By: Paul O. Anozie
Two girls walked on a long, sandy road as Ambu and I played under a cashew tree by the zoo on the left. The zoo stood on a prominent place on the old road running from Springtown, through Etiti, to Alaeze on the river bank. They walked side by side, holding each other’s hand, their hands swaying to the tune of frolicking music. We saw them every day as we played under the cashew tree, between late afternoon and early evening, when the sun has overtaken everything else the eye could see, and has turned golden in the west.
The girls were between ten and eleven years old, possibly the same age as us. In height and weight, they were also the same, and their skin tone, which was a gold-yellowish hue, would make them pass for ‘white-skinned’ to a glaucoma sufferer.
We watched as they walked in silence every evening, keeping away from the occasional stampede which followed the pursuit of an animal that escaped from the zoo, or the trail of galloping horses across the meadows; disappearing behind a wall of dust before we could muster the courage to say something to them, like a glide of object in motion picture. We reached the sad conclusion that they escaped from home every evening, to report to a distant relative the bad treatment they received from a wicked stepmother.
Twenty-seven years had passed since we last saw these pair on the old road. Ambu and I had since sailed on separate routes of life’s turbulent sea, and had just returned home from different theatres of the world. We had interest on a business which required us to inspect a piece of land that we hoped to turn into valuable property by the grace of providence. It was the same land on which stood that cashew tree of most of our childhood fantasies. The zoo had been eaten up by a giant football field. But the old road linking Alaeze and Springtown remained. A mediocre patch of asphalt and coal tar now covered the brown, sandy earth; and the usually irrepressible roll of dust had been firmly contained within the thick envelop of asphalt and tar.
After several throws of the tape along different lines of the prospective property, our eyes caught an ‘open-back’ Iveco truck that was grunting to a screeching halt by our side of the road. We focused our eyes on the people inside the vehicle. The driver and its only passenger—both women—were also throwing tense glances in all directions, like excited tourists expecting to see exotic animals.
The vehicle finally came to a halt. The women seemed to be looking at us for several seconds. Then they opened their doors and jumped down. Our eyes met. The mutual recognition happened in a flash, and we started running towards one other.
There was still an amazing similarity in their height, their body size, and their complexion, regardless of unspoken information which warned that the resemblance did not make them twins. They were two beautiful women, with sharp, penetrating eyes. Those eyes hinted of stories that were better left untold.
Ambu was the first to go after one of the ladies. That almost drove a wave of envy within me. But I was sensible enough to quickly suppress that bad feeling and go for my own prize. When I reached her, we clasped each other’s hands, and I looked on her face, and the brightness of the sinking sun was momentarily outshined.
The re-union was magical. You could say that our words flew up while our thoughts remained below, because words, speeches and oral cues could not properly express our feelings at that very point. Rather, we saw ourselves walking down a road that led twenty-seven years back, to a time when rain fell because God poured water through his windows; and grandparents grew old because so many children and grandchildren had been molded from their bodies.
That night, there was a heavy rainfall. In the morning, the sun came out with a sullen face. And while we waited for him to cheer up, we came out in our pajamas to measure the height of last night’s flood on the walls, and we knew that all was still the same.