Edwin Okolo: Day trip [NEW VOICES]

When we leave home, it is without a clear idea of where we’re supposed to go. We only have one objective in mind, follow the champagne and the free booze. We agreed to meet at Stranger, which is middle ground for the both of more than halfway for me, less than half for you, but you’re the one with the car so I don’t mind. When we get there, Stranger is dark, as it often is since the reign of Fashola and we gripe about it for a second before we pile into your car and back out into the street, me shotgun and forgetting (yet again) to pull on my seat belt.

The roads are quiet, quieter than they usually are this time of day and when I point this out, you pull out your phone and push into my hands and crank up the volume on the car’s stereo.

“Instastories!”

We dance to Drew Barrymore, lip-syncing along as she asks if we really love or if we wanna let her down. You always get earnest at that point, those lines are familiar to us, too familiar.

We start seeing people we know before we even finding a parking space. We take a second to revel in the relative silence of the car, you touch up your lipstick and I pull down the car mirror, practice the rictus that is my party face. We beeline for the bar the minute we get off the car, the drink bottles are pink and plastic with a straw put through the side. The drink is girly but drunk doesn’t have a gender so I throw them back, one after the other, already on my third in twenty minutes. We’re greeting people the minute we reach the door, some we vaguely recognize from carefully curated Instagram feeds, others we’ve scavenged with after shows at LFDW, picking magazines and tote bags the rich people they were supposed to pacify for leaving their ‘busy’ lives to sit and watch clothes they’d never fit in couldn’t be bothered to take. We feel very much part of the art crowd. It takes ten minutes to do a victory lap of the art on display, this year none of the ‘Young Contemporaries’ are friends of ours, so we look politely at the art, gushing about the ones we like, pretending to care about the ones that barely move us.

We separate eventually, me to get another drink, her to socialise. The downside to being a social drinker is that the bar dries up before you are ever truly toasted. I get one last drink and nurse it, using the pink jug-thing as a marker to parse everything I say through a filter of inebriation. I never know what to say to people, so I smile and concede as someone walks up to me and makes a comment about my hair. Another talks about how I’m ‘always at these things’. I laugh and say,

“Yeah, she’s the active blogger, I just let her drag me to these things.”

Then we laugh at me, reluctant prisoner. But it isn’t true, entirely. But it’s a great story, lending itself to emotion; sometimes with grief, other times with angst, something times with barely veiled worry. I love coming to these things, I love the free alcohol, the small chops, the bodies pressed into a tiny space, the constant motion, even the awkwardness and fake smiles. I love being in the middle of all this life, a singular sentient cell, quietly people watching. I also tire of it; the artifice of it. Dressing up, remembering where conversations left off, keeping up with other people’s lives so I can congratulate or console them as need be. I hate being the mysterious one. I hate seeing the familiar glaze of infatuation that clouds their eyes. I hate being a manic pixie dream thing.

I endure as much I can, increasing my tolerance for table topics with strangers and whipping out beads of knowledge about everything before I slip away, find another quiet corner of the gallery in which to hide. By the time you come find me, you are as exhausted as I am, and we share a knowing look before we steal off to the car, slip in without saying goodbyes and drive off into the sunset.

I am restless as we drive down third Mainland bridge so I check my Instagram and there I am, in your Instastories. We wear wide smile and bright eyes, me as my perfect self. A manic pixie dream boy.


Edwin writes to explore concepts that he seeks to understand but cannot directly experience because of gender and genetics. He used to run the experimental fiction column ‘The Alchemist’s Corner’ and created the YA series Seams at The Naked Convos and serves as a fiction editor at Stories NG. He has written for Thelonelycrowd, Sable Lit Mag,Omenana and the Kalahari Review and was longlisted for the Short Story Day Africa Prize. He is obsessed with children, cats and Paternak, exactly in that order.

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