A Lagos Fairy Tale

Posted Tuesday, 07 January 2020

Once upon a time in the kingdom of Manhattan, a princess named Mona met a dashing prince. Princess Mona was peaceful and meek because a spell had encased her temper in ice. Her dark-skinned prince, however, was feisty. He could find offense where none was given and fight with anyone or anything. 

Although the prince did not woo Princess Mona in the traditional manner, such as besting a dragon or shooting the eye out of a bird from a distance of 1,000 meters, she gave him her heart and he did the same. The prince and princess were wed. Time passed and they lived in exile in New Jersey. The princess—who now, truth be told, was a bit exhausted caring for three children—spent her days changing diapers and driving the royal minivan to and from nursery school, as befitted her noble offspring.

One day, the spirited prince stormed into their suburban castle and proclaimed, “I have decided to return to the Kingdom of Nigeria where I was raised. It is time to go home.”

Princess Mona was aghast. She had been enjoying many of the perks of exile, like the mall, her yoga studio and the town Starbucks. She could see, however, that her prince was fading away, as if a wizard’s curse was sapping his strength. The only cure was to reside in Lagos until he could be healed.

In 2011, the Opubor family boarded a winged marvel that flew them across the ocean, turning the page onto the Nigeria chapter of their lives.

Oh, it was hard for Princess Mona to live in the land of Lagos. She noticed that being conflict-averse was a great weakness there. Others doled out abuse and Mona took it, sadly.

Her princely consort was as happy as could be, surrounded by his countrymen. Their young children began to resemble their father as they aged. She saw them growing stronger, changing and taking root in the African soil, and she feared she had been left behind.

One summer holiday, Princess Mona travelled to the distant kingdom of Boston to visit with her aged parents. A man cut them in line at Costco. The ice that had sealed off her anger melted away, and the princess’s long dormant temper flared. Mona was transformed. “Do you know who I am?” she shouted. 

Both the man and Princess Mona’s mother were bewildered, waiting to learn whom she was but Mona had run out of things to say. She had not reached that part of her education yet. 

As time passed in Lagos, Princess Mona grew emboldened. She became a Lagosian.

Eight years after moving, the noble Opubors decided to mark their anniversary at a nature preserve off the Lekki-Epe expressway. The family spent a leisurely day walking amongst the butterflies, birds and monkeys gambolling through the trees.

As Princess Mona walked down a trail, a monkey ran up to her, patted her trouser pockets to see what they contained and leapt away. “How dare that monkey consider robbing me?” Princess Mona cried. “I will end him.”

When the family was walking back to the exit, a large monkey made a grab at a packet of cookies the prince held. “No, you don’t,” the feisty prince said. He screamed then doused the creature with a bottle of water. The monkey howled. With amazing agility, the monkey jumped up onto the railing of the walkway, hissing, facing off with the prince. The young princesses and princeling shrieked. The monkey clawed at the prince, cutting his arm. The prince lobbed the cookies into the woods and shouted, ‘Run!” The Royal Opubors raced back to their vehicle.

They drove straight to Ebeano to buy bandages, antiseptic and antibiotics for the prince’s wound. As they made their way to the cashier, the feisty prince said to their children, “Someone get me a bat. I’m going back to the conservation centre to tune that monkey up. He needs to be taught a lesson.”

It occurred to Princess Mona that clubbing monkeys was ill advised. It was possible she and her prince had gone too deep into Lagos life, perhaps even overestimating their importance in the grand scheme of things. The princess put her hand on her husband’s shoulder. “We’ll get the monkey next time,” she said. “Let’s just go home.”

And they all lived happily ever after.

Mona Zutshi Opubor is an Indian-American and Nigerian short story author and memoirist. She is studying for her MSt in Literature and Arts at the University of Oxford.

Read more at www.monazutshiopubor.com

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