(Esan, Edo State)
When his childhood friend, Obhonria, told the Okada man to stop, his sense of direction fled. As they alighted, he became disoriented. The smooth road they took from Ubiaja to Ahia knew no end. It was almost an expressway. Just the absence of drainage.
“We are home,” Obhonria said. But his friend was making a slow, dazed 360 degrees.
From an imposing village mansion, his father’s house was now the pitiable remains of a miniature Gothic ruin, sitting on the edge of the almost expressway. The other houses were tiny brown specks.
“When did this happen?” he asked of the road, which opens up like an Utowho, native hand fan.
“It leads straight to Agbor,” Obhonria reduced the 48 kilometres between both towns to a sigh.
At a bend, the Ancient Tree was what was left of the sacred groove. One root stuck straight up; a gnarled hand reaching for mercy. A gleaming Mercedes Benz SUV rolled by, exchanging sun rays with metals left behind by a failed water project. Its number plate read Okuesangbe of Ahia. A lump materialised in his chest.
The project was sitting on a stretch of land once known for sweet Ohele tree, pepper fruit, succulent alligator pepper and countless Otien trees.
“Obhonria,” he moaned, “what was the name of that cherry?”
“No! The green one. White inside, with velvety rind. It stood alone.” Very juicy. Pure sweet.
“I have forgotten, too” Obhonria admitted, looking embarrassed.
“And I was home just three years ago,” he collapsed unto a tree stump by the road. The lump welled up and the first of many salty drops fell on one of two dark green velvety leaves of a stalk battling its way up from under the stump.