THERE IS a man in the Nsukka Hills. If you drive past between 7 and 8 pm in the evening and look up with sharpened eyes, you might see his outline. Some say he is mad. Others say he is not. But all know and say that he is waiting…
He is waiting for his love, his heart, who promised to meet him there – thirty-two years ago!
They met by chance and fell in love also by chance. Then came a terrible civil war in the land which forced them to part from each other and disappear in different directions for different reasons. But before they parted they promised to meet one another again on these hills as soon as the war was over.
They stood upon these hills and made the promise. Then they departed.
The war, as all wars do, eventually ended… a full thirty-two years ago. He came to the agreed hills and began to wait. But she did not appear.
He must be sixty now, or fifty, or seventy; it’s hard to tell. He looks ageless. Only his eyes betray an age indefinable with words which, if one were to attempt to but articulate, can only be captured with the expression ever-young.
He believes she will come. He believes that she loved and still loves him just as strongly as he loved and still loves her; and any love that strong does not break its own vows; for if they can be broken, they would not have been spoken.
But people have sworn that she died in the war.
Others declare that they have seen her in a distant land in the west, married and happy.
And yet not a few maintain mournfully that she did indeed come back once, took a look at him from afar, then turned around and walked away again.
Anytime he hears any of these stories, he does not get angry, neither does he laugh. He does not dismiss them offhandedly or obstinately, no. Instead he raises his eyes, sea-deep and dead-serious, to the heavens and keeps them there for a long, long time. Then, finally, slowly, a warm smile would begin to glow on his face as he brought his bright eyes back to bear upon the speaker or speakers, informing them in a voice as unperturbed as the pacific:
“No… she is on the way…“
Those who have met him say he is a nice friendly fellow, jovial and communicative… half-the-time. The other half he is silent and lonely, wondering what could be taking her so long. In such moments, he is sorrowful, thoughtful.
I mounted the hill at the appropriate evening hour to find, see and meet this wonder for myself. My heart pounded. He is truly a legend, a hero, made of that fractionless primevium of which immortals are forged. Thirty-two years and he is still waiting, waiting, waiting for a dream… – can I do that too?
The rising moon was fuller. What would he have to say to me?
I saw his silhouette, like a human mountain, noble and undefeated, backing me, face raised to the moon, breathing, still. I approached as silently as I could, so as not to disturb the solemnity of this magic moment.
As I neared him, I saw him raise his two hands skywards for one steady arrested moment in time, like a victor, his body shuddered; then he turned around and faced me, tears and laughter in his eyes.
“Darling, what took you so long?” he whispered at me…
I had been sure that I would not cry, but now the last chains broke and fell from my heart and I ran to him, fell into his embrace, weeping uncontrollably.
Indeed what had taken me so long? I do not know. Why do we lose courage in the greater and settle for the lesser? Why do we always fear the immortal call of love? Why did I hesitate for thirty-two long years to do the one single thing that I have longed more than every other thing in the world to do? And to thereby fulfil my eternal promise. What had so scared me? The notion of eternal love or the possibility of betrayal?
And all the while he had waited, waited for me, surer than I was that I would return to my destiny…
Love cannot die.
– Che Chidi Chukwumerije.
You can read this and other short stories in my collection of short, philosophical and inspirational stories titled:
THERE IS ALWAYS SOMETHING MORE.