There were six of us, those summers in Solu’s house, in the summer that didn’t end. There was Ziggy, our resident alte; Amal(Jumai), who really likes dolphins for some reason; Philip, who we would let into the group a bit later after a 7-part application process to test if he was good vibes; Zary, who, after almost a decade still lives in the delusion that he’s better than me at COD; Me, the confused artist; and there was of course, Solu, the toughest one out of all of us. Our host, our mother hen.
And together, we formed Z.A.P.S.A.Z.
It wasn’t a perfect name, I know, I know, but it worked. (Although, Ebuka, our resident car knowledge guy (all groups have one apparently), would come in a couple years later but that isn’t retconned so, for all intents and purposes, we’ll stick with the original six, thank you very much.)
All of us were having troubles at home those summers, and it’s expected, I guess. It was that age, with us growing up, finding ourselves, and realizing softly, annoyingly, that life could sometimes be unfair, and cruel, and hard. I definitely was having trouble. I felt very alone and isolated, but in my friends, I found a new family. One that I could laugh and cry and nap with.
And if Zapsaz was the family, Solu’s house was our home.
In Solu’s house, we would be in The Yellow Room (a green room that Solu and Ziggy swore up and down was yellow). But, in that room, all of us would just watch a movie, talk, laugh, and just be. It was like a runaway spot, where everything made sense, where everything was alright. Sometimes, we were joined by either Ebube, or Ofili later on and we’d have those Phineas and Ferb summers that just went on and on and on.
Solu’s parents were also a contrast to some of our parents, they were more approachable, Their mum especially, who baked–a skill Solu inherited. Their dad was very cool, we only saw him a few times but the times we did, he was very laid back, calm. Cool. There was their cousin, Dise, she slept in the same room with, their two sisters just next door in the hallway, and sometimes, little L would be there. She was so young at the time, Solu’s third leg, following them everywhere. I wouldn’t hear her voice for two years until last week, as we prayed the rosary, saying goodbye to our friend.
Solu was sick sometimes. They had diabetes, but the thing about them was they never made it anyone’s problem, never even gave us the opportunity to even think about pitying them. It was that, and that was all. They were tough as nails, all about the next movement, nothing else mattered too much. Even at Native, when she collapsed, or moments when it was clear she was tired and drained. They would just stand up, shake it off, and proceed to the next thing. Whereas I would’ve bitched and whined, they smiled and shrugged it off. They didn’t focus much on everything that was wrong, they just went on with it.
I was going through a lot with school and home that year, and I’d escape to Solu’s house as much as my parents would let me. There was the day they introduced me to Prince of Egypt, a movie they swore I’d like (I did), and there were other days where all of us would really just chill, and relax. Sometimes, we’d take naps together, wake up refreshed then tackle the day. Their mum would banter with us on some of those days, and it was very cool, it was like an adult who almost understood us.
We needed to go to Ziggy’s once, and then Ebuka had driven us to where Solu was, to pick them up. The problem was, Ebuka’s fancy sports car at the time was a two seater–it couldn’t take anymore people. But Solu just shrugged, laughed, and said they’d get into the boot.
I honestly thought they were joking.
Five minutes later we’re on Lekki-Epe expressway laughing our asses off at how insane this was, Solu behind us, comfortable as a baby.
We were all so close, but we grew older. Adulting provides tests of endurance to communications that were otherwise constant. Tests we passed sometimes, failed sometimes, but always, at least, tried to take.
Time, we learnt, was cruel. But life, we know now, was crueler.
All of us were leaving to uni, or battling uni, then battling adulting after uni…it became overwhelming. But we would still keep in touch. A tweet there, a comment there, to let the other person know, with a wink, that we were still here, and the next time in Lagos, come rain or sunshine or two-seater cars, we’d be there. Together again like old times. Back in the old days of ZAPSAZ.
The last time we talked was back in February, I was locked out of my house and they had randomly called. We talked for hours and caught up with each other’s lives, it’d been crazy for both of us. We laughed and laughed and it almost felt like those days again, for a wink, for a smile, it almost did. And then we said goodbye and promised to keep in touch more. But life was life and we never got round to it.
I asked Kola once, why people back then wrote things and as I get older, an answer starts to become clear. We write to remember, to keep alive, because sometimes reality is too small to fit the lives of all the people we love. But in these pages, in our hearts, there’s more than enough space. Here, they can live forever.
So, I’ll tell you about our friend Solu. Pronouns: they/them. They were really good at crocheting, insanely good, and had started painting a few months ago. I loved their work. They were strong, and brave, in a way all of us hoped to be. In a way that made us love them, and also worry. They were kind, so kind, and so ready to give. Even when they were tired and didn’t have to, they put her energy into creating a foundation, to help people in low income areas have access to blood sugar checks.
There were six of us in Solu’s house that summer, the one that wouldn’t end.
And now, there’s five.
Rest in power, our friend. And goodbye.
And though at times impetuous with emotion
And anguish long suppressed,
The swelling heart heaves moaning like the ocean,
That cannot be at rest, —
We will be patient, and assuage the feeling
We may not wholly stay;
By silence sanctifying, not concealing,
The grief that must have way.
-Wadsworth Longfellow (1801–1882)