This post is one in a Series. A list of all of the posts in this Series can be accessed here.
Olorun lo yo e pe o o try lati salo. A o ba ti yin ibon si e lese!!
You were fortunate you didn’t try to run away. We would have shot you in the legs!!
Osama is speaking, as I am being bound in some pretty thick-looking ropes.
I have been explaining that I came to Abeokuta to check out some tourist attractions. I intended to spend the night in the hotel next door, but decided against it given that my bank account balance was just a little higher than the cost of staying a night.
I spent the past year and a few months living in a country where I was free to spend nights out camping or just chilling in the open expanse of unoccupied desert that generally stretched across the entire archipelago.
I have been in Nigeria a number of weeks, after close to three years of living in three different countries, each on a different continent. Now I’m sitting here on the floor while my hands and feet are being bound by a duo of night watchmen, one of whom is named after an ex-FBI most wanted terrorist. I am gradually coming to a realization that open idle expanses of land and vegetation are not viewed with the same idyllic innocuousness that I personally grew used to seeing them while in Cape Verde.
Here, some ambiguous being lying down on a pile of gravel in an empty parcel of land- in the dark, is not some post-clubbing guy chilling in the night’s air and looking at the stars- what fucking stars. He is a thief, employing darkness-induced anonymity to actualize his dastardly thieving intentions. As a matter of fact he is one of the reprehensible thieves who stole the tires of a neighbouring truck last week. He should be shot in the legs if he tries to run away, and he should be bound in thick ropes by Osama Bin Laden.
There are three entities surrounding me right now. One is Osama. The other is the second watchman. The third stands further back, silent. An unspeaking silhouette. A mute menacing shadow whose name is Reverse Culture Shock.
It is morning.
The ropes have been loosened. Osama interrogates me some more under the newly-arrived light of day. He seems much less suspicious of my story now. I think I don’t look so much like the typical Abeokuta thief.
I am in an acrid mood.
This Abeokuta is a horrible place. Nobody dances in their clubs. Everyone just sits down and drinks beer and looks very composed. Like they are at a job interview. I wonder why you would go to a club and just sit down and look very serious and composed and judgmental. You might as well have just spent the night at your place of work.
I skimmed through about four different clubs last night before I found one that was somewhat amenable to dancing. At the penultimate one I checked, some guy threatened to punch me in the face when I asked for a puff of what he was smoking.
I was like, Okay I am in the wrong place. I am in the motherfucking wrong place and I need to get out of here ASAP.
All of these Nigerian people are just so angry, I have absolutely no idea why.
Some guy chatted me up while I was leaving the last club. Said he loved my dance moves. I expressed appreciation at the compliment. He said I must be very happy. And then said for me to be that happy, I must have a lot of money. Then he asked if I could give him some money.
He didn’t really look like someone who was in need of money to solve fundamental life problems or anything. He didn’t look malnourished or without a place to stay or anything. He looked like someone who was pretty okay, but was in search of more. More money.
Ugh. These people and money.
Now I’m here, trying to make sense of last night. Bound with ropes and verbally accosted and threatened by a very fulfilled Osama Bin Laden throughout the night.
What sort of a place is this?
I am in a very acrid mood.
Osama says I need to call someone. Someone to come vouch for me. Says my father is alright.
Oh God. My father and I have just had a very turbulent year. Some very intense disagreements on life direction. I do not want to bring him into this. Ah Christ.
But Osama has spoken. I make the call. Now my father will have to travel all the way down to the state capital this early morning to facilitate a resolution of this issue. Ah Christ.
Osama senses the pungent displeasure in my mood. Says I should go get some food to eat. Points me in the direction of a woman selling some freshly made rice and beans and spaghetti and stuff. Usual Southwestern Nigeria roadside breakfast combo.
I am not in a mood for food right now. Recent experiences have been extremely unpleasant. I let Osama know I am not in a mood for food. He says I should get the hell up and go eat something.
Again Osama has spoken.
I am eating breakfast.
Rice and beans and spaghetti, with the usual scintillating tomato sauce and some animal protein.
The food is very good. These roadside sellers are generally very reliable with regard to some serious stimulation of the taste-buds.
I am munching on the food. I can feel my mood getting better very quickly. I don’t like it. I want to keep being annoyed and I want to make Osama feel extremely guilty for putting me through this very annoying experience when I committed no actual crime.
I keep eating. Enjoying the food, while being annoyed at how quickly it is ridding me of my acrimonious annoyance and concentrated displeasure.
I am back with Osama.
He just bought some traditional alcoholic bitters from a roadside peddler. I say I’d like to try some bitters. He advices me not to. Says the smell is very strong and my father will perceive it the moment he sees me. Says my father will know I’ve been drinking questionable alcoholic bitters first thing in the morning. Says he himself is circumspect with the drink whenever his parents are coming around.
I am surprised. I am very surprised.
From hearing Osama exchanging morning pleasantries with some neighbouring traders, I know he has a wife. A wife and two children.
Osama. Osama Bin Laden. FBI Most Wanted Terrorist. Hiding his alcoholic predilections from his parents. Okay. Very unexpected. Very very unexpected.
I thought adults could do whatever they wanted, regardless of their parents’ perspective on acceptable behaviour. I thought a man with a wife and two children could drink strong-smelling alcoholic bitters first thing in the morning if he wanted to, and not have to worry about what his Dad and Mum would say.
I am surprised. I am very surprised. Apparently this whole adult thing is a bit different from what I thought it was.
I keep pondering this astounding observation, while contemplating the complications of my own situation.
Osama is happily sipping on his strong-smelling traditional alcoholic bitters.
Image: A different part of the state, but still generally consistent with the environmental appearance of the more rustic parts of Abeokuta.