The Lemons You Gave Me

I’m not a fraud but when I saw the door opened, and it was the only door to my salvation, I wasn’t going to let it slam in my face. So I took it, as you would. This was high school boarding house. Think about every cruel thing, I’d been served a piece of it: unfair punishments, stupid labour, being ponded with water and slaps in my sleep, destruction of my aluminum trunk, seniors taking away my pillow and blankets on cold harmattan nights, stealing of my money, my clothes and my only shoe, being locked up in a chop box, kneeling down from night till daybreak like a prisoner of war. Everything. You name it. I’d done it all.

So on that uneventful Sunday, when my pathetic self had been punished to kneel down fully naked in the dormitory for no awful reason, I had no idea that that second year guy who had been tormenting me before lunch will come and try to choke me from behind, not caring that I was losing breath. I had no idea I was going to pull off a karate stunt on him, well that’s what everybody said I did. I had no idea I would really injure his leg. I had no idea that that injury would cause him to be hospitalized and miss the rest of the term. I had no idea his mates will tell all the girls that a first year “nino” with special karate skills had almost crippled him. I had no idea I would be taken around classes to demonstrate my incomparable karate skills. I had no idea that I would become a mini-legend, revered by those who were not sure they could take me on, and abhorred by those who felt I was just an opportunistic piece of shit. I had no idea it would follow me for the rest of my life.

So I had an idea. Tell them the truth. Why don’t I tell them that besides my childhood Bruce Lee addiction and a little messing around with stunts from “Mahaguru”, I was not that special after all? I should tell them that I was then only a little boy, who came for an education, but got more than he had bargained for, that I had cried endlessly at night from self-pity and broken despair, that I was afraid to go to sleep because I was afraid of what someone’s twisted imagination will push them to do to me in my sleep, that at times, I feared for my life. I should tell them now that I was just lucky on that day that move worked, in that moment, on that guy. That I rode on the cloud they gave me because I was not ready to go back to being everybody’s bully object.

Look at me now. I made it out of that misery because I lied. I lied because that was all you gave me.


Dede and I had had a sexual adventure in my office, after work hours once, maybe twice, no I think more than that. She was married. She had been for the past three years, and I wasn’t sure if she was happy, but she said she loved her husband. She was young and beautiful, extremely, and she had a mystery dilation in her eyes all the time. Don’t judge me!

It was one of those office gossips as usual. We were wondering why she had missed work that day. Irene, the receptionist said Dede’s husband had come in to the office early on visibly furious and demanding to speak to the MD. She said she over-heard him telling the MD that her wife was pregnant and someone in the office was responsible. My heart sunk. My God!!!

So when I met her smiling at me the next morning in the office, I had no idea how to react. We were alone, but the only thing I could afford to mumble was, “is it mine?” She laughed calmly, “Yes, it’s yours!” She walked over to me and kissed me on the lips. I was speechless, thoughtless, lost!

She said over her shoulder as she walked out, “look inside my bag, the waakye (rice and beans) is there. It’s yours! You and food dierrr!”

We learnt later that day that it was Irene who was finally pregnant after six years of marriage and that was how she chose to tell us, with that scam of a story. Everyone thought it was a pleasant surprise. I was furious!


On that narrow street I was famous, or infamous if you hate beggars. Those whose routine route it was knew me well, and I them. When a coin from a generous hand dances its way to stillness in my bowl, I feel my hopes wake gradually to meet the expectations of my empty stomach.

Those who passed me by, givers and “ignorers”, knew my one look of distant plea. But I knew more than them. For in my saddle, I have seen eyes, more eyes than any man has ever seen. The pain that masks mascaras, the burning oasis of ambition that sits in the quick, slow and quick blink of the young and restless, the dying light that fizzles in the eyes of a woman cheated by love, the mystery that dilutes the dizzy daze of grandmothers, the simple tear that escapes the eye of babies. I have seen all these.

When I go to sleep tonight looking up at my ceiling beneath the old bridge, I will think on all these eyes, as I do always. I think to myself, certainly, there is beauty in everything, if you look well enough, there is awe in everything, if you think deep enough.