I have never liked airports.
I don’t mind flying because I am able to fall asleep on even the shortest flights, but I generally loathe airports with their queues and the touts and the never-ending wait for your luggage…
And now this gut-wrenching disappointment.
I adjusted the phone which I cradled between my left shoulder and my ear.
‘I don’t understand. What do you mean you are not coming to pick me?’
I could almost hear Busayo shrugging over the phone. He loved to shrug, my happy-go-lucky boyfriend.
‘I’m very busy at work so I won’t be able to come to the airport’. Silence.
‘Okayyyy…so let me just take a cab and meet you at your office’, I said.
‘I just feel that you should just take the next flight back to Abuja’, said Busayo.
My brain went numb. ‘I should go back to Abuja?’
‘Well…yes. Your coming to Lagos was your idea, anyway. I just need some space’, said Busayo.
‘Space? You need space?’ I looked around the arrivals hall at Murtala Muhammed International Airport, with people going about their business without a care in the world that Friday afternoon, with no one asking them for space.
I dropped my small black travelling bag beside my feet. It wasn’t heavy, but I needed all my concentration to understand what my boyfriend was saying to me.
‘So, Busayo, let me get this straight. You knew I was flying from Abuja to spend the weekend here with you in Lagos. You knew when I booked my flight. We spoke on the phone twice this morning; when I got to the airport and when I boarded the plane. At what point between that time and now did you decide that you needed space?’
‘Well…actually…’ He cleared his throat. ‘I haven’t felt happy with this long distance thing we’ve been doing. It’s not been great for me, Angela’.
I wanted to respond but had to step out of the way as a luggage handler pushed a trolley piled high with designer luggage, as an expensively-dressed woman wearing dark sun shades and high-heeled shoes tottered behind him.
‘I just feel that there is no point not being true to myself’, Busayo added.
I was no longer listening to him. My mind drifted to my parents in Owerri, my elder sisters Agatha and Alexa and my friends who had told me to break up with Busayo long before his Bank had transferred him from Abuja to Lagos in December last year.
I thought about how I had felt so focused on moving my relationship forward and how I had put my foot down for Busayo to agree on a date when I could visit him after he had kept giving me vague answers about being ‘super busy’.
In my subconscious, I heard a woman cackling and screaming intermittently.
It took me a few seconds to realize that I was the screaming woman.
‘Hello? Angela? Are you there?’
By this time, I had sat down heavily on the floor and was laughing and crying as my seductive makeup which I had spent so much time on that morning dissolved with my tears.
Passengers and airport staff gave me space (maybe the type of space Busayo wanted?) as they walked around me. Parents held their children close to them so that they would not be infected with whatever brand of crazy that had afflicted me.
Even the airport security staff kept a distance, eyeing me warily and making hushed phone calls to whomever they thought could deal with me. Obviously ‘well-dressed-woman-having-a-mental-breakdown-in-the-middle-of-Lagos-airport’ was not covered in their airport security training.
I looked at myself. I was seated next to an airport vending machine (which was faulty). My blue jeans did not seem to be too dirty but my white blouse was stained with my brown powder. My black loafers were scuffed. I looked like a well-dressed homeless person.
Busayo was still on the phone, asking if I was alright.
I suddenly loathed him. It was as though the loving feelings for him which I had floated into Lagos on had evapourated, leaving venom in its place.
‘I hate you’, I said into the phone.
He had the nerve to sound hurt.
‘Baby, you don’t mean that. Look, just go back to Abuja. When I have the time during Christmas or early next year, I will come to Abuja and we will…’
I ended the call, cutting him off mid-sentence.
I got up, picked up my handbag and hand luggage and walked into the nearest toilet.
A woman was walking out as I walked in. Her eyes opened wide at the sight of me, and she was out of there in a flash.
I heard my phone ringing in my bag but I ignored it, as I was captivated by my reflection in the mirror.
I had a ‘wild-eyed’ expression on my face. My wig was askew. My ‘smokey-eye’ look was now smudged-I closely resembled a Panda. My red lipstick had faded off my lips. I had cleaned off most of my left eyebrow by mistake. I looked like a child who had played with her mother’s makeup, instead of a 29-year-old career woman who was recently promoted to Team Leader in her Audit Firm.
I looked like a hot mess.
I heard the toilet door open and an airport security woman ventured in cautiously.
‘Aunty, I saw you sitting on the floor just now. Hope everything is okay?’ She stood by the door, ready to flee at the slightest sight of craziness.
‘I am fine’, I replied quietly. She nodded, and left, shutting the door behind her.
I got out my face wash from my toilet bag, and I washed off all of the makeup from my face. I checked the time; it was 2:45pm. My return ticket was scheduled for Sunday afternoon, and I wondered how much it would cost me to reschedule my flight for that evening.
I didn’t bother to reapply my makeup; I just put on some lip gloss. I removed my wig and stuffed it into my travelling bag; it needed to be brushed properly and I simply wasn’t in the mood. I tied my shawl turban-style over my cornrows and was satisfied that I no longer looked like a jilted woman.
I still felt slightly disoriented; I felt like I had just washed away my 4-year relationship down the drain with my makeup. I took a series of deep breaths, picked up my bags and walked out of the toilet.
The arrivals area looked the same, with people walking over the spot that I had previously sat on. There was no indication that anything significant had happened there.
I was suddenly very hungry. I walked to a restaurant close by and opted for Dodo and stew, something savoury to cover up the bitterness within me.
I felt guilty for not calling my parents after I had arrived in Lagos.
I called my father.
‘Chika! How was your flight? How is Lagos?’ My father always sounded like he was smiling. And he never called me by my English name.
‘It’s…I’m…’ I didn’t have words left in me. ‘What’s wrong?’ He asked, sounding alarmed.
I told him, bracing myself for the ‘I told you so’ speech.
Instead, he said gently, ‘It’s okay. You will be okay. Can you come to Owerri? Don’t worry about the money; I will refund the money for the flight. Just come home’. I almost cried. Yes, I told him. I would come home.
Later, as my flight to Owerri was announced, my phone rang. It was Busayo.
I didn’t take his call.
As I was seated and trying to put on my seatbelt, a WhatsApp message came from him. ‘Baby where are you? I am here at the airport’.
I stared blankly at my phone, not understanding what I had just read. ‘Excuse me Ma’am; you need to switch off your phone now. We will soon take off’, said a well made-up flight attendant.
I smiled and nodded at her as I switched off my phone.