Dog Tags

Let’s play a game, he says.

The car is put into gear. The indicator blinks. The engine hums in anticipation.

What game?

His eyes meet mine in the rear-view mirror. He smiles. I look at my phone.

The game is simple, he says. Lane change. You tell me your name, and I tell you where you’re from. And I’m always right. I am a champion at this game. I’ve never lost before.

My fingers tap furiously at my phone screen. Taxi drivers have resorted to getting my name with games now. I wonder what format he’ll use for my number, I tell my Twitter followers.

Fine, I say. Do you want my full name or my first?

He chuckles.

Most people just tell me to shut up, you know. Just your first name for now, he adds.

He moves his hand. Kojo Antwi’s voice from the radio is lowered.

Let’s hear it, he says.

The traffic light in front of us is red.

I should have picked an Uber, I tweet.

Umm…my first name is Cathy.

Ah? He says, slightly surprised. When I said name I didn’t mean your colonial name oh. I meant your name.

I laugh at the audacity in his voice. Cathy wasn’t even my real name. I was obviously not going to give him my real name.

Okay, my name is Mawusi.

Aha, you’re a Voltarian. So you are either Guan, Ewe or Anlo. But Guans don’t give Ewe names so you’re definitely Ewe or Anlo.

No shit.

What’s your next name?


Kokui? This is even easier than I thought. You’re Anlo. I can even tell you your clan.

Green light. Horns blare. Clutch squeaks as it is slammed down. Gears shift. Accelerator to the floor. The engine screams.

What’s my clan?

Change lanes. Brakes applied gently. Steer turns in a wide angle. We bend a junction.

You’re either Adzɔvia, Laƒe, Likɛ, or Bate.

I smile at the accuracy. Brakes applied not-so-gently. Horn blares. Trotro driver rudely gestures at us. I remember Mawusi telling me she was Adzɔvia.

I’m Adzɔvia and I’m not supposed to eat Adzɔvia fish. We are royals. We are tigers.

My heart clenches a bit. I’m sure she didn’t even know what Adzɔvia fish looked like. I miss her.


I look up. A bofrot-seller calls attention to her wares. I ignore her.

So what?

I said, what is your surname?

Oh sorry, I didn’t hear. Kportufe.

Aha, the tigers. You’re probably a royal, are you not? Ei you people.

Traffic light. Hawkers. People crossing the street without looking left, right left. I remember Kokui again. This time she’s in her towel, excitedly telling me what her surname meant. I remember it being about tigers. And then I remember the towel coming off.

Yes, you’re good at this.

Of course I am good. No one has been around Ghana more than me. I’ve driven trucks and tricycles and motorbikes all over this country. I have a wife in every region. I know everywhere. I can tell where you’re from just by hearing your name.

I remember a line from an article on some college website that I read once.

Your name is like a dog tag: If lost please return here.

Mawusi was the one that showed me the article. I’m in a random taxi and I’m wearing your dog tag, Mawusi.

You don’t look Ewe though. Ohemaa are you sure this is your name?

Green. Car moves. Horns blare.

Of course it is mine.

When you love somebody, everything that’s theirs is yours. Even if they aren’t around anymore. 

Brakes. Speed bump. Accelarator. Taxi crosses trotro. Trotro crosses taxi. Private car drivers shout expletives. He laughs. They laugh. It’s just normal Accra traffic.

I laugh.

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