To My One Love

A shocking photograph summons tender memories for a Nigerian woman


| Mar.-Apr. 2008


Lagos in June is steamy. But that Thursday afternoon at the Champion newspaper office, I did not notice how the air was like a hot, moist blanket. I swaggered and smiled, too full of accomplishment. I had just had a collection of watery poetry published by a vanity press in London. I was doing my first newspaper interview. I was 19 years old.

Kate, the woman who interviewed me, was squat, friendly, and full of praise for the poems (although she had not read them). After the questions, she told me I was a role model for young Nigerians. I glowed. She took me downstairs to have my picture taken in a wide room that smelled of chemicals. Matte photographs were plastered on the wall. Most of them were of prominent people, but there were also beggars under bridges and children playing football and soldiers by the roadsides.

“They put up the best on the wall,” Kate said.

Later, as we left, I turned to glance again at the wall of photographs, and that was when I saw it, the photo of Nnamdi. I might have let out a sound, I might have only shivered, but Kate noticed and asked if something was wrong.

I pointed. “I knew him,” I said.

Kate shook her head. “Oh, sorry, sorry. It was an operation at the bank just across the road,” she said.