He must have sensed me.

He was old, very ....very...  old; his hands were callused and scarred and …  like a blue train running across a parched brown field, the veins in his hands runs throbbing thru his sun burned arms. 

He was stooping but when he saw me he stood up straight, stretching his small aging body. He could not be more than 5 ft., I thought.

He smiled, showing his yellowing teeth. I smiled back

"I'm Melo," he said. He took off his thin gloves and we shook hands, 
he then picked up his tools and walked to the neem tree; I followed.

"It is extremely hot today, it might rain this evening. You came a'visiting?” Melo asked.

Yes sir,” I answered, pointing to the direction where I came from.

He nodded. We sat on the ground and savored the sweet relief of the neem shade. The silence of the place was so soothing that I wished there was a bed under the tree. After a while, Melo offered me a cigarette and lighted one.

And we talk about flowers. How he made them bloom during off season.

Gardening is my hobby and Melo knows a lot about plants. That afternoon chat became a weekly chat; despite our age difference, we became friends.


We have been friends for quite a while when I asked him the question.

“Why do you stay here Melo, no relatives?”

Melo looked at me and smiled,“I have four sons.”

I don’t understand, do they know you are here?”

“Yes," was his curt reply.

“Don't you get lonely here? No neighbors, no radio, no TV."

“Huh, I am surrounded by neighbors here. In fact, I know them by names already, even their birthdays,” and he made a feeble laugh.

Tell me your story Melo, I am struggling to be a writer, maybe I can write your story."  Melo looked at me, " I never had a story published though,” I added sheepishly. He smiled. 

He did not answer, as if weighing if he can grant me my request. After a while he said, “Is that why you come here, to get my story?”

No. I'm sorry, forget it," I said. I must have looked sad and hurting because after a while he said;

No, I will tell you my story. ” With that, he stood up and went to his garden again; time for me to leave. 


When I arrive the next Sunday, I caught him taking a nap under the neem tree.

I bought you some groceries, a pack of beer and peanuts for our chats,” I said

“You shouldn’t have bothered; my son came this morning, brought groceries like am going to be a 100.”

“You are now 80...just 20 more laps. Besides, you haven’t told me your story yet.”

We laughed, then after a long silence he said; “I don’t intend to stay that long, there is no purpose, everything is in its proper place, nothing to arrange or re-arrange, everything is perfect,” Melo said, quite seriously now.

What about grandchildren?” I countered,trying to dissuade him from his thoughts.

They have lives of their own, let it be. I have passed the baton of living to my sons. Let them be the lights of their children... My lights are fading, so be it.”

I couldn’t answer. I don’t even know where my mind is at that time, all I remember was the silence; we sat silently, a peaceful silence. He was puffing on his cigarettes; I was looking at the neem tree dancing.

I remember thinking, how happy the two were; the neem tree and the wind.

Joyce Kilmer must have seen the tree dancing when he composed his poem.


Two Sundays ago, Melo decided it's time to tell his story.

What really made you stay here Melo? “

“I’m gonna tell you why, but just like the others, you may not understand,” He said.

Try me,” I replied, and he started.

“I didn’t intend to stay here at first, but then, you see ... Lillian is always afraid of the dark, of being alone so when we brought her here, I made it a point to visit her everyday just to keep her company,” Melo replied.

I didn’t answer him back. I took a glance at Lillian and I felt sad.

Then one day, it rained cats and dogs. It didn’t let up till evening, I didn’t bring my umbrella, so I stayed the night.   I sat beside Lillian’s bed and put to rest my aching back, immediately I fell asleep,” Melo paused and smiled, then he continued;

“It was the most relaxed and restful sleep I had for a long time. I found the peace that I have been longing for, I feel like …  I have finally arrived home.”

“And so I talked with my sons, all were against my decision, one even suggested to bring me to the doctor. They said it is just depression that I will get over it.”

“And so I said ‘then let me stay with your mom just until I can get over my depression. Let me lead my own life the way I wanted it’.”

“I promised my sons I will take care of myself, if only for their sake. And so they let me be,” Melo paused.  He then looked at me, winked and with a smile said “they know they can’t stop me.” I nodded.

It took him a long time to continue that I thought it was the end of his story, but he continued, there is no stopping Melo now.

Everything in our house reminds me of my youth, of the past; of the things that I should have done but didn’t do, and those that I did but shouldn’t have done, and a feeling, an unfathomable feeling of sadness would come over me. I wanted to go home, to feel its comfort and its peace, yet I do not know anymore where my home is. I feel like a lost child.”

“My sons said, it is normal to feel it, that it will go away in time, but it did not, not even when I involved myself with various activities and chatted with my friends. Ah ... it never went away, it just burrowed deeper and deeper into my consciousness.”

Well, I am happy while chatting and working but when I rest and when my friends are gone, when I am alone, I feel very very empty;  it is like I can think and I can feel but my body is somewhere; as if there were two of me. Oh, am sorry, I really cannot describe that feeling to you.”

“When I transferred home here, I feel at ease, I could talk to my maker more freely. It seems like only the three of us are here, Lillian, me and my Maker.”

I am happy with my life. I am still no bonkers as you can see. I have books and once in a while I read." He shaked his head and continued, " But no news for me anymore, I am done with that, I have passed the baton of living to my sons,” he ended.

Do you keep a diary Melo?” I asked.

No. when I die, my life is finished. I don’t want anybody to spend time reading
what is already kaput. Everyone ought to look forward as I look forward to my end,” he replied.

The everyday silence of this place gets me closer to my maker. I spent my mornings thanking him for my life, for my relatives, for my friends and for my neighbours.”

“On evenings,  before I go to sleep, I would ask forgiveness for whatever sin I committed that day. I would thank him for giving me the sun, the moon, the wind, the water and the earth and everything that grows on it.”

“I learned how to dance with the sun and to sing with the wind.”

“I learned to listen to the trees and to converse with the flowers.”

“When you get old, you will have to choose the final path you wanted to tread. Others go to church daily, others commit themselves to their community, others enjoy their last moments with their family; I chose mine; I wanted to be alone, just to be alone.”

“I spent 80 years of life with my kind, I want to spend the remaining with my Maker”.

“My sons worried constantly about me, my friends doubted my sanity," then Melo looked at me and asked, "You, what do you think of me, do you doubt my sanity too ?

I was caught off guard. I shaked my head but I couldn’t answer. I was still thinking for an answer when he continued.

Every day, I would tell my maker how the wind smelled; how the trees shielded me from the rain; how the rain nourished my thirst and how the sun egged me to use my body. And the moon … yes … the moon would always come in the evening to sooth my aching body and keep me company.”

“You say I do not have neighbors. We all have neighbors, the trees, the plants, even the grass are our neighbors, for together we exist in this planet”.

“I am grateful that I still have time to thank my maker for His beautiful creation”.

He stopped, looked at me again and said;

“So, did you get everything? You think you can get a story published now?”

We both laughed.


This Sunday I came back to see Melo, but alas, he can talk no more.

My friend cannot change banter with me anymore.

No more laughing, no more remembering.

No more dancing with the sun, no more singing with the wind.

No more talking with the trees and the flowers, no more playing with the grass.


The dark clouds are coming... I can hear the trees, the grass, the flowers excitedly waiting for the rain. I must go home now, I did not bring my umbrella.

Tomorrow the sun will come back and together with the wind and the Neem tree, they will again dance ... the dance of life.

Before I turned my back to leave, I went back inside the mausoleum and read once more the epitaph;

“Here lies our parents, even death cannot do them part.”

What a fitting epitaph for Melo and Lillian.

From the author;

One Sunday last year, while visiting the grave of my mother, I came across an old man sitting on a stool beside a grave.
He was alone and he was lighting candles. When the candles were lighted, he took the old flowers from the vase and put in the new ones he bought.
For hours, he just sat there and looked around, puffing on his cigarettes. He seems to be happy left alone. When the sun set and darkness starts creeping in, he took his things, arranged the flowers again and left the place.
 I could not help myself. When he left, I went near the tomb he is tending; it was that of a woman. I learned  later that she was his wife. Although she passed away years ago, the man would always come and brought flowers every Sunday.
 I remember thinking how enduring his love is and this inspired me to write this love story of Melo and Lillian.