Unilag For Humanity Pic-Fic Series 7: Homecoming By Opeyemi Ojatula #UFH1PicFicSeries


I would wish to say a lot of things, perhaps a long story to mark off a better beginning or a short poem. Writing may describe only a little about this place: this maze, the happiness and the content, the lack and ignorance eating up this place.

A little girl ran past me wearing nothing but panties; she screamed as she ran along hopping towards a group of other children who were playing on the black earth littered all over with dirt and rot. The little children were dancing to a song distantly playing in another place but the air carried it so easily to them, so they danced anyway, nothing to worry about for the moment. That was their moment and they would maximise it.

As I walked, I was careful not to step on excreta, and I watched as the older people stared at us, like newbies and laughed at our almost practised steps and composed humble mannerisms. The weather was cool but occasionally, there was the choking dampness that came with the air and sometimes, you could hear the silence swallowing up the noise. There were some youths speaking pidgin and screaming at themselves from time to time.

As we entered into the house of one of these people, I could see from the small one-room apartment that the roof was caving. The acrid smell of clothes and furniture dampened by the rain that had seeped in through the walls and roof of the house filled the air. The people seemed to shrink inside the house and did their best to smile.

A little boy caught my attention. He sat at the corner of the room, covered with dirt and eczema. His sad eyes were burning bright and full when he saw me with food. He curled out a smile and slightly stretched out his arms to plead for the food. His mother after realising this, looked embarrassed and shouted at him.

“You no fit see sey dem be visitor?” She said with a shaky voice. Her lean dark body shrunk even more after the statement.

“No, mummy, it is okay. It is because of them we are here.” I said calmly, my eyes still fixed on the boy who had hidden himself into stacks of clothes. The little boy came forward as I stretched my hand towards him and held my fingers with both of his hands.

As we left the house, his little hands pulled me towards a group of other young children who were staring idly at a goat chewing a paper on the floor.  As we approached them, there was an uproar of happy noises as the food was calmly collected from my hands and placed on the ground for everyone to eat. I watched as their hands plunged into the big flask and emerged filled with rice and stained with stew.

After the meal, the little boy pulled me again, this time running. I hopped along with him until we got to a clearing and he showed me the water with all pride. It was jet black, covered in dirt and pungent smells. “Our river,” he said as he grinned from ear to ear. I stared at the water and beyond the walls that fenced them and the water from the world. It was quiet.

There was the collective love that connected all of them despite their lack and being in a place filled with nothingness; only the rubble passed on from people who held the pillars of the country. They had their fears and had given up on the hope that had once existed. And so, they lived on what was left: hunger and happiness plated with sadness. This was their home, there was nowhere else to be. They would want it to be better, but hope is not a word in this place.

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