Sedem squirmed in his seat the umpteenth time that afternoon, trying to take his focus off the unpleasant thoughts that stirred inside his head and focus on the traffic ahead instead. The cars were slow moving, the sun was simmering hot, and he was unhappy. Very unhappy. What exactly at however, he couldn’t quite place his finger on; or maybe he could.
Here he was in traffic at 2P.M on a Wednesday, running yet another errand for Akua. Another errand he had voluntarily availed himself to; Insisted to go on even. Could he really blame her for how he felt? Like an utter fool! A baseless man who spent his time doting on the girl while another man banged her to heaven and back. Saliva clogged at his throat at the thought of Ato having his way with her. Tall, handsome Ato from H.R. – who spoke to Akua as and when he felt like it, yet always had her attention. He had heard the rumors, had noticed how Ato’s absences during lunch break always seemed to coincide with Akua’s, and how after such disappearances she would be all smiles till the close of day. He wondered if the saying was true, that the bad boys always got the girls and people like him – true romantics, always ended up on the short end of the stick. A car blared angrily some distance behind him, jostling him back to reality.
He kissed the space between his teeth. Every time he went on one of these errands, this happened. At the start, he would be excited at the prospect of pleasing her, then somewhere along the line, the stress would set in and it would hit him how much of his own time he was wasting. The thousand and one things he could be doing instead would suddenly appear out of nowhere like a swarm of bees before his mind’s eye, and then he would get to thinking and all thinking ever did was upset him more. He was very well aware of the motions, yet he would always insist. When was he going to realize it, really? When was it going to sink in? Playing the nice guy guaranteed nothing.
“Oh Sedem, you’re such a good friend”
That’s all there was ever going to be.
The elderly owner of the bakery recognized Sedem from a month before, when he had picked up another order for Akua. December 3rd. He remembered because it was Ato’s birthday. She was nice to him all of the time he spent waiting for the order to be cleared and followed him outside when he was leaving.
As he tentatively placed the box in the backseat of his car, she called at one of her employees to bring the “handsome young man” some donuts.
“Oh Aunty, its alright, save it for your customers.”
She pulled at his cheeks.
“Are you not one of my customers?”
He began a protest and stopped midway. Had he not indeed become one of her customers after all?
It was an awkward silence between them the two or three minutes it took Kuukua to bring the donuts. The woman kept staring at him, almost inspecting – the way her eyes interrogated the top of his head to the soles of his feet. He was grateful when it was time to leave.
No sooner had he slammed his door shut than the elderly woman’s puckered face leaned in beside his window. She tapped at the screen. He rolled down the window.
“Young man, are you married?”
The question took him by surprise. Had he had time to gather himself, he would have lied appropriately – But he didn’t.
“No Ma, why?”
“Here, take out a pen and paper let me give you my daughter’s number.”
He looked around the insides of his car, flustered.
“KUUKUAAAAA…. KUUKUA, bring me a pen and paper.”
It was a few minutes past 7 PM when Sedem got to Akua’s apartment. His plan was to drop the cake and return to the office immediately for his bag. He had completely forgotten about the rush-hour traffic that was sure to meet him on his way back from the bakery and had actually assumed he would be back in time before the office got closed.
The bag contained his house keys. Jesus…
He had not noticed her in the shadows. The streetlights outside her place never worked. He knew from all the times he had come over to help her fix her generator during the “dumsor” era.
“Sedem, I told you I needed the cake by 5, what happened!!??”
She had lipstick on her mouth and was in a revealing dinner dress. Where was she going? She looked so beautiful.
“I – “
“You know what? It’s okay. My evening is already ruined. I need a lift to East Legon. Can you take me?”
He didn’t even notice his lips move.
“Yeah, sure, no problem.”
She rolled her eyes and moved past him towards the passenger’s seat.
Akua squirmed in her seat the umpteenth time that evening, trying to take her focus off the unpleasant thoughts that stirred up in her head, and focus on the traffic ahead instead. The cars were slow moving, the insides of Sedem’s car was hot as usual, and her makeup was threatening to drip off of her face. She was unhappy. Very unhappy. What exactly at however, she couldn’t quite place her finger on; or maybe she could.
Sedem was so incredibly useless sometimes. How often had she beseeched him in the nicest way possible to fix the air-conditioner in his car, or stop wearing the perfume that made him smell like one of the prostitutes at Circle. He just – he could never take constructive criticism. That was his problem. Always eager to help, seldom delivering. She knew the moment he offered to help pick up the cake that he would probably mess it up. Now here she was, a whole 30 minutes late to Susan’s bachelorette when she had taken up cake duty; and her make-up, completely ruined.
She turned to him and he smiled at her.
“I’m really sorry about the cake Akua, the traff-“
“Sedem, I said drop it.”
In the middle of yet another eye-roll, she noticed a piece of paper sticking out of his glove compartment and pulled it out.
‘Afrakoma – 0203567992′
A strange panic washed across her spine.
“Sedem, what’s this?”
He turned away from the steering wheel and stared quizzically at her.
“Oh, that.” He laughed, “Your cake woman ooo. Shes trying to hook me up with her daughter.”
Akua’s fingers played around the edges of the paper.
“What kind of desperation too is that? I’m sure there’s something off about her. She’s ugly or something” She stared at Sedem for some sort of confirmation.
“Well, actually ….”
Akua was glaring at him now.
“I’ve met her there a couple of times. She’s pretty – looks a lot like you even.”
“Oh… I see.”
Akua was silent the entire way. Sedem, fearing to upset her any further allowed her her space. He did not notice her coyly ball the piece of paper up into a fist and drop it into her bag as she got out.
She rolled her eyes and slammed the door shut.
“Bye Sedem. Don’t forget, that thing we spoke about is tomorrow”
She walked off into the restaurant. He had forgotten.
Art Credit: Roy DeCarava – Missisipi Freedom Marcher