As a child, leaving Uyo for Lagos was always painful; Always.
The tears would start a day or two before I left and on the dawn of my departure, the pain in my heart would be akin to how a friend described having a tooth pulled without anaesthesia.
Each visit brought squeals of joy, but at the end there was always the re-realization that I was leaving a part of me behind in the town of my birth.
Well, one is not a child anymore, and as the decades passed, I have come to accept the leaving as a given; one which will spark feelings- fires to be put aside and ignited upon our next re-union. This time around I left with the knowledge that work awaited in Lagos, the city of mad hustles, and I sorely needed to get ready for the new work-year.
There is no power when I alight from the taxi and thank the driver who has helped me carry my suitcase and the sack bag containing food stuff to my doorstep. Not one to trifle over PHCN’s operations, I set to switching on a rechargeable lamp and cross the threshold with my four pieces of luggage, two at a time.
When the taps greet me with a squeak and a few miserly drops of water, I trudge on and move to unpack the foodstuff which mum struggled to put together for me in the last few days; some of which will be distributed the next day. It is 10.45pm when I decide to shower with water from my reserve.
When I fish out my nightshirt from my yet-to-be unpacked suitcase, I realize with a pang of nostalgia that I have brought a bit of Uyo back with me.
There is nothing romantic about firewood smoke; I know. But like a distant yet familiar lover, my mother’s kitchen has left its smell on the sleeveless nightshirt. The smoke seems to have permeated the very strands and patterns on the fabric, so that as I make to slide it over my head, the smell is as strong as a heady kiss or the animal scent of a frenzied lover in the throes of passion.
My nightshirt hanged to dry in the vicinity of the kitchen, and I can very well imagine how smoke billowed in different directions as Flora cooked Editan Soup while I went sightseeing on my last day in the town.
When I announced my departure to her the night before I left, Edidiong looked me in the eye and pleaded softly; ‘Please don’t go. Stay and bathe me tomorrow’
The supplication was so innocent and genuine, I wanted to cry. Inspired by this smoke scent, all I can do now is pray that she will remain sweet and also remember those memories we made in the last 9days. But then, she is just three and memory can be a bitch.
In the haze of the smoky aroma, I recall some arguments we had, the occasional scolding I gave to Flora and Aniefon; my undergrad siblings, a sulk here and there, Flora’s witty remarks, the very sweet treats I got from Aniefon, the heart-to-hearts with Kufre, but most of all, I remember the shared meals with each of them.
I should be eager to get to bed; it’s been a long trip and I hope to be fresh enough to go for worship in the morning, but sleep eludes me. Even though there are no tears now- it’s still lodged somewhere in my throat, there is certainly a near sense of loss; I have again left a part of me behind.