Now I Know (1)

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ANITA sat at the corner of Benson and Carey Street with her face reduced to a caricature of shame and disappointment. It had been four months now since she had been coming to sit at the corner, pleading with pedestrians for little crumbs to move on.  But if anyone who cared to know why she was coming to sit at the corner the last several months, it would have been clear that she was not an ordinary beggar. Her distinctive features would show that she was a former beauty who had hit rock-bottom and now counting her days.

 Though her clothes were tattered about her, there were some elements that the careful observer could have discerned to indicate she was one once upon the time well-bred with a promising future. Now her hair had lost its lively texture, and evidently months of incessant tears about her condition had reduced her to a shameless picture of disappointment. Anita was aware of the tragic life or what life had reduced her once wonderful life to, but did she care that she was that character whose life story had been the talk of the community? Her life had been on the radio airwaves and many mothers had used her condition to teach their teenage daughters about how unpredictable life could be for a woman.

  As the midday traffic gathered pace, she turned to look at the clutches beside her, and the idea that she was now walking by their support was not that encouraging but she had no choice. It was not a life she had dreamed about. But she knew that she would not get around easily without them.

 Several years ago, that was when she was the darling of many of the men in Monrovia; she was, as many people would say, the eye and dream of any eligible bachelor. But at age twenty six, when she considered that the tragic motor accident had caused her right leg to be amputated and a result compelling her many lovers to abandon her; when she now had to beg for food, she could only blame herself.   

  Anita was in such personal reverie, when an echo of familiar footsteps pounded towards her. She lifted her head and in a teary outburst of distress stared at the only friend that kept coming to console, Yassa Johnson.

  With a painful smile on her face, Yassa, with a bag under her armpit, ambled towards her friend, ignoring the increasing number of women and some men who were congregating to witness her friend’s shame.

  “What are they doing here?” was the first question that came from Yassa, sweeping her head towards the crowd.  Anita responded with a smile, saying inaudibly said, “They have been coming when they knew that I have been coming here.” True, many of the people might have heard about her and knew that she was the young lady whose life had hit rock bottom and was wasting away.

 “Cheer up, sister,” Yassa said, in the most difficult voice, and turning to the crowd, pleaded, “It’s enough for her please go away from here.” The women in the crowd gave up a shocking reaction, and one said, “Men are dangerous and women must be careful.”

  Yassa only smiled and shook her head.

Anita saw the pain in her friend’s tear-filled face, and throwing her head towards the crowd, said faintly, “I wish I had listened to you, Yassa.” That emotional response was heart rendering, for Yassa might have considered her friend’s state of health, and wasting away at the time she was supposed to have her life ahead of her.

Considering the embarrassing situation, Yassa moved to help Anita get onto her clutches and to move her away from the sorry scene. As the two hobbled away from the crowd, Anita began to cry. If Yassa had paid more attention to the facial expressions of the bystanders, mostly at the women, she would have found sympathy and support there. For it could be true that human nature being effectual, there was a high possibility that those who had congregated to watch the agony of a young woman who had been involved with men and was reported to be begging for money, had an intriguing lesson for all.

  “Please stop these tears,” Yassa said, in a voice that indicated her own sense of pain. “They are tearing my heart apart.” Having been friends from childhood, and having grown up together, Yassa could not dismiss her friend’s agony, for she was plainly aware of how her friend allowed the love for what money could buy and men’s admiration to ruin her life. Though not as beautiful as Anita, she always found it difficult to warn her friend about the number of lovers that came across her at the time. It was not even true that because men admired her, Anita just went for what all they presented to her. Anita was a strong-willed kind of woman. Being the image of her late mother, she drew many a man’s attention which apparently caused numerous temptations that might have caused her present predicament. Though police investigators reported her tragic accident as mechanical error, almost all of her lovers had abandoned her, which indicated to many that someone might have plotted the accident that caused one of her legs to be amputated, even more so when Anita was the only woman to have suffered severely, despite the presence of three others.

 It was meant to shame her, and destroy her.

  Presently, Anita responded to her friend’s remark with a bitter smile, saying, “Imagine how you are feeling about me and I’m going through all these months after the accident.”

 “But,” Yassa said, “You must cheer up.”

 “Can I?” Anita said, leaving the question in the air. “I never thought it would end like this.” Yassa could not reply, and stared at her friend in the face.

  Away from the prying eyes of bystanders, Anita told her friend, “Now I know what you always told me,” in which her friend gave a deep sigh.

 Helping her adjust her sitting position, just across from a Scratch Card Booth, Yassa’s eyes filled with tears, and she turned away to wipe them.

 “Don’t let my suffering go in vain,” Anita told her friend, “where are those men who used to harass me, day and night?”

  Yassa could not answer the question, but turned her face away from her friend.

 “Now I know,” Anita repeated, as the echoes of running vehicles moved unconcerned across Benson and Lynch Street.

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