The Yawa of Leonidas

Featured Image: Leonidas from Meet the Spartans, 2008

Image courtesy Google Images

 

“Leonidas”
I froze. “Leonidas” the voice spoke again. I gulped. I swiveled away from my friends in the direction of the voice. I looked up into her eyes. For a moment, she looked into mine and then she blinked and looked away. I smiled sheepishly. “Yes, Lorlor.” “Mr. Somuah said I should tell you we should bring the Pre-Tech drawings to the workshop after second break.” I scanned her face again. She held her gaze this time and the edges of her lips curled. “Okay. I will tell the class.” I told her. She turned away from me without a word and went back to her desk.

I watched her go and sighed. A loud harrumph from the boys alerted me to my surroundings. I rose quickly and went to the front of the class. It was free period so everyone was just chatting and playing. Kwame Obeng and his friends were huddled at the end of one of the rows. They were playing paper ball. Kesewa and her girls sat nearby oblivious to the boys’ little grunts below them. Goodness knows who they were talking about this time.

“Excuse me!” I yelled. The chatter muted. “Yes Leonidas, what is it?” shouted Kofi Kumi. “Mr. Somuah said we should bring the pre-tech drawings after second break. If you have finished please put it on the teacher’s table.” I wiggled my ears as a small gasp arose from the paper ball boys. The energetic talk before was replaced with nervous murmurs. There was a collective clatter as people placed their drawing boards on their desks. Mr. Somuah never hesitated to use his cane if we did not submit our drawings. Woe betide us if one person failed to submit his or her work. The whole class would pay for it.

I glanced around the classroom again as it suddenly went quiet. She sat in the front row, black jacket pulled over her blue check uniform. Her auburn hair was cut in a close crop as per school rules. I let out an audible sigh. Kesewa, ever so nosy raised her head quickly. I shuffled away but she had already caught me staring at Lorlor. I quickly went back to my seat dreading the stories she was going to cook up. Quickly I looked at my drawing again. The borderlines were crooked. I loathe drawing borderlines.

Presently the bell for second break rang. A plaintive wail rose from the back. I knew it was Kwame Obeng and his squad. They should know better. We play paper ball after school, behind the form 1 block; not when we had unfinished drawings. I hurriedly drew my borderlines again. I had double lines but I would take a minus 2 over 2 canes any day.

I sat in my desk and looked around the class again. Apart from the boys who were playing paper ball everyone else had gone out for break. Everyone except Lorlor. She was writing something in a big book. I swallowed. Lorlor Owusu Debrah was the assistant class prefect. I remember when Madam Kuvie selected her. It was the first day of JSS one. We had come with our new uniforms and sat anywhere we liked. Those of us who knew each other from class 6 sat together. Madam Kuvie changed all of that. “In my class, you will sit boy and girl.” There was a collective giggle. Madam Kuvie frowned. “Who laughed?” she asked. The whole class erupted in laughter. Now Madam Kuvie had a high voice and she was not helped by the fact that she was very short. Her face turned red and she promptly took out a cane from the cupboard and proceeded row by row yelling “All heads on the table.” The crack of the cane went 52 times; a stroke per person. “Next time you will learn not to laugh at your class teacher.” She brought her chair in front of the blackboard and started barking orders.

We went around the class massaging our backs as we found our new places. After all was done, she stood up and announced. “Now we are going to select a new class prefect. I’m sure you think I will ask you to bring names so we vote for them.” She paced among the rows. “You are wrong. I will choose for you since you think I am carrying a dead monkey on my head.”

Right behind her I sniggered. She whirled around, cane in hand. I looked at her face. Madam Kuvie was slim but had a lot of pimples. Even the badly done make up couldn’t hide it. There was a wild look in her eyes and she smiled at me. It was not a friendly smile. “You! What is your name?” she asked. Kesewa with her big mouth just shouted. “Please madam his name is Leonidas” I grimaced. “Ehh? Like the movie 300 eh.” Madam Kuvie pulled me up by the ear none too gently. “Go and stand in front of the class.” I hurried to the front. “Look at him too, he’s fat and he’s laughing at me.” The class giggled again. Clutching my ear, I glowered at Kesewa. She stuck her tongue out at me.

Just then a girl with red hair and freckles just entered the classroom. She was plump and wore a black jacket over her blue check uniform. She looked at me and smiled. “Who are you?” Madam Kuvie’s shrill voice cut the connection. “My name is Lorlor Owusu Debrah. I’m a new student.” She replied, her voice like the wind chimes tinkling at the chapel. I sighed. “Okay. Hurry up and sit down.” Madam snapped at her. She went and sat in my seat.

The class went “Ei!” “Lorlor!” Madam Kuvie yelled. “I’ve changed my mind. Come and stand by this boy here.” Wordlessly she got up and walked up to stand by me. I could feel her warmth by me. If I wasn’t so dark my face would have been as red as Madam Kuvie’s when we laughed at her voice. “These are your class prefects.” I grimaced again. I really didn’t want to be class prefect. All I did was laugh at the wrong time and here I am now.

I stood by the teacher’s table. No one was allowed to sit in the teacher’s chair. Madam Kuvie took delight in beating us. I have never been able to take her canes raw before. The break over bell rang and people came in and submitted their papers in 2 stacks. I helped Lorlor pick up one stack then took the other one. We walked to the Pre-Tech workshop in silence. I could feel my heart pounding in my chest. I turned to try to say something. Then Lorlor stubbed her toe against a stone and stumbled. Sheets of paper flew everywhere as she sat on the red earth, “Oh!” was all I could say. I carefully put down my stack on a clump of grass and went over to help her up. ” Are you hurt?” I croaked. She shook her head. “Sorry okay. Give me your hands.” I said and put out mine. She reached for my hands. I felt a current pass through my hands as we clasped them. Her hands were so soft! I gasped and let go. She giggled and started picking up the drawing sheets. I helped her. Mr. Somuah didn’t like the idea of being kept waiting. I watched her as she stooped, my gaze affixed to her bosom. Usually the girls put a handkerchief to cover their chests or used a hand when they swept or had to stoop.

The globules of pale flesh peeking through the top of her singlet got me suddenly excited. I felt unexpectedly warm in my groin as I went hard. I didn’t want to pee. I quickly picked up my stack of papers and lowered them. I had rooted. “How can this be happening to me at this time?” Beads of sweat trickled down my brow. “Let’s go.” Lorlor spoke. Her tingly voice was dreamy. I broke into step beside her as we quickened the pace.

We snuck into the workshop. It was empty. “Thank God!” Lorlor exclaimed. I let out a sigh of relief. We put down the drawing sheets on the big worktable in the corner. Lorlor went looking for our class marker. She found it and placed it on top of the sheets. I turned to go. Suddenly I felt a warm soft hand slip into mine. “I wanted to say thank you for helping me when I fell down.” She said. I froze and my warm discomfort grew. “It’s fine it’s fine.” I managed to blurt out. “I think I’m hurt though.” She put her leg on one of the benches and lifted the hem of her uniform to her knee. My eyes followed the movement. I saw a little scrape on her knee. “Oh, this sore will die right now.” I blurted out, paralyzed. “Okay.” She started to lower the dress. A sudden wind blew through the windows of the class and pushed her uniform hem further down. I suddenly saw her whole thigh and her underwear. She was wearing pink Hello Kitty undies. A hot wave went through my body and I felt sticky in my underwear. I was confused. “What is happening to me?”

In that moment Mr. Somuah strode into the workshop and saw everything. “Herh!” his voice boomed across the room. “Naughty children! I ask you to bring me your drawing sheets and this is what you are doing because I’m not around.” He came closer, his baritone voice sounding menacing. He had a cane in his hand and flicked it casually in his hand. He marched us out of the workshop and took us to the headmistress’s office. I tried to cover the stain with my hands as I walked sideways beside Lorlor. She had gone unearthly quiet since the incident began. Neither Lorlor nor Mr. Somuah had seen the stain. I prayed fervently to reach the office without any extra fuss. As we passed by the class, Kesewa noticed us and ran to the door. “Herh Leonidas what is that on your shorts? Raise your hand!” she shouted. The sudden sound got teachers and students coming out of their classrooms. Mr. Somuah stopped and motioned for me to take my hands off. “Sir please I beg.” Lorlor stared ahead. She had been very quiet since the beginning of the incident. “Take your hand off boy!” he roared. I resisted. He rapped my wrists with the cane and I let go. He took a look and started guffawing. “Waa see. He has piipi on his shorts.” My face burned with shame as everybody burst into laughter. I could hear Kesewa hooting “Oh Leonidas has done yawa.”

Lorlor could not stifle her giggles and laughed, looking away. I stared at her dumbfounded. The tears began to flow.

 

© Sena Frost ‘17

Dog Days are Shitty Days

Everyday is the same. I wake up in the darkness. I debate whether I truly want to be at work today. Even in the shower, I am lost in thought as the cold water rains down my belly puckering up every pore. I’m developing a pot belly. Weird considering how I barely eat these days. I throw on whatever clothes my hands touch first then I sling my bag over my shoulder and head out. I try to avoid the landlord as much as I can because I skip out on scrubbing the bathroom. The co-tenants complain because they saw my girlfriend using it once and think I’m married and hiding it. Sometimes I lope to the railway which is a few hundred metres away. When I’m late (which is most of the time) I take my time to walk to the bus stop, if you can even call it that. The taxis have taken over the place and forced the trosky drivers to park in the middle of the road. The police who come there sometimes sack them, most other times they just look on; their pallid reflective shirts making them look awkward in the fray.

Sometimes I listen to music. Anything to distract me from the gnawing pain in my heart. It’s like an unsettling itch. It was warm and pulsing, like something has moved from its rightful position. Yeah something has. My girlfriend had just left me for another guy. It was only a matter of time. She blamed me for everything, even her cheating. “You’ve become so distant lately. You don’t even do the stuff you used to anymore.” She wailed over the phone. The stuff she referred to was “gifts”; little wads of cash every other week for her to do her nails and look pretty and stuff. That was the last time we spoke. I could barely tell her anything at all. If I wasn’t talking about her in our conversations she wasn’t interested. The sex barely made up for anything. I’d miss her rump though. She was pear shaped and her derriere could move mountains. A memory of me stabbing away as she bounced up and down in my dingy room when she came over flitted through my mind. I sighed and switched playlists. I’ve developed a taste for loud electronic music. The more tingly the sound, the better.

I probably have the worst of luck. I hardly ever get a good enough trosky to work. Between being perched on the spare tyre or cramped up in the back seat while a stout old lady or cantankerous man spread themselves in the desired edge seat. In the trains, I’d most often stand throughout the journey to my stop. I shouldn’t complain about that but it gets to me every time. I loathe it when the trosky drivers decide to take the untarred shortcuts in a bid to outrace other troskies for more passengers. They jarred my bones and made my cramped plight even more pitiful. I’d dream of owning a car but I don’t even know how to drive. All the potential driving license money going down one frizzy haired drain. Or used to.

The morning traffic on the ride to work could be interesting. Coupled with the music banging on my ear drums I’d see things and imagine them as pictures or poems in my mind’s eye. Even when my eyes watered from the pain from the metal frames pressing against my shins or kneecaps I’d look out the window. I try to keep as much change as possible because the thieving mates never lost an opportunity to increase the fare or withhold small change any chance they got. Never mind the unwashed bodies and smelly armpits, those coins are invaluable to me. Their unpredictability was the one thing predictable about them. Looking out sometimes gave away the newest trends in town. Big shiny billboards with all sorts of nonsense scrawled on them; the religious ones anyway. The new buildings with their colourful alucobond frames looking like something out of a Lego movie were particularly interesting. Most of them had the ubiquitous “Space to let” sign draped over their sides. Space which I’d have to sell my kidney to rent for a couple of months.

The new apartment signs rankle me the most. Shiny building blocks with nice views and astronomical prices. Certainly not worth me busting a spleen. I take careful note to see my favourite hated billboard. Hers. Yeah, she modelled for this herbal toothpaste thingy and they loved her for it. For me it was the beginning of the end. Her dimpled smile winked at me, reminding me of how her overnight popularity and need to look the part took her further away. She wasn’t even paid a dime for the billboard. I sighed heavily and thought of work. Work was in a cramped office space in downtown Accra. I worked as head of outdoor services. It’s just a fancy name for delivery boy. We delivered sanitary items to hotels and corporate offices all over. I’m only the head because I can’t drive. Too smart for my boss to let me go and too desperate to demand a higher wage, I feel stuck here often. All I do is stamp and verify all day; stamp and verify.

My boss is an asshole. She was a portly woman in her late forties. Never married and always had a scowl on her face. She strung insults from her thin lips like toothpaste being squeezed dry. Every conversation with her had a dollop of biblical verses in them. I suspect she really hopes to get married. We break every Wednesday because she goes to midweek service at one of the churches in the neighbourhood. Every third Friday of the month was a half-day because she had to go to Kasoa for a special deliverance session from some new-fangled pastor there. She could be pretty if she smiled. I don’t remember ever seeing her smile. Her attitude bordered on outright hostility most of the time though.  I always wonder how she kept getting clients. News through the grapevine said she got her best clients from gay people and regularly gave them all sorts of jobs if they came around. All I had to do was listen when the godawful music from the radio in her office went very high. Judging by its frequency when we had female clients visiting, I think it’s true.

The pay stinks. I’ve come close to quitting so many time but my mom tells me to stay “because there are no jobs anymore.” The ex-girlfriend used to take up half the amount every month. I remember having to deal with money launderers because she wanted an iPhone 7 for her birthday. I still haven’t been able to pay off that debt. The scars crisscrossing my potbelly remind me every time it gets cold. Rent and food and transportation take up the rest. I don’t remember the last time I saw my friends or went to the movies or had a drink. It’s virtually impossible to. I subsist every single month. Most of the time I look good so my poverty hardly shows on my face. My mom (bless her soul) brings me new clothes every month from when she goes shopping for things for her boutique. I haven’t been to church in forever. I’m just too tired from working six days a week. I need money. Trouble is I need money to make money

I have a dream. My dream is to be a photographer. My friends who are into it are making some serious dough I think. I see it on Instagram sometimes. Seeing the smiling pretty girls I’m hardly ever going to talk to was nice sometimes. Going on social media drains whatever credit I manage to buy on my phone so I keep it to a minimum. It’s also a good check so I don’t see the ex’s smiling visage splattered everywhere. I hate those motivational and religious whatsapp BCs which circulate round. I just turn off my data so I hardly ever see all that BS.  I miss the sex. Those moments were the only true distraction I had. I’d let go as we drummed away, sweaty palms tracing her curves and tickling her back. I remember the taste of her mouth and the way she wound her waist as we congressed on the wall. She rose pale in the light streaming in from the streetlight as we wordlessly made love over and over again. We never used any protection even when she was cheating on me. Forgive me. It’s the only thing I have any appetite for. I wouldn’t eat my toffee in its wrapper. I pushed the door to the office open and set my bag down.

Stamp and verify. Stamp and verify. Ten hours later I picked up my bag and stole out of the office. If you don’t leave quietly my boss would make you stay in till she was ready to go home. She usually leaves at nine pm. I don’t fancy being trapped in a building with that hag any longer than I have to. Travelling back home is my favourite part of my shitty routine. There’s a tranquil beauty that sets in the city after five pm. I’d listen to my heartbreak music while letting my mind drift in the kilometres being eaten away. I would not have that pleasure this evening. My phone buzzed and I lifted it to my face. In the quasi darkness of the trosky a single text message notification illuminated my face. “I think I’m HIV positive.”

I screamed.

© Sena Frost ‘17

image courtesy google images