By Gbenga Awomodu
“Ababuo!” Mama’s voice tolls from the back yard. “Aba-buo-oo…!”she calls a second time, then a third, her voice now approaching a crescendo. “Mama… I’m coming!” Ababuo crawls out of the old rusty bed, accompanied by the jingling of tarnished springs, dislocated out of joint. Tired and still sleepy, she yawns and squints in the dark room. She feels the side of the bed, and the window sill for the torch. Outside the window, the day has suddenly sung itself into evening. The evening comes in slow steps, its star silvery and solitary on the girdle of the early night.
She saunters out of the door, into the dark night which now engulfs the backyard like the devil’s parcel. She staggers and navigates the delicate path to the kitchen, amidst rooms unconventionally scattered on both sides of the tiny passage. She walks somewhat unsteadily like a blind man feeling his way. She is led by a glimpse of the red glow of kerosene lantern down the path and the beam of light from her torch.
As she draws close, the sweet aroma of peanut soup wafts along with intrusive smoke from the cramped dingy kitchen. “The soup is ready. Let’s make the fufu.” Mama pours the boiled starchy cassava and plantain into the giant, wooden mortar and pounds it into a glutinous mass, stirring to the limits of her endurance. She dumps a cup of the mixture into a wet bowl. Ababuo shakes the dough until it forms a smooth ball with sticky, slightly resilient consistency. She serves the fufu on five platters alongside the peanut soup. She takes Papa’s dish – the largest of all the platters – into the living room, and makes for the frontage where Papa and her two siblings are seated.
Under the moonlight, Papa, a poor pensioner and head of a family scraping by on a single income, shares banters and stories from the good old days with friends. The kids in the compound listen, enthralled by the golden gloom of the past and the bright-hued hope of the future. She walks at an even clip towards her father and whispers to him, Papa your favourite is ready. Papa brings his Ghana-Must-Go story to a close and excuses himself. Suddenly, power supply is restored to the street. Everybody, young and old, diffuses into thin air.
Two hours later, darkness descends on the community! The television flickers into nothingness. Ceiling fans whirr to a stop. Ababuo sighs, gasps, and laments as she reaches for the match box. She lights the kerosene lantern and her candle, opens the windows, and lifts the curtain for a release of fresh air from the street. The air is raw and pointed. She studies strenuously for another hour before the candle chills out. She cringes with pain in her heart. The stifling room heats up. Smell of fossil fuels laces the air. At 12 am, the wail of a trio of power-generating engines in the compound gives way to the loud singing from a church, four blocks away. Ababuo slips under the clammy sheets. She catches a glimpse of her Ghana-must-go bag as she tries to find sleep on the wafer-thin mat. Every occupant in the room has rivulets joining into streams on their forehead.
Many times, she wishes Papa had left when her people were forced out of this country. She has learnt to see in the dark and think through the noxious fumes. She dreams of success in final high school exams and hopes of a bright future. She surrenders to a fitful sleep.
(c) March 2010