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.