The X Page: A Storytelling Workshop

When No One Is Looking

by Eunice Owusu-Amoah


I…may have done something…dumb.

I am, maybe, nine, ten. I stand in the corner of the bedroom I share with my three older sisters. The fire…is small, so I am only slightly alarmed. I lit the piece of paper and dropped it on the ground. I am no longer a lighter of fires on little matchsticks quickly put out in fear. Now I am a lighter of pieces of paper…just to see.

The small fire grows. In the sudden perceived darkness of my surroundings, lit up by the scarlet at my feet, I am abruptly aware of my stupidity.

I pick up a little plastic cup of water from the bedroom table and dump it on the fire. But the fire grows bigger, and I know I am doomed. Why has my curiosity led to this? Then, the flames calm and disappear. Never to be mentioned. But they say something about the word, ‘never’.

Many years later, I will mention this hazy, ‘created a fire in our bedroom’ memory to the sister preceding me. She will say, “Oh yeah, back then we used to light matchsticks and pieces of paper.” “We?” I will exclaim, amazed by how she’d named my exact tools and materials before I mentioned them! She will clarify that she had simply been doing it before me and had learnt it from the sisters before her. It is wonderful to know they shared my childlike stupidity.

When no one is looking, I do what I want.

I am, maybe, eleven, twelve. In my classroom, I sit in the sun’s white rays. It is break time and only I remain, a storybook beneath my desk. The best time to read books is in dramatic sunlight.

Plus, I am not reading this story over anyone’s shoulder, nor rushing to finish so they can flip the page. I take a slow-motion bite of my overly sweet Super2 biscuit and a relaxed, swirling, sip of my Pineapple Kalyppo juice box. The laughter, chatter and play outside…do not exist.

When the English teacher enters and comments that I must be a fast reader; I’d made much progress from yesterday, I laugh and answer that I am not a fast reader. I respond that, last night, I read until five a.m. before waking for school at six a.m. This is true, but I do not tell her that throughout her class and many others, the book also remains open beneath my desk.

Others do this too, but my book has not been confiscated yet. Probably because I hide mine better.

Yes, it is not all danger and mayhem. I am like every other child: curious.

I am, maybe, eight, nine, and I’m in my parents’ usually locked bedroom. I sit on the plush blue toilet seat cover of their bathroom. They are not home yet. As I rot on the seat with my mum’s Samsung Galaxy tablet, the device and I sink into the dim blue darkness of night. You know how it is: when you sit on your business long enough, you don’t smell anything anymore.

I watch Mr. Bean dance his animated little dance. I watch movies with characters and storylines strangely similar to The Lion King.

When I hear the bedroom door open, I flush the toilet, even though I flushed long ago. I stroll out, give a quick “hi”, and slip the tablet back on my mum’s side table.

They say, “She’s a quiet one,” but they say other things about the quiet ones: Words like dangerous and troublemaker.

I am, maybe, ten, eleven. I stand before my mother, the yellow living-room couch pulled back, and the half-eaten fufu hidden behind it revealed for all to see. Against the creamy wall, the fufu is a sickly pale colour. Luckily there is no smell. When my mother moulded the mashed plantain and cassava into a ball, I said, quite clearly, I thought, “It’s too big.”

She chose to ignore me.

This is what happens when you’re a child who ‘doesn’t eat’. They say, “Eii, won’t you eat? Don’t you eat? So, you won’t eat? Ahh, you don’t eat ehh?” So, when my family left me alone at the dining table with my unfinished food, I looked to the living room a few steps to my right…

Now that I have been caught, I feel two things. First, ashamed; I lacked the foresight to see beyond, ‘where can I hide it?’ Second, proud; even I had forgotten I put the fufu there! Who else but me would have thought of such a great hiding spot? Some years later, not far from this great hiding spot the carcass of a mouse will be found. Through no fault of mine, of course, because I will choose a new hiding place after getting caught; the uncared-for garden at the back of the house.

This younger Eunice is curious. Curious about the spaces she can create just for herself, the stories she can discover, the problems she can cause and the problems she can solve. I wonder…is she so different now?