Illustration by arch. Matteo Pericoli
When my writing is not going well, there are two things I do in the hope of luring the words back: I read some pages of books I love or I watch the world. This is my view when I am at home in Nigeria, in the port city of Lagos. An ordinary view, with houses close together, cars crammed in corners, each compound with its own gate, little kiosks dotting the street. But it is a view choked with stories, because it is full of people. I watch them and I imagine their lives and invent their dreams.
The stylish young woman who sells phone cards in a booth next door, the Hausa boys who sell water in plastic containers, stacked in wheelbarrows. The vendor with a pile of newspapers, pressing his horn, his hopeful eyes darting up to the verandas. The bean-hawker who prowls around in the mornings, calling out from time to time, a large pan on her head. The mechanics at the corner who buy from her, often jostling one another, often shirtless, and sometimes falling asleep under a shade in the afternoon.
I strain to listen to their conversations. Once I saw two of the mechanics in a raging but brief fight. Once I saw a couple walk past holding hands, not at all a common sight. Once, a young girl in a blue school uniform, hair neatly plaited, looked up and saw me, a complete stranger, and said, “Good morning, ma,” curtsying in the traditional Yoruba way, and it filled me with gladness. The metal bars on the window — burglary-proof, as we call it — sometimes give the street the air of a puzzle, jagged pieces waiting to be fit together and form a whole.
AUTHOR: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is the author, most recently, of “The Thing Around Your Neck.” Matteo Pericoli, an artist, is the author of “The City Out My Window: 63 Views on New York.”