Calabar was a trip.
For one it was calm and clean, two adjectives that cannot be used to describe Lagos at the moment. Yes, the Cleaner Lagos slogans and billboards are everywhere from Okoko to Oworo, but whatever. We all know better. Also, unlike the unspoken hostility of Lagos, Calabar had her tender arms wide open and welcoming. Watching people amble along Marian Road as if they had no care in the world was a delight to eyes jaded by the Lagos rush, and if you’ve ever been to my city, you would know that rain or shine, noon or night, her people are always in a hurry to get somewhere. Whether it was to work, home, joint, or jail, it doesn’t matter. Destinations could differ, but everyone in Lagos is a slave to the rush. Not in Calabar though. Life had a humane pace in that place.
Then there was the food. Heck, the countless eateries with healthy servings of the rice Trinity (fried, Jollof and white), canteens where huge pots of Afang, Edikaikong, and Atanma reigned supreme, and the ubiquitous roadside grills constantly churning out hot and fragrant plantain, fish and chicken like magic. Calabar was the foodie’s dream haven, and I would eat, eat, and eat more, not because I was hungry, but because the food was available and cheap, and it demanded to be eaten. Don’t talk about beer, please.
Last but not least were the girls, or women, depending on what you choose to call them. Calabar (arguably) is the women capital of the world. The girls were beautiful and plentiful, from the academic halls of UniCal and the breezy ambiance of the Marina Resort during the day, to the sizzling smokiness of Bogobiri at night. Everywhere you looked there was a yummy female in your line of sight, and unlike their prickly Lagos sisters, they didn’t mind being looked at. No sir, Calabar women would catch your eye and smile, secure in the knowledge of their own beauty, and happy to share that beauty with your appreciative eyes. They were also usually willing to share much more than just that with you, provided you had the time. I had time, lots of it, I was on vacation wasn’t I, and so it was an even match. My hotel bed took a real beating and bore it all like a trooper.
Those were the best days of my life, and four weeks passed like a whirlwind. In four weeks I lived free of worry, prodigiously indulging my appetites; until it was time to return to the madness of Lagos. My heart skipped as the plane’s tires made contact with the hot tarmac of the runway as we landed.
I was back to reality.
I couldn’t make out her words the first time, but she repeated herself, slowly, as if she was talking to a child, a very slow child.
“…can you hear me?”
Now I could, but I didn’t answer, because I thought she was addressing the person in the seat next to mine. A part of me wondered why the hostess had changed from the dark blue of Air Peace into a white gown. Just a few minutes ago she’d been smiling at me to buckle up in preparation for the landing. It didn’t make any sense.
“Mister Alex, can you hear me?” Her face loomed close to mine.
“Ah, she’s talking to me,” I thought.
My brain commanded my mouth to answer, but somehow my lips had a different opinion. They drew apart very reluctantly after a couple of seconds delay and that was it. Nothing came out, absolutely nothing. Since I couldn’t fathom why I nodded instead. Nodded, if what I did could be called that. My head felt like a ton of lead, and my neck muscles would have screamed from the effort if they could.
“Praise God!” she screamed. Then she turned and shouted. “Doctor, doctor, the patient is awake.”
Her voice sounded too loud, and I was going to tell her not to disturb the other passengers. Then I was going to tell her I hadn’t been sleeping, and as her why she used the word ‘patient’, but she hurried off before I could do any of those things and I was left wondering at her weird behavior. Her white skull cap was weird too.
Soon she was back, followed by a man. He was also wearing a white coat and looked excited to see me, as excited as the hostess who had gone to call him.
“Mister Alex, he beamed, hands extended, you came back to us. Thank God. We were all worried for a minute.”
His voice didn’t sound like the one that had called out our cruising altitude as we departed Calabar, nor did it sound similar to the deep baritone that had announced our descent into Lagos.
Nothing made sense at that moment, especially when I looked down at myself and saw that my white Kaftan was gone. I was in a light blue gown which reached just above my knees and was lying in a narrow bed, and there was a transparent fluid filled cord snaking away from my left arm. Every attempt I made to solve the puzzle around me was punctuated by a regular beeping from a strange machine hulking just beside the bed, and right on the white wall opposite me was ‘Narcotic Ward’ written in shiny blue paint.
Slowly, it dawned on me.
Calabar was a trip.
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