The sound of rain drops on the roof made pleasant music in my ears at first. I sang slowly in rhythm. “God is wonderful”, I whispered. He could make the rains bring happiness to someone like me. I had been in bed since 8:00pm last night and it is now 10:30am, struggling as it were to nurse a wound I thought would never heal. The wound caused by people I loved most. The guys I trusted and looked up to, to get me out of the taunting and ridicule I have had to struggle to live with all these years in the hands of relatives and friends.
“You are standing in our way”, the younger would tease, “marry quickly so we could also follow suit”. And the married ones would sneer, “Everybody is leaving you, what at all are you waiting for?”
Only God knew the self-pity I had to contend with – the humiliations and sometimes the guilt. But whom do I blame? Myself or Abeiku? Nobody! Certainly nobody!
My finance Abeiku, had been the second man in my life who seemed serious about marrying me. We became friends soon after the first guy Johnny had changed his mind for a younger woman. On meeting Abeiku, I thanked God for his goodness. But this expectation was short lived. It burst like bubble in water! Abeiku was also gone. He left for no tangible reason.
At 32 years, I feared I would never taste the good things of married life until I am old when no man would want to marry me. What would be the use of all the catering lessons I have been taught, if there would never be a husband to taste my meals?
I grieved and groaned in pain for the disappointment Abeiku had just written into my already lonely life. He has failed to keep his sweet promise to marry me. “Naana, I love you with all my heart”, he pampered, “I will do everything to marry you”, he frantically intoned as we ate dinner at Country Kitchen Restaurant one evening. Nothing could be so assuring like the smile on his face when he talked. My heart leaped for joy and I yearned for more.
As though he knew what I was imagining, he romantically added, “Naana, if I fail to marry you, I will enter the priesthood”. I felt a lump in my throat, yet I managed a smile.
Reminiscing on these scenes cut deep into my heart and I cried, “it’s painful, it’s painful”. My fear grew when my thoughts raced through those good times. I know I am growing old and with age my beauty would fade away, oh God would I ever have a man to marry me? Of course, who would want to marry an old lady? In fact, even the old men would rather go after young girls.
It was after 1:00pm when the rains stopped and normal activities resumed. I dressed up and went to my uncle’s grocery store where I worked as a salesgirl. He was here again this afternoon, the pot-bellied man who always made fun about everybody in the store whenever he comes shopping. He remarked once as he has always done, “Ei Naana, you know you are so beautiful, just marry me too and you have refused”.
“But you already have two wives”, I blurted out.
“Ho, what is wrong with that, you can be my third wife, after all you are more beautiful than all of them.” At this poignant remark, everyone in the shop burst out into laughter. It was at this same palace I met Martin. Oh mine! He is a brilliant guy, neat and courteous. His well-trimmed mustache tells it better, that he is a cultured young man. I noticed all these qualities in him the very first day I set eyes on him. He has frequented the shop since then and we became friends. I felt so comfortable chatting with him and I could sense he felt the same too about me.
He looked more like a 30-year-old man. I thought so because he sounded so courteous and more matured than some older men I know. And one afternoon he told me he is a journalist. A journalist! I thought. Hmm, how I wished I have him for a husband. The desire whirled strongly in me and I nearly shed tears, but had to control myself.
However, he hasn’t proposed to me yet. We only engaged in lengthy conversations whenever he had enough time to spare in the store. We often talked about his job. He told me all the interesting things they do, from research to drafting and all – to how they print and publish their papers. I was excited when he said; they have to work extra hard to meet deadlines. This he said made them stay up most often to write in the night. He should be a hard working guy, I thought. This companionship grew until we began visiting each other occasionally.
The day looked bright, and the wind blew gently, it was my birthday. He entered our house wearing a broad smile. He handed the parcel to me. I opened it. So much gladness flooded my heart. He has written a poem for me. The first ever in my life! Martin must be lovely. I got carried away by his natural concern for me. Don’t be silly. I once in my desperation reprimanded myself. How could I be thinking of Martin as a prospective husband? But Martin is nice. I will fall for him should he propose. The proposal never came, yet I never gave up. I hoped it will come someday. He buttressed our conversation this evening with the news of a contract he had from a foreign newspaper to be their correspondent in Ghana. This heightened my anxiety as we sat together in the sofa watching TV.
Martin, why, can’t you see I love you? I would whimper under duress. I have struggled with this thought for the past three months we have grown to be good friends.
Coming August 12th, he told me will be his birthday. “Oh great, it will be a great day for you”. I promised. He only smiled. And that smile sent some kind of satisfaction in me in a way. At this point, for some strange reason I felt like narrating my past to him. But I held back. “you never know how much harm this could do”, a voice said inside me. Just don’t tell him, I admonished myself.
I turned to the left hand side of the sofa. He was seated on the right side. I shyly asked him, “How old would you be on your birthday?” He was startled, and immediately I suspected he wasn’t prepared to tell me. He smiled again, and instead asked, “just guess yourself how old I would be”. I said nothing. In a minute’s silence I told him I don’t know and didn’t want to guess. “Well, I am sorry I won’t tell you”, he firmly but gently drove home his point. I was hit hard in the face, but I respected his views so I restrained myself. I tried to persuade him to. He came up again, “Now you tell me how old you are?” I giggled heartily, “but you should know, don’t you? I told you when it was my birthday”.
“I am sorry I have forgotten, please remind me”, he submitted.
“Alright, it is thirty two”, I reminded him.
“Oh yes it is true”, was all he said.
I brought him back to the question, “Now tell me how old you are going to be on that day?”
He grinned and revealed, “I will be twenty four”.
Slump! My whole body went limp. A ray of disappointment dawned on me. We both went quiet for three minutes. It was like a bombshell dropped. How could I be so stupid to think that he loved me, to the extent that I thought this could be my last chance?
Martin. As a matter of fact is too young for my age. If at all he should propose I don’t think I will accept his proposal. The gap between us is just too much for me. And this is not easily welcomed in our society. However, eventually Martin never proposed to me, but our friendship rolled on smoothly. It was I who made the mistake and thought that could be my last chance in getting a husband. Hard as it is, I am still hoping a man, a good man would come my way.
By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi
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