There had been one of those wind storms that day I worked on that side of Kpassa. It was painfully sunny one moment, and the next moment dark clouds had gathered which you could barely see because the wind had picked up so much sand and debris. Aluminium roofing sheets were part of the debris, and I was convinced one would come charging my way to decapitate me so I ran with energy I barely had, heading to the only house I could see in the outskirts, where I had walked to. As I ran there, I saw the woman. The scene was unexpected, truly. It was a sudden midday storm, and everyone was running for cover, but she just sat there, not moving. She sat there on her porch, staring out into nothing, as I ran into her compound and onto her porch. Then she looked up and smiled. “That happens a lot here,” she said, and the smile broke into a teasing laughter. She was amused by my fear, I could tell.
She had a scarf tied around her head, and her veil laid loose around her shoulders. She adjusted another stool just like the one she was sitting on and gestured for me to have a seat. I was grateful. I had wished she’d proceed to invite me indoors, seeing that it was still very windy, but she did not. It did not look like she was ready to move. She asked if I wanted water and I declined, pointing to the 1.5ltr Voltic bottle on the side of my backpack with I had placed between my legs after I sat. She laughed again and said “you don’t like our water, I know. But me, it is pure water I drink.” looking at me as the laughter faded back into a gentle smile. “I have been to Accra before. I lived and worked there,” she went on. I admitted it and told her why I always carried my own water around. She said she understood. She said she was not a village woman like that. I smiled too.
We fell silent for a while, and soon it became less windy and it started to drizzle lightlly. She sighed and shook her head. “This rain is going to do little to help the dust here. So much sand everywhere, it rains now and an hour later the ground is dry and dusty again.” I sighed my agreement. “Accra is not like that at all,” she added and I nodded, not in actual agreement. I then took out my list and asked if she could help me out with the remaining names I had on there, by showing me where they lived if she knew them. She knew none, but one. She burst out in harder laughter when I mentioned that familiar name and corrected me. “That’s me,” she said. “I’m on your list.” I was pleased. She consented to the interview and it soon began.
“No, this is not my first marriage,” she answered. “My first husband died.” Then silence again. “I’m sorry to hear that. Would you like to go on?” Silence. “After he died, that was when I ran away. I had had 4 children already, and I had sent three of them to Accra, so I left for Accra myself with the youngest. I had a little money. My eldest child, a boy. He loves me very much. He gave me some more money when I got to Accra, and I started selling ladies’ ornaments. I was doing well. I wasn’t making myself like a widow o, you see.” Then she looked at me and sighed again “my family is an evil bunch!” Her mood grew heavier….dark. “You see, I was a very beautiful woman. I stayed my gaze on her for a while. She was still beautiful. “You don’t believe me?” she asked. “Wait!” then she shot up from the stool I thought she’d never vacate and went in. She came back with a picture of herself. “You can’t believe that was me, right?” I could. She was beautiful at the time as she was then. Perhaps, the only difference was that the woman in the picture knew she was beautiful. This one didn’t see it anymore. “I can see the resemblance,” I said and she sighed again, as if my answer had confirmed something major. “Yes, that was me then, and I would have stayed unmarried. But you see, my people thought I was into sex work in Accra. They thought that was where I was getting money from to dress so well, and live comfortably. They started insisting I remarry. They kept saying they will marry me off again. I shouldn’t have come back. I don’t know why I did. I believe I was charmed. I still am. How else would I be here with a man who leaves me with 2cedis to prepare a meal for him and expects to have the meal to his filling? How else did I end up coming back and never going back to Accra again, and then becoming like this? I am under a spell.” And she meant it…literally.
No, I’m not the only wife. Then she shouted a name. From the room behind me, a younger woman stepped out and she said something to her in their language. The woman went back in and brought out a stool to sit on too. “You see her? That’s the second wife. When he told me he was marrying again, I was not happy. But when she came, she is also here suffering too. She is not the bad person here. So we became friends. Now when he leaves, we both don’t care because we stick together. We are here. He will soon bring a third wife and we will befriend her too. He is the only bad one. We are all under a charm.” Silence. And it stretched. It was as if the storm had moved from around her, and into her. Perhaps, she carried it around every day. Perhaps that was why she had sat there unflinching when I saw her.
It was her everyday existence within.