The branches of the giant mango tree in the garden hang so low, they almost brush the ground. It is certainly a lot different from what you remember. The grape tree beside the well is gone- has probably been gone for about 6 years but you only just realize it. The well itself is completely dry and is now home to lizards, geckos and dead sticks- nothing like that unending source where you drew water from over 10 years ago.
Your favourite guava tree is still there but there are barely any fruits on it and you wonder the last time decent fruits were on its branches. You see the sturdy branch you always used to pull your weight as you climbed up the tree. Without a second thought, you place both hands on the branch and pull yourself up and it doesn’t give way, thankfully. Obinna laughs at you.
“You know you could have fallen down abi?”
He is right but you ignore him.
So much has changed since you were last here. Even the house seems smaller, somehow. But it’s only because you’ve grown taller- much taller.
You resume your tour of your childhood home with Obinna and he laughs as you regale him with stories of your mischievous days as a child. And they are well worth laughing over. Like how you skipped through people’s farms and ran a few meters on the rail line behind your house when your grandmother caught you talking to a boy at the back of the house. You hadn’t been doing anything wrong in particular but you would have gotten into trouble all the same. So when you were asked what you had been doing outside, you denied talking to the neighbour and insisted that you were training for the upcoming inter-house sports in your school. No one bought the tale of course and you did get a good spanking.
Obinna holds his sides in his bent-over position and you share in his laughter which is likely the most beautiful sound you have ever heard. You like it when he laughs. You tell him all the time and he always rewards you with more laughter.
Then you remember chasing a Christmas goat over those same rails. You share the story because you know it will elicit more laughter. You had been instructed to pluck some mango leaves to feed the goat on Christmas eve but for some reason, you decided to take the goat for a walk to the mango tree. The goat broke free and ran away. That was probably one of the most terrifying days of your life. Because you were certain your father would kill you for losing the Christmas goat.
Obinna is in stitches at this time and you have tears in your eyes from your own laughter partly because the story is so funny but also because his laughter is really contagious.
When you both manage to calm down, you leave the garden as you tell him of a time when it housed grapevines. The grapes did so well that they were packaged and sold for some good profit. But that feels like eons ago.
It’s really nostalgic being back here and you get a warm, fuzzy feeling telling Obinna about your childhood. Everything is changed, truly. Even the people you grew up with have mostly all moved out of town. Some are married, some have kids, some are dead even. Everything is truly changed.
“I think your dad likes me.” Obinna says in his characteristic slightly cocky manner. You laugh, because it seems like not such a long time ago when your dad would thoroughly interrogate and rattle any guy who dared show up at your doorstep, even to borrow a textbook.
Now Obinna is here visiting with you, sitting with your dad at his birthday dinner and enjoying seamless conversations and no one is killing anyone. It doesn’t even matter that you’ve only been together for a few months. This is a good kind of change.
“I think my dad likes everyone. Don’t start feeling special yet.”
But you know he’s right. It’s the first time you have seen your dad engage that much with anyone you have brought home- not like you have brought home anyone before anyway.
“Stop hating babe. I’m special and you know it.”
You shrug and walk on ahead of him. The big tree where you once hung a makeshift basketball hoop with your siblings is still there but the hoop is long since gone. You run your hand over the rough bark of the tree until he suddenly appears behind you and places his hand over yours.
“Come with me to Spain mami.”
“Just like that? It’s like you’ve forgotten it’s work that brought me back here this summer. Be forming mister romantic.”
“You sha. You know how to ruin a good moment.”
You smile and hug him warmly.
“December. Euro tour. I promise”
He nods this time and you walk back into the house together.
Obinna is leaving in a few hours and you know he’ll be taking a part of you with him, even if it is just for a few months.
You suddenly think of all the people who have come and gone all through your life. From the people who lived in your home while you were growing up, to the friends and lovers who have come and gone in time and in season.
Everything has changed and everything will continue to change but you have come to accept and make your peace with it. Because change isn’t necessarily a bad thing.