Sunday, December 28, 2014

Curtain Call: Saro The Musical (II)

I’d known for a while that I wanted to see Saro, so I bought my ticket early this week on DealDey. (Shout out to DealDey, by the way, for helping cheapskates bargain hunters like me live our dreams.) Since the show started on Tuesday I’d been reading everywhere online about how great it was, and so by yesterday evening my expectations were high. My only worry was that I might be disappointed after all the hype. 

I was not.

The 6pm show stared at about 6.45 and ended at 9. And I enjoyed every minute of it. Saro was like one big festival of music and dance.

The actors
For me, it was really good to see Gideon Okeke outside of his brooding Tinsel role. I’ve never seen him in anything besides Tinsel. He did not disappoint. Bimbo Manuel was brilliant as Don Ceeto. I was also pleased to see Patrick Diabuah as Olaitan. I first saw him in Yoruba Romance many weeks agoand then again in Band Aid, where I first heard him sing. He’s become a favourite for me. The women who played Ronke and Jane were pretty amazing.

The music and dance
This is where the play really shines; it is a musical after all. Every single musical performance had me wide-eyed, and some got me squealing like a child. From Rume and Olaitan’s 'Ma Gbagbe Mi' to the church choir’s rendition, everything was superb. The dancers were out of this world – their energy was infectious, and the acrobatics had me on the edge of my seat.

The story
Saro tells the story of a city, Lagos, and of four young aspiring musicians from the village who are desperate to ‘blow’ and make it big. They experience their first taste of the city when, as soon as they arrive, they are extorted by thugs for the silliest of things. A fight breaks out and the boys are arrested. But things start to look up when they are bailed by Don Ceeto, who hears them sing.

My highlights
There were no dull moments for me, but I found these bits particularly delightful and/or moving:

Rume and Olaitan’s 'Ma Gbagbe Mi' song

The Fela performance

The Eyo masquerade performance

The church choir rehearsal (when Jane started to sing I got goosebumps)

The part-Fuji rendition of John Legend’s 'All of Me' (the audience went wild for this one)

The scene where the boys first arrive Lagos

Azeez and Efe's fuji performances for Don Ceeto and the producer

The Lagos nightclub scene where the boys do a dance-off

The strength of this production is in the music and dance, in its vibrancy and the raw energy that the cast brings to the show. Stripped down to just the story, it’s pretty basic: the migration of the young and ambitious from rural dwellings to find 'greener pastures' in urban jungles. Plus two friends pointed out a small matter that had been left sort of hanging – Rume. But this did not in any way affect my enjoyment of the show, and my friends say the same of their experience. It’s why I rushed home to put up this post. I’m still on a Saro high.

Saro is on for one more day at the Muson Centre, with the final three shows today, 28 December (1pm, 4pm and 7pm).

Believe the hype. Go watch Saro The Musical

Friday, December 5, 2014

Mummy Knows Best

I am a good mother.

To my only son – and sometimes to my husband – I am feeder-slash-nutritionist, laundry(wo)man, nurse, counsellor, publicist, stylist, storyteller and encyclopaedia. I am also teacher, and it is this role that I take most seriously.

I delight in thinking up ways to teach my dear son the things that he needs to know, all of which can be summed up in three little words – mummy knows best. But just like his father, my son is a stubborn little ass, bless his heart. And so he challenges me, makes me go the extra mile, above and beyond, think outside the box, and so on. Good enough is never good enough for this my boy. It is because of how he makes me better in my bid to make him better, this is why I love him so much. I am the iron that sharpens his iron that sharpens my iron that sharpens…

My son was born with a mind of his own, the kind that prefers to learn from personal experience. And so as a good mother I have tried to pack as much experience as possible into his six years on earth. This is not an easy thing. Some children will take your word for it, but not my son. You will need to get creative. But I have learned to speak my son’s language. I am a quick learner. I was always first in my class as a child, even though my boy does not believe this because when he asked for proof I could show him none. (Now you see what I’m dealing with?)

The day my son finally learned the reason seat belts were important was a great milestone for us and the day I started to understand his language. For so long he would get into the back of my car for the drive to school every morning, and even though I strapped him in myself he would wait until we got on the road and then unstrap himself, the delightful little devil. Then he would stand in the space between the driver’s and passenger seat and bounce to the beat of whatever song was playing on the radio. I screamed, begged, bribed, and once I even stopped right in traffic to strap him back in after landing a heavy conk in the middle of his head. But again, two minutes later, he had freed himself.

I still don’t know if it was deliberate, the thing I did on this day of my epiphany. I was approaching a roundabout and I knew I had to use my brakes soon. I had time to brake slowly, ease into the change in speed. But my son was screaming Doro Doro Bucci along with the radio and bouncing up and down beside me and it just made my legs press on the brakes harder than they should have. My car screeched a little and my son, in slow motion, or so it appeared to me, flew forward and hit his head on the dashboard so hard that the CD stopped playing. I drove my car out of traffic and found a spot to stop, hazard lights blinking. I held my son and rubbed his head while he cried. But even as his tears wet my skirt the thought came unbidden into my head: this is good. He’ll wear his seat belt next time.

The next time he got in my car he strapped himself in before I could do it. Now he won’t sit in a car without a belt, and if anyone gets into my car and doesn’t use a belt my son will go ‘seat belt, Mummy! Seat belt!’ He’s so cute… my little soldier.

The day of the seat belt helped me unlock the door to teaching my son all the lessons he had refused to learn up until that point. A wheeled toy, carefully placed in his path so he slipped on it and fell, taught him to put his toys away when I said so. His homework book, seen by me on the dining table one morning before school, and promptly ignored, taught him to always put his books in his school bag after homework, like I always said. A splash of hot oil – and this one I can’t take credit for – on his face taught him at last to stand back when I fried fish, something my words had never been able to do.

But it is not only unpleasant lessons that I teach. I know the power of ‘positive reinforcement’. So when my son does good things like greet a visitor instead of just glaring at them, when he empties his leftovers into the trash, when he eats his vegetables without tears, he gets little rewards – a chocolate bar, an hour extra of video game time, a thousand naira added to his savings.

The positive reinforcements are good, but they bore me. They are not a challenge. The only good thing about them are the hugs they make my son give me. He’ll wrap his small arms around my thighs, his chin barely reaching my hips, look up at me with his father’s smile and say ‘thank you, Mummy. I love you, Mummy.’ I like that I did not have to teach my son to say I love you. It means I am a good mother.

There’s a new challenge now. My son has developed a fascination with the pool in our small housing estate. It’s like he's just noticed the shimmering blue water of it, and he keeps slipping out of the house to go stare at it through the bars of the fence around the pool area. It should make me feel better, this fence; but it is a low fence and it’s only a matter of time before my son tries to scale it. I have not asked my boy to stay away from the pool because my words will have no effect. I don’t know how yet, but my son will learn a healthy fear of that pool.

I am a good teacher. I think outside the box.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Danfo Chronicles: The Man with a Demon Spirit

One evening after work I took a danfo bus from Lekki Roundabout heading home. Home was only another couple of stops away, and so I was expecting an uneventful trip. 

This bus driver had no conductor, and so he was doing the job of driving, collecting the fares, calling for passengers and calling out bus stops. All was well until the driver called a bus stop and the man sitting right in front of me said ‘o wa’. The driver slowed down and pulled up to the curb at the requested bus stop, and the passenger proceeded to get down. As he rose from his seat, his back bent so he could pass through the low doorway, his t-shirt rode up and his pants slipped like halfway down his ass. I could see the dark hairs between his ass cheeks. I recoiled in shock at first, and then I held my face in my hands and laughed. The woman beside me started making a weird shrieking noise, shooing the already gone man with a frantic movement of her hands.

‘Hmmmmm!’ she said. ‘Please go go go go! With im dirty yansh!’

The woman next to her agreed. ‘Imagine, big man like this dey open yansh. When he’s not a small boy.’

‘Ehn!’ someone said. ‘And na the same man wey no wan bring money before o.’

They launched into a discussion I couldn’t follow, detailing some atrocity the man had committed before I got on the bus.

The driver sped on and the man with the ass was soon forgotten. A few minutes passed and two passengers, one man and one woman, said they wanted to stop at Ikate. The driver started an argument by saying that Ikate was not a bus stop and they would have to stop at Elegushi Beach.

‘You dey crase!’ the male passenger said. ‘Ikate is not a bus stop since when?’

‘Dey there dey ask me question,’ the driver muttered.

‘Don’t mind him; he’s very wicked,’ the woman said. ‘Is it today we started entering bus on this road?’

‘This driver no sabi road,’ some other passenger remarked.

‘Una dey talk your own,’ the driver said. ‘I say I no dey stop for Ikate.’

The passengers were powerless to do anything as the driver sped past their Ikate Bus Stop. He stopped the bus a few metres ahead, at Elegushi Beach, and waited to offload his angry cargo.

‘You this driver, you are very wicked,’ the woman said as she clambered out of the bus. ‘So you want us to start trekking from here back to Ikate? Is it easy to trek? Wicked man!’

Many of the others in the bus spoke out in solidarity with the offended passengers. There were declarations of how danfo drivers had no sense and how they were the root of all the world’s evils and how, if not for condition ehn, ‘who will even be using these dirty danfos’?

The male passenger was quiet as he got down. He stood by the curb, and as the driver waited for a chance to ease back into traffic, he started to speak.

‘It is God that will punish you, you this wicked driver,’ he said. ‘It will not be better for you. You will see ehn, as you are going now you will have accident.’

The driver said nothing, but the reaction from the passengers was swift.

‘Shut up!’

‘Thunder fire your mouth there!’

‘It is you that will have accident! Olori buruku!’

Our bus drove on, leaving Elegushi Beach and the angry passenger behind. The bus grew quiet, the silence only broken occasionally when some passenger reflected out loud on the words of the prophet of doom.

‘Stupid man,’ somebody said. ‘He should have said the driver will have accident after he has first dropped all of us.’

There were murmurs of agreement.

‘That man has a demon spirit.’

And this was the final consensus.  

Friday, November 7, 2014


I don’t know what it is about her that holds me. Tethered to her like an anchored ship, I cannot move. I don’t want to move. I want to sink, into her. I have watched her so many days, all the more fetching because she is oblivious to my scrutiny. I want to know her, inside and out; maybe then I will figure it out.

I have a mind that will not let go of a thing, that will not let me rest until I find my answer. (The office HR person says my ‘doggedness’ is one of my best qualities.) Like a fly trapped in a glass jar, the question will play a game of pinball in my brain, bouncing against the walls of my mind. The feeling is a sweet kind of pain, like the moment just before you finally let out the stream of urine you have been holding in for hours. Or like that second right before you come.

Now I have her alone in this house in the middle of nowhere. She’s regaining consciousness. Soon she will begin looking around, fear rising in her stomach and questions clouding her mind. (I wonder if she is like me, with the questions.) I will tell her that she has nothing to fear; that she owns me. This is true. It is why we are here. But even though I say this in my most soothing tone, carefully cultivated over many years, her eyes grow alarmed. They start to tear up.

Her eyes.

Maybe it’s her eyes – brown and ordinary except they are like saucers. In many of my photos of her she’s closing her eyes, and I wonder for a moment if she tries to hide them, if years of teasing have made her self-conscious. I want to share with her that in junior secondary I was teased for my very full lips (‘when God was sharing lips he kept doing Oliver Twist, hahaha’), the same lips that female people now call ‘kissable’. But I do not think she will appreciate this.

Maybe it is her eyes.

I fetch a strip of cloth like the one she wears as a gag, and I blindfold her, steadying her head with a gentle grip as she shakes it furiously from side to side and up and down. I stand back, walk thirteen small steps away. I look back at her and realise I can still feel the eyes. The blindfold is not enough. I will have to take her eyes out.

So I take her eyes out. I toss them in a bucket as I decide that no, it is not her eyes that hold me in chains. I am bound still. My quest will have to continue.

I stare into the holes where her eyes used to be. This could take the whole night. 

PS: My very short story, 'Business', was published recently in These Words Expose Us, a new anthology by The Naked Convos. The anthology also features stories from Pemi Aguda, Osemhen Akhibi and other brilliant writers. In other words, get the anthology!

For more information and how/where to buy, please go here.  

Friday, October 24, 2014

Yellow Mitsubishi: The Third Road Trip

Omu Resort (Lagos), Osun Osogbo Sacred Grove (Osun), Idanre Hills (Ondo)

With the four-day weekend early this month (October 4 to 7) a great opportunity for a road trip presented itself, and so road tripping we went.


We started off on October 4 with a visit to Omu Resort in Bogije Town, off Lekki-Epe Expressway. The resort is a couple of minutes after Ajah. If you're visiting Omu Resort for the first time, keep your eyes peeled. The resort has a small easy-to-miss sign at the junction where you're supposed to turn off from Lekki-Epe Expressway, and if you’re not careful you will miss it, like we did.  

Looking at Omu Resort from the outside you might think for a moment that you’re in the wrong place. Within the compound are two large rectangular buildings, painted grey, that made me think of a warehouse or some other kind of storage facility. The expansive compound sits by the water, but I was disappointed to find that the resort makes no use of the waterfront – there’s just tall grass covering the shoreline and blocking the view.

Our tickets cost N3,600 per person – a discounted price because there were ten of us. Platinum tickets, which we got, cost N5,000 per person (without the discount) and allow access to all the attractions. The Gold ticket is cheaper at N3,000, but does not allow access to everything.  

Omu Resort has a zoo, a Go-Kart course, quad bikes, small pitches for football and volleyball, a Seaworld with aquatic life, a few amusement park rides, an archery point, indoor games like snooker, and a mini golf course. The zoo was quite exciting, with an impressive variety of animals – a (lonely) lion, a (friendly) hyena, baboons, ostriches, emus, geese, a crocodile, tortoises, jackals, peacocks, a donkey that is allowed to roam the compound freely. 

The lion, 'Simba'



Donkey roaming the grounds

Ostriches ignoring my attempts at friendship

Their lion is (not ironically) named Simba, and our guide described how he’s fed. Every day the resort gets a live goat which the zookeeper releases into Simba’s den through a latch, and then Simba ‘hunts’ the goat. On our way out we saw the unfortunate goat that was to be Simba’s lunch that day. It was quite young and I felt sorry for it.

Zoos leave me with mixed feelings. I enjoy seeing the animals, but I also wonder what they do all day, worry that they get bored with their caged lives.

Omu Resort does not have a restaurant on site, so you will have to call (probably days) ahead and order your food. This is the only way of getting food at the resort besides bringing your own, which you are allowed to do. You might be able to get snacks like biscuits and popcorn at the resort, but not much else. Omu Resort also does not have provision for lodging, so you’ll have to make it a day trip. 


We said goodbye to Omu Resort at about 3 pm and headed to Osun, where we would be spending the night at MicCom Golf Hotel and Resort in Ada. We got into Osun early in the evening, but getting to Ada took much longer than we had anticipated. As we weren’t exactly sure where we were going we had to navigate using a combination of smartphone maps (which our driver did not trust) and the good old stop-and-ask. We reached MicCom Golf Resort at about 9.45 pm.

We paid for our reserved rooms, collected our keys and were ushered out of the main building and toward a rectangular block that reminded me of the hostels at my old secondary school. As we stepped through the entrance to this block I noticed a sign on the wall that said ‘Hotel Annex’. I did not like the sound of this. We later learnt that this block contained the hotel’s older rooms.

I’m reluctant to badmouth MicCom Golf Resort. To be fair, we did go for the cheapest option available – the ‘Studio Room’, which cost N5,980 per night. Prices for other rooms range from N6,670 (Double Room) to N34, 500 (Royal Suite).

So we took the cheapest rooms; still, I don’t think it’s unfair to expect a few basics from a place like MicCom – working water heaters for hot showers (none of our rooms had this), 24-hour electricity (apparently the hotel needs to reach a certain percentage of occupancy before they can run the generators through the night). The good thing was that PHCN electricity was pretty stable the whole night.

I enjoyed the food at MicCom, at least. Their rice and efo riro was a delight and cost N1,500. Food prices at the resort range from around N1,000 to N2,000 per plate.

With sunrise the next day we were able to appreciate the resort’s well-kept grounds – acres of green spread over a rolling landscape, with trees dotting the space. The bright sunlight, the brilliant blue of the sky and the people out playing golf made for a very pretty picture. 

We found the swimming pool, and a lawn tennis court right beside it. The pool was unimpressive and the water did not look as clean as it should have. There was a pale little frog chilling on the pool’s wall, like it was sunning itself after a leisurely dip and had as much right to be there as any human.

We left MicCom early on Sunday afternoon and decided to make a quick stop at the Osun Osogbo Sacred Grove just outside Osogbo. The Osun Osogbo Sacred Grove is set on forestland along the banks of River Osun. The quiet road leading to the gates is surrounded by trees and vegetation, and several small black and white monkeys appeared on tree branches and the roadside to stare at our bus. Something about the place made me want to talk in whispers and walk on my toes, to cause as little disruption as possible. 

The road to the grove

The Osun Osogbo Sacred Grove was designated a UNESCO world heritage site in 2005 and is the venue of the yearly Osun Osogbo Festival that takes place in August.  

At the gate we paid N100 each to get in. The attendant said it would cost an additional N2,000 for every camera we wanted to take in. We ended up paying N3,000 for three cameras.

Past the gates and all the way to the shrine you will see many surreal sculptures.

These carvings stood right in front of the shrine

These little black and white monkeys were a constant companion. This one sat watching for a while from the entrance to the shrine.

There’s an old suspension bridge that takes you across a part of the river. The bridge is a tad unsteady so we did not attempt to cross it.

The old suspension bridge


We said goodbye to the Osun Osogbo Sacred Grove and set off for Akure, where we would visit our main destination, Idanre Hills. The plan was to get into Akure by evening, spend the night at Royal Birds Hotels, Agbalaka, visit Idanre Hills early on Monday and then head back to Lagos.

Just outside of Akure our bus broke down, and so we had to split up, find transportation and make our way to the hotel in two separate groups. It did not help that it started to rain, and that the second taxi my group took broke down a short distance from the hotel!

We all eventually made it to Royal Birds and it was pretty amazing. Our rooms were large and spacious, and we had a charming view from our balconies. Plus the showers ran hot water and we had electricity and a good internet connection. Our rooms cost N9,000 each, the hotel’s least expensive. I did not get to see much of the hotel’s food menu, but their peppersoup was good and came at a reasonable price – N750 to N800 per plate. Breakfast was complimentary for one occupant per room.

We left Royal Birds for Idanre around noon the next day. Idanre is just about an hour’s drive from Akure. We had to stop and ask for directions a few times, but we made it there okay. The site was officially closed to tourists the day we visited – apparently the town was preparing for a festival and there were rehearsals going on within the compound. But, thankfully, we were able to convince the attendants to let us go in.

We paid the entry fee (N500 per person) and were assigned a guide who advised us to buy drinks from the sellers at the base of the hill. He assured us that we would need the drinks for the climb, and he was right.

About 660 steps take you to the tourist summit of the hill. According to our guide, the main summit cannot be reached in one day. There are four rest stops along the stairway to the top, so you can take a break and catch your breath if you get tired. 

A portion of the stairway. The hut-like structure is one of four rest stops along the way.

There’s also a small lodge at the tourist summit where I think people can spend the night. It doesn’t look too inviting from the outside, though, and it did not look inhabited at the time.

The lodge

Climbing Idanre Hill was relatively easy as a result of the stairway – 660 stairs seemed like child’s play compared to our Erin Ijesha experience. The views are amazing. You don’t even have to reach the summit to start enjoying them; just look behind you as you go up.

We reached the tourist summit and the town lay sprawled beneath us, a perfect picture. 

Higher peaks

Our guide took us to see some of the attractions at the tourist summit – the old primary school building, which was in use from 1896 to 1928, the old prison built in 1906, and the old court.

The old primary school

The old prison

The old court building, as seen from the side. Notice the round patch of grass just by the verandah? According to our guide, it’s forbidden to step on it. He said the ‘ancient crown’ landed on this spot when Oduduwa descended, and that at the coronation of every new king sacrifices are made there (or something like that).

There’s also an ancient palace, but we didn’t get to see this as we were running quite late. It was time to leave for Lagos after a long weekend very well spent. 

Photo credit: Yellow Mitsubishi

Friday, October 17, 2014

Talking to Strangers

There’s this guy I used to see often. Sometimes I’d be riding in a danfo and pass him on Ozumba Mbadiwe Road; other times I'll walk by him while I’m walking across Falomo Bridge to Ikoyi, always on my way to work. He’d be either running on the culvert that divides Ozumba or stopped on Falomo bridge doing stretches, headphones clamped over his ears. I used to wonder about him – what drove him, if he was training for something, if he was ‘FitFam’, but like a really hyper version, like FitFam 10.0.

One day I saw a video on Instagram. My friend, Ore, had seen this guy one morning doing his warm ups on the culvert on Ozumba and made a video. I left an excited comment saying how I saw the same guy all the time. Ore responded: ‘he’s begging to be interviewed’.

A seed was sown and I went away thinking, ‘well, why not’?

But it wasn’t ‘why not’ in a rhetorical sense. Cos when I asked myself why not, a few reasons came to mind:

1) He could scream insults at me for interrupting his intense workout.

2) He could get up and, without warning, start chasing me down Falomo Bridge. And he will catch me; he can run.

3) He could tackle me and toss me over the railing of the bridge, and I would go tumbling into the lagoon, hoping my backstroke would be good enough to save my life.

Because, with any of the above outcomes, when they tell my story people will say, ‘Ah, o ma se o. But why did she not just mind her business? Shebi it was office they said she was going to.’


For about two weeks I didn’t see this guy on Ozumba; and as I was taking a different route to work I could not see him on Falomo Bridge either.  

It was my last day with my former employer the morning I saw him again.

Running late for work, I was marching across the bridge when I saw the familiar figure, legs splayed out like he was doing a split, the ever-present headphones over his ears, sweat running down his face and neck and turning his clothes a darker blue than they were.

This had to be some kind of nudge  after today, with my job change, who knew when next I would have cause to walk across Falomo Bridge in the morning like this? Who knew when I would see him again?

I didn’t slow down as I approached the man; there was no hesitation. All the reasons you can have not to talk to random strangers in a place like Lagos faded from my mind. I stopped in front of him, my feet a few inches from the length of off-white fabric he had placed on the ground to protect his clothes from the dirt. He looked up at me and nodded, making a gesture that seemed to say sorry I’m in the way; please go ahead

I shook my head, bent forward a little and started talking. He eased off his headphones and listened, squinting up at me in the sunlight. As we talked I noticed some of the people I had passed on the bridge earlier on in my march overtake me, giving us curious looks as they went. I told him about seeing him working out often, about my curiosity, and about the video and Ore’s comment that had prompted me to stop and talk to him. I asked if he was training for something. He said no; he exercised for his health. He said that, being a doctor, he was aware of the importance of exercising, and that if his patients knew half the things he did they would be much better off. He said he was working on a book on health and fitness, so he could share some of this knowledge. He did not attempt anything remotely bizzare.

When I thanked him for talking to me he thanked me back, saying it was nice having someone stop to ask for once. I was glad I did. (And thanks to Ore, for being the prompter.)

I haven’t seen this man since, but I like to think he’s still out there doing his thing. And I really hope he writes that book.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Danfo Chronicles: Dancing Solves Everything

It wasn’t long after I got on the bus at Obalende that I realised the driver was one of those mad ones. As soon as the bus was filled he leaned on his horn and swerved into the road. And from then on he drove at a terrifying speed when the roads were free, slamming on the brakes when he had to slow down or stop, constantly tooting his horn, running into potholes like they didn’t exist and switching lanes without warning. The bus conductor, hanging from the doorway of the bus, seemed to be enjoying himself; he shouted greetings and taunts at every other danfo* we passed. The radio was playing loud fuji music that instructed men on how to hold on to their Nigerian women – apparently it came down to money and good sex. (This is me saying it the nice way; the singer’s language was much more colourful.) None of the other weary passengers seemed to mind all of this very much. Apart from the occasional half-hearted ‘e ni suru o’*, we were all stone faced and stoic, holding on to edges of our seats. We carried on this way, our driver angering other road users and drawing curses all the way but causing no death or bodily harm.

We got into Victoria Island and approached the toll plaza just before Lekki Roundabout. In the distance we could see the long lines of cars, trucks and buses easing slowly toward the tolling booths. I took it for granted that our driver would find the shortest of these queues and quickly join our bus to it from behind, like any normal human being would.

But no.

Between each line of vehicles there were empty strips of road wide enough to fit a bus like ours. It was into one of these spaces that the driver directed the bus. He was going so fast I thought he would crash into the traffic cone ahead, and then into the culvert and caution sign that separated the toll booth from the road. But he screeched to a stop just in time, stepping on the brakes and sending us jerking forward. Somebody cursed the driver and his mother.

So there we were, stuck between two lanes of vehicles. The plan, I assumed, was that the driver would appeal to the other drivers to make room for us; either that or our driver would try to squeeze in. Knowing the temperament of the typical Lagos driver, and with the other drivers having just witnessed our driver’s stunt, I knew we would have a hard time getting on the queue. And we did. The driver beside us on our right had set his face in an immovable mask and was pretending not to see our bus.

But our driver had a plan.

He signalled to the conductor who hopped off his perch in the doorway – his shorts were riding low and exposing the top halves of each ashy buttock – and sauntered into the space between Mask Face beside us and the car in front of him. Mask Face didn’t do anything; I think he was trying to figure out what the plan was. So was I.

As the vehicle in front of Mask Face rolled forward, leaving a few metres of asphalt behind it, the conductor spread his arms wide and started to dance, turning around and wiggling his narrow behind at Mask Face’s bonnet. Mask Face’s face wasn’t so masky anymore. He slapped his horn and leaned on it even as the conductor danced some more. Of course, Mask Face couldn’t run our conductor over. He sat there furious and impotent, blaring his horn as our driver eased his danfo into the widening space in front of him.

The conductor gave Mask Face a cheerful wave and hopped back on the bus as we drove toward the booth, mission accomplished.

Just another day in the life.

* Minibuses commonly used in Lagos as public transportation

* ‘Have patience.’

Friday, August 22, 2014

Girl on the Side

It’s the picture on your bedroom wall that bothers me. It’s hanging right across from the bed, with Her smiling straight at me. I imagine meeting her eyes over your shoulder as we’re having sex. If I were a different kind of person I might get a perverse pleasure out of it; maybe it’ll make me want to hold you tighter, moan louder, work harder, to prove something.

I decide I will ask you to take it down while I’m here. I’ll ask casually, make it sound like a joke: ‘Take it down jor. You want your madam watching us while we’re doing it?’

Weeks ago I rediscovered you on Instagram; you were living only a few hours away. It had been all innocent at first, renewing an old acquaintance from school. But when the break up I knew was coming came it was you I called, and you said all the words I needed to hear – it was his loss and I could do better anyway and any man would be lucky to have me. And so when you said I could come over if I needed to get away from everything I came; even though I knew there was no future here, even though I knew I would feel worse after. Even though I knew about Her.

You come into the room. ‘Hey, you,’ you say. You’re smiling as you hand me the glass of water I’d asked for. I smile back and take a sip.

‘Nice picture,’ I say, nodding at Her.


‘She’s pretty.’


You take off your jacket and ask if I’d like to shower. I nod, because all my words are gone. I’m rethinking this whole picture matter. Wouldn’t there be something proprietary about me asking you to take it down when it doesn’t seem to bother you; something that might suggest that maybe I think or hope that this thing with us might maybe perhaps be something more than it is?

I undress, my back to the wall where she hangs, and watch you watch me. The picture stays.

After the shower I return to the room to find you waiting. I slip off the towel and the heat from your skin warms me.

When you come you come alone, and then you fall asleep. And you snore. And I’m there watching your open mouth and being jealous because I want oblivion right now and you won’t let me have it and I want to shove a pillow onto your face and sit on it until the noise stops and I can go to sleep and forget all this. At least until I wake up again.

I reach up to turn off the light and I can’t help it. I look up at Her again and I wonder, is it just me or is that smile a tad smug right now?

I just want to go home.