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A Portrait of a Man Finding Himself

by EMMANUEL ESOMNOFU

August 6th, 2021

Ebule comes from Lagos to Awka. He’s in search of adventure. His pockets are slim but his heart is big. He sleeps over at my place, two nights of tales and comparing perspectives. Ebule never felt safe about smoking in an open bar, just a step away from the main road. He’s run from the police and SARS, from cultists and armed robbers, from friends and foes, and it’s a language he’s familiar with. Running. But today Ebule is in school with me. He’s entered our class, gotten a close view of students and their devices. Ebule has no interest in university. He’s a hustler, like most of my friends back in Lagos. Along this rail, Ebule and I watch the movement. I pull out my phone. Though I don’t catch his eyes, Ebule’s focus is unrelenting. I can’t read minds but I can piece the scattered details. I can feel his mind caught in a complex rhythm, a slight longing for what might never be, and an overwhelming gratitude for his riskier approach to destiny. I take the picture.

Emmanuel Esomnofu is a Nigerian writer and culture journalist. He’s a staff writer at Open Country Magazine.