Walking

Mo Isu
6 min readAug 4, 2023

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When in November 2017 I was trying to learn how to be single again, trying to get over a relationship; I was actually hoping to recover from one night almost 2 years earlier when I had gone on a walk with my friend — who would become my girlfriend.

I remember the night very well: its comfort, its unnecessary length as we found reasons to stay by each other for longer. I remember sharing a pair of earbuds, one end in my ear, the other in hers, like in the movies, listening to James Bay. I remember sitting in the open air and certainly falling in love a little.

I like walks. I always have.

There was a day closer to the end of this relationship when I brought up the idea of going for a walk. It was a suggestion made with the naive intention to somehow recapture the magic of how our love began. My girlfriend, for only a little while longer, rejected the idea. She did not like walking. I remember that this was such a staggering revelation to me. How could she say she did not like walking when we had all those wonderful walks? I would eventually realise that those walks weren't for their own sake. They were for me.

She did not like walks. She liked me.

In November 2017, I took a lot of walks by myself.

Nov 2017: Captured on a walk

There was beer on my first night in Paris. With me also, were two new friends and google maps — at least at first. And then there was walking.

Later, there would be chit-chat, there would be excited introductions and there would be backstories — how had we all come to be in Paris in July 2021?

Somewhere, there was me, smiling with some disbelief but mostly with glee and exceptional pleasure. Somewhere inside me, I was deciding that this night was magical.

On the way to Republique, with two newer friends making a total of four, still with beer, we walked by the canal with a swan and teenagers jamming music on a boombox. Certainly, I would write about this night.

Later, it was eight people, in a Parisian flat, watching old homemade videos of a summer in the mountains. It was fractured conversations. It was peeing because of all that beer. It was exchanging Spotify playlists filled with repetitive techno anthems.

Still, there was beer, and a new form of alcohol called Pastis.

Then at 5 am… it slowed and then ended in my hotel room, alone.

By July 2021, I had developed chronic pain in my right hip that originated in my lower back. My life has changed. I still liked long walks but now I paid for them. The week of my return from this trip was a particularly treacherous one. In a recent visit to the physiotherapist, I explained that I had a planned trip to Europe. For my pain, this meant tough days abound. July 2021 taught me this about my new life.

Notwithstanding, what an amazing night it was to do all that walking. It was cold- I was happy and I was impressionable enough for Paris to find all the right buttons to press. It was this night that I fell in love with the city.

Jul 2021: Captured on a walk

Sabo reminded me of New York, the night I walked through it with my friend. ‘Reminded’ might not be the word seeing as I have never been there but Sabo is where I thought of it. That somehow, Lagos is like New York. We have loud, rude, unapologetic people in both cities. We have traffic that drags like a drugged patient. We have rats that strut. ‘Lagos is like New York’ I told her.

Squeezing past people, trying to walk together in a city that divides you.

Don’t you feel the romance in Lagos, in Sabo? Does it not remind you of New York?

The conversation we had on this walk was about finding love amidst all this chaos. In places like this, where nothing makes sense, where there is little to romanticize, we turn to our lives.

Where everything we don’t want finds us easily, we spend our time looking for the one thing we do want — love.

And no one imagines finding it on a walk through Sabo but maybe many people have. People have met in front of the suya seller and they have found love.

While waiting, I ordered a cafe mocha that I knew she would tease me about.

‘Mocha is not real coffee.’

We met at a cafe called coffee island. It was a hot sunny day. The plan was to wander around for an hour until she needed to go to work. I spent the minutes before she came nervous that we wouldn’t have a fun enough time- nervous that our time spent would be merely bearable.

We walked and we talked and we laughed and we smiled and I was grateful that she had offered me the chance.

The day before, we had been texting on Instagram and she asked me what I planned to do with the rest of my stay in Athens.

I said I didn’t have much of one.

She asked me about my preferred activity to do when I visited a new place and I said it didn’t matter much what I did as much as it mattered that I did it with someone. Then she asked me if I would be interested in walking with her.

There are a few moments that stand out.

Each of the moments when we could have parted ways but instead chose to spend more time together.

When we got to her workplace, we played a little game of ‘I guess we should go separate ways right now but I am not quite ready to.’

Then there are the moments I knew I would remember. Like when she spoke into the mic and I watched her and wonderful music played in the background and I knew then that this would be remembered.

Or the other moment, by the statue, at night, only a few hours before I left for Lagos- When we sat and looked at each other and talked and laughed and shared.

We intended to walk for one hour on one day but walked for much longer over two days. Until the train ride when I could not hug her long enough before saying goodbye and wondering if that was goodbye enough.

June 2023: Captured on a walk

I just got back from a walk with two people I just met. Different stories brought us here, tonight, to Paris, by the Seine. We are from three different continents. We talked a little about those stories. And we talked about the walk and we talked about what we wanted from our time in this city. And it was interesting to me, the quality of this walk. The texture of this walk. It made me realise I haven’t had many walks of this nature. It also made me think of the walks I have had. It made me appreciate the simple practice of shared movement.

I like walks. I always have.

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Mo Isu

Writing what I can| Being Vulnerable and confused| Making podcasts