K: I’ll pick you from the airport.
Me: No, thanks.
10 hours later, I wonder how I’ll find my way from the airport. What if “Something” happens? What if my flight gets delayed and I take a taxi to my destination late at night and I get robbed or Something because I’m this petite, light-skinned woman (read: easy mark)? It’s impossible that I could be strong, you see. No one thinks you can be, not when you’re fair and petite and female.
I should have taken K’s offer.
Why do women like to be chased?
Airport. The boarding announcement comes on and we all shuffle to the tarmac. All of us will be dead in 100 years. And it should evoke some sort of camaraderie, shouldn’t it? But it doesn’t. We are ignoring one another. It’s strange, considering that we could be deathday mates.
What if our plane, this plane that Arik has christened “Michael” were to fall out of the sky? We would die together. Approach the pearly gates together. Our families would mourn together, share the camaraderie we deny ourselves now. And for that reason, shouldn’t we smile at each other now? Hold hands, maybe? Chant Kumbaya, maybe?
“THAT IS A $5000 BAG!”
I glance at the man screaming at the porters. It is a Salvatore Ferragamo bag and its jacket has been torn. He is apoplectic. I want to laugh or at least, smile.
That’s a $5000 bag, he repeats as if incredulous. He cannot believe the disrespect they have shown it. The porter apologizes and tries to beat the dust off. I am distracted.
The lady ahead of me in the queue to enter Michael is the type of woman 15-year-old me hoped I’d grow up to be. She is fair, too. She wears a pink dress and a belt made of stringed pearls. Her weave is real human hair, I think. Dark, curly, shoulder-length. She wears heels. Elegant. I wish I could be elegant. But I’m also content with who I am. The one who wears flats almost all the time because I want to be that person with silent footsteps.
I am afraid of flying. As I enter “Michael”, I wonder if today is the day I die. It would be ironic if I did considering my last blog post. Would readers who misunderstood it hold me up as an example of what happens to people who don’t criticise the government at every turn? Are you that superstitious?
I think I should blog my thoughts but all my notebooks are in my checked-in luggage. I have a pen but no paper in my handbag. I panic.
*Suggestion to Arik: if it’s not too much trouble, could you leave a blank A4 sheet in each seat pocket?*
The hostess looks aggressive. I’m afraid to ask her for paper.
I’m in a middle seat. My seat mates are a Nigerian woman in a business suit and the obligatory human hair extensions, and an Indian in jeans and trainers. I guess she’s a banker. I guess he’s in IT. I disturb her getting to my seat. I disturb her again to retrieve my phone from the laptop bag in the overhead locker. It is on and I’m afraid it may ring mid-flight and everyone will give me the evil eye. They won’t know it’s my bag, will they? I’m not sure.
I find an old bank teller in my phone’s pouch. I begin to write on it.
I run out of space.
I flip through the complimentary magazine to see if there’s a blank page I can tear out. I’m slightly relieved there isn’t. I mean, what would my seatmates think about me tearing the magazine?
The plane takes off and I don’t hear the briefing. Almost immediately, we fly into clouds and the banker starts to chant “Jesus” under her breath. Over and over, like a mantra. I want to tell her he probably heard her the first time. She doesn’t sound so cool anymore. Was it just ten minutes ago she was chatting to someone on her phone in a fake British accent?
The kids in the seats behind me are laughing as the plane mimics a roller coaster ride.
My colleagues and I, we had a discussion once on how it might feel to die in a plane crash. They said, if the plane free fell to Earth, everyone on board would be dead before they hit the ground. The shock, see? The shock would kill.
I thought it would be nicer that way. To fall and just have your brain fudge up, the way it feels the last ten seconds before you fall asleep. Aww, I’m falling.
We make it through the clouds.
The hostesses serve muffins, water and juice. I test if I can write on the serviette.
The banker whips out a Kindle Paperwhite. I feel the first sense of kinship with her. She reads for a bit and then gets out her make-up kit. I lose the sense of kinship.
I don’t look stellar. My afro is pulled up in a weird updo, my face is oily and I have a pimple on my chin. I am not wearing any make-up. I wish my hair was neater and I could reach my lip balm. I’ve lost weight, my blue chinos are loose. My blouse keeps coming untucked. I touch the gold heart pendant at my throat.
We are descending into Lagos.