A Story I originally posted on www.naijastories.com
Moji opened the main door and stepped out. She was immediately greeted by the harsh sun. It was stark raving hot outside. She stepped back inside. She had to apply sunscreen. If her brother was at home and she had told him she wanted to use sunscreen, he’d have immediately said ‘sunscreen ke. You think you are Oyinbo. Your skin’s made for sun’.
Yes, she knew black people had enough melanin in their skin to protect them from the sun. Especially she who was as black as charcoal; her melanin was over plenty, but she was more knowledgeable than that. She had read that just because black people had melanin did not mean they were completely protected from the sun. It didn’t mean they weren’t prone to skin cancers too.
She went back to her room and splattered sunscreen on her ebony face. She put the lotion in her bag and looked herself in the mirror. She was wearing an embellished gray tank top on a black pencil skirt. It wasn’t too workish or too playish. She patted her weave-on extension that rested on her shoulders and wrapped her scarf around her arms before making to leave again. She was going to visit Tunde for the first time. Ever since they started dating 8 months ago, he had visited her so many times at home and she had never for once gone home to visit him. He was excited about her coming and she was even more excited. He lived about 45 minutes away.
She was going to take a bus. There was a bus that went all the way as far as Tunde’s area of Lagos and the transport fare was just N200. From there she would just take another short bus to his house.
It wasn’t long before she was at the bus garage. Different conductors were calling out to passengers in that their characteristic hoarse tone that it seemed they had gone to some school to perfect. If one did not listen well to hear them, one would enter the wrong bus. Here the golden rule that one who asked for directions never got lost applied.
She moved nearer to one of the conductors that seemed to be screaming the name of somewhere close to where she was going.
‘You dey go Yaba?’
‘Ehn now. You no dey hear wetin I dey call?’
Moji sneered and said under her breath, ‘like I look like someone that understands your conductor language’
‘wetin you talk’
‘Nothing o!’ she quickly answered. She didn’t want to start exchanging words with any agbero today.
She entered the bus. The seats were so dusty. She hissed. She didn’t want her skirt to be dirty. She had even forgotten to take some tissue with her. Didn’t this people know anything about presentation? She called to the driver who sat at the front seat.
‘Se ni aso ta ma fi nu seat yin, do you have any rag I can use to clean your seat’
‘shey the seat dirty?’
‘Ehn now’, Moji said gesturing towards the seat.
‘Ah, no vex. Na the dust wey dey fall from on top bridge dey disturb us here. We dey clean our seat’
Moji nodded and sat after he cleaned the seat behind the driver’s. She sat close to the window
She sighed. When will this bus get full? She was the first person to enter the bus.
Later people started coming in and entered farther back. A man dressed in dirty overalls that smelled like engine oil entered and sat beside Moji. Moji hunched forward. She didn’t want to leave the bus smelling like a mechanic. Fortunately, she had applied some good perfume. She wrapped her scarf more tightly around her.
Finally the bus was full. Then the conductor started to collect his money seat by seat. People in the bus started complaining, especially people that had just entered. Moji was disgusted; she had been seated for 40 minutes already and someone that just entered was complaining about delay.
‘E de je ka ma lo. A ma dawo fun yin line by line. Let’s begin to go, we would contribute the money line by line’, said one woman who looked like she was about to devour the conductor.
‘The conductor no dey follow us. Abeg no vex’, said the driver
Moji looked at the time. It was 12:23pm. She had promised Tunde she would be at his house by 1:00pm. She had forgotten to consider all of this- the waiting and even the traffic that they were soon to experience.
Finally the driver wheeled out of the garage. There was so much traffic on the way and Moji felt even more irritable about the harsh sun which burnt on her arms. She applied more protection on her arms. She could feel the eyes of the woman behind her on her. She turned back to find the expression on the woman’s face to be just like, ‘wetin dey do this one. Which kind cream she dey rub for body. Mscheew’
She turned her face back.
She stifled a yawn. It looked like the trip was going to last one and a half hours max. She dozed a bit.
Soon enough she was immediately awaken by screams in the bus in which she was.
The bus had stopped, but they had not gotten to Yaba. In fact they were far from Yaba. They had stopped somewhere she could not even recognize. She cleared the sleepy crust from her eyes and looked at the time. It was 1:15pm. People had begun to alight from the bus and one woman in particular was pulling at the driver’s shirt and saying, ‘wo you go give me my money o!’
Moji felt clammy. She searched through her bag for her handkerchief. It wasn’t there. Oh now she was going to look all oily skinned and she was going to see Tunde. She had even forgotten her powder. What was she thinking? She always liked the dewy look on her face that’s why she didn’t use powder too often, but now her face felt so oily she needed to clean and powder it. She drew in a deep breath and alighted from the bus.
They had had a flat tire, the fuel tank was empty and they were in the middle of nowhere.
‘Give each of us N150 back. If not you go hear wen o!’, one elderly man said behind glasses that looked more like goggles.
‘You no understand. I no get money. Den don collect money from me from garage. Na N1000 I get here. In no go reach all of you’, the driver answered.
The woman who was tugging at his cloth freed him. People were more irate now. The driver looked confused.
After 20 minutes of waiting, people started giving up and cursing the driver. He had refused to give anybody money. Some people started leaving on bikes and some people even called taxis.
Moji stood perplexed. There was no way she was calling a cab. She won’t have enough money on her way back home and neither did leaving on okada sound pleasant. She was wearing a pencil skirt for Pete’s sake!
Well it seemed like a bike was the only thing she could afford. Not many buses were driving past and the ones that did drive past were not going anywhere near Yaba. She started to walk down the road leaving the other perplexed passengers that were still struggling with the driver.
‘Pssst’, she called out to an okada man
‘Ehn wetin, abeg go jo’
The okada man didn’t waste time. He rode away.
‘Okada’, she called out to another bike.
The okada man finally agreed to take her for N200 all the way to the top of Tunde’s street. The only problem was how to sit on the bike with her pencil skirt. She would draw up the skirt, sit on the bike and then cover her black laps with her scarf.
She drew up her skirt and got on the bike. Just then she heard a tearing sound.
‘Wetin happen sister?’
She got down from the bike. She had miscalculated. Hope it wasn’t a large tear o. Curse the spirits that had informed her decision to wear a pencil skirt.
She turned the back of her skirt to the front. Thankfully it was just a very tiny tear. She drew up the skirt even more. She felt ashamed. Well at least not many cars were passing. She didn’t hear any tearing sound again. She wrapped her scarf around her laps and told the okada man to move.
Just then Tunde called. She told him she’d be at his place in 30 minutes. She was nervous. Hope she didn’t look too tired or sleepy or too rough. This Lagos wahala sef.
The okada man gave her a helmet, which she placed on her bag.
‘No sister you go wear am o! Police dey everywhere’
Moji heaved a sigh.
She looked at the inside of the helmet, smelled it and immediately withdrew her nose. It smelled sweaty. More like sweaty underarms. She didn’t have any handkerchief or any other scarf she could place on her head before placing the helmet. She hesitated a bit.
‘Sister oya now. Abi you no wan go again’
Moji placed the helmet on her head, grimacing slightly.
Finally they got near to the top of Tunde’s street. She was about to retrieve her phone and call him to say she was close by when she looked up and saw Tunde standing there at the top of the street smiling at her.
She felt like disappearing in thin air. She freaked out inside of her. Why was he standing there? Did he think she won’t be able to find his house? Was he supposed to see her like this with this smelly helmet on her head, her skirt drawn up almost as far as her hips and her face shining so much? She had hoped she’d have some time to quickly tidy herself up before he saw her.
She told the okada man to stop.
‘Na your boyfriend?’
Moji was annoyed. She muttered under her breath, ‘abeg mind your business’
Tunde walked up to the bike grinning from ear to ear. She got down from the bike carefully. She didn’t want her fine skirt tearing even more.
‘Hi love’, she answered nervously, drawing her skirt down. She was really embarrassed. She didn’t like him seeing her like this.
She removed the helmet from her head hurriedly and immediately caught her reflection in the okada man’s side mirror. Her hair was very rough now and sticking out. She had forgotten her brush. Well this was no time to brush one’s hair, but how she wished. She payed the okada man and started walking with Tunde down to his house
‘How are you babe?’
‘I’m fine, she answered nervously while straightening her hair and trying not to make it obvious that she was doing so.
Tunde laughed. Was he laughing at how ugly she looked? Was he irritated by…?
‘You look so beautiful’. She strained her ears. Was she hearing okay?
‘You are acting all weird. Your hair’s okay. Stop touching it’.
‘……..can’t you see how dirty I look, how rough…’
‘It is you who say so’, he laughed even more. ‘I love your look today’
She sighed in relief. She had been so nervous about seeing him after all the stress she had been through today and here he was saying she looked so beautiful.
She didn’t understand. But she was relieved.