If you missed part 1, read it here
“You are his firstborn, you are the one supposed to do this.” One of his aunts was saying.
Yoofi didn’t care much about what was being said, he hated being at the mortuary. There was no waiting area and no chairs to sit, and he was beginning to get dizzy from standing in the sun for too long.
“Manager go ein lunch break,” one of the had hands told them when they arrived. It was eleven in the morning when he said that, and it’s been two hours since. Everyone was tired of waiting. Aunty Maanan pulled out a bottle of gin from her handbag,
“Red,” she called out to the hand who had spoken to them earlier.
“I brought your thing o, I hope you treated my brother well?”
“Oh Madam, we treat am well. Make you no worry” Red responded, eyes glittering with excitement at the gift he had just received.
Yoofi leaned on the wall for support, he looked at the people around him, there were so many people at the mortuary today.
“Thursdays are busy days here -” one of the hands replied when Aunty Maanan asked for the hundredth time when the manager would be back from his lunch break. “- and because manager knows this, he likes to show his krakye powers paa”.
Two hospital attendants in green scrubs were dragging a gurney in. Another body had arrived to be deposited, the sixth one so far.
A young dark woman in a bright yellow dress followed them. She was talking to someone on the phone, crying mostly. It was obvious that she was still in shock, whoever had died was not supposed to be dead.
The normal Yoofi would empathise with her, not this one. This Yoofi had his heart full of his own sadness to deal with, and he wasn’t sure if he had figured out how to do it yet.
Paapa was not supposed to be dead either. Who dies from attempting to be healthy? Maybe he should not have gone jogging, or maybe Yoofi should have gone with him as he had agreed to the night before.
There’s no time now to apportion blame or consider could-have-beens. The doctors said it was a heart attack, nothing could have been done to save Paapa. Now there was a funeral to be planned.
The manager, a short dark old man, wearing oversized tinted glasses and a double breasted grey linen suit that looks like it was borrowed from Kwame Nkrumah’s closet, finally arrives.
“Morning, Morning” He waves briskly as he passes by the small crowd into the office wing of the morgue.
“Af-tah-nooon Manager” Aunty Manaan responded loudly, glancing at her watch and doing very little to conceal her annoyance.
The manager glanced in the direction of Aunt Maanan, paused like he was going to say something, changed his mind and then walked off.
“These so called civil servants are the cause of most of our problems in this country but they are the first to blame the politicians, mtcheew” Aunty Maanan said to no one in particular but she got a lot of hmms and nods in agreement instantly. Multiple discussisons broke out.
“That’s how they killed my mother. She came in because she had a stroke but she fell. I met her on the floor of the ward two days ago. The nurse said she could not lift my mother up because my mother was overweight. She came in because of a stroke last week, she fell two days ago, and today she is dead!” the young lady in yellow said, not bothering to wipe the tears that streamed down her face.
“Hmm Maame due wati, sorry” a man who had made a seat of the tap stand said. “My daughter suffered a similar fate. She was a dialysis patient. Besides the fact that we didn’t have enough money pay for the three sessions a week, there were never enough machines, always a queue. The foul attitude of the staff didn’t help either.”
“We can’t blame them all the time, sometimes it’s the frustration and fatigue that pushes them to behave like that. I like to believe it’s a coping mechanism, they can’t care too much because nothing will change so they bottle it all up until it becomes poison and we all suffer for it”
“Still, that’s not an excuse to keep killing us. They find empathy for their family members don’t they? And when it’s some big man’s relative they are almost angelic. My wife delivered last month, she lost the baby at birth. And lost her life a week later. No one is giving me answers.”
I need to get out of here. Thought Yoofi. I can’t deal with anymore of this.
“Who’s here to identify and collect Joojoe Steel-Dadzie?” Red called out in twi.
“You mean Professor Steel-Dadzie” Aunty Manaan corrected while motioning for Yoofi to step forward.
“Oh Madam, that bi your bro eh? But dead body no dey hia title o. Them all 6ft them go rest. You di3 Manager go see you now” retorted Red
Yoofi was ushered into a big poorly lit room. The air in the room was room was eerily still, and the acrid smell of cheap disinfectants stung his eyes.
There were table like structures made of tiled cement in the centre of the room. On one of them lay the naked body of a man.
Yoofi went closer, he wasn’t afraid, it was as though the all sadness, and the chaos and fatigue from the unending errands that came with planning the funeral had somehow numbed him. He still hadn’t come to terms with Paapa’s death. Still had shed no tears and the funeral was tomorrow.
He glanced at the body.The man seemed much older, the skin on his face looked peeled, like he had died from some sort of accident, and he wore an earring in his left ear. This is not Paapa.
He walked out of the room to his waiting family. Aunt Maanan had opened her arms to hug him but he held her by the arm “The man on the table is not Paapa” he said flatly.
Uncle Kwaku smiled faintly, “People change when they die. You’re still a child, you will learn this as you grow”
“No, the man is not Paapa!” Yoofi said forcefully, traces of anger in his voice.
“It is the grief talking” he replied. “Let me go and see for myself.”
“Oh Awurade! That is not my brother on the table” There was a catch in Uncle Kwaku’s voice. He didn’t even try to hide the tears that welled up in his eyes. Aunty Maanan said men aren’t supposed to cry but he was crying.
“Red!” Aunty Maanan yelled. The veins on her aging face were so tight, they seemed ready to burst. “How can such a mistake be made? Where is my brother? Where have you taken him”
“Madam make you cool down, take patience, Dzibodzi, I go check am give you” He said in the best English he could muster.
Aunty Manaan was not having it, Uncle Kwaku was beside himself with grief. The embalmer, the woman everyone called The Contractor was also upset, she was saying her time had been wasted. She had to be paid more if she was going to work with a frozen body.
Someone started singing one of those mournful dirges, another started wailing. The mortuary manager came out yelling at the staff, and then at the crowd. “We can’t have chaos here. This is my office” He screamed.
Yoofi started to walk away from the commotion. His hands felt numb, there was a dark cloud and a thousand tiny stars where Aunt Maana’s face should be. He tightly shut his eyes, attempting to focus but all he could feel was a pulsating pain in his head which quickly started to pound.
He opened his eyes, there was too much light. He closed them, there was too much noise. He tried to walk away from the commotion but there was a wierd widening distance between his feet and the ground, and he swayed. What is happening to me?
Yoofi woke up to Aunt Maana’s face staring at him from above. He hadn’t noticed her eyes were so sunken with sorrow. He saw spark of relief in them but it was quickly drowned by the grief. His clothes were wet.
“I passed out?”
“Yes my child, you are tired. Uncle Kwaku will take you to the clinic –
“No I want to see Paapa first.”
They brought them in to see Paapa again. This time it was really him, frozen and very unlike the Paapa he knew but it was him. His right hand was up in the air. It reminded Yoofi of the famous Kwame Nkrumah Statue which was made in memory of his famous words: forward ever, backwards never. Why was Paapa’s hands up in the air? It looked like he had tried to lift his right arm while in the freezer, it was frozen like that.
“B3 that bi your popee?” Red asked.
“Now you for go see Manager so say you go carry am go”
“See am for what?”
Yoofi shook his head. The only thing he appreciated was the fact that Paapa was never coming back home but he knew Aunt Maanan would give Red some money for the manager. Bribe, appreciation, whatever name it had for the day, it was just paying for incompetence, for the status quo to remain the same.
Paapa would be so upset if he could see this. He’d lived speaking against such corrupt acts every chance he had. “We have to show that the Ghanaian is capable of living an honest, truly patriotic life”. And yet here he was, unmoving, unable to speak against the illegality. A man can literally not rest in peace; even his dead body has to pay a bribe inorder to be buried.