Was one of the people to be seen either at a crime or fighting scene.
As little boys growing up, Kofi was full of prospect. He was the boy someone looked to in our hood. He was calm, respectful and bookish. He was from a decent and wealthy home. He attended one of the most prestigious schools in Tema (Datus) while I attended that of a one-eyed headmaster school (Sun Star). He was also not only handsome but a cheerful giver.
I was not like Kofi. Rowdyism was my nature, stubbornness a lifestyle, bullying a hobby and destructiveness a practice. Was the little boy heavyweight champion who would prefect the skills of Azuma Nelson. I taught children of my age the lessons of disobedience until Gifty defeated me to that envious title. I took consolation in the fact that I was not the only boy she had beaten. She had beaten boys, gentlemen, women and men ( I said men). I guess her toughest was our fight. My future doom could be seen by my hooky behaviour.
We shared something in common, we love our football and played for the same team. While I was the safest pair of hands in goal, he tightened our midfield. He was not that gifted footballer. I was good at my boot and Kofi at his book.
It was time for our BECE and obviously, everybody anticipated Kofi to top the performance ladder. But things did not turn up as expected. He disappointed all. Kofi could not make the cut to his first choice -Accra Academy. Thankfully, I did not perform so badly to deny me my first choice school- Adisadel College. In all honesty, I did not know the secondary school Kofi attended because I had left for school before him.
It was only after our exams that I got a gist of what might have accounted for his poor performance. While I looked up to him so suspended football for seven months to devote myself to study to make it to Adisadel, Kofi was also busily learning the destructive practice of smoking through his friends at school. He had become a wee smoker. He had no time to study. He had become an addict before he was found out. There would be no escape route for him.
The handsome Kofi became the little girlniser. He joined some team mates of ours in daily evening hunting of girls’ escapade. Speak to any sports person and would tell you sports men have ladies for leisure. For my own bad life, as long as I have started my personal encounter write- up pieces, I shall surely get there one day.
I left for school- Adisadel College (the miraculous revival of my life) before him because he’d wanted to take advantage of our football team invitational tournament to Germany. We could not meet again after year one because my parents relocated me to Kpone (a suburb of Tema) to concentrate on my studies at the College.
Such a fine boy we all looked to and admired had wasted his life in school. Sadly, he did not complete SSS as he was dismissed from school for smoking wee (the medicine for madness). His parents would put him back into school but he won’t stay. His romance with the weed had taken over his heart and mind. He was dismissed again by the curse of smoking. The disgrace was too much for his parents to bear. It soiled their reputation, marred the name of the family and ruined their business. They gave up their home to save their little left respect but not after spending some penny to get him out of that ‘hell’ of a place called Ash Town Police cells. My first visit to the place (not to see Kofi since I was still in school), I nearly ended up disabled in sight and speech by the scent that greeted me. I will never pray for anyone to be there.
After completing Adisadel, university and national service, I returned to Ash Town and never heard of Kofi.
One fateful Sunday morning, as I’d angelically dressed for church, I almost crashed into this person whose appearance was comparable to a ‘mad gentleman’ (I use gentleman not man because of my respect for him). This was Kofi in a repulsive state. He was very very dirty, was sure he’d not seen his friend water for many months. That white sparkling white teeth of his had become blackish, the handsome face had gathered mounted dirt like the noble profession of collecting everything waste and the fragrance from his body, Oh! My goodness was so powerful to have sent me to an early grave. On any day, I would have shouted “Devil, you are a liar, I shall not die..but live…” The only thing that saved me that morning from the strong scent of Kofi probably was the prayers I said before setting off for church. Kofi was a ‘bola’ man (refuse collector). Unbelievable, “My God, where did it go wrong” I said in self pity. The boy full of life, the bright prospect of the hood, the dreamer and achiever now survived by picking people’s rubbish not even in trucks but in sacks.
I stood paralyzed and with mouth wide open, forgetting he was not alone but accompanied by houseflies. Unlike Jesus who had strength gone out of him when touched by the woman, me on seeing Kofi, my boyhood admirer, lost my strength and spirit. We stood still and he called “Mensah, long time.” The contrasting appearance denied us an embrace unlike the father welcoming his prodigal son back home. We shake hands ( I bet if it was present time, I would dare not with the scare of Ebola sniffing around) and I called “Kofi,” sizing him from the broken slippers he had on his feet to the shaved head with cuts all over. My tears dropped like the funeral farewell tears, he also dropped the heavy sack saddled round him. Our meeting place was what would break the virginity of memory. We were in the same hood that he was the boy hero but now has turned the man villain. “Mensah, you fresh oo. Nothing dey the pocket inside. Give me something for water.” He asked for money. Gush! Kofi, a beggar? I gave him a good amount. He wished me good luck in life and left.
I left for church spiritless. I met him twice since worse than our first meeting. On all these occasions, he begged for money. The unfair aspect is that the guy who introduced him to smoking had been rehabilitated after going through a similar experience.
I have moved on from my hood but as I reflect the year passing, Kofi’s thought seized me and don’t know if I should be thankful to God for my own life or pray for his life.
You challenged me to march you academically. You chose Accra Academy and made me go for Adisadel College. We reserved the best for you but you did not take advantage. A disastrous end to a promising life.
Kofi, wherever you may be this day, my thoughts are with you.
(EubulusMan wipes a tear from his face).