I am going to rule out relief. I mean, it can’t possibly be. We are sitting at the back of the same car; it has been 20 minutes; his neck has not shifted from the window.
If I didn’t know him, I would have said he was shy. But he was not. He is broken. Europe broke him.
The pandemic lasted for six months and for the first time in earth’s history, Africa had it easy. It killed our people, but it massacred Europe in their thousands. And yet, the west still saw dead bodies on the streets of Africa in their vision, or whatever they called it. Do you blame them? What did you expect? After all, our savagery only justifies their civilization.
He was there through it all, with no relief package, no job, no home. He became one of those beggars, like the ones that made him turn his car’s windscreen wiper whenever we stopped at the traffic light at Jakande. How he frowned his face, thinking it would prevent them from coming close to the car. “Where are their irresponsible parents?” – he would ask with so much disgust on his face. In Europe, he became what he despised – a beggar in a hoodie.
He could have returned if he wanted, he did fit all the criteria. The country was excited to receive her citizens who wanted to return. His mother wanted him back; she’s called six times in the last 20 minutes. He stopped answering after the second call. I wanted him back.
The continent had been through so much. The whole world had been through so much and Europe was picking up the pieces left of it. You take care of your own first. His visa expired five months ago.
He didn’t look like Ayobanna anymore. Life in Europe hadn’t been kind to his fingers; they looked washed, faded.
“Is he still the same inside?” – I wondered.
“Hey man, is this A.C working at all?” – he asked the Uber driver.
“Who wears a hoodie in Lagos?” – I muttered to myself.
“The sun thinks we are barbecue today.” – I said out loud with a smile.
With my left hand on my chin, I stared at the queue of people at Oshodi bus station. I wondered if anyone was waiting for them at home, the way I waited for him.