When I was younger, I loved flying. In fact, I loved the journey more than the destination. Neither London now could live up to the joys I experienced getting there. I am perhaps the only person I know, who loved the steamed mushiness of plane food, the dry air, the glamorous hostesses. Once, we got a surprise up grade to business class on the Belgian airline Sabena. It was perhaps one of the most beautiful memories of my childhood. Then, individual television screens had not reached economy, so to have a personal entertainment system, where you could rewind, pause, and fast forward at will, with a choice of over 50 films, with seats that reclined almost horizontally, with air hostesses offering you extra without you having to ask! It was the life.
As time progressed, flying began to lose its lustre for me. It must have been a gradual deglamorisation but looking back, the change seems stark. One flight, I was wishing England was more than a paltry six hours away, the next, I was counting down the seconds to landing. One flight, the air hostesses were the most sophisticated men and women who had ever been born, the next I was noticing varicose veins and the layers of make up that cracked in the dry air of the plane. Yet, the most pointed marker that my attitude towards flying had changed was that I began to take note of this thing called turbulence.
Thinking logically, there must have been turbulence when I flew as a child. It cannot be that the air has suddenly gotten rougher in the past six years or so. However, I have no recollection of any plane I entered before c 17 shuddering in the air. Then suddenly, one day, I was sitting in my seat, the plane gave a small heave to the left and my heart was beating at a frequency that was abnormal. Half an hour later, the plane dipped a little and again my heart was beating wildly. I was afraid. In a plane, one of my favourite places to be, I was afraid.
Why this sudden change? The truth is simple. I, Imachibundu Onuzo had discovered that I was going to die. You might say that it took me a rather long time to come to this conclusion so let me explain myself before your jump to derision. At about 5 or 6, I found out that everybody was going to die. This did not concern me to much. At about 10/11, I realised that my parents were going to die. Death had become a little more personal. The thought filled me with terror. I calculated how many years my parents could possibly live. I generously gave them I think 90 years but still that meant I would only be about 50 when they left. My mother came home one day to find me sitting on a bed, very still.
"What's the matter?" she asked.
"You're going to die," I said, bursting into tears.
"But I'm not ill," she said, perhaps a little alarmed.
"Not now. But you're going to die one day."
She started laughing. "Is that why you're crying? Everyone is going to die one day."
Everyone is going to die one day, the universal truth I had known since I was six but now at c. 11, it was hitting home that everyone included my parents, daddy, mummy. Then finally the penny dropped. Everyone included me. True, it took about six years for this final penny to drop. In the interim, I got pimples, lost some, made friends, lost some, made more, did my first weavon and then suddenly one day, I realised that I, Chibundu Onuzo was going to die. The thought terrified me and it made things that had hitherto been easy, very difficult. I was afraid of entering the tube because I was scared I would be in the same carriage as a terrorist and he would blow himself up and I would die. I was scared of passing between two buses because the driver of one might not see me and he would crush me and I would die. And of course, I was scared of flying because the pilot might fall asleep, the wind might break the plane, the plane engine might explode, so many things could go wrong, then the plane would crash and I would die.
I was a Christian when I was having these crippling fears and after they had eaten up all of my mental peace and quiet, I prayed. Very simply, I wanted to stop being afraid of death. God answered. Very simply I had to start believing in eternal life. Not in the half hearted, lip service, there's a heaven way, but in a very real, practical, heaven is where God is. If you believe the claims of Jesus and follow His teachings, then you have a taste of heaven inside you. When you die, you get the full experience. Shikenna.
Sometime c 18/19 years of age, I started believing this completely again. It's made life a lot easier. I can get on the tube without having palpitations. I can enter a plane. I can eat spicy food. The way I see it, when death comes, however it comes, my spirit will be unzipped from its body suit and fly back to God.
I went to Houston and Atlanta while I was in America. Now I am back in the motherland. More on that later.