Mary Onuoha* had spent just nine days out of the three-week long NYSC orientation camp at Lokoja when the Covid-19 pandemic began. At first, the pandemic felt like a lucky escape from the camp's rigorous exercises, and she didn't take it seriously. Until she went back home and her uncle breezed in with shocking news. He had sold the house he'd offered her family without giving them a heads up.
The new owner of the house came over to serve them a notice to quit but luckily, though the circumstances that brought that luck involved multiple deaths, a total lockdown to curb the spread of the virus was announced in Nigeria and the new owner was forced to halt takeover plans.
Mary's family used that time to recover from the shock of realizing they were one step from being homeless. Not only did they not have the money to move, looking for another place during a lockdown when people were afraid to come close to each other proved to be a terrifyingly daunting task. NYSC was looking better to Mary now. "At least after the camp, I could've been posted to a school and given accommodation" she'd thought. What she didn't know at the time was that when NYSC resumed five months to her passing out, the only provided accommodation was a room she was asked to share with a male corps member, which she'd refused.
That was the genesis of Mary's problems, because though her parents had been having trouble with their marriage for years, they could come and go for months without speaking to each other. The pandemic shut the door on their freedom and enclosed the tension with the lockdown, forcing them to co-exist, straining the already stretched limits of their marriage which could not stand the heat. Her father left as soon as it was possible to. Before he did however, the tension and the unfamiliarity with being so still in a confined space ate at Mary. She went from not thinking the pandemic was serious, to having close friends call to announce the loss of loved ones.
"I felt trapped, fed up, tired of staying at home, the whole experience was draining and I just wanted to run away. Everything was on hold, my life was not working out as expected and it took a toll on my mental health".
Though the future looked bleak, there was jollof at the end of the tunnel. Mary saw an opportunity to improve on her acting skills "Since everyone was at home, people had more time to watch creatives online and they engaged with the monologues I posted".
As the lockdown began to ease, she left the small town of Nsukka where she lived, to Abuja for better job prospects. She's seeking a customer service job and is hoping to further her studies abroad in media and communications.
*Not her real name