That's the number of years we have lived here. At least that's what they tell me.
Is all the years I've spent on earth, as I've been told. We will be finally leaving this place on the 28th. I'm not one for symbolism, in fact, I'm not big on anything these days but mother seems to think there's some significance to it, and so we won't move even a day earlier.
We won't be moving far, they assure me, just somewhere forty to fifty minutes away by public transport, we'll still be in Lagos, rowdy, sweaty, Lagos.
I was born here, actually I was born in a hospital but I was conceived here, in this apartment, or not. These days I really don't care much for family legends. Sister was the one who was born here barely a year after we had moved in, Mother seldom talks about her birth but when she does she would point to a spot in the apartment, an unassuming point in the parlour devoid of any distinct physical marks but no doubt seared in her memory.
I feel my way around the verandah, take in the soft evening breeze and realize that I do not want to move. This is all I have known, this is where all my memories save a few, were created. I got hit for the first time by a commercial motorcyclist (okada) here before I turned four, and subsequently multiple times after during my nursery and primary school years, a few of those right in front of the compound where we lived, where I am reluctant to leave.
It was here that I, short, skinny and scrawny, nearly drowned after falling into a gutter filled to the brim with runoff water after a heavy downpour. My flailing arms the only part of me capable of rising intermittently above the murky rain water flowing through the drain channels, carrying me in it's tide until a hand caught my outstretched hands, pulling all of me, heavy back pack in tow, out of the gutter.
It was here that I experienced my first real mugging. A swift bash with the butt of a gun to my head left me reeling and my assailant, quick as lightning dispossessed me of my phone and wallet by two in the afternoon! I swore to leave as soon as possible then, and for a while I did, but I was back sooner than I thought.
Brother and I have gone to check out the new apartment a couple of times. I can't tell if it's forty or fifty minutes away because I always end up sleeping through more than half the journey, perhaps in protest or there's something about the roads that leads to this new place. The first time the new apartment smelled of age and abandonment, somethung the high pitched estate agent claimed would have been fixed by our next visit. The next time it smelled of fresh paint and wood.
The sounds of the neighborhood are unfamiliar. It has the usual panoply of sounds characteristic of the middle to lower income sides of Lagos I know, but it is unfamiliar to me still. It is not Iya Kehinde's regular high pitched 'Buy butter bread' chant and the tricycle operators down the road are calling out locations I've never heard of before. I remind myself that this is a new neighborhood and so it is to be expected, but I'm having none of it still. "I don't like this place, there's nothing about here that I will ever like," I tell brother on one of our visits. "Maybe you just haven't seen it" he tells me. I turn to him and start laughing but he doesn't laugh with me. "I'm sorry," he says. But I dont mind, I'm still laughing.
"At least here you won't have to stay inside," brother continues. "Or is there something else you want to lose before you realize there's nothing left back there for any of us?"
I sit in front of our apartment and amidst mother's darting in and out of the house with brother, packing our meager possessions as we await the moving truck and finding time to fuss over me, I wonder what is truly left for me, for us, here.
It was here we lost Sister. She died months after I was born so I have no recollection of her save a picture where she, barely more than two years old, tries to carry me.
It was here I lost Henry to a flash flood incident.
John and Jerry and their Alsatian, Hero, moved with their family out of Lagos.
Tega, my fellow concave lens wearing seat partner, moved to the outskirts of town just add we were about entering secondary school.
It was here we lost father, who suddenly slumped while talking to brother and I.
It was here I went blind.
I want to remember what good things have happened here too, but they're few and fleeting.
Maybe it's time I built new memories.
Maybe it's time I stopped viewing life through sight alone?
The new neighborhood smells of a lot of things at different times of the day. My favorite smell is that of the ice cream shop, a stone's throw from the new apartment. It's basically a straight line so I can walk down there unaided. Nina is there so I go there almost everyday.
My favorite sound is Nina laughing when I hold up my phone and tap the screen randomly, as I ask to take a picture of her.
That's the number of weeks I've been here