As the plane descended, she thought how very unlike the place she had left this was. An hour and forty five minutes ago, it had been glinting colored aluminium roofs and a cluster of houses which became tinier as the plane ascended. Here it was just land, and trees, and very few houses that welcomed.
She hated landings, her stomach lurched as it always did, her ears filtered sound as though through a thick cloud, she unhinged her jaw to relieve the ear pressure. Last time her mom complained about how her ears felt during flights, she had tried to teach her, Ma hadn’t understood the unhinging, she guessed it was in the doing.
The cab men insisted, from the airport to Bagauda 6,000, she remembered falling for that once, never again. Even the airport cabs in Lagos were not as expensive as the ones here, and they at least were air conditioned. She did not bother haggling.She pulled her bag by its trolley and took a rickshaw out of the airport instead. A cab outside was 2,500.
She remembered another place. A market in Lagos. Lingering over it. Dithering. Reluctant to buy it at 250, afterall it was just a water melon. In Kano, I buy it for 70 she grumbled, under her breath she thought… not, as the seller’s screech and hands shooed her away, telling her to go and buy it from Kano or did she think the melons rolled down to Lagos all by themselves? Did she know how much fuel cost? Nonsense!
Now, She glanced at the man who got in the rickshaw beside her. Then she did a double take and moved away from him discreetly, trying not to stare or cringe as he picked his nose.
Black wires slithering along her neck, disappeared into her ears as her head bobbed up and down to B.O.B’s Ghost in the Machine. She frowned as she watched Nose man’s mouth move. He nudged her,
She pulled out one of her ear pieces, what?
He muttered in Hausa, gesturing at something in his right hand, she looked and saw the nylon filled with sugar cane he was offering. She smiled and said no thanks.
String of words spewed out, fuzzing her brain. She took out the other ear piece. I don’t speak Hausa. He was taken aback.
Why you no speak hausa.
Because I’m not hausa.
Yes, why you no speak hausa.
I don’t live here.
Wey you going?
She did not like inane conversations, but the smile on her face would have said that was a lie. Bagauda.
Ha! Law school?
Why you no want sugarcane?
I’m filled up thanks.
Everytime she passed through these roads, she felt like she was stuck in a Cyprian Ekwensi novel. She raised her phone, zooming in on the baby calves being herded by 3 boys not as tall as the calves themselves. She smiled as she recalled Bliss asking her why she only took pictures of the poor North and accusing her of pandering to what the West wanted to see of Africa. She was about to click when the man nudged again, she watched her shot disappear through fields of grass, then she pulled out the earphones again, trying for a smile to mask her irritation as the last of the calves and man cubs disappeared behind the tall shrubs.
He pointed at her phone. She lifted it, took a quick, not focused picture of him, showed him then scanned the road, hoping for another scene. That was one thing she loved about this place, the roads and the shots that lined them; the nomads and farmers, almajiris and hawkers, sometimes widening brown stained teeth for a click from her. No matter what Bliss said, those photographs were true. They were life as a lot in these parts lived it.
She stared at a cow wrapped strangely around a tree, head twisting – up, down, side, down, side – spit dropping, an unending transparent swinging rope anchored to the ground beneath. She wondered if it was a mad cow then realised it was only scratching an itch…
She thinks about this last lap and hopes that after this, the feeling that has plagued her in the last 8 months will fade. That feeling of neither going nor coming, being neither here nor there…