I took my first step on the flat escalator and slipped. Attracting the attention of other travelers in the crowded Murtala Muhammed airport. It brought a bit of smile to my lips. My first since I left my sweet mum crying. I am often clumsy and on occasion, socially awkward. I am cursed with my mum’s genes. I had made my peace with it over the years and as a result rather than get embarrassed, I laugh at my own self when I make mistakes in public or fail to catch up quickly on some elegant social skill. A few minutes earlier, my mum and I had held each other and wept as if I was never going to be back. We had thoroughly embarrassed my brother who (bless him) had inherited both my father’s looks and ability to blend in anywhere he found himself. If he dined Chinese, he used chopsticks while I politely ask for a fork. My mum and I are quite different however.
I left Nigeria on November 8th. Prior to this, I had never been on a plane. I generally lack any adventurous spirit. I simply didn’t have the gene for it. I had visited just about 6 of the 36 states in my country. I loved home and familiar things. I rarely explored. Whenever I spent a night at my mum’s, I not only shared a room with her, I begged to share a bed. How I was going to go a month without seeing my brother and mum I still didn’t know yet.
Every one asked for money. The customs, the security…it was ‘sister, anything for us?’ everywhere I turned. The airport was also filled to the brim. I was almost wishing I had flown through Abuja. I had made this trip to the airport several times to see my husband off as he returned to Canada. Abuja was always calmer and less crowded. I was advised to split my luggage and before I could turn around, a lady handed me a Ghana-must-go bag for 1000 naira. My mum didn’t take it too well. Why was it 5 times the normal price, she accused the poor lady. I got through customs still crying and looking back to wave again and again to my crying mum and brother until I couldn’t see them anymore. She complained often that I was a bit clingy but I knew she would miss me. We were more like best friends/sisters.
I hadn’t seen my husband in the past 11 months. He had refused to make any more trips to Nigeria. The marriage was starting to tremble a bit. So I just had to go. We had been friends since I was 14 and dated from when I was 19. We loved each other deeply, our bodies spoke the same language…our love story was beautiful but the distance was taking a heavy toll.
I slipped on the ascending escalator despite carefully watching others get on. A kind professor from the university of Lagos steadied me and showed me how to get on the next one. I held the railings with both hands desperately. While waiting to board, I went to the washroom and saw some fellow passengers holding hands and praying loudly to arrive safely. I wondered if I should be scared of flying because they were still intensely praying when I finished. I asked the man beside me to show me how to buckle my seat belt and he did.
As the plane took off, I felt uncertainty creep into my mind. I was leaving life as I knew it. My birth home and country. Loyal friends, family…job prospects. Certainty. What waited at the other side? What would it be like? The only certainty was my husband. Nothing else. My ticket was a return for 6 months. So I told myself I would be back in 6 months. Little did I know I wasn’t to visit my country again for a long, long time.