Brach and Ara, A Short Story By Ghanaian Writer, Ewoenam Kukah
“This is the kitchen”, I say. You put your bag on a chair and lean against the counter as I get the avocados out of my bag and ask you to wash your hands and chop the vegetables. “Guacamole?” you ask. “What exactly is it”. I tell you to wait and see. The fancy African. That’s what you call me, I remember.
My younger brother comes into the kitchen and I introduce you to him as he and I do our age-long game of who is taller. He just turned eighteen and has gotten taller than me – almost- I laughingly remind him. You tell me he is taller and I give you my pretend scowl. “This is Doctor Kay”, I tell him. He’ll be staying with us for a few days”. Shyly, he comes forward to shake your hand but you offer your wrist instead.
“She has ordered me to wash my hands and chop the veggies. I have to keep my hands clean”, you explain. Baby brother tells you you’re welcome and leaves the kitchen. I mash the avocado with a boiled egg and the veggies as you come up behind me, singing. “Osibisa?” I ask, as you nod your head and smile sweetly.
I turn to give you a mouthful of guacamole and you hold my hand stare at it. “Your fingers are unusually long” you say. I smile as I remember how awkward it had been for my teenage self, having hands that were too big and long, and shoe sizes bigger than my mums. I grin as I remember that guy in my university who tried to surprise me with shoes although I’d insisted a book was perfect when he asked for gift ideas. He’d ended up buying three pairs of shoes which were four sizes too small. He told me he’d described my weight and height to the salesperson and they gave him those shoes. My petite best friend ultimately got all the shoes.
I smile and say to you, “I’m a puzzle” I say. “I’m a woman, phenomenally.” You swallow the guacamole and tell me about a medical condition called arachnodactyly. I tell you to pause. “Arachno – that means spider right? I read it in a Greek mythology about a lady who entered a weaving competition with a goddess and the goddess turned her into a spider. She was called Arachne, I think.” You nod and tell me how impressed you are with all I have read and how good my memory is. I read this story as a ten-year-old.
“And dactyly- dactyly- I should know this – I’ve seen it somewhere. Eerrm… I think it has something to do with the digits- fingers and toes.” You nod and kiss my hands. “Yes!” It’s a jubilant cry from me. I do a jig, shaking my butts as you raise my hand and I twirl like how I imagine Cindarella did at the ball with the prince.
I tell you how disenchanted I’d become with the fairytales I read as a child. “I mean, Snow White was about to be buried. They all thought she was dead. How creepy is it that the prince just kissed a corpse? And the apple got dislodged and she magically wakes up? And they live happily ever after? Really?” I snort as I slice bread for the guacamole.
It’s been only six months yet I’m so comfortable with you. You tell me how glad you are you had a conference in my city. Phone calls just don’t cut it. I agree. Though you could have stayed at a hotel, I’m glad you’re here in my house. Actually, my great aunt’s house.
We sit down to eat and I observe your hands. They are short and stout. I find that funny and tell you. It’s like our fingers are opposites. You tell me about brachydactyly. I smile. You hasten to add that neither you nor I have those conditions you mentioned. I laugh. “Brachyyyyyy” I tease as you stroke my hair. “Brach. I think that’s a nice name for your hands. You can call my hands Ara”.
It’s two days later. You will be leaving the next day. I sit beside you as your hands cup mine. You kiss every finger. “I will miss you”, I say. “I am already missing you” you whisper into my hair. But you have work. You have patients to care for. You have a calling, as you put it. And I have a great aunt to care for and school to finish. The next morning, I wake up early and come to your room. You are awake and dressed, scribbling in your journal. I slip in the bed beside you. Brach holds Ara.
We doze off, you at the end of the bed near the wall, me near the edge. I could fall off if I went a bit further. We sleep with a gulf between us, as you like to put it. But Brach holds Ara, and Ara feels warm and happy. I wake with a start. Brach is still holding Ara tightly as you snore slightly. I look at the wall clock my great-aunt’s father hung on the wall many years ago. We’ve been asleep for almost an hour. Ara squeezes Brach. “Wake up. You have to catch the bus” I say.
I go with you to the bus station, Ara holds Brach till we get there. It’s almost time to leave. I hug you tightly, Ara presses against your back. Brach squeezes me. “Be good” I say, as the emotions swirl about me, threatening to engulf me with their intensity. How do I feel? I wonder. I want to cry. I want to laugh. I want to scream. I want to dance. I want to follow you. I am nostalgic. I am filled with longing. The emotions swirl faster. I let go as you kiss my cheek and get onto the bus.
What is the word the Portuguese say? Saudade. I remember with a smile. I look up. Brach is waving. Ara waves back.
Ewoenam Kukah is a Ghanaian lawyer who loves cats, books, and way too much chocolate. She makes bead jewelry for fun (and money) and writes under the pen name Amesiamina. Read more of her writings on Medium and Instagram