”Red Means Stop” by Adelaide Asiedu.

The dress is red. Tight. Actually, it’s more than tight, its seams cling to my body. Its red and my brown could easily be the same fabric, but my brown is skin and the red is my dress. Somewhere in between my thigh and my knee, the red gives way once more to my brown. In truth, the mirror reflects more brown than red; perfect. My clock says it’s time to go, and so I do. Through the window, down one ledge, each leg navigates its way  to the grass below. The wall is a walk over, literally. Nobody sees me, except the night. I have no fears. The night may be your foe, but it is my ally, my element. Ma is sleeping, for sure. Da is at work. They do not see me. They never do. Accra is calling. I do not look back.


The light is red. I mean the small one blinking at the base of my laptop. My battery is low. I grab  the charger and plug it in quickly. The light changes from red to green, lighting up my screen, as well as my face, with a smile.

“Hello”. The message pops up from my inbox. “Thought I had lost you there for a minute. We must get back to where we were.” Considering where we were, I should be horrified by this proposition. I should be indignant and insulted. I am nothing but capitulating. I know I am married but…it’s been hopeless from the start. My husband is a broken record and I am tired of trying to fix things. We get back to where we were.

As usual, letters on a screen are no longer enough. We quickly  switch from email to Skype. I wonder why we constantly repeat this ritual. Maybe it’s because we’ve never actually met in person; our only link, our clicks on the internet. Maybe it’s because we are thousands of miles apart, oceans actually. Accra is a dot on the map compared to where he is. Or perhaps it’s because we started that way. If anyone knows about little drops of water, I do. I should be mortified. I should want to see the light go red. But I am not and I do not. I make sure the cable is firmly plugged in. But it’s alright. Nobody sees me. No one ever does. The lights are off in my room. The young lady down the hall must think I am sleeping. The husband is working late. I am doing some work of my own, the personal kind.


The ink on the sign board is red. “Verna’s Place”, it says. I am familiar with the sign board. I am familiar with this place. I am even more familiar with Verna and her girls. She says the one she has for me tonight is one of her best. Now that I am a “premium member” of her less than respectable “establishment”, I have access to “the best”.

Work ended a while ago. But nobody knows that, and they never will. After all, this too is a business of sorts. The two women at home must be sound asleep. Sleep, blessed sleep; my only respite from their constant yapping about wanting this and that, and about how I am an absent husband/father.

Verna leads me upstairs. This is my first time upstairs. I have always only been downstairs. I look forward to what awaits me. We stop at a door. There’s a picture stuck to it. It shows me the backside of the luscious configuration of brown curves that awaits me behind the door. The picture looks vaguely familiar, but only vaguely. Verna smiles, wide. Of course she does. Each upstairs door she opens is another GHC1000 in her bank account. She leaves. I can handle things from here. As the door creaks open, I peek in, expectant. Her head is lowered. I see brown in a red dress. She lifts her eyes seductively. They stay glued to my face and widen as the mouth breaks into a twisted O. The question hangs in the air like a two-way bomb, “Daddy?!”

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