SEE ME SMILING“He who leads a bitter life of selfishness will die reaching out for what he failed to give.”
The struggles of life can range from many different things, within many different ranges of difficulty; whether it is our relationships with our families, the struggles of our marriages, or simply dealing with each passing day. However, it is not the issues that we have that define how our life goes on, but the decisions we make in order to resolve them.
The sun sets upon a small Igbo village, emanating a beautiful orange sky that embraced the horizon like a mother embraces her child. The sphere of light sunk halfway beneath the tips of the trees and casted a shadow upon the Obis and huts of the denizens. They begin to retreat to their homes and families, happiness surrounding them like an aura. But one man remains a guest at another Obi, his goatskin mat laid out upon the floor. Calm speech emerges as whispers to the outside, but reverberates against the dirt walls of the inside loud and clear.
Two dark-skinned men sat across from each other in a peaceful debate. They contrasted each other, one appearing thin with a belly that was slightly swollen. It looked as though he was between the point of starved and malnourished. The other man was somewhat hulking, muscular and healthy with no swelling visible upon his stomach. It was obvious that these two men had had much different results this year for their crops, the harvesting time having ended.
The thin man spoke up. “I still envy your sowing, I do not know how you have achieved a surplus crop every year while mine can carry barely a third of what it should have. Six hundred yam seeds and I end up with one hundred and eighty. Perhaps I have angered the Earth in some way.” The other spoke in return, “You have just been unlucky these past two years, Okwukwe. But you will prevail perhaps even greater than my own crops if you hold to your namesake.” Okwukwe smiled as he remembered the meaning of his name being ‘Hope’, a slight sparkle in his eyes. “Perhaps that will be so. I cannot thank you enough for your generosity, Uzoma. You have been a good friend to me in my times of failure, while others have pushed me away.”
Uzoma began to wrap up his goatskin and shuffle to his feet. “That is what friends are for, Okwukwe. The lizard who fell from the high iroko tree must be caught by the kindhearted.” With a nod, Okwukwe wrapped up his own goatskin and struggled to his feet, his other hand grasping a bag full of yams. “You are the kindhearted, Uzoma. Do not let anyone tell you otherwise. I will return your generosity with pots of palm wine after my next tapping.” Uzoma waved his hand to decline his offer. “I ask for nothing in return, my brother. Ebelechukwu.” Uzoma walked off and Okwukwe returned the goodbye. “Ebelechukwu.”
By this time, the sun had vanished beneath the horizon and Uzoma walked home on the dimly lit paths. Rays of moonlight poured gently along the village, inviting the cripples to walk. But Uzoma was not afraid of those he would pass by, and instead sprinted on with his charity illuminating his chi. While it was not visible, it could certainly be felt, he thought.
Arriving to his Obi, Uzoma paused before stepping in. He gazed at his compound in the dark of the night. Uzoma had only one wife, and as such, one hut outside of his Obi. Uzoma was one to bend the rules of society, however. He would allow his wife to stay with him in his Obi, not thinking it correct to put her out in the weather, protected only by a small hut. He would have her sleep within the larger home, at least until they would have a child.
But lately Uzoma had been staying out due to struggles with his marriage. It had been arranged, and she was one of the few who were very unpleased with being unable to choose their husbands. One of the ones that believed cowries was not love. Even with all of Uzoma’s efforts, he was unable to please her. This only escalated when he avoided her for long hours of the day.
Stepping into his Obi, he received a sudden stinging pain upon his cheek. An imprint of a hand was red on his skin, slowly fading away as the yelling began. “Where have you been? Do you think I’m going to do all of this by myself?!” The soft, feminine voice that Uzoma so dearly wished for was instead