I wake up to singing – slightly muffled but loud enough to filter through to that neither here nor there place between sleep and waking up, where ambient sounds meld into dreams, or whatever it is conscious people do with their brains. When I make my way downstairs, it turns out it is the hotel staff having morning prayers.
I am low on cash, I half start to prepare to go out before I am minded to ask my friend V, who confirms an ATM is my best bet. I end up walking a few kilometres to the nearest bank, a Zenith Bank, and empty my cash passport in the process; 20,000 naira should cover an extra day’s hotel costs and the transport fare by road from Lagos to Benin which is next on the agenda.
The rest of the afternoon is spent lazing around – TV, internet surfing and lunch at a KFC which I stumble on amidst my morning walkabout. Trying to decide what to buy, I find it more than a tad different than the KFC I’m used to. For one they have meals that include rice, and also have a very crispy variety of chicken. The equivalent of my regular three- piece variety meal is the hungry meal – for 1800 naira – three pieces of crispy, chicken, chips and a Pepsi. No obsessing over what that will do to my calorie counting numbers for the year, mind.
Late afternoon, I get the call I have been waiting for. It’s third time lucky for meeting M – three years and some in the making. The plan is to catch up somewhere on the island – she suggests The Palms, after a bit of back and forth as she’s attempts to sort out transport.
I hop into a cab – a far more reasonable thousand naira the fare this time – and head out from my Ikeja hide out to the Island. By the time I arrive, M is no where to be find – typical woman I dare say – but in this case for good reason on her part.
Waiting in front of the palms, the overwhelming sense is of being surrounded by proper middle class self indulgence – a milling mass of young-ish, upwardly mobile families tumbling out of their SUVs, 2.5 kids and poorly dressed relative in tow. The odd toddler on the way out has a huge ice cream cone to his mouth, a defence against the searing heat at 3.00 in the afternoon, I suppose. Besides my irritation at being made to wait, there is the genuine trepidation at the possibility of running into some of my old chums – my old playground at UX is only a stone’s throw away. I am hardly dressed like the triumphant returnee – my bushy hair, week old stubble and weight loss more indicative of someone who has fallen into hard times. My worst fears are realised when I run into one such bloke. He has his three kids, and wife in tow, and is pushing a trolley full of an assortment of tinned food. We shake hands – Good to see you he says, giving me the eye. I shrug, came in on Friday night, on to Benin tomorrow morning I quickly add. I give the wife a hand shakes and rub the head of the boisterous six year old who was barely born the last time I saw them. We mouth a few more pointless banalities, before he shoots off with a promise to call. I am too used to these things to hold my breath over that.
I wait for another thirty minutes before M calls to advise she is stuck in traffic a few kilometres away. I wander into the MTN store to try to sort out a Nano-SIM for my iPad with an eye to the journey ahead. By the next morning I will be winging it 400km to the east where wifi, if it exists will be the equivalent of dragging water out of rock. As I head out mission accomplished twenty minutes later, someone approaches me asking for money.