Two Unrelated Lagos Vignettes

1

March. I became friends with a woman across the street. Because the heat had refused to leave us, I had moved the chair in the room to face the window and taken to staring past the iron bars to the world outside, willing the wind to blow into the room and at my face.

In that time I became familiar with the jagged outline of my Lagos skyline: the one palm tree that somehow sways languidly in spite of the stillness of the day and the point at which the sun disappears in the evening, just behind the multistory structure owned by the catholic church down the street.

Of all the verandas in my view, only one of them has occupants of the house step into it, spread mats, and sit. The first time I watched a woman just lay there sleeping, she turned, and turned, and only went in after a boy came to her shouting Up NEPA. Another day, someone else came out of the house, held a mobile phone to the sky while pacing back and forth, before entering the house again without making any call.

The woman I watched the first time is the one I call my friend. She once walked someone to the stairs, closed the gate at the top landing behind the person, and burst into a dance immediately—such character.

I trusted my friend to appear on the veranda daily, even on weekdays when I was usually the only one in the house and I assumed she was the only one in hers too. I wondered if she was a housewife, or someone whose employment status was just as fluidly defined as mine.

Unlike my near-nudist act in the room, she would come to the veranda fully dressed then fan herself again and again as she peered into the street below. Sometimes, she left the zipper of her gown open all the way down. I imagine her desire to peel her clothes off her body, and allow the wind caress her. But, you see, there’s this thing called being modest, and I pitied my friend because of it.

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Image by Logor Olumuyiwa via Monochrome Lagos

2

I got to my usual stop for keke in Mushin and asked for the next turn to Mushin. But you’re already in Mushin, one of the riders told me, the start of a smile visible on his face. The sun was intense that day, as it usually was at the time, and I just wanted to get in the keke and give my legs a break. I wasn’t in the mood for jokes. So, again, I said, Where’s the next turn to Mushin? But you’re already in Mushin he said, again, and the smile had already matured on his face. I opened my mouth, but, exasperated, closed it and just walked towards the next tricycle on queue.

I bent my body, one leg already in the keke, and then my brain suddenly became clear like I’d been carrying water in my ears all day and it just found its way out. I was going to Isolo from Mushin, yet insisted that I was looking for a Keke to Mushin. I entered the Keke and looked out at the rider. He was laughing properly at this point. I shook my head and laughed too, and thought of the fool I would have made of myself if I had spoken out of my exasperation, because, all the while I was thinking: Who does this one think he wants to joke with this afternoon?

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