Kweku raises himself up from the bench, panting, sweat dripping down his beard, he pulls a fine filament of spider web from his face and studies it carefully against the slanting rays of morning. How a web appears in the gym where he sat not long ago fascinates him.
The boys are gathered behind him at the entrance of the gym. Metals clang and grunts fill his ears.
‘Yes!’ ‘Finish hard!’ ‘Push!’ ‘Last one!’ ‘Grrr! Arrrgh!’ ‘One more!’ ‘Yeah, man!’ ‘Real men go all the way.’ ‘We go hard, bro!’ ‘Legend. Good job!’ Kweku casts his eyes to the treadmill to his right. A lady sweating her buttocks off, quite literally, and some flanks. Then hearing his boys amidst the sustained clangour and motivational ejaculations, a voice beckoned him:
‘Organa, come see something.’
He, reluctantly turning and rising, says:
‘Charley, I tire pass.’
Reaching him, his gym bro points through the transparent sliding door:
‘See that shawdy?’
‘Yeah, yeah, charley, I dey want o. Do something give me.’ A minute’s contemplation furnishes Kweku with an idea:
‘Abi you know swim?’
‘Abi you know?’
‘She no know swim. Morrow them dey do pool party for some hotel bi like that, I forget.’ His gym bro gives the location and Kweku continues: ‘Take swimming break the ice. Sometimes, you go get her attention.’
‘You be genius guy!’
‘The thing be say, you no for fool plus her body. You for be professional. As you dey teach am, make you slip in convo small small say you dey feel am. Make you not touch touch her body just like that, sake of, she catch say you be creep, in aa that!’
Passing by, a lady: ‘Visible curves, Nana,’ Kweku says.
‘Aww, thanks,’ dimpled smile.
‘You talk am aa, them dey smile then say thanks,’ his gym bro says. ‘Gym be like safe area.’
‘Check this out.’
He lays eyes on another, squatting with dumbbells: ‘That’s some shapely ass: squats paying off, girl!’ She turns, sweat-glistened face, saying:
‘Not today, Kweku.’
An embarrassed smile cracks his lips. ‘See? Works! It’s allowed by the laws of the land, bro. Know thy environment.’
‘You for teach we menez this your wisdom.’
‘Where I dey job, I dey see beautiful bodies waa. Eventually, you learn to look for pure aesthetics, without attachment, just artistic apprecia—’ Sliding open, in enters a face: light-skinned as dawn-born: cheeks red as tomatoes.
She sings ‘Hello’ to the guys at the door: voice sweet as potatoes.
‘Yo, Organa,’ his gym bro taps his shoulder, enthralled in her sinuously approaching body: ‘Aye ya yaa ya yaa!’
‘I see am. I see am, yo!’ removing his hand. ‘You no’ go fit move this one o,’ his gym bro says, doubting.
‘She be new for here?’
‘Ibi my first time I see her. This one ino be mouthbody o! I’be money-body!’
‘Awww, kids. Watch and learn, bro.’
Kweku advances to meet her with deliberate gaits, his eyes straying behind and around her, but not meeting hers, and then by calculated casual indifference, finds her face, eyes, with a mild smile. She smiles back politely.
‘Hey,’ says he.
‘Hey, what’s up?’ halting.
‘Came to talk to you about an opportunity to be on a magazine cover. Interested?’
‘No, not really.’
A moment’s flash of thought: vanity failed, what next? Directness. See how it goes.
‘What about a date?’ he says.
‘I don’t know you.’
‘I’m Kweku. A photographer and a marketer for True Women mag.’
‘Oh okay,’ then, slipping her gaze by his head, says, ‘here comes my instructor, I gotta go now, Kweku.’
American accent, I see.
‘Didn’t catch your name.’
‘Didn’t give it,’ moving past him.
Another instant flash: Give her your card. Nah, she no’go call. Ask for hers. ‘Can I get your number?’ he says, turning to her.
‘Please, no,’ not turning.
‘I’ll cook you Jollof, I swear.’
She turns, eyes a little widened, comes near: ‘You have my attention.’
Oh, cooking! How’d I not start with that! D-ddumbass!
‘Is it a date? My place or your place?’
‘No way am I entering your room on a first date.’ Did you hear that? On. A. First. Date. It’s a date, bro.
‘Can’t afford to cook in a restaurant for a date. I don’t think they allow it in Ghanaian restaurants.’
‘You only need to know the right people, but how well can you cook?’
‘Name your dish,’ he says with a confident grin. ‘You can observe me prepare it right in front of you.’
‘Most interesting thing I’ve heard all day,’ chuckling.
‘Did I tell you I was interesting? I was probably getting to that.’
She laughs, dipping her hand in her Kente purse, and pulls out her card. ‘Alright, this is my card. Please, don’t call after 9 pm or before 11 am. You can text at any time though.’
Receiving the card, his finger almost feels hers and he would have felt and lingered had she not left the card. ‘You did not name your dish.’
‘You said Jollof, right?’
‘With tilapia, yes. What’s your favourite wine?’
‘Nice. You know what? Impress me with your cooking and I just might drink the wine I have.’
Peering through the glass door, Kweku sees, with eerie surround silence, a man writhing agonisingly on the ground, clasping his chest, spitting blood, and Kweku, blinking to be sure, sees no one, and the din of the gym floods back into his ears.
to be continued…