6am: New York City, December 19th 2017.
I had been standing on the boarding line for over forty minutes. The airline had announced a crew delay and was giving no other information. It occurred to me that I should have had breakfast but I had left my friend’s house since 4am and those were not breakfast hours for me. I scanned the little shops around the boarding gate. They were all still closed. I sighed and continued to ignore the two guys next to me on the line who kept trying to get my attention. I was not in the mood for endless Nigerian chit chat.
My phone rang. It was M. I picked up. “Yeah…”
She kept talking and I kept giving monosyllabic answers. After a few minutes she lost her patience. “Why are you being closed off again, E? I thought we were over this? I thought I apologized?”
She had, but so much water had gone under the bridge. “Listen, it’s not that simple, okay? I can’t just switch on and off like that. I’ll need time to process things. Let’s sit down and talk when I get back,” I said.
She was silent for a minute. When she spoke there was a loaded sadness in her voice. “Have we lost it? Have I lost you?”
I couldn’t answer. I didn’t know what to say.
She waited then sighed. “It’s fine, when you get back I guess. Are you excited about going to Nigeria? It’s been what, six years?!”
I wasn’t, really and I told her that. Other than my family, I wasn’t sure what there was in Nigeria to be excited about. But I really was looking forward to sitting down with my father.
As we spoke the airline staff started to make an announcement over the speakers. “I gotta go, M. I’ll hit you up when I get to Lagos.”
“Alright, E. Have a safe flight.”
Beep, and she was gone. There were no I love you’s. We knew better than that.
The airline had started boarding. I didn’t have any carry on luggage, only my back pack. As I calmly walked ahead toward the boarders, there was a suddenly well of people from behind me pushing and surging past me until there was a chaotic mass packed up against the scanning counter. Any idea of separate boarding zones was out of the window. It was a Free for all mad rush, barely contained by the stiff faced Royal Air Maroc attendants.
I smiled. There was no need to get angry, we are Nigerians and we are like that. I simply held back until I was one of the last people to board even though I was one of the first zones.
The lady that scammed my ticket looked at me curiously. “Your zone boarded long ago!”
“I know!” I replied and gestured to the shoving and pushing crowd. She nodded in understanding and I shrugged. “It’s not like the plane is going anywhere until we all get on it, no?”
She laughed in agreement and sent me on. “Enjoy your flight!”
“I intend to. Merry Christmas!”
She was probably Muslim, I thought as I strolled into the plane. I confirmed the flight time, seven hours to Casablanca. I struggle to sleep in planes but at least I had the book “Principles” by Ray Dalio to keep me company.
I kissed America good bye as we taxied off into the cold morning skies. My trip to Nigeria had begun.