Dial Episode 55 is now running…
I walked to my bedroom naked and trembling.
I could feel pain all over my body as I rummaged in the wardrobe for a pair of jeans and a long-sleeved shirt. At that particular moment, I would have given anything for a pair of gloves.
I sat down on the bed morosely when I finished dressing, and my head bent.
When I sensed movement in the doorway I looked up. The four dogs were standing there, their tails twirling lazily, their faces dark with confusion as they looked at me. I wondered what was going through their little brains as they watched me.
And then Three tossed his big head into the air and howled again.
A moment later Two joined in.
And then One and Four joined in, and the four dogs just sat on their haunches and howled.
“Wooooooooooo! Wooooooooo! Woooooooooo!”
It could’ve been funny under some circumstances, but in my present situation their howling sounded strangely like a sort of dirge, as if they were mourning. It touched me deep down, as if even animals were weeping at my funeral.
The tears came hard, rocking my frail body as I sat on the edge of the bed.
Suddenly, the dogs gave excited growls and yelps and dashed toward the living-room. And then, a few minutes later, Abena Adobea appeared in the doorway.
“My love,” she whispered quaveringly. “Mr. Kuuku told me….”
She stopped, because I had lifted my head and turned my face to hers, and she saw my face.
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The words just seemed to fall off her lips as she lapsed into silence, her eyes roving my face. I had expected revulsion and horror, but even though the tears welled up in her eyes and rolled down her beautiful cheeks, what I saw in her eyes was the pain a woman would feel for an ailing husband.
She took quick steps into the room, sat beside me, and gathered me into her arms, holding my head nestled against her breasts as she cried softly.
“My love, my love, my dearest, sweet love!” she wept bitterly. “I’m here for you, Yao, my love. I’ll always be here for you.”
I held her, and although I was so shattered, the tears didn’t fall this time, and that – in a way – was very scary. I didn’t know whether I had come to a point of acceptance, and the cold horror had sunk in.
Another movement in the doorway made both of us turn, and Maame Ntiriwaa came in. She also came to a stop, and although she didn’t utter a word for a long time, her tears fell slowly.
She walked into the room presently, and then she pulled a hard-backed chair from the wall near the window and sat facing us.
When she spoke, her voice was low and very sad.
“I love both of you,” she said gently. “You’re the two most important persons in my life now, and I have been a very happy mother watching the love grow between you. It is pure love in its best form. But, I have something to say now. You two must sacrifice this love.”
“No!” Abena Adobea cried, horrified, and drew me closer against her. “Mama! How could you?”
“I can’t live without your daughter, you witch,” I said, and then all three of us shuddered because the sound of my voice had changed!
It was weak, old, and croaky! Not at all like my voice!
And that had happened barely ten minutes ago?
Oh dear, oh dear!
How fast was I growing each minute now?
“You’re dying, and you mustn’t die!” Maame Ntiriwaa cried, and then she suddenly slid off the chair and knelt in front of us with her hands holding each of my knees. “You can get married, and then she can get pregnant! After that, you can get divorced, and then you two would share the sweet memories! But, whatever you do, Yao must live. He needs to go and marry this Dede lady.”
“No, Mama!” Abena Adobea cried pitifully, painfully, and my heart soared for her in the moment. “I can’t give him up! I can’t live without him! Oh, please, he’ll be fine! Let him stay here with me!”
Maame Ntiriwaa, tears falling down her face, took hold of her daughter’s hand.
“Surely, you don’t want to hold on to him until he dies, do you?” she asked painfully. “He’s dying, Abena! This is the time to sacrifice your love for him! Let him go! If he’s meant to be with you he’ll come back!”
Abena Adobea was shaking her head vehemently as her anguish grew. Suddenly, she got to her feet and turned away, intending to run from the room, but I reached out and took her wrist.
She looked at me with horror.
“Oh, Yao, Yao, forgive me!” she wailed, and then she put a hand across her heart. “I know I’m being selfish, Yao! I’ve thought about the whole issue, and my mind tell me I should let you go and marry that lady, so that you can live! I’ve even considered being a mistress to you, so that even if you marry her we’ll still be together! But I can’t, my love. The mere thought of you with someone else kills my soul! I love you, Yao, and I can’t live without you!”
“Oh, Maa Abena, I love you too, my heart, my soul!” I said gently and smiled. “I can’t live without you! The mere thought of that frightens me, and takes my strength and my breath. No matter what happens, I’ll stay with you!”
She sat down beside me and wrapped her arms around me again.
This time the tears came, and we wept together. She clamped her soft, salty lips to mine, and as we kissed passionately, Maame Ntiriwaa got up and slowly fixed us with her sad eyes.
“You two are making a big mistake, let me tell you that,” she said painfully. “The way you’re aging is bad, Yao. It looks to me you’re gaining about ten years each day, and you two don’t have more than a few weeks together. Love is sweet, love is great, and love is wonderful…but there’s death around the corner. You have to accept the pain, and live with it, please. It is better, far better, than Yao dying. You have to sacrifice this love for his health, my dearest daughter.”
She turned, still weeping, and left us in each other’s arms.
When we parted, panting for love, three of my lower teeth rolled out and clattered to the floor.
I looked at them sheepishly, and then I began to laugh.
These were horror days!
We tried to be as happy as we could, my dearest precious Adobea and me, but the fact remained that I was an old man now. I had become slow and brittle, and absolutely weak.
She suggested on countless occasions that we should get married, but I just couldn’t see myself carrying an angel like her to the altar looking the way I did. She told me that maybe, just after the wedding, the curse might be broken, but I doubted it.
Adobea, my sweetest love, was with me all the time, and even wanted to spend the nights with me, in my bed, but that was something I didn’t agree to. She was the most desirable woman in the world, and I was a miserable old man who loved her so much. I knew it would be so easy to make love to her – if I could sustain an erection – but that wasn’t what I wanted for her.
A week passed, and then one morning I just couldn’t get out of bed.
I had a splitting headache and could barely move.
Fortunately, Brian checked on me very early in the morning, and then he drove to the health post to bring the doctor.
The man, looking absolutely distressed, looked at me with sad eyes.
“It’s the old age, Mr. Biko,” he said softly. “You have blood pressure now, and I have to put you on a low-dosage course for a few days to monitor you. You also need glasses for your eyes. Last but not the least, you need a walking-stick.”
And that was why, getting close to my twenty-seventh birthday, I started using a walking-stick, bent double, and lived my life like an old man.
My grey hair began to fall off my head, and within two more weeks I was completely bald.
I walked holding my waist with one hand, and a walking-stick in the other. I coughed like an old man, and took blood pressure medication.
These were horrible times indeed in my life!
And then, one evening, whilst sitting in the garden with Abena Adobea, my sweet love, I felt a massive jolt through me!
The pain was electrifying, staggering and absolutely relentless!
I croaked with pain as my heart seized up, and I couldn’t breathe, the left side of my body going numb completely!
I was aware of lying on the floor and seeing Abena Adobea screaming, and then everything went dark!
Later, when I opened my eyes, I was lying in bed with straps around my arm and the doctor holding my wrist and checking for a pulse.
I was told, eventually, that I had suffered, and miraculously recovered from, a heart attack!
And as I lay there and tears fell down the withered sides of my face, I knew I had but a short time to live…and I appraised myself with candid truthfulness.
Finally, I made a decision.
My eyes opened slowly.
I was lying on my bed, frail and weak and dying.
My body had shrivelled up, and I was very wrinkled. I could barely see, and my breath came in wheezes. My chest had become bony and scrawny, and my joints were swollen and painful.
Indeed, in the space of a few days, I had grown to be a very old man.
Abena Adobea was sitting beside me in bed, holding one of my scrawny and veined hands, and weeping silently.
Her eyes met mine, and she might have seen the truth in there, because she gasped and suddenly got off the bed, and fell to her knees by my side, the most excruciating pain crossing her face.
“Yao, please, don’t do it!” she wailed in a tight whisper as she put her arms around me and her face on my chest. “Don’t hurt me! Please, don’t kill my heart!”
With much difficulty I raised my left hand and placed it gently on her head.
“I’m sorry, Maa Abena,” I whispered painfully. “I must go to Wowo.”
“To marry her!” she wailed. “To leave me! You’re going to kill me, Yao! You’re going to break this heart of mine, Yao!”
“No, no, my love,” I whispered tremulously. “Don’t you understand? I have to go and make my peace with Akos! This is how it all began, how it started, please. I have to see where she was buried, and if possible try and make sure she is buried where her father wanted her buried, and put a flower on her grave, and bid her farewell. It is something I should’ve done a long time ago.”
“Yao, she is dead!” Abena Adobea wailed. “She’s no longer in the land of the living! She can’t hear you, or feel you!”
“I know that, my love,” I said painfully. “But her father sees her buried in the land of the shameful, and that hurts him very much! I did that girl wrong, more than any man could ever hurt a girl. The only way I can atone for that is to honour her resting place. If she can’t be moved to the burial place of her ancestors, I’ll make sure she has the damn most beautiful grave in that forsaken place called Wowo. I have to do this, please, my love!”
“You’re just making excuses!” Abena Adobea shouted with agony now. “At least tell me the truth! Tell me you prefer life, and so you want to leave me and marry Dede! Let me know it’s over, Yao! Don’t hide your intentions behind lies! Don’t hurt me with vague principles!”
“Oh, Abena Adobea, my darling, my love, please understand me!” I said as tears glimmered on my eyelashes. “This has nothing to do with Dede! This is something I suddenly feel in my heart!”
“If that is true then let me come with you, my love,” she said as she sat back on her haunches and looked at me with her pained eyes. “Let me take this final journey with you!”
I shook my head.
“Maa Abena, you heard Nana Bosomba,” I said weakly. “He said I should come alone. He insisted!”
“No, Yao, he said you should go there alone if you decide to marry Dede!” she shouted now, her young heart broken. “But if indeed you’re not going to marry Dede, but to honour Akos, then there should be no problem if I came along!”
She was right, and as she stared at me, my eyes could not lie to her any more. Of course it was true, I felt an overwhelming sense of guilt over Akos. I was genuinely hoping to do the right thing, and honour her in death. To do all I could to bring her a modicum of respect in Wowo, even though she was dead.
I had left it too long!
It was something I should have done, even before beginning this sabbatical that had taken me out of the city and brought me to a village where I had found true love.
Yes, Dede was the reason.
One of two reasons, yes.
I could not hide it, and I could not keep it out of my eyes.
I was human, yes, and the prime instinct of every human was survival. It was ingrained in all of us. The weakest baby would fight to survive when death approached. To take the next breath was the prime focus of every human when death was in full sight.
I had seen death, and I had seen horror…and yes, I wanted to live!
My heart was filled with horror as death approached. I could have accepted it like a man, and died in the arms of love, but what would that achieve? I now knew so much about giving back to the world, and I had seen the folly of my ways. There were a lot of ways I could have made the world better for people I came into contact with.
I was rich and free, but in a way I had been living in a prison of my own, restricted to the thighs of beautiful women.
Now I had friends, and I had a new vision of the world. There were so many things I wanted to do, so many things I had done wrong that needed to be corrected.
My mother, for instance. I had never forgiven her, and I had made her go through hell even though she regretted her actions so much, her wickedness that had caused her to dump me on my Pappy when I was but a tot of a baby.
She had regretted, but I had never forgiven her!
And then the women on my list, the women in my life! I had hurt them so much, so terribly! I had used their bodies and dumped them, just opened up the trash cans and dumped them in there and covered it up, without a second glance!
Some had been destroyed for life, seared for eternity, just waiting for a single sentence from me:
I’m sorry, please forgive me for doing you wrong!
But I hadn’t done that.
My famous Dial List was still on my MacBook.
Oh, yes, I couldn’t die like this!
I loved Abena Adobea more than anything in the world, and for the rest of my life my heart would be in pain! I could never stop loving her…and not being able to hold her, to cherish her, to kiss her and live a happy life with her would tear my heart apart, yes.
But maybe it was a price I had to pay!
A price I had put on myself for my past years of sordid life.
If I wanted to live, and correct my mistakes, and do what I needed to do to make other lives rich and free of pain, I had to live. I couldn’t die here, no.
And if that came with the price of breaking my own heart irreparably, by hurting the love of my life beyond compare, then there was nothing we could do but live with that shattering pain.
Abena Adobea saw it all in my eyes, and she clamped her hands to her chest, and the most excruciating look of pain smashed through her face, and her tears were like embers of fires that burned through my heart.
“You are going to kill me, Yao!” she whispered.
And then she did a most agonizing thing: she began to crawl toward the door!
Oh dear, Lord!
Her head was bent, and her tears formed a trail on the floor as she crawled, unable to stand because of the agony in her heart, her tears so powerful that her whole body shook as her hands and knees moved.
It was a sight that killed my heart, and if she had paused for just a second, she could have changed my resolve in that instant.
The pain I felt rocking my body was agonizing! My own tears spurted out of my old face, and I desperately tried to reach for my walking-stick.
“Maa Abena, oh Maa Abena, please stop!” I groaned, turning with difficulty, but I could not stand up on my own!
Sadly, I was too old!
I reached out my hand to her frantically, painfully, and saw her crawling out of my door, and out of my life…and in that instant, my heart could no longer bear the pain.
I wished for death!
But deep down I knew it…the time had come to go to Wowo.
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