Urban Solitude: Eko o ni baje o!

Mainland Bridge Danfo

Hasn’t it always been this way? Isn’t this the drawback of metropolitan cities? That they teem with busy people who bury their conscience in the fortress that earphones and smartphones provide? Agitated people with tired eyes that look past others to admire the moving vision of success. Rush-hour people who hold their bodies tautly to avoid brushing against each other as if touch is an infectious disease.

Lagos is Nigeria’s biggest cultural melting point, a land of opportunity where I hope to make it big if I hustle right (not everyone returns to Nigeria with excess Pounds and Dollars). In spite of all the promise it holds, people warn that Lagos can be a dangerous place. I feel safe in our flat and the office, but the streets scare me, crowded as they are with worker ants motivated by the fear of poverty and beautiful homes on The Island.

At 04:45, my internal rooster crows and I use warm water to flush traces of sleep from my eyes. I leave our flat with my handbag and a waterproof bag that contains my office shoes, my feet in rubber slippers for the morning jostle on the streets.

“CMS, Lagos CMS, CMS!” the bus conductor’s call rouses the streets.

The driver whisks us away from The Mainland to The Island, where we’ll run laps chasing dreams, luck, and money. At CMS, Victoria Island beckons. Behind the bus stop, the ripples on the sea glitter like diamonds under the rising sun, while container ships dock at Apapa Port.

My jewellery lies scattered in crevices in my handbag. Unadorned with shiny objects, I am an unlikely target of pilferers. I hold my bag tight under my armpit as I board the bus to Victoria Island. I have not spoken to anyone since my journey began. My hair rests on the window and my eyes feast on luxury cars. One day, I will ride in one of them.

The day’s work is hard and my journey home long and silent. Small puffs of dust rise from where my flip-flops slap the earth. In five minutes, I will enter the haven of high walls and still warm air trapped between three-storey buildings that is our flat.

Ahead, a car burns slowly at first, and then with a feverish rush that epitomises the pulse of Lagos. I mean to walk past, but the fire is a magnet that draws others and me. I mean to just look and shrug and stand at the edge, as I am sure the others will do too, but this victim of sudden misfortune tugs at the heartstrings of calloused street people.

We pour water and sand alternately on the burning car. The fire mocks us; its flames lick our concerted effort. Commands fly left, right, and centre as raindrops escape from the sky. Unable to surmount the singleness of our vision, the fire sucks its last breath when a fire extinguisher emerges.

Smoke clouds shaped like ghosts sail across the sky. We, and our ghosts, our resurrected conscience, shout for joy. The rain plasters my hair to my skull and dripping water teases my ears. Eko o ni baje o, Eko o ni baje o, now, I believe the streets still hold promise.

protected helmet

When I open my bag in our flat, my purse is gone. Disappointment strikes blows at my gut as I calculate what I have lost. I embrace urban solitude, the definition that at first made me laugh because I thought it was relevant only in London.

“Don’t acknowledge fellow passengers or sustain eye contact beyond two seconds. Please respect urban solitude.”

And why not? On the streets a kind deed breeds mistrust that quickly turns to scorn. Asking for directions or providing them is a chore weighed with suspicion, and if death nearly claims a soul, the body that houses the soul stands no chance; it will be mangled in the stampede to “arrive” or survive.

This city bustles with life, yet there are fewer strangers to talk to. I long for human contact, not the obligatory type I receive when I walk into a shop, but the disarming type. The unexpected touch from a stranger whose smile meets my upward gaze as he hands me something that dropped from my bag, or the kinship in eye contact with a stranger, after a silly advert on a giant billboard has amused us both.

Eko o ni baje o!

©Timi Yeseibo 2014

Eko o ni baje: (Yoruba) Lagos will not spoil.

Read more about Lagos? These are snippets with photos worth seeing:

1. Yellow. Bright. Happy. Memories of Lagos:

KitchenButterfly memories of Lagos

http://www.kitchenbutterfly.com/2013/12/23/yellow-bright-happy-memories-of-lagos/

2. Eko The Musical

eko the musical@crea8ivenigeria

 http://www.creativenigeriaproject.com/ 

Credits

1. Beyond The Rules (Danfo on Lagos Bridge) by Kosol Owundinjor (Photo by Lagos)  http://photobylagos.wordpress.com/2012/11/08/beyond-the-rules/ 

2. Protected Helmet (eko oni baje helmet) by Kosol Onwudinjor (Photo by Lagos)  http://photobylagos.wordpress.com/2012/09/19/protected-helmet/

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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52 thoughts on “Urban Solitude: Eko o ni baje o!

  1. Thumbs up. Again beautifully written.
    You painted a picture that made Lagos alluring and like a moth to a flame I was drawn to it in spite of the seeming danger.

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  2. LoL! Men do blush. I do. A lot of times. I was watching some fish acrobatics in an aquarium and it captivated me so much i didn’t know I was Aww..ing like a lost cat. Then I caught myself. U know Nigerians na. They’ll start looking at U instead of the fish. As for Lagos, I don’t want to go back there. I grew up in Mushin and it was fun but I seem to now prefer solitary country-side life.

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      1. Yes, the opportunities are sometimes limited and I sometimes find myself seeking to go back. Then I remember the story of a man who slept off while the danfo he was driving stopped at a traffic light. I imagine how tired he must have been. Lagos no easy O. *smiles*

        Like

  3. You have a special flair in your writing. Marcel Duchamp revolutionalised the art world. You will revolutionalise the poetic and literary world – jamot (just a matter of time).

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  4. Your words remind me of something that happened recently at my office building: The company that shares our floor has a constant influx of visitors, so I rarely see the same people coming out of their door. The hall is not very wide, and often times one has to lean or step to the side to let someone pass. Well, this time it was a lovely young woman, probably my height without the heels she wore. I stepped to the left to let her pass, and she made the same choice… to her right. Blocking each other, we both stepped to the opposite side, again blocking each other. A laugh, and one more shift, blocking each other a third time. At which point she turned sideways and held her arms out.

    “Shall we dance?” she said, smiling coyly. i was too flustered to take her up on it, but I was in a good mood when I got back to my desk. That was the first and last time I saw her.

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    1. Love your story. Love the dance that led to “the dance” even more. Perfect strangers. In this busy busy world, it’s nice when someone touches you in a good way. Good thing that when you got back to your desk, you hadn’t lost anything. 😉

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    2. OMW – bold woman! You might have found love….If you were looking for that though :).

      Awesome experience.

      Spontaneity.

      I need to be that woman – taking risks……to dance. To smile. To live.

      Not being afraid!

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      1. Thank you for the poetic thought. The only flaw in my New Love possibility is my current love might not appreciate me falling for somebody else!

        😉

        Dancing briefly in the hall with an attractive stranger she could handle (and I’d encourage her to do the same if she were offered a quick dance with a handsome man in a public place)… but it can only be romantic in the storybook sense. A literal dance, not a figurative “dance,” if you know what I mean.

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        1. 🙂 Eric it is a beautiful story, it begs for a happily-ever-after ending for two people who are uncommitted; you are happily committed.

          Okay, what was this post about? Urban solitude . . . me longing for human contact in a city full of strangers . . . you finding “dance” in a hall full of strangers . . . me celebrating the dance and willing myself to take a chance . . . Kitchen Butterfly seeing love and spontaneity in the dance . . . you dancing to your current love . . .

          I just love the way words transport us to different worlds!

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  5. Hmm,…sometimes sef I feel left out, all you writers abeg ooh,..lol. We sha will survive, by God we will on this blog.
    This is another good job, this is the most poetic way I can say that. God will cause you to do greater in Jesus Name, Amen. Eko O ni Baje ooh.
    And pls come to Abuja, its the place to be. Trust me, listen to those whispers in your ears, its God talking, lol

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    1. Please you are very welcome here and I like that you are not a stranger. We all have or unique writing styles, variety is the spice of life! Thank you.

      @Abuja, write about your lovely city Abuja, and then, I’ll be more inclined to move 🙂

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    2. Lolololol! Na only you? Livelytwist runs the relay race and passes the baton to herself. Then she does a 100m dash to receive the baton from herself. A prolific writer, if you ask me! Livelytwist o ni baje o 😀

      Like

  6. Timi Timi…Timi. Eko o lee baje. Lailai. I’ve been thirsting for a livelytwist write this past week…thanks for writing this. I could feel the raindrop pelting me as you guys tried putting out the fire…And I saw the Lagosian who made away with your purse. rotfl. Great piece, Timi. As always.

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    1. One good turn deserves another right? Lagos shall never ever spoil!
      Glad I was able to deliver something that resonates. I can’t thank you enough, if you didn’t read this stuff, look forward to it, I would slack off…

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    1. Lagos . . . but, I hear Abuja is the place to be.
      Is this fiction? You tell me . . . you live in Lagos, right? Two weeks ago, I wrote a piece called writing & perception, my pen has flowed freely ever since 🙂

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        1. Lol, let the Abuja-Lagos war begin! And Lagos is not artificial? Gimme a break o jare.

          When I struggled to settle after my return, people told me Abuja was a better city to transition in. I sleep in Lagos, but in my dreams, I hear Abuja whispering my name 🙂

          I dream of stability, security & infrastructure, so we can live in Lagos & spend long weekends in our country homes in Jos, Ibadan, etc.

          Like

  7. you have done well as usual, like you splash paint so beautifully across a plain canvas and do it so beautifully well with the creative art inside you making the words flourish and grow and I realize your use of words is just natural.

    Tempted to add *inborn*.
    lovely write up bae 🙂

    Like

  8. Poetic infusion of verisimilitude. I watched the flames with you, felt the dance of the rain on my skin as we battled with the flames together in this boisterous city of millions that never sleeps.

    This is Lagos; some shades of it painted beautifully with your words.

    Like

    1. Yes o, the rain cooled the heat from the flames; quenched our thirst for human contact. I saw your smile. But this our Lagos sha, full of twists… compassion one moment, theft the next 🙂

      @verisimilitude: big grammar, tongue twister, Google-search inducer, I thank you for the compliment 🙂

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      1. Hahahaha…you are welcome jare *pretends not to know that she already knows the word (and some others the person typing this never knew existed in the English language)* I didn’t say anything 🙂

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      1. You’ve started again o! The Flesch-Kincaid grade level score for this post is 7th grade! Samuel you’re a wonderful poet who appreciates the good things of life, like my writing. Don’t mind Maggielola jare. Let’s confuse her with big grammar.

        Girl, I see you’re having fun. I like it when you feel at home here- mi casa su casa 🙂

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        1. Hahahaha…Maggieola, no fear jare. It’s just my English way of being naughty. And to the most beautiful, most excellent, most gracious, most eloquent Oliver Twisty wordsmith Lively Twist, I saw that thing you called me that’s already making me blush. 😉

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          1. Lol Samuel. Seriously, I’ve had fun reading and replying some of the comments on this post, which technically haven’t had much to do with Urban Solitude: Eko o ni baje o! But, on second thoughts maybe they do . . . “strangers” who live in different parts of the globe, coming together to “touch” one another with our words. I like it, I like that our love for words have bridged the distance between us!

            A man who blushes, what a heart-warming sight 😉

            Like

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