SOFTLY’S SONG

Seven times we spoke out our love
And it was done
Readily we tread where doves still rove
Steadily we dance on into the grove
Within the sun, upon
The vow of a million and one words unspoken
Veiling the secret that dreams on unwoken
Tomorrow our love-vow shall reappear, unbroken,
And we shall be one.

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije.

WAITING…

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.
amazon cover copy there is always something more 2015

I MET AND LEFT A MOUNTAIN

There you see her, over yonder, bathed in beauty and love… it is the beautiful mountain which I once peaked – wild and calm, primitive and yet new and fresh, a restorative to my battered soul.

But when it was time to move, I discovered that I could not take the beautiful mountain along with me, however hard I tried; so I left her behind and journeyed on. Yet, strange to say, with each step away from her that I take, she comes more alive, grows bigger and bigger within my heart – because when I left her behind me to find the Tomorrow Mountain;… when I forsook her for to seek the next peak;… I took her along. But if I had stayed with her, then in truth I would have departed from her. And, tomorrow, when I crown a new beautiful mountain, she will also be there, for all true mountains unite at every distant new peak again.

It is hard to explain in words the things which we harbour inside of us. I too try and try, but ever and again I fall short of fulfilment. Why? Where did I go wrong?

Tomorrow is the only friend I have.

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije.

TWICE IS NOT ENOUGH – pt. 12

… continued from Part Eleven.

On his way home, Tony was very silent.

Outside the gate of his house, he felt the night-wind softly call, and he took out a sheet of paper from his back-pocket, and a pen, leaned against the wall and, whilst a bird sang somewhere near and somewhere far, like an ancient dream coming again, coming home, he wrote: On this we stand.

Did you love me, did you not?
My, what a heart…
Did it break, broke it not?
I do not know –

Is it ending, is it beginning?
Hard to tell…
‘Tis forever my love
Forever we are this –

This? What is this?
It is this:
Please be true to your heart forever.

*

Ada saw him from upstairs, leaning against the wall just at the edge of the gate, writing … in the dark. How could he see what he was writing?
And he was always writing.

She heard a sparrow singing on a branch in front of the veranda. It was a lovely eternal song.

“Did you see her?” she asked him when he entered. She did not see any piece of paper in his hands. She could still hear the birdsong somewhere near and somewhere far and somewhere deep within her soul, a dream on the long walk home.

“Who?”

“Ngozi.”

Tony searched for an evasive answer, then gave up. How did she know?

“Yes.”

“And?”

“And what?

“Forget it.”

“She’s travelling in six days’ time.”

“Where to?”

“Germany. University. Work. I don’t know. She wasn’t clear.”

“Ouch.”

“Yeah, double-ouch.”

Later she said:

“The poems you gave me yesterday. They were nice.”

“Hm.”

“Ngozi read some too, on the bus.”

“Hm.”

“There’s food in the kitchen.”

“Thanks, I’m starved.”

“She’s a nice person; even almost special, I somehow think.”

Tony was silent a while. Then he shook his head and said:

“It’s complicated.” – and walked into the kitchen, his mind on Ngozi.

… ***
… to find out how this delicate and unfinished love story between Tony and Ngozi played itself out, buy and read the full novella on
amazon.com (e-book / paperback)
amazon.co.uk (e-book / paperback)
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or any other amazon online stores worldwide.
Available from December 2013.
TWICE IS NOT ENOUGH.

Twice_Is_Not_Enough_Cover_for_Kindle

– AKA TERAKA.

TWICE IS NOT ENOUGH – pt. 11

… continued from Part Ten.

Somewhere else, Ngozi dressed up and went to work. Her mind was on Tony, wondering if he would call, hoping he would call, knowing, from memory and a deep understanding of him, that he might not, and why. And yet, wishing that he would surprise her all the same.

Tony did not call. – He came.

All of a sudden. She looked up and there he was, standing in front of her in her office in Anthony Village, a respectable, quietly opulent area of Lagos Mainland.

A little distance behind him, leafing in through the newly and quietly opened door, was the light of day, huskily harmattan. A car drove past further in the background, then another, as they smiled at one another. Her smile was open, his shy. She was amused, he was unsure. He took a step forward and shut the door.

Finally, she stood up. They looked at one another, unsure of what to do. Then she noticed how thin he was. A sharp, audible intake of breath, a full-throated hiss, was her first reaction. Then she came to him and touched his arm.

“Tony, you’ve lost weight.”

What is the mystery of love?

“I’ve missed you,” Tony said, speaking, like he so often did, without pausing to think, without ever even having once previously felt it. Since the resolution, years ago. Yet when he saw her, he remembered her again. And missed her. And had her. And was hers.

He let out his breath, slowly, deeply, and said it again:

“Wooow… I’ve missed you like what!

“Like what?” she asked, smiling like a tease, remembering and playing along in the word-game.

“Yeah, like what.”

And they laughed, smiled, but did not embrace.

The weight of the years, somehow, lay yet upon them and between them. Memories of pain slowly arose. Tony saw it steal over her eyes like grey clouds across an open sky. He had hurt her. Deeply.

She had had her faults, some of them major pain-bringers. But in the end, it was he who had delivered the fatal blow. And she had not forgotten. It was in her eyes.

But had she forgiven?

“How did you know this place?” Ngozi asked, taking her hand off his arm and inching away almost imperceptibly and, thus, most perceptibly.
“Tony-magic,” he smiled, twirling his fingers like a trickster.

They laughed again, partly to soften a heavy moment. Somewhere at the back of both their minds was the immediate understanding that this moment and how they handled it, and how it resolved itself, with or without their participation, would determine their future. Together or apart. Or what.

The undefined what.

Maybe because Yuletide had softened everybody. Maybe because of both their yesterdays. Maybe because of the manner and mood of this re-meeting. Maybe because they had never stopped caring. But, somehow, it was as though they had never parted. This was the moment in which they would meet or part.

Characteristic of Ngozi she wanted it settled at once. And it seemed to her as though she had been waiting and preparing for it all these years.
But characteristic of Tony he wanted to post-pone it again, like he did the last time. Imperceptibly. Like he was a master at doing.

Tony smiled and looked round her office. It had the touch of beauty floating upon it, simple as it was, but he had the feeling that something was missing, without being able to place his finger on it.

There was an uncurtained window behind her seat, and, a toned contrast to the fluorescent be-lit room, again wafted in the light of day upon the tastefully designed, sturdy wooden office table, panelled-over with leather, colonised by but a tiny telephone on one side and nothing else. Tony noted that she still had that habit of being neat almost unto sparseness.

Her office was opened into by the door through which he’d just entered, behind which was a spacious business-centre.

He looked round her office again. There was a painting … he ignored it.
She waited for his eyes to quit roaming, then trapped them again. For a second she thought she’d detected panic in there, but she couldn’t be sure. His eyes, light brown and expressive, were amused and appraising as they settled on her one more time.

The moment, as though it had a will of its own, became now tender.

They embraced.

… continued in Part 12.

– AKA TERAKA.

If you want to skip the excerpts and read the full story of this delicate, subtle love story, the novella is availaable on
amazon.com (e-book / paperback)
amazon.co.uk (e-book / paperback)
amazon.de (e-book / paperback)
amazon.in (ebook / paperback)
amazon.ca (ebook / paperback)
amazon.com.au (ebook / paperback)
or any other amazon online stores worldwide.
Available from December 2013.
TWICE IS NOT ENOUGH.

Twice_Is_Not_Enough_Cover_for_Kindle

TWICE IS NOT ENOUGH – pt. 10

… continued from Part Nine.

Tony was wide awake now. Faintly on his consciousness registered themselves the peripheral sounds of morning. Over the fence, the neighbour’s pestle was hitting and rolling in the mortar with a quick rhythmic thumping, smooth but noisy, legacy of innumerable generations.
Tony purred like a cat and sighed again into the bright rays of the eager morning sun. Last night’s surprise rain had tinged this morning’s harmattan with the soothing touch of sweet wet bliss.

In the backyard, or from the boys’ quarters, came the voice of the radio. Full of mixed opinions, it jumped from one topic to another like a mad and wise and, above all, delirious mind.

He listened a bit, but his interest soon slipped away from there and reluctantly focused on the issue of Ngozi. It was something he did not want to think about for the simple reason that he did not know what to think about it, how to handle it. So, yet again, like he had done the previous evening when Ada told him of her encounter with Ngozi, he rolled it carefully along the periphery of his thoughts for a few thinking seconds and then pushed it away and began to reflect instead on what 1999, only six days away now, would have to offer.

With this turn of his thoughts, suddenly he heard and perceived the sounds and smells of Yuletide again.

Christmas period in Lagos. No wonder the sun was so bright.

The radio had overcome its indecisiveness and settled down to singing Boney M Christmas songs. Songs that had accompanied him, Christmas after Christmas, from childhood into the harsh forests of adulthood. Songs of which he never tired.

There is no time like Christmas.

A knock on the door and Ada barged in, smelling of a happy, busy kitchen.

“Tah lah!” she called in a sing-song voice, half-skipping in and throwing her arms wide open the way she did almost every morning, as if to say “I’m here!”

And she said: “It’s me again!”

“I perceive that it has not yet come to your notice that my door now swings, and most precariously so indeed, on only one hinge. It would be good to wonder why.”

Ada burst out laughing.

“A mystery for Hercule Poirot,” she replied between laughs.

“Even Hercule couldn’t solve this one. Only you can – with a simple confession; or, rather, admission.”

“Confessions are for convicted felons. As a rule, one should only confess when all the evidence point irrefutably against one. As for admissions, I leave that to presidents and the like.”

“You’ve changed o, you this woman! You now talk like a ring-leader.”
She laughed again.

“Ring-leader of what?”

“Of the things that have ring-leaders. There are many of them. They are always getting caught everyday. Infact, most channels make it a point of duty, as is easy to verify, to show us arrested ring-leaders at least once every week – ”

“And to showcase the unarrested ones at least once everyday,” she added dryly.

“You can’t blame them, when they have nothing else to show.”

“Television is all about advertising –” she began, with the voice of a school-teacher.

“So they’re advertising your fellow-ringleaders. You should be rejoicing. You people have taken over the world.”

Yes, you should know. Aren’t you the one always watching T.V.?”

Now he growled and jumped out of bed. He found himself laughing although she had just digged him again on a sore spot. He raised his clenched fists and began to bounce. She raised hers too and circled him.

“Ah, do you think it’s all this silly bouncing? It’s not like that, you have to be cool. Approach, let me teach you a painful lesson.”

“I knew today would start with a morale-booster. I just never thought it would be this good – bestowing you with a swollen countenance. But let me apologise in advance –”

As he was talking she rushed forward with jabs.

“Wait wait wait – ” he ran back and began to bounce again. “Hm, I’m warning you o! What! Are you laughing at me?? Ok!

Now they began to shadow-box in earnest, but made no contact, pulling all punches just before impact, until he began to breathe harder and then leaned against a table.

A worried look immediately came into her eyes.

“How do you feel now? I thought you said –”

“Yes, I’m fine,” he sighed. “I’ve recovered, but I’m still weak physically.”

“You fall ill too often.”

“That’s my destiny.”

They looked at each other without speaking, for a while. Then,

“I’m hungry. Ọkwọ Yuletide bonus is on the culinary way.”

“Hm! Mchm!… ” She made sounds not easy to spell and started to walk out of the room. “When Yuletide comes, you can ask him for your bonus! Me, I’m making my own normal breakfast. If you don’t want to eat it, no problem … But don’t let me catch you near the kitchen!”

He knew she was teasing. Something special was on the way.

“Ah-ah. Am I surprised?” he called after her through the door she’d left customarily ajar. “What else can one truly and honestly expect of a village-apparition…”

Her laughter floated back in, and he smiled too.

… continued in Part 11.

– AKA TERAKA.

If you want to skip the excerpts and read the full story of this delicate, subtle love story, the novella is availaable on
amazon.com (e-book / paperback)
amazon.co.uk (e-book / paperback)
amazon.de (e-book / paperback)
amazon.in (ebook / paperback)
amazon.ca (ebook / paperback)
amazon.com.au (ebook / paperback)
or any other amazon online stores worldwide.
Available from December 2013.
TWICE IS NOT ENOUGH.

Twice_Is_Not_Enough_Cover_for_Kindle