As my friend recounted the events following the departure of his oilman friend and his girlfriend, which left their beautiful young companion in his care, he began to look slightly agitated. I had been under the impression, at the beginning of the story, that he would be gloating under the glitter of yet another conquest over which he held bragging rights without limit.
But he began to look shifty when the end of the story seemed to be rearing its head. Did I detect a sign that he might want to leave the story unfinished?
I wasn’t going to give him that pleasure, however, for there is nothing more pleasant than watching a man who thinks highly of himself being brought down by his own words.
I knew my friend wouldn’t lie blatantly to me about his afternoon. But his demeanour suggested he might slash a bit out of the economic weight of the story if I wasn’t careful. So I short-circuited the path to the truth by steering him to the veracity route with a blunt query: “Was she as good as she looked?”
“But I would never have reached telling you that!” he blurted out! “Have you no respect for the sacred relationship between a man and a woman?”
“What?!” I interjected. “When did you become a prude?”
“No! I am no prude, but there are limits.”
His agitation became even more pronounced. I’d never seen him like this before. What HAD happened, for God’s sake, I wondered. Aloud, though, all I could say was: “Ei, you seem to have been taught some philosophy by the encounter?”
“Oh, I sure was – rather! I mean, I got on so well with her. We drank; we told jokes; I even managed to brush a hand against her knee, whilst pretending to have become over-excited by the jovial story I was telling her. You know – body language doesn’t lie.
“If she’d given any sign of recoiling at my touch, I would have got the message. But she didn’t remove her knee. Nor did she give the impression that my hand was lingering a bit. No! And I was so elated by that.’’
My friend paused at this stage. I was dying of curiosity, but I realised all might be lost if I rushed him. He seemed to be on the verge of telling me an extraordinary story. And I sensed it would be worth listening to, because unlike the usual Jaware stuff, he wasn’t telling it to brag, but seemed to be genuinely analysing the event as much for himself as for me, as the story moved along.
“Well,” my friend resumed, “eventually, the opportunity came, as I knew it would, when she said she must be getting home. She wouldn’t have ‘one for the road’ when I offered her another glass of beer. And she did it wonderfully – with a very very broad smile, to which she added the gracious words, ‘But I won’t mind if YOU have one for the road!’
“So this girl had good breeding in addition to being so beautiful? I was slain, man!
“As I walked her towards my car, I furtively placed my hand in hers. Again, she didn’t brush my hand away. We were holding hands when we got to my car and I went over to the passenger’s side to open the door for her. I settled her in her seat and then made to go over to my side. But she looked up at me with that beautiful smile.
“Her eyes were shining as she said: ‘Um!…Your car smells nice!’ She felt the red leather seats with long, thin fingers as she said this. I had been waiting for a long time for a nice young lady to tell me she appreciated my taste in cars, but up to then, no-one had done so.
“And now comes this angel of angels and SHE tells me I had been right to insist on a car with leather seats. She could have felled me with a feather after that, I tell you.”
My friend took a longish gulp of his beer. “I was so euphoric when I heard what she’d said that I took it to mean she was a car buff. So I decided to show off the car to her. I put it in first gear and half-released the clutch as I turned the key to operate the starter.
“The car said ‘Ta!’ And immediately followed that ta with a VOOOOM! sound that propelled it forward in just two movements. At the same time, the rear tyres scraped the tarmac: Chah!…. Cha!… Chah! And we were gone: in a couple of minutes, we were already doing 50mph.
“I had now gone into the zone. So intent was I on driving like a Formula 1 pilot that I forgot to look at my passenger to gauge what effect my speedy driving was having on her. Instead, I drove in and out of the traffic, relying on my torque power to accelerate out of trouble between one car and another.
“I used the accelerator pedal to make rhythmic noises that I thought would sound musical in the girl’s ears.
“Very soon, we entered a dual carriageway that allowed me more room to overtake other cars. The car sounded great as I moved from gear to gear to obtain the maximum acceleration for each overtaking manoeuvre.
“I swear, I drove as if I was possessed. Give a young man with a propensity to show off a fast car a beautiful girl, and you should be sent to an asylum for the insane. I drove beautifully. And rhythmically. And the car responded. We were dancing a ballet. But we had no stage. Just the busy streets of Accra at eventide, when everyone else was also anxious to get home quickly.
“However, we didn’t get into any serious scrapes – at least, that was how it appeared to me. I drove safely to the girl’s house. I stopped the car. And I leaned over to open the door for her.
“But before I could reach the door-knob, she had opened it and was out of the car.
“She ran straight into the house, opening the gate and entering it in one movement.
“I sat in my seat trying to work out what had happened. Why hadn’t she allowed me to open the door for her? Why had she run off like that? Without even saying ‘Thank you’ Or ‘Goodbye’?
“Then I noticed that… that there was some liquid trailing down the gate of the house. My God! Was it? Had she thrown up as she ran into the house?
“I felt like dying! I had driven the car so manically that with all that beer in her, she’d thrown up!
“I stayed put in my seat and held my head in my hands. An angel had visited me and out of sheer stupidity mixed with vanity, out of a lack of consideration and a lack of finesse, I’d frightened her away!
“She would have thought I was sick in the head to drive like that. And she would never come near me again to be put through such an ordeal. What would she have thought? That I wanted to frighten her? Would it even occur to her that I had merely driven like that to show off my driving skills because I wanted her so badly?
“As I drove away eventually, fully conscious that I had blown my chance of ever winning her, I could have cried. And I realised what a fool I had been – especially in her eyes.
“I had driven like that because I was only thinking of myself! Myself! Myself! Myself and my desire for her.
“I knew how to drive fast. So I drove fast. Very fast. My delicate passenger had not mattered to me at all as a person in her own right. I had just regarded her as an object to show off to.
“I had made her throw up! Throw up! No-one likes to throw up!
“Out of guilt, I could not go to her house the next day to apologise to her. I say out of guilt, but it could equally well have been out of fear. For she could have snubbed me in front of her household by refusing to come and talk to me.
“So, I never saw the girl again. Fortunately for me, the oilman was transferred to Takoradi almost immediately and so he never cane to Jaware to give me feedback on what the girl had thought of me and my antics. So her part of the story has been a mystery to me to this day. For I never saw her again.
“Nor – do you know – nor would I have liked to see her. I mean – what shame had I brought upon my head, huh? How could I ever look her in the eye again?”
When my friend had finished telling me his story, all I could do was to offer him a beer. But I knew it would taste like ash in his mouth. You do not engage in such searing self-examination and retain a desire to enjoy drinking beer. That is a reward to yourself, whereas at a time like that, what you need is a hair-shirt – and a raffia cane upon your bare back!