“When are we coming to eat rice?”
This is usually the opening line from friends who I haven’t seen nor spoken to in donkey years. I’ve learned to mask my feelings with cliché answers, “Oya, come now, let me cook for you” or I pretend not to have heard the question and ask about their well-being. I always hold my breath hoping said friend won’t make a deal out of the change in subject, but nine out of ten times, they never let me off easy.
You see, when you battle with placelessness, the last thing on your mind is marriage, or as they say, fulfilling your destiny as a woman. How do you even broach the subject with one’s parents? “Uhm…you see, I don’t feel at home here”. If like me, you come from a Nigerian family; an average (abeg, poor) one at that, you’ll be grateful that you don’t have any broken body parts after that silly stunt you just pulled. Even in wealthy homes, I don’t think it makes for good kitchen or dinner table talk.
And the thing that is fascinating or should I say most interesting is that I don’t have an idea where here, there is. It’s not like I can point to a map, choose a continent, go eenie-meenie- miney-mo, and voila, I have a country!
These different realities I’ve had to shift through in order to cope with the restlessness remind me of Arya Stark and the faceless man. I think out of all the Game of Thrones episodes, this stuck to me the most. The face changing is synonymous to the different masks I wear to pass undetected as an odd being, to gain a little anonymity and hopefully check off some expectations in the reality the mask I inhabit should see to.
However, the one thing I can’t seem to do is to bring myself to check off the marriage ‘requirement’ in every space. I know you’re thinking,” what moral or cultural right does she have to be selfish?” , “How about her parents, why won’t she give them grandkids or does she think she’s the only one that feels trapped? “ Hopefully, I’ll meet a guy that feels as lost and restless as I do and we’ll make each other miserable as some married people are :).
I’d like to state that this isn’t something ‘cool’ that I just acquired. It’s something I’ve felt long before I could find a language to articulate and I’m still doing a poor job of it. I remember going for a couples retreat with a friend and the host was asking about my relationship status. She thought my friend and I were dating but I was quick to dash my friend’s hope. I told her that I wasn’t sure if I wanted to get married. She was taken aback by my honesty and struggled with a comeback. To this day, I remember clearly the colour of the couch I sat in as she asked her question with a tinge of disdain. “Have you joined all those cool women who think they are better off without a man?”.
For the first time I’m taking the truth lens and looking at my life and lived experience; whether transient or real knowing that I’ve almost never had a kinship with my birth country and feeling okay with that knowledge. I’m in full acceptance of my placelessness even though I’m orbiting in this continent, moving through created spaces, trying to be present in them and really, really being okay with it.