24th February 2022 Nothing Had Changed, Yet Everything Had

Two men enjoy the sun in Piedmont park in Atlanta, USA, on 19th April 2022.
Two men enjoy the sun in Piedmont park in Atlanta, USA, on 19th April 2022. | Photo (detail): Camilo Freedman/SOPA Images © picture alliance / ZUMAPRESS.com

Author Chika Unigwe likes her routine. She likes to know what happens next. But suddenly, everything changed and who knows if the world will ever be the same after the Russian invasion in Ukraine on 24th February 2022.

By Chika Unigwe

My weekend begins on Thursday: No teaching, no grading. I lie longer in bed, curled up like a cat, call out to Alexa to first play some music and then the news. And then I make a strong coffee and begin the drive down to Atlanta from Milledgeville where I teach and live during the week.

I am boring in that way: settled in my routine. For someone who loves to surprise others, I don’t like surprises. I derive comfort from certitude. Fridays, I have brunch with J, my husband, Pepper and Ledger on either side of him, wagging their tails while being fed peanut butter sandwiches. I may go out on Saturday and most Sundays, I go to church and then visit my mom at my sister’s. There’s very little variation. When the pandemic reared its head and we couldn’t go out, having a set routine – even if it was over Zoom –  kept me sane. The last weekend I was home, I had a friend visiting from Nigeria.

We had argued over dinner at a swanky place in Atlanta where we were pretending that the world had righted itself, that Putin might be crazy but he wasn’t that crazy. He wouldn’t invade Ukraine. My voice was confident and sure. I was so certain because I’d read things and Google makes an expert of all us. I was certain because I needed that certitude. Ukraine isn’t that far from Nigeria. Not geographically speaking, of course. A friend’s daughter had been at school there. There are many Nigerian students – medical students especially- in Ukraine. Also, the pandemic had been punishing enough.

“Alexa, play me NPR,” and it did. Putin was crazy enough. I don’t recall if I ever did make that coffee, but I recall that the roads I drove down were the same. On the radio, there was a report that Kyle Rittenhouse who’d killed two men at the Kenosha protests in 2020 - and was acquitted -  was planning to sue President Biden - for calling him a white supremacist; Lebron James - for mocking him; Whoopi Goldberg for whatever else his entitlement assured him he ought to sue for. At home, Pepper and Ledger ran, tails wagging to welcome me as I walked into the house. Nothing had changed, yet everything had.