Ghana Association of Writers’ immediate past president seems to join the Yvonne Nelson Father’s Day “If you cannot be a responsible father use a condom” convo.
Let us unite with Nana K. Gyan Apenteng as we give Kofi the morale to buy a piece of Rubber and help him be a “responsible man”. Do you know the song playing in my head right now? “Mpeni fuo balloon. ..Ebo tactics yeeah.”
Have a smooooth ride…M3b3i read laa!
The year was 1967; Kofi finally screwed up his courage to get
Ama to agree. That was it. She had agreed. This was important.
She had never really agreed before, but this was not due to lack of effort on his part. Take the previous Christmas; he thought she had agreed only to realize she had not.
What happened was,
he invited her home on Boxing Day having INFORMED her that his parents and siblings were all going out of town. He had contriveda reason not to go. She had agreed to come.
He could hardly contain his excitement as he waited for the
family to decamp.
Even his mother noticed that he was extra sparky that day, even helpful, especially when it got to
packing stuff into the family car. They didn’t know that he wanted to make sure they had no reason to return for anything they could leave behind. His father was rather forgetful and sometimes came back four times, yes FOUR TIMES to pick stuff he had forgotten at home.
Ama came as expected. She came with her friend! Obviously she
had not understood what she had agreed to. Her friend, it turned out was the President of her school’s Scripture Union. You
wouldn’t count that against her though, because she was rather
lively and chatted a lot. Most of it was about biblical things and ancient kings like Nebuchadnezzar and Jehoshaphat. It was not
what he had in mind, or what he thought she had agreed but he
went along and showed keen interest.
Anyway, fast forward to this particular day in 1967. Kofi’s family had travelled out of town and left him in charge and again, Ama had agreed. Come to think about it; it is good the Christmas
agreement came to nothing because apparently Kofi had not
prepared well. His friend Richard filled him in with the
requirements for such agreements to work. He explained that Kofi needed a rubber. Of course, yes, indeed rubber, yes. Hahahaha. Kofi didn’t have the faintest idea what Richard was talking about but he couldn’t let the world know. Richard was the world. He transmitted information, especially rumours faster than telegraph wires. His school mates called him BBC behind his back but Kofi would not dare call him so to his face. He was two years
older, more than two inches taller, perhaps two kilos heavier but more importantly he knew about things like rubber. Kofi ate humblepie and sought more knowledge about the rubber.
Richard explained that it was also called condom but its name at all drugstores was rubber. It would prevent Ama from
becoming pregnant. At the mention of pregnant Kofi shuddered mentally as he remembered the number of girls who had had to leave school because of pregnancy. The latest one was Bea, that nice girl in the choir. Not that anyone had actually seen her pregnant but she had suddenly disappeared from the town and the school, the choirmaster, who worked at the agric station had also been transferred suddenly out of town.
Two years ago, Mrs Appiah whose daughter got pregnant and had to stop schooling, had demanded that the boy who made her pregnant be made to leave school too, but Richard who told them the story said that the elders rejected this as
unreasonable. Instead, the boy was asked to but a sewing
machine for the girl so that she could learn dressmaking after
giving birth. Kofi wondered why she could not return to school
after giving birth but this was too complicated, and Richard was concluding the pep talk on condoms. He had to pay attention.
Armed with the required info, Kofi set about to buy the rubber
or condom; he preferred the latter name; but hey; rubber or
condom, Ama had agreed. That was the important point. He
headed for Mensah and Sons – Chemical Seller and Drugs
Dispenser. Richard had given Kofi a much needed tip. The store assistant at Mensah’s shop was a sympathetic bloke who usually “understood”.
Before setting off to buy the rubber, kofi tidied the whole house again. His mother would be proud of him if she was around to see his zeal, especially in cleaning his own bedroom. He even added his sister’s bedroom for good measure. He ironed his
clothes and laid them out on his freshly made bed. He took his
bath but meant to take another one on his return. Ama had
agreed. He went along his way singing aloud: Love Changes Everything…
In no time Kofi got to the drugstore with a pounding heart. In 1967, to be caught buying a condom was as sinful as making a girl pregnant, so he had to be careful. Very careful. There were
two people in the shop the first time he walked past it. He went
round the building and came for the second recce; still the two
people remained. On the third round of checking he noticed that it was empty of customers but still he passed in front of the shop twice again just scouting, same as you would do if you were planning to rob the shop tonight. On the third time he darted into the shop with the speed of an antelope smelling a hunter in the vicinity,
Luckily for him the condom-friendly assistant was right there,
standing behind the glass counter. Of course, condoms were not advertised in the glass cages at the time. They were kept out of sight and only brought out from the depths of depravity perhaps after the shopkeeper had made the sign of the cross for absolution from cardinal sin.
Kofi was not thinking of sin or virtue. He was just mightily
relieved that one, Ama had agreed, and two, the drugstore was free of any prying customers and three, the friendly shop
assistant was at post. He greeted the shop assistant and was just
about to say the famous word, rubber, when he heard a cough
behind him. Right behind him was Mr. Oppong, the local
Presbyterian Church Catechist.
He recognized Kofi immediately,
and showed such Christian concern.
Kofi, how are you?
I am fine, sir.
What is wrong with you?
Sir, I have a slight headache so I came to get some aspro.
Oh ok. Look (he was addressing the shop assistant). Give him
four tablets of aspro. I will pay.
The shop assistant handed over the tablets but before Kofi could
slide away, Mr. Oppong intervened again addressing the
shopkeeper. “Abrante, give him water to take two of the aspro.
He looks unwell. I can even feel the heat coming off his forehead.
Kofi was dazed by the prospect of having to swallow unneeded
medicine, but he recovered quickly. “Thank you, Sir. I have not eaten so it is not good to take the medicine on empty stomach
so I will run home and get some food before taking….
Kofi ran out
before finishing his sentence. He didn’t go far. He went and hid
behind a yellow kiosk which served as a drinking spot to the Area Boys in that part of town. He waited until Mr Oppong had
rounded the bend and disappeared from view. That was a close call.
He headed back to the shop but crossed and re-crossed the
road and checked from all angles to make sure that there were
no Mr Oppongs anywhere in the vicinity of rubbers. He dashed
back to the shop and saw a look of confusion on the face of the
shop assistant. Oh, I did not really come for aspro… before he
could finish the sentence he heard a shrill voice behind him, He froze because he recognized that voice; his mother’s friend –
Ei Kofi, wo ho te sen, how are you doing?
Ma, I am ok. I just came to buy some medication for constipation.
Aunty Akosua was in her element when it came to prescribing
medicines for her neighbours.
Store man, give him mist alba. It will clear everything in his
stomach quickly. They eat junk at school, these students. Give
him mist alba. I will pay for it. Give my regards to your parents.
Kofi left the store armed with aspro and mist alba. He knew that Aunty Akosua would inform his mother about the mist alba so
he had to prepare an answer for why he had not informed his
mother about the constipation.
He filed the mist alba in his mind and returned to more pressing issues. In any case, Ama would be arriving in two hours and still no rubber.
To cut a long story short, it took Kofi more than an hour to buy
his first condoms but this was after he had had to buy plaster for an imaginary cut on his foot when one of his father’s work
colleagues came out just as he had succeeded in explaining his
mission to the store assistant. He now had his condoms. He felt
triumphant like a real man. Ama would have to acknowledge him
as a man of the world who knew a thing or two…
He rushed home and took a quick bath, he put some of his
mother’s talcum powder around his ears. He liked the scent of
that Saturday Night powder. He had barely checked himself for
the tenth time in the mirror when he heard a knock on the front door. You see, he had deliberately kept himself in his room where he hoped to guide Ama instead of showing her into the living room where visitors were received.
The bedrooms opened into the living room so Kofi had rehearsed
his moves many times in his head. He would take Ama’s had and
gently guide her across the living room into his own room. After
all, she had agreed.
Kofi heard the knock for a second time so he moved out quickly
across the living room. He turned the door handle gently,
opened it to reveal Ama, as beautiful as ever giggling girlishly to
her two companions.
The new addition was the Vice President
of the Scripture Union and was the first to speak.
“Kofi, Ama says that you like to discuss Bible stories so we have
come to discuss the Books of Samuel with you…”
© Nana Kwasi Gyan-Apenteng