Thursday, July 18, 2024

Unveiling Journeys: The Realities Within

Dear Samira,

I wish this would be my last letter of many letters in the last two years. I have tried to write this letter in the last couple of days without success. A lot of things might have accounted for it. Noticeable amongst them, when I arrived for my study, the semester had already eaten deep—what the Englishman says half spent—and there was a lot of academic deficit I had to pay. And by the time I have cleared all the debt, the cold has already set in. I didn’t know the cold could be this bad, affecting all aspects of productive life. Even my “thing” could no longer enjoy the early morning dominance you used to complain about. (Haha) Well! As I write to you now, it’s snowing cats and dogs. Of course, if I’m permitted to use this phrase,

My dear Samira, I have never flipped-flopped so many decisions in a short while. Indeed, I don’t believe that there is any human being on this earth who has been permitted by the Good Lord to go through such an ordeal in such a short period of time, spanning just a month. I have never been so strong and resilient in my entire short life as far as last year. Last year was a brazen year for me; it was more teleological than abstract. I have often braced myself for the worst while pursuing the best. I knew the much-anticipated ship was collapsing, if not totally collapsed already when the driver had given up on the ability to steer us to the promised land. I have agreed with myself and for myself that nothing could be more detrimental than a young lady in the woods alone. Laughing under my pursed lips? Being in the woods is such a daunting task. Being alone is more dauntier.

In a small place, nothing is ever over. Our people here believe in uncontrollable passion, in mad rages, and in the brusque inevitability of death. Or damage. As if a face would not be a face without a scar, a finger would not be a finger without being broken, or a foot would not be a foot without a limp. Or a life—not a life without tragedy. These things I knew before I knew they had something to do with us. I knew that everyone was unhappy and haunted in some way. Life spoke in the blunt language of brutality. Even the beauty we carry around is brutal. I did not know what we were haunted by at the time. Or why it would be imperfect to have a smooth face, or why a moment of hatred would take hold so easily as if the sun had simply come out.

My dear Samira, the best fighter, is never angry. This is a principle that many martial arts teach and practice. Anger is a negative emotion that clouds the mind, distracts the focus, and weakens the body. A fighter who is angry is more likely to make mistakes, lose control, and act impulsively. A fighter who is calm, on the other hand, is more likely to think clearly, maintain balance, and act strategically. A calm fighter can also channel their energy more efficiently, conserve their stamina, and avoid unnecessary injuries. Therefore, the best fighter is never angry but always composed and confident.


Permit me to recount a short story about Abena. I boarded a flight with a Kumasi-based young damsel en route to London. She was so excited that I couldn’t resist sharing in her joy. I have to momentarily suspend my mixed feelings and enjoy her company. She was such a joyful soul. Even now, as I write this letter, we still communicate from different lands. I have a short stint with her at La Passagé International Hotel in my short sojourn for the night. I believe any regular traveler on this route might have a few of these short stints. It was at the hotel, of course, after our breakfast, that I noticed she flagrantly disregards her buzzing phone. A lot of things happened in your absence; the vacuum you created must be filled.

I never understood your usual statement that “you go along with the flow when it’s so nice” until that morning. Herh! Some people can be mean when least expected. Can we qualify it as innate? Or is it an environmental influence? Or character despondency? I am not ready for a lecture on “nature vs. nurture” once again. I am already overwhelmed with Keynes, Hayeks, and the Economic Game Theory. How naive of me to even mention game theory? As predictive as it should be, I should’ve known better. My inquiry revealed it was her Ghanaian boyfriend. The one she left behind in Ghana, who, either out of genuine love or naivete, constantly called to check on her girlfriend, who’s already embarked on a journey within a journey. “Wow! Such a breed,” I know you would’ve said. But do we have to judge what is not explicitly black and white?

My dear Samira, do you remember that we went through such an ordeal at the hands of many? We cannot judge what is inchoately formed or what the mind struggles fiercely to refuse to understand. An exercise in futility? Remember, I have never faulted you, and likewise until you decided to break your own silence in our last conversation. I am not a psychologist or a counselor. Hence, it permits me to wonder why people make personal decisions for immediate happiness over ones that could last at least a year or two. I am still trying to understand how people place a cross they built with their own hands on another’s shoulder. Shifting responsibility? Well! I have not yet finished enjoying my newly found hobby—skiing on the snow. There are always consequences when decisions are made. Either for good or bad, life must go on if the good Lord permits.

This was Abena’s case. Her spirit was hyper. In fact, it was extremely hyperactive to the extent that an acute and careful observer would have known that she’s not just a ‘cheerful giver’ or, better yet, the idea of going to London couldn’t have exuded such excitement. Ignoring the boyfriend’s relentless calls was a big let-off. A deep layer lies under the beautiful face of excitement. Now, I have just a few minutes to uncover the heavy blanket at the top of this excitement. I now believe that the most troubled people in this world are the most excited people. These are just deliberate excitements, often used to cover their challenges. Life is often not a blue-black scenario. There’s always something beneath every action or inaction.

My dear Samira, I have never been interested in the nitty-gritty of people’s personal lives. It’s theirs to decide. Isn’t it one of the things you complained bitterly about? Your life is yours to live, regardless. I know what you want me to know, and what you keep to yourself is yours to keep. Personal stuff is personal stuff. I still believe in the “I” before the “WE” scenario. I believe the “Ubuntu” advocates, with whom you are so deeply ingrained, will disagree. Nonetheless, I still have to make a little probe here and there, which leads to the question of my good friend, KingZico, often referred to as the “multimillion dollar question.” I asked if she truly loved her boyfriend. Guess the answer any ordinary lady would’ve given at that moment. An honest, true answer would’ve been, “I’m thinking about it.” But an outright false affirmation followed, just like the majority of us would’ve answered.

In this world of ours, I don’t know much about the “Conservation Biblist” Aldo Leopold, who believed that life must return to the utopian state where “YES” is still a “YES” while a “NO” is still “NO” and there shouldn’t be any middle grounds. Well! I believe the truth is elusive and unattached. Just like in our growing days, when my sisters were advised to often say “no” to a boys’ proposal to test the resilience of the boy, when in actual fact she meant “yes” inwardly. You know this better than I do. You may not have used that on me because we were a bit mature when I approached you. Aha! Someone tried it in my secondary days and later followed with her own forms of proposals upon proposals. In fact, a series of notes upon notes yet a “NO” still stood above all. I believe a “no” should still be a “no,” even if it is in George Orwell’s “1984” classic.

Did she actually love her boyfriend? Did she not? I don’t know. I couldn’t decipher the truth either at that moment, for I am not a soothsayer. I am just a mortal like anyone who can love in the morning and not love in the afternoon and even turn hatred if we are not too careful in the evening. The position I pray we never reach, no matter what happens Hatred is an anomaly that destroys beautiful hearts. I prefer to call it a misnomer. But what can we do? It’s just a thin line that demands the utmost caution. Being careful? Well! I think we must accept our own faults first before blaming others. For instance, we each have to accept our own fault first. In any case, self-introspection is needed. We can’t often blame everyone and everything but ourselves. In that way, Thomas Hobbes’ greed factor in his composition of human nature is that of Asiedu Nketiah’s “Comfortable Lead,” a chaotic distraction.

Adamantly, Abena has not gotten to London yet. She’s not even sniffing the London breeze. She’s yet to see London’s Heathrow. But her posture toward her Ghanaian boyfriend has already changed. Her mind has already shifted away from Ghana and anything Ghanaian. I could recall her saying, “I have changed all my money into pounds.” The manner in which she mentioned the pounds even showed she might bid a ‘bye-bye’ to her Ghanaianness if she ever got the opportunity. The spark in her face at Heathrow Airport, the eagerness to see London, and the energy she exuded could have solved a lot of Ghana’s challenges. And the question I asked myself (in Nana Ama McBrown voice) was, “Why are we doing this to ourselves? Is she going to make a mistake in her relationship life? Should I be expecting an apology from her Ghanaian boyfriend after a failed marriage to a UK-based person?” These are questions begging for answers that you already knew.

I continued to wander in my thoughts as her guardian whisked her away from Heathrow to wherever in London. I know you are shaking your head. Life happens. As I said earlier, I wouldn’t have written you any letters after the last one. I don’t know your new situation, but I prefer it to be good. I want it to be great. I want you to enjoy life. Our last conversation wasn’t so nice because of your constant use of the words “mistake” and “not like you.” I would like to part ways with Derek Walcott’s words, “Pray for a life without plot, a day without a narrative.” I prayed for you. Pray for yourself, too. Maybe, when the snow finds it convenient to be nice to me, I will write to you about Selly, my newly found Ugandan friend and faculty mate. Until then, I believe you may not know, hear, or see. But now, you know, have heard, and have seen. I can sleep on a Sunday night, feeling fulfilled.

Written by

Al-Latif Kambo-Naa

December 3.

Strictly fictional


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