March 31 2019
I spent about two hours very early in the morning sitting, people-watching, inside of a dingy bar attached to a brothel. I drank water, intermittently, from my bottle. I only recently found this place about a half hour walk away from where I live. On my first visit here a fortnight or so ago, I got a very faint idea for a photo project on disenfranchisement. The idea is still forming, so I came again.
I stepped out, exhausted. And wondered where the hell I was going to get a taxi at two-thirty-something a.m. wondered, too, why I’ve refused to download and use Uber, or the recently rechristened (Bolt) Taxify.
I began to trek, hoping to come across a taxi. I was panicky; although I’ve been in this business of lonewalking late at night for about a decade now, I’ve become antsy these days, because of a recent harrowing experience. Moments later, electrical power – and therefore streetlights – went out in the whole neighbourhood. I started walking faster.
Around five minutes after, I saw a taxi in the distance, and waved my hands. The vehicle slowed, approached, and, when it was a few meters away from me, sparked away. A case of profiling, I thought.
I went back to my anxious walking. About five minutes later, a second taxi showed up, which turned out to be the saving taxi I’d been praying for. I’d thought about, and then decided against, engaging the driver in conversation. Less than ten minutes, I was back at the house, in bed. And my tiredness disappeared.
I lay listening to Teju Cole talk about his book, Blind Spot, and thought about something I’ve been meaning to write on my blog about why I thought a remark he’d made on some podcast was unfounded.
I slept for a few hours afterward, and woke up hungry, thinking about my sister and missing my nieces. I ate a pastry and a slice of watermelon left over from the previous night.
I went online and responded to a message I’d seen come in hours earlier and ignored, and then I had a chat with a friend.
It was close to late afternoon when I stepped out in pursuit of proper food, which I knew I would only get outside of my neighbourhood, in a much more alive part of town. It was Sunday, so I decided to do a walk instead of the usual taxi ride. I took photographs of unspectacular things along the way. Among them: a man in pink trousers cycling back home, I guessed, from church. And another one of an empty chair sitting solitary in front of a gate.
I ate on my return, read a bit and napped.
Evening time came and I had the urge to step out once more for a stroll. I ended up in that same more alive part of town I’d been to earlier.
An Islamic prayer bead hung over the rearview mirror of the taxi that brought me back to my neighbourhood. The driver sang along to the familiar song that was playing. It was quite a nice mood. I made a story for my Instagram, accompanying the video with text saying: “islamic prayer bead + a song, in hausa, about repentance.” I should send this video to my mother, and tell her I’m on my way back from a mosque.
I walked towards my gate, and I called my sister. I guessed that she was munching something. “Salad,” she told me, playfully. And thus she remained all through our conversation, which figures. Food makes my sister happy. I beamed so wide after the call.
For supper, the plan was to cook and eat a little rice with leftover soup from the afternoon meal. Then the electricity went out shortly after I stepped into my room. I found it laughable, this impossibility of cooking because of an absence of electrical power. I chuckled, sat and ate a mango in the darkness.
Power returned quickly, and I set the rice to cook. Put two eggs to boil, as well.
I began to write something I’d had in mind for a long while, only pausing to serve myself when all the cooking was done. Then I got back to writing, eating alongside.
In something like an hour, I finished typing this thing out, and I was so, so happy about it. I wanted to celebrate this completion with a much beloved film, and I wasn’t about to renege on the idea. So I switched my room to cinema settings and watched Ousmane Sembene’s “Xala” for the 686th time.
I had four more mangoes, and I figured that if I ate one after every half hour, they would last me the film’s entire two hour duration. Quick maths.
It was past midnight by the time these two hours were up. In other words, good night, March; hello April.