I am walking along a bridge.
There is a river below. It leads out into the ocean a few metres away.
It’s been a mixed experience sort of day. I landed at the nearest branch of a bank I have an account with, to sort out an issue with my banking details.
Navigated the physical terrain with public transportation to get there desirably early. There was a humongous queue outside. It wasn’t even clear why the queue was there.
Bought a face mask from a nearby shop. I had like six face masks at my living space, but I forgot to take one along. Asked around a bit to acquire some information about the reason for existence of the queue. Didn’t get anything too definitive.
I needed to see the customer service. The security guard outside didn’t seem like he was letting in people who needed to see the customer service. For some arbitrary reason.
I believed that debating with the guard about the soundness of the incumbent entry-granting policy would be an entirely pointless venture.
Usually these guys don’t exercise much initiative when they are on the job and under pressure. They become pretty authoritative about effecting the directives of the bank employees they perceive to be their superiors- without regard to the cogency of those directives.
I had to lie to the guard. It was a second-order lie. I lied about my intended activity in the bank. He asked a question regarding the necessity of my physical presence in the bank to carry out said activity. Another lie occurred to me and I relayed it to him.
You Nigerian people are not going to kill me with frustration. I need to get something done please.
He let me in.
There were a number of other issues I still had to navigate, after getting in.
Eventually I landed in front of a Customer Service attendant.
The trip to the bank did not end with anything significant done.
They said there was a network issue.
Jesus Christ, network issue. Do these people know where I’m coming from at all?? Network what??
The attendant said it had something to do with the mast. Something something mast something network something.
I experience periodic signal outages at my current residence too.
Nigeria does not have 24-hours electricity, and so power outages are endemic.
Or no, no no. Depending on the location, sometimes the anomaly is having electricity every once in a while, because an absence of electrical power is the default situation.
I imagine the telecommunications companies have gasoline or diesel fuelled electricity power generators at the location of their masts. And so whenever power from the electricity distribution companies goes out, whoever is responsible for keeping the place operational, goes ahead to turn on the backup generator.
In my opinion, the periodic signal outages at my residence happen when the mast generator guy is asleep, and is understandably incapable of turning on the backup generator after a power outage.
That’s what I feel is responsible for the outages at my residence. I don’t know what’s behind that at these banks though.
I am walking along a bridge.
There are some scribblings in the sand by the road.
They catch my attention. I turn to read them.
“Thief”. Random sequence of numbers. “Car”, or something like that. There are words all over the place.
I am trying to make sense of what I’m reading.
The text is written as continuous sentences comprising of individually meaningful lexical tokens, but as a whole each sentence is completely incoherent. It takes me a while to come to this conclusion- I first consider a number of options involving the possibility that I am faced with some sort of code I am not familiar with.
Eventually I am reasonably certain the writing does not make sense. I focus my attention back up to the road, and continue with my journey.
There is a woman seated by the side of the bridge. She is seated on the sidewalk, with her head bowed.
I have seen her here before. Multiple times actually, along this road. So far I’ve usually been in a vehicle passing by, and she would just be visible for a brief moment as the landscape streamed by the window.
She looks despondent. And sad. And deflated.
I believe she has been here for like weeks now. I wonder what’s going on.
I go closer.
I go even closer.
I approach her. We begin to talk.
She smells. She smells bad. It’s probably been a few weeks since a bath.
The odour is somewhat disturbing, but I’m pretty certain I’ve smelt worse.
We keep talking.
She was the one who made the scribblings by the road. Ah okay.
To a certain degree, her speech is like her scribblings. She’s making mention of meaningful individual notions- sometimes even meaningful phrases or sentences, but as a whole I find her incoherent.
Every once in a while she breaks into a ramble about detergent. And tea. And self-worth. And “American University Hospital”. And Bola Ige. I know very little about Bola Ige- I know he was a pretty prominent Nigerian- I used to hear his name a lot when I was very very young.
She keeps talking.
At some point I realise I’m going to have to periodically interrupt her- to infuse what I perceive to be some structure and overall meaning, into our interaction.
I ask some questions, trying to make some sense of how she got to be in this position.
The general incoherence is still there, but some illuminating information emerges every once in a while.
She ran away from somewhere. Somewhere in a different part of the country.
She used to make tea. Sell tea. And bread. And margarine. She talks about it with fondness. She enjoyed making and selling tea.
Someone overdosed on cocaine. The person was poisoned. By a friend. The person who was poisoned with cocaine was her husband. Husband? Boyfriend? Partner of sorts.
Partner attempted to physically abuse her. She attempted escaping his harmful influence. He persisted in doing her more harm.
She has a child. Girl? Boy? It is not clear.
Child was taken away from her. By who? I mention some of the names she calls every once in a while. Was it this person? This one?
She breaks into another ramble about detergent and self-worth.
She is saying something about combining detergent with tea, and how the mixture will significantly improve the community.
I have no idea what she’s talking about.
She is talking about the people she used to live with. Used to be friends with. They all seem to me, to be cruel and devious and unthinkably vindictive people. She is probably also like that, to some extent. That’s probably why she could live with those people. That’s what I feel at least.
She says the people who overdosed are in the American University Hospital, something like that.
She is definitely traumatised. She looks like she’s trying to uncoil after a severely psychologically damaging experience.
I have no idea what could be done to help her. I have like no clue.
I wonder how she gets food though. She has been on this road for weeks. She smells- she smells really bad, but she does not look malnourished. She is talking too energetically to be famished. There is a very suspicious looking loaf of bread beside her. I have no idea where she got the bread.
I don’t understand.
If she decides to give me some inestimably valuable secrets involving how to effortlessly procure food, I won’t mind. I won’t mind at all.
We keep talking.
At some point I feel like I’ve had enough. Continually attempting to inject some sort of coherence into the interaction is becoming tiring.
I’ve had enough for today. I tell her I need to go.
She nods in acknowledgement and keeps on rambling indignantly about detergent and self-worth.
I continue on my way.