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 university undergraduate who is self-isolating with her mother and her brother. She has had enough of her mother’s frustration and needs to go out.
Day 1: Sunday, 22nd of March, 2020.
I return from school today. I have just finished my examinations at the University of Ibadan, and home is the next thing. It feels like the beginning of a holiday, not like I am self-isolating or anything. There is talk of the virus, but it feels distant, like something that does not concern us at all. And I really do not feel so concerned. Before leaving school, I traveled to see a friend. I applied for an internship — and got it, I put things in order. A small holiday was what I planned and then I would return to my normal life.
But then the virus found its way to Nigeria. And even then, I still do not feel really worried. For me, it’s just a holiday. Things will be back to normal shortly.
Day 3: Tuesday, 24th of March, 2020.
Today, I am working on my phone when my mother asks me to go wash the plates from yesterday. I say okay, but I continue pressing my phone. She does not leave me alone. “I want you to go and do it immediately,” she says. This is when I start to realise that maybe my egungun has danced makossa and entered express. Here’s one thing you should know about me: I’m not lazy. I swear, I am not. I just like to do things at my own convenience. I feel like I have earned it: I’m a law student, a public speaker, a writer. I’m an adult. When I’m alone in school, I wash my plates whenever I feel like. So long as they get washed, right? And then again, I am yet to adapt to the routine at home. So when she says that she wants me to go wash the plates immediately, I protest.
“But Mummy, I’m doing something now. I’ll do it when I’m done,” I say.
And then all trouble is let loose.
“Oh you think you know everything now, abi?” She says in Yoruba. “You think you know more than me?”
I say nothing.
She tells me that she is worried that I would start looking older than my age because of how much time I spend on the phone. “Phone is evil, don’t you know? Even the Chinese people that made the phone, they know the evil effects of it. And that is what is manifesting in your life now.”
She tells me that she is doing all these because she wants me to live a balanced life, and washing those plates is one way that can happen.
At this point, I realise that there is no way out of this. I obey.
After washing, I scroll through Twitter. Almost every tweet is about COVID-19. A mix of false news and true ones. People tweeting conspiracy theories and whatnot. Is the world ending? Can we re-install 2020 please? Wash your hands. Don’t touch your face. Boost your immune system. Anybody can be carrying the virus. #COVID-19. What is Buhari saying about it?
My boyfriend texts to say we should meet-up. Yes, my body needs it, but am I ready to host this virus? I spend a lot of time weighing my options. Go out or stay at home? Please myself or let God have his way?
“Will I see you?” my boyfriend asks on the phone.
“Yes, I’ll come. I’ll come,” I assure him.
On Twitter, there is more news of the virus. In Lagos, there are new cases. My boyfriend works in Lagos. I do the Maths: what are the chances that he has come in contact with a carrier of the virus? What are the chances that he has not? I’m poor at Maths, but I am good at making phone calls. So I call my boyfriend.
“I’m sorry, I can’t come again,” I say.
And then he goes: “Oh okay. No problem.”
This is when it hits me that I really cannot go out anymore.
Day 5: Thursday, 26th of March, 2020.
Staying at home gives me the opportunity to work more. I am a writer; I do academic writing on oil and gas law, sexual and reproductive health law and areas like that. There’s this feeling that comes with knowing that people are at home, reachable and willing to give me what I want. Before, I would wait hours for someone to respond to my message or reply my email. Now, the work flow is better. If there’s any benefit to this staying at home, then this is it.
Still, I can’t help thinking. I’d pause randomly and say, “Wait a minute, so I can no longer go out?”
Today, my brother is in his room, and my mother too is in hers. It feels just like a holiday. A very long holiday or an extended weekend. Or maybe a Sunday. You know, one of those days when everyone is at home.
It is a very productive work day. I tidy up old writing and try to meet some deadlines. Once in a while, my brother comes out of his room to show me something on his phone: a meme, a joke, a savage tweet.
Still, I need to go out. I need to go out.
Day 7: Wednesday, 29th of March, 2020.
I NEED TO GET OUT OF THIS HOUSE BEFORE MY MOTHER FINISHES ME WITH WAHALA.
It feels like I have been exposed. Everything I do just does not seem right anymore. My mother thinks I’m into online fraud. Bitcoins or MMM. Why else would I spend so much time on the laptop? What is writing to her? She does not believe that anyone can make a decent profit from writing, let alone live a comfortable life.
I’m surfing Twitter and she’s peeking at my phone.“Is that where they trade?” What trade, plis ma?
I know how to cook, but she thinks my skills are mediocre. Look, Iya Oyin, I am fine with what I know. I am a considerably good cook and I think it is enough. Abi? I can cook rice, beans, stew, amala, egusi, porridge —what else do I need?
“Ah, Oyin. The world has changed o,” she tells me.
What does this woman even want from me? An upgrade of my cooking version? Oyin the cook, version 40, newly upgraded. Can cook the whole world and more.
“Wo, all men are traditional.”
Not my own man, mama. This woman does not know that I have carried biro and paper and planned my marriage with my own hands.
I will get married to a journalist that will not be coming home every time. He will be traveling like two weeks out of one month. (Fisayo Soyombo dear, will you answer me now or should I take this romance to a spiritual level?) He won’t need me to cook. He’ll travel and I will be at home doing my thing. We will live happily ever after.
“Wo, all men are traditional.”
Before, she tells me to avoid boys. Now, in this self-isolation, she sings daily that I should get married. A woman’s nightfall happens quickly, don’t say no to men when they come.
Why isn’t she stressing my brother this way?
Day 10: Thursday, 2nd of April, 2020.
My head is hedek me.
Apparently, today is the day I’m supposed to mentor somebody. I gave the person Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and I didn’t know that it is Thursday already. I thought today was Tuesday.
I have lost track of the days of the week. What other things will self-isolation do to me?
No gum body with the bae, no hang-out, no waka-waka and now I can no longer keep track of days? At this point, I want Aunty Rona to appear in flesh and blood. I want her to be bold enough and come in human form. Let us face each other eyeball to eyeball, so I can tell her to her face: “You no do well. You no do well at all.”
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.