Back when we couldn’t afford a decoder, I used to go to drinking spots and cinemas to watch football and boxing on important match or fight days with my dad.
One of those days, the person collecting the money didn’t see me so didn’t collect my money but collected my dad’s. On our way home after the match, my dad asked me whether I paid (because he couldn’t remember paying for me) and I said, “No, he didn’t see me”. He said, “So you watch the match for free? No, that’s not good, let’s go back and pay”. We both walked back to pay the guy. My dad is a good guy like that.
Growing up in the cosmopolitan suburb of Bantama in Kumasi, I had all sort of friends, one was an armed robber. My dad, a policeman at the time, arrested him. When he got out, he told me, “Boy, your dad is a good man, try to be like him”. The dude started attending church because of how my dad treated him in cells. That’s how good my dad was.
I wanted to compliment him one day, after he took me to a meeting and I watch how he conducted himself. So I told him, “I learn more from watching you do what you do than from what you tell me”. My dad misinterpreted that to mean I don’t listen to his advice. He didn’t tell me that’s how he understood it and we both smiled like all is well.
Few days later, my stepmom was dissing me for something I’ve done wrong and said, “Why are you so stubborn? Do you ever listen when we talk to you?” My dad replied that I’ve told him I didn’t listen to what they tell me. I was broken-hearted. That was one of the many occasions my words have been misinterpreted by the person I trusted the most (because I didn’t have my mom around). Everybody else thought I was weird but I wasn’t bothered. When my dad misread me, like other people, it broke my heart. That was the day I started living like Pac – me against the world. I became very paranoid. When my stepmom abuse me, there was no one to talk to. I didn’t open up to anyone anymore. I became my best friend, my coach, my cheerleader and my only critic.
Everyone in the world was up against me in my mind. When you are hurt and scared and you have no one to talk to, you find other ways to express yourself. Some resolve to violence, drugs, alcohol and other vices. I resolved to isolation. I talked less and less to more and more people. My best friends were books, music and pornography. I was happiest when I was alone with my three best friends. I bought a pistol at a point but I couldn’t get bullets and I didn’t know who to kill so I got rid of it.
When I was in SHS 1, my family went to Ada for Christmas. I got the chance to see my mum for a few minutes but my mum is also a very quiet woman, so didn’t talk much to me. I interpreted that to mean, she wasn’t feeling me. The day we were leaving, I went to her shop and she wasn’t around. We called her several times and she said she wasn’t in town. She was in Accra buying things for her shop. “She chose her shop over me? This woman doesn’t love me too.”
My family left Ada back to Kumasi. When school reopened, instead going to the Kwahu Ridge where my school was, I went back to Ada. My mum gave me provisions, money and put me on a bus back to school. That day, one senior was bullying me like they did when you’re in Form 1 and he said something about no one wanting to be my friend and it hit me harder than the bed-sticks he was hitting me with. I run out and was about to throw myself down from the top of the two-storey dormitory building but one Ekow Paintsil caught me before I jumped. My suicide attempt was a failure just like the rest of my life.
It was crazy when after school; I had to live with my mom. It took a while to bond with her. I used to dread Mothers’ Day. I didn’t see why people made a big fuss about it. When I finally bonded with my mom, all the pain and resentment I felt from my years of “abandonment” healed gradually.
While other always called be weird and made me feel bad about being different, she’ll tell me, “Son, when I gave birth to you, you were different from other kids so I knew you won’t fit in. You’ll always stand out and be someone great”. When I share my dreams with other people, they’ll tell get how impossible and crazy they are, my mom just says, “I don’t get it, but I trust you, go for it”. A mother is a child’s first taste of unconditional love and support. That goes a long way to build self-confidence. Reconnecting with my mom restored my lost confidence.
My mom tells me how life was when she was 19 and had me, how her whole world was shattered when she got pregnant for a broke boy who wasn’t of the same faith (her family is Islamic, while my dad is Christian) helps me to understand myself and appreciate my own uniqueness. Seeing her rise above that so start a provisional shop on a table and growing it to the biggest supermarket in Ada makes me know everything is possible with faith, focus, consistence and persistence.
As an artist, knowing my mom loves the art too gives me the confidence to experiment with my art. We learn from each other, each day. She introduced me to Judy Broucher’s music and I introduced her to hip hop. Now her ringtone is Lil Wayne’s Right Above It. This kind of love has helped me and made it easy for me to love and accept other people into my life.
Nenebi is a poet, songwriter and storyteller. His mixtape, A B.I.B.L.E of Things We Do, has been out online for free downloading since September 21st, 2014. His debut album, See Me Naked, is scheduled for a September 21st, 2015 release. Follow him on twitter @HisNeneness or on Facebook, “Ur Nenebi”.