Lagos life

ON MY WAY HOME LAST NIGHT…

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Imagine a tired young man leaving the office after several hours of serious work. That’s me, tired and spent as I was. But at least I looked forward to having a great weekend as I walked towards the bus stop, leaving behind the deluxe estate where my office is located. It was already past eight in the night and there was a long journey ahead of me; two bus drops and of course the unpleasant traffic I would surely encounter. Poor me indeed!

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I got through the first half of my journey quickly enough and before long had managed to get into the next bus that would convey me home. The rain was threatening to pour down and I didn’t want it to pour on my body. So as I sat in that uncomfortable space, I wanted more than anything for the bus to start moving already. It did, but unfortunately we came upon a heavy traffic on the main street soon enough. There were yellow buses, tankers and private [fanciful] vehicles all moving bumper to bumper. And even though the rain was yet to start, I knew it was sure to rain down.  I wished more than anything to be in the comfort of my bed before it started to rain. If only I could evoke some supernatural powers and perhaps fly home already. But then wishes aren’t horses, so I remained sat in that cramped up space with the bodies of total strangers pressed against mine.

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The bus was so cramped up so much so I could hardly even move freely much less observe those behind me. But I could clearly see the driver, a middle-aged man who was so focused on the road with his hands gripping the steering as though everything depended on it. Beside him were two individuals I immediately assumed were a couple.  The man was sitting right next to the driver with his right hand draped around the woman’s neck. Yet, as couplie as the two seemed I couldn’t help but notice something rather odd about them. First of all, the woman appeared a lot classier than the man. She even donned what appeared to be gold jewelries. And then I noticed how she seemed uncomfortable with the man’s hand resting on her. But then strange things happen in marriages all the time… I ignored them.

As the traffic stretched endlessly along the road, the driver suddenly decided to divert the course of our journey by driving off the main street into a strange neighbourhood. Nobody in the bus said a word because we figured that bypassing the gridlock was better than being stuck in it for hours.  For a while, we drove freely, passing different kinds of neighbourhoods until we came upon traffic once again. How unfortunate!  We were back to moving at a snail’s pace. And by this time I had no choice than to resign to fat. Blocking my ears with my earpiece, I pressed play on my Play Music and was soon listening to Tekno sing Pana.

The bus kept moving slowly. And then all of a sudden the supposed couple beside the driver began to alight. At first I thought they had gotten to their destination but then I realized their journey wasn’t over. While the man ran across the street as though he was quickly going to see someone or buy something, the woman paced along with the bus while waiting for him to return.  Later on I learnt he had gone to ease himself, but surprisingly he spent nearly seven minutes doing that. No thanks to the traffic, we literarily remained in the same spot waiting for him until he was back. And when he did return, both him and the woman returned to their seats just as traffic coincidentally eased up and we drove along.  For a while we just drove on freely until suddenly I noticed a major drama unfolding in the front seat. The man who had gone out earlier was frantically searching for something. He was sweating as he searched everywhere- his pockets, his bag, the dashboard and even the belongs of the woman I thought was his wife. He then demanded that the driver stop the bus and he [the driver] quickly obliged, parking by the roadside just as I watched other vehicles pass us by. At this point I was beginning to wonder what sort of hellish ride I was in just as I removed my earpiece to learn what exactly was going on. Much to my surprise, the man said he had lost his sixty thousand naira. He said the money was in his wallet, resting on his laps just before he went down to ease himself. And the he couldn’t find it. Some of the passengers suggested he should go back to the place he went to ease himself to look there. Quickly he dashed off there but was back soon enough, saying he didn’t find a thing. His hysteria attracted a little crowd and I imagined the situation could be dangerous because after all this was Lagosians where people are famous for erratic behaviour and mob actions. Moreover, that neighbourhood I suddenly found myself stuck in wasn’t the best of them and the possibility of touts overtaking the situation abounded.

    Meanwhile, my logical mind was already piecing the man’s narrative together and instantly I saw a lot of loopholes in his account. First of all, it is utterly impossible for a wallet to contain that amount of money; too many notes. Moreover, what sort of idiot would carelessly keep such an amount of money on his laps in a bus full of strangers and then leave to urinate without holding tightly to it? By the way, how come it took him so long to urinate, and upon his return never noticed that the money was gone? And then the most important question of all- where in the world could the money have gone to since nobody had left the bus yet asides the man? As he kept on screaming, going short of calling all of us suspects, I wondered whether I should ask him the questions on my mind.  I could tell even the other passengers were suspecting him but being rather careful about what they said. Yet the man went on rampaging even accusing both the driver and the woman of stealing the money just as he tore apart the woman’s bag in search of the non-existent money.

It wasn’t until a long vehicle plying the road nearly knocked the bus and all of us off the road that we all became agitated. The passengers screamed at the driver to move the bus already. It was late and the rain was about to fall. No single individual should ever have to keep almost twenty people stranded for so long. But the man insisted that the driver was not going anywhere until the money is found. This prompted me to address him. I told the man that if indeed he lost his money, it was unfortunate. And as sad as it was, he should be considerate for those of us who were late from work, tired and needed rest. In response he screamed at me for being heartless and said he prayed I lost something valuable soon. According to him, he was the one who deserved all the considerations he lost seventy five thousand naira. Immediately he said that, most of the passengers have noticed the inconsistency in his story and began to shout at him. They questioned how he had suddenly gone from losing sixty thousand to seventy five; who did he think he was fooling, they asked him. As we screamed at the driver take us away from the place or refund our money, the man finally mellowed down and suggested that we contribute anything we can for him as compensation. But people told him sorry that there was recession in town. And just like that, we left him as the bus finally moved.

As we proceeded without him, the passengers began to analyze the incident. Everybody agreed the man was an amateur criminal. Several of his kind exists across the city of Lagos, but we were lucky we didn’t find ourselves surrounded by them all.  Anyway, the bus soon rejoined the main street and thankfully the traffic was no longer as bad. We drove for a few minutes before some passengers began to get down at their respective bus stops. And just as we were nearing my bus stop the controversial man reappeared from nowhere with another man, both jumping into the bus as it moved. The man was beside the driver once again and was threatening to maim the man if he didn’t return his money while the other fellow sat beside me. At this point there were just a few of us left in the bus and the stranger sitting beside me just kept staring at me with those drugged out eyes of his. There was something evil about him as I managed to look into the eyes it was though I was looking into the eyes of Danger. Unfortunately, he knew how uncomfortable he made me feel and had seemed to be really enjoying the moment. So I sat still and pretended to ignore him until luckily for me, we came upon a little traffic jam and without thinking twice I quickly pushed past the stranger and jumped out into the middle of the road. And as I quickly crossed to the other side, I noticed the strange man alighting and following me and so did the other one who allegedly lost his money. Thankfully, there were still people out and about on the main street so I walked briskly in a bid to disappear to my neighbourhood. But it seemed the individuals were intent at keeping up with me. Nobody had to tell me I must not let that happen.

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As soon as I left the main street and walked down the street that led to my apartment, I became instantly aware of how very desolate everywhere was. The impending rain had caused people to get behind the comfort of their doors. Moreover, it was really late by this time. So I kept walking as fast as I could as those two kept following me, and just then the rain began to fall. Perhaps it was fortunate for me that it began to rain when it did because it was the perfect excuse for me to run. And run I did, quickly diverting to ensure the creeps didn’t follow me home. My heart was pounding heavily against my chest by the time I got home and somehow I knew I had looked into the face of danger and yet escaped its harm…

~Emmanuel Benson

*These were true events.