I met Joe about five years ago. He was unemployed and had no money. I was a beautician who had just completed her training. I didn’t have a shop or equipment to start my own business so I did a few odd jobs here and there to put food on the table. I loved him and I knew in time he would get a job and help out with the bills.
Over time, our rent expired and we moved to a new neighborhood. Somewhere busy and bustling with life. That way, we could get access to jobs and business opportunities. Not long after we settled in, I got a job as a mobile money vendor. I didn’t earn much but it put food on our table and kept us going. Through the connections I made at my workplace, I got him a commission job in a company. This helped ease the burden on me. Things got better for us. We started filling our empty room with furniture. I saved money from my salary to buy equipment for my beautician work. He added a little money to top me up. I bought everything I needed to start my business so I quit my job. I often used him for my makeup practicals and we posted my works on social media.
We were doing just fine. When our rent expired, we could afford to move out of our hencoop-sized single room to a spacious single room self-contained apartment. His work was based on target and that affected his income sometimes. There were times he didn’t earn anything at the end of the month because he didn’t get any clients. Sometimes he brought his work home and I helped him finish it. We were partners. We made each other better. We helped each other grow. He never handled the bills alone. I helped him pay our rent. I took care of our food. I bought him clothes. Sometimes I even gave him money to change his wardrobe – from his haircut to the shoes on his feet. He was always grateful and I was always happy to take care of him. Sometimes he got me gifts too and I always loved them.
One day, we discussed the kind of life we wanted to live in the near future. I suggested, “Your job is not stable. You know how to drive. We should get you a license so that you can start driving for Uber.” He answered, “That’s a good idea. I will talk to my elder sister who is a teacher. Maybe she can give me a loan so I can buy a car.” I paid for his license and my cousin helped him process it. His sister sent him the money for a car. It was not enough to buy a brand new car so we decided to buy a used one. We both didn’t know much about cars so he called his brother who lived in the village to come and help him with the purchase.
His brother came to live with us. The three of us in a single was a very uncomfortable situation but I told myself, “Relax, he will leave as soon as the car is bought.” They bought the car but it was faulty. They had to fix it so his brother stayed on. My boyfriend quit his job when he bought the car so I had to bear the responsibility of his brother. It was difficult but I didn’t complain. This car never hit the road. It was always at the fitting shop. As soon as they fix it, something else gets spoilt.
The longer the car stayed at the shop, the longer his brother stayed with us. And this guy’s presence started to make me very uncomfortable. He’d barge into our room without knocking. Sometimes I’d come out of the bathroom and he would walk in on me while dressing up. I complained to Joe and he apologized on his brother’s behalf. He spoke to him about it but the guy didn’t change. It was as if he was determined to see me naked. I got annoyed and told my man to let him go back to the village. He said, “I can’t just sack him. He is my brother, you know. Don’t worry I’ll talk to my sister about it. We’ll both talk to him to stop that behavior.”
After his siblings spoke to him about his invasion of my privacy, he became resentful toward me. He stopped talking to me but he ate my food. I took consolation in the thought that he would leave as soon as the car got fixed. Unfortunately, that car was just a waste of money. It never worked. We sold it and repaid the loan we took from his sister. After the car was sold, my boyfriend’s brother decided that he liked life in Accra so he won’t go back to the village. He expected to continue live with us and eat my food and treat me with spite. I couldn’t have that. I told Joe, “I know he is your brother but talk to him. He can’t stay here with us. He is not working and he is not contributing anything to this household. You are also not working so now I have to take care of three adults. Let’s not forget how little regard he has for me.” He said, “My brother doesn’t want to go back to the village and I’m the only one he knows here. I can’t sack him.”
I thought to myself, “He can’t sack him but I can.” One day, I gathered courage and told his brother, “I understand you want to stay in the city and make something for yourself. It is a good decision but you have to find somewhere to live. Things are difficult for us right now and we cannot afford to feed an extra mouth.” He said, “You can’t ask me to leave. I am in my brother’s apartment. Do you want to enjoy his money alone?” I contributed more to our household than my boyfriend did. If we are going by the old-fashioned definition of gender roles, I was the man in the relationship. I didn’t fight him. I knew his time would definitely come for him to go.
I spoke to my boyfriend, “Your brother thinks I’m spending your money. Somehow, he believes you are suffering in the field of work while I’m sitting here like a doll enjoying the fruit of your labor. Please, he has to leave. I cannot have him living here with us. It’s too much on us.” My boyfriend got angry and confronted him. I don’t know what happened between them but later, Kweku left.
I was relieved and thankful that he was gone. I had a call not too long after Kweku had left. The call came from their mother. I had a good relationship with her. Our families know each other and they knew we were living together. When she called I was with Joe so I put the call on speaker. She said, “I want you to leave my son’s apartment. His brother and sister are coming to live with him. Go to your family members and we will come and see them when my son is ready to marry you.” Quickly her son took the phone from me and put it off the speaker and went away to talk to her. He came back after the call to apologize on her behalf. I was very bothered about the misplaced entitlement of his family but I didn’t say anything for the sake of peace.
A year after all that family drama. His church elder gave him a car to use for Uber. This time, the car worked. He made money from his daily trips and things got better for us.
One fateful Sunday, he woke up early and got ready for church. I was awake but still in bed because I was sick. Before he walked out the door he gave me a kiss. We were together for almost five years yet that kiss kept coming back to me. A simple kiss that encompassed everything we meant to each other. I watched him walk out the door. The car started and he drove off. I went back to sleep.
Later in the day, my phone rang. It was him; “Have you gotten out of bed? Have you eaten anything?” I said, “You should focus on the church. I’m fine.” He said, “Why don’t I believe you? Please eat something. I will call you again when I get the chance. I love you.” And then the call disconnected. I dozed off.
A few hours later my phone rang. I looked at the screen. It wasn’t him. It was a strange number. The voice sounded frantic and I couldn’t hear anything the caller was saying. I said, “Hello please slow down. I can’t hear you.” She said, “He was complaining of headache while he was playing the keyboard. We rushed him to a nearby hospital and he gave us your number to call.” I understood she was talking about Joe. I got out of bed immediately. “Please I’m on my way. Look after him for me. What’s the name of the hospital you took him to?” I called my sister who lived close to the hospital to go there and be with him until I arrive.
When I got to the hospital the doctor said they had to run tests before they could have a diagnosis. He gave us a referral letter to a bigger hospital where we could get those tests done. While we were on our way to the hospital I called his mother. I told her what had happened. They called every few minutes for updates and prayed for him over the phone. All of us in the car prayed for him too. The hospital was far and we didn’t get an ambulance so we delayed on the way. By the time we arrived, he had gotten stiff. We rushed him to the emergency unit but there was no bed. I begged a nurse and she moved someone who was due to be discharged and gave us his bed. His family kept calling and I gave them updates. His mother said, “Kweku is in Accra so he is on his way to the hospital.
They ran some blood tests on him and we were asked to run a head scan. We took him in an ambulance to another hospital which was also far. By the time we got the results of the scan, it was quite late in the night. His brother was present when the doctor explained the results. His blood pressure had gone up and it has caused him to bleed in his head. By the time they started his treatment he was foaming at his mouth. His brother couldn’t stand to look at him. He went to sit outside in the Uber. I sat by his bed and cleaned him up.
They put him on oxygen and it seemed he was going to be okay. I put my head beside him and dozed off. When I opened my eyes the oxygen mask had been removed. The IV too. There was no medication. I was confused. I ran out to call his brother and we went to look for the doctor. His brother went into the doctor’s room and came out with tears running down his face. I tried to run into the ward but the doctors held me back. I couldn’t believe what was happening. He was fine less than 24 hours ago, I was the sick one. How is it that he was gone? I called my dad to tell him. Kweku called his family and broke the news to them. My sister came to the hospital in the morning and took me home. I had answered questions for his death certificate. The body was in the morgue.
Kweku and some of his family who showed up decided to follow us home. When we got to the apartment, his family asked me to narrate what happened and I did. Then they said they would pack all his stuff. I said okay. At that moment nothing mattered to me. The man I thought I would grow old with was lying cold in a morgue. I told them to do whatever they wanted. They said they would wait and come for his things later and they left.
My sister said, “You can’t stay here. Take a few things and let’s go to my place.” Before I could pack whatever I would need, Kweku came back; “My mother said you should leave so that I lock the door. don’t take anything, not even your clothes. When we are coming for Joe’s things we’ll call you to come for yours.” My sister got angry and almost picked a fight with him. I told her to let it go. As I said, nothing mattered to me.
The next morning, I called to ask about the arrangements. Kweku said he’d keep me informed. He never gave me any substantial information. Then he stopped answering my calls altogether. I didn’t know what was going on. When I finally heard from them, it was their mother. She said, “You have to come and explain to our village elders what happened to my son.”
I informed my father about it and he called the woman. After they spoke he told me, “It looks like they are accusing you of his death.” My grief doubled. I lost weight. I couldn’t do anything. I felt like I was losing my mind. They called again to request my presence. My dad told them he wouldn’t allow me to make that journey. They argued. All that while, my stuff was still locked up in our room. That didn’t bother me except a friend of mine kept her stuff with me and she wanted them. My father called Joe’s people and asked them to come and open the door so we could take a few things. They refused. Later, someone told me he saw them emptying the room. I didn’t believe it. I went over there with my sister and my friend. I had a spare key but I didn’t use it initially out of respect for the family. This time I used it. To my surprise, the room was completely empty.
My dad called them and asked them to bring back my stuff. They said I should come to their village for it. We asked about the funeral arrangements and they refused to give us information. We heard about the date from some friends. When the date arrived, my family wore black clothes and mourned Joe with me. It was on the 20th of December 2021. I didn’t go to say goodbye at his funeral and I am okay with that. I am comforted by that last kiss he gave me. It’s not enough but it’s all I have.
All I do now is sit in my room and cry, hoping he will reveal himself to me. I’m losing my mind, I can feel it. I haven’t worked since he passed. His family took everything, including my working equipment. I’m now at ground zero and don’t know how to get my stuff back. More importantly, I want to move on. I want to stop feeling the pains of his loss. How do I do it? Nothing I’ve tried worked. I need help.