Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Return.


It was Enrique’s first time in Lagos.
His second time in Nigeria.

The first time was 26 years before. His father ,Jose Alonso, was on his way to Nigeria with his pregnant wife Maria Rosalina Alonso. Having been married for only 5 months, her 9 month old pregnancy told the common tale of precipitous marriages. Unlike most, this marriage was different in that it was yet to begin to show the cracks that an unplanned foundation will often result in. Nine months after forgetting to buy a condom Jose was still in love with his Wife from Turin. He was so much in love that when his company sent him on a survey mission to Nigeria he relented ,upon her request, and brought with him his pregnant wife along for the trip.

They flew in with the Nigerian Airlines.
The Pilot, a 29 year old Architecture graduate of University of Ibadan had barely 19 hours beneath his belt. In any other country he would still have been flying biplanes with an instructor mouthing obscenities at his every slip. Here in Nigeria, deeply ingrained with a military government and its associated despotism, it didn’t matter. It helped if your father’s step-brother’s Uncle’s cousin’s brother in law was the president.
The pilot had such a chain link to the political powerhouse and so he got the job.
The plane didn’t crash. The god’s were lenient. Instead, as some form of punishment, they sent the pilot the worst recorded turbulence experience in the last 5 years.
After 6 hours of praying and being butted across the skies the plane finally arrived at the Muritala Airport. In the cockpit, vomit strewn behind the chair, the pilot vowed to return to his first field of Architecture. Behind, in the first class cabin of the plane, there was a crowd of wondering Nigerian men as they witnessed their first child birth.
The Alonso’s where of strong Italian stock but 6 hours of turbulence alongside a menu that offered Amala and Ewedu, will defeat anyone.
Maria Rosalina Alonso gave birth as the plane rolled to a stop next to Hanger 12 of the Muritala Mohammed Airport.
Thus did Enrique D.G Alonso, born from two, true blooded Italians, gain Nigerian Citizenship.

The Alonso’s changed their plans immediately. They sat in the airport clinic for an hour before hitching a return trip back to Italy.
Mr. Alonso never got to do his survey or see Lagos.

25 years , 11 months and 28 days later Enrique returned.
Enrique had a guidebook. He had done his research.
The Italian consulate had been nice enough to hand him a list of do’s and don’ts.
He knew for instance that it was not healthy to drink water from the tap. Whilst this most accepted of acts was recognized behavior outside the country, within the irregular borders of Nigeria, drinking from the tap was not without its risks. No one had yet decided conclusively where the AIDS virus came from and until that was resolved the WHO was not yet ruling out the Nigerian Water system.
He knew, again, that at this time of the year the country was going through it’s unpredictable weather cycle... The sun was known to shine as brightly and as warm as 40 degrees, five minutes before making way for dark clouds that emptied their water load o the city drenching the sweltering inhabitants of Lagos.
To this end he had packed in his Nike knapsack, Sun screen crème. A small umbrella and a raincoat. Reading the brochure carefully he discovered that there hadn’t been a Volcanic eruption in Nigeria in 40000 years. Which made it more than likely that there would be one soon.
He packed a Volcano survival kit.

The sun was high in the sky when Enrique walked out the airport doors. A strong blast of heat hit him, threatening to boil the air in his lungs and leave him choking in pain. He found himself looking up to the sky for the dark clouds he had been promised. No one had mentioned it would be this hot. The sun screen on his face was beginning to sizzle.

Desperate to escape being cooked alive He made his way to his first Nigerian Cab.
It was a Peugeot 504 painted bright familiar yellow.
On the side was the word “TAXEY” boldly written in black.
Enrique assumed it was the Nigerian Translation of the universal word.
The driver was dressed in a T shirt with the words “Nothing dey happen”.
He looked at Enrique with a happy smile as he walked over.
"Where too?” he asked grabbing Enrique’s bag for him.
He tossed it into the back seat.
Enrique made a move to get into the back seat but the driver stopped him.
“No…Seat in front. The airconditioner…It’s better.”
Desperate to get out of the heat Enrique consented and moved to the front. Whilst making a quick check to ensure his bag was indeed behind him, he noticed that the entire back screen was covered in Stickers. There where a lot of them, starting from “1987 my year of laughter “to “2007. My year of Breakthrough”.
He probably had a bike in 1987 Enrique thought.
He asked the driver why he had so many stickers behind.
How do you see behind you?
The driver looked at him puzzled as he made a motion to start the car.
“Wetin I wan look behind me for. I’m moving forward not backward.”
He pulled out two wires and touched them together. There was a spark, followed by a loud cough from the engine and the insides of the car was instantly flooded with smoke.
“Welcome to Nigeria:” The Cabbie said.
Thus did Enrique D.G Alonso experience his first Taxey in Nigeria.

Enrique didn’t say anything for the first 3 minutes of his first Cab ride.
It took him that long to say The Lords Prayer, the Nicene Creed and Psalm 23.
He looked up just in time to witness the driver blaze by two trailers with only inches to spare. The speedometer wasn’t working but Enrique was convinced they had passed MACH 1.
He turned to meet the driver’s amused gaze.
“Where are you going?
Enrique corrected him. The question wasn’t where but what.
What did he want to do?
He had made a promise to himself regarding his first action in Nigeria. He had looked forward to it.
The driver shrugged
What. Where.
Semantics.
“So what do you want to do? “ The driver asked.
Enrique told him what and watched the driver smile.

She was clad in a tight blouse that highlighted her massive bosom. Her hips, spread beneath a wrapper, looked impressive despite the shroud. In spite of the heat she had make–up on. Red bold lipstick covered lips beneath eyes adorned with pink eyeliners.
She looked at the duo in front of her. First at the driver and then at the sweating white man behind him.
“You say what?” She asked for the third time.
“This man talk say e wan chop Amala and Ewedu..
“Amala…” The woman repeated staring at the white man behind.
His eyes where darting around nervously. She didn’t blame him. When a white man walks into a National Union of Road Transport workers canteen that many eyes are bound to stare at you.
‘You say this white man wan chop Amala?”
“Yes… With Ewedu. And Bush meat…” The driver looked behind him and then added quickly. “Two plates. Put Gbegiri for my own.”
Iya Buki had seen a lot in her 29 years of work at the Ikeja NURTW canteen. But this, she shook her head, this took the cake.
She was finally getting old.
“Sikirat!” She called wearily. “Bring me two plates of Amala!”
She had had longer experience being a Nigerian.
“6000 Naira for two plates “She announced handing over the meal.
Thus was Enrique D.G Alonso given, albeit expensive, his first taste of Nigerian cuisine.

Enrique loved it.
Iya Buki was so thrilled that she offered him an extra plate free—without the bush meat of course. He and the driver.
Enrique returned to the Taxey completely sated with a complementary stain of stew on his shirt.
“That Na your dining badge.” The driver announced grandly.
“Dining badge.” Enrique repeated happily, touching the stain with pride.
Midst cheers from the crowd of Okada riders and Cab drivers who had come to watch this Oyibo eat Nigeria’s finest the taxi reversed forward and then left.
After a quick question the driver changed heading and headed to a well known bar. Beside him. Thoroughly stuffed Enrique smiled with a glazed look in his eyes.
They gisted about idle stuff.
The driver asked him if he was from New York.
“No Italy.” Enrique said.
“Okay….” The driver nodded “How close to is that to New York?”
Enrique laughed (it was a joke wasn’t it?) and closed his eyes whilst trying to figure out what exactly “Nothing dey happen” meant.
Noting the happenings?
Possibly.

The car slowed down as it hit slight traffic.
There was a tap at his window.
He looked out to see a man holding the watch of his dream.
A Tag Heur. The diver’s edition. There where only 980 of them made. And one of them , to all appearance and events, was being sold in a hold up here in Lagos.
“How much?” The driver asked after winding down.
“4000 naira.” The watch sales man said very quickly.
The driver shook his head. What did the watch man think he was made off.
Money?
To Enrique’s horror he began to move forward in the traffic.
To Enrique’s shock the watch man kept speed with the accelerating car, barely breaking a sweat as he grudgingly announced.
“Okay. Take am for 2000 Naira.”
“I’ll take it.” Enrique said quickly.
Hell a plate of Amala had been 6000 naira. He was getting a bargain here.
He nodded his acceptance to the driver, before he changed his mind.
5 minutes later there where still 980 of such watches in the world.
One of them ostensibly was being worn by Enrique
And thus did Enrique D.G Alonso discover the hidden secrets and potential of a Lagos Traffic Holdup.

The drive ended up in Lekki.
Specifically, A bar on the water side where for 200 naira or 1000 naira (depending on whose version you believed the barman or the interpreting driver) you could have a bottle of the freshest palm wine.
Comfortable in his role of driver cum interpreting guide, Noting the happenings ordered for four bottles of frothing fresh palm wine.
“Wait until you taste this.” Announced the driver “There is no better wine in the entire world.”
Secretly Enrique considered the wine from his Uncles Vineyard the best but he kept his observation to himself until he sipped the palm wine.
He was glad he did.
Thus did Enrique taste his first Nigerian Drink.

The Sun was almost gone from the sky. All that was left was an orange orb in the sky. To look at the pale sphere now you wouldn’t believe it was responsible for half the heat that was now softly wafting from the ground. From the ocean barely a mile away the air carried the soft calming breeze of coastlines. He had called his hotel, Sheraton Lagos, to confirm they still had his room ready and waiting. After confirmation he had driven there, dropped his bad and returned to the bar. He refused to take of his dining badge shirt.
Seated in a chair, his hair being played with from side to side by the wind , a mug of poured palm wine in his hands Enrique could not think of a better evening.
He was wrong.

“Is this seat taken. “ She asked.
Enrique stared entranced.

Blonde braids framed a face which contained eyes that where opals of black lit with the strangest of lights. Her gaze ripped through him. Seeing into his darkest shadows and highlighting his secrets. Her soft lips shone with the hint of gloss. He found himself swallowing even though he hadn’t had a sip of palm wine.
She smiled at his silence and sat beside him
They sat in silence for a while.
“You’re American?” She asked softly.
“Italian” he replied finally finding his voice. She nodded her head softly.
Italy. I’ve been there once. With my parents.”
He looked at her with more interest.
“Really? That’s interesting. Where in Italy?”
She made a face.
Rome. My mum is love with the Pope.”
He laughed.
“Yes we all are.”
“Italian…” She murmured looking at him.
Again she gave him that look. He found himself correcting.
“Actually I’m also Nigerian. My parents gave birth to me here.” He raised his hand “Citizen by birth.”
She looked at him with surprise.
“I’m serious. “ He said with a laugh. He let down his tone a notch. “I even have a Nigerian name. My mum called me after the man on the plane that helped my child birth. He was a real gentleman.”
“You where born on a plane?” She asked laughing.
“Yes I was. My Nigerian name is Dele Giwa. That was the man’s name. I’m not sure but my mum thinks he was a journalist. Would you like to hear the tale?”
“Please.” She said softly.
He talked.

The sun finally finished its good bye song and sunk behind the horizons. This close to the Ocean there where a million stars in the sky. In a corner the driver sat content sipping his 7th bottle of palm wine.
Noting the happenings.
Today had been a good day.

Enrique didn’t notice. He just sat there chatting animatedly with Millicent Njoku. That was her name. She was a 4h year Marketing student of University of Lagos.
He didn’t notice the stars.
He didn’t notice the ghostly moon's rise.
He didn’t notice the amused stare the bartender gave him.
He didn’t notice that his limited edition Tag Heur had suddenly stopped working.
All He noticed was her lips.
And she noticed.
So they did something about it.

Thus did Dele-Giwa E. Alonso ,a terminal ill patient suffering from Cancer, see, taste, hear and feel the first of his last 60 days in his first country.

The tale ends

45 comments:

bumight said...

first again! where's my prize?

bumight said...

this is different carl, seeing as I have forgotten everything I wanted to say when I initially started (was reading this in between a lecture).

I thought u were supposed to be studying for an exam, so why are u on blogville like never before?
why, u were even first on GNG's blog!

UndaCovaSista said...

The opening lines led me to think of Enrique Iglesias and i'm almost certain he's never been to Nigeria!

Lol@ noting the happenings, and the anally retentive part of me is wondering what happened to his bag, did he stop off at his hotel first before going to the bar, did he have a hotel booked already or was he just going with the flow....Ok, i better stop now

Rayo said...

Eiyaa, he came to die in his birthplace. Excellent story, Carl.

@Undacovasista-I was thinking the EXACT same things about his bag!!

Zephi Fahrenheit said...

carly

that was a beautiful story..are you done or do we have to look foward to more..I wonder if this really happened

little miss me said...

great story
thoroughly enjoyed reading it...so sad that he was terminally ill though,that explains why he returned after so long...lol so dele giwa was a part time mid wife?! lol who would have guessed!

fluffycutething said...

That was so freaking fantastic...

U deserve a big kiss ***muah***

Life through rose-tinted glasses said...

OMY GOD!!! i'm just totally blown away by this...this was too good and the end just killed it!! U Rock

Nine said...

Some problems to be addressed:

-The mother would have been sent to a hospital for observation for at least a day.Standard for unplanned deliveries in non sterile surroundings.Ditto the baby.Hospital admission for at least a week.More likely two.

-Newborns aren't allowed on planes anyway.Something about an increased risk for bleeding inside the head.So no travel for at least a month.

-A pregnant woman of nine months wouldn't be allowed on a plane anyway.Health risks.

-Naija airport taxis tush oh!Even t hen.Oil money dey 1982

-I suspect no Italian would have flown Nigerian Airways instead of Alitalia

-And I suspect Dele Giwa didn't travel outside Nigeria in 1982.Could prove it,but am too lazy:)

Nice twist at the end though.But if you are gonna do details,get them right.

UndaCovaSista said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
UndaCovaSista said...

@Rayo - lol! What is it they say again about great minds?...

@nine - Just a suggestion, but maybe you should read the other posts on the blog to get a sense of it's ambience. Then you'll realise that we don't come here for the 'details'. We come here for the Man himself!

There. Voltron duties for today duly dispensed with :)

Nine said...

@undacovasista
I did read the others.Liked them,as I like this.But I did think he could have done better on this one.My opinion,but I'm like that.Remember,u did catch the thing with his luggage:)

Lol@Voltron though.I'll just have to make sure I steal the Blue Lions key*grin*

darkelcee said...

Whether you like am, whether you no like the thing be say.........

Carlang, I like you !

Beautiful story.

Naapali said...

Bard, Griot, Storyteller. None of them do you justice. Yet again, thank you! I have been Carlanged for the week!

Naapali said...

regarding luggage, y'all need to do a reread. There was a typo otherwise this line addresses the bag issue:
"He had called his hotel, Sheraton Lagos, to confirm they still had his room ready and waiting. After confirmation he had driven there, dropped his bad and returned to the bar. He refused to take of his dining badge shirt."

guerreiranigeriana said...

glad naapali pointed out that bit about the luggage being dropped off because i too was going to suggest that folks do another, more thorough read through...

@carlang: so you read atutupoyoyo's post and you are preparing ehn?...beautiful, beautiful piece of work, or shall i call it art...i loved it...although, the names made me think of spaniards...go figure...i enjoy word play, which dabbled in...we go gist about this lion king and circle of life o...

Rayo said...

@Undacova-They definitely think alike!

Carlang said...

@ Bumight:
WHy do i find myself being defensive.
off course i've been reading.
Sniff.
I swear.
Why have i appeared more frequently in blogville?
I dont know.
Love.
Boredom.
Concern for a growing Tumor in my brain.

All work and no blog makes Carl..

@ Nine:
Oh bother.
I was all set to go gung-hu on you but i've reconsidered.
I sat infront of the pc blacked out and woke up an hour later with the offending story in question on the screen.
I just saved it and posted it.

Still i have this to say,
1) You give the NIgerian Airline too much credit.

2) Never ever ever argue with a pregnant woman. My mum drove 200 km to UCH in the midst of labor pangs because she didnt want to have me in her village.
I'm eternally grateful for that.
She ended up having a C-section..
I'm not too thrilled about that.

3) I never said anything about a year.
Could have been 1974 for all we know!

@ Undercovasista:
Thanks for coming to my defense.
You saved Nine from certain annihilation from my end.
About the bag..
Blogsville is at it again..
I saw your comment and wrote the line Naapali made refrence too.
Thanks for the correction...

@ Rayo:
How goeth them lecture classes.
Thanks dear.

Women ...
You cant beat them.
They read a story and their first concern is BAGS!!
LOL.
Still ... you get a prize for healthy observation.

@ Naapali:
Thanks for standing by me.
I actually wrote in that line after undercover's astute observation.
How's the day going?
Tell me you;ve seen Autupuoyo's post.
WHat do you think about it?
Cant wait to read what you write.

p.s This means you must!

@ Guerrieranaija:
Circle of life?
lol.
Gist about it...
okay...
lol.
Thanks for standing up for me.
I actually wrote the post before reading Autupuoyo's.
Still it helps to know that i still have a bit of writing in me..
Just a bit..

@ Life through glasses:
Thank you.
I was sort of worried that the ending was too tragic.
I'm glad you loved it.
How is the day going?

@ RAyo:
They also look alike.
Undercova's a cutie!

@ Zephi:
Thanks dear.
No this is it.
No other stories.
And no....
This didn't happen.
Too the best of my knowledge..

@ Darkelcee:
CHei..See my head dey swell.
Thank you JaRE.
aFTER nine's flogging i was about to hang myself.

See NIne?

Elcee likes me!!!

@ Fluffycute thing:
A kiss from you!
I'm in heaven...

Carlang said...

@ Lil miss me:
Aw shucks.
I'm glad you liked it.
Yeah it was kinda sad...
You think i should have made it happier?

Naapali said...

@Undacova: dat your license to thrill and to kill is well deserved I see. As you used e-body to force Carlang into a re-write.
@Rayo: wassup. u still planning to go to Santa Fe? dats wat a certain Cat told me.
@Carlang; I actually saw that sign in a bank too. No wonder they use smoke signals to communicate.
- Like sheep, I sheepishly accepted the Atuts project, now my brain is as frozen as the Arctic circa Oligocene epoch. Excitedly looking forward to it though. Pls send me an email (email addy on my blog prof). thx.

UndaCovaSista said...

Look...you guys should not drive me crazy o! I know there was no reference to the bag initially! Thanks for 'fessig up, Carlang. Now i know i still sane :)

Afrobabe said...

wow...carl, this is very good...you should have it published...maybe write a series of short stories like this and have them published...but I think you should take it down before someone else beats u to it...

good luck...

Afrobabe said...

A kiss from fluffy and u r in heaven???

Better get back down here sharpish...

shalewa said...

carl,if all ur posts were made into a movie,it would be the best selling comedy of the year.u r a gifted humourist.nice blog.keep up the good work.

Carlang said...

@ Undacova:
Glad to be of service.
I couldn't stand the thought of you doubting your sanity or recall abilities.
Lol.

@ Naapali:
I'll definitely send you a mail.
Right now the server's acting up.. If i don't swing it now i might have to return later in the day..

@ Shalewa:
lol.
Thanks.
I wasn't sure writing the story was in line with the image of the blog but I'm glad most people liked it.
*Hard glare at NIne!*

@ Afrobabe:
Hmmm...
Now there's an idea.
ABout Atu's project..
Are you planning on doing anything about it.
YOu're pretty creative..
And sort of a media icon yourself...c

geisha said...

took me like a day to settle down enouh to enjoy this.
really good story

geisha said...

@life through rose tinted glasses: babe u beta send me an invite or whatever to read your blog!!! xoxo

Naija Chickito said...

I'm so late.

Naughty Carl. Masterpiece, I tell you. It made me happy just reading. The end was a bit sad though. :-(

Rayo said...

Those lecture classes are killing me oo...my only savior is reading blogs while in class.

Rayo said...

@Naapali-Santa Fe abi St. Lucia? lmao!! Actually I took my vacation this weekend...went to the beach and everything. I have to blog about it.

Naija Chickito said...

Rayo, are you hearing anything being said in class? Close all blogs for now, I say, before I come there to harass you.

:-)

Afrobabe said...

Don't think I'll take part in that particular project.....but really thinking of writing a collection of 3 really good short stories and getting a publisher...only problem is...will they publish all the pidgin?????

lol..

fantasy queen said...

ben scritto...perfecto perfecto!....

did u enter for atutu's short stories stuff? you should if you havent.

and heres an idea. maybe carls really italian, yes, maybe he is enrigue? lol'.

Onome said...

hmmmmm.......trying ur hands at publishing i see

princesa said...

Really nice read carl.
This part totally cracked me up-“ “1987 my year of laughter “to “2007. My year of Breakthrough”.
He probably had a bike in 1987 Enrique thought”
LMAO!!!
I’ll definitely buy ur book when you publish.

theicequeen said...

whoa! gooood post..had me laughin, getting all thoughtful..and then feeling all emotional...good stuff

Ms. Catwalq said...

Oh my goodness!!!!

Okay, when is your book coming out? U r going to put me out of business as a blogger...kai!

I so gbaduned the story. Especially the N6,000 amala. Why are some people so dishonest?

Ms. Catwalq said...

nine, why u wan spoil better thing? ehn?

Florida of Free Spirit said...

wahali, carlang, if not say i like u eh, i for no dey read de read these ur long long posts!!!! like bumight said, u sound different in dis one o. & like undacovasista said too, i tot it was my main man enrique iglesias. i 4 fear o, say em come naija!!!

i love dat ur cartoon o. lol @ d 95 zeros part!!!! d nonsense over-sabi people wey d vex me 4 school

Sherri said...

another masterpiece..

noting the happenings... i love that!

lol@nine

how u dey?

Carlang said...

@ Afrobabe:
A book in pidgin?
Sounds like a winner!!

@ fantasyqueen:

I'm italian.
I am?
MUM!!!!!


@ Geisha:
I'm so glad you loved it..
Smile!

@ Florida :
LOl.
Okay..
Next time i write a story i'll call him Enrique...
Oh wait.
That one's been taken too...

@ Catwalq:
Ahh....
Flattery will get you everywhere you know.
lol.
I dont think you have to worrry about loosing your job.
This might have been one nice post..
But a cyber block from here.
Over at your place
There exists and infinte supply of lovely posts.

Rock beats scissors.

@ SHerri:
Thanks dear.
Glad you liked it.

Atutupoyoyo said...

Maestro I am a huge fan as you know and this is another cracking piece of storytelling. I selfishly hope that you are saving at least a modicum of that talent for the Newspaper Man collection.

You are skilled in characterisation. I feel confident, for example, that were Stolich to walk into the room right now I would recognise her in an instant. This is down to your descriptive strength and provides the reader with a very three dimensional image of your characters. This is a story with some fantastic individual episodes and a poignant ending. Adding a veritable legend, Dele Giwa, is a neat touch. I also loved the way "Nothing dey happen" becomes Noting the happenings. There is a rhythm in it’s usage that gave the story a real resonance. Very inspired.

At the risk of sounding like a sycophant I'm afraid I will have to nitpick; the name Enrique, although Latin in origin, is quintessentially Spanish and not Italian.

Another triumph and I am already looking forward to the next entry.

darkelcee said...

Young man when are you updating?

We are waiting (def not patiently!)

N.I.M.M.O said...

Everything's been said. *Naapali was here*

@Nine: I believe this kind of writing could be called 'faction'. A mix of fact and fiction.

Superb writing.

soupasexy said...

OMG!..ur such a good story teller, i enjoyed err bit of it and was enthralled...muah!!