ENUGU, LOVE, AND ENCHANTMENTS by Chinwendu Queenette Nwangwa
I should know better.
Never return to old lovers, especially the ones who you loved intensely and who you left with fragments of your heart stuck to the sticky palms of the hands attached to their too wide arms; arms too wide that they accept everyone when you wish for once to hold them in solitude and declare “this moment you are mine and after this I can share”.
But I guess I have never learnt much in my journey of offering my heart as a sacrifice on the altar of all forms of beauty, no matter how dark.
So I returned to Enugu, this same Enugu where I shed hot tears on my first night with her last year. This time, I returned in the name of art and I swore that I would not love her anymore. I swore that I would never be hurt again by the inevitable separation. But sometimes, one ends up discovering a new dimension to this love.
On July 4th, I put a few clothes in a bag and left for Enugu in a bus owned by a company with tales of unpleasant deaths littered like graffiti on the walls of abandoned back alleys. I arrived sometime around 9 pm with aching flesh and an excited heart.
I was happy to see old and new faces. I was embraced by the benevolent face of Amu Nnadi,
and the new faces I learnt to appreciate. The first night was uneventful, I worked on two articles for a client, I chatted with Bura-Bari and I crawled under a cozy blanket and said goodnight.
The next day, we all boarded a bus and left for University of Nigeria, Nsukka; a hotbed of history not adequately told. In the first session where Amu-Nnadi talked about his works, read some of his poems, answered questions and signed books, I sat beside Boma Bliss. There is something interesting that happens when two fun trolls sit together, every other thing/person becomes an object of laughter and there was a lot to laugh about between Boma and I. You should have seen us, giggling like two love-struck teenagers over the things our ears heard, our eyes saw and the mischiefs our mouths uttered.
After the event, I met Shade for the first time in person.
Hugging her felt like returning to a favorite childhood memory and dwelling in its richness. I realized why I have always been in love with her. Shade and Augustina came bearing food, roast yam and sauce and garri and Afang soup. I had roast yam and sauce. Augustina still owes me Afang soup and garri.
I spent the time between after lunch and waiting for the open mic night to get to know August who I have promised to call by every other month of the year except his actual name. August played the guitar and I sang a bit and then he sang for me and I felt some strange healing wash over me. This healing lasted until a certain love of my life stepped into the room with his evil smile.
The open mic evening was beautiful. Ama told us a tale of life’s stages.
I heard Neofloetry speak truth to power. I heard Irra utter interesting things. I watched Fragile shatter into multiple pieces of words that represent the failed country we call ours. And I heard Amu Nnadi chant words of life like a priest speaking the mind of god. Then I hugged Phanie, honey, pictures do you no justice. Your skin is health itself.
We got back to the guest house, sat in the quadrangle, feasted on abacha, ugba and utazi and did art under the open sky.
The next morning, I climbed with the others up Vet hills. Vet hills meant realizing that discovery never ends. It meant growth after I was reborn on Idanre Hills some weeks ago. On Vet hills, I encountered my ability to live in the moment and revel in the little precious things, like a butterfly resting on grass.
I wondered how soundless one’s death would be if I pushed him/her down the hills.
We got back to Enugu, checked into our hotel rooms and I encountered a sister in Ogechi. Sometimes, we find family in the strangest ways and places. I, however, spent more time in the company of August, Mount Olympus, James Adimchinobi, Irra and Sotonye. We talked life, philosophy, religion, growth, Bob Marley and every beautiful thing in-between. I had to order The Tragedy of Victory from Amab books after Mount Olympus was done talking about General Godwin Alabi-Isama and tales from the Nigerian civil war. I await the book this week. I think that 7500 naira has been well spent.
Then there was the poolside get-together where people did love and friendship poems for other people. I met Michael, he is actually not as annoying in person as he can be online and I am learning to love him because he is actually beautiful inside out. People also told beautiful stories with their art and James Adimchinobi blew my mind. Mount Olympus introduced him to me as a fan of my writing. I left Enugu a fan of the brilliance that is his art.
Saturday and departure came too soon. I said goodbyes to those accustomed to goodbyes. I told “I’ll see you soon” to the one person I never say goodbye to; because why put a closure on the beauty that is what we are.
I sat in the bus waiting for it to get filled and I fought the tears. I had come back to Enugu and fallen in love deeper than the last time. I was leaving with a bigger chunk of my heart stuck on her palms.
I do not know when I would be back, I do not know if I would ever call Enugu mine. What I do know is that like a lost lover, I would keep seeking my love in the multiple places I go to. I would keep hoping that just maybe, I would move on and I would find a lover who would not leave me too wrecked for others like I am now.
And for all those who called me teddy bear; you were wrong. Teddy bears don’t feel all the things Enugu makes me feel. Teddy bears don’t break into tiny fragments of looseness craving the arms of a lover to put them back together again. Lucifer feels, Lucifer breaks and Lucifer loves all of you who made the trip to Enugu worth it.