I’ve never felt homesick before. Most people describe it as a wave of nostalgia descending upon them little by little. Other people are triggered by a certain smell, a view, a phone call, a sound or even by silence. I’ve never experienced any form of it. I’ve never had to. The only time I truly remember home is when my mother calls me. Sometimes, I close my eyes so I can remember her face and her smile. Then, I let the image linger for a long time before I get distracted again.
Sometimes, it lets me question my values. Do I not value family? Are these walls too high that they now seem very normal? Which particular experience shaped this hyper independent attitude? But I know I love my family. I just don’t feel homesick. Maybe that is why I have a problem with the popular aphorism that ‘home is the person, not the place’. Home is the place for me, most times.
One time, my aunt called me and reminded me that I was the last born and I never behaved like one. She asked me how I woke up each day knowing that I had a family at home and refusing to see them. Although she could not see my expression, I’m certain she mistook my silence for shame. It wasn’t, to me. I recognized what she tried to do but I didn’t budge. However, I did call my mum later and ask her if she was okay. She was. That was all that mattered.
Over the years, I’ve developed a strong lassitude for all forms of altercations. Even when the conversations around me are spoken with intense pugnacity, I just watch. Could it be that several meaningless arguments have now rendered me numb and uninterested? I’ve also noticed that the enthusiasm to hear what is trending has eluded me completely. I no longer care. I have googled the signs of depression already. I also remember the symptoms vividly in the last few pages of the ‘depression’ notes I read for pharmacology examinations. I’m still on track with my sanity.
However, I’m going home today. I don’t have a choice. Most people talk about how you have a choice in life so if I say I don’t have a choice but to study pharmacy, they remind me that I chose the course. If I complain that I can’t find meaning in many relationships today, they remind me that I made a choice not to be in one. If I say I don’t want to go home but I have to, they remind me that I have a choice. But I don’t. I don’t because one of the first ways in breaking bad habits is to make them invisible. As a result, I try to apply the same principle to other areas. This makes me restrict myself knowingly so that I seemingly don’t have a choice but to do certain things.
Not that it matters much anyway, because now I’ve moved from the serene, seemingly dry but sane city of Ife to Lagos, the home of mad people. Yes, mad people. Most people garner this perceived notion as a result of the area one stays but I’m convinced that as long as you live in Lagos, you’d surely have a tinge of madness in you. It may be influenced by others or not, but it’s there, I promise. If you look closely, you’ll find it.
Usually, when travelling, I avoid bald drivers deliberately. Generally, I dislike drivers of public busses, but the bald ones hold a stronger dislike. They seem to be extra irritable, and project an inclination to extreme anger issues. The real problem is that I also suffer from extreme anger issues so it’s usually a catastrophic collision. I wasn’t prepared for the uncomfortable journey from Ife to Berger either. The ray of the sun that peered through the glass windows was sharper than the driver’s mouth. After alighting at Berger, stepping into another episode of harsh sunlight made me grateful for the great gift of sunscreen.
Another issue I forgot to prepare for was on ‘how to communicate’. I’ve now decided to learn the basics of Yoruba or pidgin to avoid more stress in the future. If you’re like me and ever try to communicate effectively in English with a thug, you may become frustrated. The one I encountered kept flapping the once-white-but-now-dark-brown towel on both shoulders. Simultaneously, he kept raising his hands in a customary hail at other drivers while focused on me with his eyes full of leer.
“Fine girl, your mama born you well.” The stench of whiskey was so strong like he downed the whole bottle a few seconds ago. With a brief fake smile, I left. He had not heard a word I said. I had asked for directions to Iyana-iba, but he hadn’t said anything worth noting. With hurried steps, I scan the roadside for someone else to ask, perhaps a market woman who concentrated on pursuing stubborn flies from her pastries and biscuits. I noticed her straining to understand me and gesturing for me to cross to the other side to board a bus. In an attempt to show my gratitude, I bought the cookies she sold even though their wrappers looked faded, probably from the sun. A few seconds into finding my way, I pinched on the cookies, realized they were soft, and I tossed them into the bin.
I spent the remaining journey daydreaming about the remaining days of the year. I was home. Then, I made sure to mentally shut out the feeling of emptiness stirring within. There was no nostalgia, just emptiness punctured with anxiety and rage. The smell was different. Slightly familiar but different. Stepping into the compound, I was greeted with a stringent wave of melancholy. The dust had affected my eyes, so I had to blink multiple times to take the whole view in.
It felt unreal. I made sure to shift perspectives immediately to feel good. At least, I get to see my family, I thought aloud hoping to muster gratitude and hope. “You’ve added weight o,” I could hear my neighbour shout from a distance. I forced a smile and tried to feign surprise too at the new weight gain. “Abi have you forgotten how your neck used to be very long like a tree?” she added, laughing while coming to hug me. I laughed too, throwing my head to the back while interjecting a different question to displace the attention from me. “How are my children o?” Not caring about the response, I entered the house and stared at the dusty glass of the door. I touched my chubby cheeks that were once angular and my budding double chin in the mirror, mourning my model tendencies. Then I laughed loudly at my reflection.
There was no one home.