I sat in a danfo from Obalende to Oshodi. I sat by the window. I thought of how the bus would be tight and how the window side seat would allow for some breeze that won’t get into the bus.
A while later, I noticed none of those boarding the bus sat on my row, they just kept going in. At first it bothered me. I thought something about me either put them off. Or they had some psychic powers that led them away from some tragedy that I had coming.
I realised that the problem wasn’t with me but my choice of seat. With four persons on that particular row and the conductor joining in- bad choice.
Other rows were almost full when he came in. Untidy grey hair with the raw strains of a sun scorching hard life all on his face. Only that it wasn’t sunny. A Ghana-must-go bag slung over his right shoulder and a dangote cement sack made into a bag on the other. He dumped himself with his bags an arm length away from me. And I thought I perceived urine.
I knew there must have been cloths in the bag and wondered why he/they would smell that way. I stuck my face through the window and took in everything else but this smell. I looked him over as he shifted closer to me and felt something was off. Looked around if I could move to another seat. It was too late. I concluded that it couldn’t be urine. It’s the raining season. He could have a bunch of wet cloths he was unable to air out and that could explain the weird smell.
Time to pay the conductor. He brought out about seven thousand naira in a thousand naira denomination. And I thought “this man has more money on him than me. He’s just a scruffy hustler afterall”.
I felt comfortable long enough to pick up my phone and read. We drove out of the park and he began his performance piece/ soliloquy.
I thought he was about to advertise some goods he had on him. You know, like the pharmacists we see around here. Once the vehicle was in motion they started off with prayers you couldn’t resist. Then launch into the twenty-two ailments the drug could cure. Plus how it can help induce you to vomit any meal you take in your dreams. That’s besides its use from breaking the hold of cobwebs over your destiny when you walk into them. But that wasn’t the case here. He didn’t say a prayer.
All I heard was “eyin omo Nigeria” (fellow Nigerians). There was pain in is voice as he spoke like he had so much to say in a short time. He spoke too fast to be talking to anyone on the bus. But spoke still.
“That’s not how you go about it”, I thought.
He spoke in a soft voice but must have been audible to those two rows away. He began calling out some names and how they were all dead. I thought he was about to confess that he was responsible for this (the things Nollywood does to you). That wasn’t it. He called someone else’s name and how this individual gave him “apo kan” (two hundred naira).
“If anyone needed me to help out, I helped. And If I didn’t have it, I raised money from others.” he said in Yoruba.
He paused. Shook his head and laughed.
He called another name and said the person kicked him out in the middle of the night. He asked if that’s where he would return to again. He laughed and said “no” but seemed to think about it a little.
He talked about his wife. I didn’t get all he said about her. But I remember he called her wicked. He hadn’t had sex with her in 13 years. He couldn’t touch her due to her wickedness, how could he?
Everyone on the bus was quiet. I kept staring at my phone. I didn’t want to make eye contact with him- you never know what could happen. But he wasn’t looking around either- he had no presence of mind the way he stared with a blank face .
He spoke on his treatment by those close to him. Paused. And Laughed.
All I could think of was that he doesn’t turn to me for whatever reason. He didn’t. He only asked rhetorical questions or maybe he meant to ask us but we were too shocked to engage him.
We got to Oshodi and he got quiet. And despite the fact that our row was right by the door, we were the last two persons to get off the bus. It took him a while to get himself together and alight. But in those few seconds I could only think of how he had me in a corner. And wondered why I didn’t share a similar psychic perception with others who shelved the row.
But now, I wonder what went wrong between him and the people in his life. And how that pushed him to the edge of insanity.
*This piece was first published here and is reproduced with consent from its author.