Latifa

“Lagos looks way better when you are drunk,” I am saying. “Lagos is a fine city even when you are not drunk.” Dre’s voice came from the driver’s seat. “Fuck,” I am saying ”you have a point. Some parts of Lagos, though. Not all of it.”

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Lying sideways in the back seat. My knees are still rubbery. My knees, two painful rubber things bouncing against each other.

I don’t feel uncomfortable. It’s not a stretch to say I feel relieved, really. I used to enjoy sleeping in father’s backseat. The Audi 100 was a big car in the 80s. It would contain my preteen frame with some change.

Right now, no. I’m spilling over. The small car we are moving around in is, well, small. An old Nissan with a smooth engine. I love this car.

We are not that far away from Chase Mall. Although we left hours ago, we didn’t return to the mainland. In that foggy small hours of the morning, our part of town isn’t safe. We found an apartment on the Island and slept in.

The smell is still on my shirt – a simple plain black t-shirt. At the end of 2016, I told myself I wanted to curate a minimalist wardrobe contained mostly of plain t-shirts, jeans, and functional sneakers.

How’s that coming? Not too shabby.

For a Nigerian living in Nigeria and working, I could only go so far with such idealistic notion.

I will throw this shirt away, perhaps. It’s seen too much this night. My crotch grinding against Latifa – the cornrowed girl from the club with the accent. Swilling glasses after glasses of Ciroc and first of all flinching at the hotness of the drink against the back of my throat and then not feeling it anymore. Smoking Shisha for the first time and first hating it. Trying it again and then hating it more.

The burnt smell is rising to my nose again, choking me. I sit upright. Dre is driving and Sumire is riding shotgun. The lights of Lagos are enchanting. Even this early in the morning, the lights are on.

Did they stay on all night? Lagos state can’t afford such luxury, I’m sure. Some poor civil servants had to get behind the switch in the morning, leaving their house in a familiar haze, their spouses and children still enjoying the sweet delight of a sleep nearing its end. This hour, right before the sun pushes back the reign of the moon is when sleep is sweetest.

I hear there is a science behind that. Some circadian rhythm thing I’m too inebriated to figure out.

“Inebriated,” that was the word she used. Not drunk or “wasted”. Inebriated. It was how she described us.

“We are both rather inebriated, don’t take all the credit,” she said, playfully fingering my headphones.

She wasn’t inebriated. Per her words, she’d had only a bottle of Heineken. She hadn’t even finished it at the time I walked up behind her and took her hand in mine.

No resistance, she just smiled. A knowing smile. I smiled too and passed the controller to my rubbery knees. They seemed to know what they were doing. Because we kept dancing. The DJ in the blue channel was tastefully mixing and matching songs and sometimes. Sometimes, I could hear her hoot.

One time, shoe hooted and did a fancy twist. Her left hand holding to my right hand. She leaned and pull my hand over head while still holding on.

“Fancy.” I think I said “fancy”. She pulled at my headphones and told me she wanted to change channels.

I loved the song playing. I can’t even remember what song now. But I remember being lost in the song and only regaining consciousness when supple tips of two (or three) finger touched the back of ears and eased my earphones off.

“Lagos looks way better when you are drunk,” I am saying.

“Lagos is a fine city even when you are not drunk.” Dre’s voice came from the driver’s seat.

“Fuck,” I am saying ”you have a point. Some parts of Lagos, though. Not all of it.”

We all know. Three weeks prior, the roads leading up to Chase Mall was daily flooded. Lagos’ charm is a fragile one.

I didn’t know what I said next. We were on the railings overlooking the pit – the lower platform of the club.

In the pit, heads bobbled to sounds streaming from their colored headphones. Blue, Green, and Red. Our headphones are off now, circling our necks like neck rests from the future – lighted and maybe beaming vital data about our neck health to a data farm on the outskirts of Ikorodu. Of course, it’s the future, Ikorodu would be a famed urban center already. Or not.

In the pit, there were more Blues that any other color. In the quiet of the pit. In the quiet of the club, hoots and laughter and moving body parts clashed without unity. Everyone danced to their own beat.

When I was in the pit, half consumed by the Ciroc, I caught the flash of a something catching the light. Glasses. And the girl behind it. Latifa.

Latifa. Blue channel. Same as me. Good.

The Blue DJ knows how to work his turntable, but there were no loyalties. When he missed a good transition, I switched to the Green channel. I looked up at her, she had switched to the Green channel.

Greenlight. Greenlight.

She wore a sewn Ankara dress that hangs off her shoulder. “Who wears an Ankara dress to a club.”

“A girl that’s not trying too hard. A girl that is fresh out of fucks to give”

Challenge accepted. “Do it afraid,’ I probably told myself. And that’s being nice to myself, because in situations like this, dysfunctionally terrified is the what captures my state.

When I took her hand, she just smiled. A smile that lighted up her small round face with those painful small cornrows.

I smiled too. I let Ciroc and my rubbery knees take over. If after 5 seconds she thought it was a bad idea I’d blame Ciroc and the knees and slink over into the pit again.

She didn’t.

Sumire has his new Skullcandies on. Dre is quiet. The little car is gliding though Herbert Macaulay way now.

“I won’t forget tonight,” I said. Dre shook his head vaguely. Sleepily. And Sumire. Sumire kept lolling his head from side to side. He’s probably listening to Tekno. Sumire loves Tekno.

Danfo buses are already out on the road. My smart watch tells me it’s 5:45 AM. Even now on Lagos mainland, little crowds are already forming at bus stops and junctions.

Lagos. Forgive the cliche, but it’s true. This city doesn’t sleep.

Bam. Screech. Bam. Bam. Screeeeech. 

Dre is slumped on the steering wheel, his shoulder is bouncing like he is laughing but his sound was like that of a man drowning. Deep desperate gasps. Sumire’s head is lodged between the airbag and the head rest, motionless.

“He’ll be fine,” I hear myself think.

Plus I can’t feel my legs. I am not terrified. I lift my hands to my face. They are still attached. That’s all I need. I’ll be fine.

I punched in 112 on my iPhone. “Accident. Sabo. Herbert Macaulay,“ I say into the microphone.

Then I let myself slip away.

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