Gin-Breath Reverie.

It’s dark.

I’m on the backseat of a motorbike. There are two people ahead of me – there’s the driver, and then there’s someone in-between us.

We’re bobbing in our seats as the motorbike navigates the sandy, bumpy darkness ahead of us. In the gleam of the yellow headlight, I can see a glimpse of the formless ground ahead.


The guy in front of me, his breath smells like alcohol. Like gin.

I think it’s gin. There’s this brand of Chelsea gin that’s extremely popular in Lagos’ roadside stalls. It’s gin in a small satchet – like the size of satchet travel toothpaste. I think it’s extremely popular because people can get a quick shot of alcohol for like fifty Naira. Which is practically the smallest denomination of the Nigerian currency you can actually buy anything with these days.

Generally whenever I come across people in the street whose breaths smell like gin, I just assume its the Chelsea satchet gin – it’s that ubiquitous. Extremely portable: Commercial bus drivers can squeeze in gin shots while they drive along the expressway, and commercial motorbike riders can sip on some quick alcohol in-between rides – In Lagos that thing shows up everywhere and in every possible situation.

So we’re here in the dark, bobbing on this motorbike as it careens about in the sand. And every now and then I get hit by this guy’s gin breath.

His breath reminds me of Grogue. Traditional Cape Verdean rum.

That’s what comes to mind whenever the whiffs hit me.

In fact, right now his gin breath is making me think of one night in particular:



It is dark.

I am drifting along a cobblestoned square somewhere in Espargos.

Espargos, Sal Island, Cape Verde.

I feel tired. Tired and listless.

I’m dragging my feet across the contours of the cobblestones – the square is quiet.

I think there’s some sort of a pop-up market thing happening here. There are rows of wooden stalls on both sides of me.

They are all empty.

I keep walking in-between the rows of quiet stalls – at some point I walk into one and sit down.

I feel directionless.

My living space was burgled earlier in the day. My things were stolen. My computer was stolen.

My phone was stolen a little over a week earlier. That incident made me relocate elsewhere. And now the new place has just been burgled.

I’ve generally been strapped for cash, and so accommodation security – that hasn’t really been something I can afford.

Gap year struggles.

Usually I just get a place with shelter and privacy. Things like security aren’t guaranteed.

And now I’ve been dealt a double-dose of worst case scenarios.

Right now I’m not angry. I’m not sad, not really.

I’m just tired. Like, spent.

I don’t even feel worried. The MacBook was my last way of conveniently connecting to the internet and communicating with people I knew before landing in this country. Losing it – that was what I was worried about.

Now that it’s been stolen, there’s no worry left in me. Like, what more can happen?

I’m looking around in the dark empty wooden stall, and I’m vaguely reminded of the Christmas markets in Europe. They have a similar vibe. Wooden stalls arranged in rows, all out in a wide open space.

Right here in the dark, the general ambience of these stalls make me feel like I might as well be somewhere in Europe right now. These markets aren’t all that different in the dark.

I leave the stall and keep drifting through the square, still dragging my feet across the contours of the cobblestones.


I am in a bar.

A local Cape Verdean bar.

Cape Verdean Creole is being spoken all around me.

The interior walls of the bar are a shade of blue – what shade exactly is difficult to tell in the dim light. Or maybe I’m just too unenthusiastic about life to care right now.

It’s a small bar. Its really just a few benches along the walls, and a chest-high platform in front where the bartenders pour drinks.

I’m seated in corner. I’m not sure what my physical posture looks like on the outside, but on the inside I’m cowering. Life has been dealing me some really hard knocks.

Opposite me there’s a group of Cape Verdean men. I’ll say they’re like late forties upwards. They’re chatting excitedly, in-between sips of grogue.

Local Cape Verdean bars will have the smell of grogue permanently emblazoned in your brain.

Permanently.

I envy their excitement. They seem so carefree. So playful. Excitement is an emotion that is so far away from me right now.

There are two people on the other side of the bar. Initially it was just one boy – teenage-looking, serving drinks.

He has just been joined by someone who I think is his elder sister. Light skinned, mid-to-late twenties likely.

From her dressing, the impression I get is that she works in hospitality somewhere – hotel, restaurant – somewhere. She’s here for a bit to help run the bar her family owns, right before heading for her night shift at work.

That, or she just completed her shift at work and is now here for a bit to help run the family bar.

That’s just the general impression I get from looking at her.

The sounds from the laughing Cape Verdean men are a bit different now. Now there’s some playful flirting with the teenage bartender’s older sister.

Ahaha okay 😄

I don’t completely understand what they’re saying in Creole, but they’re definitely teasing her.

She’s one female in a room of chattery tipsy men. She’s definitely the centre of attention.

I take glimpses at her from my end of the room. Through the shadowy lens of my present despair, her skin is gleaming in the dim light of the electric bulb.

She’s completely ignoring everybody. It’s like she has everyone on mute in her mind, and she can’t hear any of the loud playful teasing from the laughing group of Cape Verdean men.

She has to be just about heading for her shift. Her indifference feels fresh. I doubt anyone’d have this much resolve right after hours of work.

At some point one of the laughing Cape Verdean men orders me a drink.

I’m grateful.

I have no money. I don’t know if I was craving alcohol, but I was definitely being amused by the happenings in the bar. My posture/body language was probably conveying my emotional state, and he felt for me.

I express my appreciation to him, and obtain a glass of grogue from the unconcerned bartender who is just about to go start her shift and has absolutely no time for us.

I recede to my place on the wooden bench and begin to sip on the small glass.

I haven’t felt this in a while.

This feeling. This feeling of being taken care of.

The feeling of having someone provide for me.

I haven’t felt it in a while.

Wow.

This gap year has been me thinking about practically every aspect of my life, on my own.

The kind gesture of the laughing Cape Verdean man makes me realize this, very starkly. In a way I don’t think about on a day-to-day.

For a brief moment in time, I feel safe.

The sort of safety you feel around your parents as a small child – like that. Like the world is this huge cushy blanket you’re wrapped in, and you don’t have to think too hard about anything because someone else has all of that taken care of.

Strange that this feeling would ever be something I would need to be reminded of. When it used to permeate most of my life until not that long ago.

Strange.

I wonder how much more the laughing Cape Verdean man can figure out on my behalf. I wonder how much more of my problems he can automatically discern and solve. Maybe he can help me find the people who stole my computer and retrieve it from them with his mysterious laughing-Cape-Verdean-man superpowers.

I don’t know.

I keep sipping on the small glass of grogue, completely submerged in my inner listlessness, hearing the bubbling laughter and Creole conversation on the fringes of my perception.



Vroom Vroom Vroom!

We’re still bobbing in our seats as the motorbike navigates the sandy, bumpy darkness ahead of us.

I’m still getting hit by the gin-breath of the guy in front of me.

The gin breath that smells like Cape Verdean rum.


Image: People playing a roadside gambling game in the streets of Santa Maria, Sal Island, Cape Verde.

Cascading Problems in the Nigerian Rainy Season.

It is 9:37 PM, and I’m sipping on a mix of Top Tea and Nigerian rum.

I got the rum in the afternoon. Was out on a walk and I came across this guy- from Cotonou- he said his name was Wasiu.

I expressed my surprise at his name. Wasiu didn’t sound like a Cotonou name.

“Don’t you expect that there’ll be Muslims in Cotonou too?”

“Okay that makes sense. That makes sense.”

I met Wasiu at work with his presumably self-constructed alcohol distillation plant. He had two metal drums- turned black with soot from what was possibly months of sitting over firewood flames. Each drum was connected to a tube which passed through a pool of water in the ground before connecting into a funnel at the other end.

I imagined palm wine was heated in the metal drums by the firewood, the alcohol evaporated and went out of the drums through the tubes, condensed into liquid while passing through the section of the tubes immersed in water, and was forced out of the other end of the tubes by new alcohol vapor emerging from the metal tanks. That was my imagination of how the setup worked.

I left Wasiu’s place with two bottles- one full of frothing palm wine, and the second full of clear traditional Nigerian rum. He offered to give me for free, but I just could not agree to that. All of that hard work. Tapping the wine, kindling the fire, inhaling and blinking through the smoke till his red eyes became used to it. I could not take his alcohol for free if I had a choice. There were some damp pieces of paper in my wallet. One of them had “200” printed on its corners. I handed it to a perceptibly more smiley Wasiu.

Hopefully the piece of paper representing two hundred units of the currency designated as the consensual store of value in the nation of Nigeria would be useful to him for something.

Palm Wine + Traditional Nigerian Rum.

I took a sniff of the bottle with the rum. It brought back memories of Grogue- the traditional rum I encountered in the Cape Verdean archipelago a few years back. I wonder how the Cape Verdeans get their rum though- I don’t recall seeing that many palm trees on the islands where I lived.

It is 9:49 PM, and I’m sipping on a mix of Top Tea and Nigerian rum.

I am thinking on the considerably displeasing events of the last few days. A sequence of cascading problems has me bothered.

I have electronic accessories to replace. Primarily as a consequence of an electrification complication.

I headed out on my newly purchased dual-sport bike in a bid to seek some clarity on the destructive extent of the aforementioned complication. The mercurial weather that seems to typify this rainy season took the opportunity to mess up the screen of the laptop in my backpack.

Newly Purchased Dual-Sport Bike.

In the bid to fix one problem, I intersected another. Ugh.

I left the computer in a bag of rice for a day and some hours. I read or heard somewhere that rice is a pretty effective desiccant. I checked on the computer about an hour ago. Apparently the desiccative abilities of rice have got nothing on the disruptive capacity of the Nigerian rainy season.

Usually I go about in the rain with a MacBook Pro in my backpack, and nothing terrible happens. I guess things are just different in Nigeria, and I should have much more regard for the rain here. Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone and stuff.

The screen is still an exhibition of severely disheartening smudges and discolorations. It hurts my heart looking at what used to be a crystal-clear Retina display.

And from the look of things, there’s no actual Apple store in the country. Just “authorized resellers”. This makes fixing Macs considerably frustrating due to the paucity of reliable/authoritative Apple engineers.

People have been saying this year’s rains are heavier than the last. I’m tempted to attribute it to climate change, but that’ll be a pretty dubious attribution. Forcing such an inference from just two data points’ll really just be confirmation bias.

It is 10:10 PM, and I’m sipping on a mix of Top Tea and Nigerian rum.

Billie Eilish’s “My Boy” has been on repeat.

I’m pretty pissed at recent events, and I’m taking the time to think about how to appropriately navigate the situation.

I got some good news this evening. Some very exciting news from an academic institution headquartered in Italy. There are a number of considerable uncertainties ahead, but we’ll see how things go. We’ll see how things go with this very exciting news.

I’m using the WordPress mobile app thing. I just installed it. It seems alright. I’ll see what the post looks like after publishing.

It is 10:30 PM, and I’m sipping on a mix of Top Tea and Nigerian rum.