The mind of Makafui mind is a web of her mother’s phrases:
Don’t carry too much luggage or you won’t be able to have a child. Don’t talk back to your elders, even if it is to correct them. Don’t squint your eyes at them, because it is a sign of disrespect. Never allow a man to enter the kitchen by himself. And never, ever, let him keep his money in his pocket.
“I’m going to the market. Make sure you prepare the fetri dechi for your brother to eat, I shouldn’t have to be warning you all the time!” her mother said in fluent Ewe.
The woman adjusted the United International Church logoed wrapper around her waist. Makafui kept her focus on washing her brother’s polo shirt. The gangly girl twisted the polyester so hard that gray soaped water spilled over the basin’s silver rims.
The girl looked at her with lips pressed tight. Her mother’s dark twisted face reminded her of a cockroach. Makafui kept her eyes wide open: Do not blink. No squints.
“Are you deaf?”
Makafui entered the concrete homed kitchen as her mother left through the metal gated entrance, her heavy body disappearing behind a broken down well. Makafui took the old soup in the pot and set it on the stoned fireplace. She bundle branches her mother bought and arranged them under the pot.
Her uncle came through the gate her mother left out of. Makafui did not bother to pretend she didn’t see him coming because at the end of the day, he will still eat food that was not his.
Uncle Etornam’s voice boomed in the compound, “Ei! Makafui! So you’re cooking and you didn’t let me know. How is everybody?”
He washed his hands with the dish soap water she had been washing with. Makafui didn’t want to give him anything to eat, but as a woman she had to be trained to be hospitable to her elders. So when Uncle Etornam set up the table for himself and sat by the fire, she took a quick break to give him a bowl and plate to eat from. He ate with gusto.
“May God bless you,” he said. “And may he find a good husband for you. Ha! You will be an excellent wife!” Makafui thought about the many times she had heard that said to most girls who listened. She thought about Mr. Dziedzorm beating his wife so hard that the neighbors in the village heard her screams. Maybe this is why Uncle Etornam has to wish a good husband for her.
When her uncle left, Aunt Seyram entered with a basket of plantains atop her head.
“Makafui! Is that you cooking?”
Makafui smiled, waiting for her aunt to come close by the same table Uncle Etornam left. Without asking, her aunt washed her hands and announced, “Let me try some!”
A small part of her heart bloomed at the thought of her aunt eating and smiling at her. But her aunt had eaten too much of the fetri dechi and akple, and now, Makafui had to make another one.
Before Aunt Seyram left, she said, “May God bless you. May he find a good husband for you! You will be an excellent wife!” Makafui smiled, despite the fact that she has already heard this before.
Then her aunt asked her to put the basin over her head. Before she walked away, she said, “Keep on doing what you are doing. I know your mother may be harsh but take it in stride, okay? God will bless you and give you all the wishes.”
At the shut of the gate, her brother leaped out of the indoors with a soccer ball. Mawu’s smile could make anyone like her mother smile back and pat him on the head. His fiddled with the ball in his hands, playing with it like a basketball instead of a football.
She used the other fireplace to prepare ewokple. Her hands were caked white. She sprinkled powdered maize over boiling water, listening to the gentle thumps of her brother kicking the ball. Then he came over to her, hands fiddling with the ball like a basketball.
“Where is my food?”
Makafui stopped stirring the white liquid. Soup bubbled, staving off an earthy scent. Then Makafui understood why her mother had been angry at her today. Today, she did not wake up early enough to sweep the compound and water the gardens.
Her brother, quite young at seven, could not do it by himself. She knew that boys younger than him do chores, but her mother did not believe in that discipline. Makafui had to learn how to be a woman.
“It’s almost ready.”
Mawu skipped off. Two minutes later, he came back again to ask, “Where is my food?”
The white liquid she stirred was now a soft lump of dough, kneaded perfectly with the akpleatsi. His tiny frame seemed indignant. Mawu almost looked like a baby.
Then it finally occurred to Makafui that Mawu was smaller and she was bigger. She took the akpleatsi out to give him. “I’m going to teach you how to make your own akple.”
Mawu frowned, “I’m not cooking it. I’m a boy.”
“I know, but I’m the first born. And you can’t disrespect your elders.”
Makafui – I will worship you
Mawu – God
Disclaimer – The image above does not belong to me.