Day 20 – Day of Reckoning

a terrible and memorable reckoning occurred last nite…i am not sure which is more painful – re-remembering the memory of this incident or the incident itself…

the same road that i had walked along to and from the lodging would be the site of the incident…

R rode ALL THE WAY back to the lodging with me and then told me he had some time before his ‘Doctor’s Appointment’…i was suspicious of his intentions and questioned if he had an appointment …he called someone and spoke in Fanti, then told me the Doctor was running late and he was to call back…he then tried to follow me back to my room and i told him i didn’t feel like hanging out…he walked away and headed out of the lodging’s gateway and onto the main road…i headed back to the room and there was a gentleman there working on my toilet [in hindsight this was a true BLESSING]…R called the room and told me he felt i had disrespected and shamed him in front of the lodging staff…i asked him where he was and then told him i would like to talk to him about this..he came BACK to the lodge and entered my room..he then proceeded to tell me that he wanted to connect with me in a way i was not interested in connecting ..i refused and he told me i was USING HIM…that he spent all that time with me and i didn’t do anything for him – didn’t buy him anything, or dash him something…i reminded him that i had bought something from his booth at Adisadel and THEN bought the jeans to help him out when he had lost his money…that wasn’t enough for him, he wanted more…he then told me he could get me arrested, that the police would come and get me, under a simple suspicion, and extort me for money…there would be nothing i could do…i said what do you want from me? MONEY? he didn’t respond but pulled in closer to me to whisper something i could not understand…fortunately the gentleman working on the toilet would, intermittently, come in and out of the room; as he kept getting tools or supplies…

R proceeded to pull out his phone ( a phone i thought he said he had lost in the bus accident that gave him the bump on the forehead) and say: ‘YOU DON’T BELIEVE ME?”
i sat on my bed, incredulous, and told him i didn’t want any trouble, that i thought we were ‘friends’ and that there must be some kind of miscommunication going on….i flashback to the earlier arguement at ACC and searched for clues as to what may have lead to this…did he and his friend try and set me up? i dismissed this thought and looked him in the eyes and said WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS?

he repeated YOU DON’T BELIEVE ME! and then made some call…i said FINE and told him to leave.. i then reached for the phone and rang the front desk…he said he would go but that he had called the police and they would come for me…..i was nervous about his presence but not convinced he would actually call the police..he left my room and i, rattled by this intense interaction, laid on my bed for a moment…

i said to myself ‘i am not going to let him get to me’…i mean i didn’t ANYTHING right?
not wanting to re-live another ‘bad food moment’ with the Lodging’s Chef, i decided to go out and get something from MR. BIG’s …i told Br (lodging staff) that i would be back in about a half-hour and proceeded down the road ….

just outside the gate was R! i kept on walking and he caught up with me and made a phone call…i then heard him saying something in Fanti and then, in English,: “yeah he is wearing jeans, a white cap and has a black bag”…i became aware of the fact that he may ACTUALLY BE TALKING TO POLICE…but i was still not convinced THE POLICE would do anything…JUST IN CASE i darted to the local internet cafe and sent a quick cryptic email to a friend of mine in the states; telling her to look for me to contact her in the next day…that something was going on …that i might need help…all the while i am online R is standing by the front door of the business; speaking with someone and peering intensely at me…

i stayed online for a little bit longer…not really doing anything but just staring at the computer screen, hoping that R would just go away and i could grab some food and head back to the hotel…

i hesitantly got up to pay for my time on the computer and noticed that R had left…slightly relieved i headed to Mr Big’s …i would be leaving tomorrow (day 20 – today’s writing) and so i would just grab this food and go CHILL back at the lodge…i still cautiously looked behind and around me in case R was following me…even though this was ACCRA and ‘urban’, it could still get dark in areas and the road i would head back onto get to the lodging had alot of dark and tree-covered areas…

By now, the staff at Mr Big had come to consider me a ‘regular’ and so i got the ‘usual’ festiva (a quiche-like pie with fish and potatoe) and, of course, RICE…

i decided to follow a different pathway back to the lodging; convinced that R was up to something, but still not believing he had called the police…

i placed my white knit hat in the black bag that also contained my journal and important papers for travel…in my left hand was the take-out…for the first time i took in a chop bar that was the intersection that would lead to the lodge…i was turning right underneath a tree when a taxi swerved an indentation in the road and abruptly stopped slightly to the left of me…two brothers came out and as i continued on the road, one of them approached me reaching out his hand…i didn’t know if he was trying to greet me or grab me so i moved away from me…his soft-spoken words barely audible, he then lunged for my arm…i tugged away and shifted to my left in the direction of the chop bar…the other brother appeared in front of me to dissuade me from going any further…

at that moment i felt trapped…the plastic yellow sandals i was wearing somehow disappeared from my feet as i scrambled to get away from the brother holding onto me…i felt the sensation of hitting the earth and rising back up; a slight tug was now forcing me to focus in the direction of the other brother now pulling me towards the taxi…there i see R standing by the taxi, coming towards me…i FREAKED…i hear one of the brothers – the taller one- yell that he was police and that i was going to go with them! i was like HELL NO! i didn’t see any badge that would suggest anything official and they were’nt sporting the blue uniforms i was accustomed to seeing the police wear…. i began to pull out the I AM AMERICAN card and repeatedly kept yelling that til i felt like i was being taken back to the ground…i scrambled and tussled with them as i dragged myself inside the chop bar….CHAOS erupted as we knocked over a couple of tables …this ALERTED the guests of the bar to what was going on and as i was being dragged out of the bar, they followed me onto the dirt road…i’m still screaming AMERICAN and both of the supposed policemen had me on either side of my waist; attempting to shove me into the taxi’s back seat…i felt like if i let them get me into this taxi THAT WOULD BE IT! they could take me somewhere and ‘off me’! R is circling around them as they continue to sandwich me into the taxi…i believe i hear him saying “it’s going to be ALRIGHT, don’t resist”….the crowd by now had grown to include some chop bar guests and residents from the nearby tower …i started to calm down and try to listen to what one of the ‘plainsclothed policeman’ was trying to say…he finally was able to tell me that i was under suspect for FRAUD and he was trying to take me to the local police station where i would be questioned…in deep low breaths i finally got out the words..OK…i told him i didn’t know who he was and i was just going back to my lodging…”it’s just up the road’.. i tried to convince him to walk with me to the lodge and they would vouch for me I AM AMERICAN i don’t know what is going on…he replied that “this gentleman says you did something to him and that you owe him some money”; pointing to R….by now this policeman was only holding me by the waist of my jeans and i felt that he was at least going to listen to me without forcing me to go ANYWHERE…i again stated that i am staying at the ___ lodge and ALL my papers and passport are there..PLEASE PLEASE take me to the lodge!

R began to circle among the crowd and ALERT THEM of what i had supposedly done! He told them i had forced him to have SEX WITH HIM! that i was HOMOSEXUAL and to not BELIEVE A WORD I WAS SAYING! this made certain peeps back away and yell things which i could not understand – because it was in FANTI or another local language- but got the sense that it WAS DEGRADING!…O LORD i screamed as i felt another push to get me in the back seat of the taxi and then what felt like more than one arm, hand, fist, reaching towards me, hitting me or thrusting me…i could not make out what exactly happening as we shifted from the glow of the chop bar lights to the darkness surrounding it…it was like the crowd, or at least some of them, were joining in trying to force me to into the TAXI!

a large brother pushed through the crowd towards the taller policeman who would not let up on his grip of me…they exchange some words and i hear a tail bit of English…i think i hear the large brother tell the policeman that he is a FIREMAN and inquired as to what was going on…the policeman then pulled out a badge and tell him something about me ….the Fireman responded by pulling out his badge and asking what EXACTLY was the other gentleman(R) complaint? this banter continued for a few more seconds or minutes, i don’t know,…but only seemed to lead the policeman to wanting to push me back towards the taxi…the taller policeman, who had taken charge of the situation, refused to let me go back to the lodging…in the midst of the crowd i see an older gentleman who worked at the lodge as security..i beckoned to him and he came through the crowd and proceeded to vouch for me; telling them that i was a good guy and did indeed stay at the lodge and asked what was going on?…he then exchanged some words in Fanti with the taller policeman…in ENGLISH i then heard that the policeman had showed me his badge and tried to greet me, but I REFUSED and tried to RUN…I DIDN’T KNOW he was a policeman! i countered and BEGGED to be escorted back to the lodge WHERE ALL THIS WOULD BE CLEARED UP! the security/older gentleman told the policeman he would walk with me back to the lodge as well…the policeman was not going to let that happen and he told the security/older gent to step away unless “he too wanted to be arrested!” i screamed to the security gent NOT TO GO…or at least to PLEASE TELL THEM WHAT IS GOING ON!

O GOD i released as i saw the security man back away from us and move through the crowd..he was my only connection to someone familiar and seemingly my only hope for getting out of this madness…strangely enough i had not let go of either of my bags; even through the falling to the floor and the struggles, i had held onto those bags FOR DEAR LIFE!

finally i had come to understand that the FIREMEN had contacted the local police station and that UNIFORMED POLICEMEN would arrive to escort me to the station…this allowed me to gather my senses and calmly speak with the plainsclothe policeman…he had also calmed down but would not lose grip of my jeans…it was a grip from the back of the waist that cinched up the jeans to create a very uncomfortable sensation in my crotch! nevertheless i calmed down and was now able to see UNIFORMED POLICEMAN heading in our direction…i also noted that the FIREMAN had brought his truck to the front of the chop bar and was going to drive me, the UNIFORMED and PLAINSCLOTHED policeman to the station…a woman from the crowd reassuringly told me to ‘”GO WITH THEM” ….exhausted and worn down i agreed to go and VERY VERY SLOWLY walked to the truck…absentmindedly i asked to be able to get my sandals – which had been scattered during the struggle along the side of the chop bar – and EVEN MORE SLOWLY slipped them on….the fireman had a pick-up truck and i was placed in the front seat in between the UNIFORMED AND TALLER PLAINSCLOTHED policemen, while R and the other plainsclothed policeman sat in the back… a young gentleman that i had not really noticed before ALSO jumped in the back….FEAR leaped back into my heart as i imagined being taken to some dark place and shot…i had no idea WHERE this local station was to be and, even though the uniforms made it look more OFFICIAL, didn’t R tell them i had forced myself onto him sexually? i mean R had told the people that i WAS HOMOSEXUAL…i had heard that homosexuality was illegal in Ghana and that to be found of such an immoral violation could mean severe punishment..maybe they knew R…and even if they didn’t, maybe they would try to extort me for money….i also imagined that possibly these brothers may ‘take the law into their own hands!’ and ‘deal’ with me…. gay people, ALL OVER THE WORLD, whether confirmed to be or simply suspected, had been beaten, raped, imprisoned and killed before…WHY NOT NOW!?!

Perhaps PARANOIA engulfed me in these thoughts….it didn’t matter, because by the time i had reached the thought of ‘reconciling myself with my creator’, i could see what resembled a police station! i hoped that this could be resolved before my flight in the morning….i prayed that they would not put me in a jail cell or extort money…i resoluted that i would give them anything to allow me to be free to go!

i was led behind the front desk and told to sit on a bench, while they spoke to R and had him write something in a sort-of ledger…from my vantage point i could see, to my right, a barred door that most likely led to the cells….in front of me rifles laid precariously behind the desk…the taller policeman then came towards me and began to explain the procedure of questioning me…he told me that what had happened earlier was unnecessary, that he was only asking me to come to the station for questioning…i then convinced him that i DID NOT KNOW who he was and since he did not wear a UNIFORM , thought that R might have gotten someone to harm me…he went back to the desk, and from time to time, he and a couple of others (not one uniformed) would question me about ‘who i was’ , ‘what kind of interaction did i have with the other guy’, ‘where i was from’…in between these questions i tried to write in my journal what EXACTLY was going on and who i would need to contact…i didn’t have a CELL PHONE and didn’t know if i would be allowed to make a phone call…every now and then i would also see a uniformed policeman stare at me as he went to pick up a rifle from the back of the desk; there were no SMILES…

dazed, i just sat on the bench for maybe an hour….again trying to write and lost in thoughts that i could not decipher…moving into the recesses of my mind to figure out WHAT I COULD HAVE DONE DIFFERENTLY TO CHANGE MY CURRENT SITUATION… i witnessed a gentleman being escorted through the barred door and led to a cell…i resolved that i too would be led though that door…

more time passed…i tried to find a clock and found one positioned on the side wall to my left…i believed it said 9pm…i remember that when i left the restaurant it was 6:45pm…so it had been TWO hours that i had been inside this ordeal…FINALLY the taller policeman returned to me and asked more detailed questions…i then noticed the young gentleman who had jumped into the back of the truck that took us here…he was looking at me..the taller policeman asked where i had met R? i told him CAPE COAST at PANAFEST..that he and another gentleman were selling clothes there…he asked if i told R to follow me to ACCRA? i said NO…that R told me he was from ACCRA, had took me to his place, just yesterday, to get measured by his brother for an outfit…an outfit he was going to dash me for my birthday…i then looked down at my jeans and revealed that i had gotten THESE JEANS FROM R, that i had bought them from him…the taller policeman released a sigh and said…”I BELIEVE YOU” …i exhaled and proceeded to ask EXACTLY WHAT R’S COMPLAINT WAS…he told me that R had told them that at the lodge room ” i GRABBED HIM AND FORCED HIM TO HAVE ANAL INTERCOURSE”….i responded that NOTHING LIKE THAT HAD OCCURRED…that there was staff at the lodging who could vouch for that AND that there was someone present WORKING ON MY TOILET and DIDN’T FINISH WORKING until AFTER R had left….He believed me..he then told me that he had ALREADY caught R in a LIE and that SOMEONE HAD COME FORWARD TO ATTEST TO THE TRUTH OF THE MATTER…that ‘someone’ was the young gentleman who had accompanied us to the station..NOW i had thought that this young guy was there to validate R’s complaint, but in fact, he had come to help ME…i HAD NO IDEA who this young man was, BUT I WAS INDEED GRATEFUL.. ‘brotherhood’ came to my mind as i looked to the young man…

the taller policeman told me to HOLD ON…he left and spoke with someone and then shortly returned…he then said BE PATIENT and that he would ESCORT ME BACK TO THE LODGE as soon as he finished up something…i didn’t know WHAT he had to finish up, but i was truly glad to feel like this was coming to a close and that i would be able to get up out of here – both the station and GHANA…

AGAIN the taller policeman returned and sat down next to me…he seemed more relaxed and even ‘friendly’….he was convinced by my answers to the questions that i was NOT GUILTY OF ANY SUCH ILLEGAL ACTIVITY…he was THOROUGHLY convinced that R was LYING and that to falsely make a complaint was not to be tolerated; falsely accuse a BROTHER FROM ANOTHER COUNTRY – ESPECIALLY THE US was even worse than the supposed illegal action i was accused of…he further told me that the FIREMAN had reported to the station that the protocol of ‘taking me in’ was mishandled and that i was mistreated…the taller policeman then looked me in the eyes and ask if he had mistreated me? as clearly as i could, i told him that i believed that he did what he thought was best for the situation and that, due to his dress, i ONLY refused because i was not from GHANA and did not understand the particular local protocol…maybe not in those exact words, but he understood that i was basically saying and smiled…he professed that R might have thought that he(the police) would try to get some MONEY from me and possibly share it with him…i simply just nodded for i KNEW that i WOULD NOT BE “OK” till i was safely in my bed in NEW YORK….

The taller policeman walked over to R and brought him towards me…he then TOLD R to SIT and asked me to STAND…i am not sure if R knew what was going on, but i DIDN’T CARE…i knew i was ready to be up out of there! i was then escorted by the taller policeman, a uniformed policeman and the young gent who had attested to my innocence…i found out during the walk back to the lodge, that he had been sitting at the lodge when i left for food…i wanted to say more to him to THANK HIM but i was SPENT and just kept on walking…

passing the chop bar i take notice of ALL OF ITS DETAILS as if its image would be forever etched in my mind…approaching the LODGE we were met with the CHEF who ALSO had been inside the CHOP BAR when the incident occurred…he was glad to see that i was OK and proceeded to again verify who i was and that i had done NOTHING WRONG…the taller policeman conceded that that was true and that they were only escorting back to the lodge and would then hand me over to the owner/director and report what had happened…
the DIRECTOR was not there, only Br and the security man who had witnessed the incident…i was SO GLAD to see both of them…Br had been alerted by the security man and the chef and contacted the DIRECTOR who was very far away, BUT ON HIS WAY…Br and the security man walked me to my door, unlocked it for me, and cautioned me to lock it! I SURE DID! they went back to the reception area and spoke with the police…i think i just STOOD in place and didn’t move until a KNOCK on my door jolted me out this stupor…i opened the door and BR proceeded to tell me that i should offer some money to the policeman for escorting me back to the lodge and to THANK HIM…i was like KOOL…grabbed whatever money i could find, showed it to BR, and then went back to the reception area…money given, handshakes exchanged, THANK YOU’S worded, i headed back to my room…somewhere in the midst of that final exchange with the taller policeman, he revealed how bad he felt about what had happened and could see in my eyes that i was an honest guy…he said “it was enough to make him cry…”

now i am back to this day, this morning…having had no sleep i floated through: packing; showering; eating breakfast(no i didn’t eat breakfast); saying my ‘good-byes’ and ‘thank-you’s’ to the staff[i gave Br the last of the three I LOVE NEW YORK t-shirts]; telling J(the contact person for the travel agency in ACCRA that collaborated with my US travel advisor) what went on last nite; getting driven to the AIRPORT by B(the driver who had taken me to and from CAPE COAST); boarding the plane; and FINALLY, arriving back in NY, in my BED where i would attempt to gather my thoughts and recount these 21 days…

D UNDERBELLY Home page

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Author: Barak adé Soleil

creative practitioner, independent consultant and curator. making dance, performance art and theatre. working within community.

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