It had been a leisurely walk up the tree-lined University Avenue from the Kwame Nkrumah Institute of African Studies (IAS). We had walked to the University Square, turned right, and walked into the bookshop.
After about a half-hour browsing the collection, we had ended up buying just one book. A booklet, really. A play, which we would spend the rest of the afternoon sitting on one of the lovers’ benches at the School of Performing Arts reading. It had been time pleasantly spent. But it wasn’t what we should have been doing.
We should have been poring over a pile of Arts History journals which I had been tasked by my boss to scan for conceptual nuggets, a task onto which the early budding of romance had equally yoked Kofi onto. Even the dullest chore can be sweetened by the presence of a beloved. But reading Arts History journals wasn’t even what we should have been doing. But God moves in mysterious ways, and the paths of Romance are even more mysterious.
I was introduced to my husband by an administrator in a graduate school programme to which I was planning to apply. I should qualify the word ‘introduce’, because it was not until after a year before we got to meet in person. The administrator gave me the contact of two of their Ghanaian students. I sent them an email. The other responded. Not Kofi.
I was then a master’s graduate at IAS. If I hadn’t been a rebellious student, I might have crossed paths with Kofi when he had given a seminar presentation the year before at IAS. I was later to find out how much our lives overlapped. We shared so many mutual friends. He was widely known in my institute. I had no idea I was soon to share my life with the weird guy my friends sometimes talked about.
After months of not hearing back from him, it was apparent that I was not going to hear (or read!) from him. But in the mysterious ways that these things happen, I met him at the entrance of my workplace. We were (re-)introduced. Faces were put to the names. In a bizarre attempt at an apology, he blamed God for his failure to respond to my email. My friends might have been right about this guy being mad.
We arranged a meeting which again fell through. He had to go away for about a week to a workshop. In the meantime, I sent him my proposal for his opinion. That was when he responded. He had read it.
“I will see you when I come back from the workshop.”
We met one late afternoon at IAS. His friend, Mark who teaches at the University of Ghana, dropped him off and warned me to ignore any profession of love from him. He didn’t profess love that day. Instead, he told me he had read my proposal and he liked it. A lot. He was suspiciously enthusiastic. I mean, this was an academic proposal, not poetry or fiction! He wanted to meet again to discuss the revisions he had suggested. The next time, we also talked about the types of books I liked to read. We talked about fiction and poetry and such like. We’d always part with him suggesting further revisions or reading material. So, there was always an excuse to meet again.
It was after a few such meetings that I enlisted him on the Arts History project. It was the first time I saw someone who liked these journals apart from my boss. After a few days of poring through those journals, I asked him to show me some of the things he liked. That was when we went to the bookshop and bought that play. It was written by one of his favourite Ghanaian writers.
Kofi is a salesman. He was bubbling with enthusiasm as he sang this writer’s praise. The play was short enough, we decided to read it in one sitting. We chose characters and read as dramatically as our amateur skills enabled. But the book itself was disappointing. Kofi made excuses for this book’s quality. I wasn’t convinced. But this is one of our sweetest memories. Sitting under the tree that late afternoon taking turns to read and basking in our closeness.
So, I asked that he show me what he likes to write. He was obviously absorbed with death and dying. I found it interesting and strange at the same time. My friends were right about him! But I was accommodating. Besides most of my writings were also melancholic. I remember asking jokingly if his morbid writings were the result of the winters he had to endure. I was a terrible critic and not easy to please but he persisted. He would read me things when we met until I started getting used to them. Sometimes I’ll read him my own poems.
Reading became the way we connected to the different experiences we had as individuals. We had a long-distance relationship when dating. When we ran out of conversation topics, we’d spend hours on the phone reading short stories. We read the bible and disagreed warmly about the writings of Paul.
At his suggestion, we’ve read outrageous books, some which claimed that human life was no better than animal life; that life was meaningless; that there was no point standing up for anything; that we were alone in a cold, decaying, indifferent world. And sometimes we’d read stories of love so tender and warm. And such is the way mysterious ways of God and Romance that we’ve threaded both paths, as have all people who have ever been in love.
I don’t think he understands me fully and I don’t think I understand him fully but reading has always been a meeting point for us.
This copy was written by my friends Drs. Kofi Asante and Esther Darku who got married last year. I read from Kofi’s Facebook timeline that they read books to themselves on their honeymoon. I loved the thought. I could not help but ask them to share their story of books and love with me. That’s how they are my guest columnists for today. Indeed, “God moves in mysterious ways, and the paths of Romance are even more mysterious”.
I hope you enjoyed sharing in this wonderful experience. Share this post then and let other people enjoy it too. Is reading and books an integral part of your relationship? If not, try it and thank me later.