Other Places Again
My friend, sit down. I have a story to share with you. They say the strength of a man is measured by the amount of alcohol his stomach can take.
My friend, sit down. My wife has left me.
I want to remember everything about her. So as I talk, my friend, hear me well.
I often question what exactly it was she loved about me. She must have surveyed her heart and excavated remnants of the songs we shared, and gawked at it with disgust, just as she used to do when she chopped a tear evoking yet delicious onion. I would say to her ...even the sun does not waste her rays on an ant like me. I am not worthy of it. You on the other hand, are worth every warm ray.
I reminisce about the days when her mood was mellow. I would squeeze those tears from her eyes and trim them to be perfect like her. I would take her into my arms, recited her body as my evening prayer, memorized her curves and woken up at midnight to take her to the church she loved to go to. My friend, I would do these things for her.
One day she said to me everything meant nothing to me. I contemplated the weekend we visited the beach. We soaked up the seascape and toiled up the narrow coastline. I mentioned to her that chemtrail painted her face when it appeared in the sky. She giggled. I found that I only paid attention to syllables when she said she loved me. How I loved how the wind her words into my ears. I saw my past, present and future at once, with her.
My friend, do you know where I met her? It was at a company retreat. I remember it very well. When we got back, I resigned. The HR handbook clearly stated: Company policy - NO RELATIONSHIP AT THE WORKPLACE. That shit.
My friend, do you like this bar? I have visited many times. Trust me, this bar has most likely heard more confessions than a priest would hear in the confession box. It is not for nothing. There is some wisdom in alcohol. Drink. Sip more, my friend.
I was here when this drinking bar first opened. It used to be down the road, right turn from the traffic light, precisely where the filling station is now. It was about a quarter of the size it is now. I frequented the place. I was young. I had not seen much in life. But when I met her, I saw a reason to live and not exist as wreckage floating atop a sea. Then, I decided I would not return to that sad and lonely life again. One evening, whilst she and I were taking a stroll, we bumped into Mr. Odiko, the proprietor of this place. He told us about this place. He said it would be nice to see me again. I didn't want to come here, so I asked her. She said yes.
And for thirty years, my friend, she was here with me every Saturday. She would sit where you are and admire my open love for the bottle. People would tell her alcohol would kill me. Of course, she knew too well that expensive alcohol doesn’t kill. She would pinch a pimple as her face flashed in the dazzling blue lights. She would wait and would grin. I always wondered if she would always wait for me, even at heaven’s gate. As the wind rattled, I felt her snore softly climb me and was assured.
I travelled to my hometown in the first month that she moved in with me. She must have cursed and died a thousand times as she waited for my phone calls. She must have succumbed to the pain that only hope brings. She must have wondered how this idiot was wasting his life, away from her. She must have decided against the idea of longing for his presence, the very strange thing that crawls on skins. She must have picked up Anowa and read the same page she had read for ages.
My friend, I have seen lives. I have known every hand that has touched the walls here. I have known every caretaker of this place. I know every drink that is here by heart. I have known most things about life and I can confidently tell you that all roots of wars are that men do not know how to be women and women do not know how to men. I know, my friend, this all that life is about. I was lucky to have doubter as wife so I invested in notebooks, spending every minute perfecting my explanatory notes. I owed it as a duty. Other times, I posed as a novelist. Here at the bar, they always asked about the number of books that I had written. I always said I was at the gathering stage of my debut novel. True. I was gathering her wrinkles as the years rolled by. I was gathering when I stared at her every night, whilst she slept. She slept as if she was hiding her sleep. And every other time, I lost a chapter of what I had written.
I cannot remember the last time I told her that I love her. It is burdensome to wake up every morning and repeat the same sentence. It is hard to keep up with the meaning. Instead, I kissed her neck and said something like come back soon. Or, I will call at lunch time. Or, I lend you my guardian angel. Something like that, my friend.
This morning, I saw her for the very last time. She looked as beautiful as the girl I met thirty-two years ago. Only that she had a little wrinkle. Oh, my friend, she was as smiley as ever. She stared at me and reminded me of every moment of my life that I settled for good things like resigning from my job. It was as if she was teasing me. It was as if she was asking if it was worth it. It was when I reached for her that I noticed that for the first time, she could not wait for me. Her legs were lame. She, two years my senior, had given up on life without muttering a complaint. She had in her sleep, followed her Lord, as the majestic queen that she was.
My friend, do not pity me. It is our people who say that there is no bitterness after vomiting. Life is like a stage. I have had just more than enough time. When you have yours, love profusely and have no fears. Remember, life is about two things; either you break the bottle or the bottle breaks you. Drink. Drink, my friend. Doris is at a better place and she is waiting for me. I will find my thunder again, my friend. I will.
Kwabena Agyare Yeboah lives and works in Kumasi, Ghana. His poetry, fiction and non-fiction have been widely published online and in anthologies across Africa.