The earth is hot beneath my feet as I find my footing within the sloppy path of rocks the color of mud earth, stratified as though stairs had been carved within. This rocky path to Umude Creek is flanked by thick bushes on both sides with huge vegetation and tall palm trees arranged in rows straight and erect like a line of soldiers on a regiment field. There is a dryness in the soft breeze that whoosh through the thickets and bushes letting of an eerie sound that leave me shivering under the bright orange haze of the afternoon sun.
This is a journey best made in solitude alone with nature and away from the hassle and bustle of my small eastern village in Imo state Nigeria. The time is right too for at this hour the sun which has settled low in the sky like a big floating orange balloon would discourage the village children from running naked and gleeful down the rocky path spinning their empty pails playfully. I do not have the courage to visit when they are making their daily rounds of fetching stream water and swimming like little nymphs. They would snicker at my feeble movements in water.
I have passed the rocks and turn into a narrower windy path that would lead me into the creek, my eyes feasting on the beauty of the forest with the keenness of an amateur tourist. There are several huge trees along this path their wide branches spread far to form a large canopy of green leaves. At a bend, I see a fat squirrel chewing a nut beneath a tall palm tree, its back hunched to form a furry brown ball. It scurries off at the sound of my approaching feet behind a small bush of glowing sun flowers. The entrance to the creek is lined up with bamboo palms and tall coconut trees with stooping stems. The resulting shade from the thick foliage of green vegetation around gives the area a picturesque effect. I moved closer to the water and peered in. The green moss underground gave the stream a greenish hue and I stood waiting for a sign that it was okay to try my resolve in conquering the gnawing phobia within me. I dipped my feet into the water watching the ripples appear then spread out in circular motions, disturbing a cluster of tiny fishes swimming close by. I am fascinated at the ease at which they move their slippery bodies swimming further and further away to the point where the current was high.
Inspired, I waddle into the water after the fishes and when my feet no longer feel the firm grip of sand beneath, I crash loudly, the water splashing into my eyes blinding me from hope into the darkness of my defeat. The sounds of my wild thrashing explodes in my head and mingles with the hoarse screaming of my mother as she writhes under the harsh grip of my father. My frantic thrashing finally brings me to the bank of the stream and I clamber out, melancholic and soaked to my bones. Exhausted, I lay underneath a coconut tree in my dripping clothes and close my eyes to the glare of the hot African sky.
My solitude is soon broken by the chatter of children and I see two small girls splashing in the stream. I feel envious of their confidence in the water then suddenly the smaller girl is being carried away by the tide. Her sister turns to me for the first time and screams.
“please save my sister.”
” I can’t swim.’ ‘ I scream back . ”perharps there is nothing I can do quiet well.”
“You can do anything if you choose the right reasons to act.” she replied.
There is a wisdom in her words that belies her age and suddenly I am seized with a compulsion to save the drowning child. I abandon my coconut shed and running briskly plunged into the deepest part of the runnning stream in search of the child and her sister who had dissappeared from sight. The plop sound of a dropping coconut nearby alarmed me and as my eyes flew open, I reliase that I had not moved from my coconut shed at all. My eyes fix on the spot where I had plunged in to save the girl and it dawns on me that I could conquer any fear if I found the right reasons. Inspired, I stood and walked into the calm stream. This time as I fell with a splash when my feet no longer touched sand, I didn’t thrash wildly like the darkness had closed in on me.
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