CHAPTER THREE

The day run slowly. I went to my maize farm, and after idling around for sometime, I returned home. I did nothing productive for the day. My zeal for what I planned doing for the day was sapped by what happened in the morning.

After lunch, I took a seat under the cocoa trees around the village. That was where everyone sought refuge from the sun's heat when it got intensified during the day. I sat looking at two birds perching and playing on a thin branch of cocoa tree. Beautiful birds they were. I couldn’t tell whether one was female and the other a male, but one thing I realized was that, they were very attached to each other. If birds can love, then, they were probably lovers. 

I sat watching the unique bond between the birds until the sound of grandma's footsteps got me distracted. She was holding a stool and heading towards my direction. She was walking slowly, and her eyes were fixed on the ground. She was careful so as not to step on anything that could pierce through her soft sandals. 

When she finally got to me, she rested her left hand on my left shoulder and placed the stool beside me. And slowly bending down, she pronounced two Arabic words before her buttocks touched the stool. Grandma always pronounced those two Arabic words before sitting down whenever she was tired.

I didn’t know the meaning of those words, and I never asked her to tell me where she learnt them. I knew however, that, her parents were Muslims. She probably learnt those words from them when they were alive. Grandma had a good memory; she could remember everything of her childhood.

Stretching her legs, she sneezed. “This must be life,” she said just after sneezing.

Grandma,  just like the many village folks, was superstitious. She believed certain occurrences were signs of fortunes and misfortunes. 

“There’s nothing superstitious with sneezing, grandma,” I said before she could reposition herself well on the stool. 

“You know nothing, grandson. The knowledge education has given you is from books and books only. You call it superstition. I call it signs of fortunes or omen. It’s real. It works. It works for those that believe. And for those who do not believe, and fail to listen to nature's language, they blame the creator for their misfortunes. Misfortunes can be avoided, grandson; and blessings cannot be missed if you intently listen to nature’s language. Everything that happens to us is first foretold by the everlasting forces of nature.  Everything, and I mean everything, is foretold before they happen. So, we can avoid the bad and cling to the good if we listen. To even find true love, one has to listen to the clear language of nature. For instance, if a person of the opposite sex visits you after a night of bright moon light, just like how someone visited you this morning, it means you are blessed with a true lover. The moon is the goddess of love, and she directs true love to people with good heart.”

Though I knew grandma was quite superstitious, and her explanations of what she believed could easily sway a young mind, I realized she was trying to be cunning. If not, why would she mention Esther’s visit as a sign of love and the blessings of the moon goddess? 

“Superstition can’t be proven, grandma. It’s just a product of fear, wishful thinking and lack of understanding of weird occurrences,” I argued. 

She said nothing to counter my argument immediately. Instead, she looked up to the top of the cocoa trees, and tapped me on the shoulder. “Look at those two birds. How beautiful they are, and how deep they love themselves.”

They were the same two birds I saw, so I knew what she was talking about. “They have been there since I came here,” I said without looking up. 

“Really?” she asked, and smiled beautifully.

Her beautiful smile reminded me of the time when grandpa was alive. After supper, they always sat at the fireside, and roasted plantain and had it as dessert. Roasted plantain was a delicacy for them, especially for grandpa. While they ate, they talked about a time long gone. And whenever the chat touched on their romantic memories, grandma would often smile beautifully as grandpa played the bad boy of old – he would cuddle her, and kiss her on the forehead to show us young ones how love should be. And we young ones would only laugh without  realizing how sweet their memories were, and how they wanted us to learn from them. 

     

“Yes. They are playing. Two happy birds playing after having a good meal perhaps,” I confirmed. “They will soon go hungry and fly away to find food. That’s how birds are; they do nothing apart from eating, fly around gregariously, and play,” I added. 

 

Grandma smiled again, and looked at me in the eye. “A young man just sees two birds playing, but an old woman who understands nature and how it works sees a good omen. I hope you don’t call it a mere superstition if I should explain it to you.”

     

“Two birds playing means what, grandma?”

     

She took away her eyes from me and hummed, looked at the birds for the second time, and turned to look at me again.

     

“Grandson, these birds are only seen after one dreams. I believe you had a dream last night. Tell me what dream it was.”

     

“A dream?” I asked myself, and tried to remember. I did, I remembered. Yes, I had a dream. But how could the dream have anything to do with two playing birds? “Grandma is just trying to play a trick on me,” I said silently.  “She just want to prove that superstition works.”

     

I contemplated for awhile as to whether to confess to grandma that I dreamt or not. Confessing would make grandma win the argument over the superstition debate. But what if I was wrong and she was right? I decided to be honest.

     

“Yes, I dreamt."

     

“Good!” She exclaimed happily. “I don’t want you to tell me the dream now, but I know that whatever the dream, it was about a pair of creatures, living creatures. Is that right?”

     

I decided to be honest once more. It was better to be honest and lose the argument than to pretend and win. It was better knowing the truth, if at all superstition contained any.

     

One thing struck me however, and I needed to give it a serious consideration. Grandma was precise in her statements. Her precise statements couldn’t be ones that were products of guesswork. How was she able to know that what I saw in my dream was a pair of living creatures? Could she have gotten it right if it was a mere guess?  Or she got to know it through the superstitious signs that she claimed to be true? I couldn’t tell, and that made me rethink of my stand on the debate. I wasn’t yet convinced anyway. Grandma had to prove her point beyond reasonable doubt. 

     

“Yes,” I replied. “I remember walking through a brook, and when I was about to get out of it, I saw two crabs that held on to each other tightly. I picked them up, and tried to separate them, but as much as I tried, I could not get them separated. So, I put them back where I picked them, and stood watching till they got separated by themselves, and went their separate ways.”

   

Grandma had a deep breathe before she spoke; an indication that between her thoughts and what she was going to tell me next, there was an obstacle; something she had to be discreet about. 

     

“That’s a dream meant to be interpreted, grandson. It’s about love. The moon's gift. The gift of the goddess of love will definitely come your way. I didn’t know about your dream, otherwise my words to you in the morning would have sounded differently,” she said, and looked up at the birds. And coincidentally, the two beds flew away, and went their separate ways; one towards the east of the village, and one towards the south.

“Hmm!” she hummed as she saw the birds fly away. “It’s bound to happen,” she added. 

     

“Grandma,” I crept back into the chat. I was quite confused and scared, but I didn’t allow that to cause me to submit to grandma's superstitious utterances. I knew quite well that superstition rides on fear, and makes those who believe it to cower to submission. Once fear grips their minds and souls, they become perpetual slaves to their own imaginations. It is a kind of  mythical science that ancient sages perhaps used to tame the disorderly people of their time. “Nothing will happen."

     

“It will happen. Everything points to an unstoppable love affair that’s going to take place between you and Esther. How it will end is unpredictable, but it will definitely happen. The dream you had, her visit this morning, and the love birds that came to display love right here before your eyes are strong signs that you are destined to have memories of each other. There’s nothing you can do about it grandson. So prepare to embark on that adventure.”

     

“She’s not my choice, grandma. She’s not my heart's desire. And I don’t think any superstitious signs will be able to change what my heart desires. It can't happen."

     

“I know you have a choice, and you have the right to decide who comes into your life, but we humans don’t have the power to direct our destinies. 

     

“There’s something you don’t know, grandson. There’s something I have been observing for years, and I think my conclusions are about to be proven right. Esther’s family and ours are destined to have some sort of union. A woman from their family so much loved your uncle, but your uncle didn’t respond likewise. Many years later, your grandpa also wanted to . . ."

     

Grandma paused few seconds after she mentioned grandpa’s name. She cast down her eyes, and sat silent for about half a minute and stood up.  

   

She walked as fast as her old legs could allow her, to the kitchen. And when she was returning, I saw her holding a cup containing water. Without delay, when she got back, she poured the water in front of the stool where she sat, and stood still for sometime before she sat down.

     

“What does that mean, grandma?” I asked, quite scared. It was weird. I didn’t expect that. I had seen grandma doing that a long time ago; many years before grandpa died, but I didn’t ask her to explain to me. 

     

“You didn’t smell that unique scent that suddenly whirled around?” 

“Yes, I smelled it. What about that? I think it’s just the smell of some flowers.”

     

“It’s not the smell of flowers. It’s the scent of the departed souls. Take note of  it so that when I visit you someday after I have joined my ancestors, you would remember to give me water. Your grandpa came to visit us, so I had to give him water to continue his journey home. 

“I’m sure that, from the ancestral world, your grandpa is giving you his backing on the adventure of love that you will soon embark on. You may doubt it because your so-called education and books tells you nothing about these things. But trust me Quasi, whatever happens in the material world first happen in the world of the unseen.”

     

I could find no reason to believe what grandma believed, but I listened intently to whatever she said. She also listened to me and patiently answered my questions, though my argument was some sort of nonsense to her. She considered my book knowledge as useless philosophical bunkum that displeased nature and the ancestors. And she believed no matter what happened, Esther and I were going to travel on a path of romance. 

     

But despite the seriousness with which grandma spoke, I didn’t believe her superstitious claims. My choice of girl was not Esther. We continued to talk until grandma left me to prepare supper.  

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