I have unfinished business in this town. I had always sensed that when the time came to finally cut my ties, I would still have to come here one last time, to cast my eyes over the horizon and remind myself of all the things this town means to me.
Today I lug my knapsack to the park and ask for a cab. I point in the general direction I am headed in, the dirty strip of land bordering the ocean that became my chill spot during those long arduous weekends. Unsurprisingly, the fare has doubled from the last time I was here, as it did for every one of the years I spent here. We haggle a little over the price. He retorts that there is no fuel, and that I shouldn’t be a cheap skate, after all I am a big boy. Perhaps I look the part – a knapsack that looks like it has a laptop, I wear glasses, am plugged into an iPod, and am speaking English untainted by the default accent one acquires around these parts. Truth is I might have once been one of them, but I am not now, which is why my trip to the waterside could end up being painful. I am off to eyeball UX5 for the last time.
As we proceed, I realize that nothing much has changed in the time I have been away. Clara is still perched at the edge of her seat turning out fried yam and goat stew with unfailing regularity, Muktar still roasts suya a little further down the road, the police men on guard detail still claim their mandatory stipend – only this time it too has doubled, and people still splash unabashed in the river in full glare of the public. Such is the banality that reigns supreme here.
I eventually find myself at my destination. The wind is slightly chilly as usual, laden with a fine mist. The tide is on its way out, so I proceed to the very edge of this corner of the Atlantic, and allow its dirty brown water wash over my feet in tiny breaking waves. The horizon is dotted with numerous tiny fires, dull orange plumes in the gathering dusk. Once upon a time, I could name them all, but now only UX5 interests me. I know it like the back of my hand- 46 well head platforms, 366 production wells, 72 gas injectors, 52 pipelines – this was my playing ground for all of 5 years and I know I will miss it. UX5 holds great memories for me – my greatest triumph was here and I got to meet the most fabulous people. I remember Tam, the Instrumentation specialist who helped me automate my first chemical injection skid, I remember Zik whose deference to my opinion shocked me, I remember Pugs who thought I was not Nigerian until we got the chance to see face to face after multiple clashes over the phone. I also remember Ini the high flying Operations Manager who spoke up for the critical work we pushed through in that record breaking year, I remember Nduka the maverick Reservoir Engineer who always had us confused with all his numbers. I refuse to remember the sad parts, because I like to believe that UX5 and I were made for each other.
I stare into the distance, musing, thinking about all the things UX5 means to me… and I realize UX5 made me – was the sandbox where I honed all the skills I am taking away now…
I don’t know how long I spend in my reverie, but as the breeze gets stronger I finally snap out of it. I look around for a memento, something to remember today by. I find two pebbles; white, worn smooth by the persistent rasping of the water waves as they break. They fit into the palm of my hand, snugly as though they were made for it.. I take a long hard look at UX5, and then I hurl one of the pebbles in its direction.
This is for you UX5, I mutter……UX5’s cryogenic flare seems to flicker a greeting…Ours is a bond that will not break.