He didn’t want a garden. He couldn’t have been clearer. Nothing lush, soft, or verdant; all the lines clean, etc. (In fact, he didn’t want the things that he associates with gardens, like Fola or the English, on his property, in his sight.) He wanted pebbles, as in the driveway, a wall-to-wall carpet of white pebbles covering the plot like fresh snow around a rectangular pool. With the sun glinting brilliantly off the white and the water, the blazing heat kept at bay by a concrete overhang. This is what he’d sketched in the Beth Israel cafeteria, sipping cheap, lukewarm coffee, stinking of disinfectant and death. A chlorine-blue box on a beach of bleached white. Sterile, square, elemental. An orderly view.
And the life that came with it: getting out of bed every morning, coming to sit in his little sunroom with the paper and a croissant, sipping fresh, expensive coffee served by a butler named Kofi to whom he’d speak in a British accent (somewhat inexplicably),
“That will be all.” All his children sleeping comfortably in the bedroom wing (now the guest bedroom wing), his cook cooking breakfast in the dining wing. And Fola. By far the best part of the view: in her one-piece white bathing suit swimming the last of her morning laps, Afro bejeweled with droplets, rising dripping from the water like Aphrodite from waves (somewhat improbably; she hated getting her hair wet), and waving.
Stick figures on napkin.
She: smiling, dripping, waving.
He: smiling, sipping coffee, waving back.
Instead, he’s come to sit here all these mornings with his paper and his breakfast (poor man’s mocha, four fat triangles of toasted cocoa bread), beset on all sides by the floor-to-ceiling windows and the vision of a carpenter-cum-mystic.
That bloody man.
The carpenter. Now the gardener. Still an enigma. Who built the house in two years working impeccably and alone, smoking hash on the job, rolling blunts during lunchtime, singing prayers of contrition for any harm done to nature; who came to work in swami clothing (saffron, barefoot, hip-slung tool-belt) looking less like a sage than an elderly stripper with his hammer and chisel and bare chiseled thighs; an ancient soul in a younger man’s body with an infant’s eyes in his old man’s face, some seventy-odd-years old with his cataracts and six-pack: who sabotaged the sunroom and denied Kwaku his view. But who understood the vision (simple one-story compound). The only contractor in Accra who would build it.