Chronicles of the Stranger
Location: THE DIVORCE COURT
There is a divorce hearing inside the courtroom.
Outside in the lounge, the families of Takyi Barima and Afia Agyeibea are also waiting tensely.
Their case is going to be called next.
Afia had started a painful divorce process against her husband, Takyi, which has dragged on for almost a year.
Today is the final day, and everyone is aware that today her divorce application will surely be granted.
The members of the two families are sitting together, sad and praying for a miracle.
Across from them, on a lonely bench, Takyi Barima is sitting. He is not a tall man, and he is a little bit portly, with flecks of grey in his otherwise jet-black hair.
He is in a grey suit that looks wrinkled, and his round chubby face is a picture of misery as he looks across the lounge at his beautiful Afia.
It is evident that Takyi Barima is really suffering.
Afia is sitting morosely with her lawyer, Naa Shormei, as they go through final points. Afia is wearing a dark-blue dress. Her hair is styled short, framing her beautiful face.
She is also looking sad, but her jaw is set firmly.
On the bench in front of Afia is a beautiful eight-year old girl called Adobea, and she is the only child of the couple.
She is wearing a beautiful white dress with gold trimmings, and she is resting her head on the arm of the bench, occasionally wiping tears from her eyes.
Just a few metres away from her, an elderly man wearing khaki overalls is using a dry long-handled mop to clean the floorboards, humming a song to himself.
He is in his early fifties, and he is tall and a bit too well-groomed to be a cleaner.
The khaki overalls look new, and his hands are encased in black leather gloves. His close-cropped hair is grey, and he has a well-shaped handlebar moustache.
His eyes are tingling orbs of brightness, filled with a look of warmth that makes his lined face look handsome and intelligent.
Soon he gets to where Adobea is sitting.
He twirls the mop a few times, and then he sighs and sits down beside Adobea.
Smiling, he dabs at his face with a brown towel hanging around his neck.
He sighs and shakes his head wearily, making funny noises that make Adobea look at him with sudden interest.
Are you a servant here, mister?
The kind-faced man turns and looks at her, and then he smiles a most fetching smile that makes him very handsome indeed.
Well, you can say that, yes, my dear. But the name they give to it is ‘Cleaner’. So yes, I’m a cleaner here.
But you’re old!
The man chuckles and holds up a finger, wagging it at her.
Not old, my dear. Not sixty yet, but I’m strong. As strong as an ox, I tell you!
Liar! You look old!
Her mother, who is sitting just behind them with her lawyer, scolds her daughter gently.
Adobea, dear! That’s not kind! Don’t call older folks liars.
The cleaner turns round and smiles at her, displaying a set of very white and strong teeth.
Oh, I’m fine, I’m fine! She’s a lovely young lady, and I like her already!
Across the lounge Takyi has seen THE STRANGER sitting with his daughter and, being the protective father that he is, he gets up and walks towards them.
He stands in front of the cleaner and raises his eyebrows.
Hello. I’m Takyi Barima, her father. You seem tired, sir. Taking the weight off your feet for a while?
The cleaner looks up at Takyi, and suddenly his face is filled with a compassion so deep that it reaches out to Takyi.
There is something about the old man that suddenly makes Takyi’s hard face soften, and takes away the instant paternal worry he had experienced when he saw the man sitting beside his daughter.
Ah! I’m pretty well, Mr. Barima. On the other hand, I can’t say the same for you, can I? You look like a man who is really hurting.
Takyi is startled.
He looks first at the kind-faced stranger, and then he looks across at his wife.
For a moment he sees real pain in Afia’s eyes, and then she looks down suddenly.
Takyi turns his gaze on the elderly man again and tries a wan smile.
Well, you can say that again, my friend.
Suddenly Adobea begins to weep.
It is a sad pathetic sound that knifes through the hearts of the older people.
She covers her face with both hands and weeps, her little heart shattered.
Oh, please, please, pleeeeeeease! Mommy, Daddy….please don’t get divorced, pleaaaase!
Takyi reaches out for her, but the stranger shakes his head at him and rather draws Adobea into a warm hug.
There, there, my dear! It is okay, it is okay! Come on, tell Uncle all your problems! Uncle will make your problems go away!
Adobea looks up sharply into the man’s face, her eyes desperately roving the man’s face, her own face filled with hope.
Really? Can you help? You will not let my Mom and Dad get divorced? You can do that? Because nobody can! My grandparents and my aunties and my uncles and my pastors and all the good, good people we know have talked and talked and talked and talked and still they have not been able to make the divorce go away and I’m so so so sooooo sad!
The man looks very sad indeed for a moment, and he nods slowly, his kind eyes never leaving the face of Adobea.
Well, sometimes these things happen, dear. But it’s okay. Let me try and talk to them too, okay? I know you go to church, and I know you’ve been praying very hard to God to help you.
Yes, yes, I have. But please don’t ask me to pray again. I prayed and prayed and prayed and prayed for many, many, many days and still God is not willing to answer me. That made me really sad because Sunday School Teacher says God can do anything, and nothing is impossible for God. But God has decided not to answer my prayers!
The old man laughs then.
It is a rich laugh filled with such good and genuine mirth that Adobea begins to smile too.
I understand you, Adobea. I heard a story once about a man who prayed and prayed but God would not grant his wish to own a car, and so he stole a car and prayed to God to forgive him. He said God always finds it easier to forgive sins than to grant requests!
He and Adobea begin to laugh, and Takyi laughs too, just like Naa Shormei, the lawyer.
It is only Afia whose expression does not change.
That is funny! But I can’t steal Mom, or Dad, and force them to stay together! Why do you think God doesn’t want to answer my prayer?
Well, no human being knows the answer to that question, my dear. But we Christians believe that God always does things that benefit us. Sometimes too, God sends people to help others!
Then maybe God has sent you to come and help me because Mom and Dad divorcing means they will leave apart and I can’t see them together again! How can that be good for me?
Afia leans forward suddenly, tears on her cheeks, her face shattered.
Oh, my sweet pumpkin! You’re too young to understand! I’ve told you Daddy and I will always love you, and be there for you even if we’re not living together, okay?
No, it’s not okay, Mom! Because it is hurting me too much!
The stranger takes hold of Adobea’s hands and looks earnestly at her.
Listen, my dear. Let us try this a final time, okay? Maybe you’re right, and God has sent me in answer to your prayers! Are the people over there your family?
Yes, my grandparents and uncles and aunties and pastors and friends!
Lovely! This is what I suggest then, dear. You go over there and sit with them, okay? And then I want you to pray one last time to God, okay? I will also be here with Mom and Dad, praying together. And then, if we’re lucky, our prayers will be answered!
Adobea looks at the elderly man with hope all over her face, and she nods.
Really? You believe that?
I believe that, my dear!
Alright, let’s do it!
She gets down and runs hopefully towards the little crowd of people sitting a little distance away.
You didn’t have to do that, sir! Now you have given her hope that God is answering her prayers, and she will get further hurt. I’m terribly sorry, but this divorce is going through!
The man smiles gently at her.
But you will be there for her, wouldn’t you? And at least it bought a few minutes of hope for the angel girl, and strengthened her faith in God. Who knows, maybe I’m here because she prayed to God, and I’m an answer to her prayer. Mr. Barima, why don’t you sit down with me for a while?
Takyi looks first at Afia, who still refuses to look at him, and then he looks at the elderly gentleman.
For a moment he hesitates, and then he sighs and sits down.
He looks at the man again, and sees compassion in the depths of those clear, beautiful eyes. For a moment, just a very brief moment, Takyi feels a sudden rush of trust for this strange old cleaner who can exude so much confidence.
Well? Here we are.
The man leans over and pats Takyi’s shoulder.
Yes, indeed, here we are. I take it you don’t want this divorce to be granted?
Takyi sighs and rubs his forehead hard.
He is once again suffused with abject misery as he looks at the gentleman.
No, I don’t. It’s all my fault though. I can’t fault her, but I’ve begged her for almost a year now. She simply won’t forgive me!
(horrified, in a severe voice)
Forgive you? For beating her? My son, no woman should accept any man who beats her!
Takyi looks at him, appalled!
He is suddenly taken aback, wondering for the first time if the elderly gentleman is alright upstairs.
No, no! I’ve not hit her! I’ll never hit her! She’s my angel!
The man is nodding vigorously now.
Oh, okay. That’s nice. So why is she divorcing you? You have an angel of a daughter, and so I don’t think it’s because she wants children. So, your parents don’t like her?
On the contrary, sir, my parents adore her! My only brother and my two sisters love her. Actually, she is my younger sister’s best friend!
The man scratches his head and looks at the ceiling with mock confusion.
So, you don’t beat her, your folks love her, you gave her a daughter. She obviously loves you.
I love her to death, sir!
The man nods, turns and looks across the back of the seat at Afia Agyeibea.
So, lovely woman, what is it? Have you fallen in love with someone else?
Afia smiles wanly and shakes her head.
Tears glisten on her lashes, but she flicks them away with a beautiful finger.
No, sir! There will never be another man! I love Takyi, and I’ll always love him! He is, and always will be, the only man for me! But he hurt me so bad! I simply can’t trust him again, ever!
It is evident that she is still hurting quite badly, and she looks helplessly at the kind-faced elderly man, who remains very silent for a while before switching his gaze to Takyi.
Another woman, isn’t it? You cheated on your wife and she caught you, didn’t she?
Takyi Barima looks haunted.
For several seconds he tries to speak, but he has tears in his eyes, and his voice trembles.
He takes out a huge handkerchief and dabs at his eyes, and then he pushes it back into his pocket.
He licks his lips several times, and then he nods once, and fixes his eyes on the strange man who has suddenly become a source of outlet for them to pour out the bitterness in their hearts.
Yes, sir. We’ve been married for fifteen years. We’ve remained very faithful to each other. Some months ago I ran into a lady called Adwoa. You see, when I was a young man I wanted to marry Adwoa, but her parents wouldn’t let me near her because she was a pastor’s daughter, and they considered me a boy of the world. They made her marry an elder of the church, and that was about the last time I heard from her. I got a scholarship and travelled abroad for my training.
When I returned to Ghana I settled in Accra and got married to Afia. I used to be in Takoradi, you know. Well, as I was saying, I went back to Takoradi some months ago to close a Project for my company. I stayed at a hotel, and I bumped into Adwoa, who turned out to be the Manager of the hotel. We were pleased to meet each other.
She told me the elder she got married to turned out to be a wife-beater and was involved with some shady drug deals that eventually landed him in prison. She was alone, and she had no children.
In the end, she needed to move on with her life, and so she divorced her husband. It was all quite friendly, you know, old friends just meeting again. She took me home to meet her mother. Her father passed away about five years ago. Her mother was filled with remorse for being so hard on me those years I wanted to be with Adwoa, and said she had bitterly regretted separating us.
Takyi breaks off, and he is trembling, his face filled with a lot of shame now.
He cannot look at the rest of them. His eyes are fixed morosely on his shoes.
The strange man nods sadly.
So, you took advantage of that, didn’t you? The vindicated man, the man they rejected but who has now become a big shot! You just had to teach them a lesson, right?
Takyi turns and looks at the stranger with horror.
No, no! Lord, no! I’m not that kind of man at all! For many years I’ve lived as a good Christian! I still serve at the feet of the Lord, and I love my wife, sir! I was in my hotel room when Adwoa came in, two days after I spoke to her mother!
She was drunk and was weeping and was all broken up, saying she wished she had been strong enough to stay with me. Well, I tried to comfort her, and after a while she appeared to quieten down. She fell asleep on the sofa and I went to take a shower, meaning to drop her off at home afterwards.
I was in the shower when she walked in, quite naked. I told her… Indeed I was quite firm that it was a sin, that I couldn’t do that to my wife! But she just wouldn’t listen. She said she still loved me, that I belonged to her… and I fell from grace, sir! Yes, I cheated on my wife with Adwoa that night!
And it continued after that? You still went on seeing her and making love to her until your wife found out? Or Adwoa called your wife and informed her she was back in your life?
No, no, no! What’s the matter with you, sir? I told you I’m not like that! She slept over, yes, but in the middle of the night I realized I had done a very bad thing! That wanted to continue being my lover. She told me she wouldn’t mind being a mistress, and that she could take care of herself. All she needed was a child from me. I told her it was wrong!
It was a mistake, and it would never happen again! I cut short my stay and came back to Accra. I was so distraught that I couldn’t go home, and so I checked into another hotel and fasted for a day as I sought God’s forgiveness, and then I went home and told Afia everything!
The elderly man looks startled.
He leans forward suddenly and regards Takyi with surprised eyes.
Oh! I see! It wasn’t Adwoa who told your wife, and neither did your wife find out on her own? You confessed to Afia?
Yes, yes, sir! I can never live a lie with her because I love her so much! She was shattered, and her heart was broken! She just couldn’t trust me anymore!
The man turns in his seat and looks at Afia with mild disbelief.
Your husband cheated on you, came and confessed, and you decided to divorce him?
Afia’s face is shattered as she looks at the man.
She is really going through pain.
I prayed, and I fasted, sir. Indeed I genuinely thought I could forgive him, but there was this pain in the core of my heart. I felt so shattered, so betrayed! I couldn’t take care of my daughter, and myself.
It was a terrible period of asking myself why he could hurt me in such a manner, and I couldn’t breathe, and I found myself hating him! It was so hard, and I just couldn’t take that, sir. Finally, it was only when I decided to leave him, to get a divorce, that I found a little peace. I don’t hate him. Truth is that I’ll always love him. But I can’t take the pain, sir, I can’t. I’m so shattered.
There is a pause as Afia Agyeibea weeps silently.
Naa Shormei gathers Afia into her arms and whispers gently to her whilst glaring with venom at Takyi.
And then, in that most painful moment, the stranger does a most terrible thing.
It is so shocking, so amazing, so unexpected that they stare at him with total consternation!
This is not expected, and this is way out of the norm. This is madness even, something abnormal.
His is a rich, bass, laughter, full of genuine mirth, and it brings a look of anger to Takyi’s face, a look of pure pain to Afia’s face, and a look of murder to Naa’s face.
You’re laughing? You find this funny?
Afia jumps to her feet, about to leave, but the man, still cackling with laughter, raises a right hand and wags his forefinger at her.
Forgive me, forgive me, dear! This is very unpardonable on my part, and you have every right to detest my actions awesomely, to wish for death for me, really, but I simply cannot help myself. I was thinking about how unique human beings are, how incredibly different we all are, and how we all react differently to the same set of events! You must admit it is quite remarkable!
What are you talking about, please, sir?
The elderly man finally gets himself under control and wipes tears of mirth from his eyes with the towel around his neck.
A thousand apologies, my dear. But please, do sit down, dear, sit down. You see, I happen to have a tale, a real-life, true, no-nonsense tale about a couple who had a similar experience, and how differently they all reacted!
Similar experience? Similar? How do you mean similar?
(a faraway look in his eyes)
Well, as similar as it gets, with just a little off-beats. The couple in that story didn’t have a child, for instance. But apart from that, they had very similar conditions. The Kuntus, yes. Yaw Kuntu and his wife Kwansema Kuntu.
Like you, they had been married for fifteen years, childless, like I said. Again, just like you, Yaw went on business trip and met an old flame he had been denied marriage to when he was younger, by her parents, because he was poor. Like you, he stayed in a hotel. And, like you, he had an adulterous relationship with this lady, also called Adwoa! And guess what, it also happened at Takoradi!
Afia Agyeibea sinks down slowly on the seat and looks at the stranger with total incomprehension.
There is a strange look on her face.
A look of wonder, a look of lost disbelief as if she thinks the stranger is lying.
But looking at him, they all know in their hearts that he is not joking, or making fun of them.
They know, somehow, that he is really telling them the truth.
Surely, that can’t be true!
To Be Continued….
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Wow Takyi,upon all that u still confess to ur wife?
Das good of u,not all men will do this