CANMAWOL: Chronicles of a Newly Married Woman in Lagos
“Are you sure you’re going to be fine?” Sere asks me. “I’ll go with you to work and get to the park from there.”
“No!” I protest. “It’s just the bus and I’m sure I can get the bus from Obalende to Falomo by myself. You’ve already come to CMS. I’ll be fine” I reassure him.
Seriously, one would think I was a baby the way he fussed over me. So, it’s my first day of work today in Lagos and unfortunately or fortunately he has to travel this morning to Port Harcourt, hence OYO is my own.
“Do you remember the route?” He asks again.
I roll my eyes. “I take a keke from here to Obalende and then another keke going to Keffi or a bus going to Falomo and stop at my office”
People are swirling around us trying to commute to their offices; it’s a bit humid this morning and I am already hot. I hope to get to the office by 9.00am. Sere places his hand around my neck and draws me to him. The guy selling romance books behind us hoots and a few pedestrians look at us. “Oga come buy corret romanx here o” we hear the book guy call out to us. Sere is still taking this his jand mentality here and I’m a bit embarrassed as he looks into my eyes intently.
“I don’t want to get a call from your parents that I brought you to Lagos to suffer and then disappear”
My heart melts. Ok, so he annoyed me this morning not leaning the bathroom slippers against the bathroom tiles to dry off. I was going to tell him but I’m trying to practice not saying things immediately when I’m irritated at him but with this his genuine affection, I so forgive him. He’s just worried about me and genuinely cares about me.
I lean into him and lower my eyes as he hugs me. We are at the big cathedral church at CMS. The lady next to us is screaming “Hot Okpa here!” The keke marwas are zipping past us and trying to dodge LASTMA Officials. I can hear a conductor say, “Sister, Oga, Obalende 2 seats”
But all that does not matter, really. I think I’m grateful to be married for a month to this amazing hunk of a guy who wants the best for me even though he uprooted me from my environment of familiarity to this strange and vile dirty place called Lagos. I resolve to make him happy and also reassure him.
“I’ll be fine G.O” I tell him. “I’ll call you when I get to work;besides, you are getting late and I wish I could go with you to the park”
He hugs me and says strongly, “You should be in a brand new car going to work”
“I’ll be satisfied with an old baby boy right now” I say jokingly but then quickly add when I see his face as he pulls away from me to look at my face, “But We’ll have all that soon, don’t worry”
“Yes”. He gives me one last hug and I hurriedly get into a keke going to Obalende.
I’m not even fully settled to wave a goodbye to Sere when the keke moves on and I’m wedged between the side of the Keke and a very big woman carrying a big sack of what I suspect is iced fish as the smell is oozing everywhere and the sack is leaking bloody water to the floor of the keke. It runs down beneath my flats and I see it is pointless trying to out my feet elsewhere. There’s actually nowhere! Great!
After saying good morning to the driver and passengers, to which I get one or two grunted responses, I ask the big lady to shift to the side a little as I see the man next to her is as thin as a reed. The lady looks at me, hisses and then adjusts but that’s just worse. Her right hip (or flesh) is now resting on my hip bone and I more squashed than I was before. I give up!
I get down at Obalende but cannot remember which way at the roundabout is the way to get to Keffi. After I ask a few people who describe how to get to the other side of the Kilimanjaro, I see a girl who’s telling whoever she’s speaking to that she’s on her way to Keffi and I just follow her to the other side of the round about and voila, I’m in a bus going to Keffi-Falomo and seated just next to the conductor.
I greet the conductor before I get in but he does not answer. I figured he didn’t hear me so I greet him again when he tells me to “shift inside”. I “shift inside” and no response to my greeting. When he starts to collect his money, he says, “yes?” in his gruff voice to me and I give him my ₦100.00 to Keffi and greet him again.
Ok, so this one is shunning me and a conductor should not be this rude so I tap him and say, “I’ve been greeting you Sir and you have refused to acknowledge my greeting.”
“Ewure Oshi! Wetin?! Na by force to ansa your greet? I bi Askari wey you go ansa? Abi you see for drim com talk se you wan use my star?”
I am shocked and embarrassed. I’m trying to speak but I can’t even get a word in; he’s very angry and loud with spittle flying in direct sprays all over my face and blouse that I have to turn away so it at least drops off on my shoulder. Some passengers are laughing and some are yelling back at the driver, asking him to be nice and can’t he see I am a JJC in Lagos?
Next thing, everyone is yelling over my head and insults are flying all over. I almost miss my stop and have to start telling the driver to put me down, “Owa, driver please. Owa. Put me down”. The conductor opens the bus and tells me to get down. I ask for my ₦50.00 change and he says, “I dey run? Com dan furst.”
I get down and the bus just speeds off without giving me my change!
I’m so numb that I just stand waiting for…what? I don’t know. Oh my phone is ringing. I dip my hand in and bring it out and I try to go around a puddle of beans water. Beans water because there’s a lady frying and selling akara and yams.
What happens next is like slow motion…I see a Keke coming towards me and a school boy runs across the road. Because the keke is on speed (yep, they speed), the keke driver tries to make a sharp swing and runs straight towards me. I jump back but not in time; his right front tyre launches straight into the puddle of mixed beans and lagos water, splashes on me and before I can even make sense of what just happened, the back right tyre makes it own loud debut and it’s all over me.
My blouse is dripping with beans water mixed with some bus conductor’s spittle. I smell of fish, spittle and beans! What is this?
My phone is still ringing. I pick my call. It’s Sere, sounding all chirpy. He got to the park without a hitch. He got a ride with some dude and was getting set to go and wanted to know if I had settled down.
I forget all the promises I made to myself about him today! I forget that I resolved to make him happy and it just spews out!
“No, I am not settled down! Sere, I don’t know why I followed you to this vile and dirty place. I’ve met the worst people on earth! I have been robbed, spat at today and had beans water thrown all over me and I smell of fish! On my first day?!I can’t do this anymore!”
He is bewildered. “You were robbed? Princess, are you alright? Are you hurt? What did they take?”
“My ₦ 50.00!” I almost feel bad that I wasn’t actually robbed of something way higher.
I hear him snort and I am fuming. He dare not laugh! “Alright calm down. I’m sorry but you just started, how can you say you can’t do this anymore?” He’s laughing! The guy is laughing!
“Since I’m now a comedian, laugh all you want. And…next time, put up the bathroom slippers to dry out!”
“Where did that come from?” He’s confused but I end the call abruptly on his pleas, trying to pacify me.
Serves him right. I wrap my shawl around me and try to walk down the road and into my new office with some dignity.
My phone’s ringing again. It is Sere…