Port Harcourt .

10.46am, Monday.

The fan blades embark on another slow rotation before they finally grind to a halt. It’s hard to blame them: there’s been only ninety seconds of electricity since I arrived here, since the Friday morning I threw a few clothes into a brown bag and bundled together with “Evans” (my two-week old Acer laptop), since I headed for the park, smiling enthusiasticall
y as I grabbed the bus ticket with my left hand, oblivious to the existence of Eleparanwo’s mosquitoes that were waiting to swoop sans mercy.

“And even if you say no I’ll take you out/
I just wanna wake up and check you out/
Girl early in the morning/early in the morning”

It’s Nonso Amadi, crooning in his bid to lure an introverted lady out of her apartment on “Early”, a track featuring Ghanaian producer Juls and the multi-layered soundmaker Maleek Berry. In my opinion, Amadi is the country’s best male vocalist, virtually incapable of putting a note wrong, whether it’s pacifying a jealous gun-wielding lover on “Tonight” or convincing a love interest to accompany him to Abuja on “No Crime”. It’s imperative that he puts out a studio album soon enough, it’s necessary, for the sake of creative momentum, Nigerian music enthusiasts are quick to move on. Yes, there’s a collaborative “War” EP with Odunsi the Engine, but that won’t do.

“I hate Africa, it’s a smelly place…”

“America is better.”

Holidays came early for a number of the kids in the neighbourhood, and they are discussing outside in wide-eyed fashion. I wonder who’s in charge of the Geography (or at least the Social Studies) lessons in their schools, I cringe when I imagine what these little ones must be fed with, to have such an impression of the very continent they live. The classrooms would hardly be enough to impart any meaningful education in the coming decades.

11.15am. Anopheles buzzes past. Other mosquitoes across Sub-Saharan Africa would be on recess, but this is Bole’ country.

***
12.42pm.

“No o, Hulk nor go fit carry Thor hammer. Na only Captain America go fit hold am.”

“Even Captain America nor fit. That hammer too strong.”

Marvel Comics is doing a good job indoctrinating these kids, creating ideas of the heroes that they should aspire to be. They probably missed the previous year’s frenzy that was Black Panther, otherwise the early noon conversation would have taken a slightly different tone.

I scroll down my Facebook timeline. Wedding. Slap. Boutique. Slap. Doggy. White. Wine. I roll my eyes as I yearn for a different topic of relevance.

“The people are ‘a little pissed’ ”

Zamfara is in turmoil. The President’s tweet is hardly sympathetic, but we have come to expect nothing different. We are even impressed that at least, he is aware of this one.

“This is not about those who voted for APC or not. We are all victims.”

That is true, but it is also difficult to fault those who may be too busy looking over their shoulders for kidnappers and/or trigger-happy police officers to lend their empathy to the present situation.

#IAmZamfara # IAmNotZamfara #EndSARS

Hashtags, the phenomenon whose effectiveness is perennially up for debate in these parts. Who even reads those threads anyway? Nigerian law enforcement and the culture of impunity go together, just like bread and ewa agonyin.

2.55pm. LinkedIn. One cliché post after another. It’s #MotivationMonday , so the nuggets and inspirational quotes are expected. I am sometimes forced to view the app as a “corporate Instagram” of sorts: it’s always about fancy photos of executives in suits, celebrating work anniversaries, uploading photos of themselves attending one of those conferences. I am curious as to where the other stories are, the ones pertaining to firms that owe their employees half a year’s salary, and first class graduates whose mails are at the mercy of human resources personnel who revel in playing God.

“I really like you, heck, I want you, but you know I had something with Daniel a while ago.”

At least Ebiere is bold enough to express the extent of her desire. I hardly trust Whatsapp conversations that play out by evening, as the winds induce all kinds of emotion, but it’s a fairly humid afternoon, so I’m in no mood to disbelieve .

“I had something to do with”…ah, the Bro Code. I abide by certain tenets thereof, never mind that post-modern rhetoric suggests that it’s a symptom of toxic masculinity, but how many men still play by the rules? Didn’t that influencer receive topless photos from my ex-lover of two relationships ago?

“Daniel and I are no longer friends. Long story, I am not interested in telling.”

The truth is that the story is far from long, it is just a short time-tray containing misplaced trust, pettiness, calumny, ego trips and a false story about me stealing his (then) girlfriend.

“In any case, I’m working on something really special to me.”

“Dude, you sound different from two years ago. ”

“I’m not 26 anymore, loveyy.”

She is right. The old me would have responded with an “I think I’m drawn to you too” message, leading to a flurry of voice note exchanges, with the racy photos in the mix…but not anymore.

For a brief moment I recall, and not with a sense of pride, the summer of 2017, where I strummed Tola’s clitoris like a guitar in Ibadan, invited Gwen to the same apartment where Mmayen hosted me for a week in Calabar, ran my fingers along Pearl’s lower back in Enugu, all the while assuring Harriet of my love in Lagos…before returning to Ibadan to burn two bridges. It’s easy, really, to think of yourself at a certain age as smart and handsome, when all you exhibit is the ugliest dumbness.

***
5.25pm.

I check my Facebook inbox. No one has dropped the “hey, I heard you’re in my town” message. There are no offers pertaining to an evening of Heineken and grilled fish, no promises of a night out in the town, not even a request for a rendezvous at the city library.

I look at the door. I wish Olamma would be home. I understand that the nature of her work would probably keep her out of her apartment until the sun slings its cloak and heads home, but I still want her lying two centimetres away. The room feels lifeless, without her giggles and attempts to tickle my heels with her toes.

5.55pm. I gain ground on E. E. Sule’s “Makwala”. It’s a 328-page novel published by Parresia Publishers, containing sad passages on paedophiles and brothels and ‘dan daudus’ and swollen bodies and ponds and lubricants and blood and penises and anuses and knives. I know that I can get to the last page before day’s end if I wish, but in the manner of a lover slowing down his thrusts so as not to arrive too quickly, I opt to delay instead. I put down the book and throw three cups’ worth of rice in a small pot, staring at the window as I navigate another day in a city that has never pretended to make me feel welcome.