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African Writing Archives

Current A.W.



Annette Quarcoopome


Annette Quarcoopome

Quarcoopome is a college student majoring in Comparative Literature and Africana Studies at Williams College in Massachusetts. She is originally from Ghana and she loves writing poetry and short fiction.





I fingered the beads around my waist…blue. My naked body stared back at me from the full length mirror on the wall. My beads used to be white. Kaniene. My love. I don’t have the minshinii you gave me anymore. A man touched me and they broke. Right then when he touched me, they broke away from my body and the white beads spilled onto the red carpet in my room. When he left I swept them away, to the edge of the carpet and then under. So now I wear blue beads. I know, Kane, we both had white. You picked out white for me that day at the market, and I picked the same for you. The only difference was that you chose tiny, discrete beads strung on thin thread for me. I knew you wouldn’t be afraid to wear the big, bold ones I gave you. You would glare at anyone who pointed out that they could see them through your skirt. Sometimes you even wore them on top of your jeans.

‘Those things are meant to be hidden!’ my mother said to you once in that stricken tone of hers.

‘You can’t just let people see your minshinii like that,’ you said in a high-pitched voice when we were alone, right hand fanning your face in an affected way. You mimicked her a lot. ‘She sounds like the world will come to an end if I let people see.’ That day at the market, the old woman at the bead stall didn’t see our shared smile. Even if she did, she didn’t know what it said,

‘You are my virgin.’

But I wear blue now, and when we join them, hip to hip like we used to, it will be a kpogiemo, blue on white, an ‘outdooring’; women who just gave birth…blue and white.


You liked to say that I made you. And every time I would shake my head a little and whisper, ‘I only named you.’ But it was true. I made you.

Kanee ne.’ This is the light. And we came to be, you and I. That was the night we loved each other for the first time. We lay there in the dark of your room. Your father’s drunken snores reached us from the living room where he had passed out on the couch. There was no mother for you. You touched me there and I wanted to cry. Would you touch me always? My light, touch me always. I cried out and you called my name,

‘Serena.’ You pronounced it ‘She-ree-nah,’ hushing me with that short ‘shh’ of the first syllable.

‘Why do you call me that?’

‘It’s a Rivers State name. The girls there are very fair, light skin like yours.’ And from then, the names our parents had given us became taboo.

‘What are these new names you girls are calling yourselves?’ my mother asked us one day in the kitchen.

‘Ah don’t mind them,’ my aunt said. ‘It’s just a phase. You know how these teenagers are.’ And no one paid any more attention. Slowly, unconsciously, they began to call us those names too, without knowing why, without knowing what they were doing. And our old names faded away.

But one night your old name came back. Do you remember, Kaniene? Your father beat you and beat you until I thought you would die. It was during one of our many sleepovers at your house. We chose your house because we usually had it all to ourselves. But this night your father came home and he was not drunk. When he came to your room, you locked me in the bathroom, and I could hear him beating you. And once, only once he shouted that name that we hated,

‘Adannaya!’ We hated it because it reduced you to only one thing, your father’s daughter. And we hated him. I couldn’t just stay in the bathroom that night. I crept out, hoping he wouldn’t see me, hoping I could call the police from my cell phone when I was safe outside. What I saw made me stop and scream. Oh Kane, you are many things. But that bloody little mess on the floor couldn’t have been you. I ran. I was shaking so much that I couldn’t dial the numbers on my phone. I ran to the neighbour’s house and banged on the gate. We never had another sleepover at your house. My perfect little Ghanaian family, father, mother and older brother, would not allow it.

‘Hmm, those Nigerians,’ I heard my mother say to my aunt once, ‘my daughter is never going there again. Next thing you know, that crazy man will be beating her too. Did you hear, even his wife left him.’

‘But why would she leave the daughter behind?’ My aunt wanted to know. I walked away. I didn’t want to know.

Do you remember how we frustrated the teachers at school with all the different spellings of your name? We couldn’t fill out Kanee ne in the column for nickname on the secondary school application forms. There were no bubbles to shade in that strange letter ‘e,’ which was pronounced like the ‘e’ in egg. So we wrote Kaniene, but when I wrote you notes, I wrote Kane for short. Light. I told you that even though I named you Kane, I thought of you more as a torch than a boring, naked bulb. You burned. I didn’t tell you that you burned me. We had a quiet love because I said I wanted it that way. It was a love that did not fight and did not scream. It was. But deep where I had hidden it, it was a flame that was clawing at my insides, wanting freedom. I was raw, I bled, but above all I burned. Only when you touched me did the pain subside to a dull ache, only to awaken the next morning with the rest of the world, spears ready to condemn us to death. I never told you these things because you said I was the broody one. Perhaps these were broody thoughts. I didn’t tell you also because we were preoccupied. Life was happening to us. We had both been accepted at St. Catherine’s Secondary School. We were going to boarding school.

At first, no one knew about us at St. Catherine’s. We were just those two girls who were always together. KanieneandSerena. But we were other things too. We were fifteen. We were growing, and we were learning things about our bodies that we were not supposed to know. KanieneandSerena. Sacred things that people should not have access to. Our names…like our memories and our bodies. Painful memories. KanieneandSerena. When did we name each other? When we realized we were in love. It was a quiet love. That is what I wanted….

Mr. Asomaning wanted me. I was bad at math. He made me stay after class everyday and he played with my breasts. I hated him. He made me think of your father but he hurt me in a different way. He kept pestering me to come to his house after school for ‘extra classes.’ And then one afternoon he told me that he would fail me all the way till my final year if I didn’t come to his house.
Oburoni, you know what I want. We can both be happy if you come to my house just once.’ When I told you, you were angry that I hadn’t told you about him earlier.

‘We can have him dismissed for sexual harassment Serena.’ You said only this, and through gritted teeth. You weren’t angry at me. You were angry at Mr. Asomaning. ‘What does that word mean anyway?’

Oburoni?’ I asked you. You nodded. ‘It means white person. Sometimes he calls me bright beauty or yellow flower.’ You didn’t speak to anyone for the rest of the day. You stopped playing with my breasts because of Mr. Asomaning and it hurt me. Can you hear me Kane? Do you know how the flame in my chest became angry? Now you only touched me there. That is how he found us. One of the girls in the dorm must have seen us and told him. He claimed he was going round on ‘dorm inspection.’ Now there was no way I could avoid going to his house. If I didn’t, he would report us to the headmistress, our parents, everyone would know the dirty little girls we were.

‘Especially you, Oburoni,’ he pointed to me the afternoon he called us to his office. ‘You’re from a good family. Do you know what this will do to them?’

‘I will come to your house,’ you told Mr. Asomaning and he cringed visibly. Like our names, our memories have stayed with us. KanieneandSerena. I remember the terrible names he called you. The things he said about your body, that dark, smooth, beautiful body that I loved.

That night we cried together. You had offered your body in place of mine, but he didn’t want you. You cried tears of rage until you were shaking so hard and you couldn’t breathe. I cried because of one word. Puncture. He said he could cure me. He would poke me, puncture me and let out all of this bad thing that was inside me. And then he laughed at his own sickness. You told me there was only one way.

‘Kill him.’


You said kill him and our love changed. It was no longer a quiet love that did not fight and did not scream. Kill him. And my heart burned. You stole the knife from the pantry. You promised you would be there and I willed my mind’s eye to see you crouching at the window in the dark. Immediately behind you would be the mango tree that some of the Form 3 girls sent us to steal juicy mangoes from. I hate climbing trees Kaniene, and the smell of mangoes always makes me nauseous. A few paces behind the mango tree will be the short wall that you have just climbed to be here with me, and there will be bougainvillea vines snaking all along the wall. I cannot deal with today. Tonight. Tomorrow we might come back here Kane, and pick pink flowers for our hair.

He lay heavy and sweaty on top of me. And I killed him. Knife buried in the fleshy folds of the side of his neck. And now you come, Kaniene, dragging me out from underneath the body, wiping the blood from my face and saying only one thing, ‘I love you.’ In our hearts we scream and fight. They knew it was us because we ran away. They found us at my aunt’s house in Kumasi. We had told her we were on holiday. But too many things were at stake for us to be exposed. My memories, like our names come in a rush now. KanieneandSerena. St. Catherine’s reputation had to be preserved. No one could know about dirty teachers and dirtier girls who did things they were not supposed to do. People were paid. We had to leave. And then you left me. I heard your father had taken you back to Nigeria and then I heard you were in university in England. We did not speak. We did not write. I did not love.

My family hated me. They let me know, everyday, by calling me ‘Ama.’ It was simple and cold, the name they had given me all those years ago. The name they had called me before you named me. Or made me. I was back to being a girl born on Saturday and that was all. There was no affection anymore. Our memories, like our names, are love. And you are coming back to me Kaniene. You wrote and you even called me. Your voice is the same but I do not like this new accent. Will you be angry with me Kane? Will you be angry that a man touched me and my minshinii broke? I hope you will understand when I see you tomorrow that I cannot be what my family wants me to be, but I can’t be what I want to be either. Will you tell me what I can be?


I fingered the beads around my waist…blue.

‘We can meet at Sappho, the Greek restaurant downtown,’ I had told her. I dressed slowly and looked in the mirror one last time. I could see the outline of the big blue beads through my skirt. I turned out the light and as I walked out of the room, the flame inside me turned on. Kanee ne.


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