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Feet of Clay

Martin Egblewogbe
Say it again.
Lecture Hall Quote.

December 2007
My wife came to visit me in the morning. She came with her boyfriend and the son she
has with her boyfriend. This was her first visit to me since she arrived in the country
several days ago; it was an event I had awaited with considerable disquiet, unable to
gauge the level of hostility or otherwise that might be present. I needn’t have bothered,
though. The meeting went well, we were all very civil to each other, and the lack of high
emotion made the entire meeting rather sterile.
Her son was an unsmiling but alert little boy with a piercing gaze that shouted “Liar!
Liar!” anytime it fell upon me. I did not quite know what to make of it, but it made
me quite uncomfortable, and I warned myself to stay clear of him. Even at that age, he
seemed like he would make a hard and unforgiving enemy. But, then, perhaps, it all has
to do with my wife, and the kinds of thoughts I think about her now. I felt insulted, and
my manhood challenged by her bringing her son. Here is mine, she seemed to say: Show
me yours. And I had nothing to show.
The boy, however, was polite enough when he greeted me. I replied affably, making
a kid’s joke about my knee. He gave me the gaze, and thereafter I was cautious about
My wife and her boyfriend expressed their sympathy at my incapacitation, and con-
gratulated me on my escape from death. My kneecap, shattered when I landed on my
briefcase after leaping from a burning building, was deemed a small price to pay in lieu
of my life. Wryly, I had to agree.
In time, dismissing her boyfriend and her son, my wife and I withdrew into the study
and there discussed the divorce. She was like a total stranger to me. Now, meeting her
in private for the first time since her departure many years ago, the changes struck me
more forcefully: her new lilting accent, the way she occasionally placed her palm against
her forehead; and the French phrases that popped up in her speech. We could not look
each other in the eye.
Once or twice our eyes clashed, and then she shifted her gaze elsewhere. The encounter
was, more than anything, embarrassing.
We did not have much to say. Earlier on I had imagined I would tell her I was sorry
it was over, and that it had to end this way. But it was over years and years ago. I had
hoped she would cry or yell at me. She sat and spoke calmly, telling me about her plans
for after the divorce. We both did not care. The whole meeting had been a foolish idea,
I now see. The divorce was almost done, our lawyers had concluded their wrangling, and
by the middle of January the dissolution would be complete, and the marriage that was
not would have ceased to be.
The trio left more than five hours ago. It is in the afternoon now, and I am writing
this, sitting in the study, with a glass of Scotch in attendance.

Outside, the sun burns with relentless ferocity. Certainly the pagans will be delighted:
those who are content to worship the sun can only jubilate at this show of power.
Inside, the house was brightly lit by the sunlight flooding the rooms from end to end.
I had had all the windows thrown open in an attempt to dispel gloom. I feel trapped in
this wheelchair, to which I have been consigned since the famous incident that occurred
during the much-discussed “Tower Fire” affair: I played my part in the drama by leaping
from the burning building, but I am sure you have heard enough about that by now.
I am writing this in order to lessen the powerful claustrophobia that occasionally settles
upon me; often I imagine that the sturdy steel and leather contraption upon which I sit
rejoices in grim elation at holding me captive; then I scratch viciously at the cast on my
leg, and resort to the Scotch to calm my nerve. I am yet to get used to the wheelchair,
certainly that will happen as time goes along, though I hope to get out of it before that
happens. I wish also to record some of the events of the past year; these events I am
unable to place – so mundane, yet – yet, I cannot fully appreciate their import, while it
seems that I must.
Occasionally I pause and listen intently to the birds chirping in the garden, and then
thoughts of Anima once again creep into my mind, and I have to return to this script.
Anima! Plagued by the mystery and fool enough to pursue the story, I did. Ghosts do
lurk in the eyes of the dead.
But more on that later.
I have to introduce to you two people who played a significant part in all this. The
other - dramatis personae, if you will – will be introduced by the story itself, and I hope
that will suffice.
So I’ll tell you first about how I met Benesa, who someone used to call a “priestling.”
Three years ago I was driving into Accra late at night. It was about eleven by the
clock on the dashboard.
One of my clients, a vegetable farmer in Ho, had requested a meeting to assess the
impact of some changes made in the management structure of his sales department. The
farmer ran a thriving business, especially because his recent entry into foreign markets
had met with remarkable success.
It had been a lot of work to do in one afternoon. There were whole cabinets of files
to be read. However, I was quite pleased with what I had achieved. I was convinced
that my advice was sound and that the farm would only become more prosperous. More
importantly, the farmer was also confident in my expertise. Though there was all this
to be happy about, the two-hour journey back to Accra in the night was not entirely
appealing. It had been my intention to set off much earlier, but my client had thrown a
banquet for a prospective buyer from Nigeria, and had insisted that I make an appearance.
Sensing a new business opportunity, I complied, and had not been disappointed. The
Nigerians are world-renowned capitalists, with a keen understanding of business and
profit margins.
I drove fast. The road was deserted. The car headlights cut a swath of brilliance in
the night ahead of me, and behind me the darkness closed in again, the landscape falling
back to sleep.

Somewhere in the Accra plains the engine died and the car slowed to a stop. The
temperature gauge was red and the overheating lamp flashed.
With a flashlight I inspected the radiator and found out that the engine was quite dry.
I suspected a leak.
Understanding the problem provided no relief. Technology failed me when tried my
cell phone: the screen glowed vermilion and the message read: “No signal.”
To the best of my knowledge there was neither garage nor settlement for scores of
kilometres in either direction; moreover, I did not relish the thought of foot-slogging in
the dead of night seeking assistance. There was nothing for it but to stay with the car
and hope for help.
Occasionally a car or truck would roar past. They all of them ignored me. I sat in the
car listening to the radio. I soon became drowsy. Lulled by the music from the radio
and the quiet of the night, I drifted off to sleep.
I woke with a start, filled with deep dread. It was just after one a.m. Beads of sweat
peppered my forehead. My heart thumped as I looked around fearfully, but slowly I
calmed down. There seemed nothing strange happening.
‘A bad dream,’ I said to myself. I remembered nothing of a dream, however.
I got out of the car. The air was alive with nocturnal sounds. Superstitious doubts
began to gnaw. I walked away from the car, along the road.
The keen air soon rejuvenated me.
‘One hundred yards forward,’ I said to myself, ‘and then back.’
I turned and looked at the car. It was so dark; all I saw was the blurred shape and the
warning lights blinking. Up above, the stars flung down their sharp little points of light.
Then I heard the guitar. The gentle notes were expertly struck, and they floated eerily
in the chill air like an offering to the spirits of the night. I walked further along the road,
trying to locate the source of the sound. I was rewarded several minutes later when, a
little way off the road, I saw the glow of a cigarette. In stages my eyes made out the
outline of a solitary figure seated on a rock.
The sound carried well, I thought. I had walked all of four hundred yards. The flashing
lights of my car seemed an eternity away.
I stood beside the road and called out: ‘Hello.’
The music stopped. There was no reply.
‘Hello,’ I said again.
‘Go away!’ It was a growl.
The sound of the voice encouraged me.
‘I have problems with my car,’ I said.
‘What do you want!’ Then, in resignation: ‘Even here, no peace.’
We ended up having a discussion in the weak glow from a small battery-powered lamp.
There were rocks in profusion in the clearing where he sat, so I had no trouble finding a
seat. In time, though, my butt hurt. The man was on a bike tour of the plains, sleeping
rough nights.
‘The end of a spiritual journey,’ he said. ‘When I entered the seminary I thought the
road would lead to the priesthood. Instead it led me here.’

Traffic along the road increased as the night faded to dawn, and finally, at about six in
the morning, a tractor slowed to a stop. The driver was sympathetic, and towed my car
to the next garage, which turned out to be twenty kilometres away. It took us almost an
hour to get there. About ten kilometres into the trip, my cell phone beeped: the signal
had been restored. I showed the handset to my companion, and he was amused at the
I have never travelled as slowly as I did that day. We sat in my dew-bathed car and
the tractor pulled us along. The scenery crawled past; other cars flashed past. The
vegetation looked freshly created as the new rays of the sun touched up a cheery glow in
the landscape.
It was all very pleasant and relaxing, so much so that when Sekina called me from the
office to remind me of my work schedule business I told her to leave me to have fun.
My new friend played the guitar as we rolled along. Sometimes he struck up a lively
tune I knew and we sang raucously together. I was surprised at myself. Mostly though
he played slow, haunting pieces, which I had never heard before.
We spoke about many things.

And now I’ll tell you about how I lost my wife.

It has a lot to do with Sekina, my secretary. Sekina and I are good friends and
have been working together for over fourteen years. Many years ago, when she was still
unmarried, we were much closer still: in deed, we were lovers.
She is a slender, beautiful woman, much given to extravagant hairstyles and high-heeled
shoes. Sharp and witty, she makes an excellent companion.
One night, some time before my consultancy business saw the light, the two of us lay
in bed drunken and naked. It was nearing dawn, and the clock relentlessly trotted out
the seconds.
We were in my house. The situation was not unusual; this was an arrangement that
suited us both quite nicely.
‘I have to go now,’ she said.
Her breath stank of strong drink.
‘I’ll get a taxi.’ I replied.
Neither of us got up. We snuggled and kissed. The fumes were severe.
My wife is a nurse, and she was on night duty. When she got home at about six o’clock
that morning, which was an hour earlier than usual, Sekina and I were still in bed. Her
entry into the bedroom was sudden. We did not even hear the front door open.
She saw us immediately she came in, and she stood there in the doorway struck dumb
and motionless all at once.
There ensued a terrible silence filled with gaping mouths, which was only broken when
she said: ‘I am so tired.’
She sat at the dressing table and began to cry. Without saying a word Sekina put on
her clothes. The eternal pragmatist, she shared the mirror with my wife: looking sweetly
innocent, she brushed her hair in swift strokes.
Our reflection in the mirror was instructive. My wife, head bowed in despair. Sekina,
head held up, austere. Myself, the observer, sprawled obscenely on the ruffled sheets. It

could be a picture of victor and vanquished. I knew better. We had the three of us met
our Waterloo. It was disaster.
Sekina departed in silence.
‘You could at least have done it elsewhere,’ my wife sobbed. ‘I was at work. One of
the patients died in the ward. A young man, just out of school. . . Kidney failure and
too poor for dialysis. Then I come home and in our bed, you and your . . . slut. My God,
my God.’
She did not speak to me for a week after that. When she finally broke her silence,
it was to announce that after a serious consideration of the ‘predicament’ my ‘reckless’
behaviour had put her in, she wanted nothing short of a separation, and that she was
going to Canada to work in a hospital.
I could not argue, and therefore did not challenge her decision. For I saw Sekina daily,
and I liked what I saw daily: I could truly promise that I would commit adultery again.
This is not to say that I did not like or want my wife. On the contrary, I loved her
dearly and without any pretensions, my illicit liaison notwithstanding. When I told her
this she flew into a rage.
‘Your foolishness,’ she declared, ‘is now without bound.’
It pained me to see her go; truly, I was sorry that she was so badly hurt.
I said to her, ‘Your departure will open up a void in my heart, which can never be
‘Damn you,’ she replied.
Three months later she was gone, and since then every year at Christmas she sent me
a card, with no message written in it, just her name.
My efforts at establishing contact with her were to no avail. My letters were pointedly
ignored and the telephone conversations she extinguished after a maximum of one minute.
Once she warned me, before hanging up rather unceremoniously:
‘If you come to Canada. . . you don’t know me, I’m not your friend. If you come here
to harass me, I’ll get the police on your back. Get the message?’
After the first year I accepted that the marriage was indeed over, though there was no

July 2006
Certainly you remember the day the “West Africa Business House”, that shiny new
tower, was commissioned in Accra. Despite the unwieldy name, the building was a
sight to behold. It was an office block; having all sorts of modern embellishments and
accoutrements, it stood, imposing and beautiful, reaching seventeen stories into the sky.
If you are familiar with the landscape of Accra you will know it; though now the
scaffolding clings to the walls once again; as repair works are still going on. Adjacent
to the tower there stood an old four-storey building called the Insurance Place, which
housed the offices of a large insurance firm. Having been built in the late 1960’s, its days
of glory were certainly gone, and now Insurance Place was totally dwarfed: beside the
new building it looked like a stunted child.
The new building has a large car park, provided with lush lawns, verdant trees and
magnificent flower banks. The grounds had been so designed to achieve some natural
compensation to the gargantuan artificial edifice. That objective had been met, and the
car park was in itself a florist’s delight.
On the night before the grand opening there was a magnificent lighting display the
likes of which had never before been seen in the city. Varicoloured floodlights and laser
beams played on the glass curtain of the tower. The explosion of colour could be seen
for miles and miles.
At the opening ceremony confetti was sprayed from the top storey. All around the
tower the air was filled with cheerfully shimmering little bits of paper; from afar the
tower seemed to suddenly acquire an aura of glittering white.
Hundreds of businesses had offices in the high-rise, many of them international concerns
leasing entire floors. It was an ideal location for the prosperous and famous. Serious
businessmen sought placement there, as also did the nouveau bourgeoisie and rakish
business dilettanti, and at the time of the opening, available office space was more than
two-thirds booked.
My personal office was on the ninth floor. My secretary’s office is adjacent to mine, and
there is a connecting door between the two rooms. It was large and tastefully decorated.
The furnishings were well taken care of, with all surfaces highly polished and perpetually
gleaming glossily under the gentle illumination provided in the night by rows of quietly
humming fluorescent lamps, and in the daytime by sunlight beaming through the huge
glass windows that bordered one side of the room. Through these windows one also had
a panoramic view of part of the city. Many times, in search of relaxation or inspiration, I
would stand at the windows with mug of coffee in hand, gazing at the scatter of buildings
in the city: wondering at the cars, like strange insects scuttling about the asphalt paths
in the concrete jungle.
It was by a stroke of luck that we got a place in the tower. Sekina and I had earlier

decided that we needed to move from our dour old offices in Caprice. We began searching
for an appropriate place just about the same time that the Tower began advertising
for tenants. We had never considered the tower due to the high rates - until Sekina
discovered, through one of her numerous contacts, that there was one office on the ninth
floor that had been rejected by the company which bought up most of the floor. We
succeeded in negotiating a comfortable deal with the managers of the tower, and that is
how we got space, by squeezing into a small office that they did not quite know how to
dispose of. It was rather cheap, and my small business could afford the rent.
We were very pleased about the whole thing, and we made sure the place was up to
standard – no sloppy stuff, thank you. I have already briefly described the interior to
you. On the door there was a shiny brass plate with my name on it. Underneath it read:
Management Consultant.
Soon after I commenced work in the new office Benesa paid me a visit. It was just
after the lunch break, and I was not entirely displeased with his appearance, which I
hoped would encourage speedy digestion of the rather heavy meal I had had.
He often came to see me in the office: three or four times a week was not unusual at
Let me give a fuller description of Benesa. He was more than fifteen years my junior;
a wiry youth with close cropped hair and a straggling moustache. He stood a foot taller
than me, and when he sat in the armchair his bony knees jutted out, straining against
his threadbare jeans.
At one time I considered him to be my best friend; would have sworn upon my honour
that indeed he was. I thought I knew him very well, but now I have my doubts and can
only indicate that we spent a lot of time together, and were comfortable with each other.
He was not exactly a picture of prosperity, though not because of a lack of ability, as
I often told him. He was a smart fellow, yet he was always hard up, out-of-job, heart-
broken, or having nervous fits. For his livelihood he depended largely on his family,
especially on his only sister, but lately I was becoming his sole source of financial sus-
tenance. Many times he stayed at my house for weeks on end, before returning to stay
with his sister.
That day he sat in the armchair some way from my desk where I was sitting. I recollect
this partly because the desk and the armchair were at an acute angle, and he had to twist
his body sideways in order to look at me, which amused me at the time. However, the
encounter is engraved in my memory primarily because it was the last meeting I had
with him.
His clothes were dishevelled and he was fidgety. I could see he was dying to smoke
– his hands kept making unconscious passes over his loaded breast pocket, the fingers
prevented from whisking the packet out only at the very last moment.
But I will have no smoking in my office. So he sat there glaring at me as if I had done
him a great ill. The sunlight washed over us in mellow waves.
‘God is dead!’ he shouted.
‘How astonishing.’ I replied. ‘Did you have anything to do with it?’
He was on his feet, shaking a fist at me.

‘For once, take me serious! Do you think everything is a joke, huh?’
‘Far from it,’ I said. ‘But you are distraught, and need a rest. I recommend a relaxing
break from your cogitative labours. Jazz tonight?’
It was Thursday, and there was a session at our jazz club, from seven p.m. We often
went together. Sometimes he would join the band. He played the piano very well.
He took in a deep breath sharply, loudly sucking the air through gritted teeth. He
exhaled rapidly, as if the air had a bitter taste.
‘I am serious. Please, for the sake of everything, take me serious.’
‘But I am taking you serious,’ I began. ‘Every word. . . ’ I stopped.
Benesa had suddenly raised his hand as if to make a declaration. I had a terrifying
premonition that something was very wrong, and that a desperate thing was heaving
beneath the perturbed countenance of my compatriot. He did not speak, but, fixing me
with a stare so severe his eyeballs bulged, he slowly lowered his hand. Then he opened
his mouth. I winced and shut my eyes, but instead of the expected barrage of swear
words, all I heard was the background hum of the air conditioner. I opened my eyes only
to see the door swinging shut. He was gone.
I sighed. I wished Sekina had been around. Sometimes her presence was a passivating
influence on his burning passions. However, she had taken the day off because her
daughter was unwell.
Scenes like this were not entirely unusual with my friend. For example, a fortnight ago
he had caused a scene at the jazz club, which led to our being thrown out. We had been
enjoying classic jazz played by a group from Lomè. We were well into several drinks and
he was understandably excitable, but what happened next was quite unexpected: he had
an altercation with a pregnant woman. They had been engaged in what had seemed to
me a perfectly civil conversation, carried out in appropriate undertone, and I paid them
little attention, concentrating instead on the music.
I was startled when he cried out in anger:
‘I hate you! I hate pregnant women, and I hope you die in childbirth, you and the
baby both!’
The woman screamed as if she had been stabbed, burst into tears, and subsequently
suffered hysterics. The commotion attracted attention. A man in uniform appeared at
our table just as I commenced my feeble attempts at calming down tempers.
‘I’m sorry sir,’ said the attendant. ‘Your friend will have to leave.’
I understood. They did not want to have to muscle him out. I took him by his shoulder
and we walked out.
‘Fuck! Fuck her!’ he yelled into the sky as we got to the car park.
The stars in the black sky gave no response. We stood beside my car. I looked sadly
at my companion. He was highly agitated, and he tried several times before getting his
cigarette lit. I wanted him to calm down a bit, but I was afraid that he would not, that
perhaps this time he had swung too far around the bend to make a safe return.
‘You look like a cold shower will do you good,’ I told him.
He leaned towards me and grabbed the front of my jacket.
He said beerily into my face: ‘I hold God directly responsible for all the bullshit I’m
going through.’

I shook myself from his grip, saying: ‘I don’t know what God has to do with our being
thrown out of the jazz club.’
He replied, ‘God works in mysterious ways.’
I never got to know what had caused the outburst. I was used to this kind of behaviour
from my friend: sometimes he would get worked up over matters concerning God and
religion. He would get rabid and blasphemous, but usually it blew over after a few
minutes. Considering his background, I wasn’t entirely surprised. Some years ago he
had been in the seminary, an exemplary noviciate if ever there was one. Then he suffered
a relapse from the Faith: falling into apostasy, he left the seminary unceremoniously.
He had been very parsimonious with information about his experiences at the St.
Jerome’s Seminary, which only led me to suspect that that the issues were personal and
perhaps quite sensitive; I did not care to pry. Thus the details of the events leading to
his religious crisis were unknown to me until recently.
Returning to the schedule on my desk, I wondered where my friend could have gone,
finally concluding that he would probably be downstairs getting plastered at the bar in
the lobby, where, much to his delight, smoking was allowed.
On my way out of the tower after work I looked into the bar to see if perchance he
was still there. The bartender, who knew him quite well, assured me with a smile that
he had not come there at all. ‘But I am on the evening shift,’ he added. ‘Maybe your
friend was here in the afternoon.’
It had been a full day for me, and I had every intention to wind down at the jazz club.
The plan was to drive directly to the club, and leave for home after ten p.m.
There is a bothersome routine, doubtless invented by some paranoid individual, which
requires that all cars undergo a security check at the entry and exit points of the car
park. I dutifully paused at the exit gate while the guard checked my name against the
car number. Just before he waved me through, he informed me in a humdrum manner,
as if it was a most ordinary occurrence: a man had jumped to his death from the roof
earlier in the afternoon.
There was no jazz for me that evening: only a trip to the police station, and to the
mortuary to identify the broken body on the ceramic slab.
Then I went home.
Subsequently I developed the habit of gazing out of the office window from my desk
and wondering could I have seen him on his way down if I had looked at the right time.
In the days following the suicide I was plagued with feelings of guilt; I agonised over
what my part had been in the events leading to the disaster. I remembered how I had
come to meet the deceased; the circumstances had indeed been singular.
The deceased was expeditiously interred: the affair was concluded within a week of
the fatal incident. His family did not seem very shocked at the death, but their grief
was terrible to behold. His mother said to me, indicating that somehow she had come to
expect that something of the sort would happen:
‘Benesa died years ago. . . it is only now that I am free to bury him. And all this time,
I have been in pain.’
It had been decided that the burial be kept as exclusive as possible, and took place
on a Thursday afternoon. All told, there were only about a dozen people who were at

the burial. Only his parents, his dearly beloved sister, a couple of cousins, some of his
classmates from secondary school, Sekina and myself were at the solemn ceremony.
At about four o’clock, we were gathered at the cemetery. Throughout that day the sky
had been overcast with clouds, sporadically breaking into a slight drizzle, and while the
coffin was being lowered into the grave the showers started again, and umbrellas went
We formed a small knot around the sad little hole in the ground at the Osu cemetery,
while a priest brought along by my friend’s parents said some prayers.
When it was over and the coffin was resting quietly below ground, we begun drifting
towards the cemetery gates, each one to their own thoughts. Yet my friend’s sister
remained by the grave as the rest of us withdrew.
As we walked off I turned round and saw her standing, head bowed, her right hand
holding a kerchief to her eyes, her black skirt fluttering in the wind. And this is the
picture that comes to my mind anytime I remember that gloomy day in September.

December 2006
In time they began calling it the Tower Disaster. A columnist in the newspaper was
snide: It looks good, cost money, should work, but doesn’t. The Tower Disaster: the
sinister sister of the serene Insurance Place.
The tower did seem to have more than its fair share of bad luck; the suicide jump of
my friend had only served to enhance the dismal notoriety.
Soon after the commissioning, there was a problem with the electrical distribution so
that for two days there was no electricity in the building. The electricians worked in the
basement overnight, while the tower stood, it’s silhouette like a finger of darkness against
the radiance of the city lights.
Weeks later the plumbing failed on the tenth floor and tons of water cascaded down-
wards. The staircase became a veritable waterfall.
Yet the most dramatic incident occurred when, on a hot, windless day, the building
began to shed its glass curtain. Eight sheets of glass broke off from the fifteenth floor
and crashed into the car park. Several people were injured. Shards of glass danced in
the air.
The engineers did an assessment. They said that one of the steel girders holding the
curtain had been improperly fastened and had buckled in the heat.
It was around this time that the issue of the “Destroyer of the Tower” surfaced. It
was reported that a letter had been sent to the Managers of the tower by an individual
– doubtless a crank, in my opinion – calling himself the “Destroyer”, bearing the quote:
“I am become Death, the Destroyer of Worlds” and threatening to destroy the “Tower of
It was an amusing diversion, and humorous anecdotes budded therefrom, to the amuse-
ment of many tenants of the tower.
Looking back, I wonder why no one seemed to take the threat seriously, and can only
assume that the reports of the engineers did not reveal any sabotage.
So it was not entirely unexpected, when one day the lifts were not working, in all that
tall building. An accident had occurred in one of the shafts a few hours earlier: the cables
had failed and the car had hurtled down unbound. Only emergency safety measures had
prevented disaster. There were repairs going on in that shaft; the other shafts were also
shut down temporarily for a ‘safety assessment.’
Though the prospect was daunting, there was nothing for it: I had to use the stairs. I
was interviewing candidates for a job placement that morning and it would not do at all
to be late. As it was, I had only fifteen minutes left.
My latest client was a new cosmetics distribution firm. They were recruiting and
wanted me to find for them a suitable person for a position in “market assessment and

sales”. They were paying good money; I had a reputation to protect, and therefore the
interview session had to be flawless.
I laboured up the stairs. Through the entire ascent I met only one person, who climbed
up just one flight.
It took me twelve minutes to get up to the ninth floor. Unused to such exertions, I
was exhausted by the time I got to my office. I slumped in my armchair, dazed.
Sekina walked in. ‘The candidates are ready,’ she said.
I groaned.
‘Five minute delay?’ I requested. ‘The lift you know.’
She did not approve.
‘One of them was here twenty minutes early. A delay won’t do.’
‘Of course it won’t,’ I said.
I pulled the pertinent dossier onto my desk and opened it.
‘Send the first one in,’ I said. ‘Let’s see how they handle sudden obstacles.’
The first candidate came in, walking with the aid of a crutch. From the knee down
his right leg was shrivelled and crooked: it was bent at a terrible angle, and could not be
trousered. He leaned his crutch against my desk, and sat down opposite me as directed.
‘Good morning,’ he said.
He was confident and business-like. The man was fully qualified for the position; he
seemed to have the correct attitude and drive for the job. Were it not for his disability,
I would have hired him immediately.
‘The position requires high mobility,’ I told him.
‘I can get about adequately,’ he replied.
‘Yes, but there is the question of competitive advantage. In terms of motion.’
‘I am grateful that you share your concern with me directly. I understand that I may
have to work a bit harder than others. I am prepared to do that. May I remind you that
the lift was out of service this morning.’
I winced. How had he managed? That he was twenty minutes early showed a certain
determination, at least. Yet I was not moved.
‘That is true. I am utterly convinced about your dedication.’ I said.
I knew he knew then that he would not get the job. And I knew he knew I knew he
‘Thank you.’ He said.
I hired someone else whose limbs were entirely functional and who was similarly qual-
ified. She was smart, cheerful, ambitious, and beautiful. It was not a bad choice at
‘Where would you rather fall foul: discriminating against women or discriminating
against the disabled?’ I asked Sekina later.
‘Would you like some more coffee?’ she replied.
‘Were there no lift, how would a person in a wheelchair get up to my office?’ I asked.
‘Hot? Sugar? Cream?’
‘Just black,’ I said.

The day after the climb up to the ninth floor, I suffered terrible muscular pains in my
thighs. It was clear that I was not in good shape physically, and though my portly form
was bearable, my increasingly protuberant paunch continually distressed me.
I needed more exercise, for clearly my occasional appearances at the golf course were
quite unhelpful. I decided to leave my car for use on weekends.
There was a taxi station about eight hundred metres away from the office, and I made
an arrangement with one of the taxi drivers to drive me home in the evening. He was to
wait for me from seven-thirty to eight o’clock: I would walk there after work.
A similar arrangement was made for the morning trip to the office.
Sekina said she was indifferent so long as I got to work on time, though on the first
day when I arrived looking a little dishevelled she laughed and asked how long I would
continue to pamper my ‘bourgeois conceit’.
One month after I took this step, the results were clear. My girth had contracted by
almost an inch, and the flab on my thighs had lessened considerably.
The man with the crutch called my office after a fortnight to find out about the
interview. Sekina told him the position had been filled. The man asked to speak to me.
‘Put him through,’ I said to Sekina.
‘I lost the job,’ he said.
I tried to glean his mood from the disembodied voice in the telephone.
‘Do not look at it that way,’ I said.
He laughed. ‘Someone else got the job,’ he said.
‘That’s much better.’ I said. ‘I wish you the best of luck in your endeavours.’
‘I am a pragmatic man,’ he told me.
‘Very good.’
‘No one will hire me.’
‘Someone certainly will. You are too qualified to remain unemployed. Don’t despair.
You seem a well-balanced man, and certainly this circumstance is not your fault.’
‘Actually it is,’ he said. ‘I was driving too fast.’
‘Is that how you lost your leg?’
‘No. . . my leg was congenital. That’s how I lost my last job. I was trying to make
an appointment on time. The police pulled me in for over speeding, and I missed the
‘Do you drive?’ I asked unnecessarily.
‘My car is specially designed,’ he said.
‘I wish you well.” I said, and so we ended the conversation.
It was fourteen days to Christmas. The country was gearing up for the celebration;
decorations had appeared all over. The city authorities had put up a huge billboard
easily seen from my window; winking neon lamps declared Merry Christmas. In the
office Sekina had set up a Christmas tree and festooned it with shiny little stars.
The coming festivities of the Yuletide did not excite me; rather I was depressed, know-
ing that once again I would have to endure the holiday without my wife, which, strange
as it was, I had never become used to. The invitations would come flooding in: the
dinners I had to attend, sitting alone amidst cheerful couples.
“Your wife,” they would say, “is still not back?”

And I would say something non-committal in response, and they would smirk know-
ingly into their drinks.
Even though I dreaded the loneliness, I dreaded even more the inevitable arrival of the
Christmas card from her, blank except for her name.
After spending most of the afternoon filling out a large number of greeting cards,
Sekina dutifully closed at five: she had a family to go home to. Ever since she had her
first child she had been unwilling to work beyond hours, except for the marathon sessions
extending late into the night that were occasionally necessary.
I left the office an hour later than usual; at about nine p.m. I was tired. The thought
of walking to the taxi station was daunting enough, but the weight of my briefcase made
it worse.
The streets were quiet, even for that time of night. A chill wind was picking up,
characteristic of the harmattan. I transferred my briefcase to my left hand and thrust
the right into my pocket.
Lights from the buildings around stared coldly at me slowly making my way up the
There were no taxis at the station. I cursed my foolishness in expecting that the driver
would wait all this while for me. There were only three other people there. We stood in
a little group waiting for a taxi to turn up. We did not speak to each other.
A young lady came up to me. She seemed to have materialised from the shadows.
‘Dear Sir,’ she began. I was taken aback. Then one of those standing by me said in
‘Ah, you have come for today’s share.’
The young lady looked very upset. She hesitated a little before turning around and
walking away.
‘Hey.’ I called after her. However, she only walked faster. I had no idea what she
‘Shameless little beggar,’ said the woman standing beside me.
‘Maybe you hurt her feelings.’ I said.
She looked strangely at me. Then, shaking her head, she said with a hint of disgust:
Presently a couple of taxis arrived, and I was on my way home.
A few nights after this incident I was at the taxi station again. This time my taxi was
waiting, and I was striding purposefully towards it when I head the voice behind me,
gentle but rather hurried:
I turned around.
There was no mistaking her. She looked quite attractive, her hair stretched and fas-
tened with a clip that glinted in the diffuse yellow glow from the street lamps. She wore
a simple pair of slippers; her dress was a size too large.
‘Yes?’ I responded.
‘Please could you help me? I am stranded and need some money for the bus home.’
‘I have met you here before,’ I said.

‘I came to see my aunt. But then she is not at home, and I do not quite know what I
can do now. Probably she has travelled because I was here yesterday, and she was not
home either.’ The girl spoke fluently, as one accustomed to speaking good English.
‘Do you do this for a living?’ I asked.
Without missing a beat she replied, ‘I have a baby, sir.’
I shook my head, slightly amused. I wondered if her aunt existed at all.
‘How old?’
‘Nineteen, sir.’
‘No. . . I meant your baby.’
I put my hand into my pocket.
‘I was kicked out of school.’
I brought out my wallet.
‘My parents think I’m a disappointment. They no longer support me.’
I had no loose change on me. I could see the taxi driver peering at me through the
window. He was gesticulating, but the lighting was bad and I could not make out the
I gave the girl a ¢5 note.
‘You have to stop this,’ I said. ‘Someone might take advantage of you.’
‘Thank you,’ she said.
I got into the taxi. The driver said, as he started the engine, ‘Are you not taking her
home with you?’
I looked at him questioningly.
He laughed.
‘She’s always here, this is what she does all the time.’
‘I have never met her before,’ I lied.
‘She’s a drug addict.’ He said.
I never met the girl again at the taxi station.

March 2007
Sekina often says of Ghana: ‘In this country everyone knows everybody else. By the time
you have met a dozen persons, one of them would either be someone you already knew,
or someone who knows your friend, or someone who knows your family. The society is
like that.’
So I was not entirely surprised when I met the girl again. It was in the afternoon: I
was going out for lunch with Sekina who had insisted on showing me a new restaurant
that had opened in Osu. She said it was absolutely wonderful. I knew that she just
wanted me to buy her lunch at the latest joint.
We went in her car, and she chattered incessantly about all sorts of things. Her captive
for the afternoon, I suffered in silence. As she turned into the car park of the restaurant
I glimpsed the girl walking along the road. I was immediately gripped by a monstrous
urge to talk to her, driven by a sense of intrigue.
‘Let me off here,’ I said to Sekina.
‘Oh no,’ she said in dismay. ‘But how could you.’
‘I’ll be right back. I just spotted someone I need to speak to.’
The girl was not too far off. I accosted a newspaper vendor – a young boy in a baseball
cap who seemed dried up by the heat – and, after purchasing a newspaper, gave him a
tip and sent him to call the girl for me. I stood in the shelter at the bus stop, glancing
at the newspaper headlines.
Setting off at a brisk pace, the boy reached Anima before she got much further. He
said a few words to her, and they both looked in my direction. Then she turned and
began walking towards me. I waved my thanks to the newspaper vendor.
‘Hello,’ I greeted, when Anima finally came up to me.
She looked frightened, and did not speak.
‘We have met before,’ I said.
‘I remember you,’ she said. ‘You helped me.’
‘How are things with you?’
‘My aunt has travelled.’
‘How is the baby?’
‘He is well. But he does not stay with me. My parents came for him. They said I
could not take good care of him.’
There was an awkward silence.
‘Maybe you will not believe me,’ she said. ‘But I am hungry.’
‘Join me for lunch,’ I offered.
‘But you are not alone,’ she indicated. ‘I saw you in the car with your girlfriend.’
‘My secretary,’ I said.
She shrugged.

‘I cannot join you then. Give me some money instead. Please.’
She seemed entirely sincere.
‘Let’s go to the car,’ I said.
We walked back to the car park. She walked with a sure step, fully composed and
carrying herself with a certain self-assuredness that, it seemed, could only have been
borne out of a strong sense of self-worth and confidence.
She did not speak. The silence was uncomfortable for me. I remembered that the taxi
driver had said she was a drug addict.
‘Do you smoke?’ I asked.
It was an unfair question. Really I had no right, I thought. She hesitated, then with
an air of defiance answered: ‘Sometimes.’
‘Do you believe in God?’
‘Do you go to church?’
‘Don’t you think if you went to church, and were a member, the church could offer you
some sort of assistance?’
She said nothing. We had arrived at the car park. Sekina glared at us. She was still
sitting in the car, polishing her lips with something in a small bottle. I gave the girl
some money, discreetly slipping the notes into an envelope. I gave her my calling card
as well. She returned the card to me.
‘I don’t need it. I know you. I know where you work. I knew your friend, the one who
jumped off the roof. When I was pregnant he was very kind to me and the baby both.’
‘What?’ I was shocked.
It was the last thing I would have ever suspected.
‘I thank you very much for your kindness. Good afternoon, and to madam as well.’
She was leaving.
‘Call me. We need to talk.’ I said desperately.
The girl waved at me and walked off.
‘Well well.’ Sekina said. ‘La femme fatale.’
‘It’s not what you think.’
‘She’s soliciting. In this hot afternoon too. What a shame. She looks like she’s dressed
in her underwear.’
‘Well. She told me she was hungry.’
Immediately the words were out of my mouth I knew I had said the wrong thing.
Sekina looked shocked. I didn’t even try to recant. Under the circumstance, my folly
was irredeemable in her sight.
She shrugged and said: ‘She doesn’t half look bad, anyway. In case you want my
honest opinion. Besides, you’re lacking a girlfriend.’
She got out of the car.
‘Let’s go eat, shall we?’

I hoped to see the girl again, and kept a lookout for her. She interested me, and
I wanted to know how she came to be how she was. Maybe perhaps I also thought I
could help her in some way. But more than anything I wanted to find out about her
relationship with my deceased compatriot. If her baby were now three years old then my
friend would have known her while he was still at the seminary.
Weeks passed, and we did not meet again. Neither did she telephone the office.

May 2007
The class of priests of which Benesa had been part had finally completed their time at
the seminary, and the ordination ceremony was held at the Holy Spirit Cathedral in
Accra. I attended purely for sentimental reasons. I knew none of the priests, I was not
particularly religious, and had no invitation.
The ceremony was grand and colourful: large numbers of people attended.
It had been reported in the newspaper a few months earlier that a team of experts
had successfully restored the pipe organ at the Cathedral. That the work done was
marvellous was clearly evident. Gleaming proudly, the pipes rose to uneven heights over
the heads of the congregation. The organ was played masterfully, with the choir sang
magnificently. Handel was rapturously rendered; Bach mellifluously presented.
At the altar a cluster of priests of various ranks were seated. The Bishop was prominent
in their midst. In the spirit of ecumenism, perhaps, Ministers from other denominations
had honoured their invitations, and sat in the front pew.
The ordination itself was a highly structured procedure, complete with prostration and
pledging allegiance to the Bishop.
‘“Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek,”’ The Bishop quoted, and
blessed the new priests profusely. After that the priests took their turn to administer
blessings, which thereafter flew about in great numbers, and everyone received one or
After the ceremony we all streamed out of the building. A festive air had replaced
the sombre atmosphere that usually clung to the dour grey walls of the ecclesiastical
building. Balloons and coloured pennants showed a strong presence.
The new priests were mobbed by people extending greetings and congratulations. The
celebrations with family and friends would now begin.
For me the event was over when the service ended. I had said a prayer for my deceased
friend. I was sorry he was dead and that he could not have been amongst the new priests,
who looked quite happy and proud of themselves. I had prayed to God for forgiveness,
asked Him for guidance. As far as I was concerned I had done my bit, so I simply cast a
disinterested eye over the joyous crowd, and made my way out of the gates.
I had only walked about a dozen yards when I heard someone call out:
I turned to see the man approaching me rapidly. He was moving quite fast on the
crutch; the speed was equivalent to a trot, I thought.
‘Which priest are you supporting?’ he asked jovially.
I should have laughed, but thoughts of the deceased bore down on me, and I was
‘I came in memory of someone.’

‘Oh?’ he was surprised.
‘Well, so did I. Fellow jumped off a roof. . . the top of your office block in fact.’
It struck me then, that we might have attended the ordination ceremony for similar
‘We’re talking about the same person.’ I said.
‘Well, well. Your friend?’
‘We were close.’
‘I knew him only marginally. . . There is a debt of gratitude that has to be paid to
him. The one who owes the debt does not seem to care. I came in lieu of her, but I am
a poor substitute. Yet I wonder how to pay this debt, I wonder can it be paid. I was
at his grave-side some time ago, and there I seemed to hear a voice asking me to attend
this ceremony.’ He shrugged.
It was strange meeting some one who had found time to visit the grave of my friend.
Especially so as he had not been at the funeral, and I did not know of any connection
between them. Never far from the surface of my thoughts, the girl came to mind, and I
‘This person whom you say owes the debt. . . Was she pregnant?’
‘At some time she was.’
‘Have you met her?’
‘Maybe we should talk.’
We took a walk, crossing the Cathedral Square and heading in the direction of the
Kinbu gardens. It was a hot afternoon, and I soon picked up a sweat. The trees lining
the road did not help much. I loosened my tie, feeling very silly for wearing such clothes.
The other was wearing a loose-fitting agbada. Apparently he had no problems with the
heat, though I feared his crutch might become entangled in the folds of the garment and
he would take a fall.
I asked him if he had got a job yet. He replied in the affirmative: he had landed himself
quite a good deal. We chatted light-heartedly for a bit, and then, upon my prompting,
he began to tell me about the girl.
‘My half-sister.’ He said. ‘I am nineteen years old, and my father brings this little
girl home. She is nine, the result of an extramarital affair between pa and some other
woman, who he claims he didn’t love. But then pa does not love any woman, not even
my mother. The little girl’s mother is dead, and the girl remains.
So she joins our little family. Prior to her appearance, I had not known about her
existence. Till today I do not know whether my mother did either.
From the start she is strange. She is a bundle of trouble, but never directly. Better to
say she is the cause of a lot of trouble. You know that kind of person. . . She could cause
a fight between two people and then sit by untouched, uncaring. Keeping to herself, so
withdrawn most of the time that it is scary. We all try to be friendly, we try to show
love, to let her enjoy our company. We are unable to penetrate; she is always elsewhere
in her thoughts.

As she grows older, the fights and disagreements begin. No one seems to be able to
get on well with her. She gets into arguments that are so. . . abstruse. . . so entirely
philosophical that everybody is out of depth. In the end she is unloved and she does not
love. She is a sore spot in the family. She stops going to church with us. At thirteen,
she accuses my parents of being false Christians. She says that we are all hypocrites.
She is always hanging out with an older woman of dubious morals. Indeed, it is
rumoured in the neighbourhood that this older woman is a prostitute, and much evidence
supports the allegation. There are further allegations of drug usage. We are very worried
for her. She refuses to heed our caution and counsel. Punishments only make her harden
her stance.
We suspect that my half-sister might have picked up the drug habit, and on interroga-
tion she admits to having got ‘high’ a few times. But what of it? She asks pa. Everyone
is filled with horror, but pa, who does not love anyone, is strangely quiet. I shall leave
you alone, he says. You know more than anyone else: you have read books we ignorant
folk would not even dare to open. Sometimes you speak and I do not understand. As you
please, my daughter, do as you please.’
‘Then pa loses interest in her. He continues to provide her needs, but does not try to
be her friend. If this affects her she doesn’t show it. She does not change. She duly gets
into secondary school. She is a brilliant student, her results are all A’s. However her
character is problematic, the teachers accuse her of being disrespectful. I hear rumours of
drug usage, and anytime she comes home it is clear that she is on some sort of psychedelic
substance. But my father has no interest, and my mother is too weak. In her second
year we hear rumours that she has become involved with a seminarian, and that she
sneaks out of school to meet with this man. It hurts me that she has gone this far. I
call her, I warn her to cease her evil behaviour, and she laughs. Dear Brother, You do
not understand. Maybe I am evil, but I cannot tell. This priestling. . . he is my friend.
Which is more than I can say of you, O highly sanctimonious brother. You prick. Leave
me alone.’
‘She is only fifteen years old, and I am a prick. Then she gets pregnant. She claims
she has no idea who is responsible, but I suspect the priest. She takes the situation with
an unnatural ease, seeming entirely at peace. Everybody else is upset.’
We had reached the Kinbu gardens, sitting snug in the triangle formed by the inter-
section of three streets. The heavy foliage of the trees provided welcome respite from the
sun. I found us a place and we ordered drinks. He placed his crutch against the edge of
the table.
‘It is a long story, yet its length is not in the telling. It is long because. . . ’ he paused.
‘Well, at least for me, it is long because it continually takes my time in all sorts of weird
ways. Attending this ordination is one example. You wish for me to proceed?’ he asked.
‘Certainly. I must hear the story – it will help me understand many things. I have
met this young lady of whom you speak, and she intrigues me.’
‘Yes,’ said the man. ‘She does that. But she is dangerous. Let me warn you. Stay
clear of her.’
‘Why do you say so?’
‘What happened to your friend?’

‘Well. . . But you cannot blame the girl for that.’
‘Not only can I, but I do. Do you know why he left the seminary?’
‘He became an apostate. He lost faith.’
‘He became like her. Do you know why he died?’
I looked at him. Certainly this was taking the thing too far.
‘Neither do I. . . but I am certain that whatever it was, she was a part of it.’
‘I still want to meet her.’
‘I do not know where to find her. How did you meet before?’
I told him. He nodded, and fell into a quiet spell. The roar of cars formed the
‘When I meet the priest,’ my companion said, sipping daintily at his glass of orange
juice: ‘It is just a week before he leaves the seminary. He seeks me out at work. My
sister must have told him where I worked or something: I do not know how he found me.
I am surprised at first, then angry; I am sure he is the enemy. However, as we speak I
see that he is just a victim of his own kindness. He had tried to fight a battle too big for
him, and he had been whipped.
He seems to be under a lot of stress. I feel a bit sorry for him. He keeps making slips,
leaving sentences partially completed, repeating phrases and words over and over again,
like a stuck record. She is your sister, he says. You must help her.
She is on drugs. God knows how she gets the money to fund the habit. Apparently
he has been trying to get her to kick the habit.
She is a very intelligent person. I have tried to help her. Spent time, spent money,
spent love. Prayed. But her problem is. . . immense. Her soul is eating up her mind.
Something is eating up her soul. You must take her to church; no man can help her. The
situation is dire. You have no idea. Only God. . .
Our meeting lasts all of a dozen minutes. He does most of the speaking and I listen,
becoming concerned for his state of mind as he goes on. In the end he is looking feverish
and talking gibberish. How could it be, not yet, never. She is too young. The young are
He departs unceremoniously, suddenly standing up and leaving. I am too shocked to
say anything. His last words to me are portentous: We are all doomed. God does not
care. A week later he leaves the seminary, and after a fortnight I receive a package from
him in the mail. It is a journal. There is no message attached to it.’
‘What was it about?’ I asked.
He gave no reply.
‘But certainly you must have read it?’ I pressed.
‘I began to, and then stopped. I couldn’t stand it. I did not see why I was the one to
receive the journal.’
‘Perhaps because you are her brother.’
‘Perhaps. But it was so pathetic. The man practically destroys himself trying to help
her. Yet look at her now, nothing happened to change her. She does not care. All that
effort and she does not even try to say thank you. . . Dieu. Terrible.’
He looked at his watch.

‘Let us end this conversation. All I can do is warn you. Stay away from her. The little
I read in the journal convinced me, and that is why I did not read any further. Don’t
try to help her.’
‘Why on earth not? Why?’
‘Because it is a trap.’
The man stood up, leaning hard against his crutch to perform the operation. He bent
forward. His next words were spoken in a hoarse undertone, as though he feared that
someone would hear what he said:
‘The priest had a good idea of the situation; yet he went ahead and dashed himself
against the rocks. It is not a human being you are dealing with. It is a spiritual entity.
What you call my sister is a malevolent spirit.’
I said, ‘That cannot be.’
The idea was absurd, and I was quite surprised at the gravity with which the man had
spoken. He must have caught a hint of my scepticism, for he grimaced and said with
seemingly unshakeable conviction:
‘The priest thought she was merely possessed by a demon. I know better.’
The meeting was over. He did not wish to speak further. For some reason his genial
character had disappeared, as if someone had turned off a switch. Even as I sat there he
began moving off.
‘Send me the journal,’ I said.
‘As you please.’
After he was gone I remained in the gardens for a little while. I was greatly surprised
that Benesa had never spoken to me about this girl.
A parcel was delivered to my desk by courier four days later, at about five in the
afternoon. It was the journal of my friend. The cheap notebook had only a date written
in large letters on the front cover; the familiar handwriting was like a testament from the
grave. The ink was fading, slowly but surely and even before my very eyes. I sat deep in
silence for a long time; the journal lying unopened on my desk.
Sekina came in. I did not notice her presence. She observed me long enough to be
‘I hate to intrude, but is anything the matter?’
Becoming alive to the room again, I shook my head. I read the journal in the office
after working hours. It was incomplete: the writing was often laconic and the entries
irregular. Furthermore, the notebook had suffered mutilation. Several pages had been
cut out, some very crudely.
Who had done this terrible deed, I wondered.
I left the office after ten that night.
Some Excerpts from the Journal.
They are blasting rocks again today. In the distance the hills are hung with a pall of
white dust. The ground shakes. There is a dulled boom rolling across the expanse.
I insisted she keep the baby. Abortion is murder. The Holy Father will not allow it.
By the grace of God she agrees with me. The life of the baby will be spared. Mortal sin

will be avoided. I asked her: What are you afraid of ? Perhaps you get to know God and
then you don’t like him. The fear is unfounded. God loves you; you cannot fail to like
Him. Unless. . .

Father Seretsa says: The Gospel of Christ is about human beings. It is about life.
To understand the teachings one must live the teachings. We are admonished to visit
the sick, those in prison, to help those in need. Let us walk in the hills, have a feel of
things. We shall go to the hospital and pay a visit to those there. There were eight of
us brothers that went on this trip, with Fr Seretsa at the head. We left the seminary in
the afternoon, passing through the wrought iron gates a little after midday. The sky was
laden with clouds, so the temperature was mild, though it did not rain. Exciting walk.
Inspiring talk. Fr Seretsa is a real teacher. Paused for a rest at the crest of the hill.
The quarry appeared to the left. Machinery rumbled relentlessly. The town nestled in
the valley below, about ten kilometres away. Tired but strangely refreshed, we arrived at
the hospital after three o’clock. We went into the hospital wards in pairs, to minister to
the ill. Kwaku was my companion. A nurse showed us to a bed, saying, ‘Pray for this
one. She’s from the secondary school. She has been in a coma since she was brought in
yesterday.’ We prayed. On the inside of her wrist, towards the elbow, a multitude of dark
spots. Mosquito bites, I naively thought. Kwaku shook his head in disappointment and
the nurse whispered: ‘Yet she is so young.’
I was unable to forget about the girl in the hospital. A week later I went once again
to the hospital. The girl was out of coma, though she could not eat because she had
difficulties in swallowing. Her name is Anima, and her heroin had been adulterated with
some other poison. She was in the boarding house. Her family was in Ho, barely forty
kilometres away. Yet no one from her family had been to visit her.
Merciful Father, grant me faith, and understanding. Holy Mother of God, I seek your
intercession, for myself and for the young girl. Am I to agree that perhaps God has
permitted evil in order to bring about good?
And what is this evil?
The destruction of Anima?
Kwaku asked: How can you tell that she will be destroyed? For all you know, she is
just being prepared for great works for the Lord. Consider the life of Saint Paul, and
countless others. Did the Apostles not despair at the conduct of Saul, in his persecution
of the faithful? Yet on the way to Damascus, the Lord changed all that instantly. Why
do you doubt? Have you no faith?
Countless others are daily being lost. Have I no faith?
It struck me that the deceased would have amongst his belongings material that could
provide the kind of information I sought. It would be easy for me to retrieve his things;
his family knew me well, being one of his only friends. Moreover, I had helped greatly
in arranging his burial.
I went to see his sister. We spoke a while, in civility. It was not mentioned that she
blamed me somewhat, for I was the last friend her brother had seen before he jumped.

Some time after his death she told me that if I had not been such a ‘cold asshole’ I could
have saved him from suicide. I doubted it, but did not put up a challenge.
Wary of telling her directly the kind of things I was looking for, I decided to use what
I thought was an appropriately innocuous cover.
‘Your brother was compiling some pieces he had composed,’ I said, referring to some
music he had written and showed to me.
‘Really?’ she asked.
‘You didn’t know?’
‘Only that he played the piano and guitar. He was a composer too? I doubt I really
knew the man.’
‘Well, I just want to put it all together, see if we can get some musicians to do some
more work on it. Perhaps make a recording.’ I was lying.
She raised her eyebrows. I could see that she did not believe me.
‘Tell me when you begin to sell,’ she said. ‘Come let’s see what we got.’
She led me into the storeroom where his belongings had been put. There were suitcases
and cardboard boxes. I would have loved to take the stuff home and do a thorough search,
but she wouldn’t hear of it. So I did the next best thing: I spent my entire Sunday at the
task. At some point during my rummaging I found his guitar neatly packed in a case.
This brought to my mind the night of our first meeting, and him playing the instrument
in the dead of night.
In the end I was disappointed, but not entirely. I came up with a file containing letters
and other correspondence. I also found two ledger books with music penned in a careful
hand. I bore the material home like a trophy.
There was a letter to the Rector.
Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
When I decided to join this monastery, I was filled with a deep wonder at the things of
God. I saw myself as embarking on a journey to find greater and ever greater spiritual
truths. Which is not to say that I am no longer filled with such wonder, or that I am no
longer in search of the truth of God. Only perhaps, I have come to see that this monstery
might not be the place where my spiritual needs will be met. Do not think that I have
not thought about those things that you told me. I remember them all. But I think they
are too wise for me. Maybe. You said that those who begin looking for God have already
found Him, and also that the Bible admonishes us to seek and we shall find. I agree.
That it is God who heals; it finally is His decision. This monstery has been a home to
me. I have met many people who will forever remain a beacon of kindness and friendship
to me. I have met others who helped me to understand many things. I thank them all.
Thus I thank Anima, who has helped me to see much more deeply, and to see that. . .
Why did you refuse to help her? Certainly you knew that something was wrong. You
refused to help, and she told me that God did not care. I wish you were there, then, when
she said that, Father. Have I been impatient, faithless? Unable to wait upon the Lord?
My dear friend Kwaku tells me to seek the face of the Lord more intensely. He tells me
that the Devil seeks to devour my soul. This means that I have been set out to do great
works for the Lord, if I overcome. What then is Anima? The devil, the tempter? Or the

sad little girl drug user who seeks salvation too? I have to leave this monast [the word
was crossed out and replaced with ‘seminary’].
Seminary and not monastery. Shit.
Apparently the letter was not sent, though this is only my feeling.
There were two letters from Anima.
Dear Sir,
Thank you always, for your time. My mother’s boyfriend used to spend weekends with
us. He was the one who brought all those books. We would read them and sit on the
lawn discussing the issues. They treated me as an adult. We had philosophical arguments
at meals. My mother was a mathematician. Her boyfriend was a musician. They knew
each other at the University. He called me the little genius. When my mother was ill,
she told me I would have to go to my father. You must be strong, her boyfriend told me.
When she died he went to the US. He said that ‘in the land of the blind the one-eyed
man is in the lunatic asylum.’ With my father’s family, there were all sorts of problems.
They treated me like a baby. I knew more than they did. They were liars. They said they
wanted to show me love; yet I felt more love with my mother and her boyfriend.
I am sorry I can’t see you more often. The baby is doing well. My class teacher came
to visit me. I was surprised.
Will you visit me?

Dear Sir,
The baby cries and cries, and I don’t quite know what to do.
When I told you I did not know who made me pregnant, I was telling you the truth.
When I was fourteen, a prostitute became my best friend. I spent a lot of time at her
place. I have told you about her. Some men came to her one day. She called me to her
side and said that they would pay extra money for a virgin. I hope you understand. It
happened many times. I don’t care about anything. The baby cries all the time.

June 2007
I sought her, but to no avail; I hoped she would at least telephone me, but she did not.
Then there was Kwaku.
My friend had never said anything about him, yet from the journal Kwaku had been
his confidante.
No one from the seminary had come to the interment. I had at the time assumed
that my friend had not really made any close acquaintances at the seminary, or that he
had fallen out with them, or that they were somehow barred from associating with an
apostate suicide.
Now, however, I was not so sure. If anyone should have been at the funeral, it should
have been Kwaku. Had he no feelings of loss, had he had no wish to say farewell at least?
Maybe he just didn’t hear about it, though that was unlikely, because the fatal dive
had been much publicised by the press.
I told Sekina I wanted to get in touch with one of Kwaku’s friends from the seminary.
‘I thought they had been ordained already,’ she said.
‘They have,’ I said. ‘It’s just that I think the seminary should be able to tell us where
he is.’
‘Shall I telephone and find out?’ Sekina asked.
‘I would very much prefer a visit to the place,’ I said. ‘You know the personal touch
and all that.’
She laughed. ‘I know you. You just want to drive around the country.’
‘With you.’ I said.
‘In your car.’ I said.
Her car is a sturdy new Honda SUV, which she had bought only a few months earlier.
Her husband holds a high position in one of the large banks, and he could work wonders.
I relished the thought of riding long distances in it.
‘Why my car?’ she asked. ‘Well, because it has a lot of space in the back. . . a lot of
leg room, the commercial said, if I correctly recall. When we are tired driving, we can
recline together there.’
‘Sounds fun.’
‘That sure is a strange way to say “adulterous bastard.”’
She chuckled tiredly, and it was clear that jokes were not welcome now.
‘Shall I call ahead and make an appointment?’ She asked. I shook my head.
‘Too formal. Let’s just go. To-morrow morning, or the day after that. We’re going on
a long deserved vacation.’
Two days later we went in her car to the seminary, leaving Accra very early in the
morning, so that we could get back by evening.

St. Jerome’s Seminary was way out of the city, hidden in the mountains of Kpeve.
Petty chat sufficed for the first few minutes of the drive, but then we fell silent, each
one to his thoughts, until we were several kilometres out of the city.
‘Once upon my marriage,’ I said, breaking the silence. ‘O my wife, my wife. Sometimes
I miss her terribly, and then I feel awfully lonely. She still refuses to talk to me, you
‘Get a steady girlfriend then. All this playing around is doing you no good.’
‘Get into a relationship leading to marriage?’
‘And why not?’
‘There’ll have to be a divorce, then.’ I said, and shook my head. ‘It won’t happen.
You know how difficult my wife is.’
‘She’s punishing you.’
‘Do you know the punishment?’
Puzzled, she: ‘You miss her.’
‘No. She has condemned me to live in sin. No divorce yet no wife. Only secretary.’
She giggled. ‘That’s clever.’
‘And yet still, no secretary.’ I said.
‘You’re still doing well,’ She laughed.
‘Your lechery is legendary. But then she has done the same thing to herself? I mean,
the punishment is the same. . . ’
‘She cut off her nose to spite her face.’ I replied morosely.
The engine purred gently, deceptively, concealing the tremendous power that waited
to be unleashed when the accelerator was pushed. We passed a billboard that declared
in huge red letters: “Stop Domestic Violence Now. Seek Help At Once, Don’t Wait.”
I pointed it out to her.
‘Would that do any good?’ I asked.
Sekina laughed. ‘Maybe.’ She said. ‘Reminds me of my childhood. My alcoholic father
used to thrash us mercilessly, and we all thought it could not be helped. My mother
would simply play the comforter, and my father continued to wreak violence. Sometimes
on her, too. My brothers hate him for that. They do not understand that it does not
matter. Take a kid being molested by parents. He’ll grow up, and it will be over. No
more beating.’
‘Just that he may not grow up. . . he may die.’
‘If he doesn’t.’
‘So he should just endure it?’
‘To enjoy life is to endure life happily. Those who do not know this just harass them-
selves. Once you accept this, you will be free from anxiety. Like me. I take it as it comes,
one day at a time. Nothing bothers me.’
‘Nothing? All around us: squalor, poverty, and disease. Genocide. Injustice. You are
not worried?’
She shook her head.
‘Not in the least. You have in your mind a picture of what a perfect world is. You
compare it to the world as you see it today, and then you are sad. You worry will it get

better, will the father beat the boy and will he be scarred for life. For me, the world is
already perfect.’
I indicated that that was a remarkable thing to say.
She shrugged and went on:
‘There is no better alternative to the present. And I am not worried about the future.
I am not afraid the world is going to end to-morrow, not because I don’t accept the
possibility, but because I don’t care. Whatever happens, I will be there.’
There was a pause. I wondered what was happening to her; I had not heard her speak
this way before.
‘Good for you,’ I said.
We lapsed into silence again, and after some time I turned on the radio.
After about two hours of uneventful driving we began making the ascent into the
mountain range. As the car swept up the winding roads the wooded plains fell to the
side in a splash of exuberant flora. In the far-off distance white mists clung to the land.
Grey puffs of cloud marched across the faded blue sky.
One of the hills was being quarried. The green cover had been torn away and the
hillside had been mercilessly gouged. It looked as if the hill had developed an abscess.
The seminary was secluded, hidden amongst the rocks and the trees. The buildings
were not seen fully until we had passed into the gates.
It was a grand place. All the paths were paved, and the lawns were verdant. The
buildings were in a state of good repair, though the paint on some of them looked a bit
The Rector was a little busy and would see us within the hour, so one of the nuns took
us round.
‘The Germans first built a settlement here, when they began to expand their influence
in the Trans-Volta Togoland. The weather was more bearable for them up here in the
hills. They also built a small chapel.’
She showed us a small, simple building made of stone. It was very well preserved.
The windows were mere apertures in the walls: arched, narrow, and dark. Beside the
chapel was a squat bell tower with a large ancient bell made of some dull metal hanging
motionless inside it. Inscribed in the worn stone of the tower were the letters MCMVIII,
obviously the year of completion of the structure. I was reminded of a tombstone, and I
thought to ask our guide also to show us the cemetery.
‘It is a great place for meditation,’ she said as she led us into the dark and musty
interior. There was a stone altar at one end of the chapel, and in a corner, lit by many
candles, a statue of the Virgin Mother and Child.
The other buildings were of a more modern construct. The place had been made a
seminary in 1933. There had been a major expansion in 1968, and in 1997 it had received
a full upgrade, with modern communications equipment. We saw a couple of satellite
receivers, sentinel calabashes at the edge of the compound. The grounds were very well
kept. Under the trees many benches were placed, and we saw a few seminarians there
‘This place is very nice,’ Sekina said. ‘You Catholics have done very well for yourselves.’
The nun chuckled.

This is where my friend wrote his journal, I reminded myself. I imagined Anima
travelling all the way up from the town to the Seminary, and then sit waiting for my
friend under the trees, on one of the benches. Then he perhaps, filled with brotherly love
and compassion, coming to her, angelic in flowing white robes.
Our little tour soon came to an end and we retired into a hall to continue our wait. It
was a large room, but devoid of occupants save us. The walls were hung with religious
paintings and carvings, which works of art grabbed the interest of Sekina as soon as we
entered. She went around the room, examining each of them closely. I was content to
read one of the religious magazines thoughtfully provided by our escort.
We got to see the Rector half an hour earlier than expected. The nun, who had left
us after the tour, suddenly re-appeared, full of smiles.
‘Father will see you now,’ she told us.
We followed her down a gloomy corridor, up a single flight of steps and to another
gloomy corridor, at the end of which was the Rector’s office. She ushered us in and then
The Rector was seated behind his desk when we entered, but he rose to meet us.
Beaming with smiles he gave each of us a vigorous handshake, and bid us be seated.
The room smelled strongly of incense. I could not tell whether it was the rector’s garb
that exuded the effluvium or whether the room was in fact charged with holy smoke.
‘I wanted to meet you myself,’ said the Rector. ‘Thank you for waiting. You wish to
find out about where one of the priests has been posted. And also, about the very sad
case of. . . ’
I nodded and said, ‘I would like to meet Kwaku. It has to do with the deceased.’
‘Kwaku you can easily find. The other. . . it is a terrible case. Your friend, you say.’
‘We did a lot together.’
‘Would you perhaps know the little girl?’
‘I have met her a few times.’
‘How is she doing?’
I shrugged. ‘I wouldn’t really know.’
‘This young seminarian. . . ’ the Rector began, then stopped, meditatively smacking
his lips.
He passed a hand over his hairless pate. Then he removed his rimless spectacles and
began polishing them.
‘Faith the size of a mustard seed.’ He said. ‘Yet that is all a man need.’
The Rector said he regretted that he was unable to discuss anything concerning my
late friend. In a concessionary tone, he said that it was, however, possible to find Kwaku.
He was in the Navrongo diocese. But he was in a little parish where there was neither
telephone, nor yet even electricity. One could send a message, or a letter. However, none
of that would serve my purpose of investigation. I wanted to meet the man.
There was nothing more to say.
‘I wish you all the best,’ said the Rector. ‘I will be glad to meet you again.’
The nun was at the door to escort us out.
I felt disappointed with the trip. The meeting with the Rector had been short and
had provided sparse information.

‘Arrange a meeting with Kwaku,’ said Sekina as we drove off in the car.
‘Certainly. That is the best option open to us,’ I agreed.
The descent from the mountains was more exhilarating than the climb. I held my
breath as successive turns in the road revealed refreshing sights of wild mountain greenery
plunging into sharply dropping valleys. Sekina drove at steady pace, taking the numerous
curves carefully. Soon we were out of the mountains, heading towards the Adomi Bridge.
We fell to idle chatter.
‘The Catholics are funny, don’t you think?’ she asked.
‘No.’ I said.
‘We just came from a colony of celibates. Courtesy the Pope.’
She laughed. ‘And the Vatican, the biggest colony of all.’
I was not amused, and turned up the volume of the stereo. She laughed even more
and drove faster, and the bridge suddenly appeared ahead as we rounded a curve. The
huge steel structure seemed to make a bold declaration of human pride as it straddled
the river.
As we coasted across I watched the serene expanse of water below and thought about
my friend. I wondered how it must have felt when suddenly he was airborne, thinking
his last thoughts as the air was whipped out of his nostrils and he plunged seventeen
stories to the ground.
It fell upon Sekina to make the arrangements for my meeting with Kwaku. By the end
of the week she had concluded the task and Kwaku had agreed to meet me, in Navrongo.
Work was light in those days, and I didn’t mind taking the trip. I was due for a
vacation anyway, I said to Sekina, and tried to convince her to come along. A journey
upcountry was bound to be thrilling.
‘You may be away for up to four days,’ she reasoned. ‘We cannot leave the office
unmanned for that long.’
‘Amanda will handle things,’ I said.
‘That will not do,’ she countered. Amanda was what we called ‘support staff’. She
was a retired post office clerk we occasionally commandeered to run the office when the
need arose.
Sekina had her way, and I was booked on the Thursday morning coach out of Accra.
My leather travelling bag contained no more than a couple of days’ change of clothes,
toiletries, and some books. I did not intend to stay more than one day in Navrongo.
Departure time was seven a.m. and Sekina picked me up from the house at six. I was
ready and waiting by the time she came.
‘We shall be late,’ I grumbled. ‘I cannot afford to miss the bus.’
‘A thousand apologies. But you will not miss the bus. I shall get you there on time.’
The city streets were marvellously devoid of traffic. We got to the bus station in
twenty-one minutes. Sekina noticed my excitement at the trip.
She said, ‘Had you pursued your wife with similar assiduousness, she would not have
left you alone this long.’
I accused her of being tactless in her choice of subject. She defended herself heartily.
‘Have a safe journey,’ she said, as I got onto the bus.

When my cell phone rang four and one half-hours later, the bus was cruising into
Kumasi. It was Sekina calling from the office.
‘My dear,’ I said. ‘Do you miss me so much so soon?’
‘Yes sweetheart. Would you mind aborting the trip at this time? You should be close
to Kumasi by now.’ She sounded falsely jovial.
I immediately suspected that something bad had occurred.
‘We just entered the city. What has happened?’ I replied.
‘Kwaku was killed in an accident two days ago. The diocese just telephoned me.’
I could not speak.
‘Hello?’ she said.
‘I’m still here. The shock you know.’
‘It was in the night. There was a tree fallen across the road. They said he struggled
valiantly with the steering wheel.’
I was silent.
‘Hello?’ she said again.
‘I think you should return to Accra.’
I got off at the Kumasi terminal. The bus was air conditioned, and I felt the heat
envelop me like a warm blanket immediately I stepped out of the bus onto the kerb.
Behind me, the doors swished shut mockingly.
The weather was too hot for that time of the day. It would be absolutely roasting
in the afternoon. Though there were no clouds in sight, I heard the distant rumble of
thunder: the promise of coming rain. I stood in the lounge and watched the bus pull out
of the yard, continuing the journey to Navrongo.
In Kumasi the men like to wear baggy shirts and trousers and call each other ‘Jack.’
‘Jack,’ said the archetype just described, sporting a fedora and sweating profusely.
‘Move out of the way.’
I complied, and the man strode by, a knobbed cane in one hand, his shoes gleaming
with supernatural strength. He was followed by a valet carrying a suitcase. Watching
them exit the lounge, I suddenly felt desperately lonely. A chilled bottle of beer prevented
further descent into despondency, and after this fortification I purchased a ticket for the
trip back to Accra.

August 2007
There is a conference room in Labone that has huge glass windows looking onto the
street. The interior is all steel and Formica, and its clinical severity depressed me from
the moment I first entered.
A four-day seminar had been organised for marketing executives on the theme: Over-
coming Product Failure. There were nineteen participants, all of them coming from
companies in the service and manufacturing sector, and I was being paid an impressive
amount of money for my expert thoughts on the subject.
The participants were all young, aggressive and ambitious people straight out of Uni-
versity. During the brunch break their laptops would pop open, and cellular phones would
ring incessantly. It was interesting to watch them then, as they struggled to socialise
against the tide of information technology.
I was standing at the board with marker in hand, making a declaration to the partic-
ipants of the seminar. They sat; all of them with serious business looks on their faces,
listening to me attentively.
I said to them: ‘Creating a new marketing stratagem might not always be necessary,
since the product is going to be sold to essentially the same target group. Sometimes it is
sufficient to change the name of the product, and continue with the previous marketing
scheme. On the other hand, one might be forthright and say, “Well, we sold you a
defective product. We’ve corrected our mistakes, trust us this time around.” If you are a
new company, and your product already has competition, this is certainly an ill-advised
thing to do.’
Someone raised her hand.
‘Would you not agree that such a decision depends entirely on the depth of market
penetration already established?’ she asked. ‘For example, when in 1992 the British
company. . . ’
Suddenly I saw her, out of the window. The blinds had been drawn to make use of
the natural light, and the view was clear all the way to the street outside.
‘Anima!’ I cried.
Of course she could not hear me. She was walking slowly past; her eyes set on the
ground. I was dead sure that it was her, even though I could not see her face fully. Sekina
rushed up to me.
‘What is happening to you?’ she demanded in a stern whisper.
‘At this juncture,’ I said to my bemused audience, ‘We shall take a break.’
I strode out of the room. In the background I heard Sekina making excuses on my
behalf. She requested a ten-minute recess. It had been raining earlier that morning, but
the rain had let up though the sky remained heavy with brooding clouds.

Outside I saw nobody at all. I do not know how long I stood there looking vacuously
down the road, but it took Sekina to call me back. I tried to explain myself to her. She
was quite upset with me, and met my verbose defence drily.
‘How wonderful, coming from you at this time.’ She said. ‘But we’ve had quite enough
of this display. It will not do at all. What will you say to the participants?’
‘It wasn’t Anima,’ I said.
In the rainy season thunderstorms are frequent.
One sultry July afternoon we were at work as usual: Sekina in her office and I in
mine, though the connecting door was open. Four hours earlier there had been an urgent
weather warning. A large storm had suddenly veered off course and was tracking inland
from the Gulf of Guinea. The message had popped up on my Internet browser.
The rain started as a benign shower, but in stages the ferocity increased. It became
clear that this was no ordinary storm when the entire building was shaken by a brutal
blast of thunder. The compact discs on my desk rattled in their holder, and the electric
lights flickered and dimmed momentarily.
Sekina poked her head around the door.
‘Are you alright?’ she enquired.
‘I’m doing well.’ I replied. ‘Why are you not running about shrieking like other normal
It was impossible to see beyond the glass of the windows. The rain made a grey,
watery blur on the outside. The constant muffled roar indicated the violence of the
winds battering the building. At a point I feared that the windows would implode and
we would be swept away.
‘Stay with me,’ I said to Sekina.
I shut down the computer and we sat in the armchairs drinking coffee.
Anima came up for discussion. I told Sekina everything I knew about her, including
what I had read in my friends’ journal. She listened attentively without any interruption.
When I was done she enquired: ‘Are you in love with her?’
I was surprised at the question.
‘I doubt it,’ I said. ‘The only reason I can think of why a man would behave so foolishly
is when he is in love.’
‘She distracts you. Thoughts of her distract you.’
‘You part with money without warrant.’
‘A pittance. Surely you don’t begrudge my spirit of compassion?’
‘Nevertheless, you are not a. . . a. . . ’
‘Benevolent institution.’
She laughed.
‘To be fair to you, I admit the possibility that your concern might be because you do
not have any children of your own. Age-wise, she could be your daughter.’
She realised her mistake too late to stop the words, but I saw the apology in her eyes,
and did not take issue with her.

I am sterile; she knows that the subject usually upsets me and I would rather not
discuss it.
‘Does the word compassion mean anything to you?’ I asked, with a rueful smile.
‘Yes it does. But you cannot save the world. The world does not need salvation. That
has already happened.’
‘You’re curious about her?’
‘Curiosity and intrigue. There is an untold story that I want to hear, not least because
it concerns my friend. You know he never mentioned this girl to me.’
‘I’m sure he had his reasons. And seeing your reaction, I think he was right in not
telling you anything. For the first time in my life I see someone haunted by a living
‘Ha ha ha.’ I said. ‘Why does she stay in your mind so?’
‘Perhaps you just said it all. She haunts me, and therefore I have nothing to do with
‘You must deal with this. Find her, exorcise her, and free you.’
‘I’m trying.’
‘Why does she not find a job?’
‘Get real. You know the unemployment situation. She can’t get a job.’
‘She told you that?’
‘Even University graduates roam the streets jobless.’
‘I think she can get a job. Selling fruits in the market? Waiting in a restaurant? Unless
perhaps she has the disease of your late pal. . . the passion for remaining a liability.’
‘He was not a liability,’ I observed mildly.
‘Of sorts, of sorts,’ she said placidly, though I knew that she fully believed the former
‘I was thinking of getting her to further her education,’ I said.
‘How gallant. And in addition, fund her drug habit.’
‘I do not think that she’s an addict.’ Sekina shrugged.
‘Well, make yourself happy. Just don’t let this – chivalrous – pursuit ruin your work.’
The rain continued till late in the night.

November 2007
In late November, a little over four months after the seminar in Labone, a totally un-
expected e-mail landed in my mailbox. Reading it, I felt that something in my outlook
changed instantly, irrevocably. The e-mail was from my wife. I called Sekina to take a
look, and together we read the message over and over again.
‘Heartless wench,’ she said.
I banged the desk with my open palm.
‘I won’t have you speak of my wife like that,’ I declared.
‘I’m not even sorry for you, then.’ Sekina replied.
The message read in part: I will be returning to Ghana in December, in time for
Christmas. My boyfriend, with whom I have a child, will be coming along. Let us begin
working out the divorce issue. Surely, a month should be ample time to conclude the
‘After twelve years of nothing, this is it?’ I asked.
We read the e-mail again. Strangely, I suddenly began thinking about Anima.
‘Coffee?’ Sekina offered.
‘Black.’ I said.
I realised, suddenly, that almost a year had passed since the night I first met the
young lady. She had come up to me with the strange address, ‘Dear Sir’: the elusive
Anima, who had brought revelation in her wake. I felt a strong sense of failure, no doubt
impressed upon me by my wife’s imminent return, and the impending dissolution of our
remote union.
After work that evening, as I walked to the taxi station, I made up my mind to enquire
about Anima from the driver. I was reluctant to do so, fearing misinterpretation, and
knew I had to choose my words carefully.
The walk to the station was uneventful. The taxi was there, and the driver was pleased
because I was early.
As the journey got underway, I struggled to be delicate with my request.
In the end, though, I was quite blunt when I asked if he knew the girl who many months
ago used to seek alms at the bus stop. Speaking about her made me feel awkward, as if I
was breaking an unwritten pact. However, the dim illumination inside the gently swaying
taxi cruising in the night streets provided a surrealistic ambience, and this emboldened
‘Oho, oho,’ he said, and that was his way of saying yes.
He did not seem surprised at all.
‘To-morrow morning my master will take the taxi to the workshop, so I will have time.
Come and I show you where she is. But you have to come early, by five-thirty.’

Admittedly, six in the morning was an awkward time to go calling. However, I would
not have any free time for such escapades in the coming weeks. Besides, as the taxi driver
pointed out, she was most likely to be at home then. Furthermore, he indicated that
there was no need to see Anima at that time: it was enough for me to know where she
lived. What happened next was my own business.
The inconvenience was naught to me. In any case, I had to be in the office at seven
for an international teleconference. Six a.m. simply meant I had to start off a little bit
I was pleased that finally I would be able to see Anima. Yet I wondered what my
secretary would say if she knew about this. Certainly she would disapprove. What then
could I say in defence? ‘Some people go skydiving; others travel vast distances in hot-air
balloons. I go ghost-hunting.’ And then there was the question that could not bear
answering, Why was I doing all this?
It was cold that morning. I waited in my car for the taxi driver at the Post Office
in Darkuman, where he had asked me to meet him. Apparently he knew someone who
stayed in the same vicinity as Anima.
He was fifteen minutes late. This did not seem to bother him at all, as he sauntered
up to me with a chewing stick poking from his mouth.
‘Good morning, boss.’ He said.
We set off, quickly passing into the slum.
‘We have to pass through some lungus,’ he informed me happily.
The lungus were contorted paths squeezed in between the awkwardly placed buildings
and plenitude of wooden shacks, with greenish water dribbling in the pocked mud.
After several minutes of trudging through the lungus, during which I lost all bearings
whatsoever, we turned up at a decrepit building. Like so many of the other houses we
had passed, large patches of paint had peeled off the walls and the roofing sheets were
rusting. Poverty seeped from the entire structure. An smell as of old urine oozed from
the wet soil.
There was a huge plastic water tank in front of the building. Someone was sweeping
in the far corner.
‘Wait here.’ The taxi driver ordered, and he disappeared into one of the buildings.
He was gone for quite a while.
Dawn broke on me as I stood there, twiddling my thumbs and knowing that I was way
out of place at six o’clock in the morning, standing in some lungus.
Somewhere there was a radio playing slow gospel music. The threnody wrenched my
heart. In stages someone began to cry. Intermittently someone else would shout in anger.
And as the angry shouts and the plaintive wailing and the sad music rose to meet the
cool fulvescent rays streaming from the sun, a car started up in the distance.
The taxi driver re-appeared. He was grinning inordinately.
‘The young lady just left the house. In the mornings she goes to sit under the carpen-
ter’s shed.’ He pointed. ‘We must go there.’
Again we walked. Soon we saw the carpenters’ shed: a ramshackle representation of
desperation, in wood.

A ghostly figure rose at that moment from the workbench and began to walk away
with a slow and sickly pace.
‘That is her,’ the driver whispered, and there was a look of wicked irreverence in his
‘I think I must give you a little something for all your trouble,’ I said to him.
‘Oho, oho,’ he said.
I parted with some money, and set off resolutely after Anima. I caught up with her.
‘Anima!’ I said. ‘I have been looking for you.’
She stopped and looked at me. Her eyes were glazed. For a moment I doubted that
she saw me.
‘That is not my name.’ She said. ‘Only the priestling called me that.’ She turned and
walked on.
‘Do you not recognise me?’ I asked her.
She paid no heed, but kept on walking. I had no choice but to follow her.
‘Can we talk?’
She said nothing.
‘Is anything the matter with you?’
‘You are hungry perhaps?’
She was barefoot. Her hair was unkempt. Her trousers were a loose fit, and like her
faded tee shirt, dirty and streaked with grime.
I was immaculately dressed. My shoes gleamed. My suit glowed. My tie shone.
‘Stop.’ I commanded, standing still myself.
She kept on moving. I went after her; held her hand. Only then did she stop.
‘Anima, listen. I must. . . ’
‘Let. Go.’ Her voice was quiet, tired; but bore steel resolve.
‘I think we have to. . . ’
‘Let. Go.’
‘We must talk. . . ’
‘Now!’ The exclamation was sudden, unexpected. She faced me, her eyes cold. ‘You
stupid bastard. I said let go.’
Then she jerked her hand from my grip.
‘Leave me alone.’ She snarled as she moved off.
I could do nothing.
I stood there and watched her go.
The next Sunday I went to Church with Sekina, her husband, and their daughter.
Sekina was surprised, for I went entirely of my own volition, and not at her behest as
had been the case on the few occasions that I attended. They were dedicated members
of a Charismatic church.
Earlier I had recounted my encounter with Anima to Sekina. She was quite amused
at the story, and her voice bubbled with laughter as she spoke, saying that she admired
my resilience.

‘You would make a good missionary for doggedness alone,’ she said. ‘Yet you know
that to proffer a helping hand to someone carries considerable risk. You may be snubbed
or worse: the very person you have assisted will come back and bite you. I hope the
episode has caused you no harm?’
Her mirth was infectious, and I smiled, even though I felt sad about Anima.
The church auditorium was packed full. There was a lot of singing and praying during
the service. By the time the pastor came up to deliver the sermon, the congregation was
keyed up in expectation.
The pastor was wearing a smart black business suit: he looked like one of my clients.
He had everyone’s attention immediately he stepped up to the pulpit. His sermon for
the day, he informed us gravely, was titled; ‘Salvation from the Power of Sin.’
His eloquence matched his delivery in excellence. Quoting liberally from the Bible,
he attended his speech with such graceful gesticulations as would be worthy of a ballet
dancer. He spoke about salvation, and how Jesus Christ had died on the cross to pay for
the sin of humanity. He spoke about the power of sin, about the weakness of man before
the devil; he spoke about the victory of the believer over sin and death.
By the end of the sermon the congregation was at an emotional peak; there were
swoonings and weepings, and the Pastor declared the Power of God manifest. I was
moved, but I did not answer the altar call, and that was the end of the matter.
I recalled times with my friend, in those first months of our acquaintance.
Sekina said, when she had got to know him: ‘He is very troubled, something must give
or he won’t last.’
‘Why do you say so?’ I asked.
‘He is caught in the apostate trap. Had he been an atheist he would have felt better.
He still believes in God, and yet thinks he and God can only disagree. It’s obvious, and
even you, ostrich, can see it. He has immersed himself in every vice imaginable.’
‘Come, come, he’s not so bad.’
‘I’ll vouch he was an angel when he entered the seminary.’
That was true. ‘I hear his morals were impeccable,’ I agreed.
‘Things change. Maybe he just wants his time in the sun, that’s all.’
‘You’re a bad influence.’
‘You misjudge my friend.’ I said.
I found him an entirely decent fellow. There were times when his behaviour was
reprehensible, but that could be excused. After he left the seminary he tried a few
jobs. His biggest break was when he got a job in public relations for a large publishing
company. He left after a year. The atmosphere was insufferable, he informed me.
‘One can do no honest labour. Everyone is out to make money, when in fact everyone
should be more concerned in building the society.’
I disagreed with him. ‘“Building the society” is a vague concept. Money is tangible, it
is about comfort and security. . . ’
He stood his ground.
‘Nonsense. What is money in a failed society? What are jewels to a pig?’

He had relationships with several women, and none of them got anywhere.
‘I cannot love a woman,’ he complained.
‘That is not an unusual difficulty,’ I replied. ‘It is enough to be tolerant of them.’
‘I had a great friend before I went to the seminary. I think she would have made a
good wife. I had no thoughts in that direction however. My mind was set on becoming
a priest. When she finally saw that I was not going to change my mind she flew into a
frightful rage, accusing me of hypocrisy, wickedness, and cowardice.’
‘Were you sleeping with her?’
‘No. By my estimation, we were just swell pals. I thought she would be supportive of
my intention to seek the Holy Orders. And she was such a committed Catholic too.’
‘Where is she now?’
‘We lost touch when my family moved from Kumasi.’
Under his instigation we went to the beach. We chose a deserted spot and settled into
the golden-brown sands in the weakening rays of the afternoon sun.
He said, ‘I want to find a story of life that is entirely happy. It seems to me that there
is too much sadness in the world. But then every happy story is just a sad story with a
happy ending. So there are no happy stories, only happy endings.’
We sat in the sand watching the waves beat the shore with a thunderous roar. He was
telling me a story.
‘There was once a man who was very poor. His name was Kojo. He lived in one of
many kiosks in a forgotten corner of Accra. Then one day the City Authority decided that
those ‘unauthorised structures’ were an eyesore. They had to be removed. Kojo woke
up one morning and the bulldozers were there. He put his belongings into a backpack.
Then he went away and they broke up all the kiosks in that area.
He was walking along the Ring Road, from Kwame Nkrumah Circle towards Danquah
Circle. Just as he got to the Kanda overpass there was an earthquake. He saw the
concrete structure shake, and one end of the overpass broke free. It was going to crash
into the highway at the bottom. There were cars on the overpass. There were cars on
the highway. There was going to be a calamity. Kojo ran with all his might and was
just in time to save the segment from falling. For one and a half glorious minutes he
supported the overpass with his hands over his head. He sweated profusely, but in the
end all the cars got out of harms’ way. When it was over everyone came to him. They
congratulated him and hugged him and cried.’
Benesa was laughing softly to himself.
The tide was coming in, along with a strong wind. The roar of the sea increased. We
felt cold. Yet we sat there, and soon the water reached our feet.
To end the matter I must present the final relevant occurrence.
It was a Sunday; the ninth of December. I went to the office in the morning. My wife
would be flying to Accra by the end of the week. Both of us had got our lawyers working
out the divorce. My wife was asking for quite a bit, but my lawyer assured me that it
was all ‘technical bollocks’, especially because I was not wealthy when she had run off to

There was an important task I needed to finish before Monday, and I plunged into
work immediately I sat at my desk. After several hours I was done.
Taking a cold beer from the refrigerator, I brought out the journal from the drawer,
settled in an armchair and began to read. I was tired; it had been a hectic weekend. My
mind strayed. I thought about philosophy, and consequently, about God.
Subsequently I must have dozed off, or waded deep into my introspection, because I
did not notice the fire alarm start. Dimly I heard the frightful jangle, but it was only in
stages that I recognised it as the warning that there was a fire in the building. When
I finally realised the full import of the cacophony, I ran to the door and flung it open.
There was a lot of smoke in the corridor, billowing in from the direction of the stairwell
and the lifts. I went back into my office and dialled the emergency number.
‘We already know about the fire,’ said the voice at the fire service. ‘Already, two fire
engines are on site. If you are in the building, leave immediately by the fire escape.’
I looked out of the window just in time to see the fire engines race into the car park
with lights flashing. There was pandemonium down below, with people running about
in consternation.
I spent several minutes collecting documents and other vital items into my briefcase.
The journal was one of the first items I cast into it. Each time I thought I had taken
everything I would remember something I couldn’t imagine living without. In the end,
even the paperweight on my desk was found worthy of salvation, and found a place in
my pocket. I finally made for the door, but to my utter dismay smoke rushed into the
room when I opened it. In the corridor the smoke was so thick, I could see nothing at
all. I moved towards the fire escape, but the air was filled with harsh cracklings and the
heat was considerable. Certainly the fire was close; the situation was dire.
The sprinkler system had failed.
I was unsure of what to do next: to make for the fire escape regardless of the smoke,
or to return to the room. In the fire drill they had said that the rooms were fireproof,
but at that time it seemed that there were obvious reasons to doubt this.
Then the most confusing incident of all happened. I cannot fully recall it, and though
I am certain that it did not occur in my imagination, I have been assured that vivid
hallucinations are not uncommon for persons in such a predicament. The angry bruises
on my face, it was suggested, were due to falling debris or crashing into some obstacle in
my blind haste to escape the flames.
This, though, is what I recall. As I stood in the corridor, momentarily confused, a man
appeared out of the swirling smoke. Tall and burly, he carried a bucket in one hand. He
was dressed in khaki overalls and had a kerchief about his mouth, and he came directly
at me, walking rapidly in great strides.
I cried out: the apparition was terrifying. I stepped backward, sideways, trying to
avoid him.
He was upon me in an instant, and struck me with a fearful backhand that sent me
staggering. I crashed into the corridor wall. He stood there looking at me as I coughed
and sputtered. One further look at him and I fled, running for my office. He followed
me, and as I tried to shut the door he booted it open. I shrank into the far corner of the

The man lost interest in me. Reaching into the bucket, he pulled a sodden rag –
doubtless soaked in some inflammable liquid – and lighting it with a cigarette lighter,
flung it into the room. It landed on the floor and rapidly blazed into flame.
He was torching the tower.
Mustering courage, I seized a coffee table by the leg and rushed at him. Instead of
flinching he stepped up to me, and, parrying the flung table in a deft move, hit me on
the cheek. It felt as if I had been struck by a locomotive at high speed. I dropped to the
floor, and I am sure I passed out briefly.
The next thing I was aware of as I groggily raised myself from the floor was that there
was a lively fire in the corner of the room: the sofa there blazed away like a ghastly torch.
There was no sign of my attacker. The door was open. The briefcase lay on its side in
the corner. I staggered to the window and pulled it open.
‘Help! I’m stuck!’ I cried out at the firemen below. I removed my jacket and waved
it frantically. Someone noticed me and pointed. A little group of firemen collected and
looked up at me. It seemed they were anxiously discussing the situation.
The telephone rang. I rushed to pick it up.
‘This is the fire rescue team. You should use the fire escape.’ It was a woman’s voice,
serene and sensible.
‘The entire corridor is on fire,’ I said. ‘I cannot reach the fire escape.’ I quickly added:
‘The Destroyer of the Tower is here.’
‘What did you say?’
‘I was attacked by the Destroyer. . . ’
Apparently the other was unimpressed. Without missing a beat, she asked: ‘Is your
room on fire?’
‘Yes!’ I screamed.
‘We have to get you down,’ she said.
‘At once!’ I cried out.
The acrid smell grew more intense by the second.
‘You must remain calm. Go to the window immediately. We will send our men to get
I put down the handset and went to the window. A third fire engine had appeared
and was manoeuvring into position under my window. It stopped, and the ladder slowly
started extending upwards. After what seemed like an eternity it had extended only a
few metres.
The floor carpet had caught fire. I watched in fascination as the hungry flames rolled
about the room.
The phone rang again.
‘This is the fire rescue team. I’m sorry our ladder can only reach up to the ninth floor.’
‘I am on the ninth floor,’ I shouted.
‘You are not on the ninth floor,’ the woman said. ‘You are on the tenth floor.’
‘No!’ I screamed. ‘It’s the ninth floor! Can’t you count? It’s the ninth floor! You fool!
Send the ladder up.’
‘You do not know what you are saying. It is the tenth floor. Our ladder can only reach
up to the ninth floor.’ The voice was cool, calm. ‘You will have to jump.’

‘Are you mad?’ I cried.
‘You must trust us. We will have a net spread to catch you. Go to the window
I went to the window. The fire engine was moving out of the way. The firemen started
inflating a platform. Behind me, I could hear explosions and the roar of flames. The
cushion sprang to full size in a matter of seconds. The firemen started beckoning to me.
One of them had a megaphone.
‘Jump! Aim for the target! Jump!’ he cried out.
The platform seemed small and insignificant. However, it was my only chance. The
fire had taken full hold in the office; the glass fixtures shattered with a shrieking crash.
I flung the briefcase out of the window and, closing my eyes, leapt out after it.
‘Into thy hands O Lord.’ I said.