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“What a wonderful world” – Chapter one: Into the gutter

My mother, whom I love and adore, has called twice already and I am missing her calls on purpose. Whenever she calls there has to be some sort of reminder of a past event. The last time she called, she went on a rant on how reckless breaking off my engagement with my fiancé was […]

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My mother, whom I love and adore, has called twice already and I am missing her calls on purpose. Whenever she calls there has to be some sort of reminder of a past event. The last time she called, she went on a rant on how reckless breaking off my engagement with my fiancé was when I could be married instead to a successful, handsome man.

That is a story for another day. I am trying to avoid that at all costs. The last thing I need is a daily reminder of what my life has become. She does not give up, does she? She keeps on calling.

While trying to answer her call, someone yells at me and the next thing is me falling into the gutter near the sidewalk on the busy streets of Accra. I try to get out immediately to save myself from the embarrassment, but it is too late. People are already gathering around the gutter while two ladies try to help me out. They get me out and take me to the corner of a provision kiosk to get a bench for me to sit. One of the ladies, who probably owns the shop, calls out a little girl to bring water for me to wash my feet, and they enter the shop.

Paid for insults

As I sit, I am left to reminisce on my not-so-horrible life. Believe me when I say this is not the worst thing that has happened to me Perhaps, I am to blame for falling into the gutter, for trying to answer the phone, or these ruthless Accra pedestrians for being too pushy, or my dear mother who cannot catch a clear signal.

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“Stand up for your rights,” they say. My former boss was rude, pushy and never appreciated my efforts. It was so hard working for someone who seemed to have no control whatsoever of their anger. I was getting paid all right but I was not getting paid to receive insults. I mean who gets paid to be insulted? I was getting sick and tired of her pushy and obnoxious attitude. I decided to tell her, in the most polite way I knew, to watch her attitude or I would quit. But then she said: “Well, let me make it easy for you. Pack your belongings and leave, young girl. You are fired.”

That was definitely not the response I was hoping to receive. I stood in the middle of my office floor, right in front of her office, in complete shock. I was embarrassed because everyone seemed to have stopped working and was watching. I rushed to my office in the corner, packed my office belongings, placed them in a box and left.

While in the elevator, I could hear my heart pounding. I was very angry, to the point where tears started welling up in my eyes. Have you ever reached a point of anger where your emotions come out as tears? Yes, that was me at that very moment.

As I reached out for my keys to open my car door, the security guard told me I no longer had access to the car, because it is the company’s property. He then confiscated the car. I felt I was being watched so I made a quick about-turn and when I looked at the building, there my colleagues were, watching. Great! What more could I ask for? I walked to the roadside, hailed a taxi and left the premises. I was beyond angry.

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Do I regret telling my boss to change her behavior towards me? Right now I am not certain, but I am glad I do not have to endure being treated poorly every day. 

Rag bag

A month later, I am sitting by a kiosk on a bench, unemployed, feet covered in gutter dirt. While still in my thoughts, the little girl taps my shoulder and gives me the water. I wash the mud and dirt off my feet and clean it with the rags in my bag. I give her some money to give to the ladies for helping out but she brings the money back saying they are refusing to take it, I buy drinks for them instead I thank them again and bring my phone out to order a ride with Uber. 

A driver honks his horn at me and shouts my name. Saved by the honk. The voice sounded familiar. Looking closely, I realise he is someone I knew in high school. He smiles and asks me where I am heading and offers me a ride. I decline but he convinces me to allow him to take me there. I am reeking of various unpleasant smells and I know he can smell them too. I stay silent, trying to avoid any form of conversation, because at this point my life is not something to chatter about. He laughs nervously and asks me why I look a mess. When I tell him, he laughs about it and apologises for my inconvenience. An awkward silence follows.

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My phone starts ringing. It is my mom calling. I pick up this time because it must be really important if she keeps on calling. She sounds annoyed and asks why I have been avoiding everyone’s call. Without giving me time to complete my sentence, she says she has good news for me.

“Your own mother”

“So your little sister has been trying to break the news of her recent engagement to you and you have not been answering our calls.

“You see that young man Lady told us about? Yes that handsome man. The traditional ceremony will be held this Saturday because they want to do things quickly. Young people these days.

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“She wants you to be her maid of honour, my dear. If you do not accept this you will break her heart ooo.

“I can finally put my enemies to shame, one of my beautiful daughters is getting married. 

“Call me when you are free. Now your own mother has to call you a thousand times before you mind her. I have to attend to a few visitors. If you like don’t call,” she says, and hangs up.

By Priscilla Owusu

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The Daily Statesman

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