First Day

When the riots were finally over we were allowed to go to school. The buses left from the guest house. They were grey and white and smelled like new plastic. 

The compound was on the peninsula, 20km out of town. It was as rural as you could get in Lagos. We were connected to the rest of the city by an expressway with occasional roundabouts. The area was slowly being built up. I think the Italian school was out our way. Closer to the city, the Expressway was lined with shanty towns: rows and rows of tiny houses made out of corrugated tin. In the years we lived there the government would bulldoze them every so often, but they always sprung up again. There was no where else to go.

Traffic wasn't so bad until you got to Victoria Island. Then you were stuck. We finally turned left through open gates and into the school. It was chaos. Kids were getting out of cars and hugging each other. 

"How was your summer?" 

"Where did you go?"

"Yeah, Italy was great! We went to Rome and Venice and Florence."

"Come on," said Jennifer, "We're on the third floor."

I followed her through the entrance and into a red courtyard. Above us, kids were leaning off the black railings yelling and waving.  Jennifer waved at someone three floors up and quickly crossed to a set of stairs. I followed, looking around for my brother, but he had already disappeared into a classroom.

When I caught up to Jennifer she was hugging a tiny brown girl with two pigtails and glasses.

"Shilpa, this is Samira. She just moved here."

"Hi! Where did you come from?"

"Canada, but I'm actually from California."


"Jennifer, have you seen Kevin yet?"

" No, why?"

"He went to the beach and got tan. So cute."

"Oh my god, I'm so nervous."

"Who's Kevin?"

"This English kid. Jennifer had the biggest crush on him last year."

"Whatever, so did you."

"No way."

I watched them laugh at each other and wished I knew what to say. 

Asha SundararamanComment