Dreams Are Aborted In My City
It had been a long day with series of activities – one responsibility after another. So, getting a few days off was definitely a highlight for me. I got home to the dirty dishes I had left before leaving the house; the stench of decomposed beans remnant in the flat ceramic plate greeted me as I stepped into the kitchen. Dead cockroaches floated on the stagnant water in the pot I used in cooking the beans last night. “Not tonight”, I said.
Frustrated, I went into my room. Ignoring the heap of clothes on the bed, I landed on it that it made a creaking sound. I did not care. I scrolled through my already packed E-mail and noticed one from my project supervisor. “Oh, God, please not more work”, I thought as I opened it. There was an attachment, an online hand-bill. It was for a Creative Writing Master Class, that was definitely good news. Almost instinctively, I thought of my tumultuous journey towards writing. First, my mother who thinks becoming a writer is an all-expense paid trip to failure, the editors who yank off originality for commercial demands, the publishing companies in Nigeria who are gradually silencing the voice of our culture in the pages of books and replacing them with Western ones in order to gain international acceptance.
Although, these were discouraging times, I knew I would regret it for the rest of my life if I did not end up a writer. Or at least try.
Dressed, I glanced at my wristwatch and at the flier again to confirm the time. I was already running late. I had lied to my mum I was going for a vigil my friend invited me for at Lagos Island, so I could only leave at noon else she would be suspicious. She had believed it without stress because it had to do with going to church for prayers. She even prayed for me ‘Adura agba o’ she said, meaning ‘May your prayers be answered’. I felt guilty for lying and pity that she had with ease believed me. My mum was not one to be easily lied to; she always had a sharp nose for sniffing out truth even if it smelled from a distance. But this had to do with my relationship with God; she had always prayed that I “get closer to God” as she would call it, to her it was an answered prayer. My mum became conscious of her spiritual life after my dad passed away as a result of suicide.
I remember during the wake keep ceremony; our neighbour whose house we always heard noises at midnight came to her; “Iya Kemi, this is life as you’ve seen it”, she said with confidence as though she was a seer. She pointed at me and said; “ you need to be close to God o, and also being Kemi closer to God” “ may we not see this again o” she looked at me with pity as though she had had a revelation that I was going to commit suicide like my father did. The Sunday after, my mother and I attended Redemption Mountain Church, my neighbour’s church. Since then, she also started making noises at midnight and most of her prayers were for or about me.
As expected, there was traffic as soon as I stepped out of my house. “Just perfect”, I thought. The motorcycle riders struggled for passengers, cursing at each other while shouting ‘Mile Two Abule Ado’. I boarded one whose rider is Hausa from the first word he uttered ‘Mile Two’ he asked in accented tone. I responded. He said in his accent which sounded like a melody of unheard lyrics, ‘na 400 for one person 300 for two persons’. I was angry, but I had no time for argument. “Nothing will stop me” I whispered to myself. The road was full of dust, noisy and rowdy. As we rode, he kept spitting and coughing, at a time he spat and the spittle splashed on a man on another bike who cursed at him, he cursed back instead of apologizing. I was furious, and couldn’t wait to get to Mile Two.
The only benefit of boarding a motorcycle is the speed, a motorcycle rider is not bound by traffic provided he is able to manoeuvre his way through the horrible traffic. It was 3:45 pm already, I waited to board a bus going to CMS. While anxiously waiting, there was a sudden gunshot; everyone began to run towards no defined direction. All I thought of was my mother, I ran towards a shop to shield myself from stray bullets or any form of harm. There was calm eventually. Relieved, I decided to reach for my phone but my pocket was empty. Now, it felt like a real stray bullet had hit me! Where is my phone? Ah! My wallet, too! I searched for tears but my eyes were dry. I was numb.
As I sat on the floor, downcast, I thought: how come I forgot to add living in Lagos as part of my challenges to becoming a great writer?