Estate agents didn’t like my father and here’s the reason. They would bring a lot of potential tenants to his house and he would reject all of them; “He speaks too fast. He might have a bad temper.” “He is not married. A man his age will bring a lot of women around.” “Look at her long nails, I don’t think she can scrub the tiles very well. Tiles are expensive.”
Some time ago, he rejected a man because he was wearing a big hat—that hat women wear on sunny days to sell in the market. He said, “A man wearing this hat when there’s no sun can’t have his priorities right. No, he can’t rent my place.”
The lady whose room was directly opposite of mine got married and moved out of the house so my dad called his agent friends and told them to bring people. He was very specific that he didn’t like men to occupy that room. He didn’t give a reason but I knew the reason was me. He didn’t want to inconvenience me because of where my room was located. But these agents kept bringing men. He would interview them and say no to them.
One evening a gentleman walked in with an agent. We were all in the hall when they came. He asked the questions and the guy answered. According to his story, he was new in Accra because he got a new job. He had only two days to start working but he didn’t have a place to live. For the first time, I saw my father being lenient with a man. When they left, my mom said, “Give the room to him. He’s desperate and he looks like a good guy.”
He came to look at my face, “Ladie, what do you say?” I answered, “Give it to him because of his story. You never know. He may lose his job.”
So that very moment, my dad called the agent and told him the guy could come for the room. His name was Henry.
It’s a single room self-contained. The only thing that separated his room from mine was the corridor. His door was directly opposite mine and his indoor window was directly mine.
The day he was packing in, we met often in the corridor and each time we met, he greeted me. It could be an hour interval between the last time we met but this guy would still greet me. I would respond with a smile and go inside. When he was bringing in the sofa, he clearly needed help but he didn’t call me. I saw him struggling to carry the whole thing by himself but because it was too heavy, he would drop it and breathe for a while and then carry again. I went to him, “Hold the other side and let me hold it here. One…two…three! Then we move.”
Slowly we got to the corridor and later pushed it into his room. He asked me, “What’s the best way to place it?” I looked at him. He’s those people who look directly into your eyes when they talk to you. I wasn’t comfortable but I remember saying in my head that he was cute. I told him, “I don’t know how you like it but I placed mine where the window is. For fresh air.” He responded, “Then let’s push it there. I like fresh air too.”
Sometimes we’ll both step out at the same time and come face to face on the corridor. When that lady was occupying that room, I didn’t care about what I wore but this guy came around and I had to change the way I dressed in the house. I couldn’t wear my hot nickers because he was there. I couldn’t go topless, even when I was in my own room because who knows, he would look through the window and see me. I was being very careful to the point I felt restricted.
One morning, we both met at the trotro station, waiting to get trotro to work. He asked me, “Is it always like this on Mondays?” I responded, “Yeah, if you want to go earlier than this then you have to wake up very early.”
When the trotro came, he sat next to me. He asked for directions and told me he got missing anytime he was coming home because he was new in Accra.
I gave him my number and told him, “Call me when you don’t know where to go. He called even when he knew his way around. He would be in his room and call me. One day he asked me, “How will your parents react when they see that we are very close?” I answered, “Maybe you want to leave this house.”
We both laughed but that question started giving me ideas; “He likes me and he’s scared of my father?” “Hmmmm, I kind of like him too but I don’t think a relationship here would thrive. Let me forget it.”
Whenever he came home from work, he would knock on my door and greet me. I was always home earlier than him so I came to expect that knock. I would look at the time and tell myself, “The knock will happen very soon,” and soon I’ll hear the sound of a knock followed by “Good evening.” I’ll respond and say “Welcome back.”
One evening, I looked at my time and it was around 7 p.m. No knocking. I started thinking about him and why he had kept long in coming. “Or I should call him?” The pride in me said no. The next time I checked the time, it was 9 p.m. And then 10 p.m. came to pass. Later it was 11 p.m.” I was like, “What is wrong with this guy? Is he missing? No, he can’t go missing like that. He has been here for more than five months.” 12 a.m. and then 1 a.m. I was on my sofa counting sheep. “Why am I awake at this time waiting for a knock on the door?”
That dawn, I realized I was in love with Henry. Because what could keep me awake till that time? But the next question that came to my head was, “Or he found a new girlfriend and decided to spend the night at her place?”
It was a Friday and everything was possible. The thought got me angry so I told myself, “This thing will never work. Is that how I’m going to monitor him when we become lovers? What if we start and it doesn’t work? I would be here while he brings his next girlfriend in? I have to snap out of this feeling before it gets far.”
Around 2 a.m., I was dozing off when I heard the sound of a key entering his door lock. He turned the knob and it made a sound. I knew he was in. I said to myself, “And he won’t come and knock and explain to me why he’s coming home this late.”
I slept angry and decided never to talk to him again until he explained where he went that night. In the morning, I didn’t come out early. When I had to, I looked through my window to see if he was there.
All morning I didn’t see him until around 11 a.m. when I saw his call on my phone. I picked up and he sighed loudly on the phone. The kind of sigh we do when we are stretching, “Hmmmmmm how are you?” His voice was hoarse and I could imagine his mouth was smelling because he hadn’t brushed his teeth.
I answered, “I’m fine.”
“Last night I came home very late. You were sleeping”
“You didn’t come home last night. You came this morning.”
“How did you know? You were awake?”
“Leave me alone. Why did you call me?”
“I haven’t seen you this morning. And also, I’m asking if there’s something to eat. I’m very hungry and I have nothing here.”
I chuckled but in the next few minutes, I was in my mother’s kitchen putting something together for him. I placed it at the foot of his door and texted him, “Your food is waiting for you in front of your door. Don’t let my parents see it.”
He sent laughing emojis and I thought it was cute. My anger melted away like the snow before the sun. Was I angry? No, I wasn’t. I was only jealous. Later in the day, I sent him a text, “So you don’t think I deserve to know where you were last night? Who’s that girl?” He sent laughing emojis and said it wasn’t a girl but he followed his office guys for a party and roaming in town. He said, “I know a few places now. If you like, I will take you there on Friday.”
I screamed in my head, “He’s asking me for a date? Henry is asking me out?” I didn’t give him an answer but on Friday I texted him, “Come home early because I will be waiting. I want to see those places.”
That was the night he proposed to me and added, “I’m scared of your parents. They like me very much and I don’t want them to be disappointed. If they decide to eject me, I wouldn’t know where to go.” I told him, “We are not kids. We don’t have to tell them. They won’t know if we don’t make things obvious.”
That was me saying yes to his proposal. That night, I spent the night in his room. The next day he spent the night in mine. Some nights we would stand in the middle of the corridor and do “see…see…seee” If the finger falls one my room, we spend the night there.
One morning I overslept in his room. I heard my mom knocking on my door and I mistakenly answered from Henry’s room. My mom stood still for a while and mentioned my name again. I was quiet. She said, “Which room are you in?” I stepped out looking like the prodigal daughter. She stood there looking at me and looking at the door thinking maybe she was the one who was not seeing well. We had dated for over six months and it was time for them to know.
I told her, “I was doing something for him. He called me this morning to help him.” Henry came out. He said the same thing, “Mom, I asked her to help me do something. I’m sorry.” My mom asked, “What something?” Both of us were standing there like a statue.” She left us.
My mom wasn’t a problem but my dad was. I freshened up my face and went to see her. I confessed the affair to her and said, “The truth is, we are seeing each other so I go to his room.” She asked, “Since when? So you want to make babies in your father’s house while not married?”
I pleaded with her not to tell my dad but two hours later, my dad already knew about it. He didn’t call me. he called Henry. “Young man, what are you doing with my daughter? You proved me right. I knew you’d come after my daughter the very day you walked into this house. What’s going on? What kind of disrespect is that? I gave you my house and trust and you came after my daughter?”
The first thing Henry said was, “I want to marry her. I want to be part of this family because of how you’ve treated me and the kind of respect You wield around here. I’m not playing with her. you can ask her. We’ve been talking about letting you know but we were scared. Forgive me. I didn’t act like a man.”
My dad went mute for a moment. My mom called me in. She asked, “Henry said he would marry you and you didn’t tell us?” I looked at him and he winked at me. I answered, “We were planning to but we didn’t know how. He was scared you were not going to take it lightly.” My dad said, “I’m waiting for you. When you’re ready, come and tell me. I don’t like the way I got to know.”
I texted Henry from my room, ‘What was that for? You went too far. Are you that coward?” He texted back, “I didn’t lie. You think what we are doing is just a joke?” I said, “But who told you I want to marry you?” He sent his favourite laughing emojis and added, “I’m not asking you to marry me. I’m asking me to marry you but if you like say no and let’s see.”
I still didn’t believe he meant it, I thought he was acting out of fear of ejection but the days that followed made things clearer. That he meant it and that he wanted to marry me. We were less than a year together when he brought his family to do the knocking. My dad told his dad, “You see what your son has done? I gave him a place to live and he stole my last born.” His dad responded, “She looks like something anyone will love to steal. Forgive us, we are not thieves.”
They all laughed while we eyed each other from across the room. I still didn’t believe this was happening. It felt too quick and it felt like a mistake. I was scared the whole thing was an infatuation that would clear after marriage but here we are, five and a half years together and the infatuation still hasn’t cleared. It’s as thick as the morning fog before the sun comes up to spoil everything.
Sometimes this infatuation gets so foggy we don’t see each other so we stretch our arms and walk through blindly, hoping our arms will reach up and touch each other. Out of infatuation, we have two kids, one named after my mom and the other named after his dad. My mom because she caught us and catapulted us to this moment in our lives.