It had rained the night before. Breeze has seized, and the little air that was abandoned smelled of a huge dose of wet dust and leftover sand. We were in the bedroom in our house in the Ikenegbu Extension of Owerri, me and my cousin, Ikenna; a place that have contributed into our lives of growing, experiencing, studying, capturing, food. There has been something close to a steady electricity since two weeks, and our joy increased each day we had to let our phone fill to hundred percent, easily, without thinking about the generator or fuel or the hurting noise of the engine that would pierce through the walls and blur our conversations, our gossips, our long loud laughter that have mattered so much to us all these years.
We were switching from phone to computer and to phone again. We were trying to book a bus going to Lagos through the company’s online booking website. It wasn’t working. It was saying operation failed or unable to finish transaction. You know all these error reports that are always accompanied with most online booking sites in Nigeria. It meant we would be going to their office to book physically. We are so interested in booking a day before travelling because of how important it is for us to select the seats we want, the aisle or the window side.
We selected Seat number 8 and 9 at their office close to Relief Market, a popular Owerri market that sold more vegetables and fruits than the rest of other food stuffs. We also select the first bus, the one that leaves 5:30am the next morning. Owerri to Lagos, Ojota precisely.
We woke up and took our bathe and put our luggage in order, hugged our people at home and left for the bus terminal. It was 6am already. We rushed to the queue that had Lagos passengers and presented our pre booked tickets to the black girl with Ghana woven braids. She looked at it.
‘You both have missed your bus’, she said, rushing back to her computer immediately. ‘You should pay one thousand to use the second bus leaving’ She said again.
For a while, we got a little confused or disappointed or something like that. We went back to her with our one thousand and pleaded she print new tickets for the second bus so we leave. She printed the two tickets, same seats 8 and 9 but now the person that was supposed to be at the aisle was now going to be at the window side. That wasn’t a problem for us. The miracle was that she said we should not worry about the one thousand any longer.
The bus was well air conditioned and I fell in love with the old woman at my back wearing yellow lace, her headscarf went loosely wrapped around her head. Her English was classy, the way it was rendered at any time English came out from her mouth. There was also this other lady beside us that made up to a hundred phone calls to different people. To everyone she called, she said: ‘Hello, I dey come Lagos o, abaaga kwala m moto’ and then she would sleep for a while and wake and make another call that she was at Ijebu Ode or Ibadan expressway.
There were these two lovers directly in front of me and Ikenna, a guy with punk haircut and a lady with cornrows she had made with some brown attachment: Colour 1 or 2 or so. They were so in love with themselves that they never sat giving each other any space for one or two seconds. They shared plantain chips and biscuits and water. The lady by the window and the guy by the aisle; how it is said to look, that the gentleman has to be the one out, so as to protect, though protection can be designed for anyone, and not for a particular gender. The lady was always the first to bend her head to the guy’s shoulders and then the guy would tilt his own head so they balance. Sometimes I just felt they should just face themselves and kiss themselves, but nothing happened.
Many times I wanted to read a book called Nights of the Creaking Bed in the bus, but it wasn’t easy, there was a mixture of Christian songs from the bus audio, then a Nigerian movie about fake reverend fathers that I think has been produced to foster hate on Catholicism. There was the Egyptian movie which was all a compartment of blue, reddish, dark scenes and color schemes that I didn’t like at all. At the end was a thrilling Chinese movie of fighters, warriors, champions, fighting just to claim power, win, compiled with a lot of tricks and film management. You shout or scream or laugh or frighten at two men with pure black pony tails and pig tails, with sharp end machetes fighting or wrestling at one delicate sharp end.
Ikenna was between sleeping and waking and eating biscuits and complaining of feeling sick and painful tummy. I was intentionally dozing off because my body was doing me somehow and I just felt I should doze off. I dozed and woke and ate biscuits and schweppes and water. I felt better in a half way. It’s been a while we travelled this long.
Our bus stopped at a place for the second time. The first was at somewhere in Edo state, where the uniformed driver, who requested you address him as ‘captain’ and not driver, as is the normal thing with their company policies has to let everyone get down, stretch their legs for a while and buy a thing or two from the small shops that sold provisions, bananas, suya, plantain chips, udara. We got suya and finished it before getting back into the bus; well grilled soft flakes of brown flat pieces of beef.
Our cousin called Toochukwu was coming to pick us from Ojota. He had called with some scrupulous or meticulous directions on where to tell captain to stop us, at the Total Fuel station, then see a bridge, cross over, stand at the tip of the road so he’s going to see us while driving past. When we stopped at Ojota and got down to leave the bus, it is there we realized a baby was in the car and never said pim or cried a second. There came a careless or frazzled drizzle that came and stopped at once. It was there that we saw a woman who had her sunny haired baby tied at her back and hawked pure water in a bowl. The slimy part of the wet floor she stepped on had slipped her feet and fallen her with her baby and her pure water littered on the dirty floor. She washed off the full stop of sands that stuck unto them and set off again. It was the same place that a tall huge man with a more decent or careful tribal marks came to us to tell me that I look like someone he knew from somewhere, and when he asked me if I still knew him, I kept saying no in a way I needed to dismiss myself from him.
We carried our luggage like refugee children, step by step on the staircased flyover. We entered our cousin’s SUV. He had also come with Junior, our brother. We drove into Ikorodu with an average speed, a lot of Davido and Runtown slicing through our ears, pleasantly. The day was gradually dimming into evening and rain hung up in the sky like it wasn’t going to fall at all.
In Ikorodu, the air smelled of green. There was this ambience of peace that welcomed us; a small town that has spread its arms so wide, the same town that houses the Lagos State Polytechnic. Our cousin is such a hospitable person. We had our meals in a place called Calabar kitchen; egwusi and white soup and afang.
We got to the house and settled in the bedroom and rested, talked, smiled and slept. I had looked through the window from the bedroom and enjoyed how street lights and electric lights and security lights sprinkled like littered sachets of pure water. Then in the middle of the night was a lot of breeze that woke us at the same time, pulling blinds, turning trees to dancers, cold penetrating deep into our lungs. Ikenna walked to turn off the ceiling fan that has been dwindling like a sprinter hustling for a gold medal, shut the sliding windows that they kiss the frame, and then came back to the bed again. There has been electricity since we came in. It is usual in the area.
I like to stand and push the blinds aside and look out through the window. I think I enjoy that whenever I go to a place that I would sleep. I look and come back to look at the same thing again. From one of the living room windows, there is a flow of buildings, a mosque that disturbed so much.
I think I want my story of Lagos to continue this way; a Lagos of peace, fresh air, green smell, hospitality, steady electricity, egg sauce, the one made by Ikenna the morning after we arrived.
Next stop in few days.