Just Visiting

Outside of the Nigerian restaurant where the overzealous keyboardist drowned our chatter, my dad suggests a trip to a Nigerian bakery. Just like with every move before, I didn’t realize how much I valued familiarity until it was gone.

How to make the story unexpected? Ayaka tells me she’d love to learn Italian. We are walking up and down Ebisu. I am searching for the Meguro River. I am a terrible compass. We stop by a display case for tempura after going back and forth: you pick. No, you pick. You’re the guest, you pick. I am always a guest in a place that I don’t belong. When we get to Starbucks, we switch to English and talk about celebrities.

Which is not really where I’m from, but it’s easier to say that than it would be to explain. By the time I was nine years old, my family and I had lived in 13 different countries. In Ogbomosho, I used to ride every day in a twelve-seater van that moved in three-minute intervals while children tapped on the glass selling white flowers and menthol candies. The walls next to my home could’ve been scaled by enterprising squatters, but the squatters stayed where they were, singing the same religious hymns every Sunday. From the tinted windows of our cars, we saw the blind and the broken on a regular basis–the stumps of their fingers, their toothless grins.

Another nowhere-city. After a tornado in 2011, abandoned homes and building became fair game for development. As it is now, there’s probably an even split of food places and corn fields. And what do you do there? Nothing much–the dishes, TV recordings, walking my dog, sleeping. Sometimes I run and watch as the trees come alive in a rustle of insect wings as the sun rises. Sometimes I drive west for miles, only encountering roadkill and cows.

Cabo San Lucas
Rain breaks the brochure’s promise. After the overturned kayak we’re all a little wary. Jesus bleeds sorrowfully inside a church; people are selling things that few buy. It’s reminiscent of the Jamaica that my mother knew—a place that I only know through short stays and hearsay. On sunny days you’d expect dancing and laughter, only the residents of Cabo San Lucas don’t wait for sun.

We split egg tarts and eat them furtively while walking down the street. We have just come from a detour to a monk’s graveyard. Leaving the stone idols, we encounter two tourists: a couple, their faces barely able to contain delight. The man gestures at the snow and the river and looks at us, exclaiming, “Can you believe this?” The day is almost closing and still I am thinking: no. No I can’t.

Always the same start and end. The street lights were there for my father just as they were for me in my youth. If Ogbomosho were a person, I would write a letter. If it were mine, I would call it home.

By Zahrah Abdulrauf

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