THE VILLAGER

ONCE UPON a time, in a village near Enugu, nestling in the luscious green valleys between the plateaus of the Udi hills, in south-eastern Nigeria, there settled a city-dweller, a young urbanite, come to hide from fellow city dwellers and indeed the city itself in the quiet of this peaceful village.

At first the quiet laze of the unhurried village folk was a great delight to him and a welcome change from the impersonal razzmatazz of the city. However, after some time there arose in him an itch, product of a silent but powerful addiction to city-life which, unknown to him, had become a part of his constitution.

The restless itch became exacerbated to the point where he was about to abandon all hope of a more fulfilling existence in the rural and resort back to the urban.

That was when he met the villager.

Previously he had only seen him fleetingly, as he went to or returned from his farm, presunrise and postsunset, without ever clearly discerning his features or exchanging a word or direct gaze with him.

But did dusk descend later than usual upon this fateful day? Or did the villager’s own restlessness propel him out of his farm, setting him homebound, earlier than usual?

It could be anything.

But as the city-dweller looked up from his front door, there he saw the familiar fleeting figure… only this time he was much more visible in the hanging lights of mesmerizingly tantalisingly unhurried sunset.

For the first time he saw the villager’s features and, lo and behold, he was a young man just like himself; but his face appeared to have been chiselled out of smooth, hard stone, fired in flames like metal ore, and then brought to life by a soft breath from heaven. For the eyes which momentarily seized the city-dweller’s, though set in the most rugged of features, were gentle and kind. Suddenly they seemed so similar, these two very unsimilar men.

Only for a moment did these two men lock gaze and then the villager looked again ahead of him and, sack in hand, hoe slung over his shoulder, sturdily yet gracefully walked on home, a half-spring, half-unspring, in his heels, a man freely born to farm his village land, oblivious to everything else, happy and content in his destiny.

The next day the city-dweller packed his belongings and returned to his home in the city. He had found what he came to the village searching for. He had found and become the villager in his heart.

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije.

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