At the dance the following evening, Adanma and I sat side-by-side at the foot of a mango tree, she wasn’t to perform this particular evening, as this dances were restricted to Masquerades and little children dance groups, there were so many costumes, everyone seemed in a light mood, worries away. The real dances started once the moon was high and filled the sky. “I want to learn to dance with the wind” I said to Adanma, she only smiled and nodded, the next song involved clapping and we both joined in, It was a beautiful night as I walked her home, after the dances I took her hand, she snatched it back almost immediately, “your palms are so soft” she said with a shy expression, “mine is a bit rough”, I took her hands in mine and closed my eyes, I ran my fingers through her palms as if I were giving her a palm reading, “hmmm…you see what you see, I see what I see, these palms feel like feathered pillows and are worth 2o million bucks”, she snatched her palms from me and gave me a light punch on the arm, and I winced faking pain as we laughed. I saw Adanma off to her house, and she gave me a hug before I left, How I got home without passing out from Adanma’s hug is still a mystery to me till this day.
BANJO – THE GOAT
Dad had bought a he-goat, we were to take it to Mom’s parents, at her village, which was some 45 minutes away from ours. My little brother Chu-Chu had been entrusted with the goat, he fed it morning and night and even named it ‘Banjo’. We loved Banjo, it had been with us for almost 3 weeks, it was Chu-Chu’s closest friend and companion, had a goatee and very smelly, we loved it anyways. It was new years eve, we were to deliver Banjo on new years day, so Ikenna and I thought we’d fool around with Banjo a bit, we untied it and chased it all around the compound as it kept bleating, Chu-Chu sat quietly on the staircase leading to the front door watching us chase Banjo. Mom and Dad told us to be careful, goats are not always as dumb as humans think they are, we assured them we’d be fine. later on our cousins came by inviting us to the local football finals at the field, we were excited and went along with them, We met up with Adanma and some of her friends. on arrival, Ikenna so badly needing to show off, said he’d forgotten our camera, so he went back to get it. No sooner than after the games had kicked-off, I saw Ikenna, sprinting towards us like the Quarterback of the high school football team had thrown him the pass of the year. “Obinna! Obinna!!”, he screamed, out of breath “The Goat…The goat..”, “what happened to the goat?” I asked. “Banjo is gone!..he’s not home, He’s gone!”.
“I swear I tied it back up the pole!” I lamented, We ran home with our cousins, and Adanma insisted she came along, thankfully mom and dad were engaged with visitors so no one noticed the ruckus, “Well obi if it were tied to the pole, it’d be here then!, do you see a goat?, I certainly don’t!” Ikenna yelled. Adanma hushed him just as he had finished his statement, to keep him quiet, so as not to alarm the main house. I sat on the ground not sure what I was thinking, one of our two cousins, both male, spoke up “it couldn’t have gone very far”, “that’s true” seconded Adanma, “it would need food, we should search the farms closest to this compound” she added, “so lets go now” I suggested, “No we move too quickly we would alert Mom and Dad, lord knows we would never hear the end of this story if that happens” said Ikenna.
“we will move at night during the new year crossover service, everyone will be in church, that’s when we should begin our search” said Adanma, We all agreed to rendezvous outside the church with flashlights and my cousins would bring a rope.
Later that evening when the church mass was fully underway, with most people, including my parents gathered at the church for the crossover service into the new year, we crept out of church to our agreed rendezvous point and departed to the cluster of farms closest to our house, we had searched for up to an hour and were on the verge of giving up when we heard noises behind a bush, Adanma instructed us all to take strategic positions, one of my cousins took the rope and made it into lasso, with all of us in position, Ikenna went behind the bush to scare the goat into our laid ambush, Banjo the goat, charged straight at one of my cousins and my cousin turned and fled, on seeing his brother fleeing the scene my other cousin with the lasso, dropped the rope and took to his heels as well, As I was the only one still holding a torch that shone into brightly into its eye, Banjo came for me next, ramming me in the thigh with its horn and throwing me to the ground, It came for me the second time as I was on the ground wincing in pain, just about then, Adanma swung into action adrenaline pumped, throwing herself in front of me, with perfect timing she grabbed the goats horns, throwing the animal to the ground, soon they were both struggling in the dirt, Ikenna had hurriedly picked the rope and came from behind Banjo to tie up its hind legs, Banjo kicked back at him and the goats hoof caught Ikenna on the lower lip, drawing blood on contact, Adanma while trying to gain more grip on he goats horn lost her grip and the tip of its horn bruised her left cheek, at the second trial she regained her grip, this time locking Banjo in a choke-hold around its neck, Ikenna also this time managed to tie down the hind legs and the front legs and Adanma finally let go of Banjo’s neck, we all laid down in the dirt breathing heavily, as I clutched my thigh in pain, Banjo bleating loudly and New years fireworks ringing out in the sky, no one spoke a word, we were too tired to, we lay there in the farm dirt, side by side each other admiring the fireworks, it was dark, but I could see Adanma’s face when the bright colored fireworks lit the sky, her cheek was swollen from Banjo’s bruise, But she never looked more beautiful tonight, this was the strongest woman I had ever met, I stretched out my arm farthest as I could from where I lay and she met it halfway with hers, with a smile.
We three fell asleep on the farm and woke almost at 5am, we tried to pull up our sore bodies, Ikenna and I struggled as we carried Banjo, we saw Adanma off halfway to her house and returned to ours, on arrival I tied the goat back to its pole, almost immediately our younger brother Chu-Chu ran out of the bungalow and started crying. He confessed we treated Banjo unfairly and unequally to human standards, all animals should be free, and that was why he untied the goat after I tied it the previous day, and let it go, it took all of Ikenna’s athletic strength to keep me from killing Chu-chu that day, we banished him to the main house and our parents side of the compound. Not more than an hour later dad picked up Banjo, the goat stared back at us from the back of dads truck as he drove away and I whispered in the cold harmattan breeze, “Farewell Banjo”.
THE LAST DANCE
Christmas was done, New year was done, it was time to say goodbye, we were leaving village the Next day. I had tried to see Adanma as much as I could, we had made so many memories, we had fallen in love with each other and I had tied my heart to hers. she had promised to teach me to dance with the wind on the eve of our departure day, so we met atop an uncompleted building close to her home, I arrived the building in a white t-shirt, blue shorts and sandals, the building looked abandoned, I climbed the stairs and on getting to the top of the building, I saw her, she had her full dancing costume on she had the traditional white markings of a dancer on her face, she wore a straight face. I walked up really close to her speaking no words, “Take off your shirt” was her instruction, I obeyed, she took out a chalk-like substance and painted my face, chest and feet. Next she took out her ankle bells, wore one on her left foot and the other she wore on my right foot, then she took my arm and led me to the center of the floor, “Are you ready?” she whispered, “Yes i am” came my reply, it was a full moon that night, Adanma closed her eyes, lifting her face into the sky, I did the same, and those familiar winds began to blow.
Adanma began to tap her feet, she moved gently, slowly like palm trees in the wind, the bell on her ankle played a simple beat, It was an incomplete beat, her left foot fell silent when they hit the floor, because she had no bells on that foot. I knew this beat!, I get it now!, I am to complete Adanma’s beat with the tapping of the bell on my right foot, I kept watching Adanma’s foot trying to land my feet beat next to hers, but every time I did it fell out of sync, she spoke no words still, but she smiled as I struggled. after a while she locked me in an embrace, she looked deep into my eyes and whispered “do not follow my feet, follow my heart, dance is in the heart not in the feet, if our hearts beat as one, so will our feet” she smiled at me and took a few steps backward. I took a deep breath, “Winds be my guide” I whispered, I looked into her eyes and she was home, Adanma was where I would always want to be, she was enough for me. As her feet hit the ground and the beat began again, we were totally in sync, it was the perfect harmony, our feet were one, our hearts were one too. I do not remember how long we danced, but we danced till our bodies crashed atop each other.
Seated at the backseat the next day as we departed the village, we drove by the uncompleted building Adanma and I had danced at, the night before. It looked so lonely without us. I held onto the ankle bell she had given me, and kept staring at the uncompleted building with an endless longing and hoping for her to appear.
It had been 15 years since I last saw Adanma, days became weeks, weeks became months, and months turned to years, Life had taken its toll, and the distance was savage, we could not keep in touch, and soon, I could no longer remember what she looked like. Ikenna worked at an oil rig in Rivers state Nigeria, his wife Alisha and 2 year old daughter, Sam, resided at New York, Chu-Chu graduated college Magna-cum-laude Biology, he took a job as a Zoo keeper, continued loving animals. Me?, I had turned out average, some would argue a little less than average. I was a freelance writer, working part time at a construction company, still chasing dreams like shadows. I was working on my first major publication, no luck so far. every relationship I got into never worked out, no matter how hard I tried, the women I met were not what I wanted.
One day I remembered what Dad told me all those years ago, “If you must leave, leave with your heart, don’t live without it”. That was my deciding moment. I packed my bags and set them out on the front porch as I waited for a Taxi to the airport. “I have lived long enough without my heart”, I whispered to myself, it was cold in the winters of December. “I am coming, Adanma”, I spoke, and those familiar winds began to blow.
…to be continued…