Decked in her school uniform on a rainy, October afternoon, Ndidi sat idly at the ABC bus terminal in Jibowu. It was not December, so her family was not buying tickets for the annual trip to her village. Yet, she was not quite sure what brought her father to the terminal.
It had been pouring non-stop for the past hour and the dimly-lit office was overflowing with people either buying tickets or seeking shelter from the rain. The walls were an odd hybrid of bright green and gray and the cold, hard, light yellow seats flaked in many places to reveal their brown interior.
Her feet were too short to reach the floor as she sat and for that, she was grateful. The German flooring was wet and littered. The ceiling fans which hung low had cobwebs and filth all over them. At first, Ndidi was terribly uncomfortable with the smell that emanated from the mixture of sweat, dampness, and rain. Soon enough, she paid it no mind.
Lagosians, as she had come to know them, filled the packed room with laughter, arguments, and unnecessarily loud phone calls. One man, in particular, spoke into the phone as though the person on the other side was hard of hearing. His voice was not in any way, peculiar, yet he was hard to ignore. The width of the tribal marks on his cheek was striking. Ndidi, unconsciously, ran her fingers over her cheeks as she watched him.
The lady with the extravagant Ankara headscarf was breastfeeding her infant. The little creature latched on hungrily to the nipple its mother casually whipped out. Her big and jiggly arms were wrapped around the baby and provided a cushion for its head.
The queue did not appear to be shrinking despite the hours she had spent there. She found her father impatiently shifting his weight from one leg to the other and felt a swell of pity for him.
The man in the brown, oversized, checked shirt came in minutes before and soon squeezed in beside her. His cocoa-colored trousers were pulled up to his belly and held in place by a black, faux leather belt. His beard made him look old and a bit haggard. Brown man, as she called him inwardly, smelled of sweat and cheap perfume.
Ndidi, who was otherwise bored, had found someone with whom she could pass time. The immaculate, white cape and royal blue bodice of her uniform were just the things to break the ice. In that tone so typical of Nigerian uncles, Brown man asked her, “what class are you in?” Turning her head slightly, she responded “primary three.” As if reading from a script, he asked her what she wanted to be when she was older. The answer rolled off her tongue like the lyrics of a song she knew by heart. She had been asked this question on many occasions and her answer was no different in this instance.
She told Brown man that she wanted to be a doctor when she grew up. Although she did not know why she wanted to practice medicine, she was rooted in her response. That was her dream.
Time passed, she grew, she lived. She knew her own mind better and gained experiences that reoriented prior convictions. Ndidi encountered people in the utter glory of their complexity and had her heart broken. The ground beneath her feet began to shift. She was not sure anymore.
She knew she wanted to heal people but soon realized that bodies were not the only things that needed healing, souls did too.
Ndidi learned that dreams were like butterflies. They evolved. Their birthing to fruition involved pain. Dreams required shedding. Shedding limiting attitudes and decapacitating actions. Just like butterflies had cycles, dreams required the courage to begin again. Time after time.
She found that her dreams, whatever they were, would lead her to grow and go far, far away. And as the curiosity of butterflies led them to beautiful petals, her sense of wonder would cause her to wander.