Ghosts in The Kinky Part of The Town

Lagos, Nigeria; 2005. The mainland; the part of Lagos with blunt decaying houses, noisy streets, traders with scrawny long necks, all struggling souls of different tribes who live lives of uncertainties; many die without fully knowing what they are capable of, but they return, as ghosts, roaming the streets to continue the struggle. Hope like […]

Ghosts in The Kinky Part of The Town

Lagos, Nigeria; 2005. The mainland; the part of Lagos with blunt decaying houses, noisy streets, traders with scrawny long necks, all struggling souls of different tribes who live lives of uncertainties; many die without fully knowing what they are capable of, but they return, as ghosts, roaming the streets to continue the struggle. Hope like dust rests on their lashes. They hardly blink, but when they do, its a quick pat of the lids lest they do not see opportunity pass by. Its the kinky part of town where anything could happen.
I belong to one of the many religious families of the mainland. Prayers are always lengthy; mornings covered with the blood of Jesus and the nights met exchange of fire- Holy Ghost fire- a fire willing to consume, to burn or so we thought.
Father works at a post office and mother sells fresh tomatoes at the market. I go to a school where classes are filled to the edges with children twisting their lips into something close to a smile, where a teacher gives an A when you learn a new word and not when you use a new word correctly in a sentence.
We visit the island sometimes, when father’s friends invite us to dinner, to houses with chandeliers so bright and ceramic plates so smooth. Life on the island pricked my curious eyes. People lived enabled lives, walked in measured steps, wore colognes that make you sneeze, handbags had names and had to have names, buildings in all sincerity defined a home and the island girls, Oh! They all have dimples, these girls who smile a lot and say ‘my bad’ whenever they did something wrong- admitting a fault with a smile. Their names sound airless- Shirley, Chloe, Wendy- like names of things rather than humans. They ask questions that make me feel queasy and I reply with answers that make puzzling lines appear on their foreheads like small, smooth ridges. Have you been on a ghost train before? Do you use moisturizer at night? Do they teach Spanish in your school? What would you get on your sixteenth birthday? My replies… Never mind but I always stutter and hope they do not ask me if I breathe oxygen.
I tell them a lot about the mainland, about the noisy streets of Isolo, about the possibility of anything happening, about how people eat indiscriminately not minding the time of the day. And I had felt in those moments of telling, an awakening, a brooding envy for these island girls who didn’t know what bleached palm oil looked like.
So during a Saturday morning devotion, while father talked about contentment and vanity and stressed the word ‘desire’ like he could see behind my soul- like the liquid in my eyes revealed my aching desire to belong to the island girls- I had blinked and averted my eyes. I began to think of the familiar underbelly of life on the mainland.
I am beside father in his new Mazda, in his new car, nodding along to the voice of Bob Marley over the radio;
“I think I might join the fun~ but I had to hit and run~ see I just can’t settle down~ in the kinky part of town”.
Father has a new job now that came with an official car and lots of money, he had announced to mother and I last week. We would be moving to the island next month. Now I do not know how I feel, what I feel- a blend of ambivalence and meek excitement. Father became rich overnight, prayers became brisk. We would be leaving the mainland, the kinky part of town filled with ghosts of different tribes who roam the streets with the will not to unite but to survive.

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