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On Missing Lagos

The 3rd Mainland Bridge, main artery between the Lagos Mainland and the Island.

You were born, bred and “buttered” in Lagos. It wasn’t that your parents consciously made the effort. Secondary school was incidental; the schools you applied to outside Lagos didn’t want you. Ditto, university. By the time NYSC rolled around, you weren’t interested in seeing the rest of the country. Lagos was home, and you couldn’t imagine leaving it for the hinterlands.

You eventually left, though. Work made you. You figured at the time that it wasn’t a big deal; Lagos is an hour away by air. The new climate is wetter, but pretty much the same. The houses are the same, the people as well. The difference in accents is only there if one looks for it. You had friends, relatives who had been transplanted as well but they didn’t seem the worse for wear. You’ll be fine, they said, it’ll be fine.

No one told you about the yen. You didn’t know you would be so sensitive, that you would miss the intangible; sleeping in your old bed, knowing your way around town, familiarity, belonging. You don’t see yourself ever fitting in this new city, and the thought fills you with panic sometimes.

The pining is all, the missing is all.

You return to Lagos at intervals and you realize that you have begun to colour it with the hues of a paradise that it wasn’t. On the outside, it’s the same, noisy, rowdy, trafficky (sic), hot. But it’s where family is, and a church of people who know you and smile at you, and shops that you’re familiar with, and a tailor who knows your body better than you do, and the beach, and grins that make your heart beat faster, and your friends…who are changing too. Getting engaged, changing jobs, developing new tastes, leaving too.

Lagos is not the same. You have left, and she ignores you, leaving you standing on the fringe, staring in through the glass, an outsider, an unwanted child.  Fear crystallizes, you belong nowhere, do you?

Your Lagos, that Lagos is gone, fossilized in the amber of memory where it is safe to colour in the hues of a paradise that it never was.

0 Comments

  1. @toluOloruntoba says

    Here’s a Hug. 🙂

    Nostalgia and a feeling of ‘outsideness’ are vital parts of our humanity. They remind us we are but travellers.. And it’s good to never forget.

    Eventually we carve a space of our own, made of things relatively less changeable that radically, and not necessarily tied to a place..

    Tied to many places, probably. For now, though, while we search, we’re in flux, and faith, family and friends may be the only star charts on these murky nights..

    You be good.

    • Thanks 🙂 Comforting words. I now have to make a conscious, conscious effort to make friends. Me, with my pseudo-shyness that everyone interprets as snobbishness! *wails* 😀

      • I have the pseudo shyness that most interpet as snobbishness too 🙁
        I like your use of third person pronoun.
        Looks like you’re at home in it.

        • Lol! I think it’s a girl-thing to be considered a snob. There you are, thinking you’re just minding your business and being polite, meanwhile people think you feel too good for them! I’m working on it sha…

          The “You” narration? It’s actually 2nd person. I like it because it gives me some emotional distance when I want to write about personal things. There are people who say that it’s impossible to write good, long prose using the 2nd person. I want to try it some time, see if it’s true. This is practice.

  2. Elaine says

    This is sad. I’ve missed you. You’re never on Twitter anymore.
    Great post, I can relate, even though I’ve never left Ibadan. Thank you, for filling me with NYSC dread. Lol.
    *uncharacteristically sappy this morning, it’s hormones. 🙂 *

    • Elaine! I deactivated my Twitter account as part of a self-revaluation process. I’ll be back soon, I figure. NYSC is different, you know. At least, it’ll be somewhere in your head that it’s a temporary move. You KNOW you’ll return, and so there’s some comfort.

      Wait, you’re always ‘characteristically’ sappy these days. The girl-thug is gone forever, isn’t she? 😀

  3. odisi says

    And am going to leave soon. Adopted I am, but I ll miss Eko. Decent writing, painted vivid pictures.

  4. Omobolaji Seni-Hughes says

    Sigh! After living in Lagos ‘all my life’ and then moving to Abuja, I feel exactly the same.

  5. Sometimes, it is the most offending experiences that beget beautiful writing like this. Not to mount pressure on you, but I only wish you had time to write more…

    • I share this wish, it’s become a matter of survival. Either I write, or I curl up and die inside… 🙂 Thanks.

  6. Excellent Post. Impeccably written.

    Ah! Lagos! Place of amala dreams and traffic wishes. I miss lagos. Everywhere I go. I feel your pain. People look at pictures of me in exotic places and say ‘hey, he’s having fun’. But I always miss Lagos. Always.

    I’m going to venture a guess and say youre in Port harcourt. Sigh. Its not so bad. At least youre in the same country. Make friends. I could recommend a few if you like 🙂

    I dont think the feeling will ever go away, one cannot feel at home in a place that is not home and home is where the heart is and the heart thrives on feelings and memories and experiences. So one would need to accumulate many new memories and experiences and feelings to replace the homely feeling that a city gives. Like Tolu said, maybe we just need to build a space of our own. But that will take a while. I hope I get there some day. Or just finally get to come to the home I know and love.

    • We share a mutual friend already (Efe), but I could use a few more. 🙂

      I think it’s harder to adjust when you’re someone who does anything that requires an emotional connection. Writing, photography, painting… We’re used to stopping and staring, to enjoying the little moments, to stepping out of the normalcy of our everyday lives to capture the fleeting essences. (Does this sound sappy? *scratches head*) And so, gaps are that much wrenching. You have to struggle all over to find emotional attachments, and beauty in a new place.

      But we must. Precisely because of the way we are. Else we run the risk of missing out on new experiences, of failing to witness to novel instances of beauty. I know this here *points to head*, but try telling that to *points to heart*

  7. Lagos is not the same. You have left, and she ignores you, leaving you standing on the fringe, staring in through the glass, an outsider, an unwanted child. Fear crystallizes, you belong nowhere, do you?

    Your Lagos, that Lagos is gone, fossilized in the amber of memory where it is safe to colour in the hues of a paradise that it never was.

    This is poetry. Lagos is riddles. You are reality.

    I agree. I like

    • Hello, Segun 🙂 I find myself taking baby-steps towards poetry these days. Not brave enough to do a full fledged poem but you never know… *shrugs* Thanks.

  8. The writing is B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L-L! I was born in Lagos but i left when i was two. So i can’t really claim to know it. I have visited the town a few times and i’ve found myself wondering how the hell people can live with all the madness and rush that is concomitant with the town. But i like the way it makes it’s people tough and resilient though. So i’m not entirely surprised that people can fall in love with the place.

  9. Elaine says

    Lol! I know. I try so hard to revive her, but it only feels as though I’m playing a role. I have been thawed by love, and it’s disgusting! Lol.

    I thought Port Harcourt was temporary.
    Yikes. I’m sad all over again.

    Didn’t you just become active on Twitter? A re-evaluation so soon?
    Will adding your blog to my bookmarks count as a subscription? It never works when I click on the subscribe button.

    • Wonder why you can’t subscribe. Have you tried from a PC? Yes, you could bookmark as well but it doesn’t work as well as subscribing 🙂

      I will be back on Twitter in the future. Just not now. I honestly don’t miss it and since I left, it’s forced me to reach out to more people in real life. I didn’t expect that. Most of the people I follow are not here in PH and it was too easy to get lulled into a sense of “connection” online that didn’t necessary translate to real-life interactions. Going off Twitter made me realise that I was actually by myself, and so I had to make the effort to meet more people.

      Alas, PH is looking permanent. 🙂 “Thawed by love”. Gosh. Lol!

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