The articulated truck forcefully screeched to a stop just some few metres away from Prince. The furious driver got down from his vehicle and reproached Prince for his carelessness. Prince stood there speechless and looked at the driver vaguely.
“Be very careful boy. Next time, you may not be lucky to escape this tragedy”, the angry looking driver said loudly.
He hopped into the articulated truck and drove away. Buried in a heap of embarrassment, Prince moved clumsily as bystanders and passers-by delightfully feasted their eyes with the confrontation the driver had had with him.
When Prince arrived home, his parents were seated in the hall sipping some fruit juice.
“Prince where are you coming from? I’ve been looking for you to come and take your drink but you were nowhere to be found,” Mrs Oppong asked in a more friendly manner. To prevent his agony to expose the mood in which he was, he put up a fake smile and answered, “I didn’t go anywhere. I was just standing outside.” “Doing what?” , Mr Oppong asked further. “Nothing dad, ” Prince answered quickly and left the scene to prevent more arrows of questions from being shot at him.
He entered the bedroom and lay on the bed with his face facing the ceiling. In a short while, Prince repositioned himself with his face buried in the mattress as he wept silently. He felt a gentle tap on his shoulder. He turned and as usual, it was his brother Solomon. Solomon asked why he was weeping but this time around, it was too late for Prince to dry his tears quickly and pretend to be sober. He had no option than to let out a hysteric cry. Solomon became extremely confused as he couldn’t wrap his head around his brother’s infantile attitude.
“Spare me those tears. Why do you sometimes behave like a five year old Child? Look here, you can’t keep crying because of a girl. You don’t need to explain anything to me because the only thing you’re known for is to cry over Sarah. Just stop crying and behave like a boy”, Solomon rebuked him but Prince wouldn’t even turn to look at him. Solomon sat just beside him and continued to lecture him. Finally, Prince turned and looked at his brother saying,
“,I feel the bicuspid and the tricuspid valves have been taken out of my heart. A great abyss has been created in my Heart”. Solomon continued to console and assured him that things would be alright in due time.
Unexpectedly, Mr Oppong barged into the room to request for a pencil from Solomon but didn’t notice what was transpiring between his two sons. Loud silence befell the room when Mr Oppong entered as Solomon and Prince kept looking at each other. Mr Oppong then chipped in a funny comment and laughter was forced out of their mouth with Prince struggling to giggle.
Days rolled into weeks and soon, school reopened. Solomon was to start his final year examination while Prince had to begin a new term without his best friend, Sarah. His joy had been truncated by people who didn’t like him for no reason. Deep within him, he felt he wasn’t a bad boy. The beginning of each day in school gave him the fresh hope of Sarah’s return but such hope was just like a grain of salt in water tank. Sarah’s absence began to affect his mood and relationship with his other school mates. He would neither crack his usual jokes nor talk. His agrressiveness skyrocketed that no one in his class could go near him. His form master noticed the change in his behavior and tried to counsel him but to no avail because Prince lied there was nothing wrong with him for fear of being ridiculed. Prince had trust issues with everybody including his parents but Solomon. Solomon had moved to lodge in campus to enable him prepare well and write his final examination. As a result, Prince tried as much as possible to keep his emotions under check. His mother, Mrs Oppong was quick to give presumptive conclusions without considering the emotional stand of children. As a result, telling his mother about his problem was like submerging himself voluntarily under emotional quicksand. Due to the lack of rapport between himself and his father, Prince never thought of letting the cat out of the bag. Consequently, the only way was to imprison all his thoughts in his mind.
His academic performance began to take a nosedive. He was no longer among the best students in class. While lessons were in session, he would create a world of fantasy around him. Mrs Oppong became so worried but Oppong wasn’t ready to speak to her due to his past bitter experience with her concerning letting out his personal problems.
One Saturday morning, he decided to move away from home and spend time somewhere. Mr Oppong had traveled to Algiers for a meeting organized by the World Bank and hadn’t returned. In his white lacouste, a pair of khaki trousers and white sneakers to match, he took his guitar and stepped out of the house. He was heading to the favorite garden where he usually spent time with Sarah.On arrival, he sat down and played the guitar.As he played the guitar, he imagined himself having Sarah around him supporting with a sweet voice. For close to ten minutes, Prince was still playing as his eyes were closed with a gentle breeze hovering around him. Immediately after ending the song by pulling the last string of the guitar and still in his world of imagination, he asked, “My dear, do you like the song?” a masculine voice answered, “Oh yes, I just love it”. Prince opened his eyes quickly and saw a grey-beard old man of sixty-five years old. The old man had been sitting beside him for some minutes but Prince didn’t notice him. The reason was that Prince was so much engrossed in what he was doing in his world of optical illusion and reality. The old man requested him to play the guitar once again which he did reluctantly and disappointedly. After playing the guitar, the old man gave him a standing ovation and commended him verbally for his sterling performance. However, Prince still looked very cloudy.
“I can detect from your facial expression and the sound of your voice that you are troubled, my boy. Are you troubled because of a lady?” the old man quizzed.
With a wave of shock written all over his face, Prince also asked, “How did you know sir?” The old man smiled and shifted closer to Prince. Pointing to his grey hair, the old man remarked, “This grey you see is an epitome of wisdom and experience. At my age,I have tasted a bitter sweet life enough to read meanings into people’s source of emotional turmoil “
“You are speaking in parables sir,” Prince stated in a mood of suspense.
The old man then continued to narrate his experience to Prince
“About forty-five years ago, when I was at your age, I used to enjoy myself very well. I used to sit at the very spot you are. I had a best friend whom I looked forward to spending the rest of my life with. She was Grace. I have a guitar like yours which I used to entertain her those days. We would come to this garden almost every weekend to entertain ourselves. We played and danced to the songs we sang coupled with the melodious sound of the guitar. She was all I had in my heart.”
The old man paused, sighed and continued,”Hmmm….one day, just one day, l lost her to the Jaws of death. Unknown to me, she was suffering from cancer but failed to tell me. My last moment with her was a day like this–Saturday. I spotted a note in my guitar, three days after she had been buried. Presumably, that note might have been dropped the exact day we spent here, thus, the day before she passed on. She stated in the note that she was suffering from cancer and that allowing me to know her condition would be a bad idea as my emotional outburst could quicken her death. Her death was the heaviest blow I’d ever received from this earth. I found it hard to move on in life. I used to spend my days at her graveside almost everyday until my parents warned me to desist from that. My parents tried in vain to give me back my happy life. About nine months after her death, I had to accept that my world with her was a fantasy collapse because my utopia was reduced to a mirage. In order to keep my love for her alive, I later decided to pay frequent visits to this garden frequently. Therefore, on her birthday every year, I come here to fantasize my moment with her right here because my fond memories of her is firmly rooted in this garden. Though I no longer feel the pain for losing her, I haven’t forgotten her one bit because she was what every man wanted in life.”
This time around, the old man moved closer to Prince. Placing his right arm around his neck, the old man whispered softly into Prince’s left ear saying,”Don’t worry my boy, if your girl is alive and the love you have for each other is not superficial and you’re meant for each other, then she’s yours forever. Unlike me, my Grace wasn’t alive for me to reunite with her. But as I see you to be a student, concentrate on your studies, make good grades, enter the university or learn a vocation, get a reputable job before you step into marriage with her.”
Prince was relieved. He felt a heavy load on his shoulders had been taken off. He thanked the old man with a half smile.
“I’m Jeremy”, the old man introduced himself as he got up on his feet. Prince also replied by mentioning his name and they shook hands. “Sir, when and where can I see you again?, Prince asked.”Don’t worry my boy, you’ll surely see me when the time comes,” the old man gave a reply, put on his dark spectacles and left.
Feeling thankful, Prince left the garden with smiles written all over his face. For the first time in many months, he had had inner joy and peace. With his guitar strapped at his back, he walked leisurely home. Little did he know that fresh trouble awaited him home. He entered the hall and saw his father. Mr Oppong had arrived from Algiers and was sitting in the hall holding a brown envelope in his right hand and a white sheet at his left hand. He was looking intently into the white sheet with a breath of anger. His mother, Mrs. Herty Oppong, sat beside his father with her arms folded on her chest staring and jerking her knees. Prince greeted his parents but no response came. He then made an attempt to move.
“Hey abranteɛ stand right there,” Mr Oppong ordered as his blood boiled with rage. He continued, “What’s the meaning of this arrant nonsense?, he asked and handed the white sheet over to Prince.”Is this the useless result I sent you to school for?Look at the useless end of term result you’ve brought home. Where did I go wrong as a father? I provide you everything that an adolescent and a student would ever need and is that how you pay me back? with disappointment? with this poor results?” Prince stood there in silence. With a burden of guilt tearing down his conscience into shreds, he quickly turned backwards with the intention to run away from the emotional torture he was being subjected to. Unfortunately, Mr Oppong grabbed the collar of his lacouste and gave him a hefty resounding slap. Mrs Oppong rushed in quickly to save Prince from receiving more of the slaps. Prince got the chance to flee from his father’s grip and entered the bedroom.
Fuming, Mr Oppong began to heap blames on Mrs Oppong. However, the introvert Mrs Oppong decided to put her husband in his right perspective.
“How many times have you been to his school to check on his academic progress and interact with his teachers? You always put work schedules ahead of spending time to talk to your own children so why won’t this happen? You have left virtually everything for me to do concerning having a formidable relationship with the children. Did I bring them into this world alone!?, Mrs Oppong reprimanded.
Mr Oppong reacted to his wife’s accusation saying, “Why are you my wife then? Why are you the woman of the house? Aren’t you suppose to be my helper?” Mr Oppong grabbed his car key from the centre table and stormed out of the hall.
Mrs Oppong left and consoled prince in his room. In a short while, Prince recovered from the issues he had had with his dad a moment earlier. The word of hope the old man gave him was stronger than the ocean of troubles that he came face to face with. From that day, Prince decided to keep a stiff upper lip, stitch the broken pieces of his emotions together and surge forward academically in order to make his father proud. The pain of not having Sarah around him died down slowly but not completely. He always hoped that someday, somehow, their path could meet once again. He put his painful ordeals behind him and his relationship with other mates began to take shape to the admiration and amazement of his form master.
On the day his Mr Oppong received the next academic results of Prince, he was extremely happy. He hugged Prince unexpectedly and said to Solomon,”We are also hoping to see a better result from you.”
The following day was ushered in. It was Saturday morning and the whole house seemed to be very quiet. Prince woke up and realized he had slept for ages. He checked the clock on the wall and it was five minutes to ten o’clock. Solomon wasn’t in the room because he had woken up long ago. Prince got out of bed in his pgyamas and stepped out. Walking on the corridor leading to the hall, he was greeted by absolute silence. He called out Solomon but there was no response. Fear and panic began to prey on him. Walking barefooted, he entered the hall and all of a sudden, there was a chorus loud cheer song:”Happy Birthday to you” three times. Prince was utterly surprised as he placed his right hand on his chest gaping for breath. The hall was decorated with ribbons of different colors, balloons and food and drinks of all kinds on the dining table. In the hall were his parents, Solomon, Reverend Father Fredrick Kwabena Konto three of his classmates and Surprisingly, Jeremy, the old man he had met some weeks ago. Though Prince was happy to see Jeremy, he was at the same time shocked about how the old man got to know his house. They continued singing for Prince until Mr Oppong came forward and requested him to close his eyes which he obliged suspiciously. He was then blindfolded with a ribbon. Standing still and waiting for the surprise in suspense, Prince felt a hand removing the ribbon from his eyes. When the ribbon was finally taken off, he saw Mr and Mrs Hudson(Sarah’s parents) standing before him and blocking his view from the others present. Prince got more confused when he saw them as he stood there looking at them with his eyes and mouth widely opened. Mr and Mrs Oppong then shifted sideways and there stood Sarah. Prince shouted for joy and hugged her as the rest looked on and clapped.
Mr Hudson later apologized to Prince openly for the way he treated him some months ago. He went ahead and confessed to the hearing of everybody that he had sent Sarah faraway to attend a different school in order to cut that link she had with Prince but things became worse for her daughter. His daughter’s performance, just like Prince’s, was abysmal. Later, he would take his daughter to a psychologist where it was revealed and recommended that Sarah’s poor performance had to do with her emotional disposition and needed a stimulus friendship to bring her back on track. That was when Sarah told Mr Hudson how Prince impacted her academic life positively. As his only daughter, Mr Hudson had to do according to what her daughter’s heart desired so much. Therefore, they met Mr and Mrs Oppong in seclusion, discussed and planned the birthday surprise together.
It also came to light that while Mr Oppong was away, Mrs Herty Oppong secretly hired a psychologist in the person of Jeremy to monitor and talk to Prince and help him out of whatever problem he found himself in. However, the Oppong family, except Solomon, knew what Prince was going through but was on campus preparing for his examination.
Jeremy stepped forward holding his over forty year old guitar he had brought along and said:
“Parents are supposed to be their children’s confidants. The moment you break the trust of your child even for once, he or she may never trust you again. Therefore, be their secret bearers and assist them out of their emotional problems in a more pragmatic manner. Do you see this guitar I’m holding? (,He lifted it and rubbed his finger sharply on the strings), it has six strings and each string has its significance to make a fine tune. (He went ahead and listed them) : the first one from the top says that don’t make presumptive conclusions when your children tell you their problems. Instead, have patience and listen to them. Secondly, don’t berate them when they gain the confidence to approach you with their problems. Next, you should be approachable;learn to be as friendly as the cat instead of being a leopard. Moreover, Guide them to build decent relationships with the opposite sex instead of scaring them to back off. What if they decide to do it secretly especially when it’s the indecent type?(He asked a rhetorical question). Also, you must initiate periodic conversations with them and finally, teach them things they should know at their adolescent stage. When all these are practised, there will always be strings of affection between you and your child. These bring about a pleasant Parent- child relationship just like the harmony among the six strings of this guitar”
Jeremy went ahead and inspired and advised the students present. After he had finished speaking, there was a thunderous round of applause for him. Prince went into the bedroom and returned with his guitar. As he played with support from Jeremy’s guitar, Sarah joined with a favorite song to accompany the tune.