The communications towers seemed to pierce the sunset-coloured clouds stretched above them, sparkling mutedly like rusty swords. They threaded through the hundreds of concrete towers that made the Victoria Island coastline look like an infant’s gap-toothed smile. The coast even curved as if in mirth, a grassy peninsula lolling flatly like a particularly verdant tongue.
The vista was framed by a floor to ceiling windowpane, perfectly identical to the ones flanking it. Behind the smoothly polished surface sat a girl gazing idly through it, surrounded on all sides in chrome and white. The city drifted silently by beneath her and she felt a peace that had eluded her for some time. She kicked off her heels and enjoyed the small moment of pure bliss before leaning back in her office chair. She mused on the peculiar pattern of events that had drawn her to this place at this time. It almost seemed as if she were floating on whimsy; endless choices spidering out of one bold decision.
The room was cool, the product of an overzealous and invisible air conditioning system and combined with the misty grey, overcast sky that hung over Lagos in the rainy season, it almost felt like home.
Home. Thousands of miles away, it seemed simultaneously close yet altogether too far away.
She missed the unique vibe of her home city. Nothing felt quite like London with its obnoxious mix of cultures and smells and brusquely polite attitudes. The way she could feel the subtle quake in the floor from time to time as the tube rumbled unseen beneath her. But most of all she missed the way people could look through her. The anonymous sanctuary of the crowd. During her time in Nigeria, she had caught more that one pointed stare assessing her; taking in superficial details like her shoes, her clothes, her hair, her shape. And more than once some familiar strangers had dared to offer comment on her “orobo” physique.
The day long past ended, she reached for her phone to call an Uber. She marvelled at how developed her other home had become in her absence. Three minutes. At least until her Uber driver decided he’d abandon the map and drive for the hills. She slipped her phone and laptop into the bag as she slipped her feet back into their restraints. She sighed. Two minutes. She meandered listlessly out the way she had come in that morning.
She mourned the passing of a life of pedestrianism. The feeling of bustling somewhere, instead of zipping by on her derriere. All pounded yam and no exercise had made Jacqueline a chubby, chubby girl. She folded herself into a black, lovingly patched up Toyota Camry, carefully tucking the heavy, foil-wrapped package by her side.
She thought the driver looked festive in his trad; blue fighting green and purple for room across his tall, lanky frame. She smiled slightly watching him bob along to Shakity Bobo, attempting to drive with his elbows to aid his endeavor. Concerned more by the heavy traffic than an impending car accident at two miles an hour, she cast her gaze out the window at the green, glassy cuboid of a building topped by white, pyramidal spire. “Civic Centre” was embossed in bold, black script as if anyone could mistake the iconic building. Just out of sight, the Ikoyi Bridge snaked across the lagoon like milk dribbling over a granite countertop.
When the car took a sharp turn to avoid a typically aggressive bus jumping the toll gate queue, her handbag flopped onto the silver parcel. Nudging her bag back to its seat revealed dent digging into the depths of hell. She sighed. She imagined the cake inside would look something like how she felt at that moment. Flat.
For some reason the thought was a bit too depressing. She had known she missed her friends and family in London and Abuja but it was only today that despite of the number of people she saw on a daily basis that she felt alone.
She ruminated that a birthday was no different to any other day; the sun rose and it set. She went to work and she came home to sleep, eat and repeat. So why should it cause such a disquieting feeling that the back of her throat felt hot and sore?
She had sweet, thoughtful presents, lunches, cakes and gestures from her colleagues so it clearly wasn’t that she lacked attention or care. She wanted the specific attention of the friends she left behind. She wanted to chill with her girls, her guys; the people who occupied the chambers in her heart. The crazy friend whose advice always sounded like Satan and Loki were debating in her ear. The partner in crime who would co-sign on any diasterous decision. The airheaded academic. The morally questionable heartbreaker. The irrepressible philosopher. The affable giant. The permanently outraged sweetheart. The softie. The naive The sassy one. The grumpy old, young man whose anti-establishment leanings were almost as unforgiving as he was sweet.
The thought of these delightful, alcoholic sociopaths made her smile and want to cry at the same time. And the thought of this evening in particular without the bunch of ragtag reprobates was so pathetic it was almost unbearable.
Her mournful reverie was interrupted by the vibrations emanating from the phone on her lap. Her bleary gaze swivelled down to the glowing face.
She froze then a smile thawed through when she heard the low, gruff voice say,
“Hey baby. It’s me.”