Lockdown Diary is a limited Zikoko series that highlights the lives and experiences of Nigerians (and Africans) currently self-isolating due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The subject of today’s Lockdown Diary is a 28-year-old man who postponed his wedding due to the Coronavirus pandemic. He talks about the process, and all the things he and his wife are discovering about each other in isolation.
Day 1: Saturday, 21st of March, 2020.
Today is for sleep and nothing more and I’ll tell you why: planning a wedding is hard. Yesterday, we went to the registry in Ikoyi for our court wedding — the first half of our marriage plans. The original plan was registry first in Lagos and traditional in Port Harcourt, eight days later. At the time, neither me or my wife knew what the Coronavirus pandemic had in mind for us.
Registry was stressful, but we were prepared. We arrived early enough, got our numbers, and stayed in the car so we wouldn’t sweat too much. When it was our turn, we did the necessary things — documentation, exchange of rings, etc. More people turned up than we expected, and if it wasn’t for Coronavirus, perhaps the coordinator would have allowed more people. But everyone is trying their best to flatten the curve, so new measures have to be put in place.
And so today, we spend our time sleeping, collecting our strength. We have not slept properly in a while; preparing for the wedding did not really allow much time for sleep. We go again in eight days, but now, we rest. My mother-in-law is at home with us. She arrived in the morning. She will stay with us until we travel to Port Harcourt for the wedding. While we rest, she makes plantain frittata.
Later in the evening, we watch the news. NCDC announces that 10 new cases of Coronavirus have been confirmed in Nigeria; 3 in Abuja and 7 in Lagos, bringing the total number of infected persons to 22. Only 2 have been discharged. There are no deaths yet. We are anxious about how this affects our wedding plans.
Day 3: Monday, 23rd of March, 2020.
Today, my wife cries because we have finally decided to postpone the traditional wedding. It wasn’t like we did not consider that this would happen before. We knew that we might have to do it, but we kept hoping the virus would blow over. We have spent over 3 million naira on the preparation — could we risk letting that amount go? Before arriving at the decision, we considered the possible alternatives.
a) Make it a close family wedding.
Pros: A bit of money saved.
Cons: Anybody can still fall sick. We’d still have to travel and we have old relatives. So, no.
b) Go ahead with it anyway, but with hand sanitizers as a major part of the event?
Pros: A bit of money saved.
Cons: Still doesn’t guarantee anything.
My wife’s crying is quiet, her shoulders shaking softly. I hold her in my arms and tell her that it’s okay; we are doing the right thing.
Later, we sit in the living room with my mother-in-law. I am on one end of the couch and my wife is on the other end. My mother-in-law sits between us. When we tell her of our decision, she nods her head and says “If that’s what you have decided, then it’s fine. I understand.”
I scroll through Twitter later. The NCDC announces that there are 4 new cases confirmed, bringing the number of infected persons to 40. 2 people have been discharged, 1 person has died. I feel sad, but I know it is just a matter of time before this happens.
Day 4: Tuesday, 24th of March, 2020.
We notify our friends. We send a short note telling them that we considered our options and didn’t want to risk people’s lives, so it was best to postpone indefinitely.
The COVID 19 pandemic has moved beyond control. My wife and I do not want to risk the health of anyone. No one can guarantee that we will all travel to Port Harcourt and back without catching the virus. We cannot put anyone at risk. But every single one of you has spent money and time and made plans so this decision is really difficult. We stayed up going over every possible scenario. So we have decided to postpone indefinitely. We are deeply sorry for any inconvenience caused, we also understand how difficult refunds can be, if you would like us to refund transport or accommodation plans made, please send me a message privately. We know we cannot give you back time lost. Once again, we are deeply sorry.
Once this is done, we look at what we would lose — mostly money. We call the planner and tell her to pause on buying drinks and stuff. It is a little too late. She has bought most drinks, souvenirs, done part-payment for the venue, decorations, photographer, and hotel. A lot of the vendors say they already bought items and refunds are impossible. Our flight tickets are nonrefundable too, the only option is to suspend the flight and then see if we can use or resell them.
We call my father-in-law and tell him about the new change in plans. He is very understanding. He says there is no problem. The update comes that evening: 2 new cases; 1 in Abuja, 1 in Bauchi. Both cases have travel history to Germany and the UK. There are now 44 confirmed cases in Nigeria. 2 discharged, 1 death. It’s all very scary.
Day 6: Thursday, 26th of March, 2020.
My mother-in-law returns to her house today. But before she leaves, she stocks us up with food. She is a chef; cooking is what she likes doing, what she gets paid to do. And so when she leaves us, we have a fridge full of Afang soup, Editan, Egusi, stew. We make some pancakes for breakfast and drink tea to wash it down. Afterwards, we head out of the house to do some furniture shopping. Nothing much: a dresser and office chairs for the workroom.
It is a warm day, the sun coming up slowly. Even with news of the pandemic and the daily increase in the number of infected persons, Lagos is still Lagos. It is still as hectic, people plying their trades, vehicles doing their thing, people rushing to their various destinations. One is almost tempted to think that they don’t know about Coronavirus or maybe they simply do not care.
We make a stop at Spar. We realise that they are only letting five people in at a time. Thank God, these ones care about human lives, we say. We don’t stay long though. We find what we need — a dresser — at Bedmate in Opebi. These ones give us face masks to wear. We go all around Allen looking for office chairs. We sanitize our hands more times than we can count. It is a hectic day. Even after finding the chairs, ordering two Ubers to transport everything we bought and getting home around 6pm, we realise that we left the screws for the chairs at the shop. Double wahala.
We take a shower and try to relax. We warm some afang soup and make semo to go with it. After eating, we watch some television. I scroll through Twitter once in a while. The #BuhariChallenge is trending. 65 confirmed cases in Nigeria and the president has not addressed the country. Where, really, is Buhari?
Day 8: Saturday, 28th of March, 2020.
Today, my wife notices that I’m ticklish. We are lying in bed, watching a movie, when her leg touches my rib by mistake. I jerk. She notices, and it dawns on her that I am ticklish. We have lived together for two years and a few months. In all those years, she hasn’t tickled me before. I don’t know why this has never happened. Maybe an opportunity didn’t present itself. But now she knows, and she won’t stop tickling and laughing at me.
For the first time since we’ve been together too, I notice that my wife likes to watch Korean movies while playing Candy Crush on her phone. She does both at the same time. When she watches Netflix, she divides the screen into two. On one side, she watches the movie. On the other side, she plays Solitaire. It’s nice to notice things about your partner that you’ve never noticed before.
I tease her about this, and then I watch with her. We cuddle up. Somewhere in the house, our cat does his own thing: intermittent purring, a nibble at his food, sleep.
On Twitter, the NCDC update shows that the numbers are skyrocketing: 8 new cases, bringing the confirmed number to 97. How did we get here?
Day 9: Sunday, 29th of March, 2020.
President Buhari is said to address us by 7pm today. We wonder what he will say. In the meantime, we work, eat, nap — our routine since the beginning of this social distancing.
I realise that our neighbours make a lot of noise. It feels like they are constantly redecorating. Everytime, we hear them moving big stuff about. I don’t want to blame them. The day after we bought our own furniture too, a carpenter came to make a shelf, table and a cat litter container. Someone from Bedmate also came to put the dresser together. Who knows, they could also have said that we were making too much noise.
I realise that the water in the dispenser finishes way faster than I thought. Is this an effect of staying at home or do we just drink a lot of water naturally?
By 7pm, Buhari addresses the country. We catch the highlights on Twitter: a 14-day lockdown. Oh well, additional stay at home time for us. Not that we go out that much anyway. We are homebodies; going out for us is likely a drink and a movie. And maybe Chinese food.
In a way, we feel excited about this lockdown. Among other things, it means that working from home is now ascertained. We don’t have to worry that either of us will be called to come in to work. Not that working from home is any fun too. If anything, it feels different, more hectic. There’s the constant need to prove to them that you are working. Even though we have a work room, it does not necessarily mean that everything is easy. Usually, we are out of the house by 6am and we return around 8pm. Now, I wake up as early as 8am and work all the way to 11pm.
In our free time, we play a bit. We talk about our court wedding. Almost 10 days after, and we are yet to get our photos and videos. Coronavirus changed everything. Perhaps it might have changed the court wedding too, if we fixed it for a later date.
There are now 111 confirmed cases. April is around the corner. We wonder if the curve will flatten or if there’ll be more cases.
Day 10: Monday, 30th of March, 2020.
The sound of children playing in the yard wake us today. They should be in school, but unfortunately, the lockdown keeps them at home. In spite of the noise, everything is quiet. We no longer hear the sound of cars passing, and it’s easy to hear other things: people fighting in the midnight, someone practicing on a piano.
At noon, my wife wears make-up in preparation for a #DontRushChallenge that her friends forced her to do. It’s things like these that fill the long days.
When all this is over, we look forward to resuming life normally. We’ll plan our honeymoon, go out to the movies, catch our breath. We are still navigating this phase, seeing how much we can take. If anything, this phase has drawn us together as a couple. It is a new hurdle for us, one that we will surmount together.
Check back every Sunday by 1 pm for new stories in the Lockdown Diary column. If you have an experience to share and would like to appear on this series, kindly reach out to me: firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to hearing from you.