Asantewaa so she hushed away the memories, fervent

Asantewaa
only ever thought of herself to be half-woman. Only as smart as the moth that flew
into the flame, unaware as one bound in slumber, but bewitched by the light
that gleams. She’d heard of the full women, like Malala – that girl that she had heard on that radio news
channel that got shot, and got that Nobrel, or
was it Nobel? , and that college. She wishes that she too could go to school
and caress her slender fingers on the infinite tubby books but could not
sacrifice for a shot to the head. What if
her brain blew to bits?  For now, she
lived gratefully with Aunty Samantha at her home, spending her days lost in her
imagination, drowning in the monotonous ticks of the clock.

Her
mother was also a full woman. When everything changed around her, she clutched
to her values like a new-born to bosom. In her youth, she was a sharp tongued,
fiery-tempered and witty being akin to Yaa Asantewaa, a powerful queen mother
who fought before cannons1 and of whom she had named her daughter in
hopes of igniting a phoenix-like rebirth. Before their sudden separation, ma
had done everything in her power to push Asantewaa through half of secondary
school, and seeing her leave with some knowledge, was a soothing farewell. But she
didn’t really like to so much as
remember nowadays, so she hushed away the memories, fervent like a greying
wizened librarian.

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Every
day, Asantewaa found herself peering over the window of a brick and mortar wall
at Aunty Samantha’s home. She’d begin at the bottom; watching the click-clack
movements of polished black brogues on the tarmac, roving up the hem of iron
pressed trousers and skirts and cream collared cotton shirts, ignoring whatever
facial features they had except their eyes. Round glowing eyes that told a
thousand stories, or rather, had the access to a thousand stories that
Asantewaa yearned to read. She’d
watch as they plonk down on the bench at the stop, waiting for the yellow and
black bus to lead them to the Promised Land with the tubby books and even
tubbier hands. Blasé. Sometimes, a
book was left unattended, and then forgotten, and then abandoned – and when she
saw the fleeting buttocks of the bus, she’d race to the wooden bench – and then
found.

Today,
Asantewaa knew Aunty Samantha must’ve come from the community office at her
wits end last night.

She’d
guessed it with the worn out satchel left slumped by the crumbly wall, weeping
that it had been flung. She also noticed the thrift store coat sloppily strung on
the couch that used to have taut
skin, like a lad in his prime. To add insult to injury, her morning plate
resembled a messy mosh pit and Aunty Samantha always found it jarring when the
most important meal of the day was not up to par. Of course, Aunty Samantha had
probed about her activities yesterday, asked about what she had eaten for supper
and forced toothy grins into every crevice of the conversation. Halfway through
an inquiry about the texture of the plantain, Asantewaa mustered the courage to
address the elephant in the room –

“I
don’t really need to go to the high
school”

Afternoons
were spent in the company of Twain and Shakespeare (rereading her found
treasures), and, albeit she was only as smart as a half woman could be, she did
not feel completely useless. The thought of Aunty Samantha pawning heirlooms
for her to trot among lackadaisical daily-breaders seemed like a heart-breaking
waste of prised sentiments. Asantewaa decided to use the awkward silence to frolic
with the Bambara beans after she placed two of her plantains back on Aunty Samantha’s
plate. Though she did not particularly like beans, she continued to eat in
silence until the white dish revealed itself. Satisfied, she excused herself and
stepped outside.

The
crisp fresh air hit her at once, and the to and fro of the clothes on the drying
line calmed her.

As
if on cue, the familiar sound of shoes came smacking down the road, enveloped
by the banter between the students. Slowly, and then all at once, Asantewaa saw
the eyes grow in number – backpacks on shoulders – clad in uniform. She immediately
shied away and avoided being seen, scurrying back behind the fence. She didn’t
even notice the young boy with the cropped dark brown hair, creamy skin and rosy
lips with a box in his large hands. He rested the box on the bench and turned
in her direction, not making eye contact, but waving vigorously before entering
the hyper bus.

Asantewaa, enormously perplexed and
bemused by his peculiar behaviour, did not wait for a moment longer and lifted
up her long skirt, stampeding across the street to the bench. Like one who had been
doused with a bucket of water mid-dream, she gasped at the contents of the
brown box. A second later, she jumped up in shock as two toots from the horn of
the bus sounded, waving its buttocks as it went its way. Almost instantly, she
felt something within her swell. She somehow envisioned a future amidst
clapping hands, praising her for her Prize. She envisioned herself head held
high, climbing up the steps of Cambridge University. A sort of rebirth,
Asantewaa could feel herself becoming fuller and fuller. Unable to understand
the kindness of these strangers, Asantewaa picked up one of the novels. Oh, Hemmingway!