I think I finally concluded that I was going to reopen this blog late last year. Before then, it was always a 50-50 thingy. Should I do it? Should I not do it? Should I just keep it up and not post? What would I post? Would I write personal essays? Would I post my poems here? Would I share my stories here or send them to lit mags? I was not sure until December.
Since December 2020, Decembers have become important to me, almost as important as Octobers. Last December, I had Covid. Last December was supposed to be the best month of my year. My company had decided that we had worked enough and they wanted us to go shake our ass on a yacht in Dubai – sorry Accra. I have never been out of this country and I have also never been on a plane. This was supposed to be my first time. I had gotten my international passport ready. I had informed my family that I would be traveling from December 8 to 11. I had taken my Covid vaccine – both doses. I was supposed to be at my convocation at Obafemi Awolowo University but I had told folks I would not be attending since I would not be in the country. The flight tickets and hotel had been arranged by the company.
Two days before the departure, we had our Covid-19 tests so we could be granted safe passage at the airport. We were about 33 in total. Not for once did it occur to us that there was a pretty high chance that the 33 of us could not be Covid- free. So we took our tests and expected an automatic ‘negative’ result in our emails. The test results did not come at the same time. In fact, they did not come until 11 pm the day before departure. And when it did, mine did not come. The first 25 people or so to receive their tests were all negative. They were good to go. About five of my colleagues and I did not see anything in our mailbox. That night, I slept quietly and when I woke up around six the next morning I found myself in a new Slack channel. Who creates a new Slack channel on the day we are going for an end-of-the-year trip? That’s when Faith called me and said, “Have you checked your email?”
I knew it before I saw it. Faith would not have called that early just to tell me to check my mail if it was good news. So I checked and saw that I had tested positive for Covid. The same was true for six of my colleagues. My flight was supposed to be 9am and I was just realizing two hours to that time that I was not going to be on that flight. I was pained.
That morning, in the spirit of hoping against hope, the company asked us to take another test. We all rushed to the nearest sample collection lab in Ikeja GRA and went through that invasive process all over again. We were going to get our results before the end of the day and if it was, we would be on the next available flight to Accra.
The result did not change. We were positive still, bound to remain in Nigeria.
The reality of this did not dawn on me until I stepped out of the office (where we had agreed to stay to isolate) and realized that if truly I had Covid as the test result said, then I was a danger to society. I had found myself in a scary position. I should not be on the road. I was not having any symptoms but then, who knew what would happen if someone else got the virus from me and it did not go so well for them? What if they develop symptoms, actually get sick, and die? Would I be responsible for this? Could this have been avoided if I had just decided to sit my ass down in one place since I knew I had Covid already? If the first man who had Covid knew he had Covid and he had isolated himself or done what needed to be done, perhaps we would not be here, right – three years into a pandemic?
I carried the weight of this virus all around me, not just in the pain of losing what would have been a 3-day cruise in Accra, but in the fearful reality that I might as well bring death on someone else.
My colleagues and I had decided to isolate in our office and our meals were delivered every day. We got fruits and ate ‘healthy.’ We also got packs of nose masks each and made sure we had them on and reduced interaction with people whenever we had to step out to get anything.
What do you do when you have excess time on your hands? What do you do when you can’t step out as you would love to? I started reading 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami. I mean if you’re going to be stuck in one place for more than a week, what other book to read than a magical realism novel about two childhood lovers coming back together, a story told in over a thousand pages and in an alternate universe? I also started watching Emily in Paris. It was during this period that the idea for my Bookstagram really got solidified. It was during this time that I knew that I wanted to do this thing. I did not just want to share my reading journey with my contacts but with the entire world. I wanted to take beautiful pictures and post them with nice captions. I knew reading was a cool thing to do but I wanted to remind people how cool it was. I also knew it was possible to maintain a reading culture no matter how busy one was and I wanted to show this. I have a 9-5 that takes a chunk of my time. I have a blog I write on every week. I have a Bookstagram I am building. And I read every day. Where do I find the time? I make the time. I wanted to show that it was possible and that reading is a necessity. Why would we have people who do not read, who do not take their time to sit down and savor the thoughts of someone else? It’s inconceivable to me. So yeah, isolating in December birthed this idea.
Isolating made me fall in love with Haruki Murakami all over again. Isolating made me know what it feels like to be alone with your mind, with your body, with your thoughts. It made me know what it would feel like to live in a house with a couple of friends for a few days – more than 10 days. I was staying at the office with three other colleagues who were all my friends – two of them were also alumni of Obafemi Awolowo University while the third was a teammate and a churchmate. We had fun. We watched an awful load of Netflix. We watched Emily in Paris, fantasized about going to Paris with our lover (or maybe single so as to have maximum unacceptable fun). We also drooled over Emily’s fashion. I forced them to watch Stranger Things with me every now and then. I finished the entire TV series and started again from the beginning. I watched The Witcher from beginning to the end twice. Never underestimate the power of time moving slowly.
I read a lot. I took pictures of books every day. There was a Sunday evening I carried all my books to the lounge with a few props I could salvage from the office and took over two hundred pictures of my books. My brain was bustling with ideas for my Bookstragam. I will do this and that and this and that.
But before you catch the idea that this was pure bliss – which it was – let me remind you that this was in retrospect. In that moment, I was in fear after the second result came out positive still. I had informed my dad the first time but I could not bear to tell my mum. She had already called that morning to pray for me and the entire flight crew. She was the one who sent my passport to me when I needed it weeks ago to process the flights. It was hers as much as it was mine, this vacation to Accra. So I did not know how to tell her that her son is still in Ikeja wearing nose masks. And so I did not tell her – because I did not know how to. And I was also worried that she would fear what I also feared. I have asthma so I have always been worried about what it would mean for me to have Covid, a plague that plagued the respiratory organs, the same organs that are ‘slightly abnormal’ in someone with asthma. I had read stuff online about how the virus affected asthma patients but there was nothing definite. And so I hoped to God that there would be no complications. And I also held on to the fact that I was vaccinated already – two doses.
It was during this isolation period that I realized that one would get Covid even as a vaccinated person but that the symptoms would most likely be less or nonexistent. The vaccine does not remove the chances, it reduces it considerably. It was during isolation that I knew the difference between isolation and quarantine and knew which we had to do. It was during isolation that I knew that a mother’s love is irrational and unreasonable. And that is where its strength lies. I told my mother I had Covid and the next thing she said: ‘I am coming to Lagos.’ A mother’s love does not make sense and really, does it have to? It was during isolation that I bonded with one of my colleagues and we became friends so much that I now rush to them whenever I have a crush on a girl. It was during isolation that I had my convocation. I posted pictures that I had taken weeks before and received hundreds of ‘Congratulations’ in my DM. It was during isolation that I knew what bliss is: Wifi, Netflix, books, food delivered to your kitchen, fruits, unlimited time to play without the pressure of work. It was during isolation that I reassured myself of the kind of life I wanted and promised myself that I would wait for that life. And not wait in a passive way but in an active way; work for it, wait for it. It was isolation that made December memorable for me.
When my other colleagues returned from Accra three days later, my Covid colleagues and I remained at the office while the Accra returnees worked remotely. We were in the office for ten days after which we went for another test for which we tested negative.
Two days after, I packed my days and left for Ife. I was in Ife with my friends until a day to Christmas. On Christmas eve, I went to Ogbomoso to spend time with my family. It had been a while.
As promised, my tops for the week.
- ‘safe’ by treasure okure.
- ‘first date questions’ by treasure okure.
- ‘2021: The Year I Tried’ by treasure okure.
- Epona’s thread on Love.
- ‘No Wahala’ by 1da Banton – because I listened to it throughout my isolation.
- ‘It’s You’ by Ali Gatie.
- One Dance (feat Wizkid) – only he Wizkids part actually.
- ‘Na You’ by Dusnsin Oyekan (feat Kim Burrel). – because a friend says it’s Dunsin’s first song. Not sure.
- ‘Ozark’ – I am done with the series so that counts for something.
- ‘It’ – yes, the horror movie.
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