Excerpt: The Distant Son by Iwedi Ojinmah


Africa from 20,000 feet, just as expected, was spectacular. It’s a jaw-dropping cornucopia of greens and browns, interrupted at random by the glimmer of zinc and aluminium roofs, as well as the even rarer suggestion of blue, a body of water.

Even from the confined porthole of the Delta flight he was mesmerised and oblivious to his fellow passengers’ cat-napping. He pulled up the shade and pressed his nose against the reinforced glass like a little boy. In vain he tried to name the various hues as they sped by. Lime green, bottle green, dollar green, chocolate brown, desert brown, khaki, cappuccino, they are all here. Like interlocking flavours on a lollipop, they swirl into each other, forming a living quilt as far as the eye can see.

Only the visible adjusting of wing flaps and the popping in his ears as they descended brought him back to reality. Just in time. Directly below there was suddenly more activity; tons more. Roads appear, roofs stand side by side, fires burn, things sparkle, and a myriad of yellow buses and cabs, looking like beetles, scurry below.

Without any other warning they were suddenly over Lagos and in awe he tried to inspect Africa’s largest mega city, which now unfolded below. Overwhelmed, he watched in stunned silence till the customary landing bump came and went, and the carrier came to a screeching halt on the tarmac of the Murtala Mohammed International Airport.

He noticed that the gorgeous lady next to him had stopped chewing her gum, which she had done non-stop even during her sleep, and was now powdering her nose. There was the traditional smattering of applause acknowledging the safe flight, the securing of luggage and the slow shuffle of disembarking.

The heat, even though expected, was like a blowtorch on low. As everyone walked past the greeters into the arrival hall they offered them muted welcomes and coy smiles, almost as if to apologise for the pockets of hot, jet fuel-infused air that the labouring fans just moved from left to right and then, agonisingly, from right to left again.

He felt like a lobster being steamed and made his way towards the carousels of the notoriously slow customs and immigration anticipating the worst.

However, the $20 bill conveniently forgotten in his yellow fever health booklet did wonders and 10 minutes later he was standing in front of the airport, being roasted from above by the Sun and by the residual and reflective heat from the pavement below.

He still felt like a lobster but now he was just being grilled.

He scanned the mass of unorganised humanity, being kept at bay by some fierce-looking security men behind a rope cordon, for his welcoming party. Incomprehensibly, though they are all total strangers, almost everyone was acting like a long-lost family member, waving and offering him everything from a cab to sex.

He suddenly felt like he was in the 10cc song, “Dreadlock Holiday”. Stunned by this overkill of noise, he wished for three things; a snow storm straight from Siberia, the type of silence you find in a library and a drink the size of Lake Michigan.


[End of Excerpt]