The fasten seatbelt lights illuminated as the plane began to shake intolerably disrupting the peace of the crew and passengers on flight SA 60 from Johannesburg to Lagos.
It had been clear skies up until the pilot announced their approach into the Nigerian airspace, and as usual,
Farayi began to question yet again her decision to work in a city with such chaotic weather; scorching heat from November to May and heavy rains for the remainder of the year.
She had been on over forty trips in her nine years of flying and was still clueless on how to overcome the feeling of trepidation which turbulence created in the innermost part of her belly.
She closed her eyes, took a deep breath and willed her stomach to stop twisting and turning and bubbling and rising but it ignored her demands; it always did.
“Breathe,” she said as she unconsciously held her breath.
She dug into the armrest of her seat remembering the last series of shots she had done with the Argentine art curator, Federico,
and how she knew her body was reaching its limit but proceeded to throw back to back shots regardless.
” Those were the words she chanted at the Helix Bar in a bid to psych herself into following through with her poor decisions, but at 3,
000 feet above sea level and five thousand miles away from Johannesburg, Farayi packed up her dreadlocks into a bun and curled forward, positioning her head in between her thighs,
and at that point, the only thing she could taste at the back of her throat was repentance laced with lime and agave.
“I swear I’m never drinking again,” she said with rattled nerves and sweaty palms, “never again!
” She scrambled through the seat-back pocket and grabbed the notorious sick bag in anticipation of the bile that she feared would rise from her stomach if the shaking persisted.
“Put your feet up—” whispered the air hostess who was pacing through the aisles ensuring all the passengers in the business class cabin were comfortably buckled in.
“—it always works for me,” she concluded with a shrug and warm smile, and Farayi did as instructed, suspending her feet a few inches off the ground, and as the plane dipped and rose again,
the sinking feeling in her stomach gradually reduced until it was hardly noticeable.
“It actually works,” she mumbled to herself, delighted that she had finally been given a solution to her recurring problem that was motion sickness,
a contradiction of hers because she was cursed with the lust to wander but did not care so much for the actual process of travelling.
Farayi had learned a lot about flying the hard way. For starters, she learned that food and high altitude did not mix well with her.
Whether she ate before or during her flight,
the food would almost never stay down and she usually always ended up spending a good amount of time in the unhygienic aeroplane lavatory puking her guts out.
Secondly, drinking anything other than water was a no-no. Her most recent finding was on a journey from London to Los Angeles where she discovered that caffeine was not her cup of tea.
Coffee, plus the anxiety of being in the air for twelve hours was a recipe for a cranky restless trip.
If she had her way, Farayi would only travel by land instead of air—which was ironic because statistically, air was ultimately the fastest and safest way to travel.
The immigration officer schemed through the pages of her passport and examined her picture with just a slight glance at her face.
“Enjoy your stay in Nigeria madam,” he said after stamping her in, and as Farayi climbed down the steps that led to the baggage claim hall,
she was surprised to find her black Brics Safari suitcase already circling the conveyor belt because Muritala Muhammed International airport was notorious for releasing luggage at a snail’s pace.
“Today must be my lucky day,” she said to herself as she stepped out of the glass doors protecting her sensitive eyes with her Warby Parker sunglasses.
“Rayi!” A distant voice called out, and in her blush pink Ralph & Russo three-inch stilettos, she hurriedly pushed her trolley to the side of the road where Lilian’s Prado Jeep was parked.
” Lilian squealed and in two swift moves, the ladies loaded the back seat of the SUV with her luggage and like clockwork,
an airport official chased after them with one hand holding up his loose pants and his free hand waving a baton signalling for them to stop.
“I’ve not even been back for an hour and I’m already on edge.” Farayi chuckled as she strapped on her seatbelt.
“This is the madness you chose babe,” Lilian smirked. “Welcome home.
” And before the uniformed man could get in front of her car, she changed gears swiftly, screeching off and leaving behind a trail of tyre marks, dust and unpleasant remarks from him.
“Babe, must you always travel in your homeless outfit?” Lilian asked scanning her friend’s black t-shirt and grey sweats ensemble.
“Girl please,” she said reclining her seat and adjusting her sunglasses. “Not everytime cute. Sometimes, homeless.”
Lilian laughed. “Well, at least your shoes are cute.”
“Aren’t they always?”
“I stand corrected,” she replied. “Anyway, how was your flight?” she quizzed following the airport exit sign towards Lagos Island.
“Other than the turbulence coming in—” Farayi clutched her belly. “It was fine, but remind me never to travel during rainy season.”
“It’s always rainy season babe, except when it’s not.”
“Well, remind me to travel then.”
Farayi looked up to the sky she had just come down from and she had no use for the grey in it.
It hadn’t been up to an hour since she landed and she had begun to plan her next holiday in her head.
She yearned for already—the sunshine and cold clear skies of somewhere and nowhere in particular. Anywhere but Lagos.
“Lilly, you’ve been to Morocco before, no?
” she asked her friend who was focused too hard on the road and Farayi shook her head because Lilian had terrible eyesight but hardly ever wore her glasses.
She reached into the visor and gave the pair a clean before handing them over to her blurry eyed friend.
“Oh, thank you jare—” she said looking briefly in Farayi’s direction before putting them on. “What’s happening in Morocco?”
“I don’t know, but I want to go find out.”
“Haba, babe, you’re already trying to leave us—again?!”
Farayi shrugged and Lilian shook her head before letting out a small laugh.
“Yes, Morocco is beautiful. You’ll love it.”
After turning onto the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway, Lilian handed her two envelopes, a bottle of water and a hot bowl of pepper-soup, and without hesitating,
Farayi tossed the envelopes into her purse and attacked the bowl of seafood goodness like she hadn’t had nourishment for days.
“Gosh, I’ve missed you so much!” she said.
“Aww, Rayi, I’ve missed you too,” Lilian replied and a burst of laughter followed after realizing her friend was speaking words of affection to the bowl of fish, snails and prawns, and not her.
Pepper was the only cure to Farayi’s nausea.
To tame self-inflicted hangovers, she would warm anything edible in her fridge dousing it with dry red pepper until the flakes tickled her nostrils and made her sneeze.
Once, after a night of excessive drinking, she contemplated mixing pepper in her tea just to get the spice she required because there was no food in her fridge.
“I’m definitely dying,” she exaggerated over the phone to an also drunk Lilian, but rather than poison herself any further,
she walked the hallway of her apartment knocking shamelessly on her neighbour’s doors.
It would be her first time meeting any of them since moving in five months prior, and when Mrs M answered, Farayi introduced herself before dramatizing pangs of death.
The older lady laughed and without question, she welcomed her in, fed her a bowl of seafood pepper-soup, and it had since become her favourite nausea remedy.
Worn out from travelling, the tired woman slept off as soon as the food hit the right spot in her belly, and an hour and fifteen minutes of traffic later,
she and Lilian arrived at her building in Yaba.
Her apartment was on the 4th floor of Domino Towers owned by the popular Bruce Family and it was located right at the corner of the bustling street of Commercial Avenue.
She was a Business Analyst on an expatriate assignment for Domino Stores and her employment package aside from a six-figure monthly salary included a fully furnished apartment,
a full-time driver and promise of constant travel around Africa.
“Oh my dear, you’re home,” an excited Mrs M greeted as Farayi approached, her eyes darting up at her then down at the door handle as she fiddled around for the keyhole of her apartment door.
“Let me get that for you,” she said taking the key from her then turning it twice to the right before it clicked open.
“Did you get your pepper-soup?”
“She did Mrs M, and she ate it all in the car,” Lilian replied, making her soft presence known.
“Oh, Lilly bird, is that you?”
“Goodness, I almost didn’t recognize you-you look so thin.”
Lilian let out an audible gasp. “But you saw me two nights ago and said I looked good.”
“I must not have had on my glasses,” she replied and Farayi laughed. “You girls need to stop starving yourselves for these boys, I’ve told you they’re not worth it.”
“Then you have nothing to worry about,” Lilian responded, “we’ve moved on from trying to impress boys to starving ourselves for each other.”
“Ah, Li-li-an!” Mrs M chuckled. “I’ll send over that coconut rice and curry chicken you like, enough for you to eat for dinner and to take home.”
“Yes!” Lilian pumped her fist thrilled at the anticipation of the meal to come. “I can’t wait, thank you.”