the accident. A friend? Who is he kidding?
His Sam, in another man's car, getting cleared off the road by a trotro whose brakes failed. How exactly did she turn up dead in an accident around Potorase in the Eastern Region when she was supposed to be in Cape Coast? Apparently, they had been in Kumasi for the weekend, that's how. But Potorase was no longer on the main Kumasi road!! Who goes to Potorase now?? He remembered stories from the past about how that damned village became an accident black spot, spirit-filled stories of course. At least she died on the spot, or so he was told.
He feels particularly anxious about his son's well-being tonight. But why? A 19-year old university student out having fun? Nothing wrong with that. Come on, man, don't be so old! He has been sounding off to a friend about how anxious he is because his daughter is headed for the university as well. She has....attributes. He can see them quite visibly.
His friend told him to shut up, after all, he (the man) wreaked havoc on women when he was on campus. Which is....true....thinks the man. Wow! Come to think of it he had a pretty wild time on Legon campus. Girl after girl after girl after girl! The longest relationship was two months with....eish, he can't remember her name! Seriously??
Wait, she had a nice pair of....well, from the outside anyway. He remembers that when he unclasped her undergarment that first time they seemed to be very obedient to the laws of gravity! He chuckles in the dark. University was sweet oh! What was that girl's name, ah? She stayed 'naughty' after they left Legon apparently; she had waved to him a few times from different cars, with different men. Sometimes with both feet!
The one whose name he could remember was Erica. That girl molested his hand with her cleavage! What a woman! Her features never seemed to understand the concept of teamwork, but her body! Haba! He could actually remember the taste of her lipstick! Strange.
And that's how it started for him. He couldn't stay out of all the women's beds that were made available to him. His age, younger, older, dark, fair, slim, plump, single, married; he really didn't care. After he got married he preferred going after married women who always protested, in shock, "But I'm married!" To which he would happily reply, "So am I!"
Men are truly wonderful. He couldn't handle his wife's (suspected) infidelity. Indeed. Was he thinking about that when he was being unfaithful? Multiple times? He counted the other day, and when he got to 9 he stopped. He had slept with more than 9 different women over the course of their 18-year marriage.
The man prides himself on his discretion. He is good at lying. He is good at deception. He is good at sleeping with three women at a time and getting on with his life. He is an excellent actor. He obeyed the eleventh commandment: he was never caught.
He would always wonder whether Sam knew.
Out of the dark of the kitchen, a voice: "Of course I knew".
The man literally jumps out of the chair! What the f...?! For the second time that night his heart is pounding (actually it's pounding faster than the first time, but who's counting heartbeats anyway??), and he is shaking violently. Did he hear a voice....or did he drift of....and is he still asleep?? Who spoke? He's alone in his kitchen. He says out loud, shakily, "Awurama?" No answer. Of course, his daughter is asleep.
His mind says there is only one name to call out....but he can't say it. How is that possible? No way! There is no one in the kitchen but him! The man is sweating on his forehead in the cool night. He just realised he is holding the back of the chair he was sitting in, but with so much strength that he is afraid he'll break it. Right now that chair is his only weapon....against what? How do you hit a ghost....or spirit....or demon....or angel....with a chair??
Again, out of the dark kitchen, "I said I knew."
The man is frozen to the spot, but now he has raised the chair up in the air. He finally stutters, "S-S-Sam?" Silence. Once more, "S-Sam?"
"You look silly with that chair up in the air. Put it down and sit."
To be continued...
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