Forgive me for I have erred. I have gone AWOL for another forever and that feels bad. Believe me, it does; but man has gotta do what he gotta do.
Even though it will be rushed and haphazard, I have to do this. I’ve got fun on hold to get back to.
Do you really know what it feels like to have over 40 million followers on a social media account? (Relax! I don’t even have 400!) I mean, that’s like saying that the total population of a country (no offence Charle) likes/digs/trails/monitors/spies one person. All I did was a gentle wait for the clock to countdown to this day―with the help of the Most High, and I had a faint idea of the feeling.
Today, I woke up to texts, pings, display pictures, profile messages and the shebang all having a thing in common: me. October 3rd brought all my friends―the good, the bald and the hug-ly―to a common ground, and for real it felt special. I felt like the nimble-toed Messi, only without the millions and a golf ball in the stead of the Ballon d’Or.
Many thanks to the Gracious God for everything: His escorts without sirens with me through the valleys of the shadow of death; the rejuvenating push when I’m low and running on fumes; the little-big miracles and serendipity sent my way… many other good things in the background that I just can’t fathom.
A lot happened between this time last year and now. Trust me, it’s not a cliché. I lived―had fun in little packages; loved―and still loving; learned―spanning the mundane and the germane; strengthened relationships and made new bonds in addition to the list I managed to make in My Candid Vote of Thanks, when I was still quite dramatic. I’ve taken starch and its signature soup (I’m not so glad I did), left work on a Friday and got home on a Saturday, ordered for black and got pink… and the list goes on. I’ve had varying measures of disappointments and surprises, agitations and chills, ups and downs, rice and beans… and I’m glad and I’m still standing tall, sane and sound.
I can categorically say that today ranks high in the list of the cool October 3rds I’ve ever had. My day was made with the loads of fun, the calls, happy birthday songs―the “tush” Harvard/Corona school version, Mwopopopo Community Grammar school version and various remixes of the real mix; and the funny chats I had with some friends I’m more than willing to lease to charity.
Permit me to digress a tad and share two chats below. Words in brackets are my thoughts.
Charity Gift 1: Happy birthday dear. Wishing you all the very best in all your endeavors.
Me: (Me? Dear? What happened to a sweeter name?) Thanks dear.
Charity Gift 2: Wishing you plenty wives and plenty children too.
Me: (Really? Not even the popular “long life and prosperity”?) Hol’it! Just hol’up!!!
Charity Gift 1: No way!
Me: Plenty wives and children for what? (the economy is sad yet she wrote this!)
Charity Gift 1: I have said it already; if you like toss them away.
Me: *mutes* (Mba! I won’t take this from you fam)
Charity Gift 1: 12 children and 3 wives.
Me: *unmutes* Ma ba mi sh’ere k’ere o… (don’t even joke with me)
I will try and dash her to an orphanage. You’ll help me decide where the second should be thrown to.
Charity Gift 2: Bajinatu plenty for the birthday boy!!!
Me: (Emi? Who is this one calling boy?)
Charity Gift 2: May you prosper and increase speedily.
Me: *inserts MFM-style Amen*
Charity Gift 2: May your kids never give you problems like you gave your parents.
Me: *raised brows* (y’say whaaatt?!)
Charity Gift 2: May your wife never quickly discover that you’re bald.
Me: *furious… checks pictures* But I’m not! I’ve not even discovered it myself!
Charity Gift 2: …and if she discovers, let “bald” be the new cool then
Me: LOL! (this is the part where I couldn’t hold the laugh anymore)
I have decided to lease and not sell them because they’re really special I can’t afford to let them go. If you’re reading this, Charity gifts 1 & 2, do not let your heads swell; I could as well be planning to put you on OLX at a very discounted price.
It’s the beginning of another journey for me: the start button to more objectives to be achieved, grounds to break and fishes to fry. If I could only ask or wish for just one thing, it would be God’s grace to excel in everything I do (sorry to disappoint you if you thought Camry would rank first). With that I know every other thing will turnout good. If I could ask for two things, they will be the one above and more opportunity/ability to affect lives for good. If I could ask for more I’ll go for all it takes to be a better son to my parents, brother to my siblings, reliable pal to my friends and a responsible boo to future bae.
In other news, I wish the banks won’t charge me for all the multiple birthday messages they sent to me today. If MTN will kindly stop sending me the “SMS MUMU to 55501 to receive very Comic free for 7 days” text and its kind too, I will so much appreciate it.
To everyone who made my day with great wishes, prayers and several other gestures, thank you! Your days will be long and filled with the wonderful things you so much desire. Customised thanks to “Margaret Thatcher”, for the gift that broke the jinx of no-gifts and the customised pepper soup that reminded me I’ve not enjoyed life at all.
Thanks a lot fellas!
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I found myself in a serious imbroglio recently. I’ve heard of the danger in lines and messages with multiple meanings to different people, but it never blew at my face this way before.
We all have our share of friends met during dire circumstances, who later turned out to be great pals akin to a brother―or sister―and family. In my case, John ranked high on the list of such friends, and many times I wondered how it happened.
John, like his friend, is a young man who never feels comfortable with tons of praises and felicitations. Place three beautiful seguing adjectives behind his name and you will have him tweet and retweet like a mockingbird, persuading you to stop the hype like he has a chronic allergy for it (that is still under investigation though).
You can imagine having to bench the idea of putting a well-deserved post for him on Facebook on his birthday (because it would be lots of sweet words); sticking to the limited number of characters the profile message space of a blackberry messenger has to offer. I remember typing a few words about how we got this far, bla bla bla… and a final full stop.
But the stop was far from full.
Have you ever been at that point where a person is the trigger needed to start a chain reaction? The full stop was the beginning of hours of reminiscence. He reminded me of how I almost didn’t get into the university when I did, with a heavy heart and disappointed face so wrinkled you would think I served a long sentence atop a compost pit. By the way, John was the first person to see the face.
He reminded me of my deployment to a state that seemed like a nightmare during my service year, and the dream job I didn’t get even when it was just about a meeting away.
What I later found out was that most times, disappointments and let-downs are blessings, which in retrospect would make one shine one’s not-so-white-teeth or otherwise in acknowledgement.
The fact that I almost didn’t get into the university when I did―that anyone can fail if careless―is one of the reasons I got serious and graduated when and how I did. The nightmarish location NYSC deployed me to, turned out better for me before the end of the service year―being the highest-ranked (and maybe highest-paid) corps member of one’s local government comes with respect, challenges and responsibilities that will mold rough clay to smooth vase. Erstwhile dream job would’ve been good; it just wouldn’t have aligned and added value to me quickly like what I have. I found out after failing to get the former.
Now, imagine retiring to bed later that night, and then summing up all the memories into something about “heartbreaks that were in the real sense, blessings in cloak.” I put this up as my PM after a final chat with John. This would’ve been a normal thing; just another update you put up every once in forever. Right?
The timing was wrong! In fact, it was way so uncanny.
I had a relationship some years back, and the lady with whom I had it got introduced (a pre-wedding event) that same day! A disgruntled ex-boyfriend could have written what I wrote as my profile message, and she pretty much came for my hides with smiles and knives. The update seemed like a fitting shoe size, but I never did the shopping for her. I tried to see the situation from her perspective (perhaps ‘heartbreak’ wasn’t the best word choice), but then Thesaurus even disagreed. Heartbreak relates to despair, grief, pain et al; and not matters of the heart alone.
She never believed me; I didn’t flog myself trying to explain either. There is no value-add clarifying issues to someone who has chosen not to be objective about it, or even believed I could go to the extent of sticking it to her in the first place.
I would’ve kept this to myself but I couldn’t suppress the yearn to let it out and move on. I owe it to myself to come clear. I owe my friends (including those that never voiced their doubts) the facts, so they can be reassured I’m not that guy!
On the bright side though, I won’t be surprised if this fiasco turns out to be another good thing; an unfortunate event that is really a blessing in disguise. 🙂
Only time will tell.
It’s been three months since the last post! *I cringe* If I had cultivated maize then, I should be chilling on the sofa now with my legs crossed, devouring a well roasted corn with my eyes set on the dough cribs full of harvest would rake in.
Apologies for the long period of inactivity. The past three months were about lots of travelling and engagements that required serious attention. A lot was at stake so I had to give the needed devotion (multi-tasking isn’t always the best, believe me).
Now that things are calm, I’ll make-up for the gap.
I am @jossef69 on twitter.
Gingerly, he approached the figure, wrapping his hand around the neckline to loosen the little knot that held the mini-gown in place. I had no idea what a gown like that is called, but I was certain it should be something not so expensive though seemingly fancy, judging from the way it fitted around the firm curves on the feminine shape. Even as it dropped through the slightly protruding waist down to the feet that put an end to the fair long legs, revealing the pesky pair of mounds on the trimmed porcelain skin, he never seemed to be distracted for a second.
I sat, squeezed to the window side of a creaking 18-seater bus finding its way in the traffic congestion, watching the stranger undress the mannequin. It was about 30 minutes to the 20th hour; the end of the day’s work for some and the beginning for others. I belonged to the former category, the road-side cloth merchant and his mannequins gallantly occupied the latter.
The bus dragged briefly towards the 11.82km bridge. I knew it was the beginning of another 2hours–characterized by rough à la distress driving, cusses and attendant spits, honks and bashes–even before the bus came to a halt, the persistent gridlock remaining the factor.
A bucket of many bottled drinks sped by, and I looked out the window to confirm or discard the sorcery I just saw. For a person of really brief height, I didn’t expect the hawker to be so nimble-toed even with the conglomeration of drinks he balanced on his head. Others of his ilk had gala, plantain chips of countless brands, cashew nuts and several other consumables clutched to their sides; all meandering through the congestion trying to sell their wares. I shook my head in pity as I watched one of the hawkers almost get squeezed between two buses while he rushed to get payment for what he just sold a passenger.
“There is a Junior and/or a wife at home, a sister or brother in school, or a mama in the village depending on them… and so they hustle with their every fiber.” An elderly who seemed to have been watching me all the while said. I knew she wasn’t any off from the truth.
A couple of hours, countless hisses and serious body aches later, the third gear of the bus finally became useful. Perhaps from the reprieve brought about by the draught into the moving bus, the occupants of the seat behind me began to discuss what awaited them at their destination, the crux of the discuss being their grievances with the wage they get at work, and how the foreign owners of the factory they work in maltreat them like a flock of quarantined pigs.
I got home a few minutes to 11pm with a smile on my face; PHCN decided to put a little something in our bulbs. I settled in quickly and refreshed to get some sleep, for the alarm would do its job by 4:20AM the following day irrespective of how I feel. I remembered a joke a colleague made about the episode introductions of a movie I was seeing (he thought it would be cool to have the prologue in pidgin) and I decided to indulge myself briefly.
The player came to live as my then recumbent self began the pidgin prologue:
“My name na Oliver Queen
After five years for ogbonge hell
Na so I waka con’ home with only one goal…”
PHCN didn’t allow me save my city. They took the light.
Ironically, I wasn’t pained. They take power more than they give it and we all know. It’s bad, but I’m somehow used to it already. As I rolled over to sleep I flashed to a headline I saw on CNN a few days earlier:
D.C hit by power outage.
I would guess many Americans were in panic throughout the blackout. In some climes, blackout mostly precedes bad things, say terrorism, a headless horseman with a big axe roaming the streets, or simply the beginning of the apocalypse.
The same blackout an average warm-tempered Yoruba/Ibo/Hausa man (trust me, you don’t want to read the hot-tempered man’s version; I don’t want to write it too) would roll his eyes over and say “awon dìndìnrìn”/”mcheew, iti boribo!”/”kai! Shege!” became breaking news in some other place.
And then I did a conscious recap of my day.
Ours is a country of stoic and hard working people; we strive and hurdle regardless of the barriers and hardship, ironically with a smile bearing countenance. But it doesn’t mean we don’t want things to be better.
Maybe I wouldn’t have spent so much time in traffic if there were functioning alternative means of transport or route. Maybe there won’t be a horde of hawkers on the road at the risk of being crushed if power is regular to the point of making some other business ventures profitable. Maybe the factory workers would have ceased being garri-and-groundnut-driven robots in the sight of their bosses–slave masters–if there were other opportunities for them. Lots and tons of several other maybes!
Maybe I wouldn’t have had reasons to write this.
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“Oga ‘My car’ commot there! No try am o.”
I smiled as the bus driver boomed at a man in suit in a neat Corolla beside us, hooting incessantly as though it would clear the road. I knew he had no personal issue with him, it was just a thing they say to private car owners whenever they’re putting their fine vehicles in delicate positions in the traffic.
“Sumall time now I go brush yuar motor for yansh una go start to dey yarn me oyibo. . . no be me o.”
Perhaps from experience, Corolla man listened. He quietly swerved and kept to his slow-moving side, allowing the bus driver squeeze himself into the little spot. He was overtly satisfied at the man’s surprising obedience.
“This one get sense. Some of them go dey struggle with our jagamu for road with dem plastic cars like James Bond until dem hear gbo— ”
His last word coincided with a loud bang that was indeed a “gboosa” at his other side of the lane. He looked at me with a precursor to a smile on his face and motioned me to the exact location of the collision.
“My brother, wetin I tok? Honda don jam aeroplane! Una go hear ogbonge oyibo today.”
A young man stepped out of a sleek Hyundai whose shape truly reminded one of a jet, putting majestic drama to his approach like a Bollywood protagonist maiming the villain in his thought, assessing the condemned bumper of his car with total disregard for the man in Honda who was already apologising.
“I’m really sorry. I’m so sorry. . .”
Sorry unleashed the drama. The previously crawling traffic turned to a standstill with everyone seeing for free in 3D the movie that would’ve cost a ticket—and popcorn, perhaps—at the cinema.
“Are you kidding me? What d’yu mean by sorry? You bashed my car and ruined all this,” he directed him to have a good look of the dangling crushed bumper, “and you’re giving me all that crap?”
Sincere thanks to good diet and exceptionally stretchy ears, I got the audio and delicately followed the video. No static at all.
“You have every right to be annoyed, and that’s why I’m. . . begging. I’m sorry.”
The apologies were meant to soothe him but it was counter-productive; he didn’t want to hear the s-word and Mr Honda wouldn’t run out of its supply. Exasperated, he went on a fast one even my ears couldn’t keep up.
“Mr man I’m sick and tired of this! You’re wasting my time with the sorrys. Tell me, how exactly will “sorry” reconstruct this or solve the mess? Insurance guys just fixed this car so don’t even think in that direction. Capish?”
Mr Honda said more sorrys. Chief Hyundai blew him more words of caution, urging him to stop the apologies and talk in naira. Mr Honda realised that he was losing and had to turn to the popular trick of sharing blames; the no-be-only-me-waka-come approach.
“What exactly do you want from me?! After all, you abruptly applied your brake as well.”
Infuriated by the words, Chief Hyundai dropped all the little semblance of niceties. Being a gentleman in the situation wouldn’t help so he re-strategized. The moment he took off his suit and tie I knew he meant business. The other man got the message loud and clear, but he managed to mask his concern.
“Don’t even try my patience right now!” he inserted some tumbling local dialect and raised his finger, shaking it vigorously as a sign of warning, “keep that to your clueless self and talk to me, like right now!”
The dialectal spices of Chief Hyundai got the bus driver’s attention and he burst into laughter, waking a few passengers from the usual commute-nap.
“Now you’re talking! You think say oyibo fit settle am before? Yarn am correct one from village make he know say you no get time to dey yarn orishirishi english. Even his Honda End-Of-Discussion no go fit end this discussion today. Na only him waka jam for this one.”
The argument escalated just as the hold up began to subside. Mr Driver quipped and ran multiple commentaries as he moved on.
“I pity dem EOD bros people for office today o. Na dem go get the remaining kasala and better oyibo wey e no go tok for here.”
And right there, he struck a chord. He had a very valid point. I easily pictured the duo as section heads or managing executives who would take the frustration to work and blow off undiscerning subordinates at the slightest mistake. Worse still, they could be interviewers or members of a panel to determine the fate of job seekers on that very day.
Unlucky subordinates and job candidates, right? Right.
“Eii! Chisox christ of Tanzania!”
The driver’s exclamation came in the way of my thoughts and welcomed me to another bash involving a tanker and three cars. As the bus sped I could only see different video frames: a tanker driver close to tears, observing the damage he had done to three cars, especially the “Baby boy” car he had hit so hard it linked two more cars; a car owner standing akimbo, watching his car that just got totally crushed and re-christened “Ugly girl”; a work-in-progress infuriated woman dashing past the last silent victim with the tanker driver fully in her sight, with eyes that sparkled in anger.
Only prayers can save a life and make that single event not adversely affect many lives on that day, and I ensured to say one:
Gracious God, spare that tanker driver from the bashed three furies. . . and hint all error-prone subordinates or interviewees to put on their best behaviour today.
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Foreword: This piece is a recount of an unadulterated real life event. Picture a young graduate striving to be employed amidst the gross unemployment quagmire and its attendant stress. He was very broke at that moment too. I’ll tell his story.
My phone gave a familiar ring that cut through the silence and broke the chain of my present activity as I let go of the bolus of eba I’ve learnt to roll very perfectly through years of relishing relationship. (You see, I have a particularly narrow throat that requires that I adjust the mass to standard size, to avoid choking).
Subconsciously, I was determined to cuss the network provider if the message turned out to be one of their many adverts, send MUMU to 5054 for more inspirational texts, and others of the ilk.
I pressed, scrolled and read.
“You are invited for an aptitude test at JohnDoe* grammar school, xxxxxx, Ikeja Lagos on Sat. 21/06/2014 by 9:00am. Enquiry: 0125xxxxx.”
A momentary smile coursed my face but a rather curt fact came bullying it almost immediately. It wasn’t a bad news. In fact, it was a typical confirmation that as far as the suspected tussle between village people and I was concerned, I was winning.
But the truth remained: I was broke. No-rumpled-naira-to-my-name kind of broke.
My cogitation on the matter at hand persisted for several minutes that seemed longer than actual. If push came to shove I have an Uncle I could always approach, but after several asking I’d started feeling like I demand too much. I suddenly noticed my oily fingers had been folded and suspended all the while. Another sight of the matter on the table settled it, my appetite was ever present to comfort me. I rolled, dribbled in soup, and swallowed away.
The day came quickly. I was not entirely motivated to go for the test considering a number of things, but I changed my mind some few minutes to dawn on that day. I donned the usual: a simple shirt well tucked in a black trouser and a seriously polished—but of course, punished—pair of black shoes; all old allies of mine. Judging by the effect of iron on the cotton and that of the black polish cum brush on the leather, you’ll never know how ancient they were. I set out few minutes after 7am.
With common sense, meticulous management (a BSc in Economics will be an additional advantage) and saintly patience at bus stops, five hundred naira was just enough to convey me to the test venue and back. So I thought. One hour two hundred and fifty naira later, I was already in Ikeja.
Career coaches would advise one to do a reconnaissance of the venue prior to the test date (to know the place well, especially if one is not familiar with the address) and arrive the venue at least an hour before the set time on the actual day, but they always somehow forget candidates with limited resources. Broke candidates I mean.
My initial disinterest (hence, my failure to probe), the shallow nature of the address in the invite, my assumption that the venue would be close to the bus stop and accessible, plus the fact that I was new in Lagos all worked like gears in a mesh to drive me into a lurking morass.
The first person I asked had a trace amount of dumbness; he just told me to move to the bus stop and ask, acting all mechanical. The next told me I’ll take a bus going to Maryland and alight on the way. The bright morning suddenly lost it’s lustre, giving way to unpleasant feelings of multiple shades. With the money on me, going anywhere not in the direction of where I was coming from means I’ll be stranded. That is always not good.
I asked the bus driver screaming for passengers like his life depended on it—actually I think it did—for the fare to my destination and he paused, stared at me like he had just been possessed by an unclean albeit quiet spirit, and coarsely let out the cold words, “Hundred naira”.
Urine tugged at my bladder.
“E wole te ba n lo – (come in if you’re going), no time”, he added.
I quickly did the maths and the figure after the equal-to sign was an emaciated one. Stepping in means I’ll be left with a hundred and fifty naira, and three hundred and fifty naira away from home.
The driver watched me in my vacillation and said some not so nice words as I moved past him. Even if he had cursed I wouldn’t have been bothered. I stopped not long after and got lost in thoughts, the kind wherein one weighs the options and then wish for a miracle. I felt someone bump into me and that jerked me back to the typical boisterous Ikeja.
She was a beautiful woman most likely in her very early thirties resting her hand on a small boy with whom she shared a striking resemblance, and an empty bowl clutched in her other hand. Her eyes were shut and they both appeared tired. They stopped not so far away from me to sit beside one of the columns holding the bridge.
Over the years I’ve seen several blind people asking for alms. I’ve even caught one or two faking it; one mistakenly opened one of his previously shut eyes with a speed akin to a strabismus to confirm the denomination I dropped, I met the other placing his rather meat dominated order at a night food joint far away from my apartment back in the university. But she seemed different. Perhaps I was drawn in by her beauty, the blithering innocence on the face of the young boy, the duo’s plain exhaustion, or something that transcends any reason I could probably think of.
Helping them came naturally to me, but at that moment I needed help too, only that I couldn’t get a bowl for myself. I turned around and moved on, but a voice in my head won’t just shut up. Whether it was compassion, empathy, or the good spirit I’m not sure, but the soft voice urged me to drop her money. Common sense kept reiterating the gist that I’ll be left with less, and that I would understand the book of Exodus better if I pursue the path of benevolence.
Soft voice won.
Truth be told, I’ve never been that bold—or stupid—my entire life. I ditched sanity and embraced charity. With another fifty naira note out of the equation, walking was the only way forward. I put on my treking shoes and the long march began. The great plan was to walk to a place where I’ll get the bus for fifty naira and at the junction where Maryland splits from Anthony, I got one.
My mental calculator was on by default to measure the distance from the place by the speeding bus to my stop and then estimate the time it would take to cover the same distance on a pair of black soles. The result was the beginning of wisdom, the genesis of worry.
Mood matters a lot. On a good day I’d listen to the man in suit screening candidates in, but on this day I didn’t. I couldn’t. I just shoved out my invitation, looked straight into his eyes like I was a mother confessor bent on making his life miserable, and then got myself a seat.
After almost two hours of formalities, many accents, and BSc/HND discrimination, the test commenced. It wasn’t a big deal. I made sure I gave my concentration by blocking out the thoughts of the imminent inevitable walk. Without a calculator, lack of focus can make forty-one plus nine equal to four-one-nine.
An hour later, a shrill American accent likely acquired via a month stay in Ghana ended the session.
With a school mate I met there, we walked to the junction and had several talks in between. At the bus stop I told him I would be walking, but surprisingly, he told me it’s okay. My unsolicited announcement was meant to make him ask why I would rather walk, and maybe be of help. Perhaps he was not buoyant as well. I took no offence. Who would have cared if I had packed all the offences in Lagos anyway? He took my messenger pin, shook my hand and waited for a bus.
And the son of man walked away under the sweltering sun. Alone.
In moderate steady strides, I moved on. I definitely won’t turn to a pillar of salt if I did, but I ensured I didn’t look back. Shame is better described as that moment when a familiar pair of eyes in a car, those of the lady you’ve been “toasting” for example, see you walking with laboured alacrity. The said alacrity and improvised distraction got me to Ikeja, and then to Allen junction. My beloved faithful shoes suffered. Legs ached as though they had been roasted over burning coals like corn. Sweat beads trickled down my face as my head boiled from the inside.
But a hundred and fifty naira still adorned my pocket.
With that amount I’ll get to Ojodu Berger and then link my last bus from there. Heavens answered my prayers as a bus pulled over and the conductor yelled “Berger!” at a bold decibel. The rest I didn’t need. That one simple word of two syllables was all I needed in the world at that moment; not food, not Dorobucci, definitely not world cup. I quickly hopped in and we moved.
We passed Secretariat and I was distracted for like two minutes while I skimmed through a devotional guide a lady shared in the bus. The next thing I heard was “Toll gate wa o”. Some passengers would alight at the bus stop “Toll gate”. How?
Conductor was already calling “Obalende CMS!”. Stupid boy, “no time” was probably his motto.
Bloodt of Godt!!!
The very large opening of a mouth and contorted brows in bewilderment would understate my shock. I was entirely on the exact opposite route. Without warning, I screamed out my confusion and other passengers came to my rescue. They confirmed the mix-up and explained that there are two Bergers, but my ears stopped proper functioning not long after that. Conductor had already collected his fare and their pities and talks didn’t make the remaining fifty naira change it’s size or colour into a better note.
Staring at the blank reality; two distant locations connected by a long expressway only a hundred and fifty naira can make short, I wanted to cry but I couldn’t. It won’t even help. I humoured myself and sang in a little worried voice.
“Big Boys Don’t Cry”
But the boy was weeping inside.
And the soft voice interrupted again: all these happened for a reason. I lost my temper and felt like harming something, a soft voice specifically if I could, but as I took the fly-over I found my temper again. I consoled myself and focused on getting home, there’s no point raging over something you can’t punch—or bite.
The faces at the bus stop were very stiff like they were starched, and unfriendly. Many people need to find joy in Lagos for everyone to live in peace and then collectively chant “Eko o ni b’aje”. I waited for almost fifteen minutes but no smiling face came. Eventually I went straight for a driver and started speaking—more like sparking—in fast English.
“I’m going to. . . and right here I’ve got only fifty naira on me. . .”
The idea behind the move was to try intimidating him a bit since he looked like someone’s who’s at least slightly educated. It was just a trial, I had planned to try the opposite—speak correct from the source yoruba to him that is, if he thinks the grammar speaking man called alakowe is another sick-in-the-brain gentleman roaming Lagos highways.
He looked at me, did a brief assessment, and then asked of my destination. I replied him at the speed of an hasty rapper, without the cool phonetic this time. He told me to get in and I didn’t wait for a repeat, before he changes his mind and tells me how tortoise broke its shell on the 3rd Mainland bridge.
I paid the conductor the fifty naira, but he thought I paid for Berger. Obviously the driver forgot to brief him. We got to Berger and I didn’t get down; I curled at a corner like I needed the loo so bad. We moved on and when he started collecting money again, he asked me. I was mute.
I tried to tell him to ask his driver that we’ve settled, but this slim guy I’d like to call atòólé (someone who urinates on bed while sleeping) started ranting. He dealt with me from the depth of his loquacious experience, I had no money to gag the bleating goat. I should have known with the deep tribal marks on his face, would’ve betted with my roomy pocket that whoever wrote them was most likely a serial killer with a bad handwriting. What better foreboding did I need?
Life at times is just a big pot of ill prepared watery beans; a mess through and through. Why should all mishaps in Lagos befall one person in just a day?
First, he thought I was an officer; a person working in a force of some sort, and he so well expressed his hatred for my supposed kind, albeit too loudly. I was so embarrassed. I would have given anything to vanish into thin air but I remained a solid organism as he abused me further. The driver came to my rescue eventually, but the assault I’ve been subjected to was worse than battery.
Worse than battery, charger and charge combined.
Perhaps the little voice was right. Meeting the blind woman probably was not just coincidence. Maybe I had to walk and get exhausted so I can take the wrong bus and miss a worse bus. Maybe the mix-up was just for me to get that important little book from the lady. Maybe. . . .
It could be for any reason at all, and I may never know with certainty, but it was one hell of a day.
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“Ojodu Berger! Ojodu Berger. . . Berger straight!!! No change o, #500 #1000 change no dey ooo. Enter with your #150 change. . . “
The conductor boomed at the top of his voice, displaying a heavy throat and other jugular muscles best left for anatomy class. I entered the bus gently like a sincere brother of God even though I boiled within for the unnecessary #50 increase in the fare. I was consoled by the thought of cold water and other things awaiting me at home to step down; things that could be (note it, “could be”) quality sugar-not-needed kind of garri and golden brown groundnuts. Bottled groundnuts.
I sat quietly praying the bus gets full quickly before I toast to crisp from the heat, but my prayer wasn’t answered until 30minutes later. I kept my eyes on the prize still. Despite the conductor’s no-change warning, more than five persons each paid #500; an act that should irk him and make him want to explode. In contrast to expectation, he kept his cool and sort it out eventually. He seemed like an educated peaceful person. The journey began like it should until events began to take other dimensions.
I’d barely enjoyed the breeze influx for two minutes before the driver made a sudden stop, disrupting the flow and jerking us all forward beyond the limit we could tolerate. The conductor immediately apologised appropriately in good diction that mesmerised us all—the educated ones at least. We joined a slow moving traffic and the driver quickly took a detour, navigating through buildings and narrow streets only to join a worse situation at the front.
Just when we were getting relieved, a young woman began talks about the heavy jams typical of first Friday of every month and how a programme at the camp ground that same day wouldn’t help matters. Two other men counter-commented and before we knew it a debate began. The ruckus was so loud one would think there was a trophy for the best noise-maker. One of the men however took it so personally, giving us announcements not paid for: how Lagos is a city of traffic jams (as if we’re all dumb aliens), how he has been plying the routes for years (how that was our concern I know not), how those just leaving their workplace will suffer (obviously kwa!), bla bla and bla.
We all got tired of the rants but we kept quiet and left the dial untouched, even radios run out of charge over time. The woman beside him (let’s call her Mrs Koikoi) was however not as stoic as the rest of us; she simply told him a very brief—but deadly—”It’s okay” and the man kept quiet immediately.
Not for long. The panther returns.
“You’re very rude! Very very rude!!” He turned to Mrs Koikoi like a provoked mother hen, the “rude” well stressed and sounding like “ruuwdu”.
“How dare you insult me and talk to me like that?! How dare you?! Useless woman. . . you’re so rude—ruuwdu!”
Some minuscule but palpable spits came along with the “dare” and the direct recipient quickly but quietly wiped her face, complaining could make him turn fully to her and have her well sprinkled with saliva. Mrs Koikoi was still, more like allowing him expend his energy and make a fool of himself. He wasn’t finding it funny at all. “I’m a preacher of the gospel with a wife and five kids. . . ” he vented on. I couldn’t help it, I joined the whole bus in a fit of laughter that followed. Seriously, what is the relationship between his calling, marital status, “productivity” and whatever else he was thinking, with the matter on ground? How fufu take concern Beyoncé abeg?
Mrs Koikoi’s responses and gesticulations were well spelt, caustic, demoralizing and utterly dramatic; it was obvious she has experience at her advantage and she pretty well finished the father of five. With a preacher-ly elan, he delved into another language and the woman adroitly followed suit.
“So you’re an Igbo woman and you’re talking to me like that? *inserts thick Igbo words*. . . How dare you?! *more spits*”
She responded by launching into more of Igbo vocabularies at a rather great speed. I sat at my corner looking facially expressionless (thou shall not make fun of “elders”, remember?) but relishing every bit of the diatribe, even though I didn’t understand a word. I believed she wasn’t cursing us all, and that’s the most important at the moment.
The traffic eased up a bit. Preacherman alighted and went his way as the door was dragged open and some new passengers rushed in. Somehow within the rush, a hard blow landed fully (from the loud sound upon impact I could tell) on someone’s face and a thud, like someone fell into the gutter, followed. The conductor dealt the blow, the same conductor I thought was a gentle vegan. I guess that comes with the on-the-job experiences.
“Wèrè Olè! Oò smart tó o. . .”
“Mad thief! You’re not smart enough. . .”, the conductor shouted as the driver sped to cover up before another vehicle takes his space.
“Olè burúkú ni bòbó yen shá, ó fé yo owó mó woman yen lára ni o. . .”
“That guy is a notorious thief o, he tried picking that woman’s purse. . .”
Not long we were held-up again. The conductor drove the bus whenever the driver chooses to get down and rub his paunch, widdle, abuse erring drivers, or stroll. I jokingly called him “Screwdriver” to distinguish him from the driver, but the sobriquet stuck quickly as others started calling him Screwdriver. That was a mistake on my part, for the alias somehow implied that all the passengers—including me, unfortunately—are screws.
Damn! Scr*w us!!
The driver decided to be a good citizen and the Mandela of our time by keeping to the “right lane”—forgetting that a right lane in such situation is the widely chosen lane—while other vehicles squeezed along beside us, wasting extra one hour of our time with his decision.
While in the standstill, Screwdriver displayed himself as a multi-talented blend of many professions: a barrister or so when he refused a passenger that wanted to drop, a #50 refund because “the contract between them hasn’t ended. . . and a breech isn’t allowed”; a Monk when he chose to “meditate” and keep quiet, disregarding refund requests; a pastor when he began to quote scriptures on how the meek and gentle are blessed; a grammarian/linguist when he spoke Pidgin, English, Yoruba, Igbo and then managed to reply a lady “sparking” in I-haff-tould-yau-awreday type of accent—inside yellow Danfo bus o—with a forced Queens English. He was a comedian in all the roles.
I could sense the pretty fair lady behind me was suddenly and mysteriously very quiet and I had no idea why. She has a very “distinct” Hannah Montana kind of laughter so I noticed when she stopped contributing to the comedy on wheels. Just when she was beginning to feel glaringly uncomfortable which coincided with the moment I turned to her, she blurted out that she needed to pee. My question was answered. Waiting for her was never a problem since the bus wasn’t moving anyway, the problem was that she wore a trouser and the area wasn’t secluded. She got down and moved to a corner—a corner very visible to all—where she squatted and did her business, with confidence, much to the surprise of onlookers. Only God knows what they saw because I think I looked away, firmly holding on to the lesson though: when you’re out of options, say pressed, endeavour to locate chutzpah.
Screwdriver made the bus so alive throughout. I was marvelled by the way he spoke and his sound reasoning. I later found out he resulted to “conducting” and other menial jobs when he couldn’t get a job after he graduated; a revelation that underscores the national unemployment problems and made me quiver within for everyone in his shoes. My own dey my body.
Some hold-ups are just so frustrating; you’ll lose your temper and then look for it again yourself, else you’ll start behaving like a demented rhesus monkey. A journey of forty-five minutes or less took five hours plus; enough time to travel from Lagos to Kwara by bus and still
prepare beans take an hour nap upon arrival. It was however interesting, insightful, and revealing.
If I may add, I’ll suggest a talent hunt in buses. 🙂 *just saying. . . just saying*
A prelude to this post is a question, one that should have a place in the list of the importants:
How Do We Handle The Things That Really Matter?
An account will suffice.
• • •
It was a very hot day. In that part of the country at that season, upsetting heat trails the morning within the first few hours. The sun shone with such vigour one would easily conclude it was on an insidious mission to melt till all flows like magma.
Laura was partially not in a better situation herself. Curled on her bed, she was fully immersed in her phone with an earpiece plugged in her ear, relishing the cool ambience of the room which contrasts the harsh weather. Most importantly, she was doing her best to neglect John who has been in the room with her for a while. John stared continuously in her direction as though he wanted an audience.
“I’m so clueless about what I’ve done right now, but I know something isn’t right. I’m sorry. Talk to me.”
John broke the silence, saying each word in the manner of a characteristic sincere apology. He moved towards her in a bid to hold her and have her attention.
She shot him a quick scornful look, dropped her phone and sat upright before he could get to her very immediate space.
“You actually don’t know what you did?”
She hurled at him with all seriousness. A reply wasn’t exactly expected, the stern expression hanging on her face was enough to cauterize any potential comment.
John was transfixed, pondering on what to say and carefully screening the words forming in his mind. It would be a disaster to say anything wrong at that moment as she was glaringly bent on exploding at the slightest provocation.
He had known her for almost a year. Service year did the matching and they bonded quickly as though there were some unseen forces in charge. It was during one of the activities in her place of assignment where she was a spokesperson that he realised things would go beyond the ordinary between them.
Laura to him is someone with qualities that could fetch her the title of Margaret Thatcher without being accused of passing off. She’s smart, and tough when she chooses to. Added to these are her intelligence, eloquence, and a flair for knowing at least a little about everything. Above all are her physical appealing traits: moderate height, slightly thick attractive built, a beautiful face adorned by piercing clear eyes, solid fitting nose, and mouth whose well carved lips move gracefully and effortlessly whenever they give way for her titillating voice.
His mind-flash took some seconds. A few months into their closeness things were different. He enjoyed her flammable fury in the heat of any argument then, especially her facial contortions and dramatic modulating tones. Often times he would tease her on it and the effect would expedite a resolution. Now, she flares for anything and everything.
“You really don’t know, or you’re pretending you don’t?”
She added. His confusion escalated. What could he have done?
“Seriously I don’t. You can’t be lying about it . . . and I’m sorry. Please tell me.”
She crossed her legs like she was about to start a yoga session and then unplugged the piece. She wasn’t listening to anything, she only shoved it into her ear when John came in to pass a message across. A message he perfectly understood.
“Okay. I’ll tell you.”
John was now on the bed with her, though not as close as he wanted.
“Seriously John, I don’t like the way you behave in recent times. You’re too cold, distant, and insensitive! You don’t recognise simple cues even when they’re almost glaring. You just. . .”
She paused to adjust herself and then continued.
“You just act as though we only met yesterday without the idea of my looks, expressions or behaviour when I’m sick or down. Who does that?!”
John stood flumoxed. Where could all these be coming from? What exactly has he done? In the midst of his bewilderment a whiff of idea struck him. Could this be a carry-forward of the light conversation they had when he was with her the other night? He pondered.
Their relationship was what they defined as friendship, even though their discussions, plays, visits—including late night types—and other indicators somehow suggested a mutual affection, love perhaps, or something very close. Whatever it was, it pleased them both.
Two nights back he had gone to spend time with her as he frequently does. Right from the door he knew something was out of place as her particular recumbent position and grim look presaged that she was not of sound health typical of her. He lay by her side and held her. The slightly elevated temperature of her body corroborated what he had surmised.
He had asked her if she was okay and she had replied that nothing was wrong. He decided not to bother her with much questions as it could really be one of her I’m-sometimes-like-that moments. In times like such he would make fun of her or ask if she was having her monthly cycle thing, but he dropped the idea. Laura is somehow different of late and he had no idea why. He was not going to raise that and compound issues, at least not at that moment.
Later that night, he had returned to his apartment guiltless. The day that followed was a very hectic one for him; he had no time for his phone let alone the chance to call his best friend. It wasn’t well charged so he switched it off. Regardless of the situation, he didn’t stop thinking about her. He couldn’t.
He was very fagged out when he got home late in the night and his phone had totally ran out of charge. He rushed to his neighbour to get it charged hoping he’ll get it back later that night and call Laura, but he slept off as soon as he touched down. It was in the morning that he realised what had happened and then made his way to her place; that very morning she accused him of being insensitive.
John was sure that was the cause of the fracas and he attempted to give some explanations.
“But. . . but I asked you what was wrong and you told me you’re fine.” He stuttered.
She was infuriated by what he said. He had just ignited a dynamite.
“So you were waiting for me to tell you everything? In fact, I’ll lie dead and you’ll still ask me if I’m breathing! Do you have any idea what I went through yesterday? Do you know I was in the hospital yesterday? Do you know how much I wanted you around?
John was shocked when she mentioned the hospital.
Before he could say another word she interjected.
“Yes! I was so sick yesterday I was taken to the hospital by someone I barely knew. You weren’t there when I needed you the most.”
There was no point arguing. He should have tried harder to reach her regardless of his busy schedule. He needed to calm her down to the point where she’d listen to whatever explanation he would give.
“I’m sorry I didn’t call or come around yesterday. It wasn’t deliberate, and if you’ll let me I’ll explain everything.”
Somehow, his just concluded speech worsened the situation. He knew it wasn’t the present situation alone that was bugging her, but it was definitely the trigger.
“Oh! You’d like to give me a rundown of why you neglected me. . . why you never cared about me, right?”
A brief pause followed her question, but she didn’t wait long enough for a reply before she continued.
“This shows how much I mean to you Jo. Perhaps I should have a little time to myself to think things over.”
She said this and retired to her bed, fitting in the earpiece once more, an expression that suggested that he should leave. He didn’t believe what just happened and he was sure it was neither a dream nor a trance. He had never seen her boil that much before; a fact that made him wonder what had really changed in her.
Asking for the reason behind her over-reaction wasn’t as important as obeying her. It was time for him to leave as she had implied. John left the room, gently closing the door behind him. The rest of the day didn’t go as planned but he was optimistic. Laura would come around soon, she only need enough time to simmer down. That, he believed.
Hours later, he called her but she didn’t pick the calls. She didn’t reply his pings either. He had planned to tell her when he visited her that he might quickly travel the next day for a quick drop, but the tirade that ensued got in the way.
The incommunicado continued to the following day. He would only stay for a day in Lagos and return the next day, but the travelling had ceased to interest him. The thought of staying and cancelling the journey coursed his mind but he had no incentive to sit idle, especially then that Laura was standing aloof.
John decided to check on her once more when he couldn’t bear it any longer. Her door was locked from the inside. He knocked and called her name but there was no response. She must have heard his voice and turned a deaf ear.
He was disturbed. Why would she just blow such a trivial matter out of proportion? After all, he had apologised. He knew he was almost at his breaking point so he stopped knocking, sent her a long text, and then left.
John’s theory was right; all the while Laura was in the room. From his voice she knew he was the one at the door but she kept still, even though she wanted to drop the act and allow a reconciliation. A part of her knew she had gone too far but another urged her on and justified her acts. Her fury had subsided and morphed into a kind of game. She was enjoying it.
Her phone beeped and she guessed it was a message from him. She unlocked the device and confirmed it, but she didn’t open it to see the content. Instead, she indulged in a dramatic soliloquy.
“Sweetheart, I knew it was you. You like me so much yeah, and I do too. . . but I’d like to put this up a lil’ bit more.”
John hurried so he won’t miss the bus—the only available one. The town is small and sparsely populated; buses don’t frequent it. Only a bus driven by the renowned Sir Tafari shuttles the place and Lagos everyday except for Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Apart from his legendary hot temper and fuse-blowing grammar, his bus’ “AK 419 AAA” plate number helped his popularity.
* * * * *
Bad news travels very quickly, but this moved faster than Sir Tafari’s speedy bus itself. Before dusk the news had spread like wildfire: a bus from the town bound for Lagos was involved in an accident and all the passengers, save the driver and two ladies, died. Tafa’s very own bus.
* * * * *
For many reasons the day was boring for Laura, John’s silence being the major. She had expected him to call or ping her but he didn’t. She took to twitter and went through her timeline. She was shocked at the sight of the tweets of the accident through the newspaper accounts she was following. A momentary sadness took over her, first for the lost souls, and then for the possible familiarity of the victims. The small message icon at the top corner of her phone reminded her of John’s text she had neglected. She opened it.
“Why are you blocking me out? Is a chance to talk to you too much to ask? I was at your door, I know you’re in… apparently what we have isn’t so important to you. Leaving for Lag right now. I’m sorry for everything. Bye Laura”
She jumped up and read the message again, trying not to believe her eyes.
“John. . . travelled to Lagos?!”
In a flash she connected the dots.
“If Jo truly travelled then he definitely left in that bus, and. . .”
She paused, stupefied by the ugly realisation. She felt dizzy and totally speechless, hoping she’ll wake up from the dream.
A loud scream seemed imminent but she held it back, whimpering instead. The iron lady in her dominated.
“What if Jo didn’t travel eventually?”
That was a possibility she totally welcomed. Her phone let out a round of repeated beeps as she anxiously dialled his number from memory. He was unavailable but she kept re-dialling. Totally unsettled, she left her room and rushed—half jogging half sprinting—to his place, praying she will be right and meet him there.
The mumbles and joy-starved faces of John’s neighbours, best pal and other persons at his frontage were enough to tell her everything. Apparently, they’ve heard the news too. Her whole body failed her. She collapsed.
* * * * *
Bright white light from the bulb flooded her eyes and she quickly closed them. She was still dizzy but she tried again irrespective of the burning sensation, this time gently. She could faintly hear someone saying “. . . I walked him to the bus myself.” The blurred image of a figure in white and a stethoscope around the neck, humid ambience, and a whiff of disinfectant hinted her of her location.
Following her collapse she had been rushed to the hospital. She burst into tears as soon as she remembered John and what had happened. She lamented and blamed herself for everything: for treating him badly with her hyperactive nagging; for driving him away when she actually wanted the opposite; for calling him a kettle when she had been nothing but the hypocritical pot; for bottling up her love even when he’d expressly told her of his feelings. The text came to fore once more. John was right, she didn’t value what they had. She wished for another chance but it was too late.
Early the following morning she was discharged. John’s pal was with her all the time. Despite his efforts to ameliorate her state she didn’t yield. She only sobbed the more, talking of her faults and how she locked John out when she could’ve just let him in. She later gathered that his house mate Kelvin walked him to Tafa’s bus, and that she was a major reason why he didn’t cancel his travelling despite his scepticism.
Before noon various plans were already under way to contact his family and make other necessary arrangements. Laura was still in her unhappy state, battling with the fact that she’ll have to address him with “was” thence. Memories of him flooded her thoughts: his looks, talks, humour, dramatic episodes, and myriads of others. Rivulets of hot tears coursed ceaselessly on her cheeks.
Clouded by her gloomy state she lay on her bed, alone in the room, physically present but really away. She was oblivious of a persistent soft knock on the door. It wasn’t locked so the person behind it pushed the door open and stayed in some inches away from the entrance. A few seconds passed before she noticed and looked in the direction. She couldn’t believe what she saw as the figure turned to be him. It was Ayodele John! Her beloved has returned from the dead.
Seeing a supposed dead person standing should be shocking, but what she felt was different—a potpourri of fear, disbelief, relief and immense joy. She was at first immobile, perhaps processing what to do to the doppelgänger, then she rushed at him and hugged him like he would disappear if she didn’t, screaming all the way.
True, Kelvin saw him entering the bus, a host of other events that followed eluded him as he turned his back.
A day earlier . . .
John and Kelvin discussed Laura as they walked towards the spot where Tafa One always load. John was disturbed by the ongoing stiff tiff but Kelvin encouraged him to give it time.
“They can be deliberately fish-brained sometimes; one needs the patience of a fisherman”, Kelvin joked, and they had a satisfying laugh. Kelvin watched him climb into the front seat after their ritualistic handshake before he rushed to the market immediately so he could meet the monopolistic meat seller of the town; a very capricious meat-brained man.
While in the bus, John noticed a familiar car moving in his direction which turned out to be Mr Kingsley’s. He works in the town but has his family in Ibadan so he travels often. John wasn’t ready for Tafa’s fresh round of vituperations for a fleeing passenger so he noiselessly left the bus and waved down Mr Kingsley who was indeed travelling home. He would follow him to Ibadan and join a bus from there to Lagos.
Fate withheld its smile on the journey when they were crossed by heavily armed robbers on getting to the outskirt of their destination. In addition to some quick slaps and guns pointing at their faces, they dispossessed them of the car and their phones and then stranded them. He could hear Tafa’s voice in his head saying something like “Mumu, God don catch you o. Oya sneak away again nah, idiotic Indian ponmon!” He felt bad and thought himself a bad luck, but he would later realise Mr Kingsley was actually his goodluck. They got help and began the runnings at the police station to report the incident and get help.
Some few minutes into the evening the car was found. The robbers only used it for an operation and ditched it thereafter, leaving the key intact in the ignition and the doors opened.
Totally discouraged by way the events of the day had unfolded, he resolved in himself and took the first bus back the following morning, discontinuing his journey to Lagos. On his way back he found out about the accident and there, he knew the likely situation of things ahead. He rushed to Laura’s place the moment he arrived and met her deep in thoughts while he knocked.
* * *
John didn’t die, he only felt death at a rather too close range. Laura had her second chance, and she utilized it well. They both did.
Allowing issues of trivial significance come in the way of important things is tantamount to practically sacrificing long-term benefits for short-term satisfaction; a proverbial terrible mistake. The importants—friendship, relationship, family ties, etc.—should be of much value than the quick emotional outbursts. Preserve the precious and it will serve you well.
I digress. Life is too short to hide feelings, wait too long for a perfect time, or play emotional hide and seek games. The archaic hard-to-get prank I personally abhor. You should too. It’s 21st century people!
Sometimes it will be sweet, other times it won’t. Regardless of the twist, never be affected or carried away to rank the momentary events over priceless things.
Live. Love. Learn.
To read the first episode of the story, please click HERE
* * * * *
After the successful mission of carting away some things in bags, and in the process killing us softly, they left the building. We waited for a few minutes and then followed suit. It was like World War Z; everyone scrammed at different directions to safety.
The ATMs and walls were already thoroughly perforated and there were no security men to maintain order; they must have done the bolting first. Order can only be maintained when there’s at least an existing trace amount of order in the first place. I was so clueless I didn’t know what’s next to do. . . but something told me exactly what to do. It sort of commanded me.
Noise soared again, louder than in the previous episode. The fleeing robbers were confronted by policemen some far away distance from the bank and a fresh shooting spree ensued. Gunshots sang bass, tenor, and lots of terror. I was more confused as my reflexes betrayed me. I ducked and covered my head with my hands, as if they were made of Kevlar.
In my crooked position I saw a big man well fitted right under a low saloon car but I wasn’t mused, only God knows how he made it there. Someone fled past me at full throttle. Right before my eyes a man speeding on a bike crashed; he was hit by a bullet not really meant for him and that was all.
Immediately, fresh shots of adrenalin invaded my bloodstream. Apart from the fatal force of bullets, the accompanying sound in open air was capable of deregularizing menstruation or inducing a purge. A friend confirmed the former, I did the latter. Without further thinking I tarzan-ed into a very deep gutter legendary for its horrible smell, slimy viscous rubbish and flies the size of kolanut. Who cares? This was the same gutter I couldn’t even cross on my way to the bank.
Although I’d hit my leg in the course of my stunt, I felt nothing. Truly, superhuman abilities develop in the face of crisis. The slimy inconvenience rose to my ankle but I didn’t feel it a bit, neither did the nauseating smell get to me. Apparently my brain had prioritized, survival in this current danger ranked highest, other conflicting senses died.
Somewhere in between the bank and my present location I must have lost my shoes. I couldn’t even fathom where the Phantom phone I got two days earlier was. My wallet was AWOL too. These were the leasts of my worries though, safety is all that matters.
I was in this state for almost half an hour or more, wading through the thickness and crawling under culverts the entire time. A few others joined and trailed behind me. I felt them but I didn’t look back to count or say hello. I must have covered what seemed like half a kilometre sub-surface, sometimes near submerged, doing the path-finding and clearing my way with the only available tool—my hand.
Finally, I got through and crawled out. The fresh clean air at the surface almost knocked me out but reality held me in place. I surfaced at a market and it was all scattered, literally. Fresh red peppers ventured into meat stalls, palm oil connived with vegetable oil in a flowing spree, vegetables padded the ground for onions to roll over, containers upturned and freed their contents, grinding machines continued attrition with no one to put them off. . . everywhere was in a mess. I was mussed myself. The market was deserted, its occupants in a hurried journey of later return.
Kelechi later told me she said Psalm 23 for nothing short of twenty-one times while she was in the bathroom. She was soapy the whole time. Her heavy pregnant sister became energetic after the first round of repeated shots. Third trimester is just a term, energy and agility findeth all.
Who would’ve thought that the 116kg—if not more—Mr Kunle could climb the kind of fence he climbed? Who would’ve thought Mama Chisom would scurry away from her dear provisions store leaving everything? The same woman who won’t sell a tin of rubbish on credit. She later claimed she did it for her child’s sake, but she left Chisom behind in the first place. Weird.
Who would’ve thought I could be stoic enough to withstand odours at least forty-two times stronger and more pungent than Pa Jones’ (name changed) ground-tearing
fart releases? Who would’ve thought my claustrophobic self could fit conveniently in gutters and culverts? And My Vivian in prospect. Chai! Who would’ve thought I’d let her go, just like that? Painful!
I did the ordinarily un-ordinary. The possibly impossible things. But I know why. They were necessary.
Bullets. Fear. Survival. . . and the magical connections.
There is one funny yoruba statement I’ve heard several times on the street: Amugbo l’oko aje, which means that a marijuana smoker is a witch’s boss. In my opinion, nothing can be more real.
In some local communities, there usually are some set of old women generally tagged witches, not because they have visible wings or because they’ve been caught drinking blood, cooking viscerals. . . but because their “impacts”—yes, impacts—have been felt in one way or the other.
Forget Harry Potter kind of witchcraft/wizardry, these witches don’t need a broomstick to fly. Long thing! They just lift up and reach Mach4 before you can pronounce the ‘M’. Awesome aerotechnology right? In such communities, they are generally avoided as well as respected, from afar of course. . . except you have a better technology.
Now, let me introduce you to another personality.
Despite the foregoing, the ignition of a thick wrap of the “wonder weed” on the lips of a ganja-man, followed by some consistent deep down inhalations are all it would take to change the situation around. That thing gives them (weed men) the ability to go into night mode even by day, slap supposed witch senseless, give her a warm forced hard-reboot, and then forget the straight “night flight” and imminent blood sucking.
It just makes them do things that are seemingly impossible, irrational, risky. . . or insane.
So do bullets.
When a colleague heard the joke about a [bloody] civilian and a Mopol sometimes back he never knew fate was already cooking something up for him as well, big time. The said civilian was told by the man in uniform to get into their SUV during a raid but he refused, until that just one (one is very enough, two would be disastrous) once-in-a-lifetime-pooah-sounding strong slap hit him where it mattered most. Trust force men na. It was said that he complied straight up and then claimed that some unknown voices brought a new command “enter” at both infrasound and ultrasound levels.
His ordeal took a different shape. He narrates:
On this beautiful morning, the weather was great just like every other perfect days. I’d planned to visit a friend in the next town. I felt the need to have some cash on me so I made my way to the bank. Typical of many banks in the town, two of the three ATMs were on leave, displaying messages I hate reading. I was really annoyed. The thought of staying on the long queue alone could cause an abortion so I decided to move into the banking hall.
The frown on my face disappeared—by evaporation or sublimation I couldn’t tell—when I saw this voluptuous figure eight-ish young miss. All my worries fled and an euphoria took over as I began a soft melodious whistle in a glaring moue. She was in a tight fitting denim and a light shirt revealing enough of her anterior
resource endowment, plus a spectacles that made her just perfect. Our eyes met and I briefly smiled, but she simply looked away.
I’m a good looking dude, the type that dresses to kill always, even when my destination is the loo. As you would expect, I like ladies; pretty ladies that can make one want to stop being a Reverend father and get married immediately, or think of divorce if married, also immediately. This lady (let’s call her Vivian) was a typical example so I advanced to do my duty of knowing her. Before I could finish my first sentence in my best available accent, she curtly replied in a rather better accent, “Don’t bother chap, it’s not happening”.
I shook within, trying my best not to mouth the “Hoin! Kilode?!” that was all over my mind. This girl is rude, but I’d like to get to the nude, among other things. Her response was silencing but I didn’t. I can’t. I reloaded and almost released, then it happened.
Apparently some persons had loaded something strong. Something stronger.
Just like in the movies, the glass windows and doors came down crashing, bulbs exploding, and the noise, deafening. The building shook like it would implode. I could faintly hear the sound of dropping shells and the shouts and screams of fleeing customers but my heart beat sounded louder. Nobody told me to lose the height and go down very low. Sweet Vivie had already beaten me to it regardless of the high heels. Her reflexes are definitely well fed.
“Everybody down” rented the air. I was already down. “Don’t make me lose my temper” followed. Ogini kwa? You won’t lose this temper o. L’oruko Jesu you won’t. Vivian, the girl I thought was likely Beyoncé’s cousin and incapable of anything local mumbled “Mogbe!” (“I’m doomed”). At that point I knew doom was really somewhere close.
Ironically, in the midst of the ordeal, funny things were happening. But the mirth won’t come. Fear is cruel brethren! Sweat beads trickled down my body even as the AC blew cold breeze, I suppose fear and heat are related in a way. Then and there I realised how culturally diverse we are. Different languages and corresponding numerous exclamations and names of God poured concurrently. “Chimo!” joined “Osanobua!”, “Jehovah!”, “Jcheesox!” and “Allahu!” followed. My very own “Jesu!” was resounding.
A man at a corner was speaking something I couldn’t understand, it was very foreign. I dare not raise my head to know who he was but he was obviously shaking, peeing too perhaps. A few seconds passed before I made out the verse turned mantra: I shall not die but live to declare the glory of God.
I tapped into his anointing but my mouth didn’t move (my mind did), not after he was silenced by the butt of a gun. Silence reigned. No one had to write names of noise-makers, the sound from the clash of two titans—a head and a butt—was enough. True he didn’t die, but I’m certain he won’t live very perfectly either to declare anything within the next few days that followed.
Vivian was scared senseless. She was already all over me, oblivious of the fact that her softness was entirely on the same guy she just “shush-ed”. Maybe she knew, but at that point it didn’t matter. Strange. On a very good day I should be feeling it and enjoying myself, but I was just numb. Very numb. Her spectacles was mysteriously about eight feet away, close to a woman who hugged her bag like it was her saviour. The woman had lost her wrapper in the process but she wasn’t missing it I’m sure, she probably didn’t even notice.
Minutes seemed like hours. Seconds took longer to count. Moments later it was over.
So we thought.
The story continues. . .
Happy birthday to Adewoyin Tolulope.
Wishing you the best Sis.