I was going to hate Lagos, and I was going to be miserable. However, somewhere along the line, my hatred betrayed me. I found absolute joy in the little things around me- the luxury of my mum waking me up every morning and asking me “what do you want to eat?” (seriously, my house is a fattening room), the joy of having my not-so-baby brother gleefully recount his run-in with area boys (street thugs that harass people for money), the convenience of having a Mr. Biggs around the corner (their doughnuts are trash, but I can’t stop eating them. Blame nostalgia). I even started to find joy in the grossly grammatically incorrect Nigerian-isms such as “on the gen”, “have they brought light?”, “is Madam on seat?”, “let me flash you”, “reverse back”, “turn your hand! cut your hand!” etc.
Along with all of this came a feeling that I’ve never had in Lagos, or anywhere else for that matter- a feeling of being grounded, belonging to a place. The feeling of driving past Silverbird and remembering illicit meet-ups with childhood boyfriends I could swear I was going to get married to, or past a certain intersection where a popular movie star threatened to to “fuck up” my 11-year old friend because she flipped him off from the back of the school bus, or running into family members and old friends that told me long-repressed, embarrassing stories about my reckless childhood self. These people knew me, and they loved me for me. That feeling of having people who see right through your bullshit, through your determined efforts to re-brand yourself, who call you embarrassing pet names derived from your childhood indiscretions, people who love for who you were, who you are and who you’re going to be. With them, I could be the worst version of myself, or the best version. It really didn’t matter. All of this started to grow into a tolerance for Lagos. I could still hate the city, I said to myself, but I loved the people and they loved me back and that was all the home I needed.
However, somewhere along the line, I even started to love this city, every bit of it. There’s no city like Lagos in this world. Lagos has a particular character that makes it unique. Where else would you find someone frying and selling akara right outside a billionaire’s palatial mansion? Where else would you be able to buy breakfast, lunch, dinner, clothes for work, furniture for the house, and a puppy for the kids, all while sitting in traffic? Where else would you find a vulcanizer dutifully spreading tiny sharp objects on the road, so that unfortunate drivers can “need” his help? This is Lagos, which has managed to find the sweet spot between absolute chaos and sustained disorder. This is my city, and I love-hate it.
In fact, at the end of the three months, I got on a plane and felt homesick for the first time in over 5 years. I sat in my seat, and cried, longing for this city that has become my old-new home.