A lot of people have heard about what goes down at Atemuda after hours. But very few people know the true lives or alter egos if you will, of the folk who hang around this “drinking spot” till morning; or the cocottes who sometimes, literally run at moving cars screaming out licentious words in the hopes having a paid Roman holiday. It’s a regular street by day—the street corners are empty and the famed bar hardly or never plays music out loud; but at night, it becomes home to some of the most vilified people in our society: prostitutes, drunks and homeless folk.
I stepped out of my car and headed to my trunk for a couple of Choices Posters. It was about 9pm, the music was banging and some boys were, well, doing what they came to do: get drunk, play pool, pick some girls up, socialise, you know? I felt like an undercover detective; I was on a mission, yet without a plan and with a friend who was waiting for my order before making a move with the Choices Posters we had.
“Chale are you sure about this,” my friend said. “These people didn’t come here to listen to a message about choices or to buy a poster for that matter.” The doubt was setting in; and we stuck out like sore thumbs: we neither went into the pub nor spoke to the cocottes who paraded the purlieu of the pub. We needed a divine plan, and we had to shake the doubt off.
I’m sure you’re probably wondering what on earth I was doing there lol. You see, we had driven through Labone a couple of hours earlier; talking about the purpose of The Choices Poster amongst other things, when in a distance, we saw a seductress jump into taxi. I was inspired! The desire to preach started to build up within me; and as we exited through the “roundabout of hisses and whistles”, something within me said to go to Atemuda. There was a cocotte in East Legon—at Atemuda—that I needed to minister to.
We got a plan
We split ways: my friend took the pub and I headed in the opposite direction to the region with a higher concentration of cocottes. I was in search of a call credit vendor, and on a quest to clearly discern who God wanted us to talk to. I looked left, right, passed by a lot of cocottes and continued walking till I saw her; she was sitting all alone and in a whitish dress. I walked a little further down the road, in the hopes finding a call credit vendor, before turning around to rendezvous with my friend.
“Chale Dela the squad for here no get money, transport sef. Chale boys die so nor. Dem go love commot go chill, but as e catch who go pay then problem come.” This simply means, for you who don’t understand pidgin: “Dela, the people here don’t have money, neither do they have money to catch a ride back home. That’s just how these boys are. They head out to town with nothing in their pockets and in the hopes that one of their friends or a stranger will pay for their drinks.” Not a literal translation but that was in effect what he was trying to tell me. He couldn’t sell the Choices Poster to anyone let alone deliver the message of choices. I assured him that that wasn’t a problem because they weren’t the reason we came. Then I gave him the news; but before we went up to talk to her, I decided to speak first to one of the cocottes nearby, just because she was close to us and not because I was led to. All I can say is that I am thankful to God that she didn’t act worse than she did.
She first told us that she wasn’t interested in The Choices Poster, that was fair enough, then added that we better get lost if we weren’t paying for her services. The atmosphere was awkward and she was hostile. But I did realise that one question I asked got her a bit sober: “Have you ever been heartbroken before?” It was a simple question I guess. You see, at that very moment, it wasn’t about the soul ties or Heaven or hell. It was about the final straw that broken the camel’s back. The final burden that caused her to accept every vile thought that flooded her mind, that made her bitter at life and disinterested in God. She went into a pensive mood for a bit, and smiled as she tried to answer my question before become hostile again when my friend spoke about STDs or something about morality. I took that as a green light to leave and we moved on to talk to person God wanted us to talk to.
We went back to my car to reflect on the night, then I told him to go talk with her whiles I stood back to pray for him. And so he did, and I watched from far as he made big circles in the air whiles speaking to her. I was missing out on the action. I was restless! I had delegated my primary responsibility and was itching to preach to her. Minutes later, he came back to me and spoke about how moved she by the message behind The Choices Poster:
“Branded as nonconformists, and having no plans of turning back, we look forward to what lies ahead. We chose to oppose the standards of this world, that left us in a constant state of depressing imperfection—that’s why they called us rebels.
We chose freedom. We chose to live, and think outside the box. We chose to be different. But most of all, we chose to celebrate the infinitesimal good choices you’ve made in life. Why? We live in a fallen world, a prison, a zeitgeist in which our innate desires to be good are disregarded.
We think differently!
We celebrate good choices because, we believe that within every soul yearning for freedom, lies an immense potential to move our world forward. To these people, we make this toast:
“Here is to the good choices we’ve made in life. The little gestures of love. The smiles that comforted others. The tears we wiped away. We all have a repertoire of good choices, and no matter how few they are, we believe they had the power to move the world forward. This is to you.”
The only problem was that she couldn’t afford it. She did not even have money to catch a ride back home. As my friend spoke, memories of Kristen Diangelo’s documentary and my first interview with her, flooded my mind. I started to think about the real struggles people in this world went through, their search for answers and the stigma and problems that are associated with the answers they accept or the choices that they make.
After he was done talking, I walked across the road to meet her and to find out what her story was: why she got into prostitution, her views on life and more.
I believe my first words were hello, I’m don’t quite remember. This all happened in 2013, close to two years ago. However, what I do recall, truly made an impact on me. Picture this: she was a university student—could have been a little sister to me—and had six mouths to feed. She was working on the streets to support her family. She hated what she came out to do; and that was why she sat alone in a secluded place away from the other cocottes. And to add to all this, she was sick and unable to buy drugs or catch a ride back home because she was without money. About that time, my friend who was then at the opposite side of the road, come over and asked her a couple of questions. He asked her about her church attendance. To which she responded: “I haven’t been to church in a while because of the guilt I feel”. Then he asked her if she knew about soul ties or STDs. She mumbled a bit and went quiet. She was driven by voices that drowned out the voice within her that was concerned about soul ties and STDs.
Just then, I sensed that it was time to go. It takes God’s grace for a man to remain stable amongst scantly dressed ladies. So i God says it’s time to go, you better get up and go. I had finally spoken to “Miss Atemuda” and I must say, our conversation changed my outlook on life and evangelism. We exchanged numbers, and after that night I sent her a couple of articles from this website. I did some counselling or question answering and tried to do all I could as The Lord led me, to get her life back in order. Simply put, I was being a Christian friend.
It’s experiences like this that act as catalyst for a lot of what God has called me to do. However, there was one night when she hit me up; I was tired and already mad about a couple of things. She mentioned that she wasn’t feeling too well and more. It was about 11pm. I didn’t take time to process or clearly discern a line of action. I ignored a lot of what she said and slept off. Days later I tried to reach her and she cut my phone calls. That lasted for a while, then months later I called again and received a cold reception. Sigh! I had moved from being a saint to being a villain. An experience that partly inspired these words in my book The Love Rehab.
“She yearned for a friend who cared, and I put up a world class show.
But her perception about me became an illusion when she saw me no more,
I was the hermit who wanted to make a difference in
the lives of people;
But my fears and cares took the best side of me.
The bruises on my heart made me paranoid,
So I pushed her away!
Yes, I was the hermit who wanted to make a difference;
But sadly, her perception about me became an illusion when she saw me no more.
My hate-clouded soul and my delusional fears caused the death of a king.
She had a dream, yes, she had a dream:
A dystopian dream that caused the death of her. “