“Hi, my name is Adenike Oyelari, and this is my evolutionary story. It might not be what you expected, but I promise you, it is worth it.”
I typed the first line of my autobiography and sighed audibly. Who knew writing could be so difficult?
The weather in Asaba that late December afternoon was very unforgivable, because I was sweating, even though I was only clad in my underwear. As usual, NEPA had ceased the light, so there was no way I could power the AC or Standing fan in my room.
Because of the heat, I was very restless and was not in the mood to continue to writing my autobiography; apparently it was going to be a bestseller. I walked out of the double entry doors leading to my personal balcony, just to get a bit of fresh air. I was so not ready to be toast.
My balcony gave me a view of the orchard and placed me strategically in the direction of the cool breeze being blown by all the fruiting trees in the orchard. Why not just go to the orchard for air? My subconscious asked me. I knew why. I wanted to be alone, and staying locked up in my room was the only way to assure that continuity of that state.
Looking at the chap chap tree in the orchard, I slowly started drifting off in my thoughts; very strange ones actually. I chuckled to myself when I remembered my friends in Los Angeles would laugh if I told them we called the Sour Sop tree chap chap. Ha!! LA. I sighed to myself.
Who knew I would ever leave the US to become a full-fledged patriotic Nigerian with a knack for social media influencing. I looked at the grazing goats and chickens all resting underneath the shade of the orchard. They were feeling the intense heat too. One of the younger female goat was gnawing at the bark of the red hibiscus tree, while the castrated male was trying to mount her and mate with her.
I shook my head and smiled, after having enough of standing. I walked back into the room, leaving the double entry doors wide open; I needed the air. I plopped myself on the bed lazily and slowly reminisced on the past six months of my life and how much I have grown.
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome on board the train of my thoughts. I suggest you fasten your seat belts because it is going to be a bumpy ride.
“Nikki darling, are you ready? Your cab is waiting for you outside.” My Mum called from downstairs and I hunched my shoulders in defeat.
“Just a second mum.” I shouted in return.
It was that time of the year again; summer break. The average American student would flip and rejoice at the mention of that phrase, not I. All the hours I should spend at summer beach parties, and hanging out with some of the cool kids from college were always spent in Nigeria, with my father.
Remembering Nigeria and my father always left a bad taste in my mouth each time, and it made me angry. Now was not the time to remember though, I had to get my reluctant butt downstairs, before I missed my flight; though I would be happy, but due to past experiences, I knew it would not stop my mum from booking another flight for me.
I looked around my room, and tears pooled in my eyes. Looking back on that moment now, I wondered if my subconscious knew that would be the last time I would be seeing that room.
I was 22 years old, a sophomore at UCLA, and majoring in political science and government, yet I was still a baby at heart. I dragged my suitcase downstairs, and tried to force a cheerful expression on my face for my mum.
She switched off the vacuum cleaner, dropped the machine, and quickly made her way towards me. My mum knew how to smother me with hugs, each time I had to make my yearly trip to my father.
“I’ll miss you Nikki. Please take care of yourself and be good all through.”
“Mum, I’m not a kid anymore, neither is this my first rodeo. I’ll call you immediately I land in Lagos, right before I take my flight to Asaba. Then I’ll call you when I touchdown at Asaba, and I know I’m also supposed to call you once I finally get to Dad’s place. Happy?”
“I’ll miss you too mum. Please go on that date with Brian, he’s so into you.”
My mum laughed and helped me wheel my suitcase to our porch, where the cab driver was waiting a tad impatiently for me. We hugged once more at the door and I quickly made my way to the backseat of the car before she sees the tears gathering in my eyes.
I hated summer. My ride to the airport was silent, just the way I liked it. I started making mental plans of my miserable two-month stay in Asaba. I had no friends over there, and I wondered what I was going to do that year to pass the time.
I wasn’t born or raised in America, but circumstances made us immigrants, then citizens by naturalization when I finally clocked 18. I was 13 when we left Nigeria suddenly, even though I barely understood what was happening.
Growing up, I finally understood that my paternal grandmother and aunties secretly married another wife for my father because my mum had no son or other children except me for 13 years. They didn’t want to understand that my mum suffered from serious PCOS, and it limited her chances of getting pregnant.
By the time I was 13, grandma brought the woman and her twin boys to the house as the rightful wife and kids. The boys were five years old already. My mum was devastated that my father could keep such a secret from her for five years, but dad defended himself by saying it was their culture and there was nothing mum could do about it.
Two weeks after that day, she came to pick me from school and we never returned to my Dad’s house. We spent a few months in Ibadan with my maternal grandparents, and my mum did the official change of name for me. I was no longer Adenike Nwankwo, I became Nikki Oyelari. Oyelari was mum’s maiden name.
I don’t know how my dad managed to win her forgiveness but she started taking me back to Asaba after I clocked 15 every summer break. Usually, she would return to Lagos after she saw me safely to Asaba, but since I clocked 18, I was finally allowed to make the trip to Nigeria on my own.
If only I didn’t hate the country and its culture so much, I would probably enjoy the break each year.
Nigeria ruined my childhood and my parents’ marriage, it made my classmates in LA mock me because I was from the country known for fraud. They mocked my accent, and they laughed at my expression each time the News carried a story of terrorist attacks in Nigeria. They would tag me to social media posts about the gross incompetency of the governors and senators of the country, just to make fun of me.
In school, though my documents had Nikki Oyelari, I went by Nikki Larry. I cut off every tie I had with that nation including my accent and hair. I couldn’t change my color, so I opted to be recognized as a black American.
All in all, that country gave me nothing, but took everything from me. If I can help it, this trip would be my last to that God forsaken land.