Independence
Credit: Pinterest

“Take me home”, Akasi ordered. She was already in the front seat of the car, her seatbelt locked in.

I stood outside the car; shocked. My brain stuttered for a moment and my eyes could not register anything in sight. Every part of me went on pause while my thoughts caught up with the sudden change of mind Akasi had.

“Erm… erm…”, I struggled to put words together.

“Nana Kwame, get into this goddamn vehicle and drive me back to Accra!”, she screamed, this time hitting the dashboard of the car.

Akasi and I were engaged to be married in two weeks. We had taken this trip to visit my grandfather in Nkroful to seek his blessing ahead of the ceremony. Since he wasn’t going to make it to the wedding in Accra, we thought it was the honourable thing to do. We decided to travel on the Independence Day Holiday which fell on a Friday so we could also spend the whole weekend in the countryside – some kind of pre-honeymooning. After travelling for six hours and only being in the town for barely two hours, Akasi wanted to return. Now, all of that was cut short and no reason was given.

I went back into the house and gave my grandfather and other relatives a lousy excuse. My cousins and nephews and nieces helped me pack our luggage into the car. And we were on our way.

The journey back to Accra was uneventful. Although we were in an air-conditioned car, it was hot for me thanks to my fiancée’s silence. Akasi said only three sentences. “I want to use the washroom”, “Kindly stop at Mankessim and let me buy something to eat” and “I’m sorry but you will understand very soon”. I said nothing but complied with her requests and nodded to her assurance.

“Yours or mine?” I asked Akasi. That was the first time I spoke on the journey. We had reached Mallam Junction, Accra. It was 7 PM.

“My mother’s, please”.

“Osu?!” I exclaimed. I was about to go on a rant about how I had driven for an accumulated 12 hours and needed to go home and rest but I swallowed the rest of my words and took the exit to the Kaneshie road.

Traffic!

“Akasi, what is it that can’t wait till tomorrow? With this traffic, we will get to Osu at midnight”.

“When we get there, you will understand. Think about a way to get me to Osu quickly. I don’t want granny to be asleep before we get there”.

We arrived at the Odoi’s a little after 10 PM. Akasi had keys to the house so we got in without disturbing her mom or grandmother. When we entered the living room, the TV was on. The light coming from it illuminated the room. Yaa Yo, Akasi’s grandmother, was awake and she was watching a documentary about Ghana’s Independence on GTV. She was sitting very close to the television as if she wanted to enter it.

“Yaa Yo! Why are you awake at this time? And why are you so close to the TV? Where are your glasses?” Akasi asked the octogenarian who only turned looked at her grand-daughter and smiled.

Akasi shook her head and turned to me. “Wait for me here”, she said and dashed into the bedroom.

“Hey, Kwame. Come closer”, Yaa Yo whispered to me.

I moved a few inches closer to her. Because she was too close to the television, the light from the TV dazzled me. I protected my eyes with my hands.

“Do you know that I broke my virginity on this day?” She said with smiles on her face, pointing to the films rolling on the TV. It displayed Kwame Nkrumah making the historic declaration of independence at the Old Polo Grounds.

I looked at her with a mixture of disgust and surprise. She looked at me, still smiling and continued, “Don’t judge me, little boy. I was twenty and wild! My dad was a strict veteran of the world war who allowed me very little freedom. However, months before independence, he became a different person. His usual gloomy and melancholic demeanour turned to light and cheerfulness. He did not care that we came back from school late; that we were up after 9 PM; that we went out to see friends or even that boys came to visit my sisters and me at home”. Yaa Yo was still full of smiles.

“One the night Dr. Kwame Nkrumah came to the Polo Grounds, there was a dance in a disco nearby. My parents had already told us they would be out drinking and dancing with friends. So, my sisters and I decided that we would go. At this dance, a tall lanky boy checked me out the whole night. Finally, he came to dance and talk to me. He told me he was a relative of the great Osagyefo and I believed him. He said he had come from their hometown to watch his distant uncle and cheer him on. There were a couple of them – all boys – from their hometown at the party. He was full of big talk. He told me what the freedom from our colonial masters meant for us as a country, for young people and for him. Then, he told me what it means for me too – that I could be twenty and wild. And, I believed him”.

“I liked what he told me but I liked him more. That night, he took me the guesthouse they lodged in and we did it”. At this point, Yaa Yo’s tone changed. Her voice squeaked. There was sadness in it. “We parted ways the following morning, promising to see each other at the disco again in the night”. Tears dropped from the old woman’s eyes at this point. “Strangely, my dad’s independence blues ended that day and the returned to being the old soldier he was. So, that was the last time I saw the guy whom I had my first sex with. Funny thing was I did not ask for his name. I called him Nkrumah throughout the night due to his supposed relationship with Osagyefo”.

“Doesn’t the story sound familiar?” That was Akasi’s voice. I turned to look at her. I did not know she had returned to the living room.

“Erm…” I scratched my head.

“Your grandfather’s story!”

Earlier in the day when we arrived at Nkroful, my grandpa told us we reminded him of his first love. He said they met on Independence Day and he fell in love with her. But they met only that once and although it was a memorable meeting, they had not seen each other since then. According to him, the lady ghosted him and did not show up for their next rendezvous. It was simple without any embellishments. So, yes, it clicked. The stories were similar.

Then, it clicked again! Akasi thought the woman in my grandpa’s story was Yaa Yo and Grandpa was the man in Yaa Yo’s stories. Ha!

“Yaa Yo, I think I met Nkrumah today”, Akasi said to her grandmother. The latter was not moved by that statement. She rocked back and forth in her chair and hummed a hymn. That was Akasi’s cue to help her grandmother to her room and tucked her into bed.

She turned the lights in the living room on when she returned. She had two old photos in her hands. “Here they are. Your grandfather and my grandmother. She said they took these pictures at the disco on 6th March, 1957. These are my grand-aunts and some of your grandpa’s friends”.

I took a look at the pictures. It was my grandfather. I had seen pictures of him in his youth. It was definitely him. I recognized some of the other men from Nkroful too.

“Wow! What a wow!” I sighed.

“You know what this means, right?”

“Erm… Our grandparents were in love and they hooked up once. Now, we are in the same spot to make right their wrongs. Hehehe…”

“Shut up, Kwame! No, it does not mean that. My grandmother got pregnant from that hook-up. My mother is the result of that one-night stand. You and I, we could be related”.

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