Hello fam🤗. I’m more than excited to come to you once again with another continuing episode of our exciting series. I’m super grateful to everyone who started this journey with me. It’s been a long but fruitful ride and here we are again. If you haven’t read the previous episode, please do. Thanks!
The crowd at Obaapa’s Eatery is subtle upon our arrival, which to some extent, makes me very glad. At least this would feel like a private time alone with Fafa, away from home for once. It’s something I’ve been meaning to do for quite a while now—at least to make up for the rude times, and I’m glad I finally get to do it. Luckily, we are able to secure a table at a quiet, dim, secluded corner of the place, away from the rest of the crowd. Few minutes after we get seated, our orders get taken by this nicely-dressed waiter with a professional smile planted purposefully across his face. The orders are; fried rice with stirred beef, no mayonnaise but with lots of veggies and ketchup for Fafa, plus a glass of pineapple juice to go with. I go with my usual favourite; jollof rice and chicken, with less vegetables, then a glass of orange juice.
‘I don’t do pineapples,’ I whisper to her when the waiter leaves.
She smirks, then says blatantly, ‘I’m stunned you even do juice.’ in that deliberate sarcastic mock tone a person uses when they want to tell you, ‘I know, so stop pretending. It’s okay. I won’t judge.’
I’m mortified. Like is there anything this girl cannot and will not say?
‘Hey, come on. I’m just trying to be gentle here okay,’ I plead, in a playful tone.
‘Oh I’m just teasing. Please don’t mind me,’ her mocking laugh drowning her speech.
This is my first outing since my suicide attempt, and I must say, it feels refreshing. Maybe more so because I’m with this amazing figure of a woman, whose laughter brings to bare the best features of her face, her beautifully arranged teeth adding the most colour to her face.
‘You know this laughter of yours reminds me of when we first met, and you were dead-drunk,’ I say jokingly.
Her laughter ceases abruptly, her gaze dropping to the table or further beneath it.
‘Let’s not talk about that. It’s embarrassing for me to even think of,’ she says with clenched teeth, as if she would hit me if given the chance.
‘Come on. You weren’t so bad. Plus you made me laugh a lot. You were quite funny you know.’
‘Oh please, that was a shameful moment in my life. Nothing kind you say will change my mind about it,’ she says, rolling her eyes simultaneously alongside her speech.
‘Well?, at least you met me?. Couldn’t have been all that bad?’
She gives me this knowing stare, then slowly lets out this calm laugh, before saying, ‘I see what you’re doing there. It’s not gonna work.’
‘Well, what would you have me do Miss?,’ I blurt out in pretense frustration.
She gawks at me, long enough to make my skin crease in mini discomfort. ‘Tell me about yourself,’ she says firmly.
‘I’m sitting here with you. It feels like I know you but I don’t. You’re still a very mysterious part of my life. And I want to know who the real Will is. What is he like on a regular day when he is not pretending to be rude or glum or scary? What ticks him? What doesn’t? Who is he? What does he think of? What are his dreams? And…,’
There was a long pause from her side.
‘And?…’ I repeat, eagerly awaiting whatever is coming from her side, as though I didn’t know already.
‘And maybe, if he doesn’t mind telling me now, why did he do what he did?,’ she continues, her gaze steadfast, her eyes gingerly locked on mine.
The silence that follows is brief and yet intense. I deeply inhale, not quite knowing what to say in response to her. She has asked all these questions that have been lingering on her mind, bothering her for far too long, I guess. Questions I knew, long before they were asked, that one day they would be asked and I would be expected to have answers to them. But here I am, sitting across from her, and feeling the weight of all those questions rush past me, like strong winds blowing in whatever direction their Maker sends them, as though I had not known she’d ever ask. Funny thing is, I’m not bothered sharing with her—I’ve never been since. My only fear has always been, ‘Would I have the answers myself?’
‘Did I do wrong bringing you out for this lunch,’ I say, rubbing my hands together, acting all worked up but actually feeling nervous.
‘You know you really don’t have to say anything if you don’t want to. We can just eat and go. It’s just that this felt like a perfect time, but I’m sorry if it’s not. I didn’t in….,’ she spews hastily, her expression instantly regretful.
‘Goodness Fafa, calm down. It’s fine. You make teasing you so fun, trust me, I could spend the rest of my life doing just that,’ I say while enjoying the minor panic I’ve caused her.
‘I’ll tell you whatever you want to know okay?. But then you’ve asked so many questions all at once, I don’t exactly know where to start.’
She heaves a sigh of relief, then says calmly, ‘Well, why don’t you start from the very last one. Besides, it’s the reason why we’re sitting across from each other now.’
Thankfully,our meals come in right that moment, a perfect interjection for which I am more than grateful. At least it will save me a bit of time for self composure, to think of what to say and how to say it. Immediately the food is set before Fafa, it’s as though she has forgotten I exist. A minute ago, she was all ‘tell me about yourself’ and now she only has eyes for the food, complimenting it, and giving all the praise and remarks about how she is going to become a regular at the place.
‘Hey,’ I say, snapping my fingers in front of her, ‘I’m still here?’
‘I know. But, oh my God, this is so good. How did you find this place? Men usually don’t know good food joints you know.’
‘Really? You think?,’ I say, amused
‘Of course it’s true. And don’t give me that look please, we came here for this.’
‘Yes ma’am,’ I say giving up
She gives me the evil eye. ‘How’s yours? Is the jollof better?’
‘Do you want to taste it? You can go ahead,’ I say, still very much amused at her food enthusiasm. I’d never seen her this way before.
She does, and exclaims, ‘Ooh, this is so good too. Hope you’re not adding extra salt to this, please,’ she says, her brows raised in protest.
I raise my right hand to hit my forehead lightly. ‘Do you ever forget anything?,’ I ask exasperated.
She throws back her head and breaks into her hysterical laughter again. ‘No, I’m sorry, I don’t. But shall we move from that?. I really want to hear your story.’
‘Well, I gave you my word. So surely, I have to spill. There’s not much to it anyway. It all bores down to being unhappy and feeling unsatisfied in life. That has been me, for the past five years or so of my life. I haven’t been living, I’ve been merely surviving. I haven’t been very happy because I couldn’t find my life’s purpose and follow it. I tried out many things, some of which I failed at, and that influenced my depression, which would double into suicide years later. Things just didn’t go the way I wished they would. That’s life for you. Now I know better.’
‘Why were you depressed? What things did you fail at and why?’
‘Goodness, you do have a habit of asking plenty questions at a time. Slow down Fafa, see I only have one mouth okay?,’ I tease her.
‘Yeah I guess I do have that habit, can’t help it. I’m sorry, please proceed. Let’s start with your depression, how did it begin?’
‘I began vividly noticing signs of my depression during my university years. I think it began way before then, but I hadn’t given it any major attention. Growing up, I had a perfect childhood I’d say,—an only son, thriving on the love and affection of my parents. I can say I had almost everything I wanted and more. But even during those times, I’d sometimes find myself alone, feeling down or unhappy, refusing to go out and play with my friends. My mother would lure me out with a cookie or toy or something I loved. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. As I grew older and grew adept at painting and drawing, I relied on those to relieve me of my occasional bouts of anxiety and depression. I think I survived because at the time, it didn’t hurt much and I had little to worry about. After I completed Senior High School and my WASSCE results came out, I had done extremely well. My father’s next dream for me was to go to medical school and become his doctor. Of course, I didn’t want to become a doctor, but my opinion barely mattered. I didn’t even enjoy Science in any way as a young child—I’m a lover of the Arts—but having little say, I was made to endure it all the way through to Senior High School, which was not that difficult at the time because as a kid you do what you’re told to do. Plus I was a good student, my grades weren’t bad at all, but my heart just wasn’t there. So, I ended up in medical school, half-heartedly, and endured for two years, before quitting eventually. I had had enough—the lectures were boring, and I realized I was in no way excited about the idea of dissecting bodies. I’d sit in Anatomy class and find myself making silly sketches or drawings at the back of my notebook just to get through without dozing off. There were times I dreamed of all the paintings I could do and how far they could go. Most of all, I feared spending the rest of my life stuck working at the hospital. I hate hospitals, I don’t even like going there unless I’m critically ill to the point where I just can’t refuse. So how was this supposed to work? My father was furious when I told him I couldn’t continue any longer, because it wasn’t necessarily easy to get in, and I was just throwing away an opportunity of a lifetime. Everybody was either shocked at my decision or mad at me. My mom understood, but tried tirelessly to get me to go back but I wouldn’t budge. I had made my decision.’
‘But why did it take you so long to quit if you hated it that much? Two years is a long time.’
‘Yeah, I know right. It took me so long to snap out of the fear and just do it. I needed the courage to face the backlash I knew would accompany my decision.’
‘Do you regret it?’
‘Now? No. Back then, yes—to a certain degree. Not because I wasn’t sure I had made the right choice but because I had let everyone down, especially my father, who had been my number one fan until then. I was hurt and sad and lonely because no one understood me. Mom tried to, because she’d seen most of my paintings ever since I was little, but she also couldn’t help but side with my father, because making a living out of Arts here in Ghana isn’t necessarily a given.’
‘Hmm. Well that explains a lot about your relationship with your dad. I was going to ask.’
I sigh and nod slowly.
‘Yeah. He couldn’t forgive me and I couldn’t understand why. He had wanted to take me back and I refused. From then on, he made it clear that I no longer had his support in anything else I chose to do with my life. My parents’ relationship was affected by my action to some extent and I felt bad for it. Dad blamed Mom for my softness, saying she was the reason I’d become this over-pampered brat who did not value the bright future he was striving hard to give me, when she told him she thought he was being too hard on me. I felt sad for my parents because I loved them and wanted them to be proud of me, especially Dad. But I knew I couldn’t achieve that in medical school. I needed so badly to follow my dreams.’
Fafa leans forward slightly in her chair, fixing her elbows on the table, circling her fork in the leftover rice on her plate, her expression unreadable.
‘So what did you do after that?’ she asks quietly.
I took a long sip on my orange juice.
‘Well, I loitered around for a while. There wasn’t much to do since most of my friends were in school including David, my only closest friend. I had no one to talk to or share my fears with. I’m a very conserved person by nature, and quite secretive too, so it’s hard to tell when something is wrong with me. But by then my depression was already on the rise, due to the self pity, the disappointment and of course the constant fear of having made the wrong choice and screwed my life forever, and no one could even tell a thing was wrong. I looked pretty fine on the outside. I tried to convince my mom—because that was easier—to convince my dad to let me school outside the country. He refused, claiming I was no longer worthy of his money and attention. My poor mother couldn’t support me either,with her just-more-than-enough housewife allowances so I was left with no other choice but to look for an Arts School here. I found one private institution in Accra and I went. It was affordable, plus I supported myself by working menial jobs and selling my artworks too. I won’t lie by saying I suffered much there; I didn’t. It’s just I wasn’t happy and it was super lonely. I made a few friends though but I never allowed them in too close. During those times, I painted and drew a lot. I’d sell a couple of my works and make some money. But the problem is that in Ghana, not many people appreciate art or even the message behind an artwork. So even getting people to pay for your work or getting good money on it is very hard. I tried reaching out to some of my friends and acquaintances to help connect me to people who would be interested in my work, and guess what I got in return? Lots of negativity, scorn and a disheartening lack of support.I guess like my father, many of them thought I was nuts to have left. Out of all the discouraging comments I received, none stayed with me longer than one particular comment I received from my father’s friend. I stumbled into him on my way to class one morning, and he looked me up and down in a funny manner, shook his head and said curtly, ‘Whatever happened to you son? Your father and I, we had such high hopes for you.It’s a pity all this intelligence will amount to nothing now. If you were my son, I’d disown you for sure.’ I stood there for a good thirty minutes after the man left. Then I turned back to my apartment, gathered my belongings and came back to Kumasi, without even saying goodbye to anyone.’
‘So you ended up quitting Art school as well,’ Fafa says sadly.
‘That was the last straw. I couldn’t take it anymore. So, as my father likes to call it, I did what I know how to do best. I had few months to graduate, about two to three months, but I didn’t wait to take my certificate, after all the money I’d spent. I destroyed all my artworks in a fit of rage and disappointment. I didn’t leave a single one of them unscathed. I stopped drawing or painting as well. Anything to do with painting, I avoided like a plague, because they were constant reminders of my failure. It was a hard blow for my mom too, who desperately wanted to believe in me. She stopped me from burning my drawing tools to ashes, offering to keep them in my stead and give them away. ‘It’s better than just destroying everything like this,’ she said sadly. But trust me at the time, I just couldn’t bring myself to see any light at the end of the tunnel. I was a mess. A complete mess, tired from the stinging criticisms of the world and worn out from chasing an empty dream. I was a sullen soul, broken in many ways and angry at life, not knowing the way forward. That’s when the idea of suicide started appealing to me. By then, I had ceased all outdoor activities, locking myself indoors and coming out on only few occasions which required it.’
‘Wow, I don’t even know what to say dear. This is so sad to listen to,’ Fafa says after being quiet for so long.
‘Then I think it’s time for us to leave,’ I say.
I beckon to the waiter to bring the bill. We pay up and leave the premises. Fafa tips the guy and thanks them for such an enjoyable meal. The guy waves us off with a rather grateful smile. The ride back home is a quieter one, the silence being way more consuming than that of the morning. I wanted to say something but didn’t know exactly what to say to break the ice. A better part of me just resolved to leave her alone.
Then suddenly, as though jerked awake from a strange dream, she blurts out, ‘At least you didn’t have girl problems. That’s good.’
‘Who says I didn’t?’ I ask, forcing myself to hide a smile.
‘Well, you didn’t say,’ she replies, raising her eyes.
‘That’s because it’s not really an essential part of my story. Girls haven’t been an essential part of my life anyway. But I met a girl while I was in Accra. She was in my school, very beautiful and I kind of liked her. So I asked her out and she agreed and we started a thing from there but it didn’t last. Mind you, I was way into my depression then so there was no way I could give off my best in that relationship. She broke up with me, five months into the relationship. She said she wasn’t feeling the spark. I didn’t get angry at her or blame her. I saw it coming and knew it was all my fault. It’s hard to give another person love when you can’t give it to yourself.’
‘Oh no, I am so sorry for your life. What was her name?’
By now, we are almost at her house and I stop right in front of the building.
‘Thank you very much for today, it meant a lot to me,’ I say to her
‘Thank you for the wonderful meal and thank you for sharing a part of yourself with me. I know how difficult that can be. When I think of everything you’ve told me, I can only think of one word. Unfortunate! I won’t pretend to understand or even try to judge you because I haven’t lived your life. But one thing is for sure, that as humans our problems are not so different from each others—it is our individual views that differ. I just think that in your resolve to prove yourself to everyone, you forgot something crucial.’
‘And what is that thing?’ I ask.
‘You know the thing about following one’s dreams is that you are not automatically guaranteed success. Things may or may not work out depending on a variety of factors. And in your defiant quest to prove yourself to everyone, you forgot about that, and that has cost you a lot. You were so busy trying to succeed that you forgot to live through the journey, to make fun of the little trials and grow through them, enjoying life as it comes to you. And see what happened to you? You became the saddest human being on earth, grinning on the outside, while trapped in a little world of sorrow, pain, regret, and failure you created for yourself. In the end true success is about being happy, doing what you love, going to bed and sleeping well at night, with little or no regrets. Nothing else matters, or nothing else should. Maybe if you had shifted your view a little bit, you just might have realized that. But then again, I can never blame you. Life is hard.’
‘Wow. I feel like I went to therapy twice today. I think I might just stop going and come listen to you everyday,’ I say smiling.
‘There you go again. You need a professional’s help too and I am not one. I can only say as much as I know.’
‘Thank you for sticking around long enough.You know, when I wrote that I wish I’d met you earlier in my note, I meant it. Your friends are lucky to have you, and I think I just got lucky too.’
I watch her step out of the car and walk to the front gate. I turn the car around, roll down my glasses and call out to her.
‘Hey,’ I say, ‘Cudjoe or whatever he’s called, he’s an idiot. He missed out.’
Amid giggles, she waves me off, mouthing the words, ‘see you later’ while holding unto the gate, disappearing behind it seconds afterwards. As I drive home alone, lighthearted, I reminisce the events of the day, hanging on every memory just a little longer.
Huh, that was a long one right. But I hope you enjoyed it. Thank you for making it to the end. Do leave a comment for your girl and let me know what you think about this particular episode.
In the meantime let’s all stay safe and observe the necessary precautions and social distancing measures to avoid contracting the COVID-19. With God on our side, we shall overcome 🙏
Till next time. Bye