Imagine a soft morning on Ntiedo Udosen, for instance. Cesaria Evora’s voice on repeat. Sodade. Longing.
He awakens—the disenchanted writer, eyes fluttering, gathering the morning. He knows that he must write, that he must win in his struggle against Silence, but he does not know where to begin.
5:45am. A low-hanging cumulus. A man at a gate, peering into the street, thirsting for sunlight. The writer sees him, sees his longing, and marvels at the mutuality of it, the unspoken sharing of an indescribable burden.
The man grips the gate, his fists thick around the bars, eyes darker than the clouds, intent on the street. The writer recognizes this grip, this pull—his own futile tugging at his muse. He wants to embrace the man, but instead he pauses and says:
“Soul brother, what you long for is on the other side”.
A slow evening on an Akpan Andem market day, for instance. The chronicler, his camera at the ready. He sees her early enough—tall, slightly attractive, hair woven back in thick braids, a large apron around her neck. She moves, barefooted, neck slanted as if in choreograph. He moves, finger on the shutter, swallowing light.
He recognizes the longing in her paces. The coordination, the timing—even with the absence of music, the exactness of her measurements. He stands, camera in hand, wanting to ask if the entire world is a grand choreography. She turns, neck slanted. A smile appears and disappears. In her eyes he sees his answer: There can be no parallaxes here. Happiness is a scarce resource. It must be measured out in bits.
He studies the image he has made of her—every pixel, every hue, every morsel of light. He understands now that she must be barefooted, that she must tread softly because we subsist here, custodians of a damaged Earth.
That is also when he sees it: her sodade, her longing. He sees it everywhere—in the softness of her feet, in the slight twist in her waist. It is in her audacity to be happy. It is why she dances to a song so inaudible only the audacious could hear it. And it is why he stands now, the wind of the market behind him, her photograph in his hands. A clean slate. A Somewhere to begin.