It was the middle of March in New York and I was on my way to JFK Airport. I passed by residents of Hollis shoveling snow around their houses or cars. There was a snowstorm the night before which made me anxious about my flight for the following day. Fortunately, there was no delay or cancellation.
I arrived at the airport and said goodbye to my brothers who appeared to be a bit worried about my navigating my multiple flights. “I don’t want you to get stranded at the airport. Make sure you ask for help,” they said. I’ll be fine, I affirmed. I hugged my brothers’ goodbye.
It was Wednesday night and my first flight was to Atlanta. The duration of the flight was three hours. It went by quickly as I spent the flight watching the movie “The Meddler.” The plane arrived in Atlanta and I had 10 minutes to get on my connecting flight to Lagos, Nigeria. With my handbag to the right and my laptop bag to the left of my shoulder, I powerwalked to Gate 14. A bulletin read Lagos. I sighed in relief that I made it on time.
I board the plane and my seat is 34D. As I walked towards my seat, I noticed the people around me seemed to be in their mid-thirties or older. To my right sat an elderly man in a track suit. During the eleven-hour flight, he would sleep or watch the map of the flight status. When a passenger would open the window pane, the elderly man would peek. To my left sat an elderly woman. She’d get up every twenty to thirty minutes to use the bathroom. She always appeared uncomfortable, turning around and dropping her pillow. I’d notice that she’d often get her meals before everyone else. To my back, I could hear a child and a man speaking friendly: “How are you doing?” said the man. The child responds “Fine.” The man asked: “Do you know where you are going?” The child responds eagerly “I am going to Nigeria.” “That is good. That is good” says the man as he laughs.
I watch movies, eat, sleep, write and I check the flight duration. When it’s time for the plane to land in Lagos, I said to myself “Finally.” Though I knew Lagos is not the destination but just a stop on the way to Abuja. As we’re about to land, the child in the back says: “Mommy, I want to jump in the sky.” “Ahh you want to skydive?” the father says laughing: The child says again “Mommy, I want to jump in the sky.” The plane lands. Some people clap and others use their hands to make the sign of the cross. It’s Thursday at around 3 pm in the afternoon and I’m in Lagos.
My father met me at the airport to help me retrieve my bags. As we exited the airport, I took off my long brown jacket because it was 90 degrees Fahrenheit out.
We drove past the airport and I stared through the car window. I haven’t been in Nigeria in eight years. But as I looked out through the window, I didn’t feel as though I’m a stranger. I thought I would but it all felt familiar to me: the accents I heard around me. The men and women dressed in multicolored traditional wear.
My father and I spent Thursday night in Lagos. Friday morning, we board a 50-minute flight to Kaduna. I take out a book from my handbag: “The Book of Awakening” by Mark Nepo. We arrived in Kaduna and retrieved our bags. Next, it’s a three-hour drive to Abuja.
On the drive through Kaduna, I noticed children in uniforms: white shirts and green shorts playing in a field. I saw women with white and brown hijabs walking, some had bowls on their heads. I fell asleep and we left Kaduna and we drove through Abuja.
I opened my eyes. I’m reminded of a dream I had in New York. I stood on the threshold of a door I didn’t enter. To my right, I saw my childhood friends from school: CSS Asokoro in Abuja. They stood in line wearing our school uniform: red checkered blouses and blue skirts. To my left, I saw men in African traditional wear dancing. Then, I woke up from the dream feeling confused and bothered about the possibility of returning to a country I hadn’t lived in years. Now, the driver stops at Kado Estate and I see a white gate. I’m uncertain about arriving. But I’m home.