Tomorrow I’ll Be Twenty: by Tryphena Lizzert Yeboah

Photo credit: Charlie Deets

In this country, a boss should always be bald and have a big belly. My uncle isn’t bald, he hasn’t got a big belly, and you don’t realize, the first time you see him, that he’s the actual boss of a big office in the centre of town. He doesn’t like to admit he’s a big man, but I see how his workers do everything he says. Once I asked him to tell me something God can do that he can’t. “Split the sea into two,’ he said. I don’t believe him. My uncle can do anything.

Today, the town mourns. I press my face to the cold window and peer at the disaster from last night. Mother was right. June is the saddest month of all. The sky is heavy with tears. It cries all day, all night long. I watch as women twice the size of my dreams gather their items from the ruins. There’s a broken crate of ripe tomatoes trapped in a gutter and men with strong arms count to three before pulling it out. The sorrow in the atmosphere is so tangible, I can almost dip my fingers inside.

“The floods hit them real bad this time,” I hear my Uncle say to Ayisha, his beautiful wife. Aunty Ayisha is the loveliest woman on earth. She keeps her hair wrapped in a tight bun and sometimes I want to pull out the pins and watch her kinky hair rise towards the heavens. She says to me “there’s beauty in the simple things too, Kuma. If only you will open your eyes to see.” I don’t understand because the only time my eyes are closed is when I am asleep but I don’t say that to her.

I notice Ayisha doesn’t say anything to Uncle. She barely looks in his direction. They are fighting again. It’s the one prayer God hasn’t answered yet. He kept the moon close to my window when I asked Him to. So perhaps like me, God knows Uncle will fix it – like he does with every other broken thing.

I play with the loose button on my shirt and try to imagine a game of silence where the first to talk loses. But there’s no need because Ayisha has pulled out an old magazine and has her nose buried inside, and Uncle has turned on the radio, tapping lightly on the steering wheel. It’s Reggae and he doesn’t know the words to the song.

In the backseat of the car, I fight back furious tears. I wish Uncle will stop seeing the other women when Ayisha isn’t around. I want him to come home early like he used to. Drink fewer glasses of red wine and go to bed sober for the first time, in a long while. I feel my heart break in my tiny chest because I now know that there are some things Uncle can’t do. Even when God folds His hands and begs him to try.


Tryphena Lizzert Yeboah (@tryphena_yeboah) was born and raised in Ghana. She’s a 21 year old graduate of the Ghana Institute of Journalism, and believes in the power of words to transform and impact hearts. She would love to teach some day and grow to become a public speaker. She lives in Kwabenya with her mom and two brothers.

This story was published as a finalist of the  AFREADA x Africa Writes Competition. Writers had to produce a 500-word story from the first two sentences of Alain Mabanckou’s novel, Tomorrow I’ll Be Twenty. Read the winning story here.

Related country: Ghana, #TIBT

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