CHAPTER 2: The journey

As was usually my routine I woke up early but I lay still on my bed to absorb the sounds of the room. I may not see this room again, I thought to myself (and it won’t be too soon!) I had barely spoken to father last night which was not unusual since he was in one of his drunken states although he had come home by himself-unaided- which meant he was not totally under. No dinner for him and he did not even ask. He was frail, becoming a sack of bones and I had long since stopped feeling pity for him. I was not hard-hearted if I may say so for myself but father had conditioned my mind unknowingly and I did not know whether I was going to turn out better for it.
I had surreptitiously asked my favourite customers directions on how to get to the border although I did not know if I could follow their directions, gambling my money away if the directions were wrong. But what choice did I have?! I had no intention of waking father who had always been indifferent to me and since I had no friends to miss me, I felt no need as well to inform my nosy neighbours. I lay on my left side and closed my eyes to better see the view in my mind’s eye. I saw a different place in my head, beautiful and clean and I looked nicely dressed and neat with proper shoes. I did not want to dwell on it so I quickly snapped myself out of my day dreams and stood up from the paper-thin mattress to get dressed. I wore an old flowery dress that had faded from over washing, it was threadbare in some places and I comforted myself in the fact that it was at least clean. I patted it down over my bosom although the dress hung on me. I wore new ‘dunlop’ slippers and pulled the straps of my bag over my shoulder, my purse in my other hand and I left the house just before daylight. I also held a rumpled piece of paper that contained the directions I had been given and it was damp from my sweaty palms.
The directions read the Agbara route which was Ogun state and when I trekked to Egbeda bus stop I asked directions from an agbero (tout) who told me I had to get to Sango first. I took a direct bus praying all the while in my mind that the money I had would be enough to take me to my destination. I decided not to buy anything along the way to ensure that I had enough to tide me over till I found menial job to do. You see, I did not want to be a burden to my mother when I found her. I would buy pure water though and at that thought that it would be empty, my stomach growled and I decided that I could buy Okpa in addition to the sachets of water.
I got a bus easily and I sat by the window in the danfo bus I boarded looking out of the bus like a lost child. The air was chilly and I looked up into the sky watching a storm gather. That dampened my mood because the clouds had picked today to gather and when they released their cargo, my bag would be soaking wet but I took my mind off it since I could not hold the rain. As I watched the clouds gather I filled my lungs with plenty of air as I ran my fingers through my cornrows- I loved to plait ‘all-back’ because ‘shuku’ made my small head appear smaller. It was such a relief not to tie a scarf today since I had left my old life behind along with its sufferings (or so I thought) but still, I draped a scarf around my neck should I need it.
The traffic was neck to neck or should I say bumper to bumper and as sweat dripped from my scalp to my neckline, it pasted my dress to my skin. From the tollgate to Gateway Hotel which was a stone’s throw, we spent thirty minutes in the traffic and with every jerky stop my stomach growled. I attributed it to jitters. The three lane road was now forced by impatient motorists to become five lanes making it possible for me to see the bits of food stuck to the beard of the guy sitting by the window in the bus to my left. He was so light skinned that he was red in the face-an escaped albino- although he had black hair and his eyes were not shifty the way albino’s were. He was munching something I did not see with such intensity that I was expecting the muscles in his head to protest!
The traffic was slow moving and we finally broke free of it. I was so relieved that I heaved a sigh that made the passenger sitting next to me to turn up her brows at me and I smiled to myself. I was a Lagos girl but I hardly experienced traffic jams even as clogged and overcrowded the city was. The farthest I had really gone was Agege to buy beans and dry pepper; I bought charcoal around my neighbourhood since I could not use wood fire in the compound. I had no friends to visit so my outings were limited only to the market. I got to Sango and alighted from the bus with my bag back on my shoulder. I walked under the bridge till I got to the park. The fare was N500 and I heard another passenger say that other taxi’s that pass just ahead of the park would charge N300 for the same distance so I walked a little further away from the park.
Shortly after, a taxi came to a halt and we all hurried towards it but I got in before anybody else. I waved to the woman who had given me the hint and asked the driver to open his boot for me to drop my bag in it. He did not stop as he told me that it was a short drive and that he was trying to avoid the police so we might all have to alight in a hurry. It was not uncommon for motorists to drop passengers without stopping completely. Such was Lagos life. Loud highlife music was playing and I was trying to memorise the names of the bus stops as we passed but I soon gave it up when the taxi slowed and then gradually stopped. The driver turned back telling the passenger sitting directly behind him to drop but no one interfered as we watched the driver play out.
“Wetin happen now?”, asked the passenger.
“You tell me say you go drop since and you no tok. I no go again, come down make you gimme my money”, answered the driver.
I wondered what the issue could be if the passenger paid him his complete fare regardless of wherever he alighted eventually. If only I knew it was a planned conversation…

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2 comments

  1. Dami why nowwww…can’t wait for the next post on this story. The character has got a really terrible life, filled with stress, anxiety and uncertainty.

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    1. Truth is most people have this kind of life although it may not be this terrible. Tokunbo is just one of the few who has the courage to open up to tell her story publicly. ȋ̝̊̅ feel badly for all others like her and ȋ̝̊̅ hope her story is well read. Chapter three ‘in queue’

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