By Stephanie Ohumu

It is October, in the year of Donald Trump, 2016. I have recently moved to Lagos.  On the first day of work, I start to live. I walk in, breasts uncased and participate in surprising normalcy. Wild and free breasts do not bother the people here.  This is how I know that I will be fine in this Lagos. Just fine.

img_20161026_162122My name is Stephanie and I am 20. Inside of my heart is mourning for Benin, where I have lived all my life. This isn’t a story you have not read before. If you can believe census figures,  Lagos is home to 18 million. Many of whom were  not born here.

Everybody comes to Lagos with stifled love for their birthplace and hungry yearning for the city that will make them. Yawn. This is about, well, fuck if I know.

I am living in Yaba. Alágoméjì, if you’re big on details. In a serviced apartment with flatmates on the same evolutionary level as me. There are no fights. Every day, I walk to work. It is just by the corner on Herbert Macaulay. At night, I walk back home. And sleep. This is my routine until, one morning inside of Slack, I sort of cease to be employed.

img_20161002_214230Now I have to move out of the apartment where the generator comes on at 9 and dies at 6. I move to Kétu. In truth, this is when I truly move to Lagos. To the yellow of marwas, renaming of bole (appaz it is called bọ̀lì here) and boarding calls to Ọbáléndé, repeated until you are certain that that Tekno song you can’t get out of your head was low key produced by a conductor at Toll Gate.

So far,  this is what Lagos means to me:

That if you are mentally ill, the people in your head will relocate with you to new cities. Go to the doctor and start your treatment. Migration is not a treatment plan for bipolar.

An uncurled palm.
This is a space to trace lines of uninhibited passage. If you can walk it, walk it. Be, but only if you dare. Proclaim your batch number and run with it. Stop. Change your style. Be like that until the next stop.

Evidence of life.
screenshot-205In the very many heads of tired bodies awaiting the arrival of BRT buses. In the secondary school student occupying a world in Yorùbá to which my illiteracy bars me entry. The same one I will teach to check her Gmail as an assignment in a dingy café. Life is happening in this city of multiples, in multiples, daily.

And I am here. Existing in the pace of this place. One hurried foot and then the next. Power walking to catch a bus that will be replaced by another in a moment not because haste is required but because it is expected. I have just moved to Lagos and life is happening. So this is me, atop the uncurled palm, paying tribute to the city by living alongside it.

One month in mind.

On the anniversary of your migration, we remember the Benin girl you once were.

Phoenix, for the Tenants in Her Head.


Stephanie Ohumu is a writer who doesn’t understand why bios have to be written in third person. She currently lives on Twitter: @SI_Ohumu.

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