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.”
© Sena Frost ‘17
image courtesy google images