Forgive me for the lateness of this post; I was supposed to post it on 4th February. However, there’s this thing referred to popularly as “school” which hinders people doing certain things at certain times, due to having to do other things for this strange place they call “school.”
But yes, in other news, today happens to be my brother, Delali’s birthday. This post, however, focuses on my grandfather. From here, read as if it was posted on Tuesday.
I braided my hair on Saturday. By the time my hairdresser (who happens to have the same birthday as me) left, my grandfather had probably retired to his room for the day. The next morning, as I was eating breakfast, He walked by the window, and I acknowledged him with a ‘good morning.’ After he returned my greeting, he said, “So they have come to put something on your head, and you’ve given them money? That money, you could have used it to buy banku and tilapia!” I couldn’t laugh.
A few hours later, he was inquiring where my hair came from: “Brazil? India? China?” And he seemed to find it hilarious when I responded, “No, it’s Togolese.”
But that’s just a side story. today is February 4th, which, of course, means today is his birthday! Happy birthday Grandpa Charles!
For today’s post, in honour of that, I shall post a story, based on an incident he recounted to me and gave me permission to write about. In order to make it more story-like, I’ve filled in some dialogue and re-invented some parts I didn’t quite get, but on the whole, it’s equal fact as fiction. The events, at least, are for the most part, true, even if the nature in which they occurred in this story are not. So here we go:
PIPES NO DEY FLOW
Charles Seth Ofori was an orderly man. He knew how things were supposed to be done and was generally very unhappy when they weren’t done as such. And after eighty years of life, he still wasn’t pleased with the way his motherland operated. It was even more of an abysmal situation when he compared it to those years he had lived in Rome with his children.
There were numerous differences between Rome and Ghana, but the most prominent one on his mind today was this: water flowed in Rome. The same could not always be said for Ghana.
All he’d wanted to do was quickly wash his banana and have it as a quick snack before he went off to his appointment. As of now, there was no way he was going to eat an unwashed banana, so he sanitized his hands and went to his car.
He was on his way to meet an Ahlaji in Nyaniba, not very far from his own house in Labone. Distance, of course, was irrelevant. Punctuality was the key. Charles Ofori was always early for everything, if he could help it.
As a result, he ended up being earlier than the man who had himself arranged the meeting. The Alhaji arrived ten minutes later than he was supposed to, and as was characteristic of Charles, he was given a rather hefty telling-off.
“Listen,” Charles said, with all the dignity and authority his age gave him as an advantage. “You young people never take time seriously. You think every appointment is scheduled in GMT – Ghana-Man Time. You have thirty more years to get to where I am, but still you don’t understand the importance of time.”
Charles spoke deliberately and slowly, making sure his every word could be properly absorbed by the poor man. The Alhaji, like any unfortunate victim on the wrong side of a Charles Ofori rant, stood awkwardly, stoically trying to endure the somewhat patronizing blasting he was receiving. Nevertheless, the fact must be faced: he was late.
After this incident, the transaction between the two men went on smoothly, Charles got what he asked for, and the Alhaji got paid. Perfect.
Charles returned to his own home content, but as soon as he parked, realized that he needed to pee. The bathroom was the first place he went to upon entering his front door. The jacket he was wearing, however, seemed to be impeding quick access to his zipper, and so he shrugged it off. His mind was preoccupied, filled with irritated thoughts towards the VRA and whatnot. How ridiculous that in the 21st century, which, thankfully, he’d lived to see, there was still no assurance of running pipes. Disgraceful.
Having been reduced to using sanitizer on his hands yet again, he remembered that they were almost out of plantain. Oh no! That just wouldn’t do. His wife, Amy, had specifically requested fried plantain for supper that night. He cursed himself for not remembering while he was still in the car, and proceeded to make his way out once again.
“Grandpa, fine afternoon,” greeted the plantain seller as she put his order in a rubber bag for him while he waited in his car by the roadside.
“Yes, yes, good afternoon,” Charles responded, sounding flustered, for he was searching rather frantically for his wallet, which he had used just about an hour ago. It was apparently nowhere to be found.
It would have been rather embarrassing to be unable to pay for his plantain, which the lady was holding readily, expectantly, beside his car. Fortunately for him, he managed to find a five cedi note lying in some compartment in his car. Grateful to Providence, he quickly paid, took the plantain, and went back home, the mystery of the suddenly missing wallet still on his mind.
The minute he reached home, he called the Alhaji on his cellular phone and inquired of him if he had, by any chance, left his wallet mistakenly at their meeting place. The man, still quite sour from the way things had gone, assured him that he hadn’t done anything of the sort. Still, Charles thanked him and went to his room to ponder over it all.
For two more days, he mulled over the unsolved mystery, to no avail. Everyone in the house was aware his wallet was gone, and were on the look-out. Incidentally, these two days were also spent fetching and pouring water from the polytank, since the country’s water supply insisted on being fundamentally useless.
Now Charles’ wife, Amy, had a few nurses, one of whom came in everyday to help take care of her, and assist with a bit of cooking and cleaning. Essentially, she worked for Amy and not for Charles, so he was rather surprised when he discovered her (her name was Linda), knocking at his bedroom door, asking to see him.
Puzzled, he opened the door. Linda seemed to be full of giggles, another thing that only served to perplex him the more.
“What would you do…” she giggled… “if I told you…l” more giggles… “I’d found your wallet?” Even more giggles.
Charles came alert. Was she joking? It would be a great thing if she’d actually managed to find the wallet. It was rather a special and sentimental object.
He’d gotten it as a gift from his daughter a great many years ago from – guess where – Italy. The place where water actually flowed. It was a classic wallet, chestnut brown, with little embellishment. Honestly, it was probably as old as the Alhaji! It would hurt quite a bit if that one object which held so many feelings and memories was never to be found again. How could he have lost all that value?
Yet here was his wife’s nurse, making strange implications that seemed too good to be true.
“My wallet?” he repeated, a bit dimly. “Do you know where it is?”
Instead of answering the question, she asked him another question. “If I found your wallet for you, would you give me half of the money inside it?”
Charles was still bewildered, but he managed to respond, “Maybe a quarter. Where’s the wallet?”
Linda grinned. “Follow me.”
At first he thought she was leading him in the direction of the living room; but she took a sharp turn down the left, which made absolutely no sense because that was a dead end, except for…
In front of him, the sink stood miserably, its circumstances having made it fail to serve its purpose; if one were to turn on the tap, they’d realize that there was no water flowing. As usual.
Truly nonplussed now, Charles stopped behind Linda. “What exactly is going on?” he wanted to know.
Trying rather forcefully hard not to laugh, she gestured in front of her, signaling for him to go on.
But go on to where? There was nothing else left in front of him apart from the water-closet. Still, he made his way to it and, out of curiousity, peered down.
At first, he thought it was faces. But he looked more closely at the brown blob – his glasses threatening to slip off his face – and discovered that indeed it looked more like leather. Then, examining it even MORE closely, he recognized the simple, familiar designs – his classic Italian wallet.
“My goodness!” he exclaimed. “But how…?”
He thought back to a few days ago, retracing his steps, something he should have done more thoroughly. Yes, he had come to release himself directly following his visit to the Alhaji. Somewhere in between removing the coat and putting it back on, this had happened.
A few days later, as he told the story to his granddaughter, he had realized the ludicrousness of the situation. By then, he’d dried out the notes and the wallet, and given some of the money to Linda for fare back home. In order to quickly get rid of the unappealing money, he did the easiest money-sucking activity; he went out to buy gas for his car.
Now, as he told the story, he stroked the brown wallet in his hand, for once grateful to his motherland for the lack of sufficient water to flush the toilet.