Literary Zone

Short Story—Wata weh nar for you nor go run pass you

7 October 2008 at 04:14 | 913 views

By Roland Bankole Marke, USA.

A sluggish recital call to prayer blared from Regent village mosque’s loudspeakers at dawn, waking up Sabina from her sleep, who was too tired to get up. She reclined on her sleeping mat away from her mother’s rickety bed. Eerily, she dozed off again. Usually, she would wake up first to begin the morning chores. Today, her mother is up already. Sabina still half asleep could hear her mother’s aching bones cracking, amid the periodic quietness of the loudspeakers as she stretched out. Her mother is Ajuah, a hefty built woman with a confident and imposing personality. She’s a resilient single parent who does petty trading to make ends meet. While yawning, it seemed as if her jaws would not close up again. Her mouth opened wide for some time, only to close her jaws with a whisper that sounded like her name a-a-a-j-j-j-u-u-u-a-a-a-h-h-h-h; it’s a scary sight to witness.

"Sabina! Sabina! Sabina,” there is no response. "Get up now! Right now!" raising her voice. Ajuah shook her daughter. Surprisingly, for the first time she was reluctant to get up from the over used sleeping mat. The sedating recital probably enticed her to wrap up tight in her skimpy cover, during the rainy season. As she continued a sweet snooze against her mother’s wish. Her mother had no clue that she had stayed up very late last night doing her homework. It was routine for her to wake up early, to help with the petty trading that literally put food on their table, daily.

Suddenly, Sabina felt sprinkles of cold water raining down on her. She jumped up from her sleeping position screaming, "Hi.....wai.....ooooo ya......mama the wata too cold! Ee too cold! Cold rain water!" And Sabina sucked her teeth unconsciously. She felt like the folk living at Kroo Bay ghetto, in Freetown, Sierra Leone: where heavy rain had devastated homes and precious lives. Ajuah held a cup of water in her grip, as she carelessly watched Sabina, poking fun at her and laughing boisterously. "Stop dreaming, it is past time to get up and do your work," her mother said. Recovering from a half-drowsy state, she got up, folded her mat, now falling apart, and tucked it in the corner, where she would pick it up again every night.

Fully conscious, she went on to water the plants briskly, and washed dirty pots and dishes. About six-thirty am., she was neatly dressed for school. She moved the baskets unaided to the "Poda-Poda"(1) stop, to avoid running late. She has never been late for school before. Dressed in her Annie Walsh School uniform, she carefully unloaded the baskets, doubling her strides to arrive in school on time. In a rude tone the driver’s helper demanded that Ajuah has to pay an extra fare for the vegetable baskets. She is agitated because of the helper’s disrespect, and felt robbed blind in broad daylight in her own homeland.

"Why should I pay more money?” she said.

“Mama you load dae take extra space weh more pipul kin tinap," (2) he said.

As the helper jabbed back, she mumbled, saying she has to pay market stall dues too, recently increased by the newly elected Freetown City Council.

"Life is a complex flower bed," she said loudly but cynical.

Sabina now thirteen, is determined not to tread the same winding, rugged road that her mother trekked, daily. She began to nurse a budding passion for education, working harder in chewing books to feed vibrant seeds to success and a better life. Her hard work paid off three fold. Earlier, she had won a scholarship to attend Annie Walsh, a reputable school in Freetown. And she also got a distinction in the West African General Certificate of Education Examination (GCE): capturing the best result in Sierra Leone. Her outstanding result made national and international news. She also received several scholarships offers to choose from, to enroll in reputable universities.

Often, she pondered the humble beginnings she came from. Her mother was central in her life, while her father Moses Strong had kept a distance. He surfaced when news of Sabina’s impressive educational success dawned. He was shamelessly proud of the enduring glory she showered on the family. Often, he bragged that she got the genes from him. Sabina only gave a broad smile at his assertion. Her father’s real name was Alhaji Deensie-Cole. But a Creole foster parent - Pa Strong had raised him, changing his name and social status. She loved her dad dearly like most girls do, despite his carefree attitude and long absence during her upbringing.

Sabina Strong and Philip Coker-Davies met in secondary school; it was love at first sight that made them sweethearts. They dated for several years, and seemed a carbon copy of Romeo and Juliet. They were often seen holding hands together. In college, their romance grew stronger and conspicuous. University students knew them as inseparable “Love birds,” a name coined by close colleagues. They took many classes together and usually sat close to each other.

Philip came from a family with a unique name associated with class and superiority. The Coker-Davies family is reputable for their insatiable drive for education. Most of their family members have remained single, devoting their life to the quest for knowledge. The family produced brilliant doctors and lawyers. Philip wanted to lead a balanced life and raise a family. He was convinced that Sabina had the ideal makings to be his best choice, and eventually become his soul-mate. He seemed loving and down to earth, tall with side burns and extremely charming. He spoke well and had a kind heart. And was funny and made juicy jokes, witty, attentive and intelligent. He saw the best in others rather than their flaws. Hooking up with Sabina seemed healthy and promising. From afar, they were a sweet, happy couple.

Sabina now twenty-six, was pretty and innocent as Lady Diana in her prime. Her brown-skinned charm, well-groomed appearance and demonstrated brilliance drew a lot of attention. She refused to nurse a low self-esteem. But education was very important to her, it made up for her humble short comings: her infectious smiles wooed many hearts, especially men. She was soft spoken and friendly. Her high moral values ranked her a virtuous and treasured woman. Philip was the only man she ever dated. But a deep-rooted family interference began to creep into their promising relationship. Philip’s family nursed a feeling that Sabina was not good enough for their son. Frankly, no one was good enough for Philip according to his parents’ estimation. And marriage was not at the top of their list of priorities. The parents had wit to discourage their children from getting married: their mettle discourage potential suitors seeking their children’s hand in wedlock. The “Love birds” still lived with their parents, since it was taboo according to common culture, to cohabitate with an unmarried companion. Their relationship grew stronger, despite the infrequent family intrusions. But a deep mutual bond and commitment helped to weather pending storms.

At twenty-eight, Philip worked for the US Embassy in Freetown as personnel officer earning a lucrative salary. Sabina was a bank manager at Sierra Leone Commercial Bank. Their income placed them in the middle-class bracket, according to African standards. Dating for several years and getting to know each other very well, it was time to move their relationship to a higher stage. While planning an engagement ceremony, they concealed the premature arrangements. Philip bought an engagement ring from an expensive jeweler in Paris. Sabina’s client also donated an engagement ring. After settling for an agreement to get married, they chose to hide the news from Philip’s parents, who were already skeptical of Sabina. It was joyful tidings to Sabina’s mother, who wanted a better and happier life for her daughter: though she never had one herself.

"Will you be happy to spend your life with Philip? Marriage is a lifetime commitment according to our culture. It is a life-time union between two families," she cautioned her daughter.

Unlike Sabina, Philip was hesitant to break the news to his parents, who might pose questions about Sabina’s family. But he found courage to speak his mind. The news was not well received. Rigorous scrutiny of her background ensued. After painstaking investigation, dirty linens in her family began to surface. A scandal emerged about Justice Ben-Strong, Sabina’s uncle, who had committed suicide because of an embezzlement charge. And her father was not a Creole as Philip’s family thought. He was an adopted child bearing an adopted name. He was also “Marabou,” a generic term for a Muslim, emerging from Fourah Bay commonly known as “Oku Creole.” His actual last name Deensie-Cole would soon disqualify his daughter.

Muslims have never been married into Philip’s family. The Coker-Davies with their “Double Barrel” name would not marry anyone from a different status. Family disparity was enough to kill the proposal. Philip knew his family was as biased and they were stereotype. He advocated that Sabina is a well-mannered, decent and educated woman. And coldly as craftily the father said, "If that is the woman you want, go ahead and marry her," cautioning his son. Philip, seeming resolute, listened to his father carefully. But he wanted an amicable resolution of their differences. The date of the engagement was set to take place at Sabina’s house at 8.30 pm. Preparations for the event intensified, as uncles, aunts, cousins, nephews, and nieces were all invited from both sides. Colorful African costumes were tailored for the occasion. Women had “Ashorbie”-uniformly crafted dresses.

Luckily, two weeks before the pending event, Sabina’s mother won the Africell lottery.

"Sabina! Look! Ah win lotto," she screamed.

She was ready to prove that she was no longer a peasant. Her house could be renovated for a perfect, joyous occasion. Ajuah could also afford assorted and expensive food with a variety of drinks. Her living room would get a makeover and new carpet installed. She also purchased a new generator, to redeem the chronic darkness at Regent, since they never had electricity.

No doubt, the wedding expenses were huge on the groom’s side. Divine providence swept Ajuah off her feet two weeks before the engagement. "Sabina! look me money we set,” she said happily. Now, she could live well unlike the peasant she was yesterday. She was armed with unexpected wealth and could now show off. With lightening speed, juicy gossip began to spread like virus among folks who had no clue about her lottery fortune. She renovated her house for the special occasion. And began to stock carefully assorted beverages, expensive European wine, strong liquor and crates of soft drinks. Her living room got a facelift with scion crafted Arabian carpet. One could hear the monotonous noise from the newly owned double piston generator, located behind the house to supply continuous electricity.

At 8.25 PM, the doors were shut, according to the Creole customs and traditions. Around eight thirty pm. there was a loud knock at the door. But no one answered.

On the second occasion, a bold male voice dramatically asked:

"Who is that knocking my door?" This was the host’s spokesperson.

"We are the Coker-Davies family," a male voice outside answered.

"What do you want at night?" The host spokesman said in tenor tone.

"We are seeking a rose," the voice outside replied.

"Do you know the time right now...perfect stranger asking to pluck our rose at night? Sorry, I can’t help you," the host spokesman said.

After the exchange, the host spokesman agreed to open the door. The visitors explained the mission of their visit, after exchanging greetings. They made jokes to help them feel comfortable. Both families familiarized themselves by introductions and engaging conversations, according to the culture. The occasion moved to the next phase. The visiting family revealed their admiration for a beautiful rose in their garden - following the tradition of engagement and marriage. They needed the blessings of Sabina’s parents to ensure that the union would enjoy mutual bliss. Marrying someone’s daughter or son was a privilege that demanded honor and respect. Africans look forward to this joyous and sacred, once-in-a-lifetime experience.

A pageant of young ladies paraded before the visiting family so they could choose the rose among many, who would emerge the bride. After many rejections, the desired rose finally emerged. The ceremony reached its crescendo with the exchange of gifts and giving of the ring. Singing, prayers and dance celebrations attuned to beating drums and African music followed. Jubilant applause and head-nodding signaled the approval of the ring. In an atmosphere of admiration, the ring was placed on Sabina’s finger. She went around the house showing off her glittering diamond ring to the guests. At this stage, both family members embrace each other. They shared jokes and set a date for the marriage, scheduled three months from the engagement day. Responsibilities were delegated to each family member, starting with the church service to the reception party. Even though there were petty squabbles, but attention was focused on a successful marriage and reception.

To Sabina’s excitement, her gorgeous wedding dress had just arrived. Once she tried it on she found it was too small. She loved it so much and was determined not to get a replacement. She began a diet and exercise regiment. The fantasy of a slim, tall woman had dominated her mind. Things started out well. The wedding train was now equipped and ready for the auspicious day. It was necessary to commune with the spirits of the ancestors soliciting their blessings.

Ajuah and the elders visited the cemetery to talk to the dead. She provided kola nuts and favorite alcoholic beverages to commune with them and pouring libation. The group prayed and asked in turns that the ancestral spirits would guide and favor the occasion. But when the kola nuts were tossed up in the air beside the graveside, the dead did not give their approval. The ceremony was repeated several times but the results proved the same. Folk believed that the dead could be sleeping or away and should not be bothered. But many people remained optimistic, while seeking the approval of the dead.

Sabina’s family slaughtered two cows and five sheep for the celebration and feasting. Ajuah hired experienced cooks to prepare many sumptuous meals. Neighbors could tell that the celebration would be a showdown. Many people were invited and several crashed too. Strangers entered the compound to share in the merry making. Regent village "Hunting Society" sounded their signature tune horn, blasting their enchanting drums with energy and an infectious rhythm. The village was set on fire.

At the same time Doctor Olor’s gumbay music (3) was playing many favorite tunes, amid dancing and spirited singing.

"Yawo Mammy heavy so...yawo nor dae ya....eeee dae."(4)

A dance band was on site playing popular, syncopated music that drew mammoth crowd. The village had never seen such an elaborate celebration in a lifetime. Aroma from the various foods being prepared triggered salivation from many hopeful, poverty-stricken and hungry mouths. Neighbors stole uncooked food, amid the abundant provision. Others volunteered to prepare African dishes in addition to the catered food. News quickly spread around town that the carnival and marriage of the year has just ignited.

According to the tradition, on the eve of a wedding, the bride or groom cannot visit one another. Unprovoked, Philip began to nurse a strong feeling of doubt. The cautious words from his parents about the compatibility of the two families had sown viral seeds in his mind. His was now at war with himself. Despite he loved Sabina dearly; he cherished his relationship with his folk dearly. He was not willing to ruin the existing strong bond with them. Since he lost his peace unconsciously, his warm personality began to take a toll. He arrived at the wedding rehearsal thirty minutes late. His tardiness at this important event created anxiety among the organizers. When he showed up, folks could tell from his countenance that something unusual was brewing.

"What is the matter Philip?" Ajuah asked him.

"Nothing, Ma!" he replied. Sharply devoid of his usual romantic tone.

His demeanor was different. He tried to conceal his negative emotion, which had a sharp contrast with his natural, vivacious and engaging personality. Some associated it with overwhelmed anxiety and the stress of getting married. But it grew more serious than many thought.

"Phil, please honey, tell me what is wrong with you?" Sabina said.

"Nothing is wrong honey," he replied deceitfully.

The look on his face as he spoke sent sudden chills down Sabina’s spine. But his reassuring words, sealed with a warm wet kiss easily cemented Sabina’s confidence that he cared and adored her. They laughed heartily and departed to their separate festive homes.

On the "Bachelor’s eve," Philip went to bed with a heavy heart. He was actively toiling over his parents’ passionate red flag. How can I resolve this issue? He thought. They have always supported him in every thing he chose to undertake. But marriage is a lifetime bond, he told himself. What if Sabina turns out otherwise? He pondered. I can’t take a risk; this is too hard for me. His family had eternally protected their sacred reputation. Why should I taint it? He had no better option as time was running out. A voice in his head whispered, ‘Man beware of this bone you are about to swallow.’ But his heart said otherwise. The conflicting thoughts would freeze his mind. But it was never his innate wish to ever betray either Sabina or his parents.

At six am., while the family slept, Philip woke up with a confused mind and disappeared. He wandered around like a missing puppy carrying a heavy burden on its mind that was too weighty to endure. Aimlessly, he boarded a vehicle to Waterloo village. No one knew about his trip. People thought he was goofing around. But no one had observed him taking a bath or eating breakfast, as he would usually do before going out early.

Cautiously, he left the house secretly. Since movements in the house could easily raise suspicion. His folks might question him or even offer to come with him. His secret was deep rooted and time sensitive. While in a vehicle, his thought was glued on the wedding. How horrible it would be to boycott my own wedding?

At eleven am., guests were busy preparing for the ceremony. He made sure no one was trailing him. The wedding scheduled for one pm., was now two hours away. His family grew anxious about his welfare. Time was ticking fast. At twelve noon, it dawned that something was wrong. Sabina was at her house, busy dressing up with all the elaborate glamour a bride craves for on her wedding. And she had no clue about the developments. While Philip’s parents were weary searching for him.

It became impossible to suppress the news of his disappearance; and the news spread as quickly as it broke out. When Sabina heard that Philip was missing she shouted - "Lord have mercy oh! Fire! Fire oh", as she rolled on the floor trying to strangle herself with her veil. She actually passed out when she realized that the love of her life had mysteriously disappeared without giving her any reason. The shock probably triggered a cardiac arrest. The shameful pain was cruel as it was massive.

At twelve thirty pm., when the groom and best men should have been seated in the church, Philip was still at large. His disappearance was a nightmare. He roamed from place to place, without any known destination. Looking at his watch, he realized he had inflicted shame and untold pain, especially on Sabina. He began to shed sobbing tears. How could I do this to Sabina I love so much? He remembered the Late Justice Ben-Strong, who had committed suicide, because he could not handle a scandal. He was certain never to take that route. He did not eat since he left home that morning, and was still not feeling hungry. He lost appetite for food or anything that could bring him comfort. Though he did not disobey his parents, he literally inflicted an abiding stigma on his family. A family that was religiously jealous and meticulous about its inherited reputation. Esteemed status was paramount to them and definitely they were not prepared to compromise it.

Anxiously, the pastor had waited at the church until one thirty pm. before he announced that the ceremony was indefinitely postponed. The groom was declared officially missing. The auditorium was over crowded with a colorful and restless aura. The awful news invited sighing, anger like rage from guests who were expecting a wonderful event. Sabina’s family vented abuses while some women shed tears. A bad omen had unfolded within the theater of their eyes. A wedlock deadlock was never anticipated. Ajuah consoling her distress said solemnly:

"Wata weh nar for you nor go run pass you."(5)

“It was not meant to be," a dignitary said.

The invited guests lost appetite and the food was thrown away, because it was taboo to consume the sumptuous meals. Folk believed that consuming the food would bring them bad luck too. Gossips about Sabina’s disappointment saturated the township. The Coker-Davies’ name was viciously dragged through the mud. "How could this aristocrat inflict such a terrible pain on a wonderful lady?" an old woman ragged. Sabina was hospitalized for an extreme case of depression and nervous breakdown. Slowly, she regained consciousness, as her vital signs improved. But her emotional and psychological health suffered a major assault. Treatment and healing could last a lifetime.

Later, she was discharged from hospital and sent home. Barely conscious, she saw her mother and in-laws by her bedside, with tense and anxious faces. With their hands glued to their chins, no one dare to break the silence. Sabina read their faces and their hearts. All she said while beating her breast was, "It’s my bitter pill to swallow." She got off her bed and was ready to face the world with a brand new education. Philip was still on the run. How could he run from my past while the present haunted him? She thought. Whenever Philip decided to show up to set the records straight, Sabina would welcome his story. The story made front-page headlines in most newspapers. One could hear a newspaper boy’s outburst at a distance. “Daily Mail: Orkoh runaway -Yawo wan die! Philip Coker-Davies ran away on his own wedding day. Daily Mail - buy one get one free!”

Neighbors were peeping from half-cracked windows and half-drawn curtains, when the bombshell aired. The vendor repeated the headlines aloud as he slowly passed by Sabina’s family house. He was visibly carrying a variety of stacked newspapers in his grip. Sabina could hear from her room where she was resting in isolation. But she showed no reaction that would further assault her distressed and broken heart.

Roland Bankole Marke © 2008

Roland B. Marke is the author of three books: Teardrops Keep Falling-Minuteman press 2003, Silver Rain and Blizzard -Publish America 2005 and Harvest of Hate; Stories and Essays 2006. His work has appeared in several publications. You can reach him by phone or visit his website to sample a variety of his creative work: made up of music and books.

Contact: phone: 904-645-5738


End Notes: Krio usage

1. Local transportation

2. Mama, baskets take extra space

3. Sierra Leonean music by Dr. Olor

4. Bride’s mom is praised for her good upbringing

5. What is destined cannot be altered

Roland Bankole Marke
phone: 904-645-5738