I grew up in a small town where before a week runs out, you get to run into almost everyone you’ve known all your life; that’s if you’re willing to, though. On most days, if you’re unlucky, it could mean running into that family friend while you’re in an awkward position or having them spot you in an unusual spot and rat you out without your knowledge.

Growing up and living in a small town is all quiet and fun until one day, you wake up with deep sadness hanging in your throat. You can’t quite say when or how it started; all you know is that, suddenly, you crave the never-ending urge to disappear, to run, as fast as your legs could carry you. It doesn’t end there; everyone you’ve known within this same town starts uprooting themselves until there’s almost no one familiar left in town.

The reality of growing up in Nigerian small towns is the constant bugging to disappear, move to a booming city, start life afresh and make new memories. There’s also the associated anxiety of living far from home and the regular nursing of nostalgia, of being too far from home, yet, never attempting to return.

In Hollywood movies, small towns are glamorized. The image often used to portray them is that of a place where a character retreats to when they want to reset, start anew and immerse themselves within a reality different from that they’ve carried from the big cities. But, that allure worn by small towns in Hollywood movies is far from what small towns in Nigeria look and feel like.

The Nigerian reality of small towns is the place where dreams go to die. It’s the place everyone, including yourself, is trying to run away from. It’s the town that holds so much of childhood and teenage years’ joys and accompanying trauma. It’s also the place on everyone’s prayer point to leave, the praying, fervent in the quest for that one big win that will drive that move. It’s a place you desperately want to leave, and when you finally do, you begin to miss it fondly, but the fear of returning to past lived lives keeps you from wanting to return.