I am at a bookstore with @UcheAnne (who blogs here) and in a quiet moment, she turns to me and says, “You seem to get into a lot of strange situations.”
“I know,” I reply. “I used to think it was just in my head and no one else noticed. But now I know there is an aura around me that tends towards randomness.”
We pay for the books and leave. As we walk down the road in Falomo, I continue explaining the dynamics of the aura. “Some days, it is strong, and I feel it on my skin like a tingle. On those days, I have to be careful. I try not to go out if I’m unprepared. I see clear lines, of things before they happen, they branch off into endless possibilities and I can only pick one.”
I am drawing in the air with my fingers as I speak, linking ideas together. “Sometimes I see a path with an outcome I want and if I focus on it, concentrate really hard, it happens.”
We walk on the busy sidewalk cutting through people. We split to allow a couple holding hands to pass, we come back together, shoulder to shoulder. I see us as birds flying in formation, and the crowd milling around as slow-moving clouds. She turns left, I turn right, adjusting around the different obstacles, our movements precise.
We approach a narrow alley and I fall behind her. We pass through it in single file then I speed up as we emerge, catch up and walk side by side. We are almost at the roundabout now. I am gesticulating, she is nodding.
“Eventually, it gets too heavy and I have to deliberately stem the aura because I can no longer sustain it. On other days, there is nothing. I feel dopey and dull, like I am watching the world pass on a TV screen and I-”
Suddenly a bus pulls over in front of us leaving only enough room on the sidewalk for one person. I already have a rhythm going, I don’t miss a step. I cut into the street leaving her to pass on the left of the bus. There is a string of buses behind that one. I see Uche through the bus, and I match her pace intending to merge back with her after the bus stop.
Up ahead, an SUV comes out of the roundabout and a traffic warden in a LASTMA uniform jumps in front of it and waves it over. The driver is an Indian woman, and she is alone in the car. She tries to pulls over but she can’t park on the side because of all the buses so she stops in the middle of the road and cars start to pile up behind her. The LASTMA man trots around the car to the passenger’s side, he reaches for the door and tries to pull it open but it is locked.
The cars behind the SUV get impatient and start honking. Everything is happening at once. The woman is trying to unlock the car from the panel on her door; she is trying to look behind her at the cars honking; she is trying to park properly so the cars can pass. The LASTMA man is banging on the passenger side window yelling, “Open! Open!!”
He plans to enter the car, tell her to drive to a free spot down the road where they will argue about her offense and how much he should collect for it.
I get to the car just as the woman finds the button that unlocks the doors. She presses the button and all the doors click open together.
It occurs to me to reach for the back door and climb in. The LASTMA man would think I am with her, and she will think I’m with him. I just roll with it, muddy the waters, and see how it goes. The worst case scenario, they’ll both turn on me, and I’ll run away.
Then I remember Uche is shadowing me on the sidewalk and I wonder what she will think if she gets to the end of the row of buses and doesn’t see me.
The elders tell a story, about two people walking down a busy street together. The story usually takes place somewhere rowdy, like Oshodi in the 90s. The two people separate briefly, to walk around a car, or a street trader. In some versions of the story, one person is stopped by a stranger asking for directions. In other versions, there is no stranger. But all versions of the story end the same way: the other person is never seen again. The stranger serves as a decoy to distract you while the other person is taken.
I let go of the door handle and meet up with Uche past the bus stop. We continue walking, but in silence now. I am brooding. I feel like I missed out on something big.