Metropole Magazine

Today's Weather: Abuja NG: Partly Cloudy, Day 360|Night 260

03 May Written by  Ladi Opaluwa

Living on the Edge

 I live in a suburb of Abuja, about 25km from the city centre. The roads there are unpaved and impassable when it rains, and the streets have no names—visitors have to memorise lengthy descriptions with the help of landmarks. This is only an introduction to the horror that Duste is. Anytime the question of my location comes up and I answer ‘Abuja’, an inner voice sneers, ‘yeah right, indeed’. I do not know how this really works, whether or not it is fraudulent to claim to live in Abuja without giving details of exact location. The fact is I spend half of my day at the city centre, and then return to Duste. Wherever you sleep steadily is home.

So, yes, I live in Duste, nay, squat, in what might rightly be described as a matchbox. The idea of getting a ruler to measure the dimensions of the rooms has always lurked in my mind, but I hesitate for fear of my host catching me in a suspicious act. Yet, I imagine myself in a moment of hysteria breaking down the walls, yelling at the landlord who must have conceived the house as a pen. Poor birds.

Coming home to this kind of space is a nightmare; going out is no consolation either—when you think of the traffic. Commuting is one of those activities that hamper productivity. I spend three hours on the road every day. Add that to the hours of sleep I get daily and you discover that I would have been a healthier, happier person. There is no justification for the distance covered commuting between work and home. In Lokoja where I lived for over two decades, school, home, church, and shops were all within a walking radius. If one needed to take a cab it’s just one ride, never more than two. There was just one Lokoja and everyone was welcomed. There were neither rich nor poor. Our parents all were civil servants.

I ’m still in a state of denial of my condition, that no, this is not it, this perpetual state of restlessness. Three months on, I still try to convince myself that my life has not fully been set in motion, ‘next week, you will be more organised; you will begin to live the way you want’. Two forces are operational in this city, at different times of the day. In the morning it is the magnetic force, at night the centrifugal force, pulling people to itself and pushing them away as the situation demands. I move with the flow.

No time to ask, do you like what you are eating, what you are wearing? How early I get home determines which boxes I can access. Thus, what I wear the next day is determined by factors other than myself. I have no permission to run my own life. Plates, spoons, milk, shoes, slowly, office becomes home; home has always been office. There is no structure. An unfinished work keeps you up at night, an alarm clock wakes you early in the morning and sets you in motion in an automated direction.

The day I refuse to go to church just to have some quietude, a church in my backyard I never knew existed refuses to close service. They set their speakers in the direction of my window, singing and praying loudly and I wonder if this is karma.

One of my New Year resolutions was to add some weight—sadly, that has gone the way of the other resolutions. On my last visit home, a friend, assuming I was on a slimming diet lamented, ‘wetin you wan take lekpa do?’ ‘You will not understand,’ I told her.