The approaching dusk, serenity and the glimmer of the water’s reflection in Ikem’s eyes as he paddles us downstream and into safety is how I always want to remember this place.
The wooden craft, our canoe–that we had called Kadi for no particular reason other than that we loved the sound of it–carried alongside us, our abridged promises to each other and the outstanding ones hoping to see the light of day.
Ikem was paddling furiously now while still maintaining the pace of our conversation. From where I sat in the middle of the woodwork, I was telling him about how Akwaugo, my cousin was going to be given out in marriage the following week.
“You know, she is the least youngest of us all, yet she is the first to settle down. They say her suitor is an old man and that her father made sure she got married to him after he had set up a beer parlour for Akwaugo’s father”.
Ikem was completely quiet now. That was unlike him.
“Amara, maybe you too should get married to Amadi. His yam barns are the biggest in Ariam. He will make you happy”.
“And who says I’m not happy being with you?” I heard myself blurt out from the back of my throat.
“But for how long will this happiness of ours last before it is taken away from us?”
I knew Ikem so well that I knew I’d draw a small smile from him with my response, and I did. “For as long as we have together. Our love can triumph all”.
For a while now, this place has become our getaway from Ariam community and its harsh tradition that opposed two young lovers from being happy together because of their ancestors’ predicaments.
In all this, our Kadi had become our special place. Here, we could be ourselves. Away from all the hustle and bustle of life and Ariam community.
As Ikem gently paddled us away from the strain of burdensome tradition to temporary freedom, my gaze was on his smooth skin and capable hands.
He was telling another one of his captivating stories and I somehow thought of the first time I had told Ifeoma that I was seeing Ikem and that we were planning to elope and get married.
I was trying to tell her how Ikem was the most beautiful soul I had met. I had told her all there was to tell–For a moment, I’d just wanted to be mischievous, playing hide and seek with the lad, until I found myself breathing through his nostrils.
She had gasped when I told her we had been seeing each other discretely by the river bank, during the day when everyone else has left for their farms and in the early evenings when Mama left for the evening farms with Kachi.
I had told her about how we took our Kadi downstream far away from where the villagers could see us. Then I told her some more about Ikem’s endearing qualities, his charming smile, his interesting folklores and his handcrafts.
The calm movement downstream was the perfect lullaby that took us out of our doubts to our special place of peace.
Across the wooden lach, Ikem was saying something about cool evenings and taking the moments as they presented themselves and many other beautiful things only he could say.
That’s the thing about this stream. It has always been our special place. Here, we could do nothing but sit in our Kadi, and stare deep, into each other’s eyes and assure ourselves that surely, the ache in our hearts could liberate us from the spell that brought us to reduce our affair to runaway escapades in the moonlight.
Then, we would paddle the evening away.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Olachi Iwehee is a Nigerian poet and storyteller, passionate about telling African stories. Her works explore diversified themes, cutting across love, romance, introspection and an exposition of human complexities. She is currently a student of law at the University of Calabar, Calabar. She also bakes and enjoys playing the piano.