#TeleTuesdays’s offering today is a continuation of last week’s story. We saw Dr. Lewis Koomson in a bad place last week. Was that as bad as it could get, or would the Odds have much more in store?! Please enjoy the second installment in this series…
The waters off the beach weren’t much different from any of those off the typical African beach. The good news however was that since member countries of the ECOWAS had passed the Bill for Aqua Reclamation in 2013 into their respective constitutions, projections predicted tough competition for the Caribbean islands by the year 2019. The hint of white beaches and sparkling seawater at some points along the previously heavily-polluted coastline areas already were a joy to behold now. The bad news that evening though was that clean or not, hitting the icy waters during early harmattan from over 30 feet high was a rather good recipe for slipping easily into shock!
It was however good news for a certain Dr. Lewis Koomson that as he fell headfirst into the water he did not bash his head open on any jetsam some native fishermen still notoriously dumped into the sea to rid themselves of waste on fishing trips.
Just like they said, time slowed as he fell – snapshots of his rather unremarkable life…and Tracy. Within the eternity that was crammed into a second or two, he somehow managed to accept it all – his life, his failures, saving Jeremy…and his impending death. It absentmindedly surprised him that the words of Father Abbey from Mass (when he was young enough to make room for God in his life) were what came clear as a bell to his ears as the wind whistled past: It is well, because it was made to be well.
Lewis slipped under the cold waters headfirst, knocking him senseless for the briefest of moments before a single firm thought came to him so hard he could have sworn his head rang with it: no!
His eyes popped open with the thought: I can’t die here! I refuse to let this be the end. Gathering his rather threadbare wits about him, he determinedly struck his way for the surface as he fought the reflex to breathe in, though his muscles screamed bloody murder and threatened to mutiny!
Just one more chance, he pleaded to a God he gave himself permission to believe in once more. I’ll do right. I’ll step up. I’ll even-
The thought ended abruptly as he broke the surface of the water, taking in a greedy gulp of air that ended in an involuntary whoop he tried to stifle. Too late, he heard the Nurse shout from somewhere high above “He’s still alive! Over here!”
Gunshots rang out from above him aimed at his position almost immediately! Taking another deep breath, he reflexively dove deeper into the Atlantic, trying to remember one of the seminars he’d attended at the Naval Base on underwater combat – in particular a formula for calculating the depth at which a bullet being fired would lose enough velocity to render it harmless.
In the heat of the moment, his mind was apparently only concerned with major issues such as suppressing panic and remembering the rudiments of underwater swimming – advanced mathematics was definitely offline!
Okay, let’s go to 10 feet then, he mentally told himself as he angled his body to dive further.
“Ugh!”, he barely managed to keep from exclaiming aloud as he felt a bullet thud into his back. Even with almost all its lethal velocity expended, it slammed into him with the force of a good punch by a dirty brawler! He reflexively bent back to feel the point of impact, heaving a mental sigh of relief on finding the skin bruised but unbroken.
Straightening out at the depth at which the bullets just drifted toward the ocean floor, he began a desperate stroke westwards, resolving to surface for a moment just to gulp some fresh air only when the oxygen deprivation seemed to burned his lungs. I won’t give them the satisfaction of dying here either, he grimly thought. One, two – one, two – one, two – was all he could think of as he struck for the beach, every bit of his remaining mental and physical ability distilled into the single repetitive motion.
After an indeterminate time being buffeted by wave after wave as he struck for shore, the feeling of ground beneath his feet was a welcome one indeed. The last thought his tired mind was able to process before he totally crashed from exhaustion after hauling himself out of the reach of the lapping water on the beach was Lucky I got to the surface before I could finish that last promise…
Walking along the main road to Chapel Square, he shook his head a few times, as if to clear his head of any cobwebs – he just couldn’t believe his luck now.
He’d woken up to the sound of hiplife playing close by, seemingly in tune with a gradually receding headache. Stumbling awkwardly to his feet, he received the most welcome shock of his life so far: Gramsdel J! Unless it was a stress-induced hallucination, he was staring at that popular night-time spot on the beach, only a few metres from the main road, in Elmina – his hometown! …albeit still in his wet white briefs…
He however managed to appropriate an old pair of sun-bleached blue fisherman’s shorts lying on an abandoned canoe a few paces away…that prayer might have worked after all, he’d idly mused to himself as he shucked on the shorts.
As luck would have it also, a barefoot, bare-chested man walking around in a fishing town past dusk was no cause for alarm either.
“Kwamena Jones koraa, where is that house of his?”, Lewis muttered to himself when he got to Chapel Square. His only memory of his cousin’s house was from about 5 years ago, an invitation with directions to his house for a 4th child’s naming ceremony! Of course, Lewis didn’t go.
“The world has already been fully populated, so why is this man taking God’s first directive as World Cup still??! Chale chale, as for this one, e choose!”
And with that, into the nearest desk went the invite, forgotten until his housekeeper Nani disposed of it sometime later.
“Past the shoemaker, go straight…em…er…yes, behind the Cathedral, erm…” he tried to dredge up the old half-memories until he gave up a few minutes later and called out to a small boy sitting by the side of the road preoccupied with teasing out the barest bits of coconut ‘meat’ from its shell.
“Brɛda, ɔtse dɛn?”, he began in his less-than-adequate city Fanti, perfect for charming city socialites but rather embarrassing on the ground in a traditional Fanti township.
Luckily for him, the little boy didn’t know how gracious he was when he decided to put some newly-learned English into play, homage to absent teachers.
“I’m also fine my small brother. Can you please show me to Uncle Kwamena Jones the fisherman’s house?”, he asked with a ready smile, already charmed by the look of innocent curiosity in the child’s face.
“Where do you know Daddy from?” the little rascal demanded, his attention now fully on this stranger whom he’d never seen before but who knew his father by name.
“Hahahaha!” Lewis burst into laughter.
“Don’t tell me you’re…” then stepping back to size him up a bit – about 6 or 7 years old? “Yoofi?”
“Yes, I’m Yoofi. How do you know my name?”
Stretching out a hand to greet him, Lewis shook his hand.
“I’m your uncle from Kumasi. Call me Uncle Lewis. Let’s go and see your Daddy, I’m sure he’ll be surprised to see me.”
At last, an impish smile broke out on Yoofi’s face, one that reminded Lewis of Kwamena so many years ago. Taking Lewis by the hand, he began to lead him through the rabbit’s wren that was Elmina’s Chapel Square.
“But where are your things?” Yoofi asked, a quizzical look on his face as he turned his head to look behind them as if expecting to find some porters carrying his uncle’s luggage.
“Yoofi it’s a long story. Let’s just get home first, ok?”
“Ok” he gladly accepted, curiosity already giving way to glee.
I wish my life were as simple as yours Yoofi, Lewis thought as he looked down at the child skipping with excitement as he waved to his passing friends, pointing out his uncle from Kumasi.
“So that’s the whole story, Kwamena”, Lewis finished about 2 hours later after a well-deserved shower, proper clothes and hearty meal.
He sat with Kwamena around the dining table with Ewurafua, Kwamena’s beautiful wife. She looked not a day past 30, despite having borne 4 children already.
There was a time Lewis fancied Ewurafua too. But the allure of his ambition was too strong and he pushed out all thoughts of a ‘complicated’ love and deliberately pushed her towards Kwamena until she was his entirely and he had more of a reason to forget her. Now, looking at how truly complicated his life had become – with the emotional whirlwind that was Tracy and the paths he’d set on that led him to Jeremy Aruba, the Association and an early evening bullet-infested ocean swim clad only in his briefs – he realised that a ‘complicated’ love with Ewurafua could have been the best thing that would have happened to him…in another world.
Shaking his head to clear the silly thoughts that verged on treachery, he focused on his cousin. Kwamena: The University Graduate Fisherman. Though Lewis fully understood his choice and respected him for it, not all of the other family members were as forgiving. That is, until they came to respect the man who singlehandedly revolutionised fishing and fishing practices in the waters off the Central Region coast.
Balding slightly at 36, well-built and standing at 6’1” but with a ready smile no matter the occasion, Kwamena Jones had been the go-to man for the better part of Lewis’s life growing up. Circumstances and time notwithstanding, it was obvious that he wanted to help this time also.
Looking at his wife for a while, and then at Lewis, he nodded once, seemingly having finally made up his mind about something.
“Paa Kwesi,” he began, using Lewis’s Fanti name – a sure sign of trouble.
Uh oh, Lewis thought with dread at his next words.
“There’s something I’ve got to tell you about Tracy.”
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